Sir F. Bruce to Mr. Seward

Sir: Her Majesty’s government have received latterly accounts of the great increase of piracy on the coast of China. The pirates possess heavily armed and fast sailing loochos manned by Chinamen of desperate character, and not unfrequently assisted by foreigners. They no longer confine their attacks to the small and defenceless class of junks, but attack the largest sized junks, and even European vessels.

The aggregate foreign trade with China does not fall short in value of one hundred millions sterling, and a large amount of foreign shipping is employed in the coast trade. These great interests are exposed to constant risk and interruption by the operations of the piratical squadrons.

The Chinese government bound itself by treaty with Great Britain to concer measures for the suppression of piracy, and her Majesty’s government exert; their strongest influence at Peking to induce the Chinese government to act up to its engagements in this respect. A considerable naval armament is, moreover, as you are aware, employed on the coasts of China to keep the pirates in check.

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Her Majesty’s government are desirous in this, as in all other matters of common interest affecting the foreign relations of China, to act in concert with the treaty powers; and as the United States are largely interested in the suppression of this evil, which threatens the commerce of all alike, I am instructed to bring the subject under the notice of the government of the United States.

Her Majesty’s government believe that the united action of the United States and Great Britain would be productive of the best results, and I beg to suggest for your consideration the expediency of instructing the representative of the United States in China, and the naval commander on that station, to act in concert with her Majesty’s minister at Peking, in urging the Chinese government to take active measures for the eradication of piracy and to co-operate with the British admiral in measures calculated to put it down.

I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration sir, your most obedient, humble servant,


Hon. William H. Seward, &c., &c., &c.