No. 126.
The commission to Mr. Evarts.

No. 6.]

Sir: Recurring to our dispatch No. 4, of the 27th ultimo, in which we reported our arrival here, and the appointment by the Government of China of two commissioners plenipotentiary, we have now the honor to inform you that upon the 1st instant we met the two commissioners at the foreign office by appointment and exchanged our full powers. Those presented for our inspection by their excellencies Pao and Li were in the usual Chinese form, and consisted of the imperial decree appointing them, a translation of which is quoted in the dispatch of Prince Kung, which forms inclosure No. 1 of our dispatch referred to above. There were present on this occasion three prominent ministers of the foreign office in addition to the two commissioners.

Having thus exchanged our full powers, we laid before the commissioners a memorandum, a copy of which is inclosed, in which we stated in general terms the purpose of the government in our appointment, the difficulties which confronted it in consequence of the excessive immigration of Chinese, and its desire to secure such modification of existing treaties as should leave it free to deal with the questions growing out of the immigration of Chinese, as public interests might demand.

The commissioners and other ministers present, having read this paper, remarked upon the friendliness of its tone, and stated that they were desirous of reaching a solution of the questions involved at an early moment. They added that they would consult with Prince Kung and send us a memorandum in response at an early day. The interview then ended.

Upon the 7th instant we received the response as promised, a copy of which is herewith inclosed. We at once sought a further interview with the commissioners, and had purposed meeting them to-day, but, at their request, the interview has been deferred to the 13th instant.

We do not think it necessary at the moment to trouble you with the obvious reply to be made to this very inconsequential document. It will be forwarded at an early day. The Department may be assured that we shall not recognize the right of the Chinese Government to go behind the language of the representatives of the Government of the United States and assign motives and reasons for its diplomatic action other than those defined by itself.

We have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servants,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 6.]


After the exchange of full powers which has just taken place, it becomes the duty of the commissioners of the United States to lay before the commissioners of China with entire frankness the purpose of their mission.

Fortunately the relations of the two countries have been of unbroken and increasing friendship from the date of the first treaty negotiated between them to the present moment. It is only natural that it should have been so. Without conflicting interest to disturb their relations, representing in their territorial extent and in their [Page 172] large populations, the power of the two great nations which occupy the shores of the Pacific Ocean, they are united by the consciousness that free intercourse between them properly conducted can only be beneficial to both.

We have now had the experience of many years as to the effect of that intercourse, and our object is, in full and friendly consultation with the representatives of the Chinese Government, to ascertain what modifications in its regulation may have become necessary, as the effect upon those interests has now come to be known to both governments by the practical operation of existing treaties.

Under the treaties which have from time to time been negotiated between the two countries, the merchants of the United States have resorted to the treaty ports of China in the pursuit of their calling, while those of China have come to the United States, where they have been made welcome to engage in trade in all parts of the country, and have been uniformly protected in their rights, and their merchants have exchanged the products of the two countries, as we believe, to the mutual advantage of both.

There has also been a constant and useful international communication, taking its rise in motives of philanthropy, or a respectful curiosity as to the habits, manners, and institutions of each other, which the students of all nations have been at all times permitted and encouraged to cultivate.

But we wish to ask the attention of the Chinese Government to a species of intercourse which has increased to a large extent within the last few years, and which has subjected the Government of the United States to very grave embarrassments.

A class of Chinese subjects immigrating to the United States without the purpose of changing their allegiance and intending only a temporary, residence, claims all the privileges and exemptions provided by express treaty stipulations for “permanent residence.” This same class, consisting entirely of laborers, coming in great numbers, with the avowed intention of early return, and concerted arrangements for a new supply, with the almost absolute exclusion of all family and domestic relations in their association, and jealously preserving their peculiar nationality in dress, language, creed, and habits, claims that it is entitled to all the privileges of the subjects and citizens of the most favored nation; although the immigration from no other nation at all resembles this in its purpose, its methods, or its consequences. All other immigrants come to the United States with the express purpose of changing their allegiance, with their wives and children, to be in the course of a generation completely incorporated into the country of their adoption.

Of late years this immigration has concentrated itself in cities and come into direct competition with native laborers, making their struggle for livelihood a hard one and disabling them, by their exclusion from accustomed work, to discharge those social and political duties which the Government of the United States expects from every one of its citizens. This competition engenders popular discontent and raises questions which, if left unsettled, may disturb the friendly relations of the two countries.

The commissioners of China will, we are sure, understand how grave a problem it would be, for the solution of their own government, if one hundred thousand foreign laborers were in a body introduced into the capital, or into any great city of the empire, to bring their new and strange manners and habits and to take the places of the same number of native Chinese, whose ability to discharge their duties as subjects by contributing their taxes and fulfilling their other; liabilities, was in great measure dependent upon their capacity to maintain themselves and their families by their daily work.

In addition to this, it must be remembered that from the enormous population of China, such a number of immigrants could be gathered under the stimulant of gain to those who sent them as would exceed the native population of more than one of the United States, unless the Governments of China and the United States recognize their common right to deal with this subject by such legislation as the best-interests of both countries require.

The commissioners of the United States would also call to the attention of the Chinese Government, that for this extension of these privileges to all Chinese subjects throughout the whole territorial integrity of the United States, the citizen of the United States is only entitled to the limited hospitality of a few open ports, and in them only for the purpose of trade, travel, or residence.

But the Government of the United States does not wish to conduct this discussion in any controversial spirit. It has no desire or intention to do injustice to the character of the Chinese laborer. But it does feel justified in asking that it shall be allowed to judge for itself to what extent the immigration of Chinese labor is useful and advantageous, and that whenever at particular times or particular places it feels that its social or industrial interests require a limitation or prohibition of such immigration, it shall have the authority with due communication to the representatives of the Chinese Government to regulate it as is most consonant with those interests.

[Page 173]

So far as those are concerned who, under treaty guarantee, have come to the United States, the government recognizes but one duty, and that is to maintain them in the exercise of their treaty privileges against any opposition, whether it takes the shape of popular violence or of legislative enactment. And that the Government of the United States has fully discharged this duty is apparent from the fact which we may assume is within the knowledge of the Chinese Government, that the courts of the United States have, on every occasion where the issue has been raised, sustained the privilege of the treaty against the limitation of the State law. The disturbances which have sometimes occurred from occasional excitement of popular feeling are too small and too rare to furnish subject of discussion now.

The Government of the United States feels that in bringing this subject to your attention, it is deferring to the opinion of the Chinese Government, which, if we are rightly informed, has never encouraged the immigration of its people, which does not wish that immigration from China should be assimilated to immigration from other countries, and which prefers that such immigration should be under its own control.

The commissioners of the United States feel that they are warranted in thus interpreting the wishes of the Chinese Government, from the fact that in a recent treaty with Spain the Chinese Government granted to the local authorities of the Island of Cuba the right to exercise a discretion of the same character which the Government of the United States desires should be recognized as its right.

As the most earnest desire and purpose of the Government of the United States are not only to adhere with scrupulous fidelity to their treaty obligations, but to construe all such obligations in that spirit of friendly liberality which has marked its relations with the Chinese Government, we have been instructed to meet you in amicable consultation to review such treaty provisions as bear upon the subject, and to seek with you a solution of the difficulties which will be alike honorable and satisfactory to both countries. Any suggestion of the Chinese Government as to the form in which such modification of existing treaties can be made most agreeable to it will receive from us the most respectful and attentive consideration.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 6.]

Their excellencies Pao and Li to the commissioners.

Upon the 1st instant your excellencies left with us at the foreign office a memorandum upon certain treaty modifications. We have carefully considered it, and beg to submit a note in response. We shall he glad to hear how it strikes your excellencies.

A few days since the full powers of the, commissioners plenipotentiary on either side were mutually inspected. We presume your excellencies have had a translation of our full powers made and have sufficiently examined them. We have submitted yours to the Prince, and now beg to return them herewith. Will you be so good as to receive them and to return ours to this office at your convenience?

Upon the 1st instant your excellencies came to, the foreign office and personally handed to us a minute upon certain treaty modifications. We have given this paper our careful consideration. The objective point of its several sections is a discussion in a friendly spirit which shall result in mutual benefit, and shall be free from harm to either party.

China and the United States have been on friendly terms from the first. But from the ratification of the Burlingame treaty a decided strengthening in our relations of amity has been seen.

The people of either country have passed to and from the other, and have never failed to receive all the benefits, privileges, and immunities guaranteed to them by the treaties. To refer, for example, to the Chinese laborers in California: Their number certainly is not small. Being from a race of dwellers upon the sea-coast, they have desired to go thither, and have regarded California as a land of abundance and as furnishing great opportunites. They have also rejoiced in the freedom of the United States. Hence they have not gone there as the result of deceit, or by being kidnapped, nor under contract as coolies, but have flown thither as the wild geese fly.

In the many years of Chinese emigration to California a hundred lines of enterprise have arisen, and commercial activity has developed to an immense extent. The Chinese have given a large amount of their labor to your people, and the benefits of that labor to your country have certainly not been few. But now, because the Chinese do good work for small remuneration, the rabble are making complaints. Since the amount paid to the laborer is small, the employer is able to save more, and hence the [Page 174] benefit still inures to the citizen of the United States. This would seem to t>e fair reasoning the world over.

Last year the Congress of the United States passed an act restricting the immigration of Chinese, which the President of the United States vetoed. This year there has also been discriminative legislation against them, which the courts have declared unconstitutional, and hence invalid. Some time since Mr. Seward handed to us the report of Senator Morton upon Chinese immigration, in which he held that it would certainly be wrong to restrict the coming of the Chinese. He quoted the Constitution of the United States adopted at the establishment of the government, which declares: “Our territory is broad and our people few in number. People of all nations shall be permitted to come to our land without let or hinderance.” He also quoted the Burlingame treaty, which declares that the people of either country shall be permitted to go freely to the other, either with the purpose of residing permanently there, and of becoming citizens or subjects, or temporarily; that they shall go voluntarily and shall not be hindered.

These statements, both official and personal, are all to the point. If now because of temporary competition between the Irish and stranger guests a decision is lightly taken to change the policy of the government, contradiction with the Constitution of the United States and existing treaties cannot be avoided.

Since the establishment of treaty relations between the two countries, citizens of the United States in China have not been relegated to the jurisdiction of the Chinese authorities. China has accorded this privilege to the United States. Chinese subjects have been permitted to go and come at their pleasure. The United States has granted this concession to China. At the ratification of this treaty the people of both sides of the Pacific Ocean leaped, shouted, and clapped their hands with joy and pleasure, friendly relations were firmly established, divisions were obliterated, the people could come and go as they chose, and the governments only heeded the wishes of the people. All this was eminently just and honorable in the highest degree to the United States. This being so, when other powers were exceedingly urgent in their need of Chinese labor, and desired this government to allow its subjects to go of their own free will, this government, because those other powers treated the Chinese laborer harshly and not with the kindness shown them by the United States, could not do otherwise than take this difference into consideration.

Hence the facts which resulted in the stipulation referred to in the Cuban convention are unlike the circumstances in the United States, and your government should not look upon that stipulation as a satisfactory rule of action. In a word, there are Chinese who go to the United States as merchants and traders, and there are also Chinese who go there as laborers. Formerly, when there was a demand for these laborers, the only fear was that they would not go thither; and now, because of the influence of violent men, there exists a desire that they stay away.

In consideration of the permanent friendship between the two countries, it is believed that the United States by no means entertains this idea. But as the number of Chinese laborers in California is daily increasing there cannot but be abuses. This is manifestly true. Hence, last year the foreign office consented to enter upon negotiations with Mr. Seward to prohibit the four classes of cooly laborers, criminals, prostitutes, and diseased persons from going thither.

Since now your excellencies desire to discuss this business further with us, we are ready to discuss further the proposition of Mr. Seward, with the hope that an equitable solution may be reached, and that the purpose of avoiding difficulties and securing beneficial results may not be lost sight of on either side, provided always that such negotiations shall not be contrary to the stipulations of the Burlingame treaty.

We are by no means unalterably fixed in our views.