No. 42.
Mr. Young to Mr. Frelinghuysen.

No. 413.]

Sir: I have the honor to confirm my cable dispatch dated February 11, as follows:

Holcombe returned, having satisfactorily settled Chinaufoo case.

In my dispatch No. 285, dated November 14, I informed the Department that I had resolved to send Mr. Holcombe to Chinaufoo to endeavor to arrange long-standing grievances between the American missionaries residing there and the Chinese authorities.

I did this with some reluctance, because I do not wish to encourage a disposition on the part of the yamên to throw the responsibility of settling important questions upon the provincial officials. At the same time, the American citizens in Chinaufoo had been a long time deprived of their rights. All recourse to the yamên had been exhausted, and I saw no better way to secure a practical result than to deal directly with the governor of the province.

This decision I am glad to know met with your approval.

Mr. Holcombe left Peking on the morning of December 25, 1883, and returned February 9, 1884. I wrote the viceroy Li Hung Chang regarding his mission, expressing the hope that all courtesy would be shown him as the representative of this legation.

In my dispatch No. 333, dated January 26, I had the pleasure of saying to the Department that every pains had been taken by the authorities to meet my wishes in this respect and to do honor to Mr. Holcombe. In his report Mr. Holcombe dwells with more detail upon this gratifying incident. I make a special reference to this because, at a time when there is much anxiety in China as to the status of foreigners, it is a gratification to know that a friendly disposition exists towards Americans.

The details of Mr. Holcombe’s settlement will appear in the inclosures.

The agreement as it now stands is satisfactory to the gentlemen directly concerned and meets with my approval. I trust that it will satisfy the Department.

In the mean time I commend to your recognition the judgment and tact shown by Mr. Holcombe in carrying out the orders of the legation and bringing to an honorable result a question which has been for a long time a source of anxiety.

I have informed his imperial highness Prince Kung that the legation regards the “Chinaufoo case” as satisfactorily disposed of, and requested him to thank the governor of Shantung for his most courteous treatment of Mr. Holcombe.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 413.]

Mr. Young to Mr. Holcombe.

Sir: You are well informed of the circumstances under which it has become necessary for me to request you to proceed to Chinaufoo in order to effect a settlement of a [Page 92] case of the destruction of a chapel, the property of certain American missionaries? which occurred there in July, 1881.

It is understood that a compromise is to be effected under which the missionaries interested are to receive other property in lieu of that destroyed. You should, therefore, he careful in your negotiations with the Chinese authorities to secure the following points:

That the property furnished in exchange he so located as to be available for the purpose of a chapel.
That it be equivalent in value to that destroyed, or, failing this, that any deficiency be made good.
That proper deeds of the premises furnished in exchange be given to the missionaries.
That any prosecution begun by Chinese local officials against Chinese subjects because of their connection with the purchase of the original premises be abandoned.

You will conduct your negotiations with as much speed as may consist with securing a satisfactory issue, and return as promptly as possible to this legation.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 413.]

Mr. Holcombe to Mr. Young.

Sir: In reference to your instruction No. 104, of December 20, 1883, a copy of which is inclosed herewith, and in which I was requested to proceed to Chinaufoo in order to effect a settlement of a case of long standing in that city, I have the honor to inform you that I left Peking upon December 25, and, after a necessary delay at Tien-Tsin of a few days in order to transact certain business with his excellency Li Hung Chang, reached Chinaufoo upon the afternoon of January 12.

The three following days were necessarily occupied with the interchange of preliminary visits of courtesy, and my first business interview with his excellency the governor took place, by appointment, Wednesday, January 16, after which I had interviews, with him each day for an entire week. In all these discussions his excellency manifested a most friendly spirit and an exceeding anxiety to dispose of the business in hand to my satisfaction. * * * We discussed the whole business in hand from its origin in the mob of July 12, 1881, down to the present, with the utmost candor and thoroughness and yet with mutual good nature. Upon my part I assured his excellency, at our first interview, that my mission to Chinaufoo had but one object, which was to dispose of the case in question in a spirit of the utmost conciliation and forbearance that my desire was not to obstruct but to facilitate a settlement, and that I should demand nothing unreasonable or beyond his powers to grant. He was also plainly assured that I should not ask the restitution to the missionaries of the property originally purchased by them, as I did not believe that such a demand, even if willingly complied with, would, in view of popular feeling, really conserve the interests at stake. His excellency appeared greatly relieved by this assurance. But it was also added that, this concession being made on our part freely to the sentiments of the Chinese, we ought to expect, and would indeed insist,” that our demands in all other particulars should be fully and promptly met, and we thus be shown that our forbearance in waiving our rights to the original premises was appreciated:

His excellency replied that his greatest anxiety had been lest I should insist upon the rendition of the original property, which could not have been acceded to by him except at the risk of another popular uprising. Since, however, I had spoken in so conciliatory a manner upon that point, he had no hesitation in assuring me that all other demands would be met without hesitation or reserve.

His excellency had secured two different premises, of which he offered the choice as in exchange for the original purchase, and after the interview of January 17 I made a careful inspection of each in person. The missionaries also examined them at my request.

As a result of our conferences I submitted to his excellency, at our interview of January 18, a memorandum in which I proposed, under certain conditions, to accept, on behalf of the missionaries, one of the premises offered.

To this his excellency submitted a counter-memorandum on the 19th.

An examination of this rejoinder will show you at once that the governor substantially accepted all my conditions with one exception. He insisted that the missionaries should pay the legal tax on the deed for the new premises, as they should have done (but had not) upon the premises first bought.

As the amount involved was only some 110 (Mexican) dollars, I yielded this point without a question.

[Page 93]

In order to bring the business into a formal shape, response was made to the governor’s counter-memorandum in the shape of an official dispatch, copy of which you will find herewith. In it the points of agreement were summarized, and his excellency was requested to state whether he accepted them, and, if so to name an early day for the exchange of the necessary papers.

His response was made on the 20th January. He accepted the terms in toto and named the 22d as the day for concluding the business.

Upon that date I received from the governor an official title-deed, made out in the names of the missionaries, for the new premises, together with a bank order for 3,000 taels, the amount agreed upon to be paid as the difference in the value of the two properties, and I delivered to his excellency the title-deed of the premises first purchased and 83.10 taels, the amount of tax on the transfer of the property. Immediately after this interview the district magistrate went in person and formally delivered the new premises to Messrs. Murray and Hunter, who, at my request, were in waiting to take possession of them. The interchange, upon the same day, of formal notes between his excellency the governor and myself brought this case to a conclusion.

Upon my part Messrs. Murray and Hunter were also formally addressed in a note, reciting the points of my agreement with the Chinese authorities, and inclosing the title-deeds to the new property and the bank note for 3,000 taels.

I may add further that these gentlemen were consulted fully and frankly, and they assented to the wisdom of the various conclusions reached by me.

Having thus accomplished the object of my mission, I exchanged leave-taking calls with his excellency the governor upon the 23d January and set out upon my return to this city the following day.

There are one or two points embodied in this report upon which a word of explanation may perhaps be necessary.

The question of the cemetery lot does not appear in the earlier correspondence in this ease. It has, in fact, never been formally brought to the notice of this legation.

It had, however, caused our citizens at Chinaufoo much trouble and anxiety, and, at their request, it was brought forward in my negotiations with the governor.

The sum of 3,000 taels paid by the Chinese authorities was, in my opinion, a larger amount than this legation could with reason have insisted on as representing an actual difference between the value of the premises originally purchased and those accepted in exchange. Indeed, after personal inspection of both properties, I had fixed upon the sum of 2,000 taels as the proper equivalent. But Messrs. Murray and Hunter urged, with some show of reason, a difference in the value of the two locations, and also the fact that they might with justice claim some considerable sum in compensation for the delay of two and a half years during which they had been deprived of the use of the premises bought.

Moved by these considerations, I inserted in my first memoranda a claim for 3,000 taels, but was prepared to yield somewhat upon it in case the Chinese authorities raised serious objections. But to my gratification his excellency the governor accepted the sum named at once, saying in personal conversation, “I know there is no such difference in the values of the two properties, but you have come a long distance to settle this business and shown yourself very reasonable and friendly; and, further, I have a great regard for the Protestant missionaries; I know that they are doing a good work, and I am quite willing to give them a few hundred taels more than strict justice would demand.”

Since his excellency, therefore, yielded this point so promptly and gracefully, I saw no reason for modifying the demands as made at the request of the missionaries.

I should do injustice as well to my own feelings as to the authorities of the provinces of Chihli and Shantung did I close this report without calling special attention to the very marked and unusual courtesies extended to me along the route of my journey by the local authorities and in the city of Chinaufoo by the governor. As I was on the point of leaving Tien-Tsin his excellency Li Hung Chang sent a secretary to say to me that he had informed the governor of Shantung of my movements, and had also instructed his subordinates on so much of my route as lay within the province of Chihli to show me all possible attention. The effects of this act of thoughtful courtesy were at once apparent. The local officials secured in advance for me the best inns at each point where I stopped, whether for the night or for the mid-day meal, fitted them up with rugs, carpets, cushions, and curtains, sent cooks and servants to see that my food was ready for me, and in many instances the chief magistrate of the district, equivalent to the mayor of one of our cities, came in person to meet me, to pay his respects and to make sure by his presence that his arrangements for my comfort were properly executed. A military escort of never less than twenty persons and more frequently numbering fifty or sixty, equally divided between cavalry and infantry, accompanied me from point to point, being exchanged at each district city from Tien-Tsin to Chinaufoo. A similar escort was furnished upon, my return. At a [Page 94] distance of some five miles from Chinaufoo I was met by an aid to the governor, sent to bring me the compliments of his excellency and to say that he had sent his own sedan chair out for me, and he begged me to make use of it in entering the city, as it was more comfortable than the “mule-litter” in which I was traveling. At the point where the governor’s sedan chair was waiting for me two regiments of soldiers were paraded and salutes were fired in my honor. An immense concourse of people had assembled here, as it had been known throughout the city for several days that I was coming and the populace seemed to have taken a holiday in order to see the “foreign official.” Chinese said that 20,000 people were gathered, but probably 10,000 would be nearer the mark. They were very curious, but perfectly quiet and respectful.

On reaching the city I found that the governor had taken an entire inn for my accommodation, fitted it up thoroughly in accordance with Chinese ideas of comfort, and had sent his own cook and major domo, with a great retinue of attendants of various grades, some thirty persons in all, to wait upon me. These servants remained in attendance during the entire period of my stay in Chinaufoo, and my meals were furnished me constantly from the governor’s kitchen.

I need hardly say that I would much have preferred to make my journey in a more quiet and unpretentious style, and as I had a sufficient number of my own servants in company for all my wants, that such a retinue was more or less of an embarrassment. I endeavored, so far as could be with safety to my mission, to avoid so large an escort en route to Chinaufoo, but it was quite useless to ask the local authorities to excuse me from accepting it. They had their orders from the governor and knew well that not even my request and protestation against so much display would serve to shield them from any failure to obey his mandate. In a similar manner I endeavored at Chinaufoo to induce the governor to withdraw his large retinue of servants from my inn and to allow my own attendants to wait upon me. But his excellency, an exceedingly amiable and courteous old gentleman, was evidently influenced by two motives,” one to show me how magnificently courteous a Chinese official could be when he cared to make the effort, and, second, and probably the more important motive, to show his own people in a quiet but most effective manner the regard and honor in which he and his Government held the officials of the United States. Hence he had caused me to be treated in all respects as though I were an imperial commissioner of His Majesty the Emperor of China. And hence I found that to press my protestations and excuses beyond a certain point would wound the kindly feelings of the governor and endanger the success of my mission, by arousing in his mind the suspicion that I either did not know how to appreciate such courtesies or that I objected to the receipt of favors at his hand because I was in an aggressive mood. It seemed best, therefore, to accept these attentions quietly and in the spirit they were offered.

* * * * * * *

I have dwelt at length upon this phase of my mission to Chinaufoo because it had an important bearing upon the results of that mission, and because, so far as can be learned, it is entirely without precedent, no foreign official traveling, whether on business or pleasure, in the interior of China, having received such excessive courtesy before. And it is safe to assume, as among the most important of its valuable results, that it will effect a radical change in the minds of the people of an entire province as to the feelings of the Chinese Government towards foreign officials.

Heretofore those people have believed, with or without reason, that in his secret heart every Chinese official had a contempt for foreigners of all classes. But now the populace of one province have been shown in a practical and striking manner that an officer of the United States is held by the highest authority of the province in equal honor with an officer of His Majesty the Emperor. The effects of this lesson cannot fail to be lasting and valuable.

Trusting that my action as herein recited will meet with your approval and that of the Department of State,

I have, &c.,