Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 7, 1874
Mr. Williams to Mr. Fish.
Peking, May 30, 1874. (Received July 20.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose for your perusal a very clear account of the events which occurred at Shanghai on the 3d and 4th instant, taken from the “Courier,” and a copy of Mr. Seward’s report of his efforts in aiding to suppress the riot, (inclosure 1,) from which you will learn all that is of importance.
Mr. Seward’s position as senior consul at Shanghai gave him much advantage in taking immediate action, and I have heard only one opinion in commendation of his promptness and sagacity. Preventive efforts are always difficult to estimate, but in this case everybody acknowledges that the landing of a detachment from the United States steamers Ashuelot and Yantic, at the hour it did, was most opportune. The mob was in fact rendered powerless by its appearance. I sincerely hope that the Department will fortify and indorse the public voice by its special approval of his action.
You will no doubt observe on the perusal of the printed narrative that the animus of the editor is strongly against the Chinese, and he does not seem to be disposed to wait till he can hear their side. I do not refer to the mob, for whose conduct I find no excuse, but to the proceedings of the Ningpo guild. It is not easy, at any time, to learn the exact truth about native opinion, but in this instance the views of the guild were early made known, and their temperate memorial (inclosure 2) and liberal proposition to arrange the matter sent to the council three [Page 258] months before the outbreak, places the latter, by its refusal or vacillation, in a position it could easily have avoided.
It is an outbreak much to be regretted, and its details will be reported through the provinces, I fear, so as to deepen the dislike and dread which is felt against foreigners. In the case of the Tien-tsin riot in 1870 it was easy to deny the truth of the rumors which excused it, that foreigners stole children for the sake of their eyes and hearts; and there are myriads of natives in other places who could corroborate the denial and help to re-assure their countrymen that the facts were otherwise.
But when the native newspapers circulate the story that half a score of their people have been shot or killed in Shanghai for resisting the encroachments of foreigners upon the graves of Chinese buried there, it will strike a sympathetic chord in the hearts of their readers. In a case somewhat similar, when Amaral, the enterprising governor of Macao, was assassinated in 1849 for cutting roads through the graves outside the city, the act was upheld by all natives as a just retribution for the dead. In this case at Shanghai the arguments and facts will tell against foreigners, and there will be very little opportunity to place either of them in a right light.
The argument used by the editor, that the guild knew that the roads had been long before mapped out to be opened through the graves, and the plea that many places in Shanghai, now covered with houses, had once been graveyards, are both entirely aside of the merits of this particular question. However, it is impossible to judge equitably until one knows the facts about the occupation of the French in this part of Shanghai.
I add a copy of my reply to Mr. Seward, (inclosure 3,) and defer further remark until another time. If this riot furnishes a good argument for a fusion of the two settlements, all parties would be ultimately the gainers.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Seward to Mr. Williams.
Shanghai, May 11, 1874.
Sir: I have heretofore advised you that a riot occurred in the French settlement on Sunday last.
Up to this moment no official inquiry has taken place in regard to its causes, or the merits of the grievance, as alleged by the Chinese. The consul-general for France has indeed, as it would appear, taken some conclusions, hut he has not communicated them to his colleagues; nor do we know of them excepting from the local prints and newspapers. Under these circumstances I shall confine this report to a statement of my own connection with the affair in its various aspects, and I shall transmit to you with it such printed documents as will set forth all the information that I can now communicate.
The riot took place on Sunday, the 3d instant. I was informed of the existence of a difficulty while at my house, more than two miles from the scene, at about half past 6 o’clock in the evening. I at once drove to the residence of Dr. Yates, which was not more than a third of a mile from the place in question. I found that Dr. Yates, his son-in-law, Mr. Seaman, and Mr. Hill, had been observing the tendency of the affair, and they assured me that it was not unlikely to assume serious proportions.
Acting upon a preconceived idea of what should be done under such circumstances, I determined to ask our gunboats to land the largest possible force, and to place them where they could be of most use in a defensive way, and I proceeded to the French consulate to state my information and my conception of the measures which should [Page 259] be taken. Upon leaving Dr. Yates’s house I saw that a fire had broken out, and that crowds of excited people were already moving down the Rue du Consulat, breaking the street lamps, and otherwise indicating their excitement. On reaching the French concession, I told Mr. Godeaux, the consul-general, what I had learned, and expressed my opinion that it would be well to land a force from the gunboats. He at once assented to this, and I proceeded to the Ashuelot and Yantic to secure the same. The commanders of these vessels yielded a ready assent to my request, and actually landed about a hundred men by 8.30 o’clock. Not anticipating that the rioters would have any disposition to proceed further in the face of the fact that this force was in hand, and that a squad of fifteen or twenty men from a French gunboat had been previously landed, I requested the commanding officer of the sailors to take them to the French consulate; I at the same time requested Mr. Bradford to remain with them, and to advise with Mr. Godeaux and the commanding officer in regard to their disposition, giving to him at the same time such general instructions as seemed appropriate. A meeting of the consuls had been called while I was thus engaged, and the hour for assembling having arrived, I proceeded to the place named for it, the Main-guard, to which the municipal council and the volunteers had also been summoned.
The question here arose what course should be pursued; and upon this point the chairman of the municipal council, as commandant of the volunteers, requested instructions from the consuls.
It was my opinion that one or two of the fire companies should proceed to the scene of the fire, guarded by the volunteers and our sailors, in order to put out the fire and make such a demonstration as would overawe the rabble; and this course was determined upon, the consuls and the chairman proceeding with the troops.
I may say that I was assured strongly that this course was the only one which could be pursued, having regard to all interests. If a fire was going on it should be put out. If the rabble was disposed to carry matters farther, nothing less than a demonstration of our ability to suppress them would answer. Neither was any danger to be apprehended. A Chinese mob will not fight foreigners, excepting as a pack of wolves will attack human beings, when in numbers and with full swing for their savagery. A squad of fifty men present during the day near the scene of the trouble, would have overawed the rabble and prevented all bloodshed.
In marching to the locality of the fire, I took about fifty of our sailors with the volunteers. I remained with the commanding officer, and informed both him and the commandant of the volunteers that I would be the sole medium of communication between them. I took this course because the responsibility of landing these men was mine, and because I felt unwilling that they should be asked to do any active work without my full knowledge and assent.
I should say here, that prior to my return to the French settlement from the Main-guard, reports had been received that the police station at the southern river corner of the settlement was in danger, and that Mr. Bradford had gone to its relief with a guard of the sailors.
Upon reaching the scene of the disturbances I found that, as I anticipated, the danger was over. The fire, too, was pretty nearly burned out, it having met obstructions which prevented it from spreading. Such measures were taken, however, to suppress it entirely, as were appropriate.
At this time information was brought that a band of the rioters had taken refuge in the Ningpo Joss-house, a rambling structure covering more than an acre of ground situated at the southwestern end of the settlement. It seemed advisable to determine whether this was the fact, and the force excepting an appropriate patrol moved at once to the place. The Chehsien, or district magistrate, who had previously appeared upon the scene of the riot, accompanied us.
The door of the joss-house, or wei-kuan, was found closed, and upon calling out to those supposed to be inside, no answer was received. Mr. Medhurst and myself then asked the magistrate to break in one of the doors, so as to enable us to make with him an inspection of the premises. This was effected by the foreign firemen with axes, the door selected having been barricaded with coffin material. The entry having been, effected, a squad of the magistrate’s soldiers with the magistrates and several of the consuls, proceeded to search, but found not one person.
It is likely that no one was there, and that, anticipating such a search, even those who usually occupy it had taken their departure. The force was then marched back to the municipal hall and the French consulate, at which places our sailors were to bivouac for the night.
Signals were agreed upon to call out the volunteers and fire companies if this should be necessary, and at 2 a.m. I returned to my residence.
I should mention that before retiring from the French settlement I waited on the French consul, and through his chancelier proposed a consuls’ meeting for the next morning at his office. He returned word, further thanking me for the aid rendered to him, but intimating that he did not care to have me call the meeting. I make this statement not to find fault with Mr. Godeaux, but to be accurate in my narrative.[Page 260]
On Monday morning I proceeded to the French settlement at an early hour, and after visiting the scene of the riot and consulting with Mr. Godeaux, I sent the sailors off to their ships, asking the officer in command to say that if a fresh squad could be landed, it would gratify me. This was done with reasonable promptness, and the men, at my suggestion, bivouacked in an appropriate way. Later in the day I again arranged that a squad of fifty men should remain on shore for the night.
The further occurrences in the French settlement need no comment from me.
On Monday a consuls’ meeting was held in my office, a minute of which will be found among the inclosed papers. Mr. Godeaux did not attend this meeting or make any communication to it.
The proclamation of the Taotai, made upon the request of this meeting, will also be found among the inclosed papers. It had not seemed to several of the body quite in accordance with the agreement made with him on Friday; therefore Mr. Medhurst, Mr. Schlik, and myself took advantage of a visit from the Taotai to urge him to issue another one in strict accordance with the agreement with the Taotai, and this has just come to hand.
I have received from several persons testimony to the careful manner in which the French police behaved. They appear to have been admirably handled, and to have refrained from using their weapons when provoked in the most extreme way.
Six Chinese were killed on Sunday. One has died since, and about ten or a dozen more or less severely wounded are under treatment in different places.
It will be found, I fear, that a large proportion of those killed met their death at the hands of persons armed by the French council, or upon no authority and under no adequate restraint.
There would have been no necessity to arm such men, and they might, if appearing on their own motion, have been arrested or turned back, if the riot had been checked at the outset by the landing of a suitable force, which would have left the police free to attend to their proper work.
I have no further details about the injuries suffered by foreigners than those stated in the inclosures. Mr. Fisher, with the modesty characteristic of many foreigners in such cases, values his bruised temple and two departed teeth at 10,000 taels, or $14,000. Rev. Mr. Allen and Mr. Haskell each lost a carriage.
You will see that the consular body have not entered upon the merits of the original dispute. We cannot well do so without an invitation from M. Godeaux or the Chinese authorities. We considered it our duty to state that we would give to either the benefit of our advice, if requested, and to stop there.
I shall not indulge now in remarks concerning the general bearings of the difficulties in question, or of the conduct of the French and native authorities, but may return to the subject hereafter.
I shall be glad to know what course should, in your view, be taken in regard to the losses of our people, as mentioned.
I am not quite sure that the prompt action which I took to land our sailors, especially in view of the fact that the French have charged themselves with the preservation of order in the French settlement, will be approved at first sight; but when it is remembered that American interests in that quarter are really greater than those of the French, and that the houses of the American families—viz, Dr. Yates’s, Mr. Allen’s, and Mr. Lambuth’s—were nearer to the scene of the riot than any others, one would hesitate to say that the landing of our sailors was not called for by the circumstances.
To my mind, a riot, here or elsewhere, is to be met as a riot, and to be put down with a strong hand. To this view the Chinese authorities have assented, and both they and the French consul and council have specially thanked me for the aid which I rendered. The judgment which would vacillate at such a moment would, I fear, vacillate in those earlier stages of a difficulty when nothing would be required but a conception of what is right and a disposition to do it.
The riot presents, I think, no occasion for fear of what may come in the future, at least in Shanghai. The Chinese have seen that it is dangerous to proceed to such an extreme, and whatever encouragement they may have received from the way in which their demands were granted, almost at the moment of their demonstrations, they will hesitate to take up such a procedure in the future.
I have, &c.,
the riot in the french concession.
About 4.30 p.m. yesterday, the fire-bells of the settlement rang an alarm, which, taken in connection with the hoisting of the French flag over the bell towers, indicated the locality to be in the French concession; in which direction, therefore, all the fire companies [Page 261] of the Shanghai fire department were promptly on the march. But there was some difficulty in ascertaining the particular part of the concession, and as the firemen were making inquiries, they were met at various points by the information that the fire had been got under by the exertions of the French police and the engine of the M. M. Co. close to which it had taken place. But along with this came the information that the fire was the act of incendiaries, who had not only set fire to a block of buildings, but had violently assaulted several foreigners, who had narrowly escaped with their lives. Further inquiry ascertained that the whole thing resulted from that combination of the Ningpo residents of Shanghai to enforce certain claims they have recently advanced, in connection with their mortuary house of reception, (known as “Ningpo Joss-house,”) and its surroundings, to which we drew attention on Saturday evening. An attempt made last night and to-day to investigate that claim with some degree of thoroughness, has made us acquainted with so many conflicting statements regarding it that we cannot feel assured that we have yet arrived at the truth, entire and unmixed. All that we propose to do now is to give as full and correct an account as we have been able to gather of the events of yesterday.
Early in the forenoon crowds had assembled in the open spaces lying between the Ningpo Joss-house, the city wall, and the French gas-works, similar to the crowds that had gathered there for the greater part of the previous week, except that instead of hundreds they had risen to thousands; and their concourse appeared less a fortuitous meeting, and more the result of a deliberate purpose. In fact, it had been communicated to not a few foreigners, by Ningpo men, with whom they were intimate, that the disaffected would on Sunday burn down certain buildings or sections of the concession; but the talk seemed so wild that it appears for the most part to have been allowed to pass unheeded. At all events, those who passed the place at noon, and for the next three hours, observed the whole of the open ground referred to covered with dense groups of Chinese, similar to those which one sees when some popular exhibition is going on, but on closer inspection, gathered from the loud language and fierce gesticulations of those who spoke, and from the sullen and wild appearance of the listening crowds, that they were in no holiday mood. Within the limits above mentioned the Rue Wei-kwei, running parallel with and to the north of the Rue du Consulat, is intersected eastward by the Rue Hué, and westward by the Rue des Pères, forming an oblong block, on the northern face of which is Rue Wei-kwei. At the corner of Rue Hué was a row of Chinese dwellings, west of which is a tenement lately built by M. Percebois, one-half occupied by his own family, the other tenanted by Miss J. Maclean, a British missionary lady; the remaining space, to the intersection of the Rue des Pères, was occupied by a two-story foreign dwelling-house, belonging to M. Charrier, whose outlying stables stretched backward as far as the Rue du Consulat, occupying all the rest of the block except a row of two-story Chino-foreign houses, (mostly occupied by Frenchmen,) forming the west side of the Rue Hue. About 3 p.m. a number of French firemen went up by appointment to the French gas-works, situated to the west of the Rue des Peres and north of the Rue Wei-kwei, abutting on their north front on the Yang-king-pang, the northern limit of the concession. The party went to get their photographs taken. The crowds, catching a glimpse of them going toward the gas-works, came rushing along in that direction. But when they approached the gasworks it is supposed they were induced to think of the seriousness of any too close contact with so explosive and mysterious a substance as gas. What is known is, that, after standing, yelling, and haranguing in the neighborhood of the works, a new direction and object was given to their views. Where they stood they were in view of the house of M. Perceboi’s, to whom it has fallen, as surveyor or master of works to the French municipality, to mark off the improvements contemplated and in progress in the roads that run close to the Ningpo Joss-house. It is at present impossible to ascertain whether the crowd or their ringleaders had any definite programme previously resolved on, or whether the mob was simply excited in a general way, and open to any definite suggestion that might be given at random. What is certain is, that at about a quarter to 4 p.m. a rush was made for Percebois’s house; it was beset before and behind by a howling mob; it was entered; he was violently torn out while attempting to defend his wife and a family of young children; he saw his wife dragged out by her hair, and his children fairly pitched into the street. What measures he took to prevent a downright massacre we have not learned. If the elderly Chinaman, who, with arms and legs naked, as if stripped for a fray, was soon afterward found close by Percebois’s house, shot through the heart, was killed at this juncture, all we can say is that the violence was justifiable in the circumstances. But however he managed to deter the mob from proceeding to the last extremities, he did succeed, though with his own head laid open, his wife badly beaten and bruised, and his children hurt, though it is not thought seriously, in making his way to the municipal hall, about five hundred yards distant.
Meanwhile, about half past three, two Scotch gentlemen, Messrs. D. Cranston, of Pootung foundry, and John Weir, chief engineer of the Gordon castle, had called on Miss Maclean, living in the house adjoining that of M. Percebois. They had noticed [Page 262] the crowds of people, but thinking it was only some ordinary street “row” paid no particular attention to it. But as they sat and talked with Miss Maclean up-stairs, about 4 o’clock, they heard the rush of the crowds down the street, and the next moment heard the sounds of demolition going on all round M. Percebois’s house. Seeing the immense number and wildness of the people, it was deemed wisest to keep still, so long as Miss Maclean’s place was left untouched. From ten to fifteen minutes sufficed to reduce M. Percebois’s house—a two-story house built on the Chinese plan—to a yawning ruin; the trees in the garden behind were torn up; some dogs tied up were beaten to death; and some turkeys, &c., were absolutely torn to pieces. The mob was now worked into a frenzy, and Miss Maclean, looking cautiously out from her back windows, saw them almost in a minute tear down the fence that separated her back premises from those of M. Percebois, and arm themselves with the rails that composed it. Presently her out-houses were demolished, and seeing signs of further damage she resolved to parley with them. Stepping out on the back verandah she told them that whatever quarrel they had with M. Percebois, she had nothing to do with it, as she was only a tenant. She had scarce uttered the words when a shower of bricks forced her to withdraw, and simultaneously bricks were thrown at the front windows, and she and her friends were forced to seek refuge from the fragments of glass and flying missiles on the landing of the staircase. After the shower of bricks had lasted some minutes the front door was forced, the lower rooms were entered, and the forms, chairs, and other furniture were broken up and converted into weapons. This over, they came up stairs, headed by one who was unarmed, and who appeared, on the whole, anxious to restrain the violence of the others. Miss Maclean tried to remonstrate with him, but the crowd behind raved and struck with their weapons, and presently pushed him aside into one of the upper rooms, the furniture of which also they began to smash. Miss Maclean, thus brought face to face with violence, determined to go down stairs, and was allowed to do so unmolested, followed by the two gentlemen. But as soon as they were outside, while Miss Maclean, closely followed by Mr. Cranston, who was trying to protect her, was hustled by the crowd across the street, and somewhat in the direction of the gas-works, Mr. Weir was borne away eastward, and ere he had gone a few yards was struck down by a blow which laid his head open. While he lay on the ground the crowd around beat madly at him, but their closeness around him, the length of their bludgeons, and their frantic fury, combined to save him from a death that seemed inevitable. Watching a chance he suddenly sprang up, and, as he did so, siezed a brick, menacing them with which he advanced on the crowd, who opened before him, but closed with threatening yells behind; and thus, turning from side to side, with his eye over his shoulder, he kept using the menace of the brick to open up his way. Again he was tripped up, fell, and was badly beaten; again he started up, and grasping a heavy piece of paling from one of the crowd, brought it down to the charge, (his arms were now so bruised that he could not raise it higher.) With this he pushed his way along, having constantly to turn and stand at bay when the crowd came too close, till, at last, getting into a clearer place, he ran as fast as his remaining strength permitted, and reported the affair at municipal hall, urging the necessity of an immediate attempt to save Miss Maclean and Mr. Cranston. He complains of the length of time it took to get the police under arms, and of the fact that for a time no cartridges could be found.
Meanwhile, Mr. Cranston, by keeping his hands on either side of Miss Maclean, protected her from the blows aimed at her, till he was struck down by a severe blow on the head, and Miss Maclean was at once dragged by her hair into the gutter beside him. Both were badly beaten while they were down. One inhuman monster lifted a section of a heavy plank with both hands, and striking her on the wrist inflicted a horrible bruise and abrasion. She was also wounded on the head, and badly bruised and cut generally. Mr. Cranston was treated in a similar manner. How she got up she cannot tell, but as she was being hustled and beaten along she began to hear voices in the crowd asserting that she was not a French woman, but belonged to the English, with whom they had no quarrel. Just then a tea-shop was reached, into which they were pushed by the party that seemed friendly to them. The woman who kept the tea-shop, in evident apprehension for the safety of her place, attempted to push her foreign sister back again among the fiends who raged outside, but this was prevented. The friendly party at length succeeded in inducing the furies to ask Miss Maclean if she was English, and on her saying that she was, the crowd at once became calmer; some even expressing regret, and an escort was formed, by which she and Mr. Cranston were conveyed to Mrs. Manthei’s, who lives close by. It would appear that as soon as the crowd became convinced that Miss Maclean was not French, the breakage of her furniture was stopped, so that when some foreigners went round from Mrs. Manthei’s to save whatever was left, they recovered most of her personal effects, the loss being restricted to the furniture. To close this part of the subject, we are glad to say that Miss Maclean, though suffering severely from pain, has not sustained any permanent injury; that Mr. Weir, though in great pain and a good deal disfigured, has been able [Page 263] to go about to-day. Mr. Cranston, who has suffered most severely, is in the general hospital, and is, we believe, doing favorably.
During or immediately after the assault on Miss Maclean, the mob resolved to consummate the destruction of M. Percebois’s house, and fired it. How the fire was extinguished we have explained in our opening remarks. M. Barbe, the superintendent of the French police, on hearing of the riot and the fire, having no orders how to act, directed all the available force to arm themselves, and marching them to Percebois’s, they kept guard while the firemen extinguished the flames. Meanwhile, M. Barbe had sent a message to the French consul-general, informing him of the state of things, and asked for instructions. Pound the scene of the fire the crowd surged and howled and threw brick-bats, and one of them, seeing the police maintain an imperturbable patience, went the length of making the most insulting gestures and uttering the filthiest language, winding up by a bold defiance to shoot him if they dared. The sergeant on duty bravely seized him, and though the roar and rage of the crowd threatened a desperate and bloody rescue, he was retained, and marched back to the municipal hall, escorted by the police, on the conclusion of the fire operations. At this stage of the operations, from 5 to 6 p.m., many foreigners approached the center of the meleé more or less closely, and some were roughly handled; and all felt it was prudent to retire, the general opinion being that still more serious mischief was brewing. When the municipal police returned to the station, a message from M. Godeaux (the consul-general) was waiting, conveying to M. Barbe the inane instruction that he was “to be prudent,” or words to that effect. As there were now assembled at the municipality a number of French and other gentlemen, many of them ex-members of the French volunteer corps of 1870, M. Barbe’s idea of prudence included the idea of arming these, and thus raising his effective force to from sixty to eighty men. But while this was in preparation, M. Rouhaud, the secretary of the consul-general, arrived with positive orders that no such step was on any account to be taken; a decision which excited general, and, we think, very natural, dissatisfaction.
We presume it must have been inconsequence of this strange determination of M. Godeaux to take no action, and make no inquiry in the matter, that M. Voisin, chairman of the French municipal council, in view of the important foreign as well as the French interests that were involved, at 6.30 p.m. sent a request to Mr. Fearon, chairman of the Shanghai municipality, for the support of the Shanghai volunteer company. Mr. Fearon acted with commendable promptitude and vigor. The foreign consuls were convened through Mr. Seward, their chairman, to meet at the Main-guard at 9 p.m., where also the volunteers were invited to meet. All the consuls in town assembled, except M. Godeaux, who did not even send any communication; and after the mature deliberation which so important and, in the special circumstance, so difficult a matter required, it was decided that the volunteers should march in a united body to the French municipality, and there act in co-operation with any other available forces, as might be found necessary or expedient.
Meanwhile what all had feared had taken place. The fire at the house of Percebois was rekindled, spread to Charrier’s stables adjoining, and thence to other blocks contiguous, being only arrested by the vigor and courage of Mr. Brodie A. Clarke, fire-engineer for the British settlement, most ably seconded by Mr. J. H. Vail and the Hongkew hook and ladder company, of which he is foreman. But resuming our detailed narrative of the events of Sunday at the point where we left off last night, we start with the state of things between 6 and 7 p.m. At that hour a tumultuous mob, composed almost exclusively of unemployed mawfoos, miscellaneous loafers and rowdies, and professional thieves, held possession of that block of the concession in which M. Percebois’s house is situated, and of the contiguous streets. The small armed party of foreigners, who had barely kept them at bay while the fire was being extinguished, had retired, and were now cooped up within the municipal compound, and, for aught that could be seen, they had succeeded in resisting and cowing the authorities of the concession. The foreigners who ventured to reconnoiter the outskirts of the mob, returned with the conviction that more extended mischief would ensue. And we have since learned, as a matter of fact, that at this time warnings were issued to the Chinese occupants of foreign-owned houses to remove their furniture, as the municipal hall and all the intervening property was to be burned. The French consul-general undoubtedly was, and in any case he ought to have been, apprised of this state of things, and yet, so far as was known, he had taken no measures, even of a precautionary character. In these circumstances M. Voisin, chairman of the French municipal council, did all that he could do—sent a request to Mr. Fearon, chairman of the municipal council north of the Yank-king-pang, requesting the assistance of the Shanghai municipal volunteers. Mr. Fearon signified his willingness to accede, and, rightly considering that the interests of the members of many, if not of all, of the nationalities represented in Shanghai were involved, requested George F. Seward, esq., the senior consul, to convene a meeting of the consular body at the Main-guard, at 9 p.m., while he himself, through the officers of the Shanghai volunteer company, summoned that body to assemble at the same place and hour.[Page 264]
Meanwhile, the ringleaders of the mob, having paused for a time either for rest or deliberation, resumed their lawless proceedings. They set fire to what remained of M. Percebois’s house. They appear to have had some compunctions about doing any more harm to Miss Maclean’s house, but these were speedily overborne by the more savage of the party, and it also was set on fire; and then the mob, being fairly warmed to their work, rushed frantically about, carrying wisps of burning straw, and set fire to M. Charrier’s coach-houses and stables. Most of the horses were got out, bat almost all the carriages, including some valuable broughams, recently imported from France, were destroyed. The glare of the fire was soon seen from the top of the municipal clock-tower, and the usual fire-alarms again summoned the Shanghai fire-brigade to the rescue. A personal inspection by the chief engineer, in the afternoon, of the state of things, led him to the opinion that the sending of the fire companies indiscriminately into the concession might be dangerous. Almost all the fire-engines are manned by-Chinese—some of them by Ningpo men, and only officered by foreigners—and it was just possible that if they went into the crowd, and an attack was made, they might refuse to fight against their compatriots, if they did not take active part with them, the effect of which might be most disastrous. Most of the Mih-ho-loongs, too, belong to the Shanghai volunteer company, in which capacity their presence was required at the Main-guard. It was, therefore, resolved, even after the various engines had already started for the fire, to request them all to retire until such time as the volunteers might, if the fire continued, be able to accompany and defend them. Meanwhile, the Hongkew hook and ladder company, which is manned by foreigners exclusively, was allowed to proceed toward the fire to reconnoiter and ascertain what was going on. To this party those of the Mih-ho-loongs not on military duty attached themselves. We must leave them marching over the bund bridge of the Yang-king-pang to ascertain what has been doing elsewhere.
M. Voisin had first heard of the disturbance at 5.30, when driving out toward the Bubbling Well. He hurried back to the municipal hall, where he found the police and some volunteers under arms, but unable to do anything owing to the consul’s order. By this time a dense crowd surrounded the municipal compound, and began to throw stones and to pull up a fence; two shots also were fired, and the bullets were heard whistling overhead. M. Voisin, taking advantage of a carriage on the premises, and carrying his revolver in his hand, drove through the crowd to the French consulate-general and urged the necessity of active measures. The consul insisted that the disturbance was quite over, and was not prepared to do anything. M. Voisin then obtained M. Godeaux’s sanction to apply, as already mentioned, to Mr. Fearon, and hearing immediately afterward that the fire had been relighted, hurried back to M. Godeaux, and after much altercation induced him to send to the lieutenant commanding the French gun-boat Couleuvre for assistance. In response to this twenty sailors came on shore in charge of a lieutenant. He also pointed out to M. Godeaux the necessity of using forcible measures to prevent further outrages, but to no purpose. M. Godeaux kept repeating his favorite formula: “It is necessary to be prudent.” It was at length resolved that the sailors should be marched to the municipal hall, and there await the course of events. It was about this time, (7.30,) we believe, that M. Godeaux applied to the Taotai for assistance.
The Hongkew hook and ladder company, on reaching the municipal hall, found the party of seamen and the police under arms. They also met with Mr. Brodie A. Clarke, district engineer for the British settlement, who, in the absence of M. Charrier, engineer for the French concession, took charge. The other officers present were Messrs. J. H. Vail, foreman; and W. B. Langhorn, ______ Allen, and Perks, assistants. It was resolved to push on through the crowd, the sailors and police forming a guard, under the command of the lieutenant. With bayonets leveled to the charge, the little band advanced; the crowd gave way pell-mell; one ringleader, who had made himself conspicuous and most offensive, fell into a ditch in his flight, and received a sharp admonition a posteriori with a bayonet. In this way the hook and ladder company advanced with their escort up the Rue du Consulat toward the fire, which by this time had burned its way back through Charrier’s stables to the Rue du Consulat. At this point it may be proper to state that immediately on the second fire-alarm being heard, Mr. Penfold, with his three inspectors and a detachment of the police of the northern settlement, hastened to the scene, and found men busy spreading the fire by means of straw, &c. Two of the ringleaders were particularly noted. As soon as the incendiaries saw the foreign police they desisted, and the two leaders referred to skulked off. They were, however, followed by two of Mr. Penfold’s acolytes, and as soon as a quiet corner was reached they were secured by the latter—a quiet and artistic catch I No disposition was shown to attack the foreign police. Indeed, officers and men alike were told they had better go away; nobody wanted to harm them; the quarrel was with the French alone. Mr. Penfold, finding, we presume, that he could do nothing effective over so large an area with the men at his disposal, drew off his men and went to the municipal hall to secure co-operation. He reached there before the Couleuvre’s-men had arrived, and found M. Voisin and M. Barbe. Mr. Voisin greatly wished Mr. Penfold’s [Page 265] assistance, but according to the “reglements” of the concession; the chairman of the council has no authority over the police. Mr. Penfold said that if he had five additional men he would undertake to prevent further trouble. We have no doubt M. Barbe would very gladly have placed twice that number at his disposal, but without further orders from M. Godeaux his hands were tied; and Mr. Penfold, remarking that if he could be of no use he had no right to keep his men there, retired across the Yang-king-pang. Thus it came that when the hooks and ladders and their escort reached the fire, they were alone. Besides, of the twenty seamen who had accompanied them thus far, fifteen had orders to go on and throw themselves into the French gas-works, so as to avert the threatened danger of incendiarism and consequent explosion. These, therefore, were conducted onward by Mr. FitzHenry, of the gas-works. The small band of sailors and police stood with their bayonets pointed at the seething mob around them, while the red-shirts went to work with a will, and began to tear down the buildings burning nearest to those untouched. By this time all the block in which M. Percebois’s house stood, including a row of dwelling-houses occupied by Frenchmen, running from the Rue du Consulat along the west side of Rue Hué, was burned down, except a small block occupied by Chinese, at the corner where the latter street is intersected by the Rue Wei-kwei. A row of dwellings on the east side of the Rue Hué from the Rue du Consulat northward, was being busily set on fire when the red-shirts came on the ground, and was in a few minutes all ablaze, the only part of the row spared as far as the Rue Wei-kwei being again a few houses occupied by Chinese. We italicise these facts to show that if the mob was mad, there was a method in its madness, and we may here note the additional fact that from hundreds of houses spared by the fire, lying between those burned and the municipal hall, the furniture was removed, this having been done, as we are assured, in pursuance of the announced intention of the mob to burn its way right forward till it was able to put the cope-stone on its work by burning the municipal hall. The building to which the hooks and ladders devoted their principal attention was that at the southeast corner of the Rue Hué and the Rue du Consulat. This building was on fire, and within six feet of it, down the Rue du Consulat, runs a row of handsome and substantial newly-erected Chinese buildings, which must in all probability have been totally destroyed, had the corner house been allowed to burn down. The hooks, and ropes, and axes were vigorously plied, and soon the house was tumbled to pieces and the fire smothered in its fall. The heat certainly was still intense, but the house was separated from the new buildings by a solid firewall, which the wary firemen took care to leave standing, and the new buildings having a fire-wall also, further danger in this quarter was averted. Scarcely had this most valuable result been accomplished, when an order is said to have arrived from M. Godeaux, so singular, that we can hardly bring ourselves to believe that it could have emanated even from him; if it did, we can only say that his education has been perfect in the art of “how not to do it.” What is reported is, that at the juncture we have now reached, an order arrived from him directing the hook and ladder company to retire into the northern settlement. The company therefore limbered up and retired, heartily disgusted. They-have since, however, had the satisfaction of knowing that where they had arrested the fire, there it remained. If it is asked why, when this last obstacle was swept away and the mob remained for two hours undisputed masters of all west of the municipal hall, except the gas-works, they did not resume their work of plunder and destruction, two solutions present themselves. First, the contiguous houses may have belonged to Ningpo men. We know for certain that the new row of buildings mentioned is owned by a man from the Ningpo district, and, if we mistake not, an influential member of the guild. On former occasions, when the Shanghai fire-department has rescued his property from tire, he has advertised his thanks in handsome terms. Why, on this occasion, is he silent? Another notable fact is, that an, extensive store in the neighborhood of the devastation, presenting a most tempting collection of loot, was left wholly untouched. Its owner is a Ningpo man. Everything goes to show that, while the mob consisted almost wholly of the lowest rowdies, it was at its wildest moments under systematic guidance. Of this, however, we shall have more to say hereafter. But, secondly, apart from any desire to save the property of their compatriots, the rioters, by the time the Hongkew company left the ground—about 9.15 p.m.—had other reasons to abstain from further violence. They knew that the Chehsien and his retinue had gone to the French consulate-general; that the Taotai had been appealed to to send troops; that the Shanghai volunteers were called out; and they probably by this time knew that a considerable force had been landed from the United States vessels of war Ashuelot and Yantic.
Mr. Seward, United States consul-general, had learned early in the day, from Dr. Yates, United States vice-consul-general, who resides near the disturbed district, that some serious trouble was brewing; and after driving round the place for himself, and subsequently hearing of the attack upon foreigners, he deemed it right to apply to his senior naval officer for a guard, at least sufficient to insure the safety of Dr. Yates’s family. As further symptoms developed themselves, he intrusted to Mr. O. B. Bradford, of the United States consulate-general, the securing of as large a force as could be [Page 266] spared from the Ashuelot and Yantic, for the general protection, the result being that about 9.30 p.m. some seventy-eight men and a Gatling gun were landed at the French consulate-general. At the request of M. Godeaux eighteen of these and the Gatling gun were left to protect the consulate-general, the rest were marched up to the municipal hall to await events. After they had been there for about half an hour, news arrived from the little east gate that the French police-station there had been attacked by a mob, and Mr. Bradford was directed to conduct twenty of the American marines to its defense, which was successfully accomplished, and the post occupied by them till they were relieved by a company of Chinese foreign-drilled soldiers, detached for the purpose from the one hundred and fifty sent by the Taotai in answer to the consul-general’s application. Thus, at the point at which we have arrived, if we include thirty armed police, twenty Couleuvre’s men, seventy-eight of the United States Navy, and one hundred and thirty or so of native troops, there was a force of about two hundred and sixty men massed at or near the municipal hall about 10.30 p.m. At this hour they were joined by about two hundred of the Shanghai volunteer company, instructed by the meetings of consuls and council, as already related, to act in co-operation with those they found there. To the thousands of undisciplined Chinese there was opposed a well-equipped and disciplined force of nearly five hundred men.
Resuming our narative of the riot, we find the troops of the Taotai, the naval parties from the United States Navy and from the Couleuvre, the Shanghai volunteers, the armed French police, (with the Hongkew hook and ladder company and Deluge No. 4 engine company, to do fire-duty under protection of the Shanghai volunteer company, in case it should be wanted,) to the aggregate number of about five hundred men, at the municipal hall about 10.30 on Sunday night. After consultation, the troops of the Taotai were picketed throughout the disturbed quarter, with the instructions to seize all suspicious characters; the police and the Couleuvre men guarded the municipal hall, and the volunteers marched in column through the scene of the disturbances. All was still, and the streets deserted by the people; the débris of the buildings destroyed were smouldering into blackness, and occasionally flaring up into fierce flame. Here and there dead bodies of Chinese were seen lying. While the volunteers were making this patrol, the consular body, escorted by the United States naval party, and the chehsien, guarded by a squad of native troops, went to the Ningpo Joss-house, the source or central point of all the trouble; and as it was reported that the ring-leaders of the riot had taken their quarters there, it was proposed to enter and search. Several of the doors were knocked at, but there was no response; upon which Mr. Seward, the senior consul, suggested to the chehsien that an entrance should be forced. The naval party was directed to guard the east side of the building to prevent any inmate from escaping, while the rest of the circuit was intrusted to the volunteers, who had now completed their patrol. The attendants of the chehsien attempted to burst open or unhinge the massive doors, but they were found too strong and too closely fitted into the massive stone door-posts and lintels to be practicable. The chehsien reported himself unable to effect an entrance. On this the Hongkew hook and ladder company was sent for by Mr. Seward, and, the chehsien’s sanction having been obtained, they set themselves to the task. But against the repeated and energetic blows of their ram the door was proof. It was then resolved to cut a hole through the door large enough to admit a man, which being done, one of the number got through, and found a perfect mass of the thick wooden slabs of which the Chinese make their coffins jammed at the back of the door at the strongest angle of resistance. These were removed piecemeal and an entrance effected. The chehsien requested that none should enter the building except the consuls, himself, and some of his escort. Careful search was made all through the extensive premises, but no living person was to be seen; it was pure and simple a habitation of the dead. The absence of watchman, servant, or attendant of any kind was, indeed, suspicious, and some sharp eyes there were that saw a ladder so placed as to suggest the idea that the occupants of the place had taken refuge on the roof; but the awkwardness that would result if the idea proved erroneous prevented a proposal to search from being made.
Arrangements were then made for keeping guard over the concession during the night, which duty was shared between the French police and the Taotai’s troops, while the detachment of the Ashuelot’s men left at the French consulate-general remained there during the night. The Shanghai volunteers, having again fallen in at the Joss-house, inarched back to the bund in the reverse order in which they came, and near the customs-house, having been formed in column, Captain Hart (to borrow the language of the Daily News) “addressed a few words of thanks to the men for the steadiness with which they had obeyed Orders, and announced that in case of a fresh alarm four guns would be fired from the United States corvette Ashuelot, when they were at once to muster at the main-guard. Mr. Fearon, as civil commandant of the corps, also complimented the men upon the readiness with which they had turned out, and on their steady and soldierly bearing. Fortunately, their active services had not been needed, but their conduct gave a proof of their efficiency, which would increase the confidence of the community in their capacity to maintain order if required. He [Page 267] thanked them in the name of the community.”, The force was then dismissed about half past midnight.
The general result of the affray, so far as the persons of foreigners were concerned, was that a number of persons had had their heads cut and their persons bruised with bricks, &c., including, more especially, Mr. A. A. Fisher, who had his temple laid open, his lip badly cut, and two of his teeth knocked out by stones, &c., thrown at him while driving past the crowd on his way home from Sieawei; besides the still more serious injuries sustained by M. Percebois and his family, by Miss Maclean, and by Messrs. Cranston and Weir. On the side of the aggressors the casualties were much more numerous and severe. As we have stated, one Chinaman was shot through the heart on the steps of M. Percebois’s house, between four and five in the afternoon. When the police and Couleuvre party were escorting the hook and ladder company to the fire, one of the most prominent rioters received a bayonet-wound, of which he afterward died. The party who went to defend the gas-works while on their way there were assailed with bricks and stones, and, having fired some warning shots without effect, are said to have fired into the crowd; with what result is not known. As we have stated, a number of civilians gathered at the municipal hall in the afternoon and expressed their willingness to assist the police if supplied with arms. As there was no evidence of a regular force being summoned by M. Godeaux to support the police, M. Barbe thought it prudent to arm these volunteers, but, in accordance with orders received from M. Godeaux, they were kept within the municipal compound, and when the gates were opened to admit the Couleuvre’s men, a number of them slipped out and took their arms with them. This was unfortunate, as some of them do not appear to have been of a character or in a condition to be trusted with weapons; and there is concurrent testimony to show that they, with probably others carrying weapons of their own, went about firing and using their bayonets without authority, which was bad, and often where it was totally uncalled for and mischievous, which was worse. The total result was that six were found dead on the ground, and eight wounded were taken to the Chinese hospital, one of whom afterward died. So that the casualties among the Chinese, so far as at present known, were seven dead and seven wounded.
On Monday morning the scene of the disturbance of the previous day presented a singular spectacle. The smouldering embers of the houses burned; long rows of contiguous houses emptied of their contents, and more or less battered, or carefully barricaded; the groups of native foreign-drilled troops, with rifles stacked and side-arms ready for use, lounging at extemporized guard-houses in every street, or marching slowly up and down their “beat;” a dense crowd around the Ningpo Joss-house and groups scattered over all the open ground, and everywhere throngs of natives, who had evidently come from all quarters sight-seeing, interspersed here and there with a foreigner or two. Among the débris of the houses, groups were, as customary, groping in the hope of securing some fragment that might still be useful. But the most peculiar feature was the long string of wheelbarrows piled high with furniture and household stuff, which were seen in all directions making for the northern settlement—the property of people who were hastening from the concession, either from the fear of punishment for participation in the riot, or to avoid being involved in the consequences of another. It was estimated that no fewer than eight hundred left for Ningpo on Monday alone, while the crowds for Soochow were such as to enhance the charge for boat-hire 300 per cent., the fares of wheelbarrows being raised in an equal ratio. Besides this, a large number who had been attracted to live in the concession by lighter taxes or cheaper rents, now hastened to domicile themselves and their belongings in what they seem to consider the safer region of the northern settlement; the obvious result being a stiffening of the rents of native houses in the latter locality, and a corresponding downward tendency in those of the concession.
While the native community was thus occupied, the authorities, native and foreign, naturally had their hands full of the affair. The two incendiaries captured by the foreign police were sent to the mixed court of the French concession, to be dealt with, along with from twenty-five to thirty others who had been caught raising fire, taking part in the riot or plundering. It was resolved to remand them till the following day. The French consul-general, in the forenoon, requested M. Voisin to call a meeting of the French municipal council to reconsider the subject of the roads adjoining Ningpo Joss-house, which had been the original cause of the trouble. Several times afterwards in the course of the day he saw M. Godeaux, the last time being when he was on his way, and told M. Godeaux he was on his way to the meeting of council called at his request. We insert here the minutes of that meeting with translation:
council of municipal administration for the french concession.
“On the 4th May, 1874, the municipal council of the French concession met under the presidency of M. Voisin. Councilors present: Messrs. Ewald, Hennequin, Hitch Lang, Maiguan, Millot; M. Sayn, secretary.[Page 268]
“The council was assembled at the request of the consul-general, addressed to the president, for the purpose of taking into consideration the circumstances which have excited among the Chinese populace an agitation which it is of importance to allay as soon as possible, and to entertain anew the question which has created that effervescence.
“The council is of opinion that there should be addressed to the consul-general a letter to the following effect:
“‘Sir: At your request I have just convoked the municipal council, which resolves that, in view of the excesses which were committed yesterday, it cannot discuss anew the question of the streets Saigon and Ningpo until the disturbance has disappeared and justice has been done.
“Then the council will be most willing to reconsider the question, and to inform yon of its final decision.
“‘This resolution has been adopted unanimously.
“The council expresses, at the same time, the opinion that the regrettable events-which took place yesterday might have been easily stopped at the outset by a more energetic attitude on the part of the consul-general.
It will be observed that the decision of the council on the point referred to their reconsideration was, that after the violence and outrage that had been committed with the apparent object of compelling compliance with those who claimed the right to interdict the roads objected to, the council could not entertain the question at all, till due investigation into the riot had been made and justice done in regard to it. It may be imagined, therefore, what their astonishment was to learn, as they left the council chamber, that during, if not before, their sitting a proclamation by the consul-general had been generally posted throughout the concession, of which the following translation has been given:
“an urgent proclamation.
“Since I have been in office in Shanghai, all the merchants of the settlement have received protection and lived in quietude. At present, erroneous reports have been spread, stating that the French intend to remove or destroy the buildings of the Sz-ming-kung-so, (Ningpo Joss-house,) and that it is also intended to build horse-roads on the grounds, and thus to interfere with or damage the graves. These are the reports of worthless men, who are spreading false rumors to excite the people. The head men of the Sz-ming-kung-so at present petition to have the plans of the roads changed, and a further request has been received from the Taotai and likewise one from the Chehsien, begging that we will give consideration to the public feeling. An instruction has accordingly been sent to the municipal council to reconsider and change their previous plans, so as not to injure the buildings of the guild or to disturb the graves in the cemetery. They are not only not to construct a road, but they are to desire the head men of the Sz-ming-kung-so to erect a wall round the limits of their property, to define the boundaries, and thus avoid future misunderstanding.
“The foregoing proclamation was about to be issued when, unexpectedly, a lot of foolish people, not waiting for a reply to their representations, daringly assembled together and created disturbance. The matter is much to be regretted, and on this account we issue a proclamation ordering all the merchants and people in the concession that they should live peaceably and attend to their business, and not give ready ear to false reports, which lead to matters to be repented of when too late.”
It will be observed that this proclamation must have been already printed when M. Voisin met M. Godeaux, and told him he was on his way to the council-meeting, called at M. Godeaux’s request, to consider what was to be done about the disputed roads. M. Godeaux’s proclamation concedes all, and more than all, the demands of the Chinese that the council was summoned to consider. Yet M. Godeaux allowed M. Voisin to go on to transact business which the former had already done all in his power to reduce to a farce. It is matter of double congratulation that the decision of the council was such as we see. We may here state that up to the present time the council has no official information of the purport or existence of the consul-general’s decret.[Page 269]
Meanwhile, the senior consul invited his official brethren to meet the Taotai, in order to take into joint consideration the general state of affairs. From this meeting, also, M. Godeaux was absent, being probably occupied with the publication of his own “urgent proclamation.” The result of the deliberations of the consular body is set forth in the following official minutes, which, although we published them two days since, we think it well to re-introduce here, in order to set this document in juxtaposition and contrast with that which M. Godeaux saw fit to issu eon his own responsibility:
“meeting of treaty consuls.
“Minutes of a special meeting of consuls at Shanghai, held in consequence of the riot on the French concession on Sunday, the 3d May, 1874.
“The consuls are of opinion that order should be maintained in the foreign settlements, and they are prepared to use all the force available on the part of foreigners, in concert with the force at the command of the Taotai, for the purpose.
“They are further of opinion that immediate measures should be taken by the French authorities and the Taotai for the arrest and punishment of offenders in the disturbance of yesterday.
“They are further of opinion that it is unnecessary for the consular body to enter into the merits of the present difficulty, but they are prepared to give the benefit of their advice in the matter, upon the request of either the French consul-general or the Taotai.
“They are further of opinion that no persons should be permitted to appear publicly in the streets with arms, unless under authority.
“His excellency the Taotai having been invited to join the meeting, and the above having been communicated to him, he agreed after consultation to issue forthwith a proclamation embodying the following points—
- “1. That the present difficulty was in course of adjustment by the proper authorities when the mob began the riot.
- “2. That such demonstrations by mobs cannot and will not be permitted. When disputes arise they should always be settled by the authorities, and that any attempt by the populace to take the law into their own hands will be promptly redressed by all available foreign and Chinese force.
- “3. That all quiet, well-disposed persons are called upon to discourage rioting of every kind, and to maintain order.
- “4. That the Chinese authorities are taking measures to arrest and punish the ringleaders in the late disturbance.
“W. H. MEDHURST,
“Her Majesty’s Consul.
“F. B. FORBES,
“Consul-General of Sweden and Norway.
“J. E. REDING,
“Acting H. I. R. M.’s Vice-Consul.
“Acting Vice-Consul for Portugal.
“E. H. SLAGHEK,
“Consul for Netherlands.
“Acting Danish Consul.
“J. J. DE EMPERANZA,
“Consul for Spain.
“GEORGE F. SEWARD,
“United States Consul-General.”
Perhaps the best appendix we can give to this section of our narrative will be to reproduce the translation of the following series of Chinese proclamations to which the affair has given rise, and which we copy from to-day’s Daily News.
First comes a notice by the Ningpo guild, which purports to have been written with the object of averting disturbance, though it is a question whether it was issued till after the riot:[Page 270]
“proclamation by the ningpo guild.
“The guild has already petitioned the Taotai and hsien in the above matter, and these authorities are in correspondence with the French consul-general, begging him to direct the municipality to alter the proposed course of the roads; and the matter is all but satisfactorily adjusted. Let all our fellow provincials, therefore, mind each his own business, and not assemble in crowds to follow unlawful counsels and create disturbances,
Tung-chih, 13th year, 3d moon.”
The following proclamation, in which the Taotai affects to regard the fire as purely accidental, and the mob as merely the usual assemblage of spectators, matches, in the liberties it takes with truth for purposes of government, anything to be found in Mac-chiavelli or the Eikon Basiliké It was issued on the night after the fire, (3d May)
“a general proclamation.
“Whereas, on the French side some houses caught fire, and the populace assembled in multitudes to witness it, I then sent out mandarins with seals [the Chehsien and waiyuen, or official deputy of the Taotai] to lead soldiers to put out the fire and to restrain the mob. The Ningpo merchants of Shanghai and people generally should attend to their own affairs and keep order. If there should be any found inventing idle stories and inflaming the minds of the populace, or laying hold of causes to create a disturbance, they must be regarded as vagabonds and ruffians who have no respect for the law, and will be at once arrested and dealt with summarily. It is proper that I should inform the soldiers and people by proclamation that they must, one and all, respect and not disobey the laws.”
Earlier on the same day the same magistrate had prepared the following proclamation, but which, though bearing that date, is said not to have been issued till the following day, (4th May:)
“a general proclamation.
“It appears that the owners of the lands of the Sz-ming-kung-so have asked that the opening of a road shall not be carried out. Some time ago the head men of the Ningpo guild, Chow Ta-lin, Chow-Chung, and others, came to the Yamun with a petition, and I at once communicated with the French consul-general, requesting that he would order the members of the municipal council to act in accordance with it. Although I did not receive an official [or written] answer, a Waiyuen [deputy or interpreter] had already communicated the consul-general’s verbal reply, to the effect that the councilors were absent from Shanghai, and that it would be necessary to await their return, when the matter would be discussed. The consul-general, however, with a clear perception of Chinese affairs, knowing that the Sz-ming-kung-so had existed for a very long period, that the graves there are extremely numerous, and that if the road was opened it would be difficult to avoid injury to them, promised to instruct the council to stay proceedings, and thus to bring the affair to a satisfactory termination. The heads of the Sz-ming-kung-so had waited also on the consul-general with a petition, and earnestly entreated him, and he likewise assented to their request. All this is on record. It therefore behooves people quietly to wait till the matter is discussed and settled. There is no reason for seeking excuses to create a disturbance. I hope that the people and merchants of Ningpo will in future attend to their occupations, and carefully keep within the pale of the law. You must not lightly believe idle stories and illicitly cause commotion, laying yourselves open to be brought to trial and examined and punished. There will be no excuse. Do not disobey. A special proclamation.”
The next and last proclamation, issued yesterday, (5th May,) is based on the consul-general’s placard of the day before, and shows how eager his excellency is to give to the questionable concession made by the consul-general the force of an accomplished fact:
“H. E. Shen, Taotai, issues another proclamation for general information.
“It appears now that the horse-road is not to be constructed within the bounds of the Sz-ming-kung-so; and I have directed the elders of the guild to immediately put up a wall in order to define the boundaries. I have already personally interviewed the French consul, and by consultation arranged that he will issue a proclamation, and I have no doubt that the proclamation in question has been generally seen. In all matters connected with foreigners and Chinese, the people should invariably await the decision of the mandarins, and should not create disturbances. If, after this, rowdy characters do not respect the injunctions of the authorities, but concoct idle stories, and inflame the hearts of the multitude even unto quarreling and fighting in numbers, I shall decidedly deal with them with the utmost severity of the law. But I cannot bear to punish without warning; therefore, it is right that I should, in incisive (or unmistakable) words, warn you. I trust that the merchants and said people will all be aware of this. You have each of you families, and, while there is yet time, ought to awake to the importance of respecting the law, attending to your business, &c. I very much grieve for the people, and do not shirk earnestly and repeatedly warning h em. Do not disobey. A special proclamation.”[Page 271]
the riot in the french concession.
In several of our issues last week, we gave in considerable detail an account of a riot which occurred in the French concession on Sunday, the 3d May, serious in itself, and yet more serious in view of its possible consequences. We have now an opportunity of briefly sketching the circumstances that led up to that outbreak, which will throw needed light on the narrative and documents which we have already published.
To begin at the beginning: There is, and has long been, a native mortuary chapel, known as the “Ningpo Joss-house,” near the southwestern extremity of what is now the French concession. It is used as a place where the coffins of natives of Ningpo, who die in Shanghai, are kept till the necessary means have been provided or arrangements made for their removal to be buried in the ancestral burying-grounds of the deceased in their native district. It would also appear that some uninclosed land contiguous to the Joss-house has been used as a place of burial for indigent persons, and is administered by the committee of the Joss-house, which, we believe, is the Ningpo Guild, or some of their number. When the vacant spaces around this were occupied by the allies, who assisted the Chinese against the Taipings in 1861–’62, the grave-mounds, with which it abounded, were leveled, for military reasons. On the retirement of the troops it became a part of the French concession. In 1864 the annual municipal report stated that the executive had at length overcome all the difficulties it had to contend with in settling with the proprietors of the ground that had been covered by graves, and had so arranged matters that only two grave-yards remained—the cemetery of the French marine, and the Ningpo Joss-house. The land-renters’ meeting to which this report was submitted was, if we mistake not, presided over by M. Godeaux, then acting consul, now consul-general. The vacant ground was, in 1865, laid out in oblong blocks separated by lines of road marked off by shallow drains, and in 1870 a plan of the concession was engraved, on which the roads were laid down and named. Running along the northeast face of the Joss-house was “Rue de Ningpo,” along its southeast face the “Rue de Saigon.” So things remained till toward the end of last year, when the council proposed to raise and metal the roads in question, and others contiguous. In January last, a communication (which we have already published—issue of 9th May) was received from the Ningpo Guild, which is the administrator of the Joss-house, and, as it would appear, of some of the lands adjoining. It will be seen that, in language which to those unacquainted with the history of the case must appear very temperate and considerate, they state their objections to the proposed roads being carried out, and offer to build, in close parallelism to them, roads in their stead. From that time to the present, negotiations have been going on; the Taotai, on the one hand, and the consul-general, on the other, being called in to argue the matter. The French council have been unwilling to agree to the proposals of the guild, because a very large part of the concession is built on ground that once was graveyards, and if they once admitted the principle on which the guild base their demand, it might seriously affect the titles of many existing foreign properties. They admitted that the two particular roads in question are of no great public utility, but so important did they feel the principle involved in the claim to be, that, we believe, toward the latter part of the discussion, some such expression as this was used: that, rather than agree to the proposal of the guild, the council would prefer to have the Joss-house removed, and provided with a site elsewhere. This was a very natural expression, as only a year or two ago the cemetery of the French marine (referred to above) was moved to a new situation about a mile west of the cemetery; so that, in suggesting the possibility of the bodies of the deceased Chinese being removed, the council went no further, even in suggestion, than they had already proceeded in fact with the bodies of their own countrymen. It will be noticed that this view of the case is very adroitly ignored by the guild in their plausible document of January. Indeed, it is notorious that nothing has been more common in the history of the foreign settlements in China than the removal of graves by arrangement with the representatives of the deceased. How the present case should be Tendered more difficult to deal with, because the ground in dispute outside the Joss-house is the burying-place of beggars, whose removal would lacerate no family ties—which is an argument used by the Daily News—is a kind of logic we fail to understand. But the expression about the removal of the Joss-house was so used by the representatives of the guild that a large amount of popular excitement was at once evoked, it being represented among the people that the council had determined to pull down the Joss-house. About the beginning of last week large crowds began to assemble at and around the Joss-house, and the excitement grew by the mutual contact of suspicious multitudes. The consul-general appears to have all along shown himself strongly disposed to concede the wishes of the guild; which, no doubt, to a large extent accounts for their pertinacity with the council; and at last it was arranged that another meeting between the council and the representatives of the guild should take place on Monday, May 4. It is understood, also, that the council, finding that by the policy of the consul-general the whole odium of upholding what they regarded as the rights [Page 272] of foreigners, in opposition to the claims of the guild, was thrown on them, after much deliberation had privately made up their minds to agree to the proposals of the guild, with some slight modifications. This, however, was not known to the Chinese, and on Saturday the rumor was very prevalent in the concession and northern settlement that there was to be an outbreak on Sunday. It was thought, however, to be mere rumor, and excited no active attention. This will sufficiently show the attitude of the parties concerned up to Sunday forenoon. For subsequent events we refer our readers to the narrative and documents published.
Opinions are divided as to the wisdom of the council’s action in its negotiations with the guild. At the same time, we are bound to say here that much of the criticism we have heard adverse to the council appears to us to be based on ignorance of the history, and consequently of the nature, of the question at issue. We are, therefore, glad to hear that there is in preparation a memoir of the whole case based on official records of undoubted validity. Perhaps, however, it may be regarded as a tacit confession that they had erred in judgment; that they should have decided, at the last moment, to concede the demands of the guild. But that conclusion is weighted by the double consideration that the ultimate demands of the guild may have differed materially from those originally made, and that even those last were to be accepted only with modifications. But, while there is this difference of opinion as to the original question, there is a remarkable unanimity among all ranks and nationalities of the foreign community in the opinion that, after the murderous onslaught of Sunday, no question of the rights or claims of the guild should be entertained till a thorough investigation has been made, and justice done according to the issue. As to the ultimate motive and object of the riot, it is difficult to arrive at a clear decision. Some are of opinion that the feelings of the people having been strongly excited, a number of vagabond literati, who abound in every large Chinese town, fostered and fanned it by scandalous reports, and having thus drawn together large crowds on Sunday, incited them to acts of violence, either with the purpose of gratifying their hatred of the French, or for the more sordid purpose of plunder. It will be observed from our narrative that the occurrences of the day give countenance to either of those alternatives. But those acquainted with the tactics of the governing bodies of China are strongly of opinion that the riot was deliberately planned by the guild, and possibly even winked at by the Taotai. How, otherwise, are we to account for the marked manner in which the property of Ningpo men was respected, and the hostility of foreigners in general was deprecated by very scrupulously confining the violence to those who were, or who were supposed to be, French? Indeed, we have the positive statement of a well-informed native that agents were employed by the guild to engage bands of unemployed, rowdies, &c., to raise the riot. The most feasible explanation seems to be that the guild, having in prospect the interview of Monday, thought that a popular demonstration, according to usual Chinese custom, would have a “moral” influence on the decision of council. We have not space now to discuss the justice or injustice of the universal condemnation which the conduct of the French consul-general during and since the outbreak has called forth. We must leave our record of his procedure, which will speak for itself in the meanwhile.
the ningpo men’s memorial.
To the members of the municipal council, French concession:
Gentlemen: The undersigned, managers of the Ningpo Joss-house grounds, beg leave to bring under your notice the following statement relative to their property situated at the back part of the French concession.
Some time ago the former municipal council proceeded to lay out roads and streets on that part of the concession where the Ningpo guild-property lies, and in doing so have marked out the road on that part of our ground which is very densely packed with coffins containing the remains of deceased Ningpo people. (Red on plan.) To make the road and have a traffic in carriages and vehicles over the remains of the dead is very abhorrent to our ideas, as we do not believe that their spirits would rest in peace; and to disturb their remains by digging them up and carrying them away elsewhere is equally repulsive. The whole of our ground situated at the rear of the concession, around the Joss-house, is very closely filled with the graves of our people of former generations—on the east side of the Joss-house as much as in that part to the west, although it may not appear so, from the ground having been leveled. Previous to the occupation of the Joss-house by the English troops as a barrack the whole of our ground was surrounded and protected by a brick wall, which was partially destroyed by the troops, and the bricks of the remaining portion stolen and carried away. Since then it has lain undisturbed, and as an open field. We have no record, nor are we aware that [Page 273] at any time any part of the Ningpo guild-ground has been surrendered to the public, or to any one on the public behalf, by any written agreement; nor have the guild ever been consulted, so far as we are aware, as to their readiness to part with their lands.
The only time that we know of where we have been asked relative to the matter of roads was about three months ago, or so, when some one from the municipal office called on the man in charge of the Joss-house and asked for a strip of land 13 feet wide, to form one side of the street proposed that runs parallel to the Rue du Consulat. This request was acceded to, and had 13 feet been taken, or even the whole 26 feet, if it had only been off the outside boundary of our land, we would have had nothing to say on that point to-day, as the outside boundary of the land was formerly a creek, and in that line of ground marked C on the accompanying plan we have no dead buried.
We are very desirous to come to some arrangement, if possible, with the municipal council, whereby the proposed new street may be diverted from its present line, and so leave the graves intact. First, we propose that the street may be made to diverge at the point marked D on the chart, and from there run along the outside of our ground, which is over the filled-up creek, till it reaches the Sikaway road. If this proposal is not acceptable, and you have objections to the line of street in consequence of the bend at the point D, and that it does not run in a straight line into the road leading to the creek, then we propose to acquire, from the Tong-shing-dong and other proprietors, a strip of ground 26 feet wide, which will run in a straight line with the outside of our ground, marked S on plan. This we will hand over to the council in place of that now marked out by them; and this, as we propose, will make a straight street for its whole length. And if it is desirable on public behalf to have the streets straight, then what we propose would be better than that now traced out on the ground, as what we would give would make a better junction with the road on the creek side, toward military and naval old cemetery.
To carry out this plan, if you accept of it, we do not anticipate any trouble, as the Tong-shing-dong has no graves in that part of their ground. We are ready and willing to bear all expenses in the purchase of houses and grounds to get a straight street. And we will also recoup the municipal council any moneys that may have been expended in laying out the streets to the present time.
With reference to the street parallel to the Sikaway road, marked G on the plan, it cannot be of utility to the public in any way, as it only gives access to the creek side in toward the concession; but the other street gives the same benefit much more conveniently, while it is of no use leading out toward the west gate, as the right of way stops at the limit of the concession. We think this might be allowed to remain unopened, and that it remain so while the ground is used as a burial-ground.
The ground all around it belongs either to the Ningpo guild or the Tong-shing-dong, and neither of the societies have any will or desire to use their grounds for any other purpose than they are now used for. The Ningpo people will not allow, if they can help it, their ground to be built upon, while they have had it confirmed to them as cemetery-grounds by various acts of the French authorities.
While laying these statements and proposals before you, we beg to remark that it is not from any desire to cause trouble that we act in this manner, but simply that the graves in our former cemetery may not be desecrated, and that the bones of our ancestors may remain undisturbed. This feeling on our part you may understand, as we believe it is one not uncommon to foreigners in regard to the graves of their dead.
Trusting you will give the foregoing your kind and favorable consideration, so that an amicable agreement may be come to.
Waiting the favor of your reply, we remain, gentlemen, your obedient servants, &c
Mr. Williams to Mr. Seward.
Peking, May 23, 1874.
Sir: I beg you to accept my best thanks for your dispatch No. 362, of the 11th instant, giving an account of the riot in the French settlement on the 3d instant, and your proceedings in aiding to quell it, with sundry details of the course of events on that occasion. The fullness of the report seems to leave nothing to be desired to understand what was done; and I am sure that you deserve the hearty thanks of your countrymen, and of the community generally, for your promptness in ascertaining the existence and efficient aid in suppressing the violence of the mob. It is a matter for thankfulness that no more lives were lost or property burned.
I beg you to present my sincere thanks to the commanders of the United States steamers Ashuelot and Yantic, and through them to the officers and crews, for the willing aid rendered by landing detachments as soon as you requested it. The presence [Page 274] of this trained body of armed men had, I cannot doubt, a powerful effect in restraining the mob from attempting any further violence.
I cannot now answer fully your request for directions as to the course to be taken in regard to the losses incurred by our countrymen. The question of the responsibility for the riot is rather a complicated one, and its answer demands more knowledge on one or two points than I now possess. I think, however, that it is safe to say that if the whole foreign community at the port of Shanghai had been under one council, no trouble would have arisen in respect to the arrangement of this dispute about the graves. However that may be, I wish you would give me some particulars of the various claims for damages suffered by American citizens.
I am, sir, &c.,