No. 169.
Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.

No. 555.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a copy of my communication to the Yamên relating to the camphor monopoly by the Government in Formosa.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Page 253]
[Inclosure in No. 555.]

Mr. Denby to the Foreign Office.

No. 4.]

Your Highness and Your Excellencies:

In 1869 the then British consul at Taiwan Fu concluded with the local authorities an arrangement by which the camphor trade, until then a monopoly of the Chinese Government, was thrown open to merchants in general. This agreement was accepted by the Chinese Government and communicated by the Tsung-li Yamên, with the rules and regulations thereto, to the foreign legations.

Until 1886 this arrangement had worked satisfactorily to all parties concerned, when in this year it was withdrawn by order of his excellency the new governor of Formosa. Without authorization, or even instructions from the Chinese Government or the foreign legations, both parties to the agreement in force, even without previous information to the foreign merchants, to the foreign consuls, yea, even to the Chinese local authorities, the rules in force for nearly twenty years were abolished and the government monopoly, or more properly speaking, the monopoly of the provincial exchequer, re-established. Camphor transported from the interior to Taiwan Fu under transit passes was seized and confiscated and the protests and reclamations of the owners as well as of the consuls left unnoticed. The Tsung-li Yamên, on being appealed to, declared without hesitation that the arrangement in question, concluded in 1869, having obtained the sanction of the imperial government could not be set aside by the provincial authorities, and that these latter would be called upon to explain their action. There the matter has rested ever since it was first brought to the knowledge of the Tsung-li Yamên, and the provincial authorities without minding in the least the instructions they may have received from the Tsung-li Yamên, simply continue to ignore the former international arrangement and to act upon their own judgment.

This way of proceeding on the part of the provincial authorities throws a very clear but very unsatisfactory light upon the relations existing on one side between the foreign representatives and the Tsung-li Yamên, on the other between that body and the provincial authorities. Everywhere else the minister of foreign affairs is the representative of his government in its relations with foreign powers; he takes the orders of his sovereign or chief magistrate of his country for the transaction of international business, and his decisions and declarations on such questions engage and bind his government. Here in Peking the situation is utterly changed. The Tsung-li Yamên seems to have no power with regard to the provincial authorities, or at least not to be willing to exercise it. Its decisions are simply ignored by the provincial authorities, and its functions seem to consist principally in transmitting complaints from the foreign legations to the local authorities and vice versa, in the latter case very often in a form which goes far to prove that no supervision or discretion has been exercised by the Yamên even in this office of intermediary.

If for once the Yamên should come to a decision on a point, its orders are generally put aside entirely or partly by the provincial authorities, and worse even, questions of the greatest national importance are settled over the head of the Yamên by a direct reference of the provincial authorities to the throne.

Your highness and your excellencies will easily understand that such a state of things must be fraught with difficulties and dangers to the international relations of China. It has been at the express demand of the Chinese Government and with the express understanding that the Chinese Government was willing and in a position to assume the duties and responsibilities of a central government, that the foreign powers have consented to do away with the direct applications for redress that used to be addressed formerly to provincial and local authorities. But the assurances given by the Chinese Government have been left in many respects unfulfilled, and out of the indefinite performance of these duties has grown delay in the dispatch of public business between the Yamên and the legations.

It is with great diffidence that I have ventured to speak thus frankly to your highness and your excellencies, but I can not disguise the fact that serious difficulties, if not dangers, may arise from the position actually occupied by the Tsung-li Yamên. The way in which I have had the honor to lay the state of things as understood and judged by me before your highness and your excellencies, will enable you, if necessary, to obtain by representation to the throne greater power or another constitution, if either in your opinion shall be necessary, to allow the Yamên to act the part of a foreign office such as it is generally understood and necessary for the maintenance of international relations.

But while leaving the decision of this question to the wisdom of your highness and your excellencies, I have the honor to request you to issue without delay to the provincial authorities of Formosa the necessary instructions to abolish immediately the [Page 254] provincial monopoly on camphor illegally re-established by them, and to revert to the execution of the arrangement of 1869 as agreed upon between the Tsung-li Yamên and the foreign legations.

I avail, etc.,

Charles Denby.