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
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
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
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.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 413.]
Mr. Holcombe to Mr.
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
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
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
As the amount involved was only some 110 (Mexican) dollars, I yielded
this point without a question.
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
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
I may add further that these gentlemen were consulted fully and frankly,
and they assented to the wisdom of the various conclusions reached by
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
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.,