Characters

British Characters

  • Lord Napier
  • William Jardine
  • Sir James Matteson
  • George Chinnery
  • Captain Charles Elliot
  • Karl Gutzlaff

Captain Charles Elliot

Inspite of his personal opposition to the opium trade, he lead the British forces against the Chinese until his lenient terms of settlement resulted in his recall.

Sir Charles Elliot was a British naval officer, diplomat, and colonial administrator. He became the first administrator of Hong Kong in 1841 while serving as both Plenipotentiary and Chief Superintendent of British Trade in China. He was a key founder in the establishment of Hong Kong as a British colony.

Elliot joined the Royal Navy in 1815 and became a frigate Captain in 1828. After retiring from active military service, Elliot followed a career in the Foreign Office. In 1830, the Colonial Office sent Elliot to Demerara in British Guiana to be Protector of Slaves and a member of the Court of Policy from 1830 to 1833. He was brought home to advise the government of administrative problems relating to the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.

In late 1833, Elliot was appointed as Master Attendant to the staff of Lord Napier, Chief Superintendent of British Trade. His position was involved with British ships and crews operating between Macao and Canton. He was appointed Secretary in October 1834, Third Superintendent in January 1835, and Second Superintendent in April 1835. In 1836, he became Plenipotentiary and replaced Sir George Robinson as Chief Superintendent of British Trade. Elliot wrote to Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston in 1839 that he regarded the opium trade as a "disgrace and sin ... I have steadily discountenanced it by all the lawful means in my power, and at the total sacrifice of my private comfort in the society in which I have lived for some years past".

During the First Anglo-Chinese War, he was on board the Nemesis during most of the battles. In January 1841, he negotiated terms with Chinese Imperial Commissioner Qishan in the Convention of Chuenpee. Elliot declared, among other terms, the cession of Hong Kong Island to the United Kingdom. However, Palmerston disapproved of the terms and dismissed Elliot. Henry Pottinger was appointed to replace him as plenipotentiary in May 1841. On 29 July, HMS Phlegeton arrived in Hong Kong with dispatches informing Elliot of the news. His administration ended on 10 August. On 24 August, he left Macao, with his family for England. As he embarked on the Atlanta, a Portuguese fort fired a thirteen gun salute.

Historian George Endacott wrote, "Elliot’s policy of conciliation, leniency, and moderate war aims was unpopular all round, and aroused some resentment among the naval and military officers of the expedition." Responding to the accusation that "It has been particularly objected to me that I have cared too much for the Chinese", Elliot wrote to Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen on 25 June 1842:

’But I submit that it has been caring more for lasting British honor and substantial British interests, to protect friendly and helpful people, and to return the confidence of the great trading population of the Southern Provinces, with which it is our chief purpose to cultivate more intimate, social and commercial relations’.