Mr. Burlingame to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that Vice Admiral Sir James Hope, of whom I made mention in my last despatch, has returned, and that he has done me the honor to communicate to me, confidentially, the results of his expedition.
The object of it was briefly this: to demand payment for certain robberies committed by the rebels on British subjects in the Yang-tze Kiang river; to inform them that Chinese junks, purchased by British subjects, were bona fide British property, and, therefore, must not be interfered with by them; to notify them of the measures which had been taken to prevent the assumption of the British flag by improper parties; to call their attention to the fact that they had not kept the pledge they had made last spring, not to approach within one hundred li of Shanghai; and to inform them, as Hankou and Kew Kiang had become of great importance for trade, that, like Shanghai, they must not be molested. These demands and information were made known to them, through senior officer Henry M. Bingham, by Mr. Harry S. Parkes, who acted as interpreter. The rebels responded with great spirit, declaring that they should attack not only the places indicated, but all others held by the “imps,” and that, if the foreigners interfered, they must perish with them.
They refused utterly to respond to any of the demands made by the admiral, but, in doing so, they expressed a desire to be at peace, and claimed to belong to the same family, because they worshiped the same God. The admiral responded in the most pointed and peremptory manner, that, if they interfered [Page 832] with the trade of the Yang-tze Kiang, or attacked any of the forbidden places, they would be repulsed, as they had been on former occasions, and as their “folly would deserve.” The documents from which I have made the above brief statement are quite voluminous, and I did not feel at liberty to copy from them, under the request of the admiral that I should hold them measurably confidential.
It is not possible to write what will probably be the result of the present state of things. The rebels in certain quarters seem to be gaining, and in others losing ground. Since my last despatch they have taken Hang Chow, a city not far from Ningpo. In another despatch I will give a fuller account of them and of their purposes.
I am happy to inform you that as soon as the admiral arrived he called upon me, and, in the warmest manner, tendered me, on behalf of his government and himself, any assistance I might need in this anomalous state of affairs. He soon after sent me the courteous letter, a copy of which I enclose. In the morning I shall avail myself of his kind invitation to visit Ningpo by his ship. At Ningpo our people are now exposed to the capricious conduct of the rebels. I shall not feel at liberty to hold any official intercourse with the rebels which they might construe into a recognition.
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I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.