Mr. Burlingame to Mr. Seward
Sir: It is my painful duty to inform you that the United States schooner General Sherman, while on a trading voyage to Corea, was destroyed and all on board murdered by the natives. The news was brought to Cheefoo by Admiral Rose, of the French fleet, the particulars of which please find in Mr. Sandford’s despatch, (A.) I refer you also to the letter of Meadows & Co., (B,) from which you will learn that the schooner was chartered and loaded by them and for what purpose.
As Corea was formerly tributary to China I brought the affair to the attention of Prince Kung, who at once disavowed all responsibility for the Coreans, and stated that the only connection between the two countries was one of ceremonial. I thereupon addressed the letter (C) to Admiral Bell, in which I limit myself to a suggestion as to what action should be taken.
As the French are seeking redress for the murder of their missionaries, (for account of which see Mr. Williams’ despatch, No. 37,) it may be that those on board the General Sherman were by the Coreans confounded with them; this seems the more probable, inasmuch as the crew of the Sherman were heavily armed. Recently an American crew under Captain McCaslin, (see Dr. Williams’ despatch, No. 44,) wrecked in Corea, were treated with the utmost kindness. My colleagues have written to their admirals, and I suppose in the spring there will be a large fleet in Corea. The issue of all will be the opening of the country. If my advice can have weight, it will be that our presence there should rather restrain than promote aggression, and serve to limit action to such satisfaction only as great and civilized nations should, under the circumstances, have from the ignorant and the weak.[Page 427]
You have seen from my despatch, No. 122, what passions are aroused and to what their indulgence would lead. I am informed that; the French government does not contemplate an expedition against Corea, but after the virtual repulse of Admiral Rose it will be impossible to avoid it.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
Hon. Anson Burlingame, Minister of the United States, Peking.
Hon. Anson Burlingame, United States Minister Plenipotentiary.
P. S.—We beg to enclose copy of our letter to H. B. M.’s consul, Mr. Mongan, on the loss of the General Sherman, and requesting the British admiral’s assistance in the matter, Mr. Hogarth and Mr. Thomas being both British subjects.
H. H. Bell, Acting Rear-Admiral Commanding U. S. Asiatic Squadron.