No. 99.
Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.

No. 66.]

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.,

[Page 190]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 66.]

Mr. Luder to Mr. De Espana.

Mr. Minister and Doyen: The Shanghai Chamber of Commerce has requested, under date of 3d instant, the consular body to forward to your excellency the subjoined request, relative to the measures taken by the Chinese authorities with respect to the hulk of the British firm of Messrs. Butterfield & Swire at Chinkiang. This the consular body is unable to refuse.

Receive, Mr. minister and Doyen, the assurances of our distinguished consideration.

Consul-General for Germany, Doyen of the Consular Corps.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 66.]

Mr. Forbes to Mr. De Espana, Doyen.

No. 516.]

Sir: I have the honor to hand you herewith a copy of a communication from Messrs. Butterfield and Swire, dated the 1st instant, respecting an order which they have received to remove their Chinkiang hulk from the position which it has occupied since 1874.

The chamber is hot in possession of the facts further than they are given in this communication, but the case seems to be in brief as follows:

That Messrs. Butterfield & Swire are now ordered in an arbitrary way by the Chinkiang harbor-master to remove their hulk from the position where some years ago they were compelled to place it by direction of the commissioner of customs, and where, according to good English professional opinions, it can do no harm to the river bank or otherwise.
That the order is now given by the customs officials without cause assigned, and, as Messrs. Butterfield & Swire believe, in opposition to the wishes of the Chinese authorities.

Without expressing any opinion on the merits of this peculiar case, the chamber is impressed with the importance of the principle involved to the general interests of foreign trade in China. While it is not only right but necessary that the Chinese government should take active measures for the conservation or improvement of their waterways and harbors, it is manifestly expedient that the foreign authorities should be allowed some voice, where the acquired rights or privileges of their nationals are in question.

Such concurrent action of the foreign officials has been provided in the new rules for the conservation of the Shanghai harbor, and it seems strange that the same principle should apparently have been lost sight of at Chinkiang.

The chamber would be wanting in its duty if it failed to bring to the notice of the proper authorities this introduction of a dangerous precedent, which if now allowed to pass unchallenged, might be hereafter employed to the grave detriment of shipping interests at this port.

I have therefore to ask the favor of your excellency’s consideration for the subject, and to express the hope that you and your colleagues may see fit to make some representations to the high Chinese authorities.

I have, &c.,