CHANCELLERIES: Kowtow, 1816

The Chinese Master of the Universe, Celestial Emperor Chia Ch'ing, seemed singularly unimpressed by the British Mistress of the Seas. In the year of the Battle of Waterloo, he all but slammed the one door open to Britons in China—the East India Company's station at Canton. When the traders petitioned for relief, London decided to send an ambassador extraordinary to the potentate in Peking. What ensued had no parallel until last week (see below).

The chosen envoy was William Pitt Amherst, Earl of Arakan and nephew of famed soldier of the King, Lord...