to Mr. Evarts
Peking , November 17, 1880. (Received January 5.)
Sir: We have by dispatch of same date informed you of the signature of the immigration treaty. We have now the honor to add that on the same day we signed another treaty with the Chinese Government containing certain commercial clauses and clauses relating to judicial proceeding, which we thought it desirable to obtain.
At the conclusion of the negotiations in reference to the immigration of Chinese labor, and when the terms of the negotiations in reference to the immigration of Chinese labor, and when the terms of the various articles had been definitely agreed upon, and the treaty transferred to the secretaries for the preparation of the formal draft, the Chinese commissioners informed us that there was one subject which they wished to bring to our attention, and upon which they deemed it desirable, if possible, to obtain some treaty stipulation.
They then referred to the voyage of the Chinese merchant’s steamship, the Hochung; her arrival at San Francisco, and the correspondence between the two governments upon the subject, and expressed the wish to put the rights of the commerce of the two countries as to tonnage dues and imports in the condition of reciprocity.
We took the matter into consideration, and came to the conclusion that an article which would simply put such rights in the condition they would be, if the President, recognizing that no discrimination existed, had issued his proclamation, would not be unacceptable to the government. We were satisfied that there is in law no discrimination against us in respect to tonnage dues or imports (unless a species of subsidy to the China Merchants’ Steamship Company in connection with the transportation of tribute rice from the Yangtsze River to Tientsin be regarded as such), and that there is in fact none which at present is working any harm to us. If any discrimination has been thus far unlawfully attempted, the article under consideration seems to furnish the best remedy for the trouble.
The customs department is divided into two branches, popularly [Page 199] known as the foreign and the Chinese. The former, which is administered by foreigners in the service of the Chinese Government, collects all dues and duties from foreign vessels and from Chinese steamers and Chinese vessels of foreign build, and is admirably managed; the latter collects dues and duties from Chinese junks, and is administered by Chinese provincial officers, who, whatever the law may be, in too many cases, by “squeezes,” collect as much as they can. Whether these “squeezes” amount on the whole to more or less than the dues and duties imposed on our commerce it is impossible to say. The opinions of our consuls and of other persons who have all the facilities open to any foreigner for judging, are divided. The trade of the junks is almost exclusively in native produce transported coastwise. Some ply between China and Singapore and Bangkok and Manila, and a good many beteen Hong-Kong and Chinese ports.
It has seemed to us that while with our old relations we could do very little to correct the abuses in the Chinese customs, we can lose nothing by agreeing to the article proposed, and the adoption of it brings two advantages:
- First. It makes the imperial government directly responsible to us for any maladministration in the Chinese customs of which we may have reason to complain. Now we have practically no redress.
- Secondly. A treaty stipulation like this tends to diminish the power of provincial officers and to increase that of the imperial authorities in the administration of the customs. Every movement in that direction is a gain for foreigners.
Having determined to accede to this request of the Chinese commissioners, we thought the opportunity a good one for asking additional articles on two subjects, both of interest and both of which had been very fully discussed with the representatives of all the treaty powers.
The first was the manner of judicial proceedings. The Chinese Government in the Chefoo convention had to some extent consented to what we asked, but that convention has never been ratified by Great Britain, and even if it had would only be of force as between China and Her Britannic Majesty.
After some discussion and some proposed amendments, the Chinese commissioners accepted the article as we had submitted, with only one inconsiderable modification. We had required that in all trials before the court of the defendant’s nationality the official authority of the plaintiff’s nationality should “have an honorable and convenient position in the court-house assigned him.” The Chinese commissioners preferred that “he should be treated with the courtesy becoming his position.” And as they had yielded what was much more important and had never yet been granted—that is, the right of the plaintiff’s counsel to present, examine, and cross-examine witnesses, thus enabling him to render effective service in securing justice at the first trial of any case—we did not think it judicious to insist upon our own phraseology, especially as the position of a consular officer and the courtesy with which he is entitled to be treated are very well understood and protected by existing treaties.
We think this article an important and very useful concession, being, in our opinion, better in form and more efficient in its provisions than even the Chefoo convention.
The second subject upon which we desired to obtain a treaty stipulation was that of official communication. This subject had been long under discussion between the Chinese Government and the representatives of the treaty powers, and a memorandum had been addressed to [Page 200] the diplomatic body setting forth the regulations upon this subject which the Yamen were willing to adopt. We proposed to convert this memorandum into an article. We thought that if the Chinese Government were willing to adopt these regulations it would be advantageous both to it and the treaty powers, to put them in the shape of a treaty stipulation at once without delaying for the termination of the long discussions over lekin taxes and transit passes, which were waiting final settlement. Our colleagues of the diplomatic body would have very willingly consented to see us obtain such a stipulation, but we found the Chinese Government unwilling to separate this subject from the general negotiations with the treaty powers. As it was even uncertain whether the Government of China would finally make it an article of treaty stipulation at all, but it was almost certain that it would put it in the shape of an edict regulating the formalities of official intercourse, we did not deem it judicious to press the point.
Having thus agreed upon two articles, we submitted a third, which we wished to be made the introductory article of the second treaty. As originally proposed by us it was as follows:
Art. 1. The Emperor of China agrees to consider favorably the extension of such intercourse as may seem upon due examination to conduce to the best interest of both countries, and that he will receive with careful attention any representation of the Government of the United States as to such special extension of the area of trade intercourse as the United States may desire.
To this the Chinese commissioners objected. While it did not in explicit language bind them to anything, it might, in their opinion, be used as the basis of some claim for an unanticipated extension of commercial relations.
Our discussion was therefore confined to the articles indicated above. When they had been perfected the Chinese commissioners submitted a proposition which we had, from information received, been expecting, but of which they had so far given no sign. That was the prohibition of trade in opium to citizens of the United States.
We knew that the Chinese Government was very anxious to introduce such an article in any new treaties which they might make.
* * * * * * *
Since our arrival here we had had some opportunity of learning how thoroughly sincere the Chinese Government was in its desire to suppress this mischievous trade, and we believed that the government had in this effort the entire sympathy both of the government and people of the United States.
We therefore agreed to adopt the article if the Chinese commissioners would reconsider their refusal to accept Article I.
They said that they did not understand the words “trade area”; that any special extension of commercial privilege which they could understand would be considered, and that if we would make the article mutual, so that the governments might appear to be dealing on an equal footing, and substitute the words “extension of commercial relations” for the “extension of trade area,” they would accept it.
As in neither case the article imposed any binding obligation of direct action, and as it did, in the form proposed, indicate the willingness of the Chinese Government to consider in a friendly and accommodating spirit the subject of the extension of our commercial relations, we thought it best to accept it.
We have, &c.,
- JAMES B. ANGELL.
- JOHN F. SWIFT.
- WM. HENRY TRESCOT.