No. 62.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 221.

Sir: Owing to the notoriety of the two recent cases of riots in which missionary property has been destroyed in China, the time seems opportune for some discussion of the rights of missionaries in China. This discussion runs through the archives of this legation, occurring now and again. My observations will not be new to the Department, but may, possibly, serve some good purpose if brought to the knowledge of missionary organizations in the United States. In their preparation I recognize my obligation to my predecessors generally, and particularly to Governor Low, who exhaustively discussed some of the questions sixteen years ago.

The treaties with China which provide for the toleration of the Christian religion with the great Powers, Russia, the United States, Great Britain, and France, were concluded in 1858. The Russian and French treaties went farther than the others, in this, that they contained provisions that the missionaries of those countries might travel in the interior on passports.

In the other treaties the missionaries were allowed the same privileges as merchants who were confined to the open ports. In those ports they might purchase land and erect houses.

After the occupation of Peking by the French and English in 1860, a new clause, the celebrated sixth clause, was inserted in the Chinese text of the French treaty. The last sentence is this:

It is in addition permitted to French missionaries to rent and purchase land in all the provinces and to erect buildings thereon at pleasure.

No such words are contained in the French text. There are no similar words, no language, which, by any construction, can seem to have been made the basis of the actual translation from French to Chinese.

Our own missionaries have often cited this clause to me, and Mr. John Russell Young, in 1885, in one of his dispatches, cites it as being some sort of a basis for the right to go into the interior. But my predecessors have very generally construed this clause differently. They have almost universally held that even if the Chinese text is authoritative it must apply to rights which existed before it was adopted, thereby restoring to the French the right to return to the localities which they formerly occupied but conferring no new rights.

The English Government distinctly adopted this construction, and declined in any event to avail itself of the right to adopt this clause under the favored nation clause, even if the right existed.

It has never been definitely known how the clause, touching which the French text is absolutely silent, became a part of the Chinese text. * * *

It must be remarked, also, that the third article of the French treaty of 1858 provides that the French text shall govern in defining the true meaning of the treaty. This rule, therefore, does away with the alleged Chinese text.

It must be assumed, therefore, as the construction placed by all the nationalities on the treaty in question, that the right to settle at will in the interior does not exist. But, for fear of misapprehension, let it also be distinctly said that the treaties guarantee peace and protection [Page 97] to foreigners who are lawfully anywhere in China. It follows that, if the zeal of missionaries leads them to locate in the interior, and if the local authorities consent to such location, allow them to buy land and erect buildings, the United States would not submit to their being ejected by violence or without due process of law.

There is an element affecting the right of foreigners to locate, in the interior to which proper consideration has been rarely given. It is the effect of the extraterritorial jurisdiction which is claimed and exercised with the utmost strictness by the foreign powers. It is frequently said that the Chinese have in the United States much greater rights and privileges than the Americans have in China. Looked at in the general this is true. The Chinese in the United States may, when once he has lawfully landed, take up his residence at pleasure in any one of the thirty-eight States and eight Territories. Possibly in some of the States, and perhaps all the Territories, under late legislation, he cannot become the owner of land in fee. But with this exception he enjoys all the rights of the native-born citizen, except the right of participating in the government of the country by voting. And he has none of the ordinary liabilities which accompany citizenship. He cannot be compelled to serve on juries or in the militia, or be conscripted in the Army. He enjoys all the privileges of residence without any burden upon him either to his own country or to that of his residence. He may engage in all species of business on the same terms as a citizen. It would seem at the first blush that he has greatly the advantage of the American in China, who is restricted to the selection of a residence in the open ports, is not allowed to engage in any manufacturing enterprises, and cannot travel anywhere without a passport. It is held that the passport when granted is confined in its use to the territory described in it.

But the foreigner has one very remarkable advantage which is far-reaching in its effects. The foreigner in China is amenable only to his own laws as far as mode of trial extends and measure of punishment. He can be tried by his own consul only, and by no other tribunal. He is thus protected from the imposition of the severe and barbarous penalties such as the Ling-Chih, or death by the slow process, torturing, bambooing, and bastinadoing, which are daily inflicted on the Chinese by their own courts. For debt or crime he must be proceeded against according to the laws of his own nationality.

This concession of extraterritorial jurisdiction necessarily restricts the area of its exercise. If the foreigner is amenable to no court but his own there should be a convenient forum in which he might be tried. Foreigners are by no means perfect in their conduct in China any more than they are at home. It is evidently impracticable to create such a tribunal at every locality in China. The only other remedy is tore-strict foreigners in their residence to such localities as may furnish the necessary tribunals. Besides this system is an anomaly.

* * * * * *

It is on principle only defensible because it is a necessary part of self-defense, a doctrine which is the supreme law of civilized communities.

But the Chinese are becoming day by day more jealous of its exercise. Japan, to avoid its effect, is about to adopt a code in accordance with the codes of western countries. She will then, perhaps successfully, appeal to the world to renounce the extraterritorial claims in her borders.

If all foreign powers all over this vast Empire exercised practically the [Page 98] extraterritorial jurisdiction, and if, by reason of the location of many foreigners all over the Empire, its exercise became a common and usual matter, plainly the authority of the Chinese Government would be seriously shaken. No nation can be expected to surrender willingly its inherent power over all the people residing in its territory.

It is further to be observed that there are many foreigners now re siding in China who are to all intents permanent residents. They retain their destinctive national character because it is advantageous to them in many ways. But for the protection assured by their own Governments they render no equivalent, and they are beyond the pale of liability to China. They escape the burdens of society and the obligations of citizenship to any and all Governments. I do not make this suggestion with any purpose of criticizing unfavorably this relation, and I do not recommend any modification of this condition as far as China is concerned. It is perhaps an anomaly in international relations that a citizen of the United States can deliberately take up his permanent residence abroad and retain all the rights of citizenship in his old home and escape all its obligations. But in semi-civilized countries, at least, there seems no remedy for these inconsistencies.

If there were correlative naturalization laws prevailing in all countries some solution might be had. But there is no solution as far as China is concerned which occurs to me. As the United States has deliberately denied citizenship to the Chinese while allowing them residence, she, at least, cannot raise this question.

The foreign powers make no difference in China between the treatment of missionaries and any and all other classes. The missionary is simply a citizen, and the sacred character of his object and purposes does not enter into the question of the determination of his rights.

It is impossible for men to shut their eyes to the peculiar employments of their fellows, and as in Christian communities a large amount of sympathy is accorded to those persons who have exiled themselves to do “God’s work” and not man’s, it is probable that a consideration of the religious and charitable character of missionary work might form the basis of some solution of the right of the missionary to go into the interior. Practically these considerations do enter into-the treatment of the missionaries. No manufacturer or merchant would be allowed to settle in Kalgan or other points in the interior where there are flourishing missionary stations. If any distinction, therefore, between missionaries and other classes of citizens were possible under the laws and Constitution of the United States the vexed question of residence in the interior might be solved. The first element in such broad recognition of the duties, obligations, and purposes of the missionaries would be the impression on the minds of the Chinese of the fact that there is no purpose in their coming to China save the honest open one of the spread of religious principle and the practice of pure charity. It should be mentioned incidentally that there are twenty-three great hospitals now in operation under the missionaries in China. Neither foreigner nor Chinese disputes the patent fact of the great good which they accomplish. But the observer in China must recognize that there is great mistrust of the missionaries. To say, as is usually said, that this mistrust is confined to the literati and gentry and does not extend to the common people, does not alter the fact. These two classes control all others.

That the religious representatives in China of all sects have furnished, of late years at least, no cause for this mistrust, I believe is true. It used to be charged that the Catholics assumed some temporal power, [Page 99] but I have seen no proof of any tendency in that direction. The Catholics number, probably, 1,200,000 adherents, and in late years they have done very little proselyting, but have confined their labors to the spiritual needs of Catholic families.

The natural increase has made them powerful and numerous.

Here, then, is the long, slow, tedious work before the missionary to convince the Chinese by his conduct that he has no object to accomplish but their own welfare, to remove prejudice and to win confidence.

The means are apparent and have been used by missionary laborers with rare ability, courage, and industry. They are to educate the young and heal the sick. This great country, owing to its peculiar language, its dense population, its ancient conservatism, moves slowly. But when we realize that mission work under favorable auspices only commenced after the treaty of 1858, and the occupation of Peking by the English and French in 1860, and when we see what has been accomplished in twenty-six years, we must admit that great progress has been made and we must look hopefully to the employment of missionary agencies in the future.

I think no one will deny the beneficent effect of mission work in Japan in civilizing that country and educating that people. Why, then, should some praise not be accorded to missionaries in China for the immense work in the same line that they have done?

I offer no observation on the religious side of this work. It does not come within the purview of the diplomatic agent to discuss the spiritual nature of this labor. If an American Buddhist or Mohammedan or Jew were to come to China to pursue the work of preaching his doctrine, he would undoubtedly receive at the hands of his country’s representatives the same protection that is vouchsafed to the Christian. It may be asked, what has diplomacy to do with a question which is so largely confined to the spread of religious doctrine. The answer is that the diplomatic agent recognizes that the complete civilization of a people means the increase of trade and commerce with the rest of the world. Any line of conduct which throws open new continents to intercourse with the great producing and creating countries is beneficial to them. Here in China it cannot be denied that the educational labors of the missionaries, the preparation and publication of innumerable books, the introduction of new medicines and inventions in surgery have all tended to improve the natives. Civilization means commerce, tirade, a market for manufactured articles.

It is idle to inquire whether war would have produced the same results, or the merchant alone would have done as much. The ardent zeal, the supreme self-denial, the utter self-sacrifice that characterize missionaries are not found in the votaries of commerce.

Diplomacy, finding the representatives of the various nationalities here, steps in to supplement their labor. It has its field of education no less pertinent than theirs. It educates the diplomatists of the country. It teaches international law. It insures protection to all honest labor. Its efforts are not directed to the aggrandizement of individuals, but to the promotion of the general welfare of the various nations. In some cases, as luminously in our own country, it antagonizes baleful commercial enterprise, like the opium traffic. And here again the missionaries by their influence aid the efforts of diplomacy. Diplomacy makes both the merchant and the missionary secure.

In my trip over China I visited every mission school and hospital, and made the acquaintance of every missionary. I am persuaded that their work is being pushed with diligence and intelligence. I demand [Page 100] of them the exercise of prudence and forbearance. I demand that they shall insist on no doubtful rights—that their zeal shall not outrun their discretion. Their warrant to preach the Gospel to all nations must be construed with the context, which enjoins obedience to the powers that be. If they remain in the fair scope of their exalted employment this legation will always be found in sympathy with their just rights.

I have, &c.,