to Mr. Dinsmore.
Washington, March 14, 1887.
Sir: Referring to Mr. Rockhill’s No. 34, of the 17th of December last, inclosing a note which had been addressed to him by the Corean foreign office for the purpose of obtaining the views of this Government touching the question of the removal of foreign merchants from Seoul, I have to state as follows:
In the treaty between the United States and Corea, the ports and places to which citizens of the United States may resort, and in which they may reside, lease buildings or lands, and construct residences or warehouses, are not specifically designated 5 but, by the Article XIV of the treaty, the United States, its public officers, merchants, and citizens are entitled to the most-favored-nation treatment.
By the treaty concluded between Great Britain and Corea on the 26th of November, 1883, about a year and a half after the conclusion of our new treaty, certain ports, among which was Seoul, were declared to be “opened to British commerce.” It was also provided that British subjects should have the right, at the ports designated in the treaty, “to rent or to purchase land or houses, and to erect buildings, warehouses, and factories,” and free exercise of religion was also guarantied to British subjects.
By a protocol to the British treaty, it was agreed that if the Chinese Government should thereafter “surrender the right of opening commercial establishments in the city of Han-Yang” (Seoul), which had been [Page 262] granted to Chinese subjects, “the same right shall not be claimed for British subjects, provided that it be not granted by the Corean Government to the subjects of any other power.”
Precisely the same provisions as are found in the British treaty with respect to residence and the opening of commercial establishments in Seoul are contained in the treaty between Germany and Corea, which was concluded on the same day as the British treaty.
On the 16th of October, 1885, as the Department was informed by Mr. Foulk’s No. 245, of the 21st of that month, ratifications were exchanged of a treaty between Russia and Corea, similar in its provisions to the treaties made by Corea with Great Britain and Germany.
It appears, therefore, that rights of citizens of the United States, with respect to residence and the pursuit of commerce in Seoul, were first derived from the British and German treaties, through the favored-nation clause in our own treaty, and that those rights have been further secured by the treaty with Russia, the text of which, however, the Department does not possess.
It has been seen that, under the British and German treaties, “the right of opening commercial establishments” in Seoul is at present dependent upon the retention of the right by the Chinese Government. It is not the province of this Department to construe the British and German treaties with Corea, nor to say what effect the loss of “the right of opening commercial establishments” by British and German subjects would have upon their rights of residence, of property, or other rights under the treaties. It is sufficient to say that those rights, whatever they may be found to be, belong equally to citizens of the United States.
So far as the right to engage in commerce and open commercial establishments is concerned, there is, as stated in your dispatch, no case requiring practical action by this Government. None of the American residents in Seoul, as you state, are engaged in trade; and many, perhaps all of them, have gone thither purely on missions of humanity, with the special permission and with the encouragement of the Corean Government. Turning to the published correspondence between this Department and the legation of the United States in Corea, I find that on the 1st of September, 1884, Mr. Foote reported to the Department that the Rev. Dr. R. S. Maclay, a Protestant missionary stationed many years in the East, had visited Corea with a view to establish a mission school and hospital. “There seemed,” said Mr. Foote, “to be no serious objection, and since his departure I have received the assurance of His Majesty that not only will no obstacle be thrown in the way, but that the establishment of a mission school and hospital at Seoul will be tacitly encouraged.” On the 5th of March, 1885, Mr. Foulk reported that Dr. H. N. Allen, who had been sent out by the American Presbyterian Board of Missions to render gratuitous service to the people as a physician, and who, after the revolutionary attempt of the preceding September, had rendered great service to wounded soldiers, made a proposal to establish a hospital, which had “met with high approval from the Government and been accepted,” and under date of the 30th of May following, “the opening of the hospital was announced in a general proclamation to the whole country.”
Under date of June 3, 1886, Mr. Foulk made a report to the Department on the progress of the work of the American residents in Seoul up to that time. He stated that Drs. H. N. Allen and H. G. Heron, “who conduct the Government hospital in Seoul,” had opened a school of [Page 263] chemistry at the hospital, and installed Mr. H. G. Underwood as a teacher, and that, “representing the American Presbyterian Board, those three gentlemen have, with the grateful assent of the Corean Government, opened an orphan’s home and industrial school in the city, which bids fair to be a great success. Dr. William B. Scranton and family, and Mrs. M. F. Scranton, with Mr. H. G. Appenzeller, represent the Methodist mission in Seoul. Dr. Scranton has opened a private hospital. Mr. Appenzeller is about to open a school, and Mrs. Scranton is erecting a building in which to establish a school for girls and women. * * * The work of these missionaries can not, to my mind, be too highly commended. They have done much to introduce a spirit of order and neatness among the Coreans. The hospital conducted by Drs. Allen and Heron treated some eleven thousand patients during the past year, and the institution is looked on with pride by the Government, which gives it all possible support. * * * Upon the coming of these missionaries to Corea I cautioned them individually against indiscreet impulsiveness in propagating doctrines. They expressed themselves content to work in Corea in giving medical and educational assistance. With much tact and practical reason they have labored so as to secure the respect and kindly regard of the whole Corean people.”
It is clear that these Americans, who comprise all the citizens of the United States in Seoul outside of the American legation, do not reside there by virtue of a treaty right to open commercial establishments, but under the special permission and encouragement of the Corean Government, influenced by a desire to ameliorate the condition of the people; and the Department does not suppose that the Corean Government would regard the extinguishment of the right of foreigners to open commercial establishments at Seoul as affecting these Americans who, having gone thither on a mission of mercy and humanity, have, as the correspondence shows, up to so recent a date enjoyed the active encouragement and assistance of His Majesty’s Government. The note inclosed by you from the foreign office does not intimate any purpose or desire, beyond the possible enforcement of an exclusion of merchants, which would not now work any direct injury to American citizens. The Department can not assume that the note has any ulterior meaning. But it is not out of place to say that any interference with the enlightened and charitable enterprises of the Americans now residing in Seoul would be deeply regretted, and that this Government could not view without grave concern any invasion of the property or other rights of those American citizens who, impelled by benevolent and unselfish motives, have taken up their residence in Seoul under the circumstances above narrated.
I am, etc.,