to Mr. Evarts.
Peking, December 20, 1880—(Received February 18, 1881.)
Sir: A reference to Mr. Seward’s dispatches Nos. 512, 590, and 692, not to speak of earlier dispatches on the same subject, will show that for a long time the representatives of foreign powers have been engaged in discussion with the Tsung-li Yamên upon the proper forms and terms to be employed in official intercourse between the consuls and provincial officers. The subject is one of exceptional importance in this empire, where so much stress is laid upon ceremonial and etiquette.
Sir Thomas Wade, the British minister, was charged several months ago, by the diplomatic body here, with conducting in their behalf negotiations in this matter with the foreign office. Finally a result has been reached, which is entirely satisfactory to the ministers, and one of which in the conferences recently held I have expressed my approbation. Copies of a communication from Prince Kung on the subject and his accompanying memorandum are inclosed. The latter sets forth the agreement decided on with brevity and clearness. You will observe that it determines the procedure upon three points.
- First. A consular officer shall, without regard to any difference of rank between him and a governor-general or governor of a province, be received by the latter with the etiquette becoming for a host to exercise towards a guest.
- Second. In official correspondence between consular officers and high provincial authorities, in order to avoid the appearence of subordination of the former, the following plan is to be adopted: In ordinary matters, the consular officers will address the intendant who will memorialize the viceroy or governor, and the latter will instruct the intendant to reply to the consular officers. In important matters the latter can exchange “official communications” with the high authorities, employing the term which does not signify inferiority or petition.
- Third. The provincial authorities will, in addressing the consul,” use the respectful term equivalent to “the honorable consul,” and will abstain from that use of the vermilion pencil which they resort to in instructing their inferior officers.
In this country where pre-eminently forms are things, and where disagreements between foreign representatives and the Chinees officials have often seriously interfered with the transaction of important business, [Page 220] it is a matter of consequence to have reached so satisfactory a termination of the prolonged discussion on official intercourse.
I inclose a copy of my reply to Prince Kung’s communication, and also a copy of my circular to our consuls, instructing them to comply with the terms of the memorandum in conducting their official intercourse with the provincial authorities.
I have, &c.,
- Should be Mr. Seward.↩