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Diary of Hiram Harvey Hurlburt Jr: Chapter 3

As I grew older I can hardly tell when I learned to read, (?) about one of the first books, was the Embassy of Lord McCartney to China from England. The book in a dilapidated condition was a volume formerly belonging to Doctor Benjamin Bullard my grandfather who died when I was about seven months old. Now there was probably ever printed a more uninteresting book for a child seven or eight years old but it was combed over at all hours and the old fashioned letter “s” mostly like an italic “f” as I have mentioned in another chapter about a copy of the New Testament, and they were as familiar to me as the fire works that were produced by the Chinese encircling the whole horizon to strike dismay to the courageous embassy who were first in trying to find the capital of the Celestial Empire.

The date of this embassy was 1793. I take one item, August 6th in the Yellow Sea, Ditto weather, (It has been moderate and cloudy) Adam Bradshaw a light dragoon, departed this life, and his body committed to the deep A.M. washed the lower and orlep decks, fumigated the ship with devils, washed the sides and beams with vinegar. No subsequent searching has ??? entry. One other item I had great reverence.

The Emperor of China in a long reign of sixty years, who had never ceased to watch over and increase the happiness and prosperity of his subjects. The following was called an affecting example.

A merchant of the City of Nankin had, with equal industry and integrity acquired a considerable fortune, which awakened the rapacious spirit of the viceroy of that province; on the pretense, therefore, of its being too rapidly accumulated, he gave some intimidations of his designs to make a seizure of it. The merchant, who had a numerous family, hoped to baffle the oppressive avarice that menaced him, by dividing his possessions amoung his children, and depending on them for support.

But the spirit of injustice, when strengthened by power, is not easily thwarted in its designs; the viceroy, sent the children to the army, seized on their property and left the father to beg his bread. His tears and humble petitions were fruitless; the tyrannical officer, this vile vicegerent of a beneficent sovereign, disclaimed to bestow the smallest notice on the man he had reduiced to ruin, so that, exasperated by the opression of the minister, the merchant at length determined to throw himself at the feet of the sovereign, to obtain redress or die in his presence.

With this design he begged his way to Pekin; and having surmounted all the difficulties of a long and painful journey, he at length arrived at the Imperial Residence; and, having prepared a petition that contained a faithful statement of his injuries he waited with patience in an outer court till the Emperor should pass to attend the council. But the poverty of his appearance almost frustrated his hopes; and the attendant mandarins were about to chastise his intrusion, when the Emperor was attracted by the bustle which the poor mans resistance occasioned; at this moment he held forth a paper, which his Imperial Majesty ordered brought to his palanquin; and having perused its contents, commanded the petitioner to follow him. It so happened, that the Viceroy of Nankin was attending his annual duty in the council; the Emperor, therefore, charged him with the crime stated in the poor mans petition, and commanded him to make his defense: but conscious of his guilt, and amazed at the unexpected discovery, his agitation, his looks, and his silence condemned him. The Emperor then addressed the council on the subject on the viceroys crime, and concluded his harangue with ordering the head f his tyrannical officer to be instantly brought to him on the point of a sabre. The command was obeyed: and while the poor old man was wondering on his knees at the extraordinary event of the moment, the emperor addressed him in the following manner: Look, said he, on the awful and bleeding example before you, and i now appoint you his successor, and name you the Viceroy of the Province of Nankin, let his fate instruct you to fulfill the duties of your high and important office with justice and moderation. This method of acting justice seemed to me at the age of seven to be perfect, although I had the impression that the Chinese were not the highest civilization.

(The full diary will be located here when complete.)