Papers Relating to Foreign Affairs, Accompanying the Annual Message of the President to the Second Session of the Thirty-ninth Congress
Mr. Williams to Mr. Hunter
Sir: Referring you to my despatch of June 26, (No. 3,) I have now the honor to give you further particulars and documents respecting the action taken in regard to Burgevine, received since it was written, and to offer a few explanatory remarks.
I wish first to correct the rumor alluded to in that despatch that Burgevine had aided Walker in his attempt in Central America. It seems, from the best data that I can get, that he did not join in those operations, and his name is not found in the list of men outlawed by President Pierce. The despatch of the consul general, (enclosure D,) written after furnishing him a copy of my own, contains several facts respecting the conduct of Burgevine in 1863, that were not accurately known to me at the time of writing, and shows that Mr. Seward had done all that he could at the time to arrest this man’s further aiding the rebels. It also corrects my inference that he had been secreted in China for a year when captured, and the more important implication of his having been connected with the seizure of the Firefly in 1863.[Page 463]
To my mind Mr. Seward’s statement takes away all excuse from Burgevine for coming back. It is not easy to imagine what he expected to do or get at all commensurate to the risk he ran, for he must have known that the insurgents were weak, and that, though they had possession of Changchau, near Amoy, their prospects of making head against the imperialists were very poor. In explanation of the contempt shown to the authorities of his own country by returning, it may be observed that the conduct of all foreigners who joined either the imperial or rebel side was usually regarded by their countrymen as political, rather than penal or immoral, involving little more than the risks of life and limb, with chances of pay and plunder. Those who aided the rebels were deemed to run little risk of punishment from their own authorities; and I do not know of one person having been tried and punished in a consular court by anything more severe than deportation.
The refusal of the local officers to deliver Burgevine to the consul at Fuhehau (enclosures A and B) was, judging by the comparison of dates, probably unknown to the officials in Peking at the time Prince Kung’s despatch of June 16th was written, which speaks only of the report from Kwoh, the commander of the forces investing Changchau. But the course the former intended to take was doubtless indicated; and they seem to have deemed it necessary for their own safety lest an attempt should be made to rescue their prisoner (see enclosure H) to keep him very close, and forward him to the north while awaiting orders from court. This apprehension accounts for their refusal to let the consuls at Amoy and Fuhehau see him.
My former opinion that the officers in Peking would see that he was well taken care of while in their hands still remains, for the inducements to do so were very strong, inasmuch as they wished to make an example of him if he was yielded up to them, which his death would prevent, as well as bring their motives into suspicion. A discussicn of the article in the treaty which grants entire control of the subjects of each nation to its own rulers served to bring out their distinct assent to it; and furthermore, that if the United States government required Burge vine’s surrender, they would give him up to the jurisdiction of his own authorities. While I told them that, taking all the circumstances of his case into consideration, I was of the opinion that the ends of justice would be reached, and a conspicuous warning given to others, by yielding him up, I certainly would not have done so had I not reason for trusting them in the mean-while with the safety of his person. They insisted, with some reason, on their having already twice surrendered him, and that now it was for the interest and peaco of both nations that he should be prevented from further action. I am desirous that this point should be borne in mind, lest an inference be drawn that, in allowing him to remain a prisoner in their hands, I gave up the principle of entire control over our citizens which the treaty contains. It seemed to me that some regard was due to the official relation which had previously subsisted between them and their prisoner, but I may have given it too much weight.
It is a question of some interest, and particularly in this connection, whether an American citizen can divest himself of his own nationality in a country like China, where the principle of exterritoriality is acknowledged by any act or declaration of his own. The converse of this question would be involved in its answer, whether a citizen can be declared to be an outlaw by his own authorities, and deprived of their protection for any act of his own. I suppose that neither can be done; that a citizen can neither throw off his allegiance nor be deprived of his citizenship while in Chinese territories. Many of our countrymen have taken service under the Chinese local authorities without any well defined arrangement on either side, and without the express cognizance of their respective higher authorities; some disappointment and trouble have arisen in some cases, as each party has judged its own obligations and privileges by its own understanding and usages.[Page 464]
The enclosures A to I contain all the facts of this case that have come to my knowledge. If I had had these papers in June, I could have shown to the high officials here that the ends of justice would have been as fully reached, and much sooner, by giving Burgevine up to be tried by his own authorities as by allowing him to remain in their hands. I was, however, obliged to act without them; and it is almost needless to add, too, that nothing in my former despatch was intended to reflect in any way on the action taken by the consul general towards Burgevine in 1863. The particulars of the death of this unhappy man (as given in enclosure H) in the southern part of Chehkiang province have been corroborated. It thus removes the decision of the point submitted to you in my first despatch from being a practical one to one that will serve as a guide in future.
I also add two enclosures (J, K,) relating to a homicide at Amoy, which are relevant to the general subject. The tone of the note from the Foreign Office indicates a strong desire on the part of the authorities here to co-operate in removing unruly foreigners from the ports, and to call in the assistance and authority of the consuls. In such cases it is nearly impossible to convict and punish the real criminals.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
William Hunter, Esq., Acting Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Schedule of enclosures with despatch No. 6.
|A||G.F. Seward||S. W. Williams.||States what has been done with Ward and others, and demands made for Burgevine, enclosing letter to.||July 7.|
|B||G. F. Seward||Ting||Demanding the rendition of Burgevine.||June 29.|
|C||Governor Genneral Tai.||British consul||Stating reasons why Burgevine should not be given up.||June 30.|
|D||Governor General Tai.||S. W. Williams||Reviewing the conduct of Burgevine, and the action taken in consequence, and also the various demands made for his rendition.||Aug. 2.|
|E||G. F. Seward||J. Markham||Inquiries whether Burgevine was connected with the capture of Firefly.||Aug. 2.|
|F||J. Markham||G. F. Seward||Regards him as having been personally unconnected with her capture.||Aug. 3.|
|G||Affidavits of I. S. Ludlam and W. Smith upon the same subject.||Sept. 1.|
|H||Prince Kung||S. W. Williams||Reports particulars of drowning of Burgevine by boat upsetting.||Sept. 4.|
|I||S. W. Williams||Prince Kung||Disposition to be made of his coffin.||Sept. 4.|
|J||Foreign Office||S. W. Williams||Report of a homicide by foreigners at Amoy.||Aug. 16.|
|K||S. W. Williams||Foreign Office||Will co-operate at all times to restrain lawless foreigners.||Aug. 17.|
Mr. G. F. Seward to Mr. Williams
Sir: Referring to my despatch of May 26, No. 3, I have the honor to inform you that both Ward and Hillman have sailed from his port, bound for San Francisco. Carter has left Shanghai, and I suppose has, ere this, had his trial at Amoy.
Finding the Chinese authorities dissatisfied with my action in regard to these men, I wrote them the despatch, copy of which, marked A, is enclosed herewith. At this time I had received a bare statement from the consul at Amoy that Burgevine had been arrested at that port, that the authorities had refused to hand him over, and that they had sent him overland to Foochow.
Subsequently I heard that Burgevine had arrived at Foochow, and Mr. Clark, our active officer at that port, soon afterwards wrote to me that the authorities had refused to deliver him up, and that he had been again started overland for Soochow. Upon this information I wrote the despatch enclosed, marked B. The authorities have not yet answered this despatch, and the case of Burgevine was no alluded to in their reply to the former.
It is reported that Burgevine has arrived at Soochow, and that he has still once more been sent forward, this time to Governor Li, at Nanking. I have no positive information to this effect.
The last feature of the case is shown in a despatch received at the British consulate from the acting viceroy at Soochow, a copy of which, furnished by Mr. Markham, I enclose, marked C. Mr. Markham has written to the viceroy, setting forth the wrongfulness of the course pursued towards Burgevine and of the course proposed. I think that there has been an attempt to pervert the intent of my first despatch, and this is perhaps a favorable circumstance, as indicating that the authorities are aware that their record in the matter is a very bad one. I shall not remit my efforts to secure possession of Burgevine.
I have, &c.
Dr. S. Wells Williams, United States Chargé d’Affaires, Peking.
I now learn that Burgevine has been captured at Amoy, and that he is now held at Foochow. It may be remarked in his case also that should he be sent to me I cannot try him for his offence at Amoy, because of the want, which will surely be felt, of witnesses; and even if the witnesses should accompany him, I cannot punish him for that offence so severely as he deserves, because he was prevented by capture from the commission of the act of assisting the insurgents. In his case, however, I can try and punish him severely for his old offences at Soochow. Those charges, notwithstanding that he received a promise from Gordon, for the governor, that they would not be brought against him, I waived on the part of the United States, only in view of his leaving the empire. Having returned in such a manner, he will be liable to prosecution by me on the old and the very grave charge of insurrection attempted and effected at Soochow.
I have, &c.
Mr. G. F. Seward to Ting Tau Tai
Sir: Referring to my despatch of June 9, I now have to state that Mr. Clarke, United States consul at Foochow, has informed me that Burgevine had arrived at his port; that he had requested that he should be given over to him, and had been refused; that he had afterward requested to be admitted to see him, and to provide whatsoever he might need, and had been again refused; and that, still later, he had been informed that the prisoner, with two others, an Englishman and a Portuguese, had been sent forward overland to Governor Li, at Soochow.
I perceive in the course thus taken a grave disregard of the treaty, which must certainly [Page 466] cause complaint on the part of my government. It becomes my duty at once to request that every measure be taken to make this most trying journey as little dangerous as possible, and that at the earliest moment the prisoner be handed to me.
It is also incumbent upon me to make a statement of this case to my superior at Peking; in doing so I shall certainly mention that I have never before had occasion to make such a statement, and that now it is of officers in another province of whom I have to complain.
I trust, also, that I may be able to report soon that the treatment on the route of the prisoner, and of the two others with him, has been such that the ground of complaint will not be further aggravated.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant,
His Excellency Ting Tau Tai, &c., &c., &c., Shanghai.
His excellency the acting viceroy to her Majesty’s consul.
The viceroy is in receipt of her Majesty’s consul’s despatch concerning the arrest of Burgevine and other foreigners of Changehow, and demanding the rendition of the one who is an Englishman, and recommending that the same course be pursued in the case of Burgevine, in conformity with treaty.
In reply, the viceroy has to remind her Majesty’s consul that Burgevine has again and again received mercy from the Chinese authorities for his repeated misdeeds and determined opposition to the imperial army. His measure of guilt is filled to overflowing. Also in his own country he has disregarded the laws more than once; truly he is a man to be hated by both Chinese and foreigners, and to whom no mercy should be shown.
Moreover, the American consul, Seward, has written to Ting Tau Tai, stating that, were Burgevine handed over to him, he would not punish him. The old crime committed at Soochow he could act upon, for the American consul had, in behalf of the American government, let him off without punishment, understanding that he should not return to China, but, as he has now taken upon himself to return, he can be punished for his old offence, and as he has again assisted the rebels his guilt is heavy. Now, as Burgevine was ordered not to return to China, and has disobeyed the laws of his own country, and has again come to China and assisted the rebels; and as foreign officials have not the power to restrain him, his old and new crimes should be punished according to Chinese law.
As regards the Englishman Kih-lien, (Crane,) it being his first offence, he should be handed over to his consul for severe punishment. The viceroy has already memorialized the foreign office on this case, and when their reply has been received a further communication shall be made through the Tan Tai.
Translated by Charles Carroll.
J. J. Middleton, Assistant.
Mr. G. F. Seward to Mr. Williams
Sir: I yesterday received your despatch of July 22, enclosing copy of your despatch to the honorable Secretary of State of the 26th of June. I feel greatly obliged to you for the copy, since it explains to me clearly the grounds of your decision to leave Burgevine in the hands of the Chinese until you could receive instructions from Washington. I find, as I expected, that your action in this respect, was taken under some misconceptions of the action heretofore taken, principally by myself, in regard to Burgevine; and I therefore, in simple justice to myself, now lay before you a statement which will, I trust, serve to place the records in a more satisfactory shape.
I will first offer a simple resumé of Burgevine’s career, at and near this post, and of my action toward him; and I will then point out how it has come to pass that my connection with the matter has been somewhat misunderstood. It is, to an extent, my fault that the record is not already more clear; but, as you are aware, Mr. Burlingame and myself were, during his stay at Peking, in constant correspondence by private letters, and thus many things were explained to him, individually, which ought properly to have gone on the records of the legation.
Burgevine was second in command of the Ward force of disciplined Chinese when I arrived in China, in February, 1862. He was severely wounded about that time, and did not return [Page 467] to active duty until shortly after the death of General Ward. He was then placed in command on the recommendation of Admiral Hope and Mr. Burlingame. I do not think, however, that he was, even then, in favor with the local authorities.
This occurred in October, 1862. In January, 1863, Burgevine was dismissed from the command. He considered himself aggrieved, and went to Peking to lay his case before Mr. Burlingame. The latter, in conjunction with Sir Frederick Bruce, thought that he had been dismissed without cause, and they strongly urged his reinstatement. The government apparently assented, and sent a commissioner, who was to arrange the reinstatement, back to Shanghai with Burgevine. In the mean time the command had been given to Major Holland, a British officer, who had been signally unsuccessful, and afterward to Major Gordon, another British officer, whose antecedents were most creditable, and whose subsequent record was such as to do honor to himself and to his country. The governor was well satisfied with him, and declined to receive Burgevine in his stead. Burgevine therefore returned to Peking; but this time found the government very hostile to him. Mr. Burlingame refused again to urge his reinstatement, but he insisted that the very grave charges made against him should be withdrawn. This was reluctantly done, and Burgevine returned to Shanghai.
Sir Frederick Bruce, in a despatch of date September 9, 1863, wrote to Earl Russell as follows:
“The charges which had been abandoned as untenable, were again brought forward, and Burgevine, despairing of justice, left for Shanghai. It was only after his departure, and by representations of the strongest character, that the minister of the United States induced the government to withdraw these charges. But no employment was offered to him, and Burgevine entirely failed at Shanghai in obtaining payment of the sum due, as pay, and for articles supplied for the use of the corps on his personal responsibility. Stung by this treatment, suffering in health from severe wounds, received in the imperial service,” &c., &c.
Thus far, Mr. Burlingame’s despatch, contained in the book of diplomatic correspondence or 1863, p. 942, will be found to corroborate my statements. Whatever he may have written since I am ignorant of. I mention this as you refer to his despatch of June 4, 1864.
The claims referred to by Sir Frederick Bruce were, as it was intended, I suppose, by Mr. Burlingame, at once brought before me again by Burgevine. I was at work hard all that summer, urging various claims upon the local authorities, and among them Burgevine’s, which amounted to some taels 30,000, but without much success. Burgevine was ready, I think, to leave the country had he received this money; but, stung by his bad treatment, and by the continual delay in the matter of his claim, he finally took the false step of joining the insurgents at Soochow.
There had been many rumors of his intension to take this step, and of the preparations that were being made; but I had been unable to discover any proof which seemed to me sufficient to justify his arrest.
The number of men who went with him was at this time unknown, but some reports made the number as high as one thousand. There was great consternation on the part of the native officials, and even much fear on the part of foreigners. I believed at the time that the general estimate of Burgevine was far too high, and I expressed my opinion then that he would not succeed, unless some subordinate of his should do the work for him. Mr. Hart will doubtless remember that I so expressed myself to him.
Burgevine remained with the insurgents throughout August and September. During that time he actually, on one occasion, came to Shanghai with others, to get some machinery belonging to the steamer Kajor repaired, and to buy arms, ammunition, and supplies. Several vessels of the Osborne Lay fleet were in the harbor at the time, the officers and crew of which were actively on the lookout for him. He, however, escaped; but the marshal of this office, with several others, British and Americans, were arrested, apparently in giving them aid. The marshal was tried by me, with three assessors. Lawyers were employed on either side, but the prosecution failed to make good its case. A full report of the trial was enclosed in my despatch to the Department of State, No. 24. It was also published in the North China Herald of September 26, 1863. The prisoner was discharged, as well as the others, British and Americans; yet I felt so convinced of his guilt that I requested him to resign, which he did. Subsequently, Burgevine himself narrated to me the history of the marshal’s connection with the matter, which showed him to be wholly guilty. This will serve to indicate my predicament; my desire to do justice, and the difficulties under which I labored. I am convinced that greater difficulties are encountered here in ferreting out criminals than any where else. The thousands of eyes, which elsewhere continually bear upon the actions of men, and bring to light, where offences are committed, if not direct proofs, chains of circumstantial evidence that are sure to entrap the offender, are here wanting; for the Chinese, who are the bulk of the population, do not see much that is going on before them, while they understand still less, and, as a rule, say absolutely nothing.
The service at Soochow, however, grew irksome and unsatisfactory. It was continual work and danger, and the pay was not forth coming. Burgevine himself was ill, and he apparently sought to drown his care by hard crinking. His officers entered into communication with Gordon, who still commanded the imperial forces; and, finally, Burgevine himself saw Gordon. On the 8th of October it was arranged that he should come out from Soochow with all his men, (foreigners,) and Gordon, speaking for the governor, and the British consul, [Page 468] and it seems also for me, guaranteed that they should not be prosecuted. I had previously written to Gordon my consent to waive any charges against the Americans concerned, reserving simply the right to send them away from China. Gordon seems to have overlooked this reservation, as will be seen by a reference to the “Blue Book,” before quoted, p. 168, report of Mr. Mayers to Mr. Markham.
Extract: “I found that further communications, in addition to those announced in Major Gordon’s letters of the 2d instant, had passed with Burgevine and Jones, the two principal leaders; and upon my being able to give the assurance that all ulterior measures would be renounced by the Futai, (governor,) as also that on your part, and that of the United States consul, the arrangements made by Major Gordon would without doubt be respected, there seemed every reason,” &c., &c., &c.
Burgevine and the others had great difficulty in getting away from the insurgents, but they finally arrived at Shanghai. I enclose the statement of several of the officers, marked 1 and 2, and have here to refer you again to the statement of Mr. Mayers, above quoted from.
After Burgevine’s arrival, so soon as he was at all Well enough to move, I notified him that it was necessary for me to demand that he should leave China. He refused to do so, saying that Gordon had guaranteed that no prosecution should be urged. I insisted, informing him that if Gordon had so done, he had acted without authority from me. Burgevine then, as it appears, determined to see Gordon to secure his intervention in his favor. He arranged with the commander of the gunboat Firefly to go to Quinsan with him for this purpose; but upon proceeding to the anchorage of the steamer found that she had gone. He then went on board the Feeloong, another Chinese steam gunboat, to take passage upon her. He was then arrested by the Chinese authorities upon suspicion of connection with the capture of the Firefly, which had taken place before his arrival, and sent to me. I inquired into the case, and satisfied myself that he had not any connection with the matter.
Soon after this, Burgevine still refusing to leave China, I arrested him, and prepared to try him for the capital crime of insurrection. After several days’ incarceration he concluded to go to Japan. This would be a compliance with the terms offered by me, and I had to assent. I had the less hesitation, as the rebellion appeared to be on the wane, and as he had come out from Soochow under circumstances which rendered it unlikely that he would again attempt to unite himself with the rebel cause.
Burgevine accordingly went to Kanagawa. As a measure of precaution I wrote to our consul at that port, asking him to keep me informed of his movements. He again returned to Shanghai in the month of March, 1864. There was nothing suspicious about his return, as the rebellion was still on the wane, and as I knew that he had, as he alleged, some private business to attend to. I, however, much to his disgust, lodged him in jail. He said at first that he would submit to trial; but again, after a time, concluded to go back to Japan, which he did on the 3d of April. I have every reason to believe that he remained there until about the 1st of March last. He then came to Shanghai secretly, and went thence to the neighborhood of Amoy, where the rebels had gained many successes. He was at or near that port, as stated in your despatch to the State Department, for several weeks, and was finally arrested. Thence, as detailed by you, he was sent to Foochow overland, and afterwards again started overland for Soochow, a distance of, altogether, about five hundred miles. At Amoy our consul asked that he should be given up. At Foochow he was again asked for, but the authorities refused even to let Mr. Clarke see him. Upon hearing that he had been started for this province, I wrote, asking that he should be handed to me. I have already forwarded to you a statement of my action in this respect, with copies of despatches. The only communication I have received since in the matter was a verbal one, yesterday, to the effect that Burgevine, with another prisoner, an Englishman, and thirteen boatmen having them in charge, had all been drowned by an accident to the boat in which they were being brought on. This is said to have happened somewhere in the province of Chekiang; but I have no particulars, and the authorities profess to have none.
This is my statement of the essential facts of Burgevine’s career, and of my connection with him. As to the misconceptions alluded to I will speak as briefly as I can.
In the first place, as to Burgevine having stolen back into the country at Ningpo in June, 1864: The inference drawn by you is, that he was in China from that time until his movement at Amoy was made There were in June, 1864, many rumors of his return; but, after a careful examination, I found that there was no reason to think that he was then here, or that he had been here. This conclusion was afterwards rendered certain by information from Japan. From the time when he went back from here, (April 3, 1864,) I am sure that he was not again in China until March, 1865. Again, on the fifth page of your despatch, you mention his “acts in joining the rebels at Soochow, and then his connection with them afterwards at Shanghai.” I was unable to understand at first to what you referred in speaking of his connection with the rebels near Shanghai. I find, however, that it is likely that you mean the matter of the Firefly, heretofore referred to by me, and that it is likely that you have arrived at the conclusion that Burgevine was concerned in her seizure, from the despatch of Mr. Markham to S. F. Bruce, (p. 182, Blue Book for 1864.) I have now to call your attention to that despatch, and ask you to read it in connection with the enclosed letter from Mr. Markham, and the affidavits of Captains Smith and Ludlam, (Nos. 2 and 3.) There was never any charge brought against Burgevine before me that he was connected with [Page 469] the seizure of the Firefly, or that he was concerned in an attempt to seize the Feeloong, and I think that the evidence now produced will show you clearly that he was not connected with either matter. This is an important point to me. If Burgevine was really concerned in these cases, then it was imperatively my duty to bring him to trial. If he had at once, after coming out of Soochow, commenced new schemes, he would have been deserving of the highest punishment, while I, in passing over the offence, would have been not less culpable than be.
I have, perhaps, said enough heretofore to indicate the circumstances under which I waived the charges against Burgevine for his offences at Soochow, further than to secure his departure from this empire. If I was in fault in this respect, I may plead that it was on the strength of Gordon’s request, and of the Futai’s assurance, that I expressed my assent to giving terms to the people of Soochow. This appeared then to be an urgent military measure.
I may quote, in evidence of this, from Mr. Markham’s despatch to Sir F. Bruce, (p. 164, Blue Book.) After stating the “changes of an unexpected and striking character” at Soochow, he says:
“Major Gordon having hereupon requested my assistance in obtaining from his excellency the imperial commissioner (the governor) Li, and from the French and United States consuls, assurances of amnesty for past proceedings, and having requested the further co-operation of Mr. Interpreter Mayers in bringing this matter to an issue, I allowed Mr. Mayers to proceed to Pootai-kian, and authorized him to tender such assurances as might be borne out by the tenor of a communication which I received from his excellency the imperial commissioner.”
As I have thus freely alluded to the contents of the British Blue Book, I would again call your attention to the assertion of the governor, on page 129, that he had informed me that, previous to his departure for Soochow in July, 1863, Burgevine had already been in communication with the rebels. I have heretofore alluded to the reports received by me in this connection, and to the difficulty of tracing such matters in China. I have only to remark, further, that so far as I know, not one person was arrested previous to Burgevine’s departure for Soochow, against whom any sufficient evidence was discovered, although it has since appeared that a great many went thither a about that time.
It should, moreover, be borne in mind that my marshal—a most excellent officer ordinarily, but one who, with very many others, was carried away by sympathy for Burgevine—as already shown, was faithless. Upon him I had, to an extent, to rely; and had he been true, the expedition might have been prevented. It is manifest, however, that the consular force was inadequate for such an emergency.
I trust that I have said enough to indicate that I have heretofore acted towards Burgevine with a due regard to the interests of justice. If you have formed an opinion that my treatment was too lenient, I trust that what I have said will correct it. As I have mentioned, I confess myself in fault in not having made a more complete record at the legation.
I hardly feel it to be my part to express an opinion as to the course which you have taken in this last matter. You have, however, already seen the letters which I wrote to the local authorities asking for the prisoner. You will have seen in them that every guarantee which could properly be given was given by me as to the manner in which I should deal with him. While I believed it imprudent to allow them to hold him, I still said, as I felt, that he should at least be put upon trial for the capital crime of insurrection, attempted and effected at Soochow. There are abundant witnesses of his offence here, and, so far as I was concerned, the result would not have been doubtful.
I am confident that, with a knowledge of all these facts, you would have taken up and urged the request for the delivery of Burgevine.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Dr. S. Wells Williams, Chargé d’Affaires of the United States, Peking.
Mr. G. F. Seward to Mr. Markham
Sir: Referring to a despatch of yours to Sir F. Bruce, with enclosures, published in the Blue Book of 1864, I have to ask whether you have ever had any evidence which would lead you to believe that Burgevine was concerned in the capture of the steamer Firefly, or that he attempted to capture the Feeloong.
Would you also let me know whether it was not the case that very active measures were taken in July, 1863, to get at the truth of toe rumors which existed of the expedition which [Page 470] was subsequently made to Soochow by Burgevine and others, and whether these measures led to any arrests?
I ask these questions, as the record as it stands leaves me in a somewhat unsatisfactory position.
I have, &c., &c., &c.,
J. Markham, Esq., H. M. Acting Consul, Shanghai.
Mr. Markham to Mr. G. F. Seward
Sir: In reply to your letter of yesterday’s date, I have the honor to inform you that considerable trouble was taken in July, 1863, to get at the truth of rumors then current that Burgevine was organizing an expedition to Soochow, and that numerous arrests were made of persons supposed to be implicated.
Your other question is rather difficult to answer, as the evidence, both with regard to the Firefly and Feeloong, was far from complete. From what I remember of the case I am induced personally to exonerate Burgevine from any direct share in the Firefly piracy.
I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
G. F. Seward, Esq.
Statement of I. S. Ludlam.
I am a citizen of the United States. I was master of the steamer Firefly during the time of her charter to the Chinese government up to the date of her capture. I had then resigned and Captain Dolle was about taking charge. I have probably taken as much pains as any one in Shanghai to ascertain the circumstances of hey capture and the names of her captors.
I am positive in my conviction that Burgevine had nothing to do with it.
Statement of William Smith.
I am a citizen of the United States. I was in command of the Chinese steamer Feeloong at the time of the capture of the Firefly. The Feeloong was anchored about five hundred yards from the Firefly and one and a half mile from Shanghai. A Chinese gunboat, with four foreign officers on board, was between the two steamers. The Firefly passed the Feeloong at 4 o’clock in the morning—I have forgotten the date. Burgevine and Townsend came on board of my vessel about 4 o’clock p. m. of the same day. I had gone to Shanghai. Burgevine inquired (as the mate told me) where the Firefly was, and the mate told him that she had been seized. He then said that he was going to Soochow. The mate showed him into the cabin and gave him, at his request, some liquor. He then went to sleep, and was asleep when I came on board. When I came on board there were a great many Chinese soldiers on board. I did not hear or see anything which led me to think that Burgevine had intended to capture my steamer. My opinion is that he started for the Firefly, intending to go to Soochow, and not finding her, he came to the Feeloong to get a passage with me.
Prince Kung to Mr. Williams
Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith sends a further communication respecting Burgevine, who was seized for aiding the rebels.
I have recently received a despatch from Li, superintendent of commerce at Shanghai, enclosing another from Ma, the governor of Chehkiang, who informs him that he had received the following report from the district magistrate of Lauki:
“His excellency Tso, the governor general of Fuhkien and Chehkiang, had deemed it best, in consequence of the numbers and power of the bands of insurgents who were leagued together in Fuhkien, a maritime province, along whose coasts Burgevine might be able to keep up a good understanding with them and apprehensive lest there should arise some attempt to plunder where the guards were weak, not to keep him long in the city of Fuhchau itself, but to send him on to the superintendent of commerce in order that he might be more completely prevented from making such attempts. As Crane, who was arrested at the same time, might be needed for a witness, he was sent on at the same time to be given over to the British consul at Shanghai to be tried and punished. A lieutenant (or chiliarch) named Kia Kwang-tai was accordingly directed to take a number of soldiers and braves with him as a guard of the three prisoners, Burgevine, Crane, and Sykes, on their journey. The party left Fuhchau on the 1st of June, and about noon of the 26th reached a place in Chehkiang called the Hwuitan rapids, in a branch of the Tsientang river. The southwest wind was blowing strong at the time, which increased the rush of waters over the rapids, while the stream was swollen from a fresh that added much to its turbulence. The boat had just begun to descend the rapids when a gust, aided by the surge of waters, upset and completely submerged it. The fishermen and people thereabouts immediately ran to the spot to render assistance; they succeeded in rescuing nine of the soldiers, but Lieutenant Kia, with the three prisoners and some petty officers and the master of the boat, were all, thirteen in number, carried down by the current and drowned. A boat was instantly ordered to go and search for them by dragging, and they succeeded in recovering at last the bodies of the three foreigners below the rapids, where also afterwards were found those of Lieutenant Kia with four petty officers named Chin Fuh-tang, Sung Chun-yih, Wang I-Kin, and Hu Fuh. An inquest was held over the bodies, which were all identified, and then carefully put into coffins.
“On receiving the preceding,” adds the superintendent of commerce, “I sent a special messenger back to the place to ascertain the circumstances attending the upsetting of the boat and prisoners, and he reports that it was all as had been described. I have to request, therefore, that the usual honors bestowed in such cases be conferred on Lieutenant Kia and the others named, Chin, Sung, Wang, and Hu, with the master of the boat, who were drowned while on duty, according to their ranks and merits. I shall await directions from the Foreign Office as to the disposal of the bodies of Burgevine and Crane.”
With regard to this case of Burgevine, who was joining the rebels near Amoy, I (the Prince) have already addressed a communication to your excellency, on the 16th of June, stating therein that by the laws of China he deserved to suffer capital punishment. In your reply you stated that you desired, before doing anything further, to report the particulars of the case to your own government, how the man had disgraced himself by joining the insurgents and then subsequently stealing back into China, by which conduct he made it difficult for his own country longer to protect him, and to request instructions whether it would be proper to yield him up to the Chinese authorities to deal with him. At a personal interview it was also decided that meanwhile he was to be kept at a distance from the seacoast.
From the preceding report of Li, the superintendent of commerce, I now learn that in transferring Burgevine and other prisoners from Fuhchau the boat was upset in the district of Lauki, at which time Lieutenant Kia, in charge of them, with other officers, named Chin Sung, Wang, and Hu, the skipper and some soldiers, thirteen persons in all, were drowned. Burgevine himself was a man who, by his frequent connections with the rebels, had, as you formerly remarked, acted so as to lose the countenance of his own country. It would have been right, therefore, to have regarded him as amenable to the laws of China; but as he has now met his death by the upsetting of the boat there need be no further discussion about him.
However, with regard to his coffin, which still remains in the district of Lauki, I have to inquire whether it shall be buried there by the Chinese, or whether you have any directions to give respecting its disposal, and where it shall be taken to be buried.
His Excellency S. Wells Williams, United States Chargé d’Affaires, Peking.
Mr. Williams to Prince Kung
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the despatch of your imperial highness, in which you inform me that Burgevine and others were upset in a boat at a place called Hwuitan rapids, on the 26th of June, by a gust of wind, and drowned. His coffin being still in the district of Lauki, you inquire whether it shall be buried there, or whether I wish it to be taken elsewhere for interment.
Burgevine, although he had followed evil practices, was still an American, and I beg, therefore, to express my thanks for the trouble taken by the people of Lauki to search for his body and put it in a coffin, thereby showing their kind feelings. In answer to your inquiry as to its disposal, I wish it to be taken to Ningpo and delivered to the American consul, who will attend to its interment.
I have the honor to be, sir, your highness’s obedient servant,
His Imperial Highness Prince Kung, &c., &c., &c.
Members of the Foreign Office to Mr. Williams
Sir: We have the honor to inform you that on the 12th instant the following report was received from Governor Li, at Shanghai:
“On the 26th June last a company of twenty or more foreigners at Amoy robbed a small money shop belonging, or near, to the custom-house. The next night they robbed and destroyed a grocery called the Paushing shop, shooting one of the men, named Chin Kween, and wounding Pung King, the master of the shop. The next day information was received that twenty-one foreigners were hidden in a grog-shop behind a shed; whereupon the Chinese and civil military officers deliberated with Mr. W. the acting French consul, and Ying Ya Kwoh, his official interpreter, upon the best course to be taken, and he had the whole party arrested at night, requesting Mr. Pedder, the English consul, to send some of his constables to assist in their capture. Fourteen Frenchmen and four Americans were seized, (three of the number escaping,) who were presently handed over to be examined and punished by the French and American consuls according to law.”
This report likewise requests us to look into the matter; and it seems to us very plain that these foreign vagabonds infest the open ports and constantly commit evil, greatly to the injury alike of all natives and foreigners quietly living there.
In May last the heads of all the native hongs and shops in Amoy united in a joint petition, requesting their rulers to concert measures with the consuls to have all foreigners who had no ostensible occupation examined and deported from the place. The authorities accordingly first consulted with Mr. Pedder, the English consul, on the matter, who replied that he would immediately inquire into the cases of all English subjects, who should all be required immediately to depart.
But such a high-handed outrage as that committed by these lawless vagabonds in killing and wounding persons is too grave to be thus passed over, and happily the United States consul and his interpreter, on learning where the miscreants were concealed, aided the local authorities as far as they could, without the least desire to screen the men. Such a course of action is very just, and does much to strengthen our amicable relations. We, therefore, send your excellency a list of the names of the eighteen men seized at this time, and beg you to instruct the consul at Amoy to examine those brought before him in order to ascertain particularly which was the murderer of Chin Kween, that he may be dealt with according to law; and further hope, too, that the other prisoners will be punished properly according to their misdeeds. They should on no account be leniently dismissed, for our hope is that by a proper course a complete stop can be put to these evils, greatly to the satisfaction of all well-disposed persons and the quiet of the region.
While we are writing this note a foreign newspaper has come from Shanghai, in which the following statement occurs:
“One cannot reckon the number of foreign vagabonds who are at present prowling about the settlement. Some have repeatedly set fire to buildings and robbed by night; others go so far as to fire their pistols, wounding and killing people. The intendant of circuit in Shanghai has informed the various foreign consuls of these things, requesting them to examine and restrain these men or deport them all to their respective countries. If there were no funds that could be devoted to this purpose, he proposed to raise means by subscription to [Page 473] aid in effecting the object, and thus restore quiet. The foreign consuls had a meeting upon the subject, and replied that the chief source of anxiety to the intendant at Shanghai was to keep his jurisdiction in a quiet state. It is notorious to all that these foreign vagabonds rob in and about this city and elsewhere to the great discredit of all foreigners who are involved in these acts, but each country has its own laws by which these men can be suitably punished.”
We may, therefore, further observe on this matter that when foreigners and natives live together at the open ports, if the former have no regular occupation, they band together to plunder and stir up the utmost disorder. To seize them after the crimes are committed causes the foreign officers and people much trouble, so that the better way is to take preventive measures and nip the evil in the bud. The intendant at Shanghai is always fully sensible of the evils caused by the vagabonds, and has taken suitable and effective measures to concert with the consuls to repress them. But we are further desirous that you will advise the American consuls elsewhere to take speedy and decisive measures to restrain these lawless men from going about committing such excesses, and we have the sincerest hope that through their efforts both natives and foreigners can attend to their own affairs.
While sending our own instructions to the high officers at Shanghai and the provincial authorities in Fuh Kien to do all they can to stop these evils, we also now send your excellency this note of information with our respectful salutations and compliments, to which we shall be glad to get a reply.
S. W. Williams, Esq., United States Chargé d’Affaires.
Names of the four Americans (derived from the sound of the Chinese characters) are Small, Jennings, Smith, and Wycherly. The names of the fourteen Frenchmen are too much altered to recognize.
Mr. Williams to the Members of the Foreign Office
Sirs: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of yesterday, in which you inform me that on the 26th of June last a party of twenty or more foreigners committed a robbery at Amoy, in which they killed and wounded some natives, and that fourteen of them had been turned over to the French consul and four to the American consul for examination and punishment, &c., &c.
As more than a month has elapsed since his occurrence, I have every reason to conclude that the consuls have taken all proper measures to learn the facts of the case, and if they were able to ascertain who it was that killed Chin Kween he will be dealt with according to law, and the others be suitably punished. There will be no improper leniency shown to the criminals.
I am always ready to join in every effort to maintain the public tranquillity and to relieve the fears of all well-disposed people, and shall, therefore, co-operate to the best of my power and further the suggestions made in your note, by advising the American consul to do all that he can to carry them out and put a stop to the evils caused by. these lawless men.
I avail myself of sending this reply to wish you daily happiness, and have the honor to be your obedient servant,
Pau-Yun and other members of the Foreign Office, Peking.