Amanda Roberts’s first reckless and false statement: “As a customs officer in Ningpo, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou (known as Canton back then) from 1854-1908, Robert Hart spent his life trying to keep the faltering Qing dynasty from going bankrupt.”
This is far from accurate, because it would be years before Robert Hart went to work for the Chinese, and then several more years before he would have the authority and opportunity to dedicate himself to keeping the Qing Dynasty from going bankrupt.
On Page 1 of “Entering China’s Service”, it clearly says, “As head of the Maritime Customs from 1863 to 1908, Hart hired an international staff of hundreds (mainly British) as well as a subordinate Chinese staff of thousands to collect the revenue of foreign trade.”
And Customs only raised about a third of the Qing Dynasty’s revenues. However, it would have been correct to say that while Hart was Inspector General the revenues from Customs were the only reliable source of money that the Qing Dynasty could depend on.
In addition, as a Custom’s official of China’s emperor, Hart never worked in Hong Kong, a British Crown colony. Instead, he spent a few days in Hong Kong after arriving in July 1854. While in Hong Kong, he struggled—for the first time—to learn Chinese before being posted to Ningpo via Shanghai.
In addition, Hart did not work as a Chinese Customs officer out of Ningpo. Hart first arrived in China not speaking one word of Mandarin and his job description was as an interpreter working for the British—not the Chinese, and for his first few years in China, he worked for the British consulate in Ningpo.
Then on March 20, 1858—while still working for the British as an interpreter—Hart was transferred to Canton three years and six months after he arrived in China.
3rd edition: April 2013
Hart would not leave his job with the British to work for the Chinese in Canton until June of 1859, and his title would be Deputy Commissioner of Customs—not Commissioner or Inspector General.
It wouldn’t be until November 1863—more than nine years after arriving in China—that Inspector General of Customs Horatio Lay, in Shanghai, would be dismissed (fired) and Hart would replace him.
Continued on March 22, 2013 in Dissecting the “Moral Duty” of a Reckless and False Review: Part 3 or return to Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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