Macartney Embassy

Macartney Embassy

Macartney Embassy

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The Macartney Embassy, also called the Macartney Mission, was a British embassy to China in 1793. The Mission ran from 1792–94 . It is named for the first envoy of Great Britain to China, George Macartney, who led the endeavour. The goal of the embassy was to convince Emperor Qianlong of China to ease restrictions on trade between Great Britain and China by allowing Great Britain to have a permanent embassy in Beijing, possession of "a small unfortified island near Chusan for the residence of British traders, storage of goods, and outfitting of ships", and reduced tariffs on traders in Guangzhou.


The Canton commercial system of trade had been in place informally since the 17th century. Essentially, the guidelines restricted formal trade to being conducted through a handful of merchants selected by the government. These were commonly called Hong merchants. As trade intensified, disputes broke out between the British traders and the Hong merchants. This forced local authorities to issue edicts formalizing the system of trade and its restrictions.

By the late 18th century, the British traders were feeling confined by the restrictive system. In an attempt to gain greater trade rights, they lobbied for an Embassy to go before the Emperor and make requests. The first Embassy, the Cathcart Embassy of 1788, was called off with the sudden death of Cathcart before his arrival in China. Another Embassy was...
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