No. 101.
Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.

No. 76.]

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.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 76.]

Mr. Shepard to Mr. Holcombe.

Sir: I had the honor to receive, on the 30th of May, your No. 47, covering an inclosure of a reply from the foreign office touching transit passes for the export of native produce from the interior, and especially from the province of Szchuen. Your dispatch also suggested an expression of my opinion as to whether the arrangement proposed would meet the requirements of the trade to be affected by it.

I delayed to offer such opinion until the facts of operation should give me some grounds upon which to base it with some show of reason, although the plan decided upon by the board appeared on paper to give, in a degree, the facilities we had a right to ask. Such facts have now transpired, and I regret to say certain officials have shown no disposition to carry out the provisions agreed to, but have, on the contrary, [Page 202] not merely made them a dead letter, but by refusal to respect them, have been the willing and direct cause of pecuniary loss and trouble to an American merchant acting in good faith under them. The details I give for your full information, and also copies of a correspondence to substantiate them.

On reception of your dispatch above referred to, I at once communicated the basis of it to the two American houses then engaged here in the inland transit business. The same information was promulgated by the native authorities about the same date and notice given that the requisite blanks were in readiness at the Hankow customs. One of the merchants, Mr. M. Andrew Jenkins, on whose occasion my original correspondence arose, on the 13th of July applied to me to procure for his use ten transit passes to bring goods out from Szchuen. These are the passes described in the Chinese dispatch inclosed, On the 27th of the same month he applied for ten more.

In both cases I at once communicated with his excellency the Taotai, asking for the passes, and he promptly forwarded them to me. They were promptly delivered to Mr. J., who paid the established fee of $2 on each—$40 in all. He sent the documents forward to his agent at Chung Ching, directing the purchase and forwarding of the merchandise. The result is, the goods are stopped, as stated in the official communication, and they arbitrarily refuse to forward under the provision of the passes.

In fact they are repudiated, and the merchandise detained from market, and left to lose from deterioration. The authority of the foreign office at Peking is set at defiance by subordinate officials, and I am decidedly of opinion that Mr. Jenkins has undoubted claims for remunerative damages.

I am sorry that the plighted faith of officials is not more readily observed, and doubt not you will do all that is possible to secure our treaty rights, absolutely indispensable for the transaction of business.

I am, &c.,