No. 158.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 521.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of a memorial presented by the King of Corea to the Emperor of China, which lately appeared in the Shih Pao, a Chinese newspaper published at Tientsin. In substance it is a complete recognition of the vassalage of Corea to China.

It prays that as “an extra act of grace” the Emperor will allow envoys to be sent abroad.

Any remarks offered by me on the relation of Corea to the society of nations must be construed as bearing only on my own country and the country to which I am accredited. I have nothing officially to do with Corea.

Vattel discusses, at page 2, the status of dependent states with reference to foreign powers. This discussion furnishes little information applicable to the peculiar relations existing between China and her dependent states. The text has little application to countries which, in their history, antedate international law, of which, also, they never had any knowledge. What unwritten law or tradition controls the relations of China with her dependencies remains unknown.

I assume that the position of the United States with reference to Corea is contained in Mr. Frelinghuysen’s declaration that—

The independence of Corea of China is to be regarded by the United States as now established. (1 Wharton’s Digest, § 64.)

[Page 237]

Your own dispatch No. 27, of date July 27, 1887, to Mr. Dinsmore, contains this statement:

If, contrary to the expectations of this Government, the progress of Chinese interference at Seoul should result in the destruction of the autonomy of Corea as a sovereign state with which the United States maintain independent treaty relations, it will be time then to consider whether this Government is to look to that of China to enforce treaty obligations for the protection of the persons and interests of citizens of the United States, etc.

The co-equality of Corea with the United States being thus recognized, it would seem that no questions but those of expediency remain.

In the solution of such questions the geographical locality of Corea, its distracted condition internally, its possible relations to Japan, Russia, England, and China, if complete independence be assured, are all to be looked at.

I have, etc.

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 521.—Memorial from King of Corea to Emperor of China.]

Draft of memorial presented to His Majesty, the Emperor of China, by the King of Corea in the matter of sending envoys abroad.

Li-hsi, King of Chosen (Corea), reverently presents a memorial upon the subject of sending envoys to western countries, requesting that permission be first granted by the issuance of your majesty’s mandate to the end that officers may be deputed hence.

Upon the 7th day of the eighth moon (23d of September, 1867), Shen-wu-tse, a councillor (Ling-I-cheng), of the council of state, memorialized the throne that he had, on the same day, received a communication from Yuen Shih Kai, chief commissioner representing the Government of China, stating that he had received a telegraphic message from the grand secretary, Li Hung Chang, to the effect that the Tsung-li Yamên had sent the following edict, issued by the Emperor of China, to wit:

“In the matter of Corea sending diplomatic officers to western countries, it is necessary first to ask our sanction when such officers can be sent, thus acting in accordance with the rules and usages of dependent states. Respect this.”

The grand secretary instructed me to make this known to the council of state without delay, so that his majesty’s injunctions may be observed.

Having received the above instructions, as in duty bound, the chief commissioner addresses a communication to the council of state and beg that they will peruse the same, and that a memorial be presented (by the King) asking permission (to send envoys abroad) in due observance of imperial instructions.

The King is mindful that the small state over which he presides has for generations been the recipient of favors from the Heavenly Court—favors as high as the sky and as thick as the earth, as exalted as the mountains, and as deep as the sea; that your majesty perceives and understands all things, and he that asks shall receive.

But in the matter of intercourse with foreign nations your memorialist has been the special recipient of your majesty’s regard and kindly thoughts toward his dependent state, using your power and strength to elevate and assist her, and permitted her to enter into commercial and friendly relations, first with the United States, and dispatched an officer to assist in the negotiation of a treaty. Further, a dispatch was sent (to the United States authorities) before the negotiation of the treaty clearly setting forth that Corea was a state tributary to China, but that hitherto full sovereignty had been exercised by the Kings of Chosen in all matters of internal administration and foreign relations.

As a dependent state Corea reverently maintains and observes the proper rules of courtesy and respect, but as regards equality and mutual reciprocity with foreign nations, governmental prestige, and international relations, each has full powers.

Later, other western nations negotiated treaties with Corea, all after the terms in general of the United States treaty, and after their provisions were agreed upon by the negotiators a memorial was presented to your majesty asking your sanction and approval. After the United States treaty was ratified, the United States Government, in accordance with the provisions of treaty, sent a minister plenipotentiary to reside at Seoul. Your memorialist in turn sent an embassy of congratulation to the President of the United States, which in due time returned to Corea. But no mission has [Page 238] ever been sent to the other treaty powers. These powers, in consequence, have frequently represented to the Government of Corea that, as they are represented by accredited agents at Seoul, they invited Corea to send ministers to their courts. Your majesty’s dependent state was not unmindful of the urgency of the times, at the same time it was desirous of carrying out the provisions of the treaties.

Your memorialist has now appointed his minister Pu Ting Yang as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and proposes to send him to the United States; also his minister Chao Chen-hsi as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary, and proposes to depute him to represent Corea at the courts of Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia, to be clothed with power to attend to international questions arising in those countries.

Your memorialist, in presenting the foregoing facts, begs that as an extra act of grace your majesty will condescend to give your sanction and approval to the sending abroad of the ministers named, to the end that the question regarding envoys may be settled in conformity with the stipulations of treaty.

Under the existing laws governing Corea, in the matter of tribute and ceremonial, all memorials have been presented to your majesty by the board of rites, but all questions of an international nature (with foreign countries) have been presented to your majesty, in behalf of Corea, either by the prince and ministers of the Tsung-li Yamen, or by the minister superintendent for northern trade, Li Hung Chang. Unless in matters of the utmost importance your memorialist would not venture to memorialize your majesty.

Your majesty’s mandate, which has just been communicated by telegram, has been received by your memorialist upon bended knees, and he finds it impossible to express his feelings of gratitude, as well as those of fear.

Your memorialist, instead of withdraw] ng from troubling your majesty, ventures to present this memorial, and is sincerely quaking with emotions of fear and alarm for your majesty’s injunctions.