Mr. Henderson to Mr. Davis.
Amoy , June 23, 1874. (Received August 16.)
Sir: On the 19th instant I received a visit from the Chinese Admiral Lec, and Taotai Chain, of Foochow, the latter bringing me a letter from the Viceroy on the Formosan difficulty, an extract from which is herewith inclosed.
Their business was to thank me for the friendship I had manifested, as they said, towards the Chinese government in ordering Americans to withdraw from the Japanese expedition to Formosa; to see if some further action would not be taken on their cases, and especially to ask me to go to Formosa and assist them in bringing matters to a peaceable understanding with the Japanese commander-in-chief, in this connection calling my attention to the first article of our treaty of 1858. They seemed to think that Mr. Le Gendre, an American, had planned and was managing the expedition, and therefore it was my duty to assist in getting the Japanese away. I reminded him that whatever Mr. Le Gendre or other Americans had to do with the affair was by authority of the Japanese government and not the United States. The Taotai, with much apparent confidence, desired my opinion on the merits of the questions between China and Japan. I replied that it would not be proper for me to express an opinion on that part of the subject; but having received instructions from the United States legation at Peking, I was now prepared to warn all Americans to withdraw from the expedition under penalty of arrest and trial for violating the neutrality laws, and as soon as an opportunity was offered I would send them word to that effect. (The admiral having promised to furnish a gunboat for that purpose, it was agreed that a messenger should be sent to Formosa to give the requisite notice as soon as a ship could be got in readiness.)
What I had done in the matter I considered to be nothing more than my duty, and I was entitled to no thanks for it. As to my going with them to see the Japanese commander-in-chief, I thanked them and the Viceroy very much for the high compliment they paid me in asking me to perform so important an office, but I thought it would be inconsistent with my official station to act in that capacity, and in no event could I do so without express instructions from ray own Government. I thought it certainly the interest of every nation to preserve peace between China and Japan.
At that time I attached no particular importance to this request, but when, two days after, it was renewed by them with much importunity, with the offer to place a man-of-war at my disposal and give me every facility for comfort and convenience, I telegraphed the fact to Mr. Seward for instructions, and was advised by him to answer the Viceroy in a friendly way, but to assume no prerogatives.
I presume nothing could be accomplished by complying with their request, even if there were not more potent objections. I shall, therefore, do nothing inconsistent with a strictly neutral course.
To-day I dispatched a messenger, per China steamer, with instructions to go to the Japanese camp and serve personally Messrs. Cassel and Wasson, and any other American found taking part in the expedition, with a notice to withdraw, under penalty of arrest and trial for violating the law of neutrality.[Page 325]
I also inclose to each of the gentlemen named a dispatch to the same effect.
The best information I can get leads me to believe that Mr. Le Gendre has not been, and is not now, in Formosa, but he is in Japan directing the affair. The Chinese officers seem to blame him more than any other one person, and are very anxious he should be at once stopped from having anything to do with it, even as adviser.
The Japanese openly avow an intention to remain in Formosa and occupy the savage territory, and report that the greater part of its inhabitants have already surrendered to them with this understanding, but say they have no desire to interfere with that part of the island belonging to China. It is my opinion, however, that in the event of a declaration of war by China, they will, if possible, take possession of the whole place, including the treaty-ports.
I have, &c.,