to Mr. Evarts.
Peking , November 17, 1880. (Received January 5, 1881.)
Sir: On November 6, in dispatch No. 12, we informed you that we had on that day concluded a treaty with the Chinese Government, which would be signed in a few days, and a copy of which was inclosed.[Page 196]
On November 10 we telegraphed a brief summary of the treaty (inclosure 1), and have now the honor to inform you that to-day, the 17th of November, this treaty was signed in triplicate, in Chinese and English, by the commissioners plenipotentiary of the two governments.
Our former dispatches will have given you a sufficient history of the negotiations, but we deem it our duty to conclude with a review of the points which came under discussion.
After our first interview with the Chinese commissioners we thought it clear that while the Chinese Government would recognize the propriety of some regulating discretion as to Chinese immigration on the part of the Government of the United States, it would not consent to its formal prohibition and the absolute abrogation of the provisions of the Burlingame treaty relating to the free intercourse between the people of the two countries. We did not think that the public opinion of the United States would require so extreme a demand, and we considered our instructions as warning us not to disregard the traditional policy of the United States, and in your own words to give due weight to “the widely diffused and, so to speak, natural sentiment of our people in favor of the most liberal admission of foreign immigrants who desire to incorporate themselves and their families with our society, and mingle the stream of their posterity in the swelling tide of native population.”
While, therefore, we asked in our first proposition for a recognition of the right to prohibit, we were prepared at the proper time to withdraw this extreme claim in concession to a final advance on the part of the Chinese commissioners to such a degree of discretionary power on the part of the United States as we deemed practically sufficient to secure the control of Chinese immigration.
The statement of the wishes and purposes of the Government of the United States was, at the opening of the negotiation, met by the Chinese commissioners with the expression, in very friendly language, of their willingness to negotiate, provided no modification of the Burlingame treaty was asked, and certain propositions formerly submitted by Mr. Seward in reference to paupers, lewd women, diseased persons, and contract laborers were taken as the basis of the negotiation.
While acknowledging the amicable spirit in which their reply was made, we deemed it all important that the Chinese commissioners should understand that a proper modification of the Burlingame treaty was precisely the thing we had come to obtain, and that Mr. Seward’s propositions in no way furnished the basis of any negotiation which we were willing to undertake. And in this connection we found it necessary to call the attention of the Chinese commissioners to the use of language in their formal reply not usual between governments, and to indicate our belief that this language had been used under an impression that the government was not in fact the representative of the sentiment of the country, an impression which they ought at once to correct. We believed that upon this discussion turned the possibility of negotiating a satisfactory treaty.
As we expected, the Chinese Government promptly disavowed any intention of offense in the language used, and after a full and friendly exchange of opinion, the discussion proceeded to the consideration of such a modification of the Burlingame treaty as would be acceptable to both governments.
Without going into a detailed history of the negotiations which has been furnished to the Department from time to time in our former dispatches, [Page 197] we may say that the Chinese Government submitted a scheme which provided:
- That the immigration should be “regulated” by the Government of the United States, such regulations, however, to be communicated to the Chinese Government for approval before going into effect.
- That “artisans” should not be included among Chinese laborers.
- That the regulation should apply only to Chinese laborers in the employ of American citizens.
- That if the regulation should extend to the limitation or suspension of such immigration, the limitation in point of numbers or the suspension in point of time should be specific.
As to the second and third points of this scheme it is unnecessary to repeat the obvious reasons why they could not even be taken into consideration.
At this point in the discussion we deemed it best to say that while the details of the treaty and its language were matters in which we would gladly consult the preferences of the Chinese Government, we could not consent to any settlement which did not recognize the entire discretion of the United States in dealing with this subject. We thought that any regulations to be matter of joint arrangement would only raise new questions and that the administration of any such joint regulations would in practice prove unsatisfactory. Besides which they could only be of force in Chinese ports and would be useless in regard either to Hong-Kong or Singapore. We thought that the simplest, the directest, and the only efficient plan was to give the control of the subject to the Government of the United States.
We therefore communicated to the Chinese commissioners that we would consent to strike out the word “prohibit,” provided they would accept the words “regulate, limit, or suspend,” being satisfied that these words covered the power to devise and enforce all necessary and proper legislation.
Upon their acceptance of this proposition, we consented to such variation of the phraseology of the articles as they desired. You will observe that this language imposes no conditions upon the discretion of the United States. That the discretion should be used reasonably; that all classes of Chinese subjects not within the scope of this treaty should be protected in the enjoyment of such rights as are now conferred by existing treaties, and that the diplomatic representative of the Chinese Government should have the right from time to time to call the attention of the United States Government to any unanticipated hardship that the legislation of the United States might cause, are provisions which need no comment.
As to the fourth point of the Chinese project, we were satisfied that the necessity for such special limitation or suspension, varying according to the actual condition of the country and the character and extent of the immigration at the date of such proposed limitation or suspension, it would be impossible to devise a satisfactory specification. We thought that the principle of its right to use its discretion being once admitted as belonging to the Government of the United States, the Chinese Government should assume that we would exercise that discretion with justice, and in a spirit of friendship.
We were fortunate enough to satisfy the Chinese commissioners not only of the justice of our views, but of the entire good faith in which they were advanced.
In conclusion, we deem it our duty to say to you that during the whole of this negotiation the representatives of the Chinese Government have [Page 198] met us in the fairest and most friendly spirit. They have been, in their personal intercourse, most courteous, and have given to all our communications, verbal as well as written, the promptest and most respectful consideration. After a free and able exposition of their own views, we are satisfied that in yielding to the request of the United States they have been actuated by a sincere friendship and an honorable confidence that the large powders recognized by them as belonging to the United States, and bearing directly upon the interests of their own people, will be exercised by our government with a wise discretion, in a spirit of reciprocal and sincere friendship, and with entire justice.
We have, &c.,
- JAMES B. ANGELL.
- JOHN F. SWIFT.
- WM. HENRY TRESCOT.