No. 137.
Mr. Williams to Mr. Fish.

No. 12.]

Sir: In continuance of my recent dispatch, (No. 9, of 6th November,) I have now the honor to send you the remaining papers connected with the adjustment of the differences between the Spanish chargé d’affaires and this government.

Soon after the date of Baron Holleben’s letter of the 24th ultimo, and [Page 229] the interview with the Yamun on the 30th, referred to in my dispatch, at which the draft of a protocol in two articles was presented on behalf of M. Otin, the Chinese officials, having had time to reconsider their declinature of that mode of arranging the matter, sent an informal note, signed by the prince, on the 7th instant, accepting it in substance. (Inclosure 1;) their conference with Messrs. Macpherson and Huber had probably tended, too, to convince them that M. Otin’s proposal did not necessarily interfere with the freedom of their own commission, but was a courtesy required by the intercourse of nations, the rejection of which would only recoil on themselves.

The Spanish chargé d’affaires thereupon resumed his official relations with the prince, and a circular-note to this effect was issued on the 12th. (Inclosure 2.) The hesitation and unwillingness of the officials to admit, or even discuss, the articles of the first protocol were, I think, chiefly owing to their impression that, if a Spanish officer was in any way connected with their deputies, it must necessarily neutralize the whole investigation. However, every point having been cleared up, and the terms of agreement settled, a protocol in four articles was signed on the 21st instant, between M. Otin and three members of the Yamun. It insures the entire freedom of the Chinese commission when it reaches Cuba, and in the Chinese text asks the good offices and support of the local authorities in the same terms that it asks the advice of the foreign consuls. In the English text the support of the former is even more explicitly granted.

In his letter of the 21st instant, (inclosure 3,) sending me the two versions of his agreement, (inclosure 4,) he has requested my aid in the arbitration which may be necessary on the return of the commission and reception of its report. I have agreed to act on the matter, (inclosure 5,) as have also the other ministers, excepting the Russian, who is just now absent. One of the questions which will certainly be brought forward then will be the amount of indemnity to be paid by this government for damage and loss incurred by the alleged violation of its treaty obligations to allow Spanish agents to contract for coolies. This protocol carefully omits the word indemnity, but the fourth and fifth articles of the other contain the pith of what the Chinese will resist if it is demanded, as they look upon it as a mulct, because they have tried to protect their subjects from misery and disappointment by forbidding contract-emigration to Cuba.

M. Otin has left Peking to spend the winter in Shanghai and return in the spring, when he expects the return of the commission. Messrs. Macpherson and Huber are now there, ready to leave by the next American mail. I can only here repeat my strong desire that you will give all the countenance and help to this commission which can properly be given to it; but especially that you will bear me out in my promise given to Prince Kung in my reply of September 5, (dispatch No. 9, inclosure 5,) and instruct the United States consul-general at Havana to aid it in going into a thorough inquiry of the matter.

The energy shown by the Canton authorities in arresting kidnapers, and putting the people on their guard against the wiles practiced to get them down to Macao, which has so materially reduced the coolie-traffic there, is, in a great measure, owing to Mr. Low’s information, given to the government here, and his remonstrances at their apathy over the great wrongs committed by native brokers. Now that the Emperor has gone further, and sent a special commission of inquiry as a further step in these efforts to restrict, if he cannot abolish, emigration by contract, it is very desirable that every encouragement be afforded its members in [Page 230] prosecuting their inquiries. If the moral support and experience of the consuls of the five powers be honestly enlisted on their side, it will do much to effect an untrammeled examination, and neutralize the jealousy or intimidation which the rulers or the planters in Cuba might otherwise show. The first proposal of M. Otin to appoint two Spanish assessors, and make up a mixed commission, composed of Chinese, Spanish, and consular members, would have crippled all fair inquiry; and the Yamun was right in rejecting the proposal. Bat I am afraid, after all, that the Cuban authorities will endeavor in some way to make the inquiry partial, and keep the coolies out of the reach of their countrymen, or frighten them from telling the truth; and herein the foreign consuls, especially the American and British, can, it appears to me, help them materially.

Now that this government, after much urging and hesitation, has organized a commission of inquiry into the condition of its subjects abroad, it is very desirable that what is good in the effort may, by its success, so far justify the wisdom which planned it as to lead to further similar designs and attempts.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 12.—Translation.]

Prince Kung presents his compliments.

In relation to the commission about to be sent to inquire into the condition of the coolies in Cuba, it now appears that there has been a difference of views between us in some particulars, but there is a way in which the affair can now be arranged without difficulty.

The commissioners now appointed shall conduct their investigation uncontrolled by anyone, but they shall confer with all the foreign ministers in Peking before leaving, as to the mode of procedure. When the commission returns it will present a clear report to the foreign office, which, after it has been carefully examined in all its details and verbal explanations, will be submitted to the body of resident ministers for their discussion. The manner of settling the affair between China and Spain must then come up for their careful consideration, for which we shall have to be further indebted.

As I write to inform you of this, I also beg to wish you happiness, and inclose my card.

Card of
[Inclosure 2 in No. 12.—Translation.]

Foreign office to Mr. Williams.

The members of the foreign office present their compliments.

We have lately received a dispatch from Mr. Otin, Spanish chargé d’affaires, in which he says: The points of disagreement between the foreign office and myself have now all been submitted to the dean of the diplomatic body in Peking, who has carefully examined them and brought about an honorable and fair accord upon them all. In consequence of this, I have resumed the post and duties of acting minister of Spain.

We have replied to Mr. Otin in the same sense, acknowledging him as chargé d’affaires for Spain, and beg now, by this note, particularly to thank you, sir, for the trouble which you have taken in this affair.

Wishing you daily happiness as we write, we inclose our cards.

Cards of
and five other ministers.

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

[Page 231]
[Inclosure 3 in No. 12.—Translation.]

Señor Otin to Mr. Williams.

M. le Chargé d’Affaires and dear Colleague: I have the honor to transmti to yon herewith the bases agreed upon by the Tsuugli Yamun and the legation of Spain for a definitive arrangement of our differences upon the subject of Chinese emigration under contract to the island of Cuba.

The kind mediation which you have already had the goodness to extend to us, with a view to reconciliation, now encourages me to solicit the cooperation of your experience in the conference of arbitration which is to give solution to this matter, and to beg you to obtain from Cuba, in such manner as you may deem proper, all the information which shall seem to you calculated to throw light upon this question.

Be pleased to accept, &c.,

  • F. OTIN.
  • Mr. S. Wells Williams,
    Chargé d’Affaires of the United States, &c.
[Inclosure 4 in No. 12.—Translation.]

Copy of protocol.

In the matter of Chinese emigration to Cuba, the two powers (China and Japan) have agreed on the following points:

China may send a commission to Cuba to ascertain the condition of Chinese coolies. The officers thus deputed by China will prosecute their inquiries in Cuba independently and by themselves, but may ask the advice of foreign consuls and the good offices and support of the Spanish authorities.
The two powers (Spain and China) will in advance request the representatives at Peking of England, Russia, France, the United States, and Germany to take the whole question into consideration, and, when the time arrives, arbitrate thereon.
When the report of the Chinese officers shall have been received, the Chinese foreign board will communicate a copy of it to each of the arbitrators and to the Spanish representative; the original document will be lodged with the arbitrators at the time of arbitration. Consular reports concerning the condition of coolies, if intended to be used in evidence, are to be communicated to the Chinese foreign board and to the Spanish representative; if not thus communicated they are not to be used as evidence.
Tae correspondence between the Spanish representative and the Chinese foreign board on the question of Cuba, coolies is to be handed to the arbitrating ministers, in order that all the points therein discussed may be together placed before the arbitrators for common and definitive settlement.

Sealed and signed.

(In Chinese, Mao Chang-hi, Ching-lin and Chieng-how.)

[Inclosure 5 in No. 12.]

Mr. Williams to Mr. Otin.

M. le Chargé d’Affaires, and Dear Colleague:

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st instant, and to thank you for the copy of the protocol which you signed that day with the three ministers of the foreign office, defining the status and procedure of the commission and the mode of final arbitration.

I beg to congratulate you upon this basis of agreement, which fully meets my view of the understanding arrived at on the 1st of August. The elucidation of the results of Chinese emigration to Cuba during the last twenty-five years will have much effect upon the whole question of contract-labor, and every one who has a regard for the welfare of his fellow-men must desire to see a full and un trammeled inquiry into the matter.

I shall be very willing to lend my aid in the final settlement of the points which may still come up between the Spanish and Chinese governments after the return of the commission, and help to bring this perplexing question to a peaceful and just conclusion.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew the expression of my great regard.

  • Seorñ Don Francisco Otin,
    Chargé d’Affaires for Spain.