Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.
Peking , November 23, 1878. (Received February 6.)
Sir: I have the honor to submit to you herewith a copy of a dispatch which I have received from the consul at Hankow, complaining of the action of certain Chinese officials in the interior of the province of Szchuen in refusing to acknowledge the validity of ten transit passes issued to Mr. M. A. Jenkins, an American merchant at Hankow, and under which he was bringing native produce to that port.[Page 201]
A reference to my dispatch No. 25 will remind you that Mr. Seward had some correspondence with the foreign office, shortly prior to his departure for the United States in regard to the issue to American merchants at Hankow of transit passes for the export of native produce from Szchuen. This correspondence resulted in an arrangement, proposed by the Chinese and agreed to by this legation, under which such passes could be issued, and the transit dues on goods covered by them paid at Hankow.
It appears that, in accordance with this procedure, Mr. Jenkins, of Hankow, applied for and received ten passes from the customs at his port and transmitted them to his agent in Szchuen, who in turn purchased the merchandise for shipment. He was thereupon warned by the Chinese authorities at Chung-King not to attempt to use the transit passes named, and told that if, in disobedience to the warning, he sent forward his purchase, the goods upon arrival at the tax station at Kwei Chow would be held for payment of dues the same as though they were not covered by transit passes. A copy of the order issued by the Chung-King magistrate forms the inclosure to Mr. Shepard’s dispatch.
I inclose a copy of a letter which I have addressed to Prince Kung in this business, asking him to issue such orders to the authorities concerned as will cause them to respect treaty stipulations and the rights of such citizens of the United States as may be within the limits of their jurisdiction.
It is proper, however, for me to add that I am far from sanguine that my request will secure such prompt and unmistakable action on the part of the authorities here as will prevent a recurrence of the abuses complained of, or even, in the present instance, enable Mr. Jenkins to take his goods to Hankow without the payment of unjust and illegal taxes.
It is hard to conceive a more flagrant violation of treaty obligations than that narrated above, nor a better illustration of the readiness and freedom with which local authorities in China ignore the agreements and instructions of the central government. The officials in charge of the tax station at Kwei Chow have long been notorious for their conduct in this direction, as the correspondence between this legation and the department abundantly proves.
It is not likely that a change for the better will occur until the government at Peking is driven by the decided language of foreign powers to assert and exercise its legitimate authority.
I have, &c.,