Mr. Williams to Mr. Fish.
Pelting , March 30, 1874. (Received May 26.)
Sir: A Roman Catholic bishop, whose diocese comprises a part of Manchuria and the region contiguous to Corea, has lately reached Peking from Newchwang, and brings an account of an entire change in the government of Corea within the last three months, and the removal of the ruler who has usurped the chief authority during the past fifteen years. The principal facts, as he reports them, tally very well with some statements made years ago, and bear the appearance of authenticity, though many details yet remain to be supplied.
It is known that about fifteen years ago the succession of the reigning house of Ti to the throne of Corea became extinct, and the government came into the hands of the Queen Dowager. She sought out a remote scion of the house of Ti, and adopted a lad of eight years old as the heir-apparent, whose own father and grandfather were still living. This boy’s father managed by force and fraud, erelong, to engross the [Page 254] entire authority; and his son and the Queen Dowager became mere ciphers in his hands. It would seem that, stimulated by a feeling of insecurity in his seat, he began to oppress the people and remove his enemies. He took umbrage against everything foreign, especially foreign books and teachings, and the extension of foreign trade. In 1864 he exercised greater severity, and, as is well known, about that time began a deadly persecution against the Roman Catholics, putting to death hundreds and hundreds of native converts, and killing eleven foreign priests. The proceedings of Admiral Rose, in 1866, not being followed up by any ulterior measures on the part of the French, he took courage, having, as he supposed, repelled both the Russian and French ships. It appears that a Russian man-of-war had come on the eastern coast of Corea in 1864, which remained there a long time for the purpose of opening negotiations in respect to the new frontier between the two countries of Russia and Corea, near Port May and Possiet, but her mission was unsuccessful.
The result of the visits of American men-of-war, in con sequence of the destruction of the “General Sherman.” and especially of the United States expedition in 1871, were all regarded as a great triumph, by this usurper, who had, as he supposed, delivered the kingdom from subjugation by foreigners, and asserted the prowess of his army. But after the American flag had retired from his coasts, and there was time to review the whole affair, the more sensible part of the rulers began to see it in a different light. The members of the annual embassy had also had an opportunity to confer with the Chinese rulers at Peking, and learn from them all the real nature of Mr. Low’s attempt to open amicable relations with their sovereign. At any rate we know that some of the Coreans in this city last year purchased many copies of all the books about foreign countries, including the monthly magazine published in this city, to carry back with them.
The conclusion now reported is, that the legitimate king and his adopted mother in conjunction with the ruling nobles of Corea, have compelled the usurper Ti to retire, and have assumed control. The change has been brought about without bloodshed, and the bishop (Monsignor E.) looks forward to a peaceable state of their missions, seeing that the new authorities are favorably disposed toward foreigners and Christianity.
He reports that the disastrous and bloody result to the Coreans of our attack on Fort McKee was used as a strong argument with Ti, of the uselessness of his resisting foreign nations, whose weapons and tactics were so superior to theirs, and their resources so great. On all these points there is much, no doubt, to be learned, but there seem to be full grounds for believing the report of an entire change of government in that kingdom.
I have, &c.,