Saturday, February 05, 2011

You're fired

In 1841, the Chinese negotiator Qishan was ordered dismissed and executed for agreeing to a treaty that ended hostilities with the British in exchange for Hong Kong and $6 million in indemnities. Ironically, his counterpart, Charles Elliot -- the guy who out-negotiated Qishan -- received the following letter from his boss, the director at the foreign service, Lord Palmerston [Spence, p.156]

“You have disobeyed and neglected your instructions; you have deliberately abstained from employing, as you might have done, the force placed at your disposal; and you have without any sufficient necessity accepted terms which fall far short of those which you were instructed to obtain.”

I find this oddly inspiring, both because of the way two powerful men were humbled by forces beyond their control, and how we in the future look back and calmly smile at what must have been traumatic at the time.

You're fired!