Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.
Peking , October 28, 1878. (Received December 19.)
Sir: I have the honor to hand to you herewith, copies of four dispatches which I have received from our consul at Foochow, narrating the destruction by a Chinese mob, of certain premises owned and occupied by the English Church Missionary Society at his port, and subsequent events in connection with the riot.
The property in question was located upon a hill within the walls of the city of Foochow, and has been in the quiet possession of the missionaries of the society named, for more than twenty years. Quite near to it are buildings and grounds held by the British Government for consular purposes, but which have not been occupied for some considerable time, as the consul of Her Majesty prefers to reside in the foreign settlement which lies across the river. And in the immediate vicinity of the scene of the riot is an establishment of the missionaries of the “American Board.”
So far as 1 can learn no question as to the residence of the foreigners, upon the premises which have been destroyed, had ever been raised until about eighteen months ago, when the populace began to make complaints that foreign buildings, placed upon this elevation and overlooking the native residences, interfered with the “feng shui,” and brought ill fortune upon the lives and the business of the Chinese.
These complaints increased until in the summer of 1877, when the local authorities, through the British consul, proposed to the missionaries to remove from the premises in question, offering to give them in [Page 184] exchange a more valuable property situated in the foreign settlement across the river, and owned by the Chinese Government. Mr. Wolfe, the head of the mission, did not look with favor upon the proposition, objecting that it would remove him to a distance of nearly six miles from the scene of his daily labor, and interfere seriously with the success of his efforts among the Chinese.
Upon being urged he consented, however, to refer the question to his superiors in London.
It was at about this juncture that my visit to Foochow, which you will doubtless remember, took place. During my interviews with the viceroy and governor, they on several occasions adverted to the effort being made to secure the removal of the English, missionaries from the city, and said frankly that they feared disturbances among the people if the point were not granted.
From these remarks I gathered that the object ultimately in view was the removal of not only the English, but of all missionaries from the city to the foreign settlement, and that they “moved upon the position” of the English first, simply because their location offered readier excuses for the effort. It should be remarked that there are no foreigners excepting those of this class, resident within the city of Foochow.
The reply received from London was unfavorable to the views of the Chinese. Thereupon statements began to be made that the title of the foreigners to a part, at least, of the premises in question was invalid. These assertions gained currency to such an extent that they were brought officially to the notice of the British consul by the local authorities, and at length a day was fixed when the officers of the two governments, accompanied by Mr. Wolfe, should visit the property and there examine into their truth. And it was upon this day, August 30, and in the very presence of the officials named that a mob gathered and the destruction of the buildings was accomplished.
This conjunction of events was, to say the least, peculiar, and it is somewhat remarkable that no effort seems to have been made by the Chinese authorities to restrain their people.
Mr. De Lano lost no time in informing me of the occurrences, and as I considered the interests of our people to be threatened to some extent, I at once addressed Rear-Admiral Patterson, requesting him to dispatch a vessel of war to Foochow. I inclose copies of my letters to him and to Mr. De Lano.
I also inclose a copy of the admiral’s answer from which you will see that prior to the receipt of my request he had ordered the United States steamer Alert to proceed to the scene of the disturbance.
I have not time at the moment to comment further upon this affair, but shall have occasion to revert to it at an early day.
I have, &c.,