Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.

No. 1775.]

Sir: In my dispatch No. 1770, of the 20th December, I forwarded a translation of a dispatch from the Tsung-li-Yamên relating to reports proposed to be made by foreigners traveling in China. I have the honor to inclose a copy of my reply, as dean, thereto.

It will be seen that the foreign representatives still refuse to consent to the Yamên’s proposition. Owing to trouble still likely to grow out of the recent murder of the two Swedes at Sung-pu, this is an unfortunate time to present a proposition to restrict or obstruct foreign travel in China.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure in No. 1775.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li-Yamên.

The minister of the United States has the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the communication of the prince and ministers of the 15th instant, wherein they set forth the contents of his dispatch to them of the 5th instant, in answer to their first communication in which they requested that foreigners traveling in China with passports, whether issued at Peking or in the provinces, should be required to report in person to the local officials en route their arrival as well as their intended movements. The prince and ministers then proceed to say [Page 157] that this question “does not in any way mean 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 of China under passports. These passports if demanded must be produced for examination in the localities passed through * * *. The examination of passports as provided for by treaty is the same as the traveler reporting in person to the authorities.”

The foreign representatives differ essentially from the prince and ministers on the proposition above stated. By the treaties, passports need only be shown when an examination thereof is properly demanded. Under the construction above set out travelers would be compelled to seek out the local authorities in every city and report to them. There would be considerable inconvenience and delay in the process. It is not always easy to gain access to a governor or prefect or taotai. These officials, on the other hand, can always approach foreigners. It often happens that foreigners traveling in the interior put up for the night in places in the suburbs and never go into the cities, and start on their journey early the next morning. Hence it would be inconvenient in such cases for them to report to the local authorities in person. It would be easy for the local authorities to know of the whereabouts of foreign travelers by instructing their subordinate officials to report to them the arrival and departure of foreigners at various places within their jurisdiction.

While the right of foreign governments to require passports from citizens of other countries traveling in their borders is not disputed, obstruction in the way of travelers is regarded as a proper matter of international complaint. The requiring of such continual and repeated reports in person, as is now suggested, is regarded as a serious and useless obstruction to the free travel for which the treaties with China provide. It is also beyond question true that to require such reports in person, while the treaties only require the exhibition of passports when demanded, would be adding new and material matter to the terms of the treaties. The foreign representatives find themselves unable to make such an addition to the plain stipulation of the treaties.

The prince and ministers inquire how the local authorities can know of the presence of foreigners in the interior unless they report personally to them. To this question it may be answered that when foreigners travel in the interior their movements attract great attention and their presence is known to all the people. Under such circumstances it is the duty of the officers of the departments and districts to see that protection is accorded to them. It is believed that no case has ever arisen in China, and that none will ever arise, wherein the officials in the interior can or could truthfully plead ignorance of the presence of foreigners in their jurisdictions. Riots take place ordinarily in cities or large towns, and hostile movements of the populace are usually known to the officials before any damage is done and in time to prevent it by proper exertion. To allow officials to plead absence or want of knowledge for not performing their duty is not in accordance with Chinese law in matters affecting Chinese subjects, and such excuses should not be received in cases in which foreigners are concerned.

The foreign representatives have, for these reasons, instructed the minister of the United States to say that the proposition to require travelers to report as stated can not be acceded to.

The minister of the United States avails, etc.,

Charles Denby.