Mr. Williams to Mr. Seward

No. 20.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches Nos. 1 and 2. In reference to the directions given in the latter, I only observe that no application for pardon or return to the United States has been made to this legation by any rebel; and so far as I know, there is no American now living in China who has personally aided the rebellion.

The foreign community in Shanghai are now engaged in revising the code of municipal regulations under which they have lived during the last ten years, a copy of which is in Mr. McLane’s despatch No. 8, pp. 125, 159, &c. They have not yet agreed upon all points, and will forward the amended code to Peking for examination and approval before acting upon it; but even then it will not extend over the entire foreign population there, as the French have a separate council. At present two separate municipal councils manage the affairs and maintain order among the inhabitants dwelling in two conterminous plots of land, known as the foreign settlement. The original dimensions of both these “concessions,” as they were first called, have been extended as the foreign population has increased, and great numbers of natives also live within their limits. The desirableness of doing away with the name and existence of separate foreign concessions in China is now generally admitted; and nowhere more than at Shanghai, where such great interests are involved, is general harmony of administration important.

I am happy to inform you that the new British minister, Sir Rutherford Alcock, expresses his desire to carry out the same co-operative policy which has been already agreed upon and fully explained by Mr. Burlingame. (Despatches Nos. 37, 42, 69, 79, and 83.) Sir Rutherford Alcock’s official life of twenty years in China and Japan has given him large experience; and he specially now desires to see the Shanghai community extricated from all its difficulties. All minor points of dispute could be adjusted if the two settlements were merged in one, and the interests of each nation adequately represented in one general municipality. He met a deputation of the residents on his way north, and learned their views upon the proposed changes in the code of regulations. In order to carry them into effect, and if possible to consolidate the municipal arrangements, he has suggested to his own government the desirableness of putting itself in communication with those of France and the United States, in order to come to an agreement on this question of local jurisdiction, and do away with the semblance of territorial authority. I told him that I cordially concurred in the suggestion, and would advise you immediately of the proposal. It appears to me to be an excellent plan, and I hope that you will find it practicable. The object is a very important one, and this seems to be the likeliest mode of attaining it; while the time is peculiarly favorable owing to the presence in Paris of Mr. Berthemy, (now home on leave from Peking,) and of Mr. Burlingame and Sir F. Bruce in the United States. I [Page 490] would therefore respectfully urge it upon your attention. If the principle be settled in regard to Shanghai, every other community like that in China and Japan will no doubt regulate itself on the same basis.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

S. WELLS WILLIAMS, Chargé d’Affaires.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.