No. 82.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Evarts .

No. 411.]

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.,

[Page 106]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 411.]


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 inserted.
—The preamble to the rules was omitted both from the original and the amended dispatches.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 411.]

Mr. Seward to Prince Kung.

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. Stahel.

No. 113.]

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 publication.

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 foreign powers.”

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.”

And further:

“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 conservators.”

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 the port.”

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 to fail.

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.