Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.

No. 1987.]

Sir: I have the honor to state that this legation, more than fully occupied in the management of particular matters of business, and having so small a staff, consisting only of Mr. Cheshire and myself, has been unable to enter, in correspondence with the Department, as fully as desirable upon some of the general aspects of the war.

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At the outbreak of hostilities the statesmen of China manifested a laudable intention to gain the approval of foreign powers. They have shown themselves willing to accede to any reasonable demands, and have made every effort to inflict as little inconvenience as possible upon the neutrals in their borders and upon neutral shipping. Those defensive [Page 131]measures of which we have had to complain, as the blockade of Ningpo and Shanghai and the proposed examination of men-of-war, were dictated by fear, and were not put forward in any spirit of disregard of neutral rights.

The present crisis has already had a good effect on the status of foreigners in the official and popular estimation. We are often appealed to for information and advice, and our superiority in all practical matters is freely recognized. A significant instance of the changed attitude toward us was shown in a recent imperial decree removing an official from office at Tientsin, in which, amongst other charges against him, he is said by the Emperor “to have made himself ridiculous to foreigners.” Such a statement would never have appeared in an official paper a few months ago.

Everything needful has been done for our security here and elsewhere. Two attacks by rowdies have been made recently on American missionaries in this city, but no injury was suffered, and measures have been taken to prevent the recurrence of such events. The recent examinations, in which 17,000 students took part, passed off without any antiforeign demonstration whatever.

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The effect of this war, except in the remote contingency of dissolution of the Empire, must be beneficial to China. The foremost minds already see the necessity for a renovation of her methods and the desirability of entering on the path of Western civilization. Such a step on her part will benefit not only herself, but the whole world.

I have, etc.,

Chas. Denby, Jr.,
Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.