The commodore, having taken pilots on board, proceeded with his prize for the river of Canton; and on the 14th of July, came to an anchor short of the Bocca Tigris, which is a narrow passage forming the mouth of that river: This entrance he proposed to stand through the next day, and to run up as far as Tiger island, which is a very safe road, secured from all winds. But whilst the Centurion and her prize were thus at anchor, a boat with an officer came off from the mandarine, commanding the forts at Bocca Tigris, to examine what the ships were, and whence they came. Mr Anson informed the officer, that his ship was a ship of war, belonging to the king of Great Britain; and that the other in company with him was a prize he had taken; that he was going into Canton river to shelter himself against the hurricanes which were then coming on; and that as soon as the monsoon shifted, he should proceed for England. The officer then desired an account of what men, guns, and ammunition were on board, a list of all which he said was to be sent to the government of Canton. But when these articles were repeated to him, particularly when he was told that there were in the Centurion four hundred firelocks, and between three and four hundred barrels of powder, he shrugged up his shoulders, and seemed to be terrified with the bare recital, saying, that no ships ever came into Canton river armed in that manner; adding, that he durst not set down the whole of this force, lest it should too much alarm the regency. After he had finished his enquiries, and was preparing to depart, he desired to leave the two custom-house officers behind him; on which the commodore told him, that though as a man of war he was prohibited from trading, and had nothing to do with customs or duties of any kind, yet, for the satisfaction of the Chinese, he would permit two of their people to be left on board, who might themselves be witnesses how punctually he should comply with his instructions. The officer seemed amazed when Mr Anson mentioned being exempted from all duties, and told him, that the emperor’s duty must be paid by all ships that came into his ports: And it is supposed, that on this occasion, private directions were given by him to the Chinese pilot, not to carry the commodore through the Bocca Tigris; which makes it necessary more particularly to describe that entrance.
The Bocca Tigris is a narrow passage, little more than musquet-shot over, formed by two points of land, on each of which there is a fort, that on the starboard-side being a battery on the water’s edge, with eighteen embrasures, but where there were no more than twelve iron cannon mounted, seeming to be four or six pounders; the fort on the larboard-side is a large castle, resembling those old buildings which here in England we often find distinguished by that name; it is situated on a high rock, and did not appear to be furnished with more than eight or ten cannon, none of which were supposed to exceed six pounders. These are the defences which secure the river of Canton; and which the Chinese (extremely defective in all military skill) have imagined were sufficient to prevent any enemy from forcing his way through.