A Letter From Nguyễn Huệ
The following is a letter composed by Emperor Nguyễn Huệ Quang Trung, addressing the King of Macao on the important matter of trades and commerce. The interesting part about this piece of writing are the words and arguments which the Emperor presents to the King of Macao. Nguyễn Huệ is highly confident in dealing with his foes, not afraid to say what is on his mind. The reason I am even bringing up this letter is because I believe it gives us a glimpse of what the Emperor was like, his strength, his fearlessness, and his determination in facing his enemies.
Alright, that’s enough from me. Here is “A Letter by Quang Trung to the King of Macao” courtesy of the Nguyen Thai Hoc Foundation.
A Letter by Quang Trung to the “King of Macao” [June 1792]
By this imperial letter I inform the European king of Macao, in order that he might know perfectly the manner in which events have unfolded. This year, in the fourth intercalary month (21 May-19 June 1792) two ships have arrived at my kingdom of Quang-nam at the port of Thuchum.
They were examined by the port guards and they declared themselves to be ships from Macao, of which the captain’s name was Joaquim António Milner. He had carried out commerce in Dong-nai and was returning to Macao, bearing letters of recognition from this lost family of the Nguyen. But alas! they are ignorant of the fact and are not able to discern clearly that Dong-nai is nothing but a minor territory, where the vanquished Nguyen family has taken refuge in order to hide themselves. That insignificant man will never regain his domains; those madmen of the Siamese king aided him with their armies, but they were also vanquished and exterminated in combat.
Heaven has dispersed them, they are lost and have neither courage nor troops. For five years the French Europeans and those of your kingdom, and numerous merchants have given them boats and arms; taking part in his tyranny, they have resisted my armies, fighting in the wars in which many have died by the blade of the sword; it is a fact known to all and should serve as an example. I, the Emperor, have purified and pacified the kingdom in its confusion; I have conquered all of the southern provinces, not only Tonkin, but also those of Cochinchina, in which all of the middle territories of Quangnam were first, and then all of the major cities of these central regions of Quang Nam were made tributaries.
However this territory of Dong-nai is like a pearl, how is it that this line of the Nguyen has been able to elude me? For some years now, up to the present day, I have been at war in order to establish myself in the northern regions of Hinhing (Tonkin), moreover I have made war on China and its provinces of Guangdong and Guangsi, where I put the Chinese to flight and carried out great massacres. These victories established peace, and I have been at rest for some time. My army is now on battle footing; my captains and soldiers are flush with courage and will take part whereever I command them.
In consequence of which, you, the king of Macao, in truth a small territory, should decide and send an edict in firm terms. But I apprehend that those in Macao were not all involved in this affair and did not wish to carry out commerce [in Dong nai] for any other reason than that they were attracted by greed and interest. They should not return there, in order that they no longer marked are by this wicked Nguyen lineage, and that they no longer take part in their intrigues and criminal actions, under the pain of becoming without any doubt victims of my sword.
My desire is to pacify all of the neighboring princedoms and I do not wish to be in discord with them. It is for this reason, king of Macao, that I admonish you and order you to give rigorous instructions to your subjects that if they carry out commerce it should be to Fuchum, a port in my kingdom, where they will find an accomodating anchorage and that they no longer return to Dong-nai and its environs in order that they no longer find themselves involved in those crimes to which they are strangers. And if they do not wish to obey with good grace, they will regret it, but it will be too late.
Consider well all of this; on it depends fortune or misfortune, friendship or enmity. The 18th of the 4th intercalary month of the 5th year of my reign of Quang Trung (7 June, 1792).
[Translated from Pierre-Yves Manguin, Le Nguyen, Macau et le Portugal: Aspects politiques et commerciaux d’une relation privilégiée en Mer de Chine 1773-1802, (Paris: École Française d’ Extrême-Orient, 1984), pp. 98-99]