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 , March 21, 1884. (Received May 5.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose, for your information, a correspondence between the legation and the consul at Canton.[Page 80]
It is a gratification to know that the cases at issue have been adjusted to the satisfaction of the missionaries whose rights had been in peril. I could not, however, refrain from expressing the shadow of a regret that the settlement did not, in addition to the money payment, carry with it a guarantee from the viceroy that efforts would be made to deter the lawless people from further outrages. Such a guarantee I would have found in the arrest of the principal offenders and the issue of a proper proclamation.
As, in reference to the Ngchow case, I received from Prince Kung, in August, an assurance that orders had been sent to arrange it on terms satisfactory to the legation, and as I now learn from Mr. Seymour that the question remains in abeyance, I have sent him a copy of the prince’s dispatch and requested him to confer with the viceroy.
I have, &c.,
Mr. Seymour to Mr. Young.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that several matters involving claims of American Presbyterian and native Baptist, or American Baptist, missions, for losses sustained at the hands of Chinese mobs, have been satisfactorily adjusted, and will no longer encumber this consulate or the United States legation with correspondence or negotiations for settlements.
The first one to which I will refer was the case of outrages by the Chinese mob against the mission and missionaries and native members and attendants of the American Presbyterian mission at Chik Hom, where a small loss, of about 33 taels, occurred, but where the American missionaries were rudely treated, and where the native friends of that mission were persecuted with much cruelty and brutality. The disturbance was in June, 1883.
References to this case were made in my August (1883) correspondence lists. Under date of August 1, 1883, I mentioned having received a statement of these outrages at Chik Hom, from Rev. H. V. Noyes, who, with Rev. B. C. Henry, had full knowledge of the occurrences which I forwarded to the grain intendant (August 4, 1883), who gave the business prompt attention.
The troubles of August and September in Canton temporarily overshadowed the Chik Hom affair; but with reasonable promptness appropriate proclamations were made by the authorities in the vicinity of the Chik Hom mission, and early in October the chapel was reopened and the missionaries notified by the local magistrate of a desire to make full restitution, which was duly made to the satisfaction of the friends of the mission.
In December, 1883, considerable wrath was manifested in Canton and surrounding country against foreigners and Christians, and there seemed to be simultaneous acts on the part of the natives indicative of a strong purpose to demolish all missions.
The week of the imperial commissioner Pang’s arrival in Canton, with several regiments of soldiers from Northern and Central China, and the publication and circulation of many thousands of Chinese documents, purporting to have been issued by that high official, with the sanction and approval of the Emperor, against foreigners, is memorable. That was in the first week of December, 1883, and will long be remembered by all who witnessed the excitement among the natives and anxiety among foreigners.
The churches, chapels, and missions of all denominations and nationalities, as well as the property of all foreigners, were in jeopardy until the Chinese authorities (at the urgent suggestion of the United States consul, in advance of the united action of the consular corps, whose services were in requisition by foreigners of various nationalities) took vigorous measures to counteract the serious measures and effects of an ill-advised proclamation, which has never yet been repudiated, although its circulation has been declared “unauthorized.”
The only religious establishment which was actually injured in Canton at that time was the “Preaching Hall” of native Christians, in connection with the American [Page 81] Baptist missions, and that has been repaired, reopened, and occupied, without further troubles or threats.
Proclamations from the viceroy and the Hanhoi magistrate, as well as from the imperial commissioner, and military protection, assured all concerned that such atrocities as the destruction of chapels and the molestation of foreigners by natives would not be permitted by the authorities.
Numerous other chapels, that had been closed for several days under threats from the populace, were reopened under assurances of protection by Chinese officials.
While matters were quieting down in Canton, the excitement of the first week of December in this city had extended into the country.
At Sheklung (about 60 miles east of Canton) the American Presbyterian missionaries, Rev. B. C. Henry and W. J. White, of Canton, were holding religious services with the members and friends of the mission at that place, on Sunday, December 16, 1883, when a native mob assaulted the chapel and the missionaries and persecuted the native. Christians, until the chapel was unfit for use and the missionaries fled to save their lives. After the outrages against the American Presbyterian mission had been perpetrated, the Chinese mob proceeded to the French Roman Catholic mission and destroyed its chapel and the buildings occupied by the priests and leading members of the Roman Catholic Church, whose priest was conveyed for safety by a mandarin’s boat to Canton, to which place the American missionaries and a native preacher in the employ of the Berlin mission went for safety. Considerable personal violence occurred.
A reference to the letter-lists of this consulate will show I laid the Sheklung case before the viceroy December 17, 1883, and before the United States legation in No. 45, dated the 11th January ultimo, eliciting due attention.
I have the pleasure of stating that a military officer from Canton last week went to Sheklung and paid up in full all claims for indemnity, the American Presbyterian mission receiving $370.
The claim of and indemnity to the Roman Catholics amounted to about 3,000 taels. The French consul in Canton has no advices of payment yet, but the money is ready, as Rev. Mr. Noyes, American Presbyterian missionary, informs me.
Please take into consideration the fact that the settlement of the several claims herein stated by remittance through the official channels (legation and consulate) could not have been accomplished without prolonged negotiations and circuitous processes and ways, involving months or years of delay, or interruption or suspension of missionary labors.
Apart from such inconveniences to all immediately concerned, it is very evident that the moral effect of prompt settlement for damages, and early resumption of missionary work, is greatly to the advantage of those who are engaged as missionaries and preachers or co-workers in religious organizations in China.
If it is possible to bring that Ngchow case to a final settlement, it is very desirable that it may be settled; for no attempt can be made to resume missionary work at Ngchow while the unfriendly natives indulge the prevalent idea that destruction and pillage of chapels, dispensaries, and dwellings occupied by foreigners and missionaries is cheap sport.
The viceroy Tseng, while here, did not act upon any case that was brought before him touching interests of foreigners, except in the admirably prompt suppression of the Honam (South Canton) riot in August, 1883.
The present viceroy, Chang, does not seem to be inclined to procrastinate, but acts more promptly.
Having reported the Ngchow case to the legation and to the State Department, and been informed by the latter that it had been placed in the hands of the United States minister for settlement, I do not feel at liberty to interfere with it, especially as I went through a long siege in regard to it, and completely exhausted or upset their subterfuges as to provocation, all of which has been set forth fully in my No. 19, dated May 15, 1883, and its inclosures, including correspondence between this consulate and the viceroy. There is positively no defense.
Affixed is a letter from Rev. H. V. Noyes in regard to the settlement of the Sheklung affair, and designated A.
Affixed also is an extract from the annual report of the American Presbyterian mission in Southern China, as per copy sent to this consulate by the secretary, Rev. W. J. White, and marked B.
Hoping what has been done will meet with your approval,
I am, &c.,
Letter from Rev. H. V. Noyes, one of the veterans of the American Presbyterian mission in Southern China, to Mr. Seymour.
Sir: I have much pleasure in reporting to you that on Friday, February 29, at Sheklung, I received from the Chinese military official Tongon-Pang, $370, being amount in full of indemnity claimed for losses at the Sheklung chapel incurred at the time of the mob there on the 16th of December, 1883.
In behalf of the mission to which I belong, as well as myself, I wish to express warm thanks for the prompt and efficient, manner in which you dealt with this matter, thereby securing so speedy and satisfactory a settlement.
Copy of a section of the report of missions in Canton and Southern China adopted at the annual meeting of the American Presbyterian missionaries held in Canton February 19, 1884, and mailed to their board in America per steamer of 21st ultimo, as per copy sent to the United States consulate in Canton by the secretary of the American Presbyterian mission.
“At one time the chapels were threatened by a mob, and would doubtless have been demolished but for the prompt and independent action of the American consul, the Hon. Charles Seymour; and the mission takes this opportunity of expressing its high appreciation of the efficiency of this worthy officer of our Government in thus exerting himself, without being importuned, for the protection of mission property.”
Mr. Young to Mr. Seymour .
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your dispatch No. 63, dated March 3, 1884, in reference to the action of the consulate in securing from the Chinese authorities a proper compensation for injuries inflicted upon the missionaries by Chinese mobs.
It is a gratification to know that by your energy and skill you have received this compensation. So long as the gentlemen in the missionary work are satisfied with what has been done by the Chinese authorities, there might be reasons why it would be well to let the matter rest. It seems to the legation, however, that in these questions we have to consider not alone indemnity for the present, but security for the future. The mere payment of sums of money enough to cover the actual losses of the missionaries may, as the legation can well see, satisfy gentlemen who look upon these acts of violence with a gentle, forgiving spirit, and are disposed, from the traditions of their faith, to welcome rather than deplore any experience that may entail suffering in defense of their faith. But while this sentiment merits our respect, and, I might even say, reverence, embarrassments must arise from a policy which taught the Chinese to believe that a money indemnity would satisfy the Government for a wrong done to its citizens.
When, as was seen recently within your consular jurisdiction, there was a riot stimulated by causes for which the Chinese were not to blame, and which the authorities strove to suppress, I believe that the Chinese Government was entitled to leniency and consideration. The causes were a part of the case, more specially as the causes involved acts of murder. But after reading the papers to which your dispatch refers I can see no extenuating circumstances. While I recognize that the authorities in Canton have made reparation in a pecuniary sense for the outrages of the mobs, I do not think that the safety of our citizens can be assured unless, when cases of this kind arise, something is done that will, as far as lies within the power of the authorities, prevent a repetition of similar outrages.
Having accepted the awards of the authorities as a full satisfaction for the losses of the missionaries, I am afraid it would serve no practical result to reopen the question now, and especially at a time when the public temper of Canton is in a state of abnormal excitement and the authorities are burdened with special cares. This, however, I must leave largely to your discretion; but in your conversation with the viceroy [Page 83] and other officials you may say that it is a matter of regret to the legation that steps were not taken to deter the unruly spirits who comprised the mob from similar outrages. Proclamations should have been issued pointing out the gravity of the offense, and especially that American citizens are alike under the protection of the laws of China and the treaties.
Should you have any other questions of this nature, I beg you to keep in mind these considerations in your dealings with the authorities.
I am, &c.,
Mr. Young to Mr. Seymour.
Sir: As a further reference to your dispatch No. 63, I have the honor to send you a copy of a note received in August last from his imperial highness Prince Kung. In this you will note that orders had been sent by the cabinet to Canton giving directions for the settlement of the Ngchow affair.
I note from your report that it has not been adjusted. I have to request you, therefore, to present the viceroy with a copy of this dispatch and ask him the exact condition of the negotiation. You may also express your regret that orders issued in August by the cabinet have not been carried out in a manner which you, the representative of American interests in Canton, have the right to expect and demand.
I am, &c.,
Prince Kung to Mr. Young.
Your Excellency: Some time since I received a dispatch from your excellency in regard to a chapel at Ngchow, in Kwanghsi. I at once instructed the provincial authorities concerned to investigate the business, and so informed you.
I am now in receipt of a report, in which it is stated that a Cantonese of the Rao Yao district, named Fang Chun Chang, came in an irregular manner, and without credentials, to Ngchow to preach. He also loosely asserted himself to be a physician and caused the death of several persons by malpractice. The anger of the populace was in consequence excited and the residence of Fang was destroyed. The acting magistrate at once sent a force of soldiers to repress the riot and preserve order. An investigation developed the facts recited above, and nothing was said about any losses On account of Fang’s character as a preacher, the magistrate was desirous of protecting him from all harm, and had him escorted in a boat outside the limits of the district.
Thereafter Fang Chun Chang returned, bringing with him two Americans, Messrs. Simmons and Noyes, who declared that property to the value of 160 taels was lost at the time the house was torn down by the mob, and they asked payment to this amount, and that the house be rebuilt for preaching purposes. They also stated that the person who caused the deaths by malpractice was a different person from Fang; his name was Chang, and he had been sent there by the missionaries. Another mob arose, but the magistrate in person led a force to repress it. Learning that the missionaries desired to proceed to the Feng district, the magistrate escorted them on their way. Fang Chun Chang went with them, and they did not return to Ngchow. Positive orders have been issued for the settlement of the business, &c.
In this case since it appears that a Chinese subject named Fang Chun Chang falsely pretended to be a preacher and caused the death of several persons, and thereafter imposed upon the foreigners by means of false and malicious statements, the matter must be thoroughly sifted to the bottom, that justice may be done.
The yamên has ordered the provincial authorities to arrest Fang Chun Chang and to make careful examination and settle the ease.
Cards and compliments.