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Talk: A Postmortem of the Canton System
Date: 13 November 2013 

China studies, School of Modern Languages and Cultures HKU cordially invites you to attend a talk:

A Postmortem of the Canton System

Frederic Delano Grant, Jr

Date: 13 Nov, 2013
Venue: CRT-4.36, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Time: 4:30-6:00 pm 

Abstract of Talk:  A Joint Memorial to the throne, sent in April 1839, discloses a massive $2+ million tax arrearage owed by the hong merchants and seeks approval of further deferrals.  Writing in 1932, Professor T. F. Tsiang, who published the Memorial, stated that “the mere fact that such enormous debts existed and tended to increase was a sure sign that some disease was eating away the vitals of the Co-Hong not long before the Treaty of Nanking officially pronounced its demise.”  The thesis of this talk is that this morbid condition was, in significant part, the result of the system of unlimited collective liability for foreign debt enforced by the Qing state among the hong merchants from 1780 to 1842, itself a lesser but important cause of the Opium War.

Biography:  Frederic Delano Grant, Jr., a practicing lawyer, has written extensively about the business and legal history of early Western trade with China.  He received his J.D. from Boston College Law School in 1983, and a Ph.D. in history from Leiden University in 2012.  His dissertation, "The Chinese Cornerstone of Modern Banking: The Canton Guaranty System and the Origins of Bank Deposit Insurance 1780-1933," will be published in 2014 (Studies in the History of Private Law, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers).  His work applies insights developed over thirty years' practice as a lawyer specializing in debt matters to produce new understandings of the workings of the Canton System.


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