Mr. Rockhill to Mr. Bayard
Seoul , December 17, 1886. (Received January 21, 1887.)
Sir: I have the honor to tor ward to you herewith a translation of a communication addressed to this legation by the president of the foreign office, by which he calls the attention of our Government to the provision of Article IV of the Corean-English treaty which allows English merchants to reside at Seoul, and to Article II of the protocol annexed to said treaty, which provides that in case the Chinese Government sees fit to relinquish the right, which it had acquired by treaty, of having merchants of its nationality reside in Seoul for purposes of trade, Great Britain would no longer claim that right for her subjects. The president adds that the Chinese Government is now removing its merchants to Yong-san, and he submits the question to our Government, asking that it consider what is proper for it to do under the circumstances.
The residence of Americans, as well as of other foreigners, in Seoul is not provided for by treaty, and it is only through the effect of the favored-nation clause, acting through the English and Chinese treaties with Corea, that they can reside here.
There are now living here five American citizens, owning property, the value of which may be roughly estimated at $12,000, for which they have received certificates of purchase issued by the mayoralty of Seoul, at the request of the foreign office, and registered at this legation.
Although none of the Americans living at Seoul are engaged in trade, still most of them belong to missionary societies, and there being no clause in any of the treaties allowing missionaries to reside in Corea, they may be seriously affected if the removal to Yong-san is finally decided upon.
The evident intention of the Chinese Government in removing its subjects to Yong-san is to exclude ail foreigners, and more especially the Japanese, from the capital, hoping by this means to make its rule here still more complete.
In 1884, Minister Foote, the Japanese minister, Her Britannic Majesty’s consul-general, and a member of the Corean foreign office, located at Yong-san the site of a general foreign settlement, which was to take the place of Yang-hua-ching, found unsuitable. There can be no doubt [Page 254] that at that epoch the representatives of the treaty powers were disposed to discourage their nationals from settling in the capital, where the unsettled state of affairs and the presence of Chinese and Japanese troops made the establishment of commercial houses premature and unsafe. Since, however, the conclusion of the Tien-tsin convention between Japan and China in April, 1885, which resulted in the evacuation of Seoul by both Chinese and Japanese troops, the Government of the latter country, in view of the influx of Chinese merchants into Seoul, has considered itself justified in encouraging its subjects to settle here. The result is that at present there, is a colony of Japanese in Seoul larger than that of any other treaty power, and the only one which has establishments of trade, the Chinese, of course, excepted.
The probable disposition of the Japanese Government will be to energetically resist the exclusion of its subjects from this place. * * *
Although it appears probable that no action will be taken in the near future, and that the provisions of Article IV, section 4, of the British treaty, which says, “British subjects may rent or purchase land or houses beyond the limits of the foreign settlements, and within a distance of 10 Corean li from the same,” may cover the case, still it appears desirable that this legation should be instructed at your earliest convenience as to the course it shall pursue if the question comes under discussion.
I have, etc.,