Mr. Williams to Mr. Fish.
Peking , November 20, 1873. (Received January 26, 1874.)
Sir: Referring to Mr. Low’s dispatch. No. 276, of 19th July, I have now the honor to send you the continuance of the correspondence with his excellency Señor Garcia, the Peruvian envoy, and an account of the progress of his negotiations, which I think you will read with interest. His first dispatch is in reply to Mr. Low’s answer to him, and was written [Page 220] from Yeddo while engaged in negotiating a treaty with the Japanese. It deserves careful perusal. Among many just remarks respecting the isolation of the Chinese officials, and their unwise unwillingness to enter into any well-understood relations with Peru, it still gives a one-sided view of the condition of, the coolies in that country, and studiously refrains from explaining their past treatment.
The argument he brings forward in the last part of his letter, that if the Chinese government can be induced to appoint consular agents in Peru the evils of the coolie system can be reduced, or removed, as they will watch over the interests of their country men, is very fallacious. The protests of these consuls would, setting aside all difficulties in the way of proving or even obtaining their statements of ill usage to the coolies, be perfectly powerless against the obligations of the contracts under which they came to Peru, and the right of their employers to see them enforced.
Captain Garcia’s notion of the duty of Peru toward the defenseless laborers now in her own borders, and her privilege in China if the Emperor refuses to make a treaty about their emigration, exhibits the selfish, unscrupulous spirit of the whole system of contract-labor. “Peru must have Chinese laborers, and private parties will do what they can” to hire, cajole, or kidnap the Chinese as they have done, “and the Peruvian government will be powerless to prevent abuses in foreign countries.” One cannot blame this government for regarding the practice with aversion, and in its present state of tutelage as to its foreign relations it can hardly be blamed for refusing to Peru a participation even in the rights of the present emigration rules.
The preliminary treaty between Peru and Japan is in ten articles, the seventh of which seems to look to the employment of Japanese laborers there. It reads thus:
No restrictions shall he placed by either government upon the employment of their respective citizens or subjects reciprocally, in any lawful capacity. They may go freely from the one country to the other, fulfilling the conditions required by the laws of their respective nations.
This last clause is too vague to base any reasoning upon it, but it is not easy to understand how the Peruvian government can admit the principle of ex-territoriality as apparently involved in this article, to such Japanese as may come to Peru. There is, however, no probability of the planters there obtaining Japanese laborers to any extent, nor would they be found to be as profitable or satisfactory as the Chinese.
The next part of this correspondence (inclosures 2, 3, 4,) contains my reply to Señor Garcia, inclosing Prince Kung’s answer reiterating his decision not to make a treaty with Peru. At the personal interview I went over the whole ground; the application of the Peruvian envoy for the appointment of a deputy to meet him and discuss the points which most needed to be understood; the benefits of the imperial government to learn fully the condition of its subjects in that country; and particularly, that it became the rulers of China to receive such an envoy with the courtesy their own envoys had experienced in foreign countries, and that this courtesy was not incompatible with an unwillingness to enter into treaty engagements permitting their subjects to be hired and go to Peru as laborers. They could not, or would not, see the distinction; and as Señor Garcia had applied to them to negotiate a treaty, whose chief feature was to be the contract-labor system, so it involved the acceptance of that system if they agreed to consult with him about it.
The impression has become very strongly fixed in the minds of these officials, that the favored-nation clause forms part of every treaty, and [Page 221] every nation which has a treaty can aril will demand everything granted to all other nations.
The prince, therefore, persistently held to his impossible stipulation, and said, “When the Peruvians bring back all the coolies we will make a treaty with them.”
The leading points of the conversation are embodied in my letter to the prince of September 18, (inclosure 2,) and his reply of the 20th, (inclosure 3,) with mine to the Peruvian envoy of the 22d, (inclosure 4.) In this last I also allude to the influence which the discussion with the Spanish chargé d’affaires has probably had upon his decision. The two complaints from the Chinese now in Peru, made known to the Yamun by this legation in 1869 and 1871, have also produced an effect in leading them to the conclusion that it is better to make no more treaties admitting contract labor.
Previous to his arrival in China, Señor Garcia sent one of his suite from Japan to Peking to learn exactly the state of affairs. He reached Tien-tsin last month on his way hither; but the governor-general heard of his arrival, and when he essayed to go on as a private individual in company with a Frenchman, the boat was stopped at the floating bridge, and he was compelled to turn back.
The last part of this correspondence gives only the results of the visit of the Peruvian legation to Tien-tsin.
Señor Garcia’s conclusion to come up the coast was (inclosures 5 and 6) approved by all whom he consulted; and I have no doubt that the governor-general had been instructed from Peking how to receive him.
* * * * * *
I have not heard whether Señor Garcia has been able to act upon the suggestions in my reply to him, (inclosure 7,) or what other plan he has adopted. He has probably conferred with the commissioners to Cuba, who passed through Tien-tsin last week on their way to Shanghai; and decided his course of action before the river closes.
I have, &c.,