Mr. Williams to Mr. Seward
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that the Chinese government has just sent an accredited agent of its own to those countries with which it has treaties, a special commissioner instructed to tender the respects of the Foreign Office of Peking to those nations, and make such observations on foreign lands as a hurried visit will allow. Though the subject has often been proposed to Prince Rung and the members of the Foreign Office, they have acted in it now without any urging, and apparently from a conviction of the benefits which they may derive; so that, being quite voluntary on their part, the step is regarded by the diplomatic body here as an advance in the right direction.
The delegate sent on this mission is Pin-Chun, (addressed as Pin-tajin,) who has been acting for two or three years as a revisor of custom-house returns, in connection with the foreign inspectorate, and has thus been brought into contact with foreigners, and learned as much of their countries as his opportunities allowed. Before leaving the capital he was raised to the third rank, and formally introduced by Prince Kung to the foreign ministers on their New Year’s visit as his agent to their respective countries, sent on the part of the foreign office. His instructions require him to make careful notes on the customs, peoples, and all objects of interest in the lands he visits.[Page 495]
His design is to go in course to Paris, London, the Hague, Copenhagen Berlin, and St. Petersburg, return to England to take passage for America and get back, if possible, via California by next winter. He is accompanied by three Manchu lads, students in English and French, and by Messrs. Bowra and Deschamps of the customs, as interpreters Mr. Robert Hart, the able inspector general of the customs, goes with the party as far as England, and it is his return home on a short furlough that has probably been the immediate moving cause for the appointment of Pin-tajin.
If he carries out his design of visiting the United States, I hope that you will grant him every facility to make such observations as will be of service to him and his country. As he does not go in a diplomatic character, it is not expected that he will have an audience in any of the courts he visits, but will only call on their ministers for foreign affairs to present the salutations of Prince Kung. It is probably best in the present case that as the Emperor of China does not give audience to foreign ministers, this commissioner from his capital should not receive higher courtesies than he gives.
This mission from China to the west will be of great benefit to this government, if Pin-tajin brings back such an account as will encourage it in its foreign policy. It is, perhaps, better in some respects that the first attempt to break through the policy of the empire should be by sending a private agent, who can report without further committing the government; see other lands, as it were, with its own eyes, and test, in some degree, the descriptions that have been given it of those regions. It seems to me desirable, therefore, that while the party sees whatever is deemed most worthy its inspection, no great eclat should be made during its short stay in America. Since the appointment was made the Foreign Office has been much pleased at the approbation unexpectedly evinced by other high officials in Peking at the move, and consequently their interest in its result will be increased.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.