Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.
Peking , December 5, 1878. (Received February 24.)
Sir: In the autumn of 1875, the Department was informed of the appointment, by the Chinese Government, of Kuo Sungtao as minister to the Court of Saint James.
I have now the honor to inform you that, in accordance with the rules of the Chinese diplomatic service, His Excellency Kuo has been granted permission to return to his native land, and the Marquis Tseng has been appointed as his successor.
This appointment deserves something more than a passing notice. The marquis is the son of the celebrated Tseng Kuo-fan, who was one of the ablest statesmen of this country in modern times. He possesses at least a portion of his father’s unusual ability, is about forty years of age, an elegant Chinese scholar, and as avowedly progressive in his ideas as his father was conservative.
Upon emerging from the retirement made necessary by the death of his parents, he came to this capital, where he has resided for the past year, awaiting his appointment to office. During this period he has openly cultivated the acquaintance of foreigners in both the diplomatic and missionary circles, making almost daily visits upon some of them, and inviting them freely to his house.
So far as my knowledge goes, he is the only Chinese of high rank who has ever sought to learn a foreign language. While in mourning he applied himself to the study of English, and, although without an instructor, he made very fair progress, and is now able to make himself understood in it.
You will be amused to know that his only text-books in this study were Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, the Bible, and a copy of “Watts’ Select Hymns,” a book used fifty years ago in some of the churches in our country. As a consequence his idiom is somewhat peculiar.
In my opinion his appointment is highly to be commended as one eminently fit to be made and promising the best results.
The marquis, accompanied by his family and a numerous suite, has already sailed for Europe.
I have, &c.,