No. 112.

Mr. Young to Mr. Bayard.

No. 693.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit for the information of the Department a correspondence between the legation and the Rev. Dr. Blodget, the chairman of the China Branch of the Evangelical Alliance.

I have, &c.,

[Page 163]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 693.]

Mr. Blodget to Mr. Young.

The anti-christian riots in the province of canton in september, 1884.

Dear Sir: The propagation of a new religion in any nation must of necessity be attended by some difficulties and misunderstanding between the adherents of the old religion and those of the new. It was so with Buddhism, which entered China from a foreign country in the Hem dynasty, and was frequently and severely persecuted till in the Sung dynasty China accepted the principle of religious toleration and ceased to persecute the Buddhists.

In the year 1858, during the reign of the Emperor Wen Tsuog, of the present dynasty, treaties were made with the western nations.

The high ministers appointed to negotiate the treaties with the representatives of foreign powers were desirous of preventing divisions, disturbances of the peace, and grievances in connection with the spread of Christianity, and it was mutually agreed that articles providing for the protection of native Christians in the practice of their religion should be inserted in the treaties.

In the treaty with Great Britain the eighth article says: The Christian religion as professed by the Protestants or* Roman Catholics inculcated the practice of virtue and teaches man to do as he would be done by. Persons teaching it or professing it, therefore, shall alike be entitled to the protection of the Chinese authorities; nor shall any such, peaceably pursuing their calling, and not offending against the laws, be persecuted or interfered with.

The treaty with Russia says, the Chinese Government having recognized the fact that the Christian doctrine promoted the establishment of order and peace among men, promises not to persecute its Christian subjects for the exercise of the duties of their religion; they shall enjoy the protection of all those who profess other creeds tolerated in the Empire. The Chinese Government, considering the Christian missionaries as worthy men who do not seek wordly gain, will permit them to propagate Christianity amongst, its subjects, and will not hinder them from moving about in the interior of the Empire.

In the treaties made with the United States, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Belgium, and Italy, there is in each case an article for the toleration of the Christian faith.

Then in the year 1860 an imperial edict was issued enjoining on the local magistrates “in every case affecting Christians (the reference here is to Roman Catholics) to investigate thoroughly and decide justly. So long as the Christians obeyed the laws of China they were to be regarded as China’s children, and to be treated in the same way as if they were not Christians.”

Subsequently it was found that this edict, though repeatedly communicated to the governors and viceroys of the Empire, did not prevent disharmony from arising in several of the provinces. The cause of this was found by inquiry to be that the Christians were unwilling to contribute money for the building and repairs of temples, for the expenses of idol processions, plays, incense burning, and the like. Prince Kung, chief minister for foreign affairs, at that time acting with his full powers, early in 1862 issued an explanatory note and order on this matter.

The Emperor, this order said, looks with equal grace on those who are Christians and those who are not Christians, and loves all as his children. The Christian religion teaches the practice of virtue, and in its great principles agrees with Confucianism, Buddhism, and Tauism. It was, therefore, allowed to be propagated in the reign of Kang-hi. The note further says that Christians, while they are to pay taxes and rates of a public nature, as if they were not Christians, are not to be compelled to pay a share toward the expenses of building and repairs of temples of idol processions, plays, and the like. In cases where taxes and rates of a public nature are united with charges of the other kinds mentioned, the local magistrate is ordered to make a just division of the two kinds, civil and religious, and not allow them to remain confused to the disadvantage of the Christians.

For instance, if four-tenths be for public objects and six-tenths for maintaining temples and the like, the magistrate must distinctly point out that the Christians are only liable for the four-tenths, and are not to be compelled to pay the remaining six-tenths.

If the Christians are, on account of not contributing to expenses for repairing temples, processions, &c., beaten, insulted, robbed, or have their crops destroyed by any of [Page 164] the people who are not Christians, it is made the duty of the magistrates to inquire into the matter, punish the guilty parties according to law, and oblige them to make full restitution for losses sustained.

Further, if missionaries present petitions to the magistrates for the redress of wrongs, it is the duty of the magistrates to give fair consideration to the subjects presented to them, and to decide justly.

In the year 1881, at the instance of the Hon. J. B. Angell, then minister for the United States; all the privileges secured to Roman Catholic converts by this document were then, by a similar order issued by the Yamên for foreign affairs, also secured to Protestant converts. This order was addressed to the high officers in all the provinces in the 5th month of the 7th year of Kang-hi. By it the law was made the same for Roman Catholics and Protestants throughout the Empire.

Imperial edicts which have subsequently appeared affecting the relations of the native Christians to the general population have maintained the same just principles, and many excellent proclamations have been issued by viceroys, governors, and other officers in accordance with the spirit of the imperial edicts. Seditious persons have been strictly prohibited from destroying the teaching halls of the Christians; and as regards the Christian teachers and their converts it has been plainly stated, as for instance by the present viceroy of Canton in his proclamation of the 23rd day of the 7th month of last year, that the conditions of the treaties must be adhered to, the same protection extended to all, and all molestation and violence forbidden.

Unhappily the former tranquillity was changed last summer into anxiety and disturbance on account of the deplorable events which occurred at Foochow and Formosa. The people in many parts of Canton province rose against the native Christians and destroyed or robbed a large number of chapels.* Eighteen of these were Protestant, and among them ten were American, seven English, and one German. How many Roman Catholic chapels were attacked we have not yet heard. If we knew we would mention here the number of these also. Our desire is to see equal justice done to all the persecuted Christians whether attached to the French missions or to the American, English, or German missions. Not only were the chapels attacked, but the private dwellings and shops of the Christians were mobbed and their contents destroyed or stolen. In many places the local magistrates did nothing to check these things. No arrests of rioters were made. No stolen property was destroyed.

In some places, however, in consequence of the importunity of the Christians for help, impotant proclamations were posted. At Shin-hing, after one chapel had been destroyed, the district magistrate sent a guard to protect another, and put out a good proclamation. At Paklo the district magistrate behaved honorably. After the riot he arrested and punished some of the leading rioters, restored some of the stolen property, and offered some indemnity for the chapel destroyed. At Fatshan the authorities afforded Dr. Benyon protection, but said they dared not arrest the rioters. They have since promised to rebuild one of the chapels demolished. On the other hand, the Tsing-lun magistrate put out a proclamation stating that the American chapel belonged to the French, and sat by in his chair while the rioting was going on, making no effort to check it as long as the houses of the non-Christian inhabitants were not interfered with. The only help he afforded the Christians was to send some of them away in a boat after their houses had been destroyed’, their property stolen, and they themselves, even old men and women, beaten and stripped of their clothes. In the city of Canton itself the magistrates protected the cathedral and chapels by special proclamations. A guard of soldiers occupied the grounds of the Roman Catholic cathedral. When a mob of about a thousand persons collected to destroy it, the officers very promptly suppressed the outbreak, and order was restored.

The immediate cause of the simultaneous attack on so many chapels and communities of defenseless Christians in various parts of the Canton province was the issue by the high authorities in Canton of the proclamation of August 30, offering rewards for the heads of French officers, soldiers, and sailors. The rewards ranged from $5,000 to $20. At the close of this document there was an injunction not to touch the persons of any other foreigners or the property of foreigners at peace with China. The turbulent populace only saw the first part of this proclamation. They at least paid no attention to the end of it. Wild excitement prevailed in and out of the city. On Monday, as soon as the proclamation was posted at Fatshan, mobs gathered and pulled nearly to the ground the Wesleyan chapel. They then attacked the London mission chapel, and left nothing but the walls standing. Soon after the news came to Canton that the Presbyterian chapel at Sheklung had been destroyed, and the houses of the native Christians looted. Besides this twenty-three houses of Roman Catholic natives were burned down. At Chingyneu, on the North River, the district magistrate impressed a boat and sent in it to Canton fourteen refugees of the American Baptist mission, not being able to protect them from the fury of the mob. The native pastor was threatened [Page 165] with death, the roof of his house torn down, and all his effects stolen. Other native Christians lost everything, and the mob tore off the upper garments of the women, and pulled out their ear-rings. Similar scenes were witnessed in many other places, the fruit of the proclamation of August 30.

In the Peking Gazette there soon appeared an edict disapproving of this proclamation, and others were issued which had the effect of checking the persecution and restraining the rage of the people somewhat from the deplorable work of destruction. But the proverb says, “When once a word has been uttered four swift horses can not overtake it.” In the first few days of September the acts of plunder, burning, wanton ruin, and personal cruelty committed in the province of Canton on chapels and native Christians were too many to be counted.

We desire to draw attention to disobedience to imperial edicts and disregard to their country’s laws shown by those who committed these crimes. The native Christians who were molested and robbed, and who were deprived of their homes, were living peaceably, paying their taxes regularly, and acting as loyal subjects of the Emperor when thus attacked. They had done nothing to deserve this treatment. Criminality and desert of punishment were entirely on the side of those who maltreated them. The Emperor, to use the words of one of the decrees, “regards them with the same benevolence as he does his other subjects,” and if the facts are made known to him he will not suffer these, his loyal subjects, to be injured with impunity. In an edict published last year in the Peking Gazette, after affairs with France had assumed a critical shape, the Emperor generously permitted the French missionaries and merchants to remain in China under the imperial protection so long as they acted in a lawful manner.

This clemency and liberality are in strong contrast to the spirit of those persons who would stir up an ignorant populace to burn and plunder the houses of Christians and destroy the teaching halls of the foreign missionaries. The viceroy of Canton, with great reason, pointed out in a proclamation that the patriotism of the people would be better shown in boldly fighting the French, should they come with an armed force, than in destroying churches and ill-treating defenseless converts.

Pecuniary compensation for the destroyed chapels would be in accordance with the order of 1862. The same may be said of compensation for the losses of the Christians. If also the liberal tone of the other documents that have emanated from the Chinese Government be considered, it is likely that the ministers would listen favorably to the suggestion that full restitution should be directed to be made in accordance with that order. May we not also ask that wherever there are foreigners residing or native Christians meeting” for worship the local magistrates should be men who have mastered the contents of the edicts, treaties, and other documents which tell them how to act in case difficulties should occur?

Every instance of burning, assault, robbery, and destruction of crops and other property ought to be officially inquired into, and a fair decision respecting them made. The effect of this would be beneficial in the future in the better preservation of harmony and public Order wherever the riots have occurred. We are aware that great difficulties may attend the attempt to obtain a satisfactory settlement in most cases where wrong had been done to the Christians. These difficulties are of two kinds. The severity of the criminal code makes it not easy to obtain conviction, and probably it is this that often leads the magistrate to try to settle the question by arbitration. The sympathy of the people is too often given to the wrongdoers, and not seldom magistrates who have charge of a case decide it unfairly in favor of the aggressors rather than of the injured.

In regard to the first of these it may be observed that the foreign office order of 1862 requires punishments to be inflicted according to the ordinary criminal code. That code states that when evil-disposed persons assemble, burn down houses, shops, granaries, or public offices, and steal what they contain, they are to be beheaded as robbers without distinction between principal and accessories. When defamatory placards of an anonymous nature are posted up with the intention to destroy the good reputation of any one, the punishment of the principal is strangling, and of the accessories banishment to a distance of 3,000 li.

There is no good reason why the Chinese criminal law should not be improved. The Han dynasty code was milder than that of the Chin dynasty which preceded it. The Ming code was more severe than that which now prevails. It was, for instance, not uncommon formerly for the members of a clan to which some great criminal belonged, as far as to three removes, to be all put to death as a part of his punishment. Such things are not done now. Hence it may be hoped that, as there is need of some more legislation in regard to anti-Christian riots that may in future take place, the Government may not be unwilling to soften the code. Anonymous placards and books slandering the Christians and the missionaries would be much better punished by pecuniary mulcts and deprivation of rank than by strangling. In all anti-Christian riots, such as took plac in September of last year in many places, coming immediately [Page 166] after the distressing events in the Min River and in Formosa, the wave of popular excitement has to be considered and allowance made for it. The provocation given excited a thirst for vengeance, and, if we proceed to take into the account the crass ignorance of many of the people, we think the full penalty of the law need not be exacted. A sufficient pecuniary mulct would perhaps meet all the cases. But there ought to be a new trial wherever the judgment had been notoriously unfair. Justice should be done in the conviction of all conspicuous offenders. In every instance where the magistrate, treating the matter as a quarrel between two parties of opponents which has gone beyond bounds, takes the position of official arbitrator and names a sum of money to be paid by the assailants, the amount should be in proportion to the losses inflicted.

In a recent instance the loss of the Christians is stated to have been about $2,000. The magistrate acting as arbitrator offered them $10, and then $15.* Such a mockery of justice could only happen when the magistrate sympathized so entirely with the aggressors that he was disqualified from acting fairly. If a magistrate cannot be impartial in cases of this sort, he ought not to be a judge at all. There ought to be a new trial by a fair-minded officer, who could act in the spirit of the Emperor’s edicts, and in accordance with the mode of procedure laid down in the yamên orders.

Another point deserved, as it appeared to us, careful consideration. In many of the riots the magistrate was paralyzed by fear and stood by as a helpless looker on, rendering no aid to the victims of blind fanaticism and greedy lust of plunder. The magistrate is in such cases without support from public sentiment, and does not dare to oppose the people. In English law all respectable persons may be appealed to by a justice of the peace or other officer to assist in quelling any popular tumult. To refuse to do this is a punishable act. In China a local magistrate may call on the gentry to assist him in case of difficulty. A riot, as such, is not mentioned in the Chinese criminal code, nor in the yamên order for 1862, for the better settlement of cases arising out of the persecutions of Christians by their neighbors. But these persecutions having assumed the character of riots of an uncontrollable and sudden nature, magistrates ought to be in the possession of all available aids to suppress them promptly. For the respectable inhabitants to refuse to help when appealed to, in the absence of a military force, ought to be made, we venture to suggest, a crime punishable by fines. In the directions given by authority for the guidance of local magistrates, it seems to us that it ought to be made the duty of the officiating magistrate to appeal to the local gentry for aid, for without this it is probably impossible in many neighborhoods in the southeastern provinces for the local magistrate to meet the emergency caused by these sudden tumults, with sufficient promptitude and energy.

Paternal treatment of the Christians by the Central Government will increase their loyal feeling. Their religion makes faithfulness to the Government a duty. The Christian books teach it, and the missionaries constantly inculcate it. Thus the people will be linked to the dynasty by a double tie, that of duty and of a gratitude. In a time of disturbed feeling like the present, there is special need of vigilant care to maintain internal peace, and to make Christians and others recognize that the arm of the Government is strong to repress all injustice.

The decree permitting French missionaries, merchants, and others to remain in the country during the present troublous times inspires us with confidence in the fair and friendly disposition of the Government. We are therefore led to hope that in presenting this plea for suffering Christians we are asking what is not difficult of attainment. Further, we would add that the Imperial condemnation, so quickly uttered, of the ill-timed proclamation of August 30, proves the energy of the present administration, and their willingness to enter on a path of improvement. May we not hope for the final abandonment of the practice of offering rewards for human heads and of exposing heads in cages at no distant date? The one practice is dangerous to public safety; the other is injurious to public morality.

Our prayer to Almighty God is, that you may be aided by Him in your endeavors to promote the spread of justice and humanity in this country.

    President of the China Branch of the Evangelical Alliance.
  • J. L. WHITING,
[Page 167]
[Inclosure 2 in No. 693.]

Mr. Young to Mr. Blodget.

To the Rev. H. Blodget, D. D., chairman, and the Rev. Dr. Edkins and the Rev. J. L. Whiting, secretaries, of the China Branch of the Evangelical Alliance:

Gentlemen: I have read with much care your letter, dated March 14, in regard to missionary affairs in China, and especially the anti-Christian riots in Canton in September, 1884. I note with interest your summary of the historical relations of China towards the cause in which you are engaged. Your presentation of the stipulations between China and the treaty powers had not escaped the attention of the legation in the course of the many discussions with the yamen and local officials upon missionary questions.

My experience in China had led to certain conclusions. I have discovered no antagonism toward missionaries on the part of the authorities in Peking. I have never had a question, none at least which I can now recall, which has not been adjusted after due and amicable discussion. What gives value to the statement is the further fact that during the time of which I can speak with personal knowledge the relations between China and the foreign powers have been upon a most unsatisfactory basis.

With one power war exists; with another power war is feared. From these and other causes it has been the experience of this legation, and I think of others, that the difficulties of transacting business have been unusually great. The exception is in questions arising out of missionary work. I note this fact as an important achievement in your peculiar relations with the Chinese people.

It was my duty last year to make an official tour of inspection of the consular ports. I was accompanied by Admiral Davis, commanding our naval forces. We were received by the officials with every honor and attention. In my conversations with the high authorities I took special pains to impress upon them the wisdom and the propriety, not alone of protecting our own people who were engaged in missionary labors, but more especially the native converts. I held that it would be a violation of the spirit and letter of the treaty, and a reflection upon China, if these converts were outlawed simply for professing the Gospel of Christ. China had not rejected other religions systems, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Tauism, Confucianism. The Government did not see any reason why a Chinese subject in accepting these forms of faith should invite suspicion as to his fealty to the throne. There was certainly none in the gospel taught by those of my own faith.

In these representations I did not include those Chinese converts who had entered the Roman and Greek churches. I recognized and respected the fact that priests of these communions were endeavoring to teach a high, form of morality and felt it my duty to give them in my conversations with the Chinese authorities, so far as advice would go, all the aid and protection in my power. As a part of a large and general experience, I am happy to say that in no instance did I find on the part of a Chinese official any disposition to antagonize these views. On the contrary, there was acquiescence, or, perhaps I might say, indifference,

The practical point was that I had the assurance from the officials that they would respect and protect those engaged in the missionary work; that they would discountenance every effort to ostracize or outlaw the native converts who had accepted the Christian faith. I do not know of an exception to this experience in the course of a most careful inquiry. I have heard of no hostility to the missions in Peking. The Psalms of David and the anthems of the Roman Church are sung under the walls of the imperial palace.

In Tien-Tsin and the provinces adjoining, the missions may virtually be said to be under the protection of the viceroy. The Canton viceroy promised me that he would issue a proclamation commending Christian converts to special protection. The same assurance was given by the viceroy at Wu Chang. The trouble, therefore, so far as I may venture an opinion, is not with the high authorities, but with local authorities, what are known as the “gentry” or the “literary class.” This is a trouble which no legation can reach, unless it comes to us in a definite form of complaint of some injury done or injustice suffered, for which we can ask redress from the yamên. Under these circumstances, this legation has never failed to ask redress. It will always be my duty to do so where American citizens are concerned.

I do not see that the treaties can be amended so as to make your rights more secure. An American missionary, in the eyes of the law, is a citizen, no more. He is engaged in an honorable calling, just as if he were a banker, or a teacher of chemistry, or a tiller of the soil. So long as he observes the law, he must have the protection of the law. I think this states the whole proposition.

There are one or two further thoughts which occur to me. Your work is a peculiar one, and must of course meet with peculiar difficulties. History shows that there have been unhappily many instances of a public policy of suppression on the [Page 168] part of states, resulting in martyrdom and massacre. If the religious element were strong in China, the same might be feared. Happily for you, gentlemen, and for us who are charged with your protection, no such sentiment exists. What we have to dread is some local antipathy or dislike that may lead to outbreaks, especially to our friends in the interior. Much of this may be avoided by patience and tact on the part of the ladies and gentlemen themselves engaged in the work, remembering that those who follow the cross must sometimes bear the cross.

Abnormal circumstances now existing, arising out of the strained relations between China and France, have occasioned the legations much concern as to the protection of the missions in the interior. The question of the protection of those at the open ports was well considered in the beginning, and an arrangement was made between the maritime powers by which the flag of any neutral nation would protect the citizens or subjects of every other neutral. In this arrangement were included the citizens of France. This has been faithfully observed, and I am glad to know that Admiral Davis has done everything to fulfill our part of this important engagements Thus, for instance, although but one American resides in Newchwang, an American gunboat has been frozen in all winter for the safeguard of the foreign residents. At the same time, while we have many Americans in Tien-Tsin, they are under the protection of the Russian and German flags.

As to the interior, we are not in a position to give that entire support which we should like to extend everywhere. We have received from the Prince and ministers every assurance that, so far as the Government is concerned, there would be protection to every foreigner non-combatant, including the citizens of France. I do not think the integrity of this assurance can be questioned. It has certainly not been by the French Republic, whose minister remains on Chinese soil while warlike operations on the part of France are directed against the Chinese Government.

The question has been frequently asked whether the legations would advise those in the interior to come to the seaboard as a precautionary measure. I have not, so far as American citizens are concerned, felt it my duty to give such advice.

My lamented colleague, Sir Harry Parkes, with whom I had many conversations on this subject, did not feel that he could take a contrary course regarding English missionaries. Any action of this kind could only arise from circumstances within the knowledge of the residents themselves, and upon which they alone should act. There is perhaps no point in China more exposed than Peking—an official class, a turbulent army, and a threatened withdrawal of the rice, upon which the food of the army depends. We, a handful as it were, in the center of a vast population, with no possible means of naval or military support from our own flag in the event of tumult or uprising, have not even considered the advisability of retiring to the seaboard. At the same time the contingency may arise here as it may arise elsewhere. But the advice we have not felt it wise to follow, we have not thought it wise to give.

The decree from the throne in which the Emperor extends protection to loyal subjects, without regard to their creed, arose out of the protest of my colleagues and myself against the inhuman proclamations of the local authorities offering rewards for the heads of Frenchmen. It is within my knowledge that the Prince and ministers disavowed these proclamations. In regard to such occurrences as those reported in Chuhuan, I do not see that we can do more than has been our custom under similar circumstances. The diplomatic body has maintained the principle that the teaching of Christianity and its acceptance shall not be to the disadvantage of a Chinese subject. This has been confirmed by the throne. It seems wise for us, therefore, to accept what the throne gives as the expression of a general imperial policy, and when cases arise such as you indicate, implying a violation of our rights, to make them a matter of special remonstrance and reclamation.

In the mean time I remain, gentlemen, &c.,

United States Minister.
  1. In the Chinese text it reads “and Roman Catholics.” The word is “Ki.” “And” is better than “or,” but we do not alter the English text.
  2. Chinese Recorder, December, 1884.
  3. This took place at a town called Chuhwannia, 30 miles from Swatow. See Woman’s Work in China, November, 1884.