Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Evarts.
Peking , February 20, 1879. (Received April 19.)
Sir: In my dispatch, No. 69, of November 12 last, I had the honor to lay before you certain correspondence which had passed between the consular body at Shanghai and the diplomatic corps here, and between the latter and the Chinese foreign office, in regard to the rules agreed to early in 1878, for the conservation of the harbor at Shanghai.
That correspondence was closed by a note from Prince Kung, in which he stated that he had referred the several questions raised to the northern and southern superintendents of foreign trade for their consideration.
I have now the honor to hand to you herewith a translation of a further note from the Prince, in which he communicates the opinion of the two high officials mentioned above, that the authority and jurisdiction of the harbor-master should be restricted to the limits of the foreign concessions $ assumes that the Chinese Government has the power to modify the rules without the consent of the foreign representatives; and asks us to instruct our consuls at Shanghai in accordance with the terms of his note. * * *
Some time having elapsed after the receipt of this latter note from the Prince, and the senior minister, Mr. Brenier de Montmorand, having evinced no disposition to take further action in the premises, I brought the subject to his notice and expressed the opinion that a joint answer should be prepared. He informed me that he had not thought of doing anything further; that, in point of fact, he had been opposed to the rules from the beginning, and had only agreed to them out of deference to the wishes of his colleagues. He, however, added that he would submit a draft of a response for our approval. Two days later he submitted the form of an answer, of which I inclose a copy in French and English.
As none of his colleagues agreed with Mr. Brenier that the draft suggested by him was in the most desirable shape for presentation to the Chinese, although approving its general sense, he at once sent his answer to the foreign office and left his associates to make such reply as should seem best to each. After consultation with my colleagues, the chargé d’affaires of Russia and Germany, we sent an answer substantially identical. A copy is inclosed of the note sent by me.
Having taken this action, I went, with the advice and consent of the representatives mentioned above, to the foreign office and discussed the subject with the ministers, all of whom were present. They did not seem to be thoroughly informed as to the nature and operation of the rules in question, and hence exaggerated some of the difficulties in the way of their enforcement. My explanations seemed to give them much satisfaction, and the interview was, I think, productive of good. They promised to refer the subject again to the northern and southern superintendents of foreign trade, and to urge the enforcement of the rules as originally agreed to. They stated, however, that a little delay would be necessary, as the British Government is, at the moment, unrepresented in Peking, and it would be advisable to await the arrival of Sir Thomas Wade, who is expected here in March. To this, of course, no objection could be raised.
I beg, respectfully, for your approval of my action as narrated herein.
I have, &c.,