No. 136.
Mr. Seward to Mr. Evarts.

No. 523.]

Sir: I had the honor to hand to you with my dispatch No. 510, a copy of an introductory note to the Tsung-li Yamên by the foreign representatives at this capital at the close of their recent conference in regard to the condition of trade, justice, and intercourse, and intended to pave the way for the special representations to follow. I now inclose another copy of the note for your convenience in referring to it, and a copy of the response made by the prince and ministers.

You will notice upon reference to the latter paper that the Yamên declares its readiness to receive and consider such representations as may be put forward by us, but that this statement is accompanied by remarks of a half moral, half philosophical sort upon the relationship of host and guest.

It is not easy to say what the Yamên has intended to indicate in these remarks. They may look to an assertion that we should not ask for more in China than we are prepared to give in our own lands, or they may have been dictated by the idea, ever present to the Chinese mind, that it is not becoming on our part, as the guests of the empire, to demand too much from our host, the government. It would be a mistake probably to consider them as glittering generalities only.

The Yamên has followed up this note by a second one, with which a copy has been sent to us of its circular of last year to its representatives abroad (see my dispatch No. 510),* and an intimation that it contains a declaration of their understanding of the treaties.

The earlier note from the Yamên called for no reply, but the second could not be passed by. It is, in effect, an invitation to us to enter upon a discussion of the treaties apart from the grievances which we have set up, and this, of course, would lead to nothing.

My colleagues and I have thought it well, therefore, to respond to this note, saying only that we have received it, and that we were already [Page 190] acquainted with its contents, meaning, of course, to imply that our representations had been made in full view of it.

The views of the diplomatic body in regard to the matters which require attention at the moment in connection with the administration of justice have been fully made known to the Yamên by letter. Those relating to intercourse are to be explained personally and not by correspondence, at least at the outset. The more serious questions, those occurring in the course of trading relations, have been presented in outline only in correspondence, and their presentation must be supplemented by the production of evidence and by personal explanations of its bearing. I shall hope at an early day to report the progress which has been made in the directions so indicated.

I have, &c., &c., &c.,


(Note.—For text of inclosure No. 1, being the introductory note of the foreign representatives to the Tsung-li Yamên, see appendix 5 to Mr. Seward’s No. 510, page 176 of this volume.)

[Inclosure 2 in No. 523.]

Reply of the Tsung-li Yamên to the foreign representatives.

Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication in reply.

Upon the 21st instant I had the honor to receive a collective note from your excellencies, stating that your excellencies have been engaged in conference upon the internal taxation of foreign trade in this country; upon the administration of justice; and upon the conditions of intercourse, whether in correspondence or otherwise, between Chinese and foreign officials in the provinces.

Your excellencies state that in these three categories may be said to be included almost every matter to which attention seems to be demanded, whether for the removal of what may be characterized as a grievance, or for the introduction of changes that will modify what is in appearance either unreasonable or inexpedient; and that you propose to present the conclusions which you have reached, to which you are assured that this Yamên will give the most careful attention, &c., &c.

In response I beg leave to remark that it seems to me that the intercourse between the various nations of the earth exists upon the friendly basis of host and guest, from which host and guest alike seek to derive benefit and to avoid injury. In the discussion of any matter, if it is profitable to both host and guest, then there will be no divergence in their language. If it be advantageous to the guest and works no harm to the host, the latter may perhaps assent to it. But if it be advantageous to the guest and detrimental to the host, then it ought, of course, to be again considered in all its bearings.

The personality of host and guest is not fixed. Each in his own land is the host, and those opposite to the host are the guests. To-day I [the pronoun “I” represents the reader of the dispatch rather than the Prince] may be the guest and another person the host. Supposing that he goes beyond the ordinary requirements of courtesy in order to consult my convenience, then, to-morrow, he being the guest and I the host, could I require him to conform to ordinary rules in order that my convenience as host should be consulted by him?

Persons of high intelligence are able to consider at once the entire concerns of all the world with an impartial, kindly regard.

It will certainly be the duty of the ministers and myself to give careful consideration to the further note which your excellencies propose to address to us.

To their excellencies Sir Thomas Wade, Mr. von Brandt, George F. Seward, Mr. Ferguson, Dr. Elmore, Mr. de Luca, Mr. Heifer von Hoffenfels, Mr. Koyander, Mr. Ossa, Mr. Patenôtre, Mr. Serruys.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 523.]

The Tsung-li Yamên to the foreign representatives.


This office some time since transmitted to the representatives of China abroad a memorandum in which was set forth its understanding of the treaties.

[Page 191]

I have now the honor to hand to your excellency herewith a copy of this memorandum, in Chinese and foreign text, and beg your excellency to give it your consideration.

Cards and compliments.

The foreign office to the foreign representatives.

[Inclosure 4 in No. 523.]

Reply to the Yamên’s note forwarding copy of instructions to Chinese ministers abroad.

Sir Thomas Wade presents his compliments to the Prince of Kung and the ministers of the Tsung-li Yamên.

Sir Thomas Wade received upon the 30th November a semi-official note from the Yamên addressed to himself and his colleagues, the representatives of the treaty powers recently assembled in Peking.

There was forwarded with the note, in English and foreign languages, a printed copy of the instructions issued by the Tsung-li Yamên to the missions of the Chinese Government abroad in March, 1878, with which the representatives addressed were requested to acquaint themselves.

Several of the foreign representatives, as the Prince and ministers are aware, have already left Peking. Copies of the note have, however, been forwarded to all.

At the request of such of his colleagues as are still here, Sir Thomas Wade acknowledges the note which His Imperial Highness and their excellencies have done them the honor to write. He is to add that the substance of the Yamên’s instructions to Chinese missions is believed to be generally known to the representatives of the treaty powers.

  1. See inclosure 6 to No. 510, page 177 of this volume.