The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 3/6

Tilly’s second incorrect opinion—while it is true that Victorian women had very little in the way of rights, that does not mean Robert Hart was not raised by his parents to treat women as equals.  In fact, Robert Hart was raised as a Wesleyan by his father, a Wesleyan pastor, and the Wesleyan Church believed that women were equal to men.

Now, granted, the belief that women were equal to men might not be exactly the same as in 21st century America, but that does not mean Hart was not raised to respect women as equals.

In fact, the Wesleyan Church has a long history of supporting women’s rights. “Citing Galatians 3:28, Luther Lee gave the sermon Woman’s Right to Preach the Gospel when Antoinette L. Brown became the first woman ordained to the clergy in 1853.” Source: Wesleyan Church History

In addition, The Wesleyan Chapel in Seneca Falls, New York hosted the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, also known as the Seneca Falls Convention—the beginning of the women’s rights movement in the United States.

Third incorrect opinion—Tilly claims that Robert Hart could not have believed that paying 33 pounds for a concubine was cheap. However, on page 150 of Sterling Seagrave’s Dragon Lady (paperback edition), Robert Hart is quoted as saying, “Now, some of the China women are very good looking. You can make one your absolute possession for from 50 to 100 dollars and support her at a cost of 2 or 3 dollars per month. … Shall I hold out—or shall I give way?”

Then on Thursday, August 31, 1854, Hart wrote in his journal, “Cheepqua told us…that from 200 to 1000 dollars are given for a wife of respectable Chinese. They marry between the ages of 16 and 30.” Source: Entering China’s Service

Then Seagrave says, “By early May he had a sleep-in dictionary, his concubine, Ayaou.  He had just turned twenty; Ayaou was barely past puberty but was wise beyond her years.”

Since both Seagrave’s book and Entering China’s Service was published in America, we may safely assume that Seagrave was referring to dollars and not pounds or Chinese yuan. No one knows what Hart actually paid for Ayaou or Shao-mei because Hart did not mention the price paid anywhere in his surviving journals, so I went with British pounds. However, Robert may have paid as little as £10 British pounds, which at the time was about $50 American dollars.

For a comparison to discover if that was as costly as Tilly believes, we cannot rely on the British Empire—slavery was abolished in most of the British Empire in 1833, two years before Robert’s birth

The only comparison between cheap and expensive slaves (or the cost of buying a concubine) may be found in the United States where slavery existed until the end of the American Civil War in 1864.

According to Plantation agriculture in Southeast USA, the average price of a slave between 1851-1855 was $1,240 .  When we convert that to British pounds, the cost of a slave was £253.83 British Pounds.

Another source says the average price of a slave girl in the United States in 1860 was $400US, which would be about £80 British pounds. Source: Slave

A third source said that in 1854 (when Hart arrived in China) the average value of slaves in the United States was $500.00 (or £100 British pounds) and by 1861, that price would be $800US (£160 British pounds). Source: Measuring

Therefore, if Robert Hart paid between ten to thirty-three British pounds for Ayaou, that was a bargain he could afford. Anyone that read The Concubine Saga carefully would know that Robert arrived in China with £50 pounds (a gift from his father—it says so in Hart’s journals) and started out earning an annual income from the British consulate of about £200 (again, it says so in Hart’s journals), and his room, board and servant came with the job. However, he had to pay for a teacher to teach him Chinese—the consulate did not cover that expense as part of his salary.

Furthermore, what Hart was paid when he arrived in China was not what he was earning when he met Ayaou. In Hart’s journal entry for July 4, 1855, he says he was nominated to a provisional assistancy in the Consulate with an annual salary of £270 British pounds.

Continued on July 12, 2012 in The Self-Annihilation of Credibility – Part 4 or return to Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse, a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, is the award winning author of The Concubine Saga.

His latest novel is Running with the Enemy. Blamed for a crime he did not commit while serving in Vietnam, his country considers him a traitor. Ethan Card is a loyal U.S. Marine desperate to prove his innocence or he will never go home again.

And the woman he loves and wants to save was trained to hate and kill Americans.

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