No. 98.
Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.

No. 61.]

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.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 61.]

Mr. DeLano to Mr. Holcombe .

No. 109.]

Sir: On yesterday afternoon an immense mob of Chinese, led by the literati, assembled upon the premises of the English Church mission at Wu Shih Shan, within the vcity walls of Foochow, to give expression to their indignation on account of the erecition by the mission of a fine school building, then in course of construction and nearly completed.

At present I am, only so far advised about the matter as to be able to say that, for a [Page 185] long time past the literati and gentry have sought to effect the ejection of the mission from the city, and have stubbornly resisted the erection of this school building from the first, and the officials have so far yielded to their demands as to have, some time since, entered upon negotiations with the mission’s agent, the Rev. Mr. Wolfe, looking toward an exchange of their property for other property outside the city. Mr. Wolfe, under instructions from the society, declined to make the exchange, and persisted in going on with the construction of the building (which was being erected within the compound where other mission buildings have been standing for some years).

A meeting of the Chinese officials, Her Majesty’s consul, and Mr. Wolfe, upon the premises was arranged for yesterday, upon which occasion a mob of some thousands of people assembled, and by them the objectionable building was fired and destroyed; the officials, I hear, making but a very feeble attempt to prevent it.

It is currently rumored that the consul, Mr. Wolfe, and other members of the mission, were assaulted, but I cannot undertake to state this as a fact.

“The American Board of Missions” owns property only a short distance from “Wu Shih Shan,” and it is likely that if the Chinese succeed in ejecting the English church mission they will not be content till they have also ejected the Americans. I shall keep you advised of any further developments in the case.

I have, &c.,

M. M. De LANO,
United States Consul.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 61.]

Mr. De Lano to Mr. Holcombe.

No. 110.]

Sir: Recurring to my dispatch No. 109, on the subject of the riot in the city on the 30th ultimo, I have to report that much excitement prevails still, and there is reason to fear that, on account of the complete immunity of the rioters from punishment, more serious trouble may yet follow. The ringleaders have been pointed out to the high officials, and, as I understand, their arrest and punishment has been urged, but to no purpose. The rioters were allowed to assemble on the premises of the mission on Saturday and Sunday after the burning of the school building, and no effort was made by the officials to disperse them. On Sunday they commenced to tear down the walls of the building which were left standing, when Her Britannic Majesty’s consul, accompanied by the commander of an English man-of-war, appeared on the scene, and they were checked in a marked degree by the unsupported efforts of the commander.

This I mention as proof of the ease with which the outrage might have been prevented had the Chinese officials made an effort in that direction. In point of fact, it is positively asserted that the new Futai, Wu, has sanctioned and encouraged this demonstration, which has been openly planned by the literati and gentry, and executed by the rabble, egged on by many of the first named, who were on the scene with the officials when the building was destroyed.

On Sunday the commander (Napier) accompanied Mr. Sinclair to the government general and asked to have an armed guard of native soldiers sent to the scene to protect the property from further destruction, and the missionaries from further insult and assault, but his excellency first protested against it, saying that if armed men were sent there it would encourage the populace and more serious complications would arise. The request was then repeated in the form of a demand, and after a good deal of parleying his excellency promised to send the guard. They informed his excellency that they would return to the scene and await the guards’ arrival, which they did, and after a good deal of delay the men appeared, but without arms. They were sent back for arms and again came with arms, but without ammunition.

They at last returned with arms and ammunition, and were disposed upon the premises by order of Captain Napier, since when the rioters have been restrained from further acts of violence; but they openly declare that the balance of the property shall be destroyed, and avow their purpose to drive all missionaries from the city. Anonymous placards have also been posted about the city, calling upon the people to rise and complete the destruction of the Wu Shih Shan property.

A good deal of uneasiness prevails among the foreign residents, and it is not easy to predict how the matter may end. If there should not be some positive and decisive action on the part of the British Government, there is sure to be, to say the least, a protracted controversy over the subject of the restoration of the school building, and it is doubtful if the Chinese allow it to be rebuilt, though it stood upon ground which was acquired twenty or more years ago.

I have, &c.,

United States Consul.
[Page 186]
[Inclosure 3 in No. 61.]

Mr. De Lano to Mr. Holcombe.

No. 111.]

Sir: Since my last to you on the subject of the Wu Shih Shan riot there has been no further hostile demonstrations beyond the posting of threatening and incendiary placards.

A second English gunboat arrived here last week, a day or two before the threatened attack on the 14th of the moon, and came up to the settlement. This, coupled with the rumor that others were coming, it is believed, restrained the gentry and allayed the excitement of the populace, as well as to lead the officials to take some decisive steps to prevent further outrages.

I inclose herewith a copy of the memorial which is to be sent to the foreign office, and a copy (printed) of two of the inflammatory placards alluded to.

I have, &c.,

United States Consul.

To the Right Honorable and Most Noble the Marquis of Salisbury, K. G., &c.,
Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

The humble memorial of the undersigned British subjects residing at the port of Foochow, in the Empire of China, showeth:

That your memorialists view, not only with indignation, but with much apprehension, the incidents of an outrage by a Chinese mob on the evening of the 30th ultimo, when property belonging to the Church Missionary Society at Wu Shih Shan, within the walls of the city of Foochow, was wantonly and premeditatedly destroyed.
That being interested in the rights of property, provided by Article XI and XII of the Tientsin treaty, your memorialsts naturally feel concerned in drawing your lordship’s attention to this riot, more especially as the circumstances under which it originated and was accomplished, seem calculated to weaken the position of foreign residents, both present and future.
That while aware that the facts of this case have been already communicated to your lordship by Her Majesty’s consul at this port, your memorialists, without being in any way desirous of interfering with the functions or authority of Her Majesty’s consul, wish to add their independent testimony to the gravity of the event.
That your memorialists have no doubt as to the validity of the deeds under which the Church Missionary Society held the property in question.
That facts, which have since come to the knowledge of your memorialists, tend to prove that the outrage was an organized affair, connived at by the Chinese authorities.
That your memorialists are in possession of positive information, charging a certain man, known by the name of Sin Ying Lin, with having taken a principal part in organizing this attack on the mission premises.
That the said Sin Ying Lin is a member of the native gentry class, and a person enjoying considerable local influence, which he unlawfully used to excite the ordinarily peaceful inhabitants against the missionaries; and that he is charged with having hired a mob by whom the outrage under notice was perpetrated.
That the Chinese officials whose obvious duty it was, under Article XVIII of the Tientsin treaty, to have exerted themselves in preventing this riot by adopting rigorous precautionary measures, abstained from interfering with Sin Ying Lin and his associates; and that the latter were permitted to openly threaten the missionaries with expulsion, and finally to carry out their settled purpose of destroying the building in question.
That while the riot was in progress the Chinese officials who were on the spot absolutely declined to interfere with the lawless proceedings, and this, notwithstanding the proximity of a military force which was, there is good reason to believe, quite competent to deal with the rioters.
That your memorialists can bear personal testimony to the uniform good conduct and friendly disposition of the lower orders of the native population towards the foreign residents of the port; but as regards the local gentry and literati generally, it is only right to state that many members of this class make no concealment of their objection to the presence of foreigners.
That under these circumstances there can be no reasonable justification of the action, or rather inaction, of the Chinese authorities; nor, in the opinion of your memorialists, can it be fairly urged that the native officials were not in a position to have prevented the late outrage had they desired to do so.
Finally, your memorialists would respectfully urge the necessity of taking such [Page 187] prompt measures as may seem to your lordship adequate to the case, and they trust that, in obtaining ample redress for the injury inflicted on, and losses sustained by, the Church Missionary Society, your lordship will see fit to convince the Chinese authorities of this port that the treaty rights of Her Majesty’s subjects cannot be violated with impunity.

the wu shih shan riot.

Native placards.

The following are translated copies of placards which have been extensively posted in the city and suburbs during the past week:

1. “The heroic and good men of the empire (Teen heir) are to assemble at the grand meeting to be held at Wu Shih Shan on the evening of the 14th of the 8th moon, for the purpose of exterminating all the foreign thieves residing in the province (Fohkien). They cannot be permitted to live (among our people) and (we must) recover our Feng Shui land, which they have encroached upon.

“If the mandarins interfere, they will be murdered—the official dogs! On recovering our Feng Shui land, then the state will be prosperous, the people peaceable, the winds moderate, and the rains favorable. Let all the people exert themselves.”

“You official dogs! you official dogs!! Remember that the Viceroy of the two Kwang—Yang Wei Chen (? Yeh ming chen) fell into the clutches of the foreign thieves. It was in this way: He was invited by the foreign thieves to an entertainment (led to drink wine) on board of one of their vessels, and as soon as he got on board, they sailed to the foreigners’ country, where they disemboweled him, and exhibited his entrails at the seven gates of their city. They are not brave! They are not brave!!—These barbarian thieves! These barbarian thieves!!

“Issued by the people of the two Kwang (i. e., Kuangtung and Kwanghsi).”

2. “The foreigners are decidedly wrong in encroaching by force upon our Feng Shui land. They insult the ignorant people of our country, and regard them with contempt and aversion. They look upon all our officials, both civil and military, with scorn (for they see) that in the discharge of their official duties there is no one to lead or direct them. They make no distinction between the good and the bad; they wildly brandish (their sticks) like an acrobat. This is very vulgar. They deceive the people, and get them to embrace their religion and join their churches. The vices prevailing among them are well known. Their churches are a banditti hold; they are known to be guilty of uncleanly acts; the more they increase in number the worse they act. They are dangerous! If these terrible men are not exterminated, then we (the people), are not equal to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field. We must not try to imitate the officials—they are stupid. These stupid officials are afraid to take action; not like the people, who love to give vent to their feelings, and who fired the foreign house, which the officials could not prevent, for, when they tried to do so the other day, the youngsters exerted themselves with a will, and in a short time the building was destroyed.

“We are still unsatisfied with the work accomplished, and what is the use of deputing soldiers when the will of the people is to destroy (the remaining buildings). Do not blame us! Do not say that we were wrong—for the land is public property, and if there had been (a single person) unwilling to assist in the destruction of the building he would have offended the people. Not one of us could bear being charged with having carried dissatisfaction among the people.

“We therefore explain to you in a straightforward manner (and request you to) carefully view the condition of affairs (?) Bear in mind that ten of the literati petitioned the officials about the land in question; and if they are involved in trouble, we (the people) are to come forward in a body and assist them, and see what action the officials will take. If they are to be punished, then we are to exert ourselves to the utmost, and see who will gain the day! This matter concerns the entire populace of the city; every man has an interest at stake, and succeed (we must), if we break out in open rebellion. Let there be no encroachment on our Feng Shui land; if there is, we will then declare war (lit: invite you to fight us).

“Issued by the people of the entire city (Foochow) for the information of the foreigner Hu.”

[Inclosure 4 in No. 61.]

Mr. De Lano to Mr. Holcombe.

No. 113.]

Sir: Recurring to the Wu Shih Shan riot, I have to inform you that since the date of my last to you on the subject there have been no further acts of violence committed by the Chinese, though they have been prolific in threats against foreigners, and foreign [Page 188] property in the city. From the 30th of August to September 19, five men-of-war arrived here (four English and one American) and this evidently had the effect to move the authorities to the exercise of special energy and efforts to prevent further outrage or destruction of property.

About the date of the arrival of the United States ship Alert in port, to wit, the 18th September, placards were posted threatening the destruction of the remainder of the English Church Mission property on Wu Shih Shan, and the expulsion of all foreigners from the city. There was every reason to believe that these incendiary placards emanated from the literati, Hing, who led the incendiary mob on the 30th August and who has been repeatedly pointed out to the authorities; and it has been well known that this man has all along been with his ruffian followers quartered in a temple adjoining the mission premises, yet no move has been made toward his arrest.

Yesterday, the 4th, being the Chun Yang festival, was fixed upon for another demonstration against foreigners. Many thousands of people repaired to the hill to fly kites and to worship, and it was feared that trouble would arise, but many officials were on the spot or stationed near the mission premises with a large body of soldiers, and the day passed without any hostile demonstration being made. I have every reason to believe that the riotous propensities of Hing and his followers will now be held in check until a settlement of the burning of the college building has been effected.

The United States ship Alert will likely leave here in the course of a week.

I have, &c.,

United States Consul.
[Inclosure 5 in No. 61.]

Mr. Holcombe to Rear-Admiral Patterson.

Sir: I am informed by M. M. De Lano, esq., United States consul at Foochow, that a somewhat serious disturbance has occurred at his port, which has resulted in the destruction of a considerable amount of property owned by English missionaries, and that American-owned property lying in the same neighborhood is more or less in jeopardy.

Under these circumstances, it appears to me that the presence of one of our vessels of war at that port for a short period may be desirable.

While I am aware that ships cannot ascend the Min River to the city of Foochow, and hence cannot command the threatened neighborhood, yet the moral effect of the presence of a vessel may be of service in causing Chinese officials to put forth the necessary effort to restrain their people.

I have, therefore, the honor to request that, if it is consistent with your views and arrangements, you will dispatch a vessel to that port at your earliest convenience.

I shall send this dispatch under flying seal to our vice consul-general, requesting him to communicate with the senior naval officer at Shanghai or with you by telegram direct.

I have, &c.,

Chargé d’Affaires.
[Inclosure 6 in No. 61.]

Mr. Holcombe to Mr. De Lano.

No. 63.]

Sir: I have the honor to receive your dispatch No. 109 of the 31st ultimo, reporting a disturbance at your port, and thank you for the promptness with which you communicated the fact to me.

I have furnished my colleague, Her Britannic Majesty’s chargé d’affaires, with the substance of your dispatch, to whom it was the first intimation that trouble had occurred.

In view of the present situation, I have requested Rear-Admiral Patterson to send a vessel of war to your port for a short time.

I am, &c.,

[Page 189]
[Inclosure 7 in No. 61.]

Rear-Admiral Patterson to Mr. Holcombe.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of September 10, in relation to the recent disturbance at Foochow. Previous to its reception I had ordered the United States steamer Alert, Commander R. Boyd, U. S. N., commanding, from Amoy to that place.

I shall be glad at all times to hear from you in relation to American interests in China, and to co-operate with you in their promotion and protection.

Very respectfully, &c.,