No. 146.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard .

No. 299.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of my dispatch to the foreign office on the subject of the removal of the Woosung Bar in the Wangpu River, near Shanghai. Similar communications will be sent by each foreign representative.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 299.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li yamĂȘn .

Your Imperial Highness and Your Excellencies: I have the honor to inform your Imperial highness and your excellencies that the foreign merchants and ship-owners at Shanghai have again petitioned the foreign ministers to bring before your Imperial highness and your excellencies the necessity of dredging the Woosung Bar.

[Page 184]

I can not fail to comply with this request, because I believe that the interest no less of China than of the mercantile classes demands this improvement.

I am aware that the subject has been heretofore on several occasions brought to the notice of your Imperial highness and your excellencies. But observation and experience have taught us that nothing is ever settled until it is settled aright.

Shanghai, if not such already, is surely destined to be one of the great cities of the world. She occupies the most fortunate position midway of the Asiatic coast. With no possible rivals near her, looking towards America and Japan, with the great Yangtze tributary to her, she is the great central port of China, to which trade gravitates as naturally as the commerce of the world gravitates to London, or of America to New York. Her imports and exports largely exceed all those of the other ports of China. Her shipping is enormous. The ships of every nation visit her port.

There is no possible contingency which can ever deprive Shanghai of her pre-eminence over other cities. Nature has, by the configuration of the continent and the flow of the Yangtze, which pours its vast flood 1,900 miles through the heart of China, determined here the location of a great city.

If these statements be true, is it not just to the people of this city, and of China, whose commercial capital she is, that every facility should be afforded to the great trade which finds its chief mart at Shanghai?

For many years the Woosung Bar has been a detriment and injury to commerce. Detentions of ships occur there and heavy expenses are entailed on their owners. The bar could be dredged out at a comparatively small expense, considering the ends to be accomplished. Your archives and those of all the legations are replete with scientific reports showing the necessity for this work and the facility with which it can the accomplished.

Heretofore an objection has been made that this bar was necessary as a protection in time of war. But China now has a fine navy, and her own ships would be excluded as well as the ships of the enemy. Besides, the progress of the science of warfare has devised other and more efficient means to protect harbors. The present torpedo system insures absolute protection against an attacking fleet of any tonnage.

The greater the size of the ships which can ascend the river, the greater the tonnage dues collected. The greater the facilities for trade, the more trade there will be. The cost of transshipment of freight is a very serious item to large vessels. The danger of affecting the current to the disadvantage of native vessels by removing the bar has been disposed of by scientific observers.

I do not deem it necessary in this communication to go over the whole ground in favor of the improvement that is now petitioned for. Your Imperial highness and your excellencies are thoroughly posted on all phases of the question. I desire simply, in conjunction with my colleagues, to call your attention to the matter, and to beseech you, as well for the sake of the best interests of China as for that of the general commerce, to take immediate steps to have this bar removed.

I have the honor further to suggest that a work of so important a character as the improvement of the Wangpu River should be intrusted to the authorities who control the harbor, or that they should be consulted in determining on the plan of improvement, and the best scientific aid should be secured.

Charles Denby.