Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 1, 1884
to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Peking , January 21, 1884. (Received March 31.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose for your information certain correspondence between the legation and our consul at Canton, which I am sure you will read with pain.
The continuance of a spirit of unrest and mutiny in Canton, so far as foreigners are concerned, is a grave circumstance.
You will note that an incendiary proclamation, purporting to come from the imperial commissioner Pang, breathing antipathy and bitterness towards foreigners, was allowed to circulate throughout Canton for two days. The viceroy afterwards disavowed it, and I am informed has issued proclamations of an assuring character. Copies of these have these have not reached the legation.[Page 59]
I made an earnest representation to the yamên on the subject of this proclamation, and said to the ministers that if, as a consequence of its indiscreet and inflammatory terms, neither withdrawn nor disavowed by the viceroy for two days, there had been another riot like that in the Shameen, the legation would have a strong argument for contending that the riot was an official and not a popular outbreak, and that China should pay not only direct but consequential damages. This view I expressed in a dispatch to Mr. Seymour, inclosure No. 3, requesting him to give it to the viceroy as the opinion of the legation.
* * * * * * *
This difficulty, however, attends all political events in China at the present time, and adds immeasurably to the embarrassments of the situation, not alone so far as the foreigners, but even the Chinese authorities, like the viceroy of Canton, who wish to do justly towards foreigners, are concerned.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Seymour to Mr. Young.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that Canton has, during this week, been thoroughly stirred up by the arrival of Imperial Commissioner Pang and about four thousand Chinese soldiers from the north, and the large sale and circulation of printed matter, purporting to be a proclamation from that official, enjoining upon foreigners to remove their merchandise and property out of the port of Canton, to avert the calamities of war, which seems to be imminent by the aggressive action of France against Annam, over which China claims sovereignty. It has been a week of unusual anxiety among native and foreign merchants and missionaries of all nations or nationalities and denominations, and of general excitement among the Chinese masses, who were led to believe that foreigners must go, and that their merchandise and property were to be legitimate objects of pillage and destruction, and that the imperial commissioner would immediately reverse the policy and action of the viceroy, whom they denounced for his protection of foreigners.
The imperial commissioner arrived in Canton Monday morning, 3d instant, at which time the steamer Whai Yuen landed on Shameen, en route to the city, a thousand soldiers. Instantly the word new from one to another throughout Canton that the imperial commissioner, Pang, had arrived and marched his soldiers through Shameen to let the foreigners understand they must go and that this reservation for foreigners is at an end.
Interviews with the commissioner, Pang, by anti-foreign Chinese of distinction and influence were publicly alleged to have elicited from him decided disapproval of the course of the viceroy.
On the evening of Monday, or early on the morning of Tuesday, 4th instant, the streets of Canton were echoing the shouts of venders of hand-bills purporting to be a proclamation from the commissioner, in Mandarin and English (as per copy inclosed), the said venders causing the populace to believe the commissioner had decreed, in the name of the Emperor, that foreigners must go, and that their merchandise and property would be subject to pillage and destruction, at the expense of France instead of China.
The uninterrupted sale and circulation of those mischievous documents on the public streets from Tuesday morning until Thursday noon deepened the impression that their publication and circulation were authorized,
The Chinese merchants doing business with foreigners were the first to show solicitude for the safety of merchandise or property purchased and ordered for exportation.
The foreign merchants quickly caught alarm for the safety of their merchandise and property and their established business between China and other countries.
The Chinese Christians soon had intimations that after foreigners left Canton vengeance would fall heavily upon the converts.
They rushed to the missionaries for counsel and protection, and thus the entire population became intensely interested in the results. The consulates were quickly [Page 60] sought by many who were deeply concerned about the situation of affairs, and it became necessary to take prompt action to avert serious outrages against native Christians and their chapels, and also the chapels and schools of the various missions, all of which were in jeopardy to such an extent that their doors were kept closed, buildings guarded, and vigilance maintained to prevent pillage and destruction.
On Tuesday a mob gathered at the new “Chinese Doctrine Propagating Hall,” which was built, at an expense of 900 taels, by native converts to Christianity who are in connection with the American Baptist mission.
The hall is located near the river, about midway between Dr. Kerr’s hospital and the Berlin mission house, or between the American Presbyterian and American Baptist mission chapels, in that part of Canton where turbulent elements are abundant.
The mob, under the pretext of provocation on account of the opposition of the preachers at the hall to “ancestral tablets” worship, smashed the windows and doors and other portions of the hall, and on Wednesday, the 5th instant, again returned to the hall and demolished the pulpit, pews, and plastering. Soldiers were sent by the authorities to the rescue, and further injury to the hall was prevented.
On Thursday two chapels and a school-house, in three different parts of the city, and under the auspices of the American Presbyterian mission, in charge of the venerable Rev. Dr. Happer, were threatened with destruction; and if the doors had been opened, those three buildings would doubtless have been immediately destroyed.
The owner of one of the buildings, in terror of the mob, hurried to Dr. Happer and demanded surrender of the lease to save his building from destruction, after a continuous lease of twenty years.
My dispatch of Thursday, 6th instant, to the viceroy, in regard to the American Presbyterian chapels and schools, and dispatch of Friday, 7th instant, asking proclamations for security of the natives’ hall, received satisfactory attention.
On Thursday afternoon, 6th, the influence of the authorities was felt throughout the city in efforts to counteract the effects of the alleged proclamation and to restore order and tranquillity, and by Friday evening, 7th instant, matters became comfortably quiet, and to-day, Saturday, 8th, the anti-foreign rage has completely subsided. Strong proclamations have been issued, and are respected, in favor of tranquillity.
This sudden and welcome subsidence of one of the most formidable outbursts of anti-foreign rage witnessed in Canton during the past seventeen years, based, as was alleged and believed, on the encouragement and leadership of an inferior official invested with high prerogatives and sustained by imperial decree, is one of the marvels of government in a city of over two millions of people without a press. It was generally believed, and is now and yet thought by many well-informed residents who have access to many sources of information, that a proclamation of the nature of the document referred to was actually in preparation or had been prepared, and was either delayed through the reluctance of the viceroy to have it issued or slowness in carving plates for its publication in large letters.
The missionaries, their families and friends, met, to the number of fifty or more, in conference at the house of Rev. Dr. Thompson, one-quarter of a mile east of the hospital, on the evening of Wednesday, 5th instant, and manifested profound solicitude for the safety of their respective missions, and especially for those of the native converts.
An influential committee was appointed to confer with consuls.
Realizing the necessity of prompt action, I prepared and had translated into Chinese a dispatch to the viceroy (as per copy herewith) upon the situation of affairs, on Wednesday evening, for delivery before 9 o’clock Thursday morning at the yamên, thus anticipating the action of that conference.
The consular corps, including consular officers of Great Britain, Germany, France, United States, Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, and Denmark, assembled, by request of citizens concerned, at the consular headquarters, in the United States consulate, for consultation, at 5 o’clock p.m., Thursday, 6th instant, when it was agreed that an identical letter should be sent from all of the consulates to the viceroy, after approval of a form to be submitted at an adjourned meeting on Friday noon, 7th instant, at which last meeting the viceroy’s replies and measures, elicited by the United States consul’s dispatch (promising military protection to the threatened chapels and repudiating the unauthorized proclamations, so called), gave all reasonable assurance that order and tranquillity would be restored, and were deemed so satisfactory as to render it unnecessary to make any further communication, although the French consul, probably at the suggestion of the Roman Catholic bishop, who was deeply concerned, had called the viceroy’s attention to the dangers surrounding French residents by the publicity of such tirades against France in Canton.
All residents, and especially the missionaries, feel that the timely arrest of the excitement, in response to the United States consul’s dispatch of the 5th instant, delivered [Page 61] to the viceroy early on the morning of the 6th instant, averted serious outrages, against native and foreign Christians, and perhaps prevented other deplorable acts, of a mob. It was one of those cases where or in which remonstrance took effect in time to prevent great harm.
I take pleasure in making record of the facts, as it affords renewed proof of the purpose of the viceroy to maintain in good faith and full force the stipulations of treaty or treaties for the security of foreigners and their interests, and also to prevent the-persecution of natives, as well as foreigners, of the Christian faith.
Hoping that Canton may long be spared from another and similar visitation of rage and excitement against foreigners and Christians,
I am, &c.,
United States Consul.
As this dispatch has been detained over Sunday for interpreter’s translations, I will gladly add that to-day crowds are gathered at the walls reading excellent proclamations from Commissioner Pang and from the magistrates, enjoining order, tranquillity, industry, and good treatment to foreigners.
I, Pang, imperial commissioner, do hereby publicly notify that as France is seeking or causing trouble which may result in war, it is necessary that we should make due preparations against any calamity or calamities.
That as foreign nations have had trade with China for years, and as our great Emperor always considers that foreigners who came from a long distance and Chinese a& one family, whereby every one may be benefited by interests in trade, and as there is no false idea or pretension among them, they would wholly enjoy peace and observe treaties.
That, as all foreign nations must have seen and known, China does not wish, on account of trivial or trifling matters, to make war.
But as the French entertain ill feeling, and know that Annam has for generations past paid tribute to China, yet they, depending upon their strength to insult a weak, nation, and that in violation of treaty, they have inaugurated war by use of soldiers against Annam.
China has for a long time wished to comply with applications and send assistance to Annam; but fearing friendly relations might thereby be disturbed, has therefore refrained from sending such assistance.
In former months the French minister, Tricou, arrived at Tien-Tsin in a French man-of-war, stating that a large fleet of French war ships will come to Canton and cause injuries.
This, however, is a mere ruse upon the part of the French to frighten, and their cunning tricks cannot be ascertained.
My great Emperor became wrath at this, and sent me to Canton to assume military command here; now I have brought together both land and sea forces, and to see what measures can be taken.
If they come with troops we will at once fight with France.
The outbreak rests upon France, which took the first step, and therefore we are-obliged to make efforts for our defense.
I hope other nations will know or determine which is in the right and which is in the wrong.
Considering or whereas that if fighting begins on the seas, merchant ships would, not come, and therefore commerce with foreign nations will be interrupted.
As Chinese troops cannot recognize, distinguish, or discriminate between the flags of foreign nations, that in event of a future war the merchant vessels of other nations, happening to pass in the vicinity of strife might be mistaken by Chinese soldiers and people for those of the enemy, and thereby complications may occur.
Considering that all foreign merchants have with great difficulty crossed the large ocean to come to China, although the manner of conducting the various branches of trade by Chinese and foreigners is different, yet the object (making profit)is the same.
It is not proper treatment to those who come from a distance if we do not beforehand notify them, so they might guard against approaching or future calamities in. the event of war.[Page 62]
Besides having asked the Emperor to instruct the tsung-li yamên to inform the ministers of foreign nations, I now issue this notice for the general information of foreign merchants, that they should beforehand remove out of port (or harbor) merchandise or property, thus to escape the danger of war, if France is inclined to be the aggressor and send troops to give battle.
During the contest between China and France all vessels of other nations must conform to international law.
A ship or cargo taken as a prize, the nation in question cannot accuse us of wrong.
In all places where the French take hostile action for any merchandise belonging to foreign merchants destroyed by fire or pillaged, the nation will have to demand indemnity from France, and cannot demand it from China.
By reason of one nation violating the treaty the commerce of other nations will be involved, and thus the fault rests upon the one causing the trouble; and all nations will discriminate justly in the matter.
I sincerely publish this proclamation with the hope of notifying the merchants of all nationalities, that they may understand and take precautions, and thus prevent being entangled in difficulties.
(Sold and circulated in Canton, Tuesday, 4th, Wednesday, 5th, and Thursday, 6th December, 1883.)
Mr. Seymour to Viceroy Chang.
Sir: I have the honor to call your excellency’s attention to the fact that a Chinese mob yesterday made an attack upon a Christian chapel, and renewed the attack this morning.
The chapel is located on the north side of and near the river, between the American Baptist and Berlin and American missions, a short distance from the hospital and the exchange; and as further depredations may be perpetrated unless prevented by the authorities, your excellency is respectfully asked to meet the case so promptly as to stop the mob from doing more mischief.
I also have the honor to call your excellency’s attention to the inclosed publication, which has been publicly and extensively sold and circulated for two days on the streets, and to ask whether it is an authentic, true, and authorized expression of what it purports to be in regard to the removal of merchandise of foreigners to prevent its destruction, as it has already produced much uneasiness and general excitement, especially among natives and foreigners in business circles, and seems to be regarded by the turbulent element as an encouragement to destroy the merchandise of foreigners whenever it is thought France shall have assumed a warlike attitude toward China, the danger being that many Chinese will consider the war as already inaugurated and proceed to an indiscriminate destruction of merchandise of foreigners, under the cover of what they are construing as authority.
I am, &c.,
United States Consul.
Viceroy Chang to Mr. Seymour .
Chang, viceroy of the two Kwangs, sends the following communication in reply to the consul:
Upon the 7th day of the 11th moon of the 9th year of Kwang Hsui (December 6, 1883) the viceroy received a dispatch from the consul. [Here the contents of the dispatch are quoted in full.]
The viceroy would state that yesterday he had heard of the disturbance made by some lawless people toward a chapel which is situated at Ng-Shin-Moon, near the river, and as was stated in the dispatch under acknowledgment.
The viceroy has consequently directed the local authorities (both civil and military) to take soldiers and proceed with them to that vicinity and maintain order there.
Subsequently those officials informed the viceroy that they had maintained order and dispersed the crowd, and that everything is quiet and restored to peace. However, [Page 63] the viceroy gave strict instructions to these officials that they should at all times inquire and give protection in case of need, thereby to maintain peace among natives and foreigners.
With regard to the proclamation which you said had been sold about in the streets for two days, and which has produced much uneasiness and general excitement, the viceroy would state that all proclamations which are issued by the officials in China should bear the official seal upon them before they are published, and that upon examining the inclosed proclamation the viceroy found it was printed by the people and secretly sold amongst them; thus it will be understood that it affords insufficient proof to be considered genuine.
Upon receipt of the foregoing dispatch the viceroy at once instructed the Namhai and Poon Iu magistrates and the prefect of Ouang Chow that they should at all times inquire into, arrest, and strictly prohibit the publishing of any such false notice.
It is deemed proper that the viceroy should send this in reply to the consul, for his information.
Kwang Hsui, 9th year, 11th moon, 7th day (December 6, 1888).
Memorandum, December 10, 1883, by consul.
A subsequent dispatch from the viceroy assured protection to the American Presbyterian chapel and school, and another “and later dispatch from the viceroy reports directions to the magistrates to issue proclamations to protect the native Christians and their hall.
Proclamations have been made as desired, not only by magistrates but by the imperial commissioner.
Rev. Mr. Happer to Mr. Seymour.
My Dear Mr. Seymour: The commissioner Pang has issued a proclamation. Part of it is in the same tenor as the Namhai’s; says the Government and foreigners are at peace; no one must stir up strife; calls upon all the Chinese to attend to their usual business in question. I will get a copy to-morrow morning; now it is surrounded by a crowd, so cannot copy. It may be on sale before night.
Mr. Young to Mr. Seymour .
Sir: I have read with painful interest your dispatch No.44, December 8, 1883. The condition of affairs therein narrated shows a disposition towards foreigners much to be regretted, coming especially after the serious outbreak in the Shameen.
Your prompt action in presenting the case to the viceroy meets with the commendation of the legation.
This remonstrance, I think, might have taken a more serious form. The proclamation of Pang was an unwise and unfriendly document, one calculated to inspire the worst feelings in a community where the spirit of intolerance already prevailed. It came from a high official, who spoke in the name of His Majesty. Although disavowed and withdrawn, it was sold about the streets for two days. The viceroy says that it bore on its face the evidence that it was not genuine. And yet I have seen nothing to show that the imperial commissioner Pang did not write or inspire it. The real meaning of the viceroy’s comment, as found in your inclosure C, is not that the proclamation was fraudulent, but simply irregular, informal, not official.
For the viceroy to permit an incendiary proclamation of this nature to circulate for two days was to assume a grave responsibility, and if any outrage had taken place, as at the Shameen, it would have been difficult to have released the Chinese from the responsibility of not alone actual but of exemplary damages.
You will, in your conversations with the viceroy, impress this fact upon the attention of his excellency. The legations here know that Canton is the seat of peculiar irritations and disturbances, that political feeling runs high, and that rulers with the firmest nerves may tremble in the presence of the elements of discontent and misrule which there prevail. But unless his excellency proposes to surrender his high authority to a mob, there is no time in which to end a demonstration of this kind except [Page 64] at the outset. The fact that his excellency should have allowed it to run for two days without check or rebuke is a painful incident.
Your action in taking the matter in hand at once, meets with my commendation. My chief regret is, and out of this regret arises a constant anxiety as to Canton, that the viceroy failed to see at the outset what justice to the foreigner, and even loyalty to the throne, required of him.
I am, &c.,