Special and Named Printed Collections in the National Library of Scotland

SIR CHARLES ELLIOT COLLECTION

This collection of 21 items largely reflects the Imperial duties performed by Sir Charles Elliot (1801-1875), and particularly the role he played during a period of strained Sino-Anglo relations. Sir Charles became Her Majesty's Chief Superintendent and Plenipotentiary in China in 1836, and remained the most important British presence there during the Opium War (1839-1842). Opium from India had been imported into China to help the British restore a balance of trade deficit, with the result that millions of Chinese became drug dependent, and the Chinese economy began to drain of its silver reserves. When the Chinese Commissioner at Canton imposed trade restrictions, the British navy intervened and enforced a treaty upon China. Two items in this collection give a particularly good account of the financial implications of the opium trade and the effects of the war. After China, Sir Charles continued to represent the British Empire in a number of other countries. His conduct as British Charge d'Affaires in Texas, 1842-1846, is reported favourably in an extract from a newspaper, and there is a copy of a valedictory address to the Legislative Council of Trinidad, where he was Governor, 1854-56. Sir Charles was also Governor of St. Helena, 1863-69, and there is an interesting report of an experiment to try and establish the Chinchona plant there. A monograph on financial grievances of civil and military officers in India, added to the collection after Sir Charles' death, together with a copy of an act to authorize the payment of pensions to colonial governors, 1865, portrays the economic aspects of a career in Imperial service. Other items added after the death of Sir Charles feature an address to the Archdeacon of Lucknow, an extract of the proceedings of the prosecution of a member of staff at Punjab University for the acceptance of bribes, and a picture book depicting the evils of alcoholism.

Related manuscript material is held by the Manuscripts Collections.

Shelfmark: Cha.Elliot

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