No. 149.
Mr. Angell to Mr. Evarts.

No. 103.]

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.

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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.

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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.,

[Inclosure in No. 103.—Translation.]

An argument on the differences between the two governments (Japan and China) with a view to the preservation of peace and to avoid bloodshed.

  • Section I discusses the correspondence had between the two governments.
  • Section II narrates the course of negotiations between the envoys appointed, and section III shows that one government has rejected its own propositions.

The two governments of Japan and China having appointed high commissioners by mutual agreement to negotiate and close the Lew Chew question, and these high commissioners having reached a point of agreement, it was not expected that China would make these negotiations ridiculous, and thus render difficult a satisfactory adjustment of the question.

According to the rules of international law, when two powers appoint representatives for purposes of negotiation, such persons are to be provided with full powers, in order that the representatives so appointed may be enabled, each for his own government, in negotiation to represent fully the desire of the appointing power. After the given negotiation has come to a satisfactory issue the representatives are to affix their hands and seals as a witness to its validity. The appointment of representatives without full powers is not merely idle, but is abundantly calculated to develop a growth of mutual entanglements, and to promote hostile feeling.

If one power appoints a representative with full powers and the other power are points a representative without such full powers, this other power in so doing not only violates the provisions of international law and treats discourteously the representative Of the other power concerned, but, having at the inception of negotiations notified the other government that power to negotiate had been received, and then, when negotiations had been successfully concluded, to maintain that no authority to sign had been given, this evasion, what is it but an attempt to trifle with the other representative and an insult to his government?

If it be asserted that the signatures can only be affixed after the receipt of a decree authorizing it, and that this is the rule of procedure, is not this course detrimental to the full powers of the representatives? For the universal practice is that the representatives on either side having concluded their negotiations, affix their seals and signatures in witness, and thereafter mutually seek the ratifications of their respective governments in final conclusion of the treaty made. It is not the practice in any government to seek the ratification of the head of the government prior to signing and sealing the treaty as concluded. For one representative to delay signing and sealing the treaty until he has secured the ratification of his government is to subject the other representatives to delay, and to force him to discard the authority given him. Thus the interests of one, party alone are conserved, both are not alike regarded, and this is not in accord with international law.

The appointment of commissioners by the two governments to discuss and settle this question was in accordance with the thought which originated with the ex-President of the United States (General Grant). General Grant, in a letter to Prince Kung, suggested “the appointment, by mutual consent, of high commissioners to discuss and conclude this question, &c.” Can it be held that his idea was to appoint representatives without full powers, and thus to indulge in a great amount of useless discussion? That China was not at the outset deceived as to the purport of this suggestion from General Grant is abundantly proved by what follows:

The proposition that the two governments should act on this suggestion of General Grant came, in the first instance, from China. For upon the 14th of December, 1879, the Chinese foreign office began by addressing the foreign office of Japan in a dispatch which declared that China desired to act upon the suggestion contained in General Grant’s letter for the settlement of all questions involved. Thereafter, April 19, 1880, the Chinese foreign office inquired what person would be appointed by my government for the negotiations. Upon Ming Chik, 13th year, 6th moon, 29th day (Japanese) my government appointed the undersigned, being Japanese minister at Peking, [Page 232] as its high commissioner for the purposes above mentioned, with full powers, by an imperial decree, which was duly reported by the Japanese foreign office to the Chinese foreign office for its information. Thereafter, Ming Chik, 13th year, 7th moon, 26th day (Japanese), I again notified the foreign office here of my appointment and inquired what persons had been appointed and where our negotiations should be conducted.

August 5, 1880, the Chinese foreign office informed the Japanese foreign office and me that an imperial decree had been received saying, “Get the prince and the ministers of Yamên concerned negotiate and settle the questions, etc., etc.” This carefulness on both sides shows clearly that the object of the appointment of commissioners was, as stated above, to negotiate upon this business.

The high commissioners having, in obedience to their several edicts of appointment, discussed and debated matters for about three months, at last reached an agreement. October 10, 1880, the foreign office wrote me, saying, “Our opinions upon the several points are in accord, &c., &c.”

October 21, 1880, the ministers of the foreign office stated to me in conversation that in the treaty negotiations they had mentioned three matters: 1st. A settlement of the Lew Chew question; 2d. An addition to the former treaty between the two powers; and 3d. A modification of the form of ratification. These three matters were combined together. At the outset I opened the discussion upon these matters, and the Chinese foreign office agreed in the conclusions which were reached; the final draft of the treaty was written by the Tsung-li Yamên, to which I had no objection. At that time it was understood that the treaty was to be signed and sealed within ten days. The Chinese ministers informed me that after signing and sealing the treaty it would be necessary to ask for the ratification of the treaty in the matters of the settlement of the Lew Chew question and the addition to the former treaty. I estimated that three months must be allowed for the transmission of the treaty to Japan and the return of it as ratified, when the certificates of ratification might be exchanged at Peking.

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Thus four sections in all were finished as completing the treaty, and the dates of exchange of ratifications and of putting the treaty into effect were alldetermined.

After all this I was confident that the Yamên would sign and seal the treaty upon the day named, and I wrote to the ministers three or four times, urging them, but they delayed and gave me no answer. Much to my surprise, on the 20th December, 1880, I received a dispatch from the Chinese foreign office, stating that an imperial decree had been received in the following terms: “Let the project for the settlement of the Lew Chew question, as submitted to us by the foreign office, with all the papers, be referred to the northern and southern superintendents of foreign trade, for reports. After their reports have been received we will issue our further commands. Respect this.”

Judging from the language of this dispatch the authority to arrange the Lew Chew matter did not rest with the prince and ministers of the foreign office alone, but the northern and southern superintendents of foreign trade were also included. The prince and ministers had not the authority to deal with these questions; they had the full power to make a fair copy of the treaty, but not the authority to sign it.

At the outset China expressed her desire to act in accordance with the suggestion of General Grant, and appointed high commissioners to negotiate, but later she declared that the high commissioners so appointed had not the authority alone to sign the result of their negotiations. At the Outset she informed Japan that the prince and ministers of the Yamén should deal with the questions, but later she declared that the northern and southern superintendents of trade must consider these same questions and report to the throne.

My government accepted the suggestion of General Grant, and in accordance with international law clothed her high commissioner with full power to dispose of the questions at issue.

But the other government appointed commissioners having no power, and opened up a useless discussion.

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