Mr. Sill to Mr. Olney.
Seoul Korea, January 20, 1896. (Received Feb. 18.)
Sir: I have the honor to address you on the subject-matter of your telegram of the 11th instant, which reached me on the morning of the 13th. I answered by cable the same day. When this telegram reached me I was starting for Chemulpo to attend an important meeting of the municipal council, of which I am ex officio a member, and I am now taking my first opportunity to write, as promised in my telegram.
I can add little to what I said in this telegram. Referring to my Nos. 175 and 176, to which you call attention, I may say that No. 175 confirms my telegram of December 1, and recites my reasons for sending it. In reference to it and to your reply thereto, I desire to say I had at no time supposed that refugees could be sheltered by me “against officers of the de facto Government charged with apprehending them as violators of the laws of their country.” On the contrary, they had been informed by me that I must at any time give them up upon proper demand of the Korean Government; hence my desire to get them out of the way before any demand for them should be served on me.
In citing my reasons for sending the telegram mentioned above, I give an account of our audience with His Majesty on occasion of the revoking of the decree degrading the Queen. In my remarks to His Majesty on this occasion I plainly see that I went wrong, and that it was superfluous and perhaps dangerous to allude to the former decree of October 8, though I was addressing a man who had, under great difficulty, communicated directly to this legation that it was issued in absolute opposition to his feelings and wishes and while he was under a duress that he was powerless to resist.
As to my No. 176, I doubtless erred, in hesitating, with others, to give full credence to the dispatch from the foreign office announcing the death of the Queen on October 8, but the decree which it was proposed to revoke was based on the theory that she was not killed on October 8, but had undutifully fled away when most needed by His Majesty; and again, these doubts were expressed only in our preliminary conference, and were practically dispelled by Mr. Komura’s emphatic statement that in his opinion Her Majesty’s death had been satisfactorily established.
So far as my letter to the foreign office is concerned, it expresses no doubt on this point.
I will add that my position as doyen of the diplomatic body makes it my duty to call conferences of the foreign representatives when it seems proper to do so, and especially when requested by my colleagues. The meeting held on December 1, to discuss the proper action to be taken in case of announcement of the death of the Queen, was convened at the request of two of my colleagues. In some cases, when conferences have been held and a unanimous conclusion reached, I have been requested to submit such conclusion in behalf of the body. This may sometimes have given the impression of joint action when there was no previous intention of acting otherwise than independently.
I regret that the position of doyen falls to me, since it often gives me a prominence in action that I would by no means seek or desire.
Possibly the circumstances by which I am surrounded have influenced me unconsciously, for I live in an atmosphere of continual and often arbitrary and violent interference in Korean affairs. Sometimes this interference is directly antagonistic to American interests. Sometimes, [Page 978] in my judgment, it endangers the peace and good order of Korea and, by consequence, the safety of American life and property. In either case there is some temptation to meet interference with counter interference. However, I shall make no further errors in this direction.
In conclusion, I can only repeat what my telegram was intended to make plain, that is, that I am far from desiring to be neglectful of instructions, and that I shall in future exercise extra caution to keep well within them.
I have, etc.,