to Mr. Evarts.
Peking, January 25, 1881. (Received March 25.)
Sir: On the 19th instant Mr. Shishido, the Japanese minister, called to take his leave of me before his departure for home. He took the opportunity to have a very interesting confidential conversation with me concerning the proceedings of the Chinese Government which had rendered it necessary, in his opinion, for him to withdraw from this capital. He also left with me a written argument on the subject, which I enclose. This also was given to me confidentially; Mr. Shishido informed me that he was confiding this information to none of the other foreign ministers here, but that, as the negotiations might be said to [Page 230] have been begun at the suggestion of General Grant, he was desirous that this legation should be advised of what had really happened.
The substance of his verbal statement was as follows:
General Grant, after interviews with high officials, both of China and of Japan, recommended that the two nations should appoint commissioners to adjust by treaty the difficulties which had arisen concerning the Lew Chew Islands. China requested Japan to join with her in complying with this recommendation. Japan accordingly appointed Mr. Shishido, the minister at Peking, as its high commissioner, and the foreign office here informed him that Prince Kung andthe ministers of the Tsung-li Yamên were appointed as the high commissioners of China. Negotiations were begun, and after three months’work a treaty was agreed on. On the 21st of October the Tsung-li Yamên agreed to sign the treaty in ten days. At the expiration of the time they were not ready to sign, and on the 20th of November they announced to him that an imperial decree had been issued, referring the whole subject to the northern and southern superintendents of trade for consideration and report. He had waited until now in vain for any further progress on the part of the Chinese Government, and felt that it was due to his office and to his government that he should withdraw from this court and return to his own country.
* * * * * * *
In answer to my inquiry Mr. Shishido said he had not been formally recalled by his government. I was therefore, in error in the statement I made on that point in my No. 96, of January 17. He added that his government had left it to his discretion to determine whether and when he should leave Peking.
* * * * * * *
Mr. Shishido desired my opinion concerning his course in the negotiations, and especially concerning his departure. I told him that I could not venture to say anything touching the main question under consideration by China and Japan, but that assuredly, if in the recent negotiations of our commission, the Chinese commissioners had refused to sign our treaties after they had agreed to sign them, I should have withdrawn from the capital.
Mr. Shishido informed me that the secretary of legation, Mr. Tanabe, who accompanied him on the visit, would be left in charge of the legation for the present.
The argument, which Mr. Shishido left, goes over the ground which he traversed in his interview with me, but presents his points with somewhat more precision and sharpness than characterized the verbal statement, at least as it reached me through his interpreter, whose knowledge of English is very limited. I have no reason to doubt its acuracy, though I have heard no counter statement of the Tsung-li Yamên.
I know that some members of the Yamên have admitted that the subject was referred to the superintendents of trade. But the foreign office do not seem to be at all disturbed by the departure of the Japanese minister. The members speak of it rather jocosely. Whether in their elation at the escape from war with Russia they underrate the possible significance of this event, or whether having nothing further to fear from Russia they are now quite ready to meet the claim of Japan to the Lew Chew Islands with a bold front, I will not undertake to decide. But, certainly, even if they have justice on their side in opposing the seizure of the islands by Japan, they could not well contrive a better way to alienate the sympathy of all civilized nations from them in their [Page 231] assertion of their rights than by the course, which, if we accept the statement of Mr. Shishido, they have now been fit to take in their negotiations with Japan.
I am, &c.,