Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.

No. 1770.]

Sir: In my dispatch No. 1764, of the 6th instant, I inclosed a copy of a dispatch sent by me, as dean of the diplomatic body, to the Tsung-li-Yamên, relating to the request of the Yamên that foreigners traveling in China should be required to report to the local authorities, found en route, their arrival and intended movements.

I have now the honor to inclose a translation of the Yamên’s answer to that dispatch. The diplomatic body has not taken any action as yet on this paper.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 1770.]

The Tsung-li-Yamên to Mr. Denby.

Your Excellency: Upon the 5th of December the prince and ministers had the honor to receive a communication from the minister of the United States, acknowledging receipt of the Yamên’s communication (of the 10th November last), setting forth a dispatch from the governor-general of Hu-kuang to the Yamên and a report from the taotai of Ching Chow, Ichang, and Shihnan to the governor-general, to the effect that foreigners traveling in China should be required, when [Page 155] applying for passports, either at Peking or in the provinces, to report in person to the local officials en route their arrival as well as their intended movements, wherein the minister of the United States was requested to communicate with his colleagues, consider the question presented, and try to adopt, as quickly as possible, a feasible plan of action and inform the prince and ministers thereof.

The minister of the United States stated that he had transmitted to his colleagues the original and an English translation of the Yamên’s communication; that two meetings had been held by the foreign representatives to consider its contents; but, while they appreciate the honorable and praiseworthy motives that produced the paper, they find themselves unable to assent to the proposition that all foreigners, when traveling in China under passport, should report in person to the local officials, for to do so would be impracticable, and for failure to comply with it the forfeiture of protection is by no means admissible; that a more serious objection and one which, to the minds of the foreign representatives is insuperable is that the proposed rule would materially change the purport of the treaties, and that it is not in the power of the foreign representatives to add to or take from a treaty any material point, and that the request can not therefore be complied with.

The prince and ministers would observe in reply that this question does not in any way involve the alteration of treaty stipulations, but it is one clearly provided for by treaty, which is to the effect that foreigners are allowed to travel to all parts of the interior under passports. “The 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.”

The examination of passports, as provided by treaty, is the same as reporting in person to the authorities. If foreigners will comply with the treaties, and on their arrival at any place in the interior will present their passports for examination, the local authorities will be in a position to afford them timely protection, and trouble may be avoided. Could such a course be regarded as impracticable?

It would seem that the foreign representatives have misunderstood the purpose and meaning of the Yamên. It is stated in the communication of the minister of the United States that “it is questionable whether the proposed rule would accomplish any good purpose,” also, that “the presence of foreigners in any locality in the interior is immediately known to all the population, the officials included.”

The Yamên is of the opinion that this is not the case, as the departments and districts of China embrace a large area of territory, the small covering about one hundred or more li, and the large over several hundred li in extent, and when foreigners are traveling, no matter in what place, if they fail to present their passports for examination, how can the local officials know of their presence within their jurisdictions? And not knowing this, how can they follow their movements, and in case of need render them necessary protection?

Further, it will be found that the populace of the places through which foreigners may pass consist of both good and bad, and if there should be a dispute between them and the Chinese how could the local authorities be in a position to take measures to guard against trouble arising therefrom? In such an event, to blame the officers of the departments and districts for failing to give full and adequate protection would be inconsiderate and show a want of feeling toward them.

The request of the governor-general of Hu-kuang, that foreign travelers should be instructed to report to the local authorities (on their [Page 156] arrival within their jurisdictions), as well as report their intended movements, is not against the meaning and purport of the provisions of the treaty, which require that they should present their passports for examination to the local authorities. Besides, the responsibility would then rest on the officials of the departments and districts to see that timely protection was accorded them in case of need. Should trouble arise, they conld not then shuffle off their responsibility and say we knew nothing about foreigners traveling within our jurisdictions. This would be a cautious rule to adopt in the matter of protecting foreign travelers and have for its aim the purpose of making them exert themselves to prevent trouble. This plan should not be regarded as having for its aim no good purpose, and further, as being an alteration of treaty stipulations.

The prince and ministers again request the minister of the United States to confer with his colleagues and consider, as soon as practicable, some feasible plan of action and to instruct foreign travelers to present their passports to the local officials for examination, to the end that they may give them timely protection, in accordance with treaty stipulations, which is a matter of importance.

In sending this communication to the minister of the United States they express the hope that action will be taken as requested.