Mr. Tsui Kwo Yin to Mr. Blaine.

Sir: In my note of the 16th ultimo I advised you that I had received information that some new measures of your excellency’s Government had been adopted which, it was reported, was working hardship to the subjects of China seeking, in accordance with treaty stipulations, transit through the territory of the United States, and I asked you whether any new legislative measures had been adopted by your Government. You very promptly replied, under date of the 18th ultimo, that no legislative measures had been adopted on that subject.

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This answer has led me to call for more specific information respecting the new measures reported to me as working hardship to Chinese subjects in transit, in order that I might find an explanation of the apparent conflict between the reported measures and the explicit statement in your excellency’s note. In reply to my inquiries, the Imperial Chinese consul in New York reports to me that your worthy colleague, the Secretary of the Treasury, has issued a new regulation requiring every Chinese subject desiring to pass in transit through the United States to cause to be deposited with the collector of customs at the place of arrival a bond of $200 before he shall be permitted to exercise the privilege, guarantied by treaty, of transit through the territory of the United States. For further information as to this requirement, a printed copy of this new regulation is inclosed with this note. The consul states that the large Chinese population in the island of Cuba find it most convenient in going thence to and from China to pass through the United States, and that many of them have been accustomed, prior to this regulation, to take the American line of steamers and come to New York, and thence proceed on their journey by railroad to San Francisco. Since the new regulation has been issued the American Steam-ship Company has notified the consul that neither it nor the railroad transportation lines with which it has connection can furnish the bond required, and the company can not carry any more Chinese laborers in transit from Cuba to the port of New York unless the Secretary of the Treasury will revoke the new regulation. In this state of affairs the consul reports that the Chinese subjects in Cuba who desire to pass in transit through the port of New York will be deprived of the privilege guarantied to them by the treaty.

I was much gratified to receive the assurance in your note of the 18th ultimo that no legislation had been adopted on the subject of the transit of Chinese subjects through the United States, and I am at a loss to understand by what authority the Secretary of the Treasury can adopt a regulation which has the effect to nullify the treaty. If I have been correctly informed as to your system of government, an executive officer can not enact laws, much less nullify a treaty. I understand that your Congress passes the laws and the executive officers enforce them. In accordance with the requirements of Article IY of the treaty of 1880 as to immigration, it has been the practice of your Department to send to this legation the new laws of Congress and the executive regulations respecting them. I have examined carefully these laws and do not find that they relate in any way to Chinese subjects in transit through the United States. I also find that I am sustained in my conclusion by the learned law officers of your own Government. When this question of transit was under consideration between your Department and this legation in 1882, the Attorney-General was consulted, and he expressly stated:

I do not think that a Chinese laborer coming to this country merely to pass through it can be considered as within the prohibition of the law, he being neither an immigrant nor a laborer coming here as laborer. Opinion of Attorney-General, December 26, 1882.)

And again quite recently the subject was before your Government, and the Solicitor of the Treasury, under date April 20 last, said:

The evil sought to be remedied by the modification of the treaty above cited (treaty of 1880) and the law was the enormous influx of Chinese laborers and their continued residence among us. * * * It was to secure these results that our Government asked the modification of the treaty, and in the negotiations to that end this was the limit only to which we asked this friendly power to go. * * * The legislation had in view the evil. The passage of a traveler through our country is no part of this evil.

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It will thus be seen that your Congress, which I fear has not always shown a great regard for treaty stipulations, has passed no laws which in any degree restrict the treaty privilege of transit. How then can the Secretary of the Treasury legally do such a thing? By Article VI of the treaty 1868 it is stipulated that—

Chinese subjects visiting or residing in the United States shall enjoy the same privileges, immunities, and exemptions in respect to travel or residence as may there be enjoyed by the citizens or subjects of the most favored nation.

As shown above, the treaty of 1880 does not in any way modify this guaranty as to Chinese laborers in transit. Hence the Secretary of the Treasury does not seem to have any power to exact requirements of Chinese subjects in transit which are not as uniformly applied to British, French, German, or other subjects of friendly powers.

My Government has not protested against the regulations of the Treasury Department heretofore issued on the subject of transit, although contrary to the letter and spirit of the treaties, because they have been of such a character that the Chinese subjects could without great inconvenience comply with them, and because my Government was desirous of avoiding any possible occasion of controversy. But when a regulation, without the warrant of law or treaty, is sought to be enforced which deprives a large body of my countrymen of their treaty privileges, it is my solemn duty to bring the matter to your attention and to ask that the subject be investigated with a view to a revocation of the objectionable requirement.

My predecessor has had occasion to present to your Department the views of my Government respecting recent legislation of Congress, and it has awaited with anxiety the answer which you may be able to give. There will be occasion for increased anxiety and regret if a favorable reply may not be given to this new cause of complaint. I therefore hope, from the well-known spirit of justice and benevolence which distinguishes your excellency, that you will enable me to communicate to my Government a satisfactory answer at your early convenience.

I improve, etc.,

Tsui Kwo Yin.
[Inclosure. Circular.]

transit of chinese laborers through the united states.

[1889. Department No. 100, Division of Customs.]

To collectors and other officers of the customs:

In view of the opinion of the Attorney-General promulgated in S. 9519, of July 25, 1889, the following regulations for the transit of Chinese laborers throughout the United States are hereby prescribed:

1. Any Chinese laborer claiming to be in transit through the territory of the United States in the course of a journey to and from other countries, shall be required to produce to the collector of customs at the first port of arrival a through ticket across the whole territory of the United States intended to be traversed, and such other proof as he may be able to adduce, to satisfy the collector of the fact that a bona fide transit only is intended; and such ticket and other evidence presented must be so stamped, or marked and dated by the customs officer as to prevent their use the second time.

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2. Descriptive lists of all such Chinese laborers will be prepared in duplicate in the following form:

Descriptive list of Chinese laborer in transit through the United States.

Name. Age. Occupation. Last place of residence. Height. Complexion. Color of eyes. Physical marks.
Ft. In.
[seal] —— ——,
Collector of Customs.

Port of ——, —— [date.]

The collector shall be satisfied of the correctness of the descriptive list before affixing his signature and seal.

One of the copies will be retained on the files of the office of the collector of customs at the port of arrival, and one forwarded by mail to the collector at the port of exit.

3. The collector of customs at the first port of arrival shall take a bond in the penal sum of not less than $200 for each Chinese laborer, conditioned for his transit and actual departure from the United States within a reasonable time, not exceeding twenty days from the date of arrival at such port. The bond may be given either by the transportation company issuing the through ticket, or by some responsible person in behalf of the laborer, and will be canceled on receipt from the collector of customs at the port of exit of a certificate showing that the person specified in the descriptive list transmitted to such port has actually departed therefrom, and stating the name of the vessel and date of departure.

Previous regulations on this subject are hereby rescinded.

William Windom,