to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Peking, March 17, 1883. (Received May 24.)
Sir: The consul at Canton, Mr. Seymour, informs the legation that a royal decree has been issued by the King of Portugal, reopening the port of Macao to emigration. In consequence of the horrors attending the coolie trade (which was only another form of the slave trade, especially with Peru and Cuba) the port some years since was closed to all emigration. Emigrants to America before the passage of the law of restriction invariably went from Hong-Kong.
As California and Australia (the general destination of the large number of emigrants from the southern provinces who annually left Hong-Kong) have been closed, I am anxious to know the motives which inspired the King to open Macao to a trade which would seem to have had a death blow. I have asked Mr. Seymour to send the legation a copy of this decree and to keep the legation informed of its purpose and effect. The tendency of the Chinese to emigrate has not been destroyed by the restrictive legislation of the American Congress and the Australian Parliament, and it will be of interest to observe which new field will attract their industry and enterprise.
This is a question of political economy of the deepest interest to China. There must be some outlet for these teeming, dense, overpopulated districts. Sometimes it comes in famine, as was seen in the northern provinces a few years ago, when hundreds of thousands died from starvation. Sometimes it comes in war, as in the Taiping rebellion, which is said by some authorities to have cost thirty millions of lives. Humanity cannot but hope that there will be some other solution than these deplorable consequences; and it is therefore of interest to note the direction of this new movement in emigration from Macao.
In speaking socially and informally with a Chinese statesman of eminence, some time since, this question arose. I ventured to say, recognizing the difficulties it imposed not alone upon the Government which had to find food and labor for a redundant population, but also upon friendly Governments like those of the United States and the Australian [Page 204]colonies, who were compelled to resist emigration of Chinese subjects by special enactments, that it would be wise for China to seek in some new, virgin country opportunities for her people. I referred to New Guinea, or Papua, an island 250,000 square miles in area, and to certain pants of the African continent which had recently been discovered, notably the valley of the Congo River. Under a judicious system of emigration which the Government could foster, colonies could spring up; there would be room for millions now huddled in dense masses and in constant dread of famine, and the Chinese could reclaim these savage tracts to the benefit of their own civilization.
I was struck with the reply. “My people,” this Chinese statesman said, “are not colonists. They have not the faculty for colonization, which has built up so many countries in various parts of the world under western influences. They cannot take the lead. They must live upon civilization of some kind or another, seek it out, and attach themselves to it.”
I have, &c.,