THE USE OF HONG-KONG.
Ova new possession the island of Hong-kong is not likely to become of great importance as a commercial emporium. The trade of Canton has been essentially a transit-trade ; it became the great tea-deplit because foreigners were not allowed to procure their tea at any other port of China. Amoy and Ningpo will supersede Canton ; and Hong-kong has even fewer capabilities of becoming a great trading-station upon its own resources than that town. If the Chinese continue their restrictive system, and Hong-kong be put upon the same footing as Singapore, it may become a great emporium ; but it will continue a valuable trading station only while the Chinese abide in their folly. The moment they come to their senses and throw their trade open, the commercial importance of Hong-kong must cease.
But, by a maritime nation like Great Britain, Hong-kong may be turned to good account, even though it should continue of second, third, or fourth-rate importance as a place of trade. Every thing that promotes the security of navigation is a direct and posi- tive gain to Great Britain. The security of navigation is promoted by every thing that increases the accuracy of our knowledge of the situation of ports, shoals, &c., or contributes to perfect the theory of the laws of storms, magnetism, &c. Much has been done in these departments of late years by voyages of discovery, and by the obser- vations of our naval officers in the discharge of their professional duties. But observations made in the course of brief and occasional visits are of little value compared with those carried on perseveringly day after day and year after year at the same place. The pre- vailing winds in different latitudes and longitudes—the force, re- currence, and direction of storms, at various localities—these, in so far as they have yet been ascertained, have been learned from comparing the observations made at different times by numerous voyagers. The continuous observations of perma- nent, stationary observers, at regular intervals, would lead to far more certain and satisfactory conclusions. So with regard to the determination of the positions of harbours to be sought for shelter, and shoals to be avoided : as these must always be in- dicated by their relative position to localities more or less satis- factorily ascertained, the multiplication of places so determined is a great object for navigators. The only situations whose position in latitude and longitude can be considered as ascertained with perfect accuracy are those where there are permanent efficient ob- servatories, as at Greenwich. The multiplication of such obser- vatories would afford greater security to the mariner, by multiply- ing the ascertained positions from which the distance of harbours or shoals might be measured, and by thus diminishing the chances of error. These truths have to a certain extent been recognized by the British Government of late years ; and more attention has been paid to the observatories at the Cape of Good Hope and Paramatta. More might with advantage be done for these in- stitutions, and for the observatory of Madras perhaps—although that has been placed on something like the efficient footing which characterizes many establishments of the Indian Government. Above all, it is desirable that steps should immediately be taken for the establishment of an efficient observatory at Hong-kong. Notwithstanding some able local surveys, all is yet uncertainty in the Chinese seas—waters which will, apparently, soon and perma- nently be covered with our merchantmen and cruisers. The accurate determination of the position of Hong-kung, which would result from its being the seat of continuous observations, would render it a central point whence all the positions in the surrounding seas might be satisfactorily determined. Series of meteorological and magnetic observations at the same place would store up most important practical observations for mariners. The Board of Ad- miralty cannot but be aware of the importance of having an efficient observatory at once esablished at Hong-Kong, and they will fail in their duty if they do not insist upon its establishment. The great shipping-interests of the Clyde, the Mersey, and the Thames, ought to take care that the Admiralty has no excuse for forgetting this ; and the Royal Society has been worse employed at times than in memorializing on such a subject. Connected with Hong-kong, we observe an intimation in the daily journals which may not give unmixed satisfaction to Govern- ment. It is, that the Missionary Chinese College at Malacca is to be immediately transferred to Hong-kong. Since its misunder- standings with the Jesuits and Dominicans, the Chinese Govern- ment has been, if possible, more jealous of missionaries than of any other class of foreigners. If it become aware of an unintermitting effort of missionary zeal in the island of Hong-kong, the Chinese Government will be hard to be persuaded that the English au- thorities cannot stop it ; and our relations with China may be em- barrassed on this account. Still, no Christian, no philosophical Government, could for a moment dream of refusing missionaries leave to settle in its territories and teach their doctrines to all such as may apply for instruction, or of refusing leave to strangers to come and have access to the missionaries. T he duty prescribed to Government alike by reason and religion, of allowing the gospel free course, is as clear as their duty to abstain from playing the missionary part in their own persons. In this matter, Govern- ment must in a great measure remain at the mercy of the discretion of the missionary bodies. The patrons of missionary efforts must be aware how much the progress of Christianity has at all times been accelerated when those sent to propagate it have been able to communicate new and useful information to the tribes they addressed. They must therefore see the advantage of making their college at Hong-kong as complete a seminary of instruction IS they can, and of not confining its advantages to neophytes. Let
them give instruction in the useful and ornamental arts, the sciences, and above all medicine. Let them avail themselves of their inter- course with the students to explain and recommend the Christian religion ; but let them not insist upon its profession as a requisite for admission, or for the attainment of such degrees as it may be found admissible to confer. They will thus increase their power for good. The Jesuits, who to a considerable extent acted upon this principle, might have kept their footing in China still but for the rash and vulgar meddling of the mendicant orders. Let this ex- ample warn against the intrusting of the missionary task at Hong- kong to uneducated zeal. The British Government would do well to encourage any inclination that may be evinced by the friends of missions to employ exclusively educated and judicious men at Hong-kong, by contributing something to the support of their col- lege on condition that satisfactory evidence shall be given to it of the qualifications of every man sent out. Embarrassments with the Chinese authorities may thus be avoided, and Hong-kong ren- dered a powerful instrument of civilization in the East.