Mr. Chang Yen Hoon to Mr. Bayard.

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have carefully examined the act of Congress approved October 1, 1888, in relation to the prohibition of the coming of Chinese laborers into the United States, copies of which you kindly sent me with your note of October 18 last, and [Page 120] I beg respectfully to represent to you that this act is in plain violation of the treaty of 1880.

The treaty cited stipulates in Article I that” whenever, in the opinion of the Government of the United States, the coming of Chinese laborers to the United States, or their residence therein, affects or threatens to affect the interests of that country, or to endanger the good order of the said country or of any locality within the territory thereof, the Government of China agrees that the Government of the United States may regulate, limit, or suspend such coming or residence, but may not absolutely prohibit it. The limitation or suspension shall be reasonable,” etc. And in Article II it is stipulated that “Chinese laborers who are now in the United States shall be allowed to go and come of their own free will and accord, and shall be accorded all the rights, privileges, and immunities and exemptions which are accorded to the citizens and subjects of the most favored nation.”

It is very evident that the treaty only confers power upon the Government of the United States to regulate, limit, or suspend the original coming or immigration into the United States of Chinese laborers, and that it does not confer upon the Government any power whatever to restrict by legislation the free exit or return of Chinese laborers who are already residents of the United States. As to these subjects a solemn pledge was given to allow them not only to “go and come of their own free will and accord,” but they were guarantied all the rights, privileges, immunities, and exemptions of the subjects of the most favored nation. No law of Congress can, therefore, be passed which in the slightest degree affects their right to leave the United States and return to it at their own free will without being a flagrant violation of this treaty.

But I think you must agree with me that the act of Congress is a further violation of the treaty in so far as it may affect the original immigation of Chinese laborers. It purports to be an act to supplement the act of May 6, 1882. This last act suspends the immigration of Chinese laborers for a period of ten years, but the act of October, 1888, if it has any application to the immigration of Chinese laborers, is a prohibition without limit as to time, and in that respect is a violation of Article I of the treaty of 1880.

I regard the language of the treaty as plain and easy to be understood; but if any doubt by any possibility could arise as to the object had in view in making the treaty, or as to the obligations which the two Governments assumed in it, this doubt would be removed by examining the circumstances under which the treaty of 1880 was made. You will remember that your Government sent three of your most prominent and intelligent statesmen as special ambassadors to Peking to negotiate a new treaty. They were such distinguished men, and came with such form and authority, that the Government of China was convinced that they represented the real sentiments and wishes of their nation, and it reposed in their statements the most implicit confidence. When they came to confer with the Imperial Chinese commissioners, they stated that their object in coming was to negotiate for such a change of the Burlingame treaty as would confer upon the Government of the United States the power to restrict or regulate the further immigration of Chinese laborers, but as to the Chinese laborers in the United States they made the following declaration:

So far as those are concerned who, under treaty guaranty, have come to the United States, the Government recognizes but one duty, and that is to maintain them in the exercise of their treaty privileges against any opposition, whether it takes the shape of popular violence or of legislative enactment. (Foreign Relations of the United States, 1881, p. 173.)

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The Chinese commissioners were very reluctant to make the stipulation as to immigration, which was regarded by them as very unusual in the intercourse of friendly nations, and when pressed by the American commissioners as a measure greatly desired for the protection of their internal interests, the Chinese commissioners inquired what would be the character of the legislation to be adopted by the American Congress if power was conceded to it to restrict the immigration. The reply of the American commissioners was that it would be “difficult to say what would be the special character of any act of Congress;” but they declared “that two great nations discussing such a subject must always assume that they will both act in good faith and with due consideration for the interests and friendship of each other.” They added further, “that they were satisfied that if any special legislation worked unanticipated hardships the Government of the United States would listen in the most just and friendly spirit to the representations of the Chinese Government through their minister in Washington.” (Foreign Relations, 1881, p. 185.) Upon the strength of these assurances, and of the recognized fact that the legation was not to absolutely “prohibit” immigration, the Chinese commissioners signed the treaty.

The American commissioners, in communicating to their Government the to them very satisfactory result of the negotiations, closed their dispatch with the following reference to the action of the Imperial commissioners:

After a free and able exposition of their own views, we are satisfied that in yielding to the request of the United States they have been actuated by a sincere friendship and an honorable confidence that the large powers recognized by them as belonging to the United States, and bearing directly upon the interests of their own people, will be exercised by our Government with a wise discretion, in a spirit of reciprocal and sincere friendship, and with entire justice. (Foreign Relations, 1881, p. 198.)

How well that confidence has been realized in the recent act of the American Congress I leave to your enlightened judgment to determine.

It is to be regretted that the act of Congress should have been passed at a time when the two Governments were endeavoring by further friendly negotiations to reach a satisfactory settlement of the new embarrassments which had arisen. It is a fact, plainly apparent at the time, that the treaty which had been signed by us and which had been sent to China with the amendments made by the Senate of the United States, had not been rejected by the Chinese Government, but was still under consideration and was awaiting your reply to the amendments which my Government had seen proper to submit for your consideration. This circumstance, it seems to me, greatly aggravates the action of your Congress in disregarding the plain stipulations of the treaty of 1880, and the assurances given in the most solemn manner by the august and special ambassadors of your Government when that treaty was negotiated.

When I recall the many acts of friendship which his excellency, the President, has shown to my Government and to me during my residence in this capital, I can not allow myself to express an unfavorable judgment of his unexpected action in approving the act of October 1, 1888. I must, however, remind you that in one of the interviews had with you during the negotiation of the unratified treaty, you gave me the assurance that his excellency, the President, would veto any legislation of (Congress which violated the existing treaty. I therefore, feel persuaded that in view of the provisions of Article IV and of the assurances of the American commissioners herein quoted I may rely upon your kind interposition [Page 122] with his excellency, the President, with a view to having him recommend Congress to undo the wrong and hardship which is being inflicted upon my countrymen by the act of October 1, and to cause the same to conform to the treaty stipulations.

Accept, etc.,

Chang Yen Hoon.