Mr. Gresham to Mr. Denby.
Washington, February 28, 1895.
Sir: I have received and considered your dispatches numbered 2064 and 2065, of December 18 and 20, 1894, in relation to bringing foreign troops to Peking as guards for the legations established there, and in [Page 199] particular to your claim that such a guard or “escort” for the United States legation is a specific treaty right.
I do not find that article 5 of the treaty of 1858, to which you appeal, secures to the United States a right to maintain at Peking a military or other guard of 20 men. That article relates to the privilege, then stipulated, of making diplomatic visits to the Chinese capital for the transaction of business, not exceeding one visit each year; and the “entire suite” of the minister (exclusive of Chinese servants) on such journeys is limited to 20 persons. This is quite different from a military guard of 20 soldiers in addition to the personnel of the legation.
Moreover, the provisions of article 5 of the treaty of 1858 are virtually obsolete, since by the Anglo-Chinese treaty of June 26, 1858, the Franco-Chinese treaty of June 27, 1858, and subsequent treaties of China with other countries, the right of maintaining permanent legations at Peking has been granted to certain powers, and enjoyed by the United States as a favored-nation privilege.
I do not find in any of the treaties with China provisions authorizing the protection of the legations by foreign troops. You state in your dispatch that “The question of the right of the legations to have escorts here (Peking) is abstract and independent of the probability of its exercise.” If this Government has the right, independently of treaty, to keep its own troops at Peking for the service of the legation, then it necessarily is the judge as to the character and strength or number of the guard. But, as a recognized principle of international intercourse, no government would, if it could prevent it, permit the introduction into its territory of such a foreign military force. China, like any other government, is bound to afford adequate protection to our legation. On the occasion of Mr. Burlingame’s visit to Peking in 1862, a Chinese escort was furnished to him.
The President sees no reason why the legation should court danger by remaining at Peking in the face of imminent or threatening peril; and you would have the right to an adequate escort to assist you in avoiding it by removal to a place of safety where you would be under the immediate and legitimate protection of your own flag. Nevertheless, in view of your telegram of the 18th instant, reporting that other legations are bringing military guards to Peking with the consent of the Chinese Government, I telegraphed the 19th instant, as follows:
You say troops have arrived with China’s consent to protect other legations. In cooperation with Carpenter you are authorized to bring up marines under similar conditions.
I am, etc.,