to Mr. Bayard
Peking , January 12, 1887. (Received March 7.)
Sir: I have the honor to report on the present condition of the railroad question in China.
Plans had been perfected for the construction of a railroad between Tientsin and Tacu. The engineers and all necessary material were to be sent out in the spring. But the opposition of the censors has again been successful. They memorialized the Throne, exposing the plans of the viceroy, Li Hung Chang, and General Wilson. They detailed every species of anticipated evil; the control of China by foreigners; the desecration of graves; the deprivation of the means of subsistence to the people. At the last moment it was ordered that all railroad enterprises should be suspended.
The Americans have, however, succeeded in securing the employment of an iron expert and a chemist for three years, at a salary of $12,500 gold and expenses of travel both ways, and while in China. These gentlemen are to exploit the iron mines in this province first, and afterwards in adjoining provinces. The announced plan is that China is to manufacture her own rails, and, having succeeded in securing material at home, she is to build railways. This employment was much coveted by the English, Germans, and French. It is undoubtedly a matter of gratulation that it has fallen to Americans, as it may be regarded as an opening wedge, an initial step, which may lead to important results.
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I do not despair of the building of railroads in China. The question will recur again and again. The influences surrounding the Emperor are progressive. The use of steam, the telegraph, and modern arms and military and naval science, have won their way over just such opposition.
I have, etc.,