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1.2. Our Chinamen Not Always a Fair Sample.

It is frequently stated by missionaries, travellers, and other writers, that while the great body of the Chinese nation are a good and deserving people, many of those who live in the coast towns, and emigrate into America, Australia, and other countries, are not so. Now, I should be very sorry to assist in spreading any unjust stigma upon those amongst us, whom, in general good behaviour, I hold to be quite equal to the rest of our community; yet no doubt there is some truth in the statements so frequently made by various writers, and this suggests the wisdom of encouraging immigration from the interior of China rather than from the coast towns. The following are some of the statements on this point:—

Hon. Chester Holcombe, in “The Real Chinese Question,” says—“The American opinion of the hundreds of millions of the Chinese is determined by the appearance and conduct of the small number of the race who are found in this country [America] as labourers. Yet they belong to the lowest class in the empire, and come from a narrow area near Canton. They furnish no fair example of the Chinese race.”

The author of “Cassell's Peoples of the World” says—“The character of the nation has been understated. The people of sea-port towns are not, in China any more than in other parts of the world, the most favourable specimens of a people. Those of the interior villages are much better types of the race than the coolies with whom English merchants and seamen come in contact in Canton, Shanghai, or Hong-Kong.”

The author of “The Children of China” says—“I am sorry to say that, as in India, so in China, the best people are to be found far away from the sea-coast, because it is there that they have seen least of Europeans; and as most of the Europeans who go to China are not Christian men, they have made the Chinese who mix with them worse instead of better.”

The Rev. E. J. Dukes, in his “Everyday Life in China,” referring to the popular but unfair opinion about the Chinese, says— “They accept the testimony of men who cannot speak Chinese, and who never once sat at table with a Chinaman except on some special and festive occasion. Seamen are still less able to give a just opinion on the subject, since only the riff-raff of the population of a port come about a vessel: and the points of connection between the shipping and the shore are often of the lowest kind. Who would like to have Englishmen judged by the hobblers of the quays and the ‘long-shore men’ of Liverpool, Newcastle, or London? Furthest of all from the facts is


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a judgment founded upon contact with Chinese emigrants in California, Australia, or the Straits Settlements, seeing that the larger proportion of such men are the very poor and uneducated, and no small number have escaped from the penalties of the law, or have thrown off their family obligations.”

Sir John F. Davis, sometime Governor of Hong-Kong, says, in his “China; a General Description, &c.,” (1857)—“The Chinese have, upon the whole, been under-estimated on the score of their moral attributes. The reason of this has probably been, the extremely unfavourable aspect in which they have appeared to the generality of observers at Canton; just as if any one should attempt to form an estimate of our national character in England from that peculiar phase under which it may present itself at some commercial seaport . The Cantonese are the very worst specimens of their countrymen.”

Lieut. F. E. Forbes, R.N., says in “Five Years in China” (1848)—“I had formed something like an estimate of Canton from the accounts I had previously read—of true local descriptions I admit, but, as regards the nation at large, nothing can be more fallacious than the ideas conveyed by them. After the first blow of hostilities, and a little irritation consequent upon defeat, which an Englishman can well afford to make allowance for, I found myself in the midst of as amiable, kind and hospitable a population as any on the face of the globe, as far ahead of us in some things as behind us in others..... No one could think of searching the back streets of Chatham, or the purlieus of Wapping, for a fair criterion of British Society, or specimens of the yeomanry of Merry England; yet from data such as these we have hitherto drawn our ideas of Chinese morality and civilization; but as the country opens and we become better acquainted I trust that both parties will find that they are not the barbarians they have hitherto mutually believed each other to be.”

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