Mr. Jernigan to Mr. Uhl.
Shanghai, China, August 21, 1894. (Received September 22.)
Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 2d I received from the legation at Peking a telegram of the 1st, informing me of the declaration of war between China and Japan, with instructions that the United States had undertaken the protection of Japanese interest in China.
On the same day the Japanese consul-general at this port addressed to me an official communication on the subject, and requested one of my flags to fly from his consular pole. He communicated to me that the request was made under instructions from his minister at Tokyo, Mr. Mutsu.
The wires from Shanghai to Peking had stopped working, and it requires about ten days for a letter to reach Peking, and this denied me the instructions of the legation for the time, and I answered without instructions.
I informed the Japanese consul-general that, upon general principles, I did not understand that the functions of his office would be continued in me; that I could not, in the absence of special instructions, assume to exercise any of his consular functions, for they ended with the declaration of war, and that the use of my flag, as proposed, could not be granted, for it might have the tendency of an unfriendly import to China, was unusual, and besides, it was not necessary for the United States to accent any declaration they might make, for it would be respected anyhow.
He then asked me what I conceived to be the character of the new duties devolved upon me.
I replied that such of his countrymen as desired to remain in China to pursue their peaceful business vocations would be protected by my Government, and if molested that I would feel it my duty to promptly bring the matter to the attention of the Chinese Government, and if charged with an offense to intervene to the extent of having the charges intelligently made before the proper court.
He asked me if his countrymen in China were under American law. I answered that they were not under American law as an American citizen would be, nor could Japanese be tried in the court of this consulate-general.
It was somewhat difficult to make the scope of my meaning clear, until I pointed out to the Japanese consul-general the inconsistency of taking down his flag and continuing the functions of his office under my flag.
Subsequently I have received the legation’s circular, and was gratified that I had kept within instructions. At the time of the declaration of war there were about one thousand [Page 104] Japanese at this port, scattered over the city, and engaged in various business vocations. This number was greatly augmented by the coming here of nearly every Japanese at the other treaty ports. This being the larger and better protected, all came here.
Within the last two weeks many have returned to Japan, though there are still here as many as 800.
The intense bitterness between China and Japan emphasizes the complications that may arise here at any moment, and my first step was to invite to my office the manager of a branch of the Japan Bank and four other Japanese well known and respected in business circles. These readily agreed to constitute a consulting committee, through which I could reach their countrymen, and to aid me in getting as many of their countrymen to go to Japan as could without serious injury to their business.
Thus far the plan has worked favorably, but you will appreciate, with a knowledge of Asiatic races, the delicacy of my position.
I will do my best, believing that you will view liberally my mistakes. The subtle diplomacy of Asia is more successfully opposed by simplicity and firmness.
I send our minister at Peking all the reliable war news I receive. China and Japan appear very determined.
I am, etc.,