On September 26, 1792, George Lord Viscount Macartney, the first British envoy ever to reach China, sailed from Portsmouth with a commission as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China. The aims of the mission were to put Sino-British relations upon a treaty basis, redress various grievances in the existing commercial arrangements at Canton, open new ports to trade in north and central China, and, if possible, establish a permanent legation in China. As the objectives of the embassy were important and as it would establish precedents for future British missions to China, the government had planned it with care, and had placed at its head an especially competent diplomat and colonial administrator. The British were well aware that the Chinese considered foreign embassies as tribute-bearing missions and generally, if not always, demanded that the ambassador perform the kotow before the Emperor.

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