Address of Mr. Burlingame to the President

Mr. President: If you had not already, through the Secretary of State, kindly relieved me from embarrassment, my first duty on the present occasion would be to explain to you how it is that I, who left this capital seven years ago a minister of the United States to China, have now returned here a minister from China to the United States. You will permit me, I trust, to renew, in this formal manner, the expression of my thanks for the kindness and liberality with which this change of representative character and responsibility on my part, has been allowed by the American people.

Mr. President, the imperial Chinese government having, within the last three years, accepted the laws of nations as they are allowed and practiced by the western powers, that government has further concluded, if permitted, to enter into communication through the customary diplomatic way with the United States, Belgium, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Holland, Italy, North Germany, Russia, Spain, and Sweden. This desire of the Chinese government is fully expressed in letters addressed to those powers respectively.

We are charged, at the expense of what might bear the appearance of egotism, to say that there are nine official ranks in China. By way of showing the greatest possible respect to the western powers, the letters to which I refer were committed to the care of myself, of the first rank, and to Chih-Tajên and Sun Tajên, of the second rank, myself [Page 604] being invested with extraordinary and plenipotentiary functions, and all of us being accredited to you as high ministers and envoys.

We have now the honor to deliver the letter of his Imperial Majesty, which is thus addressed to the President of the United States. In doing so, we obey a charge given us by the Emperor of China to assure you of his sincere desire for your personal health, honor, and happiness, and for the welfare and prosperity of the great nation over whom, by the authority of Heaven, you have been called to preside.