No. 136.
Mr. Angell to Mr. Evarts .

No. 51.]

Sir: There have been many interviews between the foreign office at Peking and the ministers of western powers on the forms of official intercourse. In this country where so much importance is attached to official etiquette and ceremony, this is a matter of consequence. It was taken up in the diplomatic conferences of last winter. A minute from the foreign office accompanying Mr. Seward’s No. 692, of May 27, 1880, shows how the subject was left at that time.

On the 24th of September the Tsung-li Yamên submitted to Sir Thomas Wade, to whom the diplomatic body had specially assigned the management of this matter, another memorandum suggested by personal interviews with him. Sir Thomas Wade reported this to a diplomatic conference held on October 25. He was instructed by his colleagues to ask for some slight changes in the propositions of the Tsung-li Yamên, and at a conference held on November 15 he was able to report that the changes proposed had been assented to by the Yamên. This paper, as amended, is herewith inclosed. The changes proposed on October 25, and adopted by the Yamên, were the following:

At the beginning of the fourth paragraph the word “henceforward” was inserted. In the third line of the same paragraph the words “incumbent on” were substituted for “open to.” The first line of the sixth paragraph originally read, “The treaties stipulate that consuls,” &c.; whereas it now reads, “There is a difference between the treaties of the different powers. In some it is stipulated that consuls,” &c.

By reference to the proceedings of the commission plenipotentiary it will be seen that an effort was made to secure in one of the treaties negotiated the insertion of an article binding the Chinese Government [Page 206] to the proposition they have assented to in this memorandum. Though that effort did not succeed, there is no reason to doubt that by proper official action the rules suggested will be promulgated and made binding on the provincial authorities. The completion of the business with the Tsung-li Yamên is still left to Sir Thomas Wade, who hopes to report final action at no distant day.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 51.]

Translation of memorandum on official intercourse, handed to Sir Thomas Wade by the ministers of the Yamên on the 24th September, as amended on November 13, 1880.

The Yamên have answered clause by clause the memorandum on the subject of forms of official intercourse received by them some time since.

As, however, the British minister, did not appear to be fully satisfied with this reply, and repeatedly urged at personal interviews such consideration of the question as would satisfactorily dispose of it, the Yamên have now drawn up a farther set of propositions on the subject, which are as follows:

(1.) [It was proposed that] “whether at a port or in the interior, a consular officer having occasion to speak to the governor-general or governor of a province should be assured access to the high authority, and that when admitted into his Yamên he should be treated as a visitor, and not as the subordinate of the Chinese official.” At this moment, in the provinces the governors-general, governors, Taotais, even though the rank (of the foreign official) be not the same as theirs, invariably treat (the foreign official) in interviews with the forms due to a visitor.

Henceforward, whenever (the foreign official) has business with them, it shall be equally incumbent on (the high authorities) to receive him, and whenever he is so received the forms observed shall be as between host and guest.

(2.) [It was proposed that] “in correspondence between consular officers and provincial high authorities a form should be used which does not suggest the existence of official subordination or the reverse between the persons engaged in the correspondence. The form Wen yi seemed to the foreign representatives to satisfy these conditions, and they would be glad to see it used instead of the forms now employed in all correspondence passing between consular officers and provincial authorities, without regard to their rank.”

There is a difference between the treaties of different powers. In some it is stipulated that “consuls and acting consuls shall rank with intendants of circuits, and that vice-consuls, acting vice-consuls, and interpreters shall rank with prefects, and shall communicate with these officers, either personally or in writing, on a footing of equality.” This stipulation is specially intended to indicate the conditions of relative rank, and it would not be expedient for officers in the positions of governors-general and governors to use the form Wen yi to consuls and other officers indiscriminately. As, however, the constitution is not in point of fact, seriously affected in this matter, some compromise should naturally be made, and it is now proposed that, while in ordinary official matters, consuls shall continue, as heretofore, to address the Taotai in the chao hui form, and the latter shall, on behalf of the consul “report” (chuan shen) to the governor-general or governor, who will continue to “instruct” (cha huing) the Tao-tai, direct correspondence, between (the higher official and the consul), being thereby diminished,—on all matters of importance, the form of correspondence shall, without reference to the rank of the parties, be the chas hui or communication.

(3.) [It was proposed that] “in official correspondence the consul should be addressed as ‘Kuei-ling-shih,’ and when he is referred to that the name of the consul should be prefixed.” Also that “as the circles and marks drawn on instructions from a higher official to a lower indicate that they are in the nature of a command they should not be used in addressing a foreign official.”

As there is no constitutional objection to either of these propositions, both may be acted upon. The order of proceeding in the above propositions is agreed to by way of compromise, the motive whereof is a sincere desire to consolidate and improve friendly relations.

The ministers can only hope that the British minister will carefully consider them, with his colleagues.