Mr. Denby to Mr. Bayard.
Peking, January 18, 1889. (Received March 12.)
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of an informal—red letter—dispatch which the Dean has, by direction of the ministers, sent to the Tsung-li Yamên. The purport of this communication is a remonstrance against a publication in a periodical published at Shanghai which represents that foreigners boil corpses for the preparation of soap. Such a proceeding on the part of the ministers would [Page 96]perhaps be unusual in any part of the world but the east. I inclined first to the idea that the consuls should be directed to bring the matter to the attention of the local authorities. But a full discussion of the subject convinced me that it would be better to send a direct though informal remonstrance to the Yamên. The superstition that foreigners commit all kinds of horrors on the bodies of the dead is very general in far eastern countries. It will be remembered that the massacre at Tientsin, the 21st June, 1840, of the French nuns and other foreigners was caused by the rumor that children were murdered and their eyes used to make medicine.
Last year the outbreak at Seoul, Corea, was owing to charges that foreigners were engaged in kidnapping children. Charges of like character have been spread throughout the cities on the Yangtse. Other examples of the circulation of atrocious libels against foreigners as a class might be cited.
Owing therefore to the general prevalence of such scandalous charges all over the Empire, it was deemed proper to bring the matter to the attention of the Imperial Government.
A decree from the throne would put an end to such abominable superstitions. At least, if nothing is done by the Imperial Government to check the circulation of such foul accusations, it may well hereafter be held responsible should disorders follow publication and rumors of this nature.
I have, etc.,