to Mr. Evarts.
Peking , November 6, 1880. (Received December 22.)
Sir: We have the honor to inform you that we have to-day agreed with the Chinese commissioners upon the articles of a treaty, a copy of which will be found inclosed, and which will be formally signed in a very few days.
We have scarcely time to make such comment upon this treaty as we desire, but it is so simple as to explain itself.
The Chinese Government recognized at an early period of the negotiation that the United States had a right to ask for such modification of the Burlingame treaty as would relieve it from the embarrassment of an undue and disproportionate immigration of Chinese labor into the United States. This principle once admitted, as it was frankly, we felt it our duty to afford every facility to the Chinese Government to reconcile this admission to the requirements of their position towards their own subjects. The essential point was that the United States should have the right “to regulate, limit, or suspend” the immigration of Chinese labor without absolutely abrogating the treaties by which immigration into the United States was recognized, and this, we think, will be found amply provided for in Article I.
We desired, as you will see by the précis of the negotiation, to define with more precision exactly what all the negotiators on both sides understood by “Chinese laborers.” But the Chinese Government was very unwilling to be more precise than the absolute necessity called for, and they claimed that in Article II they did by exclusion provide that nobody should be entitled to claim the benefit of the general provisions of the Burlingame treaty but those who went to the United States for purposes of teaching, study, mercantile transactions, travel, or curiosity. We have no doubt that an act of Congress, excluding all but these classes, using the words of the treaty, would be fully warranted by its provisions, and as this was a clear and sufficient modification of the sixth article of the Burlingame treaty we did not feel authorized to risk such a concession by insisting upon language which would really mean no more, and which was entirely unacceptable to the Chinese commissioners.
There is not in the treaty any language which modifies this concession, and there was not, as we think, the slightest intention on the part of the Chinese commissioners to diminish the full force of the discretion given to the United States.
There were one or two minor points upon which we would have preferred our own language. For instance, we wished in Article I to say “Chinese laborers should be protected against any abuse or maltreatment,” instead of “should not be subject to any abuse or maltreatment”; but this latter phrase had been used in the treaty with Great Britain, and although we thought it weaker than the form we proposed, we did not think it worth while to insist upon our preference in view of the concession of the principle which we think securely established that the Government of the United States had the power to regulate, limit, or suspend, without conditions, Chinese labor immigration when deemed injurious to the interests of its citizens.
We will by the next mail send you a full account of the negotiations from the period of our last dispatch No. 11, of date of November 3.
We are in further negotiation as to a matter submitted by the Chinese [Page 190] Government in connection with the probable extension of their trade in native vessels with the United States. We will probably reach a conclusion this week, when we will send you further information.
The questions of lekin taxes, transit passes, and judicial procedure are under consideration of the diplomatic corps here, and as these questions affect all treaty powers alike, the Chinese Government is unwilling to make them the subject of special negotiation with anyone. These topics will, after full conference, be made the subject of a special dispatch, but there is no probability of their reaching a point of practical discussion for many months.
We can see at present no object to be served by the residence of the commission in Peking during the winter. Any discussions maybe safely left in the hands of Mr. Angell, and the government will have ample time to determine what its policy on these matters will be.
We have therefore deemed it best that the two commissioners should return at once with the treaty negotiated, and Mr. Swift and Mr. Trescot will accordingly return to the United States upon the signature of the two treaties referred to.
Although we propose to write again by the earliest mail, we cannot close this dispatch without acknowledging our obligation to Mr. Holcombe, not only for the ordinary services of secretary and interpreter, but for the active and intelligent interest he has taken in the duties he has been called on to discharge in addition to those of secretary of the legation, and for the great help he has been in putting our views before the Chinese Government, and advising with us as to our method of negotiation, advice which his long experience and recognized ability made of the utmost value. We venture to hope that the Department will do that justice to his services which we have already recommended.
We have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servants,
- JAMES B. ANGELL.
- JOHN F. SWIFT.
- WM. HENRY TRESCOT.