to Mr. Evarts
February 23, 1878.
(Received May 3.)
Sir: I informed you on the 9th instant that the
foreign office had sent to the several foreign representatives the Shanghai
harbor rules, and that objections had been made on the part of the latter,
that the note transmitting them was not in a desirable form. After much
discussion among the foreign representatives, the senior minister placed the
matter before the foreign office, and the ministers agreed to withdraw the
earlier notes and substitute others which would be satisfactory. They did
this at once. I hand to you herewith a memorandum by Mr. Holcombe, showing
the change effected in this way.
I have already announced to the foreign office my approval of the rules. I
presume that my colleagues have done the same, or will do so at an early
moment. I have also prepared an instruction for the vice-consul-general, a
copy of which I inclose.
The question in regard to the harbor rules having been thus disposed of, I
have prepared and submitted to my colleagues a memorandum on the subject of
river conservation, a copy of which I inclose.
It will receive, as I hope, early consideration, but I cannot yet venture an
opinion as to the conclusions which will be taken.
I have, &c.,
[Inclosure 1 in No. 411.]
HARBOR RULES FOR SHANGHAI.
Memorandum of changes made by Prince
Kung, in his dispatch of January 31, 1878, submitting the rules to the diplomatic body.
- —In the last sentence of the covering dispatch, after the words,
“and to request that,” the clause, “if they meet your approval,” is
- —The preamble to the rules was omitted both from the original and
the amended dispatches.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 411.]
Mr. Seward to
I have had the honor to receive your imperial highness’s letter, of
January 31, transmitting to me a code of proposed “Rules for the
conservation of the harbor at Shanghai.” These rules have my perfect
approval, and I will instruct the consul-general to afford the
harbor-master cordial support in giving effect to them.
I have, &c.,
[Inelosure 3 in No. 411.]
Mr. Seward to Mr.
Sir: The inclosed rules for the care of the
harbor at your port, having been proposed to the foreign representatives
by the foreign office, have received my approval. I have to request,
therefore, that you will give to the harbor-master cordial support in
carrying them into effect.
As the rules will be notified by the inspector-general of customs, there
does not seem to be occasion for you to publish them.
The question of the conservation of the river and the improvement of the
bar is likely, as I hope, to be taken up at an early moment. It is one
in which, from my long experience at Shanghai, I feel especial interest,
and which I shall not willingly let drop.
You may communicate a copy of this note to the chairman of the chamber of
commerce, requesting him, however, to consider that it is not open for
I am, &c.,
[Inclosure 4 in No. 411.]
The chairman of the Chamber of Commerce of Shanghai in the letter
addressed to the foreign ministers, on the 7th of August last, said:
“Responsibility to adopt the, necessary measure for the preservation and
improvement of the approaches to this port is imposed upon the Chinese
Government, not only by a due regard for the interest of the country
generally, but also by its implied obligations, under the treaties with
He also said, speaking of the bar at Woosung:
“This question is one among many concerning the water-ways of Shanghai,
the determination of which properly devolves upon special functionaries
to be appointed by the Chinese Government, whose business it would be to
decide upon and provide the most efficient means of protecting the
navigable channels of the port and maintaining free access to it for
vessels of all draughts.”
“I am to express the earnest hope of the chamber, that the diplomatic
body will take advantage of every opportunity to impress upon the
Tsung-li Yamên the importance of organizing without delay a board of
It may be presumed that the Chamber meant to indicate to the foreign
representatives that the “special functionaries” mentioned in the second
extract from the letter should [Page 107]
be under the orders of the board of conservators, which board should be
invested with a general concern in and control of all matters pertaining
to, “the most efficient means of protecting the navigable channels of
It is likely that the chamber, had in view the constitution of a board in
which foreign officers would take a part, say members of the consular
body. It would seem, however, unlikely that the Chinese Government would
be at all willing to consent to this. They are not only jealous of their
proper rights, but are becoming sensitive to any proposal which may in
any degree seem to invade or trench upon them. It is probable that the
consular body could as such, in the usual course of its functions,
exercise as much influence as would be appropriate, or, at least,
acceptable to the Chinese.
Aboard of conservation constituted of native officers only would
certainly not prove satisfactory. It might be possible, however, to
establish a board consisting of native officers and of foreigners in the
Chinese service. Granting that this would be as satisfactory a solution
of the question as could be secured, it would seem that it would be
somewhat difficult to approach the government with the proposition. It
is one which appears simple enough to foreigners, but it would involve
the issue of orders to the provincial authorities of a novel sort; it
would look to the expenditure of money, and, altogether, would be likely
But even if successful it could only be so upon the basis of a very
positive recognition of the status of the native officers upon the
board, and this would give to the element which is least likely to
recognize the need of grappling with the business in a serious way, the
preponderating influence. The board so constituted might almost be
expected to defeat the purpose for which it was created.
Looking to the considerations thus advanced, it has seemed to me that the
business may be best approached in another way. A representation could
be addressed to the government on the subject of the danger which is
arising to their port, and the request made for the appointment of an
engineer to examine into the matter. This engineer could be placed under
the orders of the inspector-general of customs. Associated with the
intendant of circuit and the commissioner of customs, a board could be
constituted which would answer, practically, to the recommendation of
the chamber of commerce. It would be one, moreover, in which the foreign
and not the native element would prevail. It would be open to receive
the advice of the consular body or the chamber of commerce; it would
report to the government, as is desirable, through the inspector-general
on the one side and the provincial authorities on the other.
If the effort to secure the appointment of an engineer should fail, a
step might perhaps be taken by requesting the government to consider
whether it would not be well to take the opinions of the best European
engineers on the general subject of the condition of the river, and the
occasion for measures of conservation or improvement.
I submit the foregoing suggestions as a basis for a discussion of the
business, and with the belief that nothing can be accomplished,
excepting in the usual course of quiet diplomatic representation. We are
not in position to make any demands, and are not likely to be so
authorized by our governments.
GEORGE F. SEWARD.