No. 134.
Mr. Williams to Mr. Fish.

No. 9.]

Sir: Referring to Mr. Low’s dispatches of June 24 and 26, 1872, (Nos. 166 and 167,) in relation to the subject of coolie emigration, and more particularly to his recent one of June 3, 1873, (No. 261,) about the discussion [Page 203] between the Spanish chargé d’affaires and the Chinese government, growing out of their prohibiting the emigration of Chinese laborers to Spanish colonies, I have now the honor to transmit for your information several papers explaining its course and results.

The controversy has been dragging along rather slowly since the date of Mr. Low’s dispatch, but has now come to a pause by the suspension of diplomatic relations between M. Otin and the Yamun.

In Mr. Low’s dispatch he states that “it was finally agreed that their differences should be submitted to the ministers of Russia, Germany, England, France, and the United States, jointly, and that the decision of a majority shall be final and conclusive.” This conference was held at the Russian legation on the 1st of August, continuing four hours, and M. Otin was heard at length upon his complaint.

Previous to this date he had also fully made known his views in conversation and letters, and I inclose a copy of a letter addressed to this legation, from which you can learn the manner of his argument. (Inclosure 1.) The reference in the second paragraph to an order from a planter in Cuba, received by his agent in China, requiring him to procure three thousand laborers to work his plantation there, is the index to the spirit of the document. In it he refers to the “officious reports of some consuls in Amoy,” making his own explanations, and entirely ignoring the treatment of tens of thousands of coolies taken from China to Cuba before 1869, and disputing the right of the Chinese government to complain of that ill-usage, and suspend the fulfillment of the treaty until it can be investigated.

The article on which the claim is founded reads as follows:

Article 10. The imperial authorities will permit those Chinese subjects who may desire to go abroad as laborers in Spanish possessions to enter into contracts with Spanish subjects, and to embark alone or with their families at the open ports of China. The local authorities acting with the representative of Her Catholic Majesty in each port shall make the necessary rules for the protection of the said laborers. It is forbidden to take deserters and people who have been taken against their will. In such cases the local authorities can claim from the consul the restitution of the individual.

In carrying out this article the native authorities require conformity to the code of emigration rules issued in 1866.

In view of the approaching conference and arbitration the Yamun addressed two circular notes to the foreign ministers, containing the two points on which they desired categorical replies, in order to know somewhat the ground they stood on. In my reply I urged the appointment of the proposed commission of inquiry into the past and present condition of the Chinese in Cuba, as the only satisfactory means of arriving at the facts. (Inclosures 2, 3, 4.)

The conference was held at a juncture which quite prevented me from attending it, without such risk to my health by exposure to the sun as I was unwilling to run. I had met all my colleagues, too, at the Russian minister’s office two days before, and our views generally coincided; M. de Geofroy, the French minister, was also unable to be present himself. It was a step in advance on the part of the Chinese officials, and an homage to the power of public opinion. Prince Kung was not there. No protocol was drawn up at the meeting, but I have obtained from the German chargé d’affaires his summary of the points agreed upon, of which he has kindly furnished me a translation:

The Chinese government to send one or more delegates to the island of Cuba, in order to investigate the condition of the Chinese subjects settled in that place.
The Spanish government to be at liberty to take part in this investigation, by appointing agents of its own.
With a view to an impartial inquiry and investigation of the real facts, the representatives [Page 204] of Russia, Great Britain, France, and Germany, who have taken part in this conference, will lay before their respective governments the request of the Chinese government, that the representatives of the said four powers residing at Havana may be instructed to advise and assist the Chinese delegates if necessary. The Chinese government can apply to the representative of the United States with a similar request.
Both parties to be at liberty to apply again to the representatives of the leading powers at Peking for further decision regarding this matter.

The Spanish chargé agreed to these stipulations, and it would have saved much useless discussion if all present had signed a paper containing their views of the agreement. However, the Chinese officials were committed to so far taking a direct interest in the well-being of their countrymen abroad as to appoint a commission; and in a few weeks the Emperor’s rescript was received agreeing to the proposal, and the names of the persons composing the delegation were notified to all the legations. (Inclosures 5, 6, 7.)

The chief Chinese commissioner, Chan Lan-pin, is now in the United States, connected with the education of the students taken there by Yung Wing last year; I know nothing of his antecedents, but I infer that his being from Kwangtung Province, and knowing the dialect spoken by a large portion of the coolies, has had something to do with his selection. Mr. A. Macpherson is an Englishman, and Mr. Alfred Huber a Frenchman, both connected with the customs service, and conversant with the Mandarin dialect and the written Chinese language. They are accompanied by persons familiar with the dialects spoken at Canton, Swatow, and Amoy, whence all the coolies in Cuba were taken.

I sincerely hope that you will be able to assist this commission in carrying out its objects, either by furnishing its members with such information or suggestions as will help them, and documents bearing on the subject, congressional or otherwise; or by directing the American consul-general at Havana, and the consuls at other ports in Cuba, to assist them officially on the spot in pursuing their investigations. The idea here is, that while the Chinese commissioner acts wholly on his own instructions, and is not to be hampered or controlled by the Spanish authorities, their delegate and the five leading consuls at Havana are to act as assessors, to see that the inquiry is conducted impartially and with due regard to the rights of all parties, and the attainment of the truth. I have supplied Mr. Macpherson with the copy of the decree of O’Donnell in 1860, and the more recent law of Valmaseda, ordering the re-engagement of coolies, which formed the inclosure in your last dispatch, No. 149.

* * * * * * *

On the 9th of October, the day after Chãn’s promotion was notified he presented the draught of a protocol in five articles to the Yamun; and when it was declined as unnecesssary and novel, he threw up his office as chargé d’affaires, transferring the interests of Spain to the German legation. The correspondence between the parties was transmitted to all the legations on the 24th, and I append a translation of the Prince’s dispatch with its inclosure, (inclosure 8;) its moderate tone seems to show that he is sure of his position in the step he has taken of appointing the commission.

The five points stated in M. Otin’s protocol were much beyond the sense taken at the conference, and the first one, if adopted, by making the whole board into a mixed commission, would have paralyzed the action of the Chinese commissioner. Yet M. Otin had the right to demand that the Chinese should definitely admit the privilege of the Spanish government to appoint an assessor, if not a colleague, with their deputy; and their unwillingness to enter into an arrangement on this [Page 205] point seems to me to have been partly owing to their fear of, at the same time, binding themselves to pay an indemnity.

In this position of affairs the draught of another protocol in two articles was presented to the Yamun, on behalf of M. Otin, by the British chargé and myself, in a personal interview, and every needed explanation of its bearing given to the Chinese officials. The two articles were as follows:

The Chinese commissioner to be assisted by a Spanish delegate, and the consuls of France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States acting as assessors. No evidence to be taken unless at least three of the assessors are present, who are to have the power of cross-examining the witnesses.
If the Chinese case be not proven, the question of indemnity to be referred by the Yamun and the Spanish representative in China to the ministers of France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States resident in Peking; and the amount to be paid, (if any,) and to whom, to be settled by them.

A few days after the interview I received a note from the officials respecting it, and politely declining to adopt our proposal in adjustment of the disagreement between them and the Spaniards. In this note, after repeating the same assurance which they had given to M. Otin, that they harbored no suspicion of his motives, they added that there was nothing said in respect to a Spanish delegate at the conference, and concluded as follows:

Being apprehensive that our Commissioner Chãn would be unable to carry out his inquiry thoroughly, and would on his arrival in Cuba be unacquainted with its people and usages, we therefore asked the five ministers here to give such directions to their nations’ consuls residing there in respect to assisting our commission on its arrival as would further the satisfactory end of their visit. The appointment of an associate by the Spanish government to conduct the inquiry with the Chinese commissioner was not agreed upon at the conference, and it would be difficult now to add more at present, as you desire. The whole arrangement is as it is given in our reply to M. Otin, and was talked about with Mr. Wade at a personal interview with him, and it seems to be unnecessary to discuss it further.

To this a reply was sent, in which I maintained the understanding received at the conference, and that Prince Kung had admitted by implication that the Spanish government could appoint an assessor; for in his dispatch of the 8th ultimo, (inclosure 7,) he had affirmed as one reason for promoting Chãn, that he would then rank with the Spanish officers living in Cuba. “In all western lands,” I said in conclusion, “it is the usage, when one state sends a special deputy to another, for that state to designate an officer to meet and assist him in harmoniously carrying out the object of his mission. In the present instance such a course is necessary, in order that Chãn and his associates may not, on their arrival, entirely fail in the end for which they were sent to Cuba.”

This was on the 30th instant; and at present all direct relations are suspended between the Spanish legation and the Chinese government. The two foreign associates have reached Peking to receive their instructions from the Yamun; and though there is no doubt about the real desire of the imperial advisers to make the inquiry to which their attention has been directed, and that it will be attempted, I should be greatly disappointed if the efficient and harmonious action of their commission and the five foreign consuls in Cuba should be neutralized by their quibbling over this point. They say that if the Cuban authorities prevent their commissioners from landing and carrying on the inquiry by direct inquiry among the coolies, that no better evidence of the truth of the charges of ill-treatment could be asked for, and the propriety of prohibiting further emigration to Spanish possessions is thereby fully justified. One would desire to obtain the fullest investigation of the actual condition of these laborers, and if it confirms the charges brought [Page 206] of inhuman treatment, so much the better if it is a step toward the abolition of the present system of contract labor in this empire.

The severe measures adopted by the authorities at Canton to prevent coolies of all kinds going to Macao, in order to stop as much as possible the delivery of those who may have been engaged by contract to go abroad, and the summary execution of all crimps and kidnappers who have been caught, have, I hear, made the business so dangerous and losing that most of the barracoons are empty. But the want of energy and perseverance in native officials constantly incites to new attempts on the part of those unscrupulous agents who are ready to fill ships going to Lima or Havana with their countrymen, even at the risk of their own lives.

A traffic like that which has disgraced Macao during so many years cannot be stopped all at once in a country like this; but when it has been made a losing business as well as a dangerous and disreputable one, neither can it be immediately revived.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 9.—Translation.]

Mr. Otin to Mr. Low.

Sir: The difficulties that have been raised to the Spanish legation by the imperial’ government in the emigration question having to be definitively settled by a collective arbitration of the foreign representatives accredited in Peking, I consider it my duty to submit to your consideration a short statement of the facts in order to enable you to form an impartial opinion upon the question which you are called to decide.

Towards the middle of the month of January last, I received a communication from the Spanish consul at Canton, in which he informed me that a Spanish emigration agent had asked, through the consulate, the authorization of the viceroy of the two Kwangs for the opening of an emigration office in Canton, in order to engage, according to the regulations of 1866, three thousand workmen which his employer required for the cultivation of his plantations; whereupon the viceroy had refused to grant the required authorization, founding his refusal on orders received from the Tsung-li Yamun by him.

As soon as these facts had arrived to my knowledge, I repaired to the Yamun, where the Ministers Mao-Chang Hri, Chunghow, and Chéng-Tin repeatedly assured me that no such order had ever been transmitted to the viceroy of the two Kwangs; but two days later, to my great astonishment, I received a communication in the shape of an official letter, in which the Yamun confirmed the prohibition to engage emigrants for the island of Cuba.

The foundations on which this decision was based were, the slanderous talk of a foreign newspaper that falsely interpreted a decision of the local government in Cuba, and represented the Chinese there as being submitted to a forced re-engagement, and the officious reports of some consuls residing in Amoy, most of them merchant consuls, who guaranteed the truth of the facts advanced in the said papers. These reports of (extra) non-official origin, and of which no one had even thought to prove the accuracy, justified, in the eyes of the imperial government, the adoption of an extreme measure, the abrogation of an international compact!

Out of the animated and often violent correspondence that took place on this subject between the Tsung-li Yamun and the Spanish legation, the only result on the part of the first was the following argument:

The cruelty and tyranny of the Spanish government to the Chinese subjects having been duly proved by the reports of a newspaper and of the consuls at Amoy, we forbid the emigration to a country where our subjects have to suffer such ill treatment.”

This solitary argument, adorned with all the charm of Chinese diction, and reproduced under a thousand different forms, has been the only defense opposed by the Yamun to the legitimacy of my right and to the arguments by which I enforced it.

Newspaper abuse is too common and vulgar to be taken serious notice of; as to the semi-official reports of the consuls, these functionaries being 6,000 leagues away from the scene of the events, they had no other means of knowing anything of them but from the adulterated relations in the said papers, and are, of course, not able to guarantee [Page 207] their veracity. Besides, according to international law the interference of foreign and non-authorized agents is inadmissible.

The facts of the case are as follows: The accumulation in Havana of Chinese who do not possess any known means of sustenance, constitutes a permanent danger for the Spanish province of Cuba, which, besides, is at present unfortunately agitated by a rebellion now coming to an end. In view of the circumstances, the local government, exercising an indisputable right, has decided to separate the vagabonds from the industrious mass, and to give the first the alternative either of leaving the country or of re-engaging themselves; the mechanics, merchants, and all honest men have not been molested. Where, then, is the tyranny; where the cruelties?

Another fact that has been put forward by the Tsung-li Yamun in the last conference is that the workmen engaged in Cuba according to the regulation of 1866 did not receive, after the expiration of the contract, the sum stipulated for their return home, and that these wretched people were without means of returning to their country. The Tsung-li Yamun went even so far as to assure me that the information received on this subject was not to be doubted. It is sufficient to state that the first emigrants were engaged in the Chinese ports under the new regulation only, in 1869, and that the term of the-contract is five years. To understand that, it is impossible that a stipulation in the contract can have been broken, which stipulation could only have effect after the expiration of the engagement, and the workmen of 1869 have not yet terminated it.

Since the emigration is going on in the Chinese ports under the new regulation, no case of abuse or violence has been signaled, no complaint has been presented on the subject, with the exception of the one that the Spanish legation brought forward last year against the Chinese delegates in Canton, who, in the absence of the Spanish consul, and notwithstanding the remonstrances of an agent of the legation, had allowed the departure of a young man who had not the authorization required for minors, mentioned in article 11 of the regulation. Well! The Tsung-li Yamun has not only left this abuse on the part of the delegates unpunished, but, turning a good deed into a crime, declares that this case constitutes an abuse, and that abuse being found in the emigration, the emigration must be forbidden. Most logical reasoning! Spanish subjects must atone for the faults of Chinese mandarins!

But let us suppose for one moment that all this is exact; that the Chinese government had, instead of bad pretexts, only good reasons to enforce its measures. When a government which is bound to another by an international compact has any remonstrances to make, or wishes to begin negotiations, it must do it by means of diplomatic agents; and it has no right to arrest the effects of the treaty, for it is under the protection of the treaty, and trusting in the good faith of the power that signed it, that foreign merchants have risked their capital in a hazardous speculation. If one of the two parties could voluntarily break off its engagements, what need would there be of treaties?

In the present case, the Tsung-li Yamun has not only violated article 10 of the Spanish treaty, but also the clause concerning the most favored nation—refusing, as it does to Spain, a right that it accords to other foreign powers; and the result of this violent measure, which has been adopted secretly, is the ruin of the agents in Cuba, who, under the guarantee of the treaty, had begun preliminary operations of chartering vessels, distributing sums to Chinese recruiting-agents, &c.

It is true that the Tsung-li Yamun considers the regulation about emigration to be as important as international treaties, and demonstrates that the Spanish government having (according to the Yamun) infringed the regulation, the Yamun forgets, or rather wishes to forget, that above all laws is the faith sworn in international treaties; that local laws can be abrogated or modified; while a treaty is unchangeable and permanent in its legal duration; that it is a gordian knot that can be severed only by the joint will of the two sides, or by the bayonets of the strongest.

Still, as a proof of sincerity and of the little fear we have of the examination of the condition of Chinese in Cuba, I have offered to the imperial government, on my own responsibility, a right which the treaty gives it not, that of appointing a consul in Havana, who could watch over the interest of his nationals. The Tsung-li Yamun has obstinately refused this, saying that at present it has no idea of appointing consuls in foreign countries, but when it would take place, Cuba should not be excepted, and that then the emigration could again be re-instated. Need we have a more flagrant proof of bad faith? I offer them the means of investigating the facts and of protecting their nationals, and they reject them; but if they refuse to lead the life of civilized nations, Spain cannot change the code of international law in order to serve their whims by admitting the intrusion of foreign elements into her affairs. But it is not the welfare of its expatriated subjects that the imperial government is so anxious about; this is only a pretext, and at the bottom of the question there is something very important—it is the long-prepared plan of the imperial government to break off one by one all the links by which it is bound to the civilized world; and it begins with the nations of which it is the least afraid, because [Page 208] it has not yet been punished by them. To-day, it is the emigration question; to-morrow, it will be the missionaries; later, the opium.

If we resume these observations, we find that the Tsung-li Yamun, taxing itself on reports deprived of all foundation, and the origin of which is irregular, has violated the treaty existing between Spain and China; that, notwithstanding my frank and loyal explanations, it has insisted in its decision; and, further, that when, moved by a spirit of conciliation, I offered it the concession of a right which would bring truth to the light and prevent similar complications for the future, Tsung-li Yamun has rejected my offer, without even informing me of the reason of such a refusal.

This, sir, is the truthful statement of the facts. I have not time to develop it more fully; but I hope that it will prove sufficient to give you a fairly correct idea of the question that is to be submitted to your judgment, and which could, in my opinion, be set down in the following concrete formula:

Is the conduct of the imperial government in the present affair in compliance with the principles of international right?

I am, sir, &c.,


His Excellency F. F. Low,
Minister Plenipotentiary for the United States.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 9.—Translation.]

Foreign Office to Mr. Low.


The Ministers of the Foreign Office to his Excellency Mr. Low:

On hearing, some time ago, of the cruelties inflicted on the Chinese emigrants at Havana, and in the island of Cuba, we addressed a letter to M. Pereyre, the Spanish minister, informing him that emigration to those places could no longer be permitted. This decision was concurred in by all the treaty-consuls, and by them made known to the public.

The subject has now been again mooted by M. Otin, the Spanish chargé d’affaires, and as a difference of opinion has arisen between him and the foreign office with regard thereto, it has been suggested that the question be referred to the arbitration of the foreign ministers.

On the 15th of June, M. Otin wrote to the Minister Wãusiang, stating that the two points on which it was desirable that each side should fully state their views to the arbitrators, were these:

Has Spain the right, under treaty, to insist on a free emigration to Cuba?
Has China the right, under treaty, to stop emigration to Cuba on the score of cruelties inflicted there on the emigrants?

To this Wãusiang replied:

“Emigration is no doubt permitted under Article X of the Spanish treaty; but in that very article there is a distinct proviso that emigration is to be conducted under rules adapted to the requirements of each particular port, which are to be drawn up with the view of affording the fullest protection to the Chinese emigrants. And if cruelty does exist, the proviso about fullest protection is certainly violated. The present intention of the foreign office, to prohibit emigration to places notorious for the cruelties inflicted on the coolies, is not to be taken to mean that emigration to countries where Chinese coolies are not thus cruelly used will no longer be permitted.”

With reference to the foregoing, the foreign office would observe that the convention, in twenty-two articles, concluded with England and France in 1866, had for its object the protection under treaty of the Chinese emigrants. It was certainly never meant to authorize the continuance of emigration under conditions which were inflicting injuries on the emigrants.

As the reply sent by Minister Wãusiang to M. Otin sets forth clearly when emigration is to be allowed, and when it is to be stopped, it only remains for the foreign office to request the foreign ministers to inform them—

Whether it is true or not that cruelties are inflicted on Chinese coolies in Cuba?
Whether, supposing it be true that Chinese coolies are cruelly used in Cuba, the foreign office ought quietly to submit to their emigrating there?

To these two questions the foreign office will feel obliged if the foreign ministers, after an impartial deliberation, will return a plain answer. If they prefer to confer personally with it on the above points, they are requested to name a time and place of meeting.

Compliments, &c., with cards of the eight ministers.

[Page 209]
[Inclosure 3 in No. 9—Translation.]

Foreign Office to Mr. Williams.

[Circular note.]

The Ministers of the Foreign Office to Mr. Williams:

Having formerly heard reports that the laborers engaged by Spaniards to go to Cuba and elsewhere had been cruelly treated there, we decided to lay the whole subject before the foreign ministers for their candid opinion; and to this end furnished them with the points discussed by M. Otin, the Spanish chargé d’affaires, and Minister Wausiang, and the reply given by the latter, requesting from each of them an answer informing us whether the Chinese laborers in Cuba were or were not cruelly treated, so that thus ground could be obtained for settling the matter.

Mr Otin having again personally urged the speedy settlement of these points, it is unnecessary here to repeat the contents of the letters which passed between him and Minister Wausiang; and the special purpose of this note is, therefore, simply to request that you would inform us whether the Chinese laborers who have been taken to Cuba are, so far as you can ascertain, cruelly treated or not.

An early answer will be anxiously looked for.

Compliments, &c., with cards of seven ministers.

[Inclosure 4 in No. 9.]

Mr. Williams to the Foreign Office.

On the 6th ultimo Mr. Low received the note of the foreign office relating to the cruel usage which the Chinese laborers in Cuba are reported to receive from the Spaniards, and inquiring whether, if such was the fact, the Chinese government should patiently permit their subjects still to be carried away there.

Since Mr. Low left Peking I have received a second note, dated the 27th ultimo, in which the foreign office again inquires as to the truth of the reports of the bad treatment of the Chinese laborers now in Cuba, and asks for an early reply to both their notes. I have also seen the note received from the foreign office two days since, in which the ministers propose to meet all the foreign ministers at the Russian legation, and ask General Vlangaly to confer with them, (if the hour of 2 o’clock this afternoon will be convenient,) there to have a personal consultation upon the two points brought forward in connection with Spanish contracts for laborers. Owing to the heat of the season, however, I regret that I shall not be able to be present at the interview.

With regard to the inquiry as to the bad treatment of the Chinese laborers now in Cuba, it seems to me that it is necessary for a man to be on the spot, and personally learn for himself the truth by seeing and hearing what is done, I am only able to say that since the year 1849, when the business began at Canton of contracting for coolies to go to Cuba, up to this day, I have continually heard of the unjust and cruel treatment which they have there received, and that very few of those who fulfilled their term of service had ever come back to their homes. But as I have never visited those places, I cannot myself vouch for the truth of these charges. If the Chinese government wish to learn their real condition, the best way will be to send a special commissioner to Cuba, who shall carefully examine and ascertain for himself the mode of treating the laborers, which it will not be hard to do.

As to the question whether, if the Chinese emigrants are harshly treated in Cuba, the Chinese government will be justified in forbidding further engagement of its subjects to go there as laborers, I consider that it has that right, and can forbid it.

With compliments, &c.,

[Inclosure 5 in No. 9—Translation.]

Prince Kung to Mr. Williams.

Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication respecting the questions at issue with the Spanish government about Chinese coolies in Cuba.

[Page 210]

The foreign office has now appointed Chãn Lan-pin, a titular prefect, who had charge of the pupils sent abroad, (to the United States,) to be a special commissioner to go to Cuba to inquire into and manage the matter, and has associated with him A. Macpherson, now commissioner of customs at Hankow, and A. Huber, now commissioner of customs at Tien-Tsin, who are to join him and proceed to Havana at once.

These appointments were reported to the throne on the 21st, and His Majesty’s rescript has been received approving of them.

In making these appointments known to your excellency, it seems to me also proper to say, that as these commissioners on reaching Havana will be unacquainted with the people and places, I hope that you will make known to the proper officers at Washington their purpose in going, to the end that directions may be given to the American consuls at that port, and elsewhere in Cuba, to afford them such assistance on their arrival as will further the attainment of the objects of their visit.

His Excellency S. Wells Williams,
United States Chargé d’Affaires to China.

[Inclosure 6 in No. 9.]

Mr. Williams to Prince Kung.

Sir: I was honored by the receipt of your Imperial Highnesses dispatch of yesterday, in which you inform me that three commissioners, Messrs. Chan Lan-pin, A. Macpherson, and A. Huber, have been appointed to go to Cuba, there to inquire into the treatment of Chinese laborers; and as they will on arrival be unacquainted with the people and places, the hope is expressed that I will move the United States Government to advise its consular officers in that island to afford them such assistance as will further their object.

During the twenty and more years since Chinese laborers began to be carried to Cuba from Kwangtung Province, the report of the hardships they have suffered there has never ceased, and no one knows their extent. It is, therefore, a source of great satisfaction to me to learn from this dispatch that a commission has been appointed to proceed there and inquire carefully into the truth of the reports. Such a course evinces a regard for the Chinese now there, and is an act suitable to the national character and will elevate the reputation of China.

I will not fail to inform the Government I have the honor to represent of these things, and to request that directions may be given to the American consuls in the island to give such assistance to the commission on its arrival as they may be able.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew the assurance of my respect.


His Imperial Highness Prince Kung, &c.

[Inclosure 7 in No. 9—Translation.]

Prince Kung to Mr. Williams.

Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication.

It appears that, in relation to the appointment of Chan Lan-pin, a law-adviser in the board of punishments, to go to Cuba as commissioner to inquire into the condition of Chinese laborers, his promotion to the full grade he now holds was not clearly made known in my previous dispatch. He is an officer advanced to the fourth grade, and is specially privileged to wear a peacock’s plume.

By Chinese rule the law-advisers in each board rank with the intendants of circuit in the provinces; and as Chãn has now been promoted to the fourth grade, his parity with an intendant and his imperial appointment as envoy to go to Spanish countries will make him of equal rank to the Spanish officers living in Cuba, and to the salaried consuls of the United States residing there.

It is proper that I inform you of this, so there may be entire accord with them in managing the affair.

His Excellency S. Wells Williams,
United States Chargé d’Affaires to China.

[Page 211]
[Inclosure 8 in No. 9—Translation.]

Prince Kung to Mr. Williams.

Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication.

On the 9th of this month, M. Otin, Spanish chargé d’affaires, wrote to the Yamun as follows:

“I inclose several articles of an agreement to be discussed between us, which, if accepted without alteration, can be signed and sealed by us, but if there be any parts to be amended please inform me,” &c.

It was wholly on account of what we had heard respecting the condition of Chinese laborers in Cuba that we agreed to discuss the subject with the Spanish chargé d’affaires at a meeting of all the foreign ministers, at which they desired the Chinese government to send a commission of inquiry to Cuba. On the 2d ultimo a memorial was presented to appoint Chãn Lan-pin, a brevet law-examiner, to proceed there and make full examination into the condition of the Chinese laborers, to which His Majesty’s gracious assent was given. His appointment was notified to M. Otin and all the other ministers; and it is certainly incumbent on this government to wait until its commission has been there and has made a report before taking any further action in relation to emigration; and there is no necessity at this stage of discussing the protocol submitted by the chargé d’affaires of Spain, which, moreover, does not agree in all respects with what was adopted at the conference of August 1st.

These statements were embodied in the reply sent on the 13th instant to M. Otin, who two days afterwards answered as follows:

“I have received your dispatch of the 13th, the contents of which are so much at variance with what was agreed upon at the Russian legation, that I can no longer transact public business with the Yamun. I have accordingly requested the dean of the diplomatic body in Peking to attend to it for me, and I beg you to henceforth regard me simply as a private individual.”

On the same day a dispatch from Baron Holloben was received, stating “that M. Otin, the Spanish chargé d’affaires, has transferred his legation to me as dean of the diplomatic body, and all matters connected with Spain will be attended to by me until further notice.”

In regard to this whole affair, I can confidently say that in all our intercourse with foreign ministers the Yamun has always tried to maintain a spirit of cordiality and candor: and even when we have been disappointed in not arranging everything, we have never cherished the least feeling of distrust respecting the motives of others. In the present instance, as M. Otin seems to us to be mistaken and have misapprehended several points, we have addressed him unofficially, recapitulating the circumstances, and carefully defining our position in the matter, so as to dissipate his distrust.

The general conference which was held upon this question with all the ministers renders it desirable to communicate these things to them, as they will hear rumors of them, and I therefore inclose copies of two dispatches from M. Otin, one from the German chargé d’affaires, and three papers in reply from the Yamun, and submit the whole correspondence for your examination.

His Excellency S. W. Williams,
United States Chargé d’Affaires.

[Inclosure 1 in 8 in No. 9—Translation.]

M. Otin to the Yamun, containing a draught of a protocol.

To His Imperial Highness Prince Kung, and the Members of the Foreign Office:

I have the honor to inclose the draught of a protocol in five articles for your consideration, which, if they are found to be such as you can agree to, we can then sign and seal. They contain nothing different from what was agreed to at the conference at the Russian legation on the 1st of August; and I respectfully request your highness and their excellencies to examine them with a view to their adoption. If there are some points which can advantageously be altered, please inform me. But before this affair can be properly settled, it is necessary that the unfounded rumors relating to the high authorities in Cuba should be fully discussed; and to this end I beg your highness and their excellencies to send me true copies of the dispatches of the United States consul at Amoy, and of the American minister, Mr. Low, containing these calumnious* charges, so that I can examine them.

[Page 212]


The undersigned, prince and ministers of the Tsung-li-Yamun, and the chargé d’affaires for Spain, (M. Otin,) after having discussed the means of conciliating the difficulties between the governments of China and Spain, with regard to emigration to Cuba, have agreed to the following points:

The Chinese government will appoint a delegate to proceed to the island of Cuba to investigate the veracity of the facts denounced connected with Chinese emigration. This Chinese delegate shall be assisted in his investigation by two Spanish delegates, one from the foreign office, and one from the colonial office of Madrid.
The governments of China and of Spain will request the governments of England, Germany, France, Russia, and the United States, as mediating powers, to instruct their respective consuls or consuls-general at Havana to join the above-mentioned Chinese and Spanish delegates in their labors, forming altogether a mixed commission of investigation.
This commission shall draw up a report on the facts alleged and on the general condition of the Chinese in Cuba, according to the prevalent opinion, by majority of votes.
Pending the report of the commission, emigration by contract to Cuba shall be suspended; but it is clearly understood that if the said report shows that the facts imputed were incorrect, the Chinese government shall at once re-establish emigration by contract to the island of Cuba according to the regulations in force; and shall furthermore pay to the government of Spain an indemnity for the losses and damages that Cuban land-owners and their agents might have sustained since January last by the prohibition.
The amount of such indemnity shall be fixed by common understanding, by the Tsung-li-Yamun and the Spanish legation in China; and failing to agree, the matter shall be submitted to the representatives in Peking of the five mediating powers.

[Inclosure 2 in 8 in No. 9—Translation.]

Foreign Office to Mr. Otin.

Prince Kung and the members of the foreign office herewith send a reply.

On the 9th instant we had the honor to receive your dispatch, in which you state:

“I now inclose for your examination the articles of an agreement, and if there be nothing to alter in them, we can sign and seal them; if there be certain parts which you wish to modify or alter, you can inform me, and at the same time [please] send a copy of the communications from the United States consul, and Mr. Low, the American minister, with it, for my use,” &c.

In regard to this, we may observe that, as you did not consider the declarations of the American minister and the United States consul in regard to the treatment of the coolies in Cuba and Havana to be supported by sufficient evidence, you then proposed that the question should be jointly discussed at a general meeting of all the foreign ministers. Thereupon they requested the Yamun to send a commissioner to Cuba, who could inquire into the facts; and you yourself urged that he should be appointed very soon, inasmuch as you were on the point of returning home.

We therefore, on the 21st ultimo, memorialized [the Throne] to this effect, that Can Lau-Pin, a brevet law-examiner in the board of punishment, of the 4th rank, should be appointed to proceed thither and inquire into the condition of the Chinese laborers, and that Messrs. Macpherson and Huber, two commissioners of the customs-service, be associated with him in this service. We were honored by his majesty’s rescript, “Let it be as requested;” which in due course was made known to your excellency and all the other foreign ministers. We also received their replies, as is on record.

Seeing that Chinese subjects are now employed abroad as laborers, it is proper that the Chinese government should send a commission to learn their condition; and in that case the members of the commission should take their own mode of learning the facts in the case, which they can then the better minutely report to the Yamun for its action. If this be not allowed, then the various statements on this point contained in the dispatches of Mr. Low and the United States consul must be regarded as reliable proof, and what need was there for the Chinese government in that case to send a special agent?

In what manner the question of the laborers in Cuba is to be acted upon must, of course, now remain in abeyance until this commission has returned and made its full report to the Yamun.

[Page 213]

It is therefore unnecessary to take any deliberate steps with regard to the acceptance of the articles now offered by you; and, moreover, they do not altogether agree with what was decided upon at the conference held at the Russian legation on the 1st of August last.

The subjects discussed in the dispatches from the American minister and consul relate to the most important points touching the lives of our people; and they were all laid before you and the other ministers at the Russian legation last summer in the original documents. The dispatch from the consul, was also inclosed in a dispatch to Mr. Peyrera last year, so that it appears unnecessary now to make another copy of them for you.

This is the purpose for which this reply is now sent.

His Excellency F. Otin,
Spanish Chargé d’affaires to China.

[Inclosure 3 in 8 in No. 9—Translation.]

Mr. Otin to the Yamun.

To His Highness Prince Kung and the Ministers of the Yamun:

I have had the honor to receive the dispatch of yesterday’s date from your highness, &c., and have carefully examined it.

In it you say that the articles which I submitted to you are totally unlike* the points which were generally agreed upon at the Russian legation on the 1st August. I can, therefore, henceforth have no further transactions of a public nature with the Yamun; and have accordingly requested the dean of the diplomatic body to attend to all Spanish affairs on my behalf. I shall remain in Peking only on my private affairs until I start on my journey, and have to request that I may henceforth be regarded by the Yamun as only a private individual, in which position, if I have any business, I shall ask the good offices of the clean of the diplomatic body to attend to it.

I have, &c.

[Inclosure 4 in 8 in No. 9.]

This is Baron Holleben’s dispatch to the Yamun, informing the minister that he was the intermediary on Spanish affairs.

[Inclosure 5 in 8 in No. 9.—Translation.]

Foreign Office to Mr. Otin.

[Caveat of the Yamun.]

The Yamun begs to reply to his excellency M. Otin, Spanish chargé d’affaires.

On the 15th instant we received your excellency’s dispatch, in which you informed us that, as ours of the 13th instant was at open variance with the agreement arrived at in the Russian legation, you could no longer transact business with us, and had accordingly handed over the business of the Spanish legation to the dean of the diplomatic body at Peking, and requested us henceforth to consider you as a private individual.

On the same day we also received the dispatch of M. Holleben, the German chargé d’affaires, stating that M. Otin had transferred the affairs of the Spanish legation to him as dean of the diplomatic body, and requested us, therefore, until further notice, to address him on any point connected with Spanish affairs.

In relation to this we beg to observe that, in all our consultations and transactions with the foreign representatives, we have always endeavored to maintain friendly relations; and in cases of difference of opinion and unexpected misunderstanding, we have, in order the better to speedily adjust the difference, always tried to preserve equanimity and calmness of mind. We have not, in consequence of disagreement on a single point, harbored general distrust on all points.

In relation to this coolie question, after obtaining the imperial sanction to the appointment [Page 214] of Chãn Lan-pin to go as our commissioner to inquire into the facts, (an appointment made after consulting with you,) we informed you of our action, and requested you to advise your government and invite its co-operation. And when, on the 9th of this month, you personally handed us a dispatch, we replied to it in the same form, with all convenient speed, according to the real facts.

In all this intercourse we have always treated you as becomes a minister plenipotentiary, and have never failed in due respect toward you; so that it certainly must be some misunderstanding which leads you, in your last dispatch, to request us to consider you as merely a private individual.

If, however, you wish to hand over the affairs of the Spanish legation to another minister, because you intend shortly to return home on account of important business, this is a common occurrence in all legations; but the purport and expressions of your last communication are not altogether in accordance with friendly relations.

We ought properly to reply to it in an official dispatch, but having now had it and the dispatch of the German chargé d’affaires, we have preferred to address you in a private note first, stating our views, and shall be gratified to receive your reply, wishing, you at the same time every happiness.

Cards of—

And five others.

His Excellency F. Otin,
Spanish Chargé d’Affaires to China.

[Inclosure 6 in 8 in No. 9—Translation.]

Foreign Office to Mr. Otin.

[Official caveat of Chinese.]

Prince Kung and the members of the Yamun herewith send a reply.

On the 15th instant, we had the honor to receive a note from your excellency, stating that, as our dispatch of the 13th instant was openly at variance with the agreement arrived at in the Russian legation, you could no longer enter into official transactions with us, and that you had, therefore, requested the dean of the diplomatic body to take charge of Spanish affairs.

On the same day we also received a dispatch from M. de Holleben, German chargé d’affaires, requesting us to address him, until further notice, on any questions regarding Spanish affairs.

As we were, however, inclined to suppose that some misunderstanding on your excellency’s part must be at the bottom of all this, we in the first place addressed to you our letter of the 19th instant. But as we received the next day another letter from the German chargé d’affaires, in which he told us that you had put our dispatch to you into his hands; that he and you had jointly opened and read it, and had then requested him to inform us that the reason why you had handed over the affairs of the Spanish legation to the dean of the diplomatic body was neither because you were in a great hurry to go back to Spain, nor because yon cherished a distrust of us, but simply because you had deemed it to be useless to continue official transactions with us after we, in our dispatch of the 13th instant, had flatly declined the propositions which you had submitted to us.

We now beg to say, with regard to your excellency’s dispatch of the 15th instant, that, though you may choose to make use of such phraseology, we may, on our part, assert that, in all our relations with any foreign power, we have never entertained sentiments of this kind.

Since you began to discharge the duties of acting minister for Spain, we have always treated you with all the respect due to a minister plenipotentiary; and as now M. de Holleben tells us in his note that you do not cherish a distrust of us, this would seem to prove that you are yourself also aware that we have really always treated you with the respect due to a minister plenipotentiary, and that we have never been guilty of any discourtesy toward you.

Referring to our dispatch of the 13th of October, we beg to observe that, just because Spain and China have been on friendly terms for so many years, we thought it to be our duty in this, as in all other matters, to state our candid opinions fully, according to the actual circumstances, and beg you, therefore, to take this into mature consideration.

His Excellency F. Otin,
Spanish Chargé d’Affaires.

[Page 215]
[Inclosure 9 in No. 9—Translation.]

Mr. Holleben to the Foreign Office.

[Not contained in the Chinese.]

To His Imperial Highness Prince Kung, and their excellencies the ministers:

Your imperial highness and their excellencies’ letter to me of the 22d instant, with its inclosures, has been duly received. At the same time I received also the original dispatch addressed to the chargé d’affaires for Spain.

After having consulted with M. Otin, I have now the honor to reply to it, and to inform you that M. Otin has with pleasure taken due note of the friendly sentiments toward the Spanish government expressed in your highness and their excellencies’ dispatch; but as that does not at all enter into the essential points of the pending differences, and as M. Otin must suppose, therefore, that you still adhere to the position taken up in the dispatch of the 13th instant, M. Otin regrets to say that he does not see how he could, in reply to it, allege anything that might serve to alter the pending relations.

I have, &c., &c.,


Note upon Mr. Otin’s dispatch.—This portion of this dispatch I have translated from the Chinese text, in which this word answers to that version. Mr. Otin having showed me the original texts in Spanish, for which he alone is responsible, I can say that the Chinese version is too strong for the Spanish word delacion or accusation, and that he applied it only to the document from Amoy.

The inclosures in this correspondence are taken from their original texts, in English, with the exception of the dispatch accompanying the protocol in inclosure 1. The translations from the Chinese are direct.—S. W. W.

  1. See note at end, page 215.
  2. The expression in the Chinese text for this discrepancy is far stronger than in the preceding dispatch from the Chinese authorities, almost equivalent to a declaration of antagonism; while theirs was disagreement, like the two parts of a check.—Note by S. W. W.