Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.
Peking, April 1, 1893. (Received May 23.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have received from Mr. W. R. Carles, Her Britannic Majesty’s consul at Chin-kiang, in charge of United States interests during the absence of Consul Jones, a translation of a communication from Tsai, Taotai, and the commissioners of the Nanking bureau of foreign affairs, a copy whereof is herewith inclosed.
This communication relates to the leasing or purchasing lands for churches, hospitals, or cemeteries by American citizens. One of like character was addressed to Mr. Carles as British consul, and related to British missionaries. It recites that frauds have been perpetrated on missionaries in the purchase of land, and it is ostensibly designed to protect them, but the real purpose is to make it impossible for them to acquire land at all. To that end the rule is laid down that “henceforth when missionaries, or other citizens of the United States, desire to acquire land or houses, no matter where, they must first meet the gentry and elders of the place, and agree with them, and then report to the bureau of local officials for an official survey of the ground.”
This clause introduces a new element in the mode of acquiring land. Article 12 of the treaty of 1858 does not require that citizens of the United States desiring to purchase land shall submit the question to the decision of the gentry and elders. It leaves them free to purchase land, enjoins that the prices shall not be exorbitant, prohibits the local authorities from interfering unless objections are offered on the part of the inhabitants respecting the place, requires legal fees to be [Page 231]paid, provides that particular spots shall not be unreasonably insisted on, and enjoins justice and moderation.
The clause above quoted from the communication of the Taotai is so distinctly antagonistic to the above article of the treaty that I have directed Mr. Carles to notify the Taotai that it will not be acquiesced in or acted on by this legation.
I have, etc.,