to Mr. Bayard.
Peking , May 31, 1886. (Received July 26.)
Sir: During the month of August, 1884, the governor-general of the two Quangs, Gh’ang Ghi-tung, had the southern channel of the Canton River closed by barriers and obstructions of piles, stones, and sunken junks, to prevent hostile ships menacing Canton.
The southern channel offers the easiest means of access for vessels to Canton, the water in it being much deeper than that in the northern [Page 91] channel, when at low tide there is not over 6 feet a few miles below Canton.
Since this date the southern channel has remained closed to navigation, notwithstanding the united efforts of the consuls, who represented to the viceroy the great detriment to foreign trade occasioned by the closing of the only deep-water approach to Canton, for, not only were vessels obliged to wait for the tide but in many cases they were absolutely debarred from reaching Canton, and had to lighter their cargo, occasioning thereby great additional expense.
The consuls having entirely failed in their endeavors, the question was taken up by the diplomatic corps at Peking, and in a conference held on the 16th of April last, it was decided that the different legations should address dispatches to the Tsung-li Yamên on the question. Under date of May 21, I wrote to the Yamên, stating the fact that the obstructions in the Canton River by the continual silting of the river were being continually added to, so that if they were not shortly removed they would constitute a permanent barrier, which would close to the commerce of the world one of the chief emporiums of trade in China. I moreover alluded to the fact that, during my recent visit to Canton, I had learnt that 70 vessels had during the past year been kept away from Canton, and that the maintenance of these obstructions was a source of general anxiety to the foreign commercial community of Canton.
Under date of the 23d instant I received a reply from the Yamên, which is identical with that which it has sent to the other legations in reply to their dispatches on the same subject.
The Yamên states that it is in receipt of a dispatch from the Viceroy of Canton, in which, after stating the nature of the two channels and the facilities which they offer, he says that it has been asked of him by the foreign consuls either to remove the obstructions in the south channel (Sha-lu), or to have appointed a deputy at Whampoa who could transact the business of ships. These points the viceroy had referred to the commissioner of customs at Canton, Mr. Hippisley, who replied in substance that during the previous year 1,067 foreign vessels had entered or cleared at Canton, of which 90 were German. Rut few vessels have experienced any delay—one day at the most—by being obliged to navigate the north channel. As to the request made by the German consul that a deputy be appointed at Whampoa, it was deemed inexpedient, as the bulk of foreign trade with Canton was carried on with native junks, and the burden imposed by the closing of the channel only bore on Chinese subjects. The chief argument of the Yamên against reopening the south channel is that the Viceroy having memorialized the throne requesting that it might be closed forevermore, the Emperor has given his approval, and thus disposed of the question.
I have, &c.,