Mr. G. F. Seward to the Tantai

No. 658.]

Sir: I have received your despatch of the 8th instant.

I am afraid that you have mistaken the object of my negotiation with you.

I was instructed by my superior officer at Peking, to whom I had referred our correspondence touching the north-bank question, to investigate the matter.

Having proceeded to your port and satisfied myself of the justice of the position taken by the merchants, I urged, with a view to save further trouble, that you should recognize this right to remain on the north side; and, when I found that you would not do this, I told you how you might compromise with the merchants, so far as lands already acquired were concerned, viz., by paying them for their outlays. I proposed this with the sanction of the merchants, who, while they would vastly prefer to retain their lands, were not desirous of standing in a position of hostility to yourself,

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As to the question of the treaty right, that would rest for discussion at Peking.

I did not go up to your port to urge a pecuniary indemnity, and I am not disposed to do so now. The question stands at the moment in this wise: if you think that the arguments which I adduced at our interview were just, you may either pat the merchants in quiet possession of their several properties or pay them for their outlays. If you do not, then the only course is to submit the whole question to arbitrament of higher authorities.

Touching the points raised in your despatch, I have to remark as follows:

1. The treaty right to purchase land on the north bank. This point has already been fully discussed by us.

2. Absence of seals on deeds. I do not know that it is necessary to have any seal. In the American treaty the legal fees for seals are mentioned, but there is no stipulation that deeds must be sealed. In the appropriate article of the British treaty, the word seal does not occur.

3. Names of foreign merchants do not appear in deeds. The Chinese names of the mercantile houses are given, I believe, although it is true that they are not described as foreign hongs. That such were meant, however, every one familiar with trade at the ports would, I think, understand.

4. Land clandestinely rented. I do not know why you should say this, for that these lands had been rented has been a matter of common notoriety, and could not well have been concealed, had there been any object for it.

5. Proposition for pardal payment. The merchants are unwilling to claim possession of the. north bank, or of anything on account thereof, if they have not a just claim based on the treaty-right, or if by informalities their titles to the land are not good. They believe that they would be put in a wrong position should they consent to do so.

6. Proposition that the original renters should make this partial payment. The merchants consider that their transactions with the renters were complete when they made payment for and received possession of the lands in question, and that it would be bad faith to claim against them.

7. The requirements of justice. It appears from the governor general’s despatches, copies of which you allowed me to take, that the object of having the Chinese and foreigners removed from the north bank, was to give room for the great salt station which has been recently established there. Now, the salt commissioners ought not to take up lands belonging to foreigners without their consent, and without paying them their price. Perhaps the governor general upon further investigation would agree in this view, and not ask the present renters to give up their lands, whether or not they are willing, and the lessors, who seem to be innocent, to pay them all indemnity.

Having thus answered the points raised by you, in order that it may not appear that I acknowledge that they have force, I may say, in conclusion, that it is not desirable to spin out our discussion.

The merchants will positively not agree to different terms than those offered by them, and if you cannot come up to this standard, it is better to say so, and to refer the matter to Peking at once.

I am your obedient servant,


His Excellency Ting, Tantai, &c., Chinkiang.