Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.
Peking, November 4, 1878.
Sir: In his dispatch No. 379, of January 5 last, Mr. Seward brought to your notice a discussion which had arisen between the Chinese and British authorities with regard to the right of the former to insist upon the removal of a certain hulk at Chinkiang from its moorings to another locality, upon the ground that, as placed, it so deflected the current as to endanger the bank of the river. He informed you that the Chinese Government had taken legal advice in England as to their rights in the premises, which advice, also summarized by Mr. Seward, was entirely in their favor.
In July of the present year, the local authorities at Chinkiang again took steps to secure the removal of the hulk, whereupon its owners, Messrs. Butterfield & Swire, sought, through the Shanghai general chamber of commerce, the intervention of the diplomatic corps in their behalf.
I have the honor to place before you the correspondence which took place, from which you will see that we declined to interfere in the business. We reached this conclusion in view of the following reasons:
- The case being purely between the Chinese and British authorities, no action could be taken by us without the request of Mr. Eraser, Her Britannic Majesty’s representative.
- Mr. Fraser frankly informed us that his government entirely conceded the right claimed by the Chinese, and had definitely instructed him to take no steps to prevent the removal of the hulk.
- It was shown to us that the intendant at Chinkiang had requested the consent of the British consul to the removal of the hulk temporarily, which consent had been granted.
It was also the opinion of the majority of the representatives present that, with or without the consent of the British Government, China had the right to take such steps as she deemed necessary to the preservation of her rivers and harbors.
I have, &c.,