Mr. Denby to Mr. Gresham.
Peking, August 11, 1894. (Received September 22.)
Sir: I have the honor to state that the U. S. consul at Tientsin has reported to me that on the 2d instant a Japanese bark, the Tenkio Maru, arrived at Taku, and was at once seized by the Chinese. She is a ship of 1,200 tons, having a crew of 25 Japanese, and was loaded with railway sleepers and timber consigned to the Chinese Railway Company, but hypothecated to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation for about 12,000 taels.
Upon being informed of this seizure, Mr. Bead, U. S. consul at Tientsin, expressed to the viceroy a hope that he would see his way to release this ship. On the 4th instant Mr. Read telegraphed to me that the “Chinese authorities will release Tenkio Maru,” and asked if Japan would consent to refrain from molesting Chinese merchant vessels. I at once (August 5) telegraphed to the U. S. minister at Tokio as follows:
Chinese have captured Japanese bark; have consented to allow to discharge cargo and to depart. Chinese Government wishes to know if Japan will refrain from molesting Chinese merchant vessels.
On the 6th instant Mr. Dun replied to this as follows:
Japanese Government would be willing to consent to exempt Chinese ships from capture, except ships carrying troops, or other contrabands of war, or attempting to break blockade, provided Chinese Government guarantees like immunity in favor of private Japanese ships.
Both the Tsung-li-Yamên and the Viceroy Li expressed themselves as prepared to accept these terms. They wish, however, to have a statement from Japan as to what will be considered contraband of war. Upon receipt of this statement the negotiations will probably be brought to a favorable conclusion.
In view of the fact that the United States have long favored the exemption from attack of private property on the sea, I urged the ministers of the Yamên to enter into such an agreement as proposed. The present war presents few difficulties for the application of this exemption. The neutral shipping engaged in the carrying trade of China is so great that every ship flying the Chinese flag might be destroyed without seriously deranging commerce or having any practical influence on the result of the war. The same remarks apply almost as well to Japan. As, therefore, attacks upon the merchant vessels of one another would be useless in bringing the war to a conclusion, and would be a needless interference with peaceful private enterprise, it seems to be desirable that the two powers should be encouraged to expressly exempt such vessels from attack.[Page 170]
On the 5th instant I telegraphed you as follows:
China proposes to Japan mutually to abstain from molesting merchant vessels. Have telegraphed the U. S. minister to Japan.
Should the proposed arrangement be definitely concluded, I shall promptly advise you.
I have, etc.,
Chargé d’ Affaires ad interim.