Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts
the United States
July 2, 1878.
(Received September 2.)
Sir: Shortly prior to Mr. Seward’s departure he
received a letter from Mr. Comly, the minister resident of the United States
at Honolulu, which letter, written at the instance of the attorney-general
of the Hawaiian Islands, requested the good offices of this legation in
behalf of two Chinese held in custody at Canton, under a charge of abducting
A duplicate of the letter, of which I inclose a copy herewith, was also
received from the Department, under its instruction No. 224.
I now have the honor to hand to you a copy of an informal note which I
addressed to Prince Kung, incompliance with the request of Mr. Comly and Mr.
Seward’s advice. I also inclose a copy of the prince’s response. You will
see that he received my representation courteously, and took prompt action
upon it, promising also to inform me as to the nature of the report of his
viceroy at Canton.
I have replied to Mr. Comly as per copy inclosed.
As it was stated in the letter which induced my action that the British
representative at this capital would also be applied to for his good
offices, I mentioned the business to Mr. Fraser before addressing the
foreign office, but found that he had not received any request for his
I shall promptly inform the Department of any further developments in this
Hoping that my action as detailed herein will meet with your approval,
I have, &c.,
[lnclosure 1 in No. 21.]
Mr. Comly to Mr.
March 9, 1878.
Sir: I have received to-day an unofficial
letter from Mr. Alfred S. Hartwell, attorney-general of this kingdom,
stating that he is requested by Ah Lee, of Chulan & Co., of this
city, to assist his partner, Wong Kwai, now in China, in a charge made
against [Page 149] him of abducting
Chinese, to be used here as slaves or coolies. Mr. Hartwell states that
he is informed that letters were written from here by some person
hostile to Chulan & Co., to the effect that Chinese immigrants
brought here by Chulan & Co. are not allowed their freedom here,
which letters led to a publication in a Hong Kong newspaper, No. 3674,
of January 18 last, suggesting that the matter be inquired into, which
was followed by the arrest of Wong Kawi’s son, Tin Chong, and his
brother, Wong Chin Chee, by the govenor of Canton. Also that Mr. T. H.
Davies, the acting British consul-general here, has written to the
British Government at Hong Kong and the British minister at Peking in
behalf of Chulan & Co. in this matter, informing them of the
following facts, viz:
That Wing Woo Yneu, Chulan & Co.’s agents at Hong Kong, have
consigned to Chulan & Co. here as follows:
1873. Benvoilick; arrived October 4; 20 passengers.
1874. Koik; arrived May 27; left Hong Kong April 2; 109 passengers.
1876. Colombo; arrived June 10; left Hong Kong April 12; 181
1876. Willard Mudgett; arrived Septernber 16; left Hong Kong July 5; 336
That these passengers paid their passage-money, some here, some in Hong
Kong, some $35, some $50, and some have not paid yet; and that all were
and are free in this country. Some have entered into written contracts
for labor here, but all acting their own volition; suggesting to the
British officials an inquiry at the Chinese hospital, of which Li Tuk
Chang is manager, called Tung-wa-i-in, as to information concerning the
letters which caused this trouble, taking Wong Woo Yneu with them in
such inquiry, and requesting the friendly services of the British
governor and minister for Wong Kwai and his son and brother; also, that
a certificate of the facts above mentioned has been prepared and signed
by the principal foreign merchants of this city to be sent to the Canton
authorities. I am also informed that a telegram will be sent from the
Hawaiian consul at San Francisco to the Hawaiian consul at Hong Kong, to
obtain, if possible, a delay of all proceedings until receipt of advices
And I am requested, in behalf of Chulan & Co., to write to you to the
same effect as Mr. Davies has written. I write, of course, unofficially
to yourself, but as time is pressing, I send you this letter directly,
and shall forward a copy through the State Department.
I am confident that anything which you think it proper to do to remove
any misapprehension on the part of the Chinese authorities in this
matter will be very highly appreciated, not only by Chulan & Co.,
but by all Americans and other foreigners residing here.
The laws of this kingdom furnish, I think, full protection to the
property and person of all, and permit no discrimination or abuse
against those of the Chinese or any other nationality.
I have, &c.,
[Inclosure 2 in No. 21.]
Mr. Holcombe to
I have the honor to inform your Imperial Highness that I am in receipt of
a letter from the United States minister at the Hawaiian Islands, in
which, at the request of the attorney-general of that kingdom, he
desires me to call the attention of your Imperial Highness to the arrest
by his excellency the viceroy of Canton of two persons named Wang,
Chinese subjects, upon the charge of abducting Chinese to be used in
those islands as slaves or coolies.
It is stated in this letter that the attorney-general is informed that
the firm of which the two persons named Wang are members have sent, in
the last five years, about 500 Chinese passengers to the Hawaiian
Islands; that these paid their own passage-money, some $35 and some $50
each, and that they all were and are free; that some have entered into
written contracts for labor, but all acting of their own volition. He
also suggests that inquiries be made at the Chinese hospital Tung Hua Yi
Yüan, of which Li Te Chang is manager, for information as to the cause
of the trouble and the facts in the case. He also states that the
principal foreign merchants of the islands have prepared a paper setting
forth the facts as to the treatment of the Chinese, which is to be
forwarded to the Canton authorities.
The United States minister adds that the laws of the Kingdom of Hawaii
furnish, in his opinion, full protection to the person and property of
all, and permit no discrimination or abuse against those of the Chinese
or any other nationality.
I beg leave to call the attention of your Imperial Highness to these
statements, and to request that such action be taken in the premises as
your Imperial Highness may deem best calculated to promote the ends of
I have, &c.,
[Inclosure 3 in No. 21.]
[Prince Kung to Mr.
I have had the honor to receive your note stating that you were in
receipt of a communcation from the United States minister in the
Sandwich Islands, in which he states that he is informed by the
attorney-general of the islands, of the arrest of two Chinese named
Wang, by the viceroy of Canton, upon a charge of abducting Chinese to be
used in those islands as slaves or coolies; that in the past five years
the firm of which the persons named Wang are members have sent about 500
Chinese passengers to the Hawaiian Islands, all of whom paid their
passages, and that all were and are free; you beg leave to call my
attention to these statements, and you request that I will take such
action in the premises as may be best calculated to promote the ends of
In reply I beg leave to inform you that a copy of your note has been sent
to the viceroy of Canton, with instructions to examine into the matter.
When his report shall have been received, I shall have pleasure in
addressing you again in the matter.
Cards and compliments.
[Inclosure 4 in No. 21.]
Mr. Holcombe to Mr.
Sir: Your letter of March 9, addressed to Mr.
Seward, and asking his good offices in behalf of two Chinese, arrested
by the viceroy of Canton upon a charge of abducting their countrymen to
be used in the Hawaiian Islands as slaves or coolies, was received by
him at the moment of his departure for the United States. He much
regretted his inability to attend to the matter in person.
In conformity alike with your desire and his advice, I addressed an
informal note to Prince Kung, who is at the head of the foreign office
here. I inclose a copy of my note and of the response which I have
received from his imperial highness.
You will notice that the prince promises to address me again upon receipt
of a report from the Canton viceroy, to whom he has sent a copy of my
I will not fail to keep the business in mind, and to take such action as
I can with propriety in it. I shall also take pleasure in furnishing you
with such further information as I may receive from the foreign office
I have, &c.,