Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.

No. 1796.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a translation of a communication received from the Tsung-li-Yamên on the subject of the exhibition of passports by foreigners traveling in China, together with a copy of my reply, as dean, thereto.

It will be seen that the Yamên has receded from its demand that travelers should search out the local authorities en route and exhibit their passports, and now proposes that passports shall be exhibited on demand made by certain local officials.

It is now probable that the matter will be satisfactorily arranged.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 1796.]

The Tsung-li-Yamên to Mr. Denby.

The prince and ministers, on the 30th of December, had the honor to receive a communication from the minister of the United States acknowledging receipt of the Yamên’s communication setting forth that foreigners traveling in China should be required, when 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.

In this communication it is stated that the foreign representatives, disagreeing with the views of the Yamên, can not accede to the proposition made, etc.

The prince and ministers would observe that the object of the viceroy in having the question of the examination of passports considered was to know of the movements of foreign travelers to the end that the necessary measures could be taken to give them adequate protection; and this is not at variance with existing treaty stipulations.

The authority for traveling (in the interior) is the passport. If there be no examination, how will it be possible to know whether the foreign traveler is armed with a passport or not?

Hitherto there have been many passports applied for, the holders of which, on arriving at a place, have secretly withheld them from examination. There are also those who have recklessly gone into the interior of China without passports and who have been unwilling to be interrogated, and, as their intended movements can not be traced, how is it possible for the local officials to know anything about them?

It would in such cases be impossible for the local officials to take timely action to guard against their being robbed or plundered, and the offenders could only be arrested and punished after the offense had been committed, and this would be too late.

In the communication of the minister of the United States it is pointed out that for travelers to report to the officials would be inconvenient. This there is no necessity of insisting on. And it is not impracticable for the local officials to instruct their subordinates, as suggested in the communication under acknowledgment, to report the arrival of foreign travelers within their jurisdiction. But it would be necessary for the foreign travelers to show their passports to the subordinate officials [Page 159](village headmen and elders) in order that they would have some authority for making a report to the magistrates. If their passports are secretly withheld then this would be the same as the traveler being without a passport, and the local officials could not bear the responsibility of providing protection.

It is further remarked in the communication under review that 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. To this the prince and ministers would observe, How can the local officials know beforehand that trouble is to occur between Chinese subjects? In cases of murder it is only after the deed has been committed that punishment is inflicted on the guilty according to the code, and in cases where foreigners are concerned the local authorities naturally could only take similar action according to law.

If passports are not examined, the local officials will not be in a position to know and keep track of the foreign traveler’s movements, and will not be able to guarantee that trouble may not occur, which would be a matter to be regretted

As in duty bound, the prince and ministers send this communication in reply for the information of the minister of the United States.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 1796.]

Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li-Yamên.

The minister of the United States, as dean of the diplomatic body, on the 20th instant had the honor to receive from the prince and ministers a communication relating to the matter of foreigners when traveling in China reporting in person to the local officials en route their arrival as well as their intended movements.

This paper has been submitted to the foreign representatives, who have requested the minister of the United States to return the following answer:

The foreign representatives do not in anywise dispute the statement made by the prince and ministers that their purpose is to furnish to travelers adequate protection, nor do they dispute the proposition that China has the right, in accordance with the treaties, to require travelers to exhibit their passports when such exhibition is demanded by an official thereto duly authorized.

If travelers have, as stated by the prince and ministers, secretly withheld their passports from examination after having been applied to to show them, such action is not approved by the foreign representatives. If travelers have, as stated, recklessly gone into the interior without passports, such conduct is also disapproved of.

In the communication under acknowledgment the prince and ministers distinctly concede that there is no necessity for travelers to report to the officials, and that it is practicable for the local officials to instruct their subordinates to report the arrival of foreign travelers within their jurisdiction. As these were the exact points of difference between the prince and ministers and the foreign representatives, it would seem that there is no need for further discussion thereof.

[Page 160]

The prince and ministers say, “but it would be necessary for the foreign travelers to show their passports to the subordinate officials (village headmen and elders) in order that they would have some authority for making a report to the magistrates.”

The treaties provide that “passports, if demanded, must be produced for examination in the localities passed through.” How or by what official this demand shall be made is not distinctly stated.

It seems to the foreign representatives that the power or duty of demanding the exhibition of passports for examination should not be given to “village headmen and elders” or other numerous bodies of men. Such a practice would, or might, lead to abuses and perhaps to disturbances. It can serve no good purpose for foreigners to exhibit their passports to the headmen of every village through which they pass. On the other hand, it may be advantageous to exhibit passports to the principal authorities on demand in district or prefectural cities.

If it pleases the prince and ministers to adopt some regulation on the subject, the foreign representatives will consider it carefully, and, if it is approved, they will make it known to travelers through the consuls and will enjoin compliance therewith.

The minister of the United States avails, etc.

Chas. Denby.