No. 159.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 529.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a communication lately sent by me to the Tsung-li Yamen. It involves a missionary trouble similar to others which are always pending in China.

The facts are briefly that the Presbyterian missionaries at Chi Nan Fu, during last September, October, and November, endeavored to secure a perpetual lease of land for hospital purposes. They claimed that the governor, in 1884, agreed that they might purchase additional land for residential purposes. That, unfortunately, is a mistake.

An examination of the records here discloses that the governor refused to make any such agreement. Acting on this alleged promise and on certain oral statements made by the officials, the missionaries secured a perpetual lease of a lot. They took the lease to the officials to be stamped. They were put off on various pleas and finally notified that, owing to the opposition of the people, the transaction should be considered off. Mr. Reid, representing the mission, then took possession of the premises. He alleges that the family of the lessor consented to this occupation $ but the lessor himself was in jail and could not consent.

The twelfth article of the treaty of 1858 requires that “the legal fees to the officers for applying their seal shall be paid.” It requires, also, that particular spots shall not be unreasonably insisted on. It is needless to say that it confines renting and hiring to the treaty ports.

Mr. Reid was ejected and injured by a mob. He is now here demanding relief and intimating an intention to demand personal damages.

[Page 239]

As I construe section 134, of the Diplomatic Instructions, I have no authority to apply for compensation for him without specific instructions. I judged it best to endeavor to settle the matter and to endeavor to secure for them another tract of land in lieu of the one objected to by the gentry.

The missionaries having demanded that their lease should be sealed and protection accorded, should not, after a distinct notification that they could not be permitted to occupy that particular lot, have taken the law in their own hands by entering on the disputed premises. They excuse themselves by saying that is Chinese law. But, whether it is Chinese law or not, they are bound by the treaty, which requires payment of fees and sealing of the lease preliminary to taking possession of leased land,

The missionaries claim, however, that under the twelfth article of the British treaty of 1858, and the sixth article of the French treaty of October 25, 1860, they, by virtue of the favored nation clause, can settle and lease or buy property anywhere in China.

Diplomatic and consular officers in China are often put at a disadvantage. Their fellow citizens can not be abandoned even if not always exactly in the right. Hence there are always questions between the two Governments.

The Department has approved on divers occasions of the statement that the treaties confer no legal right on Americans to secure property in the interior. The Department has not, however, distinctly formulated in any dispatch to this legation its views as to the rights of missionaries in the interior of China. It is worthy of consideration by you whether specific instructions, which might be authoritatively communicated to the missionaries, and which might serve as an implicit guide for this legation, should be prepared.

The twelfth article of the treaty of 1858 provides that citizens of the United States may, at the open ports, “rent houses and places of business or hire sites on which they can themselves build houses or hospitals, churches, and cemeteries.”

By gradual encroachment this right has been extended to the interior, and whether its exercise should be acknowledged and enforced or repudiated is the chief question in China, and possibly will remain the leading and most annoying question for all time to come.

My policy has been not to encourage adventurous locations in the interior, in fact to announce distinctly that this legation does not construe the treaties as granting unlimited right to buy or lease land in the interior. But if the missionaries, with the consent of the local authorities, effected a lodgment, they would be protected by this legation against any wrongs subsequently perpetrated against them. This was the rationale of the Chung King case, I respectfully submit the whole question to you.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 529.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li Yamên .

No. 16.]

Your Imperial Highness and Your Excellencies:

I have the honor to bring to the attention of your imperial highness and your excellencies the circumstances of a late riot at Chi Nan Fu, in which an American missionary was injured, also certain troubles now existing in the locality with reference [Page 240] to the purchase by the missionaries of a lot of ground. The missionaries, Messrs. Gilbert Reid, Paul D. Bergen, and Robert Coltman, jr., have made the following representation to this legation:

In an interview with the Taotai, in January, 1886, they sought the aid of the officials in securing ground for a hospital. The governor, to whom the matter was referred by the Taotai, replied that the officials could neither purchase property for the missionaries nor compel the people to sell, but if both parties mutually agreed to a purchase, the xmrchase could be completed and if any opposition arose it would be suppressed. In July of this year the matter of establishing a hospital was again brought up and referred to the governor and he answered, as before, that the purchase of laud might be made if the parties agreed, and that the deeds could be presented to the local authorities to be stamped, and if afterwards any opposition arose the local authorities must suppress it.

In August last the missionaries took a perpetual lease of apiece of property and took the deeds to the Taotai’s Yamên, on the 1st of September, to be stamped. The Taotai, in the presence of all, ordered the magistrate to stamp the deed in case there was no illegality in the purchase. He also ordered that the landlord and middlemen should not be annoyed, and that if the neighbors were summoned it should be to ask if the property had been bought from the man as claimed by the missionaries. The next day the landlord and middlemen and one of the missionaries appeared before the magistrate and it was shown that the lease was legal, and the landlord was ordered to vacate his house in two months. The magistrate, however, refused to stamp the deed, saying that he wished to report the case to the Taotai.

During the next few days the two neighbors were summoned, and both said they did not wish the property and were willing that the foreigners should have it. Still the deed was not stamped. Then the magistrate inspected the property.

A petition was then presented alleging that the property was public property, but it was not signed, and the officials refused to accept it. The residents were then granted three days to present any reason why the foreigners should not have the property, and if no such reason existed the property should be taken by the missionaries. No reason was presented in the time limited. Still the deed was not stamped. The deed was therefore sent to the Taotai, but he ordered it taken to the magistrate, which was done, accompanied by a request to stamp it. After waiting three days one of the missionaries went in person to see the magistrate, who excused himself from stamping the deed until the two months should expire which had been allotted for the vacation of the property. In this interview the missionaries requested that the landlord, who had been imprisoned, should be released. The magistrate declined to release him, stating that the man was not locked up, but only summoned to be examined. Up to the present time he has not been released. A few days before the expiration of the two months the gentry, headed by Li Ching Ao, a previous governor of Ho-Nan, presented a petition, objecting to the lease of this particular property as a violation of the treaty and because it was objectionable to the people. After several interviews with the officials the missionaries, at their request, agreed to wait thirty days to allow the officials to procure satisfactory property in exchange for the piece selected. But no offer of exchange was ever made. One of the middlemen was sent to the Yamên and confined in chains. A few days before the month expired a petition was sent to the Taotai, citing the promises and orders previously given and made and showing how they had all been disregarded by the magistrate and asking him to decide justly and to order that, on the day fixed for taking possession of the house, the deed should be stamped, protection given, and the landlord and middlemen released. To this petition no reply was vouchsafed.

Upon the landlord’s family having agreed that the missionaries might take possession of the property, they notified the Taotai that the time having expired one of them would go in the evening to the property and take charge of it. He was requested to order the magistrate to protect the occupant. In the evening of November 28 Rev. Gilbert Reid went to the house. In about an hour’s time certain ringleaders entered the house and ejected him. He re-entered the house; some thirty of the mob also entered, and some picking up bricks, others sticks, and the strongest seizing him, he was once more forcibly ejected, being thrown to the ground with violence, receiving a severe contusion of the left temple, besides having the skin torn from his hand and arms and suffering from concussion and being hit by stones.

Panting and half unconscious he lay for more than an hour in the street, the uproar continuing, when finally a constable appeared, assisted him to rise and led him to an inn. One of the missionaries immediately went to the Taotai’s Yamên, but in spite of his plea of the urgency of the case no interview was granted. The magistrate’s Yamên was then visited. The missionary was assured that the magistrate would go to the scene of the disorder and was told to go on before. At the east gate the guardians refused to open the gate. After repeated vain efforts to have it opened, the missionary returned to the magistrate’s Yamên. The magistrate did not goto the scene of the mob at all. It was only after a few hours had elapsed, after the magistrate had been notified that any news was received as to Mr. Reid’s condition.

[Page 241]

In the morning two of the missionaries went to the Taotai’s Yamên to gain an interview, but were refused. Two deputies, however, appeared and told the missionaries that the property could not be vacated for their possession because the gentry were unwilling.

Later an interview was had with the Taotai. The Taotai then made the plain statement that the opposing party was the gentry; that to suppress them was impossible, and that all the missionaries could do would be to accept back again their money which awaited them in the magistrate’s Yamên. He also said the governor had no other mode of managing the case.

The foregoing is a plain statement of facts as presented to me by the missionaries, and I submit them for the consideration of your imperial highness and your excellencies, that some remedy may be devised for the wrongs and injuries inflicted.

I respectfully request that four things shall be ordered by your imperial highness and your excellencies to be done:

  • First. That the ringleaders in the assault on Mr. Reid be punished.
  • Second. That possession of the leased property be accorded to the missionaries and protection in its occupancy be assured.
  • Third. That if it shall be held by your imperial highness and your excellencies that it is more desirable to make an exchange of property, and to give to the missionaries another tract in lieu of the one that they have bought, that a suitable and satisfactory tract of land be tendered to them. They desire above all things peace and harmony.
  • Fourth. That the landlord and middlemen be released. They are evidently guilty of no wrongdoing, and it is a matter of deep regret that they are made to suffer because of their connection with this transaction.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.