No. 161.
Mr. Henderson to Mr. Davis.

No. 36.]

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.,

J. J. HENDERSON.
[Inclosure in No. 36.]

The Viceroy to Mr. Henderson .

[Extract.]

Now, we have investigated this Formosa business, as well as the statements of the Taotai of Formosa, and the captain of the Yang Boo, to the effect that this expedition to the savages of Formosa has been planned by the former consul at Amoy, Le Gendre; also, one Cassel and many others were assisting, &c. We have also examined and found that Formosa has long belonged to China, and the savages are certainly under Chinese jurisdiction, and other nations have nothing to do with them. On this occasion Japan has sent soldiers to punish the savages without previous consultation with the foreign office and the Japan commander-in-chief, Hiang, without awaiting a communication from me, on his own motion took soldiers and formed a camp at Liang Kian, in entire violation both of international law and the treaty between China and Japan. We twice sent communication to Hiang, Japan, commander-in-chief, requiring him to take back his soldiers, and twice sent communication to the board of trade to be forwarded to your honorable self to be examined and acted on, all which is on file.

We have received your dispatch in which you show your desire to carry out treaty obligations, and in settling matters to preserve lasting peace and friendship, as well as you purpose to perform your duties, for all which we desire to express our hearty thanks.

We have appointed Chian, second in the board of trade, having rank of Taotai and formerly acting prefect of Foochow, to go to Amoy, and have sent a communication to Li, Admiral at Amoy, telling him to await the coming of Chian, and then with him have a consultation with the United States consul, and with him concert some plan of action. And in accordance with the provisions of article 1 of the treaty of the eighth year of Heinfung, (1858,) that the two countries shall mutually assist in preserving friendly relations, we ask your honorable self to request the Japanese commander, Hiang, to take his soldiers back to Japan.

And if in the vessels that are gone to Formosa there are any citizens aiding the Japanese, we ask you to punish those that are acting improperly, whether on land or sea, in accordance with the eleventh article of the treaty and the laws of your country.

From the time when your honorable self arrived in China you have always managed affairs in strict accordance with right; so that the streets are full of praises of yourself by rulers and people, and we ourselves are truly thankful.

Now that there are affairs in Formosa over which you are consul, you can show your friendly feelings by acting in accordance with treaty, by taking measures in connection with Admiral Li and Prefect Chian. Thus can you show friendly feeling.

We have sent a communication to Admiral Li, and also one to Prefect Chian, ordering him to go to Amoy and arrange the whole affair with you, for which purpose we give them full powers. And we request you to act with these two, not only as officials, but as friends.

Hoping thus, with best regards.

To Mr. Henderson,
United States Consul, Amoy and Formosa.