No. 54.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 134.]

Sir: I have the honor to forward you herewith an extract from a Shanghai paper which describes the present condition of the Chinese northern fleet, known as the Pei-Yang squadron.

[Page 84]

The German instructors who for the last year and a half have had control of the northern squadron are rapidly being retired. Captain Lang, R. N., to whose efforts the Chinese navy already owes so much, has returned to China and reassumed direction of the fleet.

At present attention is much attracted to the fleet on account of the tour of inspection which the Seventh Prince (the father of the Emperor) is about to make of it, and the maritime defenses in the north.

You will remember that the Seventh Prince was appointed last winter president of the new board of admiralty. He is expected to leave Peking to-day.

This journey is significant as being the first one of the kind which any member of the imperial family has ever undertaken.

Besides visiting Tientsin and Taku, he will go to Port Arthur and Cheefoo, possibly even farther south.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 134.]

the chinese pei-yang squadron.

A correspondent in a northern port writes:

The rumors about the movements of the Pei-Yang squadron are numerous, but I have reason to believe that the following statements are correct: The powerful ironclads Ting-Yuen and Chin-Yuen, accompanied by the swift iron-clad torpedo cruiser Tsi-Yuen, arrived at Taku about the middle of April, where they were joined at the end of the month by the Armstrong cruisers Yang-Wei and Chao-Yung, which arrived from Chemulpo via Cheefoo and Port Arthur. The Armstrong cruisers had been stationed during the winter at Chemulpo, the seaport of the Corean capital, Seoul, where their gallant commanders, courteous officers, and well-behaved crews have always been great favorites.

Some of the commanders and officers of the northern squadron have served in foreign navies, while many of the junior officers have gone through a course of studies abroad, at the command of his excellency Li Hung Chang, and considering the many opportunities your present correspondent has had of forming a judgment of the personnel and materiel of the Chinese northern squadron, he does not hesitate to assert that the fine fleet known as the Pei-Yang squadron is certainly officered and manned by the élite of the Chinese navy.

Admiral Lang has again taken charge of the northern fleet, and he has not been idle; since he has done so he and his staff have been round already on a tour of inspection of the northern naval and military stations. Besides the English admiral and his staff, there are several other officers of foreign nationality on board some of the vessels, as instructors in the several departments, and it is very likely that if the people on board the Pei-Yang squadron were caned upon to show their teeth to an enemy they would render a different account of themselves than the unfortunate crowd did at Pagoda anchorage.

Two French engineers arrived from Port Arthur at Taku by the Armstrong cruiser Yang Wei; they probably not only have carefully studied the harbor works and fortifications of Port Arthur, but also have been afforded an additional opportunity of studying the armament of the Armstrong cruisers, and if they make conscientious reports to their Government, perhaps they will advise them to henceforth keep on friendly terms with “The Middle Kingdom,” because there can hardly be a doubt now that the Pei-Yang squadron alone is quite capable of coping single-handed with any other fleet at present stationed in Eastern Asiatic waters. The Chinese authorities are to be congratulated on affording the representatives of their late French foes an opportunity of investigating the new Chinese naval stronghold, Lu Shun Kao, otherwise known as Port Li or Port Arthur, to convince them that owing to the genius of the director of fortifications, General von Hanneken, Port Arthur, if attacked, would not be easily taken. The director of the harbor works at Port Arthur, Mr. Engineer Samwer, and the superintendent of the Port Yuan Taotai, are busily engaged in transforming the place to such an extent as to afford a safe basis of operations for a much larger fleet than the Pei-Yang squadron. I think the commander-in-chief, Admiral Ting, as well as Admiral Lang, and the viceroy, Li Hung-Chang, must be highly congratulated on the efficient state of the Pei-Yang squadron, the most powerful branch of the imperial Chinese navy, which the father of His Majesty the Emperor, the Seventh Prince, is about to inspect conjointly with his excellency the Viceroy, accompanied by Mr. Commissioner Detring, at an early date, I believe.