Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.

No. 1764.]

Sir: In my dispatch No. 1758,* of the 15th of November, I had the honor to transmit a translation of a communication from the Yamên, wherein it requested the foreign representatives to devise a plan by which foreigners traveling in China should be required to report in person to the magistrates through whose jurisdiction they might pass.

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I inclose a copy of my answer, as dean, to that communication. It will be seen that the foreign representatives found themselves unable to agree to the proposed plan, I thoroughly concur in the conclusion arrived at.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 1764.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li-Yamên.

Your Highness and Your Excellencies: On the 10th of November the minister of the United States had the honor to receive from your highness and your excellencies a communication which set forth a communication from the governor-general of Hu-kuang to the Tsung-li-Yamên and one from the taotai of Ching Chow, Ichang, and Shihnan to the governor-general.

The purport of these papers was that foreigners traveling in China should be required, when applying for passports, either at Peking or in the provinces, to report their intended movements, and while traveling should report in person to the subprefects or magistrates found en route, their arrival as well as their intended movements.

After setting forth these two communications, your highness and your excellencies conclude by requesting the minister of the United States “to communicate with his colleagues, consider the question presented, and try to adopt, as quickly as practicable, a feasible plan of action, and inform the prince and ministers thereof, so that they may instruct the high authorities of the provinces to act accordingly.” And your highness and your excellencies further say, “The Yamên is, in this matter, actuated by a sincere desire to give protection to foreigners traveling under passports.”

The minister of the United States duly transmitted to his colleagues the original and an English translation of this important communication. Two meetings have been held by the foreign representatives to consider its contents, and after mature deliberation, they have instructed the minister of the United States to transmit to the prince and ministers the following answer thereto:

The foreign representatives appreciate the honorable and praiseworthy motive that produced the paper under consideration, it being, as stated by the prince and ministers, to insure the protection of foreigners when traveling. They find themselves, however, unable to assent to the proposition that all foreigners, when traveling in China, shall report in person to the magistrates through whose jurisdiction they happen to pass. To do so would be impracticable. A heavy burden would be laid upon foreigners by such a rule, and the penalty suggested by the taotai for failure to comply with it, to wit, the forfeiture of protection, is by no means admissible.

A more serious objection, and one which is, to the minds of the foreign representatives, insuperable, is that the proposed rule would materially change the purport of the treaties. To make this apparent, the minister of the United States calls attention to the provisions of the British treaty with China, signed at Tientsin, 26th June, 1858, which have been, in substance, incorporated in every treaty that has been made with China since that date.

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Article IX of that treaty reads as follows:

British subjects are hereby authorized to travel, for their pleasure or for purposes of trade, to all parts of the interior under passports which will be issued by their consuls and countersigned by the local authorities. These passports, if demanded, must be produced for examination in the localities passed through. If the passport be not irregular the bearer will be allowed to proceed. * * *

Article XVIII of the same treaty contains this language:

The Chinese authorities shall, at all times, afford the fullest protection to the persons and property of British subjects. * * *

It will be seen from the first article quoted that travelers are not required to report to officials en route, but are only required to exhibit their passports when a demand to do so is made. Such, the minister of the United States believes, is the rule existing in all countries where the system of passports prevails.

The prince and ministers will readily admit that it is not in the power of any foreign representative to add to or take from a treaty any material clause, and that their request can not, therefore, be complied with.

It is questionable, also, whether the proposed rule would accomplish any good purpose. The presence of foreigners in any locality in the interior is immediately known to all the population, the officials included, and travelers perfectly understand that, in case of trouble, they have the right to apply to the officials for protection and that it is the duty of the local authorities to protect him.

The minister of the United States takes this occasion to renew, etc.,

Charles Denby.