2009年4月18日 星期六

Robert Swinhoe - first British Consul based in Danshui

[Left: Robert Swinhoe 1836 - 1877]

Robert Swinhoe was born in Calcutta, India. He was a naturalist and a diplomat. He arrived in 1854 in Hongkong to learn Chinese languages after passing the British Consular exam.

In 1858 HMS Inflexible sailed from Amoy to Taiwan, with Swinhoe as interpreter. They explored the entire coast, and penetrated considerable distances inland. Swinhoe made important collections of animals and plants.

After serving briefly as interpreter for the 2nd Division of the allied forces in northern China under Major Garnet Wolseley and (later) Commander-In-Chief Sir Hope Grant in 1860, Swinhoe was appointed the first British consular official in Formosa in 1860 at age 24. He traveled to Formosa aboard the gunboat Cockchafer and arrived in Takao with an assistant, George Braun, and a retinue of Chinese servants in early 1861. They then trekked overland to Taiwanfoo, where he set up an acting consulate in Funshin temple outside the city walls. Although Swinhoe was only a vice-consul, he conferred upon himself the title of “brevet rank of acting consul” in order to gain the respect of the local intendant, and eventually managed to secure a house inside the city walls in which he officially opened the consulate on 10 July 1861. Shortly after he moved the consulate to Tamsui in order to encourage trade in late 1861. For the next year the British consulate was based on the SS Adventure, moored in the Tamsui (Danshui) River, after which it was moved to San Domingo, the old Spanish fort in Tamsui:
Swinhoe fell ill and returned to England on sick leave on 10 May 1862 and returned to Taiwan in 1864. He remained active professionally until 1873 when he suffered the first of a series of strokes. He died in 1877, at age 41.

(Source: http://ringmar.net/europeanfury/?page_id=1188)

6 則留言:

  1. Robert Swinhoe is more of a naturalist than a politician. He died young at 41, after repeated strokes, the other theory, presumably of syphilis, sorry to mention it.

  2. Hi Mr Chang,

    Indeed, strokes are a late complication of syphilis that was probably the true cause of his death.

    Apparently, in his days, many overseas British civil service jobs were available to college graduates. Of course the British Empire was not shy when it came to expansion of its sphere of influence.

    Growing up, I saw the huge Union Jack fluttering in the wind above Ft San Domingo and often wondered why it was allowed to exhibit such blatant imperialism.

  3. "Growing up, I saw the huge Union Jack fluttering in the wind above Ft San Domingo and often wondered why it was allowed to exhibit such blatant imperialism."

    UK imperialism in Taiwan - that's a lark. Didn't they have a consulate next door. If Taiwan flies its flag at its consulate in, say, Nicaragua, is that imperialism? How many Brits were even in Taiwan when you saw the Union Jack flying over San Domingo? I'd guess less than a dozen. How does this constitute imperialism? To tell the truth, I find this a bit odd. Britain opened up diplomatic relations with China in the early 50s, so I know you must be talking about pre-WWII. Do you mean Britain was being imperialistic toward Taiwan during 1930s or earlier, when Taiwan was a colony of Japan, and every "foreigner" on the island was being harassed for having as much as camera? I'm surprised you weren't worried about the Rising Sun fluttering pretty much in every other precinct, and wondering why Japan was able "to exhibit such blatant imperialism." When you saw the Union Jack or the Rising Sun, what were you thinking should be fluttering in its / their place - the imperialist flag of China? What other flag did you have in mind?

  4. I was talking about the period of the late 40s and early 50s when US alone was regarded as a close ally while England and especially Russia, foes. Remember it was the meeting at Potsdam when US, England and Russia decided the post-WWII spheres of influence which had excluded China. Or at least that was being taught in my elementary school. The Union Jack flying over Danshui was therefore a symbol of imperialism reflecting the immediate pre- and the post-WWII discord between China (not Taiwan) and England.

    My question, to be more specific, was that the flag must have been seen by Chiang Kai-sek on his way to the villa in the forbidden zone in Danshui, and if England was not such a good friend, why allow it to be displayed at all. I recall a huge poster outside of Danshui Post Office on one of the Double 10th Days depicting Winston Churchill as a cigar chomping head with the body of a cattle (约翰牛). Apparently that was the officially sanctioned version.

  5. But when did they shut the consul down, 1951? Or, did Britain keep relations with both Taiwan and China? I am confused about this. I don't see what Chiang Kai-shek could've done about a Union Jack flying over a British Consular Office.

    Prior to the Communist invasion of Korea, the US had all but abandoned Taiwan, as Truman figured Chiang was completely incompetent. Roosevelt, I have heard, had a similar view, and had to be talked out of removing Chiang during WWII by, of course, Churchill. He said something like "at least the bastard is ours." Now I doubt the Taiwanese people would've been told they had been abandoned by the US. Can you remember those early months in 1950 and what you were being told?

    BTW, I'd be fascinated to see that poster of Churchill. Got a copy somewhere?

  6. The consulate was shut down in 1972. After that, the Americans (first the embassy then the AIT) were entrusted with taking care of the property and paying its maintenance staff - until 1980 when the Americans got tired of doing it. Then the Brits tried to register and sell the property, even though the lease was supposedly for perpetuity, and were debating whether selling it to the ROC gov't constituted a recognition of sorts, etc. The rest of the story is probably available at San Domingo now.

    So it was not like the consulate had a legit reason to be there as England no longer had a diplomatic relation with the ROC - since the early 50s. If you are confused, imagine my even greater confusion as a kid, hence my previous question.

    The caricature of Churchill was a literal rendering of John Bull. Unfortunately, the poster is long gone; it was hand-made and fashioned long before the digital age. I also remember Russia was portrayed as a black bear with bloody mouth and paws and the US, Uncle Sam with the tall hat bit.

    The US abandoned the ROC for only a brief period, so the common people needed not know. When the Korean War broke out, the US aids resumed. At that time, the draft law was also re-instated. I remember the draftees and families parading on trucks waving long white banners and wearing white headbands and silk sashes, absolutely in the Japanese style. Looking back, that was hilarious except it was taken very seriously.

    And we the kids had once met a very friendly Caucasian American army officer on a jeep accompanied by a couple of Chinese soldiers. We were very impressed by his speaking perfect Mandarin Chinese. This gentleman must have been one of those MAAG advisers. MAAG was located diagonally across the street from the Presidential Place in Taipei, BTW.