Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Olney.

No. 127.]

Sir: Referring to Mr. Uhl’s No. 57, of May 16, 1895, I now have to report the status of the request that certain American missionaries in China be permitted to take refuge across the Russian frontier in case they found it necessary to do so for the protection of their lives.

The case was first presented to the foreign office by Mr. Peirce’s note of June 4, copy of which you have.

Upon my return from leave of absence, feeling that this matter might be one of life and death to some of our missionaries of both sexes, and possibly to children as well, stationed at remote points in China, I called upon Prince Lobanow upon the subject. This was the latter part of June. In this interview I dwelt upon the moral and physical aspects of the case, commenting upon its importance, since it has come to us, even if the danger were over; and I emphasized the fact that it was not for these people as ecclesiastics that admission to Russia was desired, but as men and women in danger of their lives, and that they would be expected, of course, to conform to the laws of the country in which they sought refuge. I also represented to him the preeminent worth and law-abiding character of our missionaries. I did this more [Page 1076] particularly as the Greek Church never sends out missionaries, nor is missionary work, as we understand it, permitted in Russia, and Russians are apt to look upon such people as agitators with political ends in view. Prince Lobanow neither affirmed nor denied that Russian law and practice was as strict as had been represented in regard to ministers of the gospel entering Siberia, but the spirit of his remarks was considerate and gratifying. He promised to give the subject his personal attention, and I expressed the earnest hope that it could be brought to both a favorable and speedy conclusion.

Subsequently I called upon Count Kapuist, who has charge of the Asiatic division of the foreign office. He told me that inquiry had been made, and that I would be informed of the result as soon as a reply was received. He also said that the law in regard to ministers of religious denominations entering Siberia was very strict. I replied that I presumed so from the statements made to Mr. Denby by their representative at Peking, and that it seemed to me the case presented as it stood all that could be necessary in regard to the proposition of making an exception, as they have power to do, to meet the present exigency. I requested the Count, if he felt that he had to await the result of an inquiry, to use the telegraph, both to provide against any danger that might exist and to remove, I hoped, the attitude of our being denied the benefit of friendly shelter for our citizens in peril of their lives. While I left with some hope that Count Kapuist might expedite the intelligence as a matter of accommodation, yet I received no impression that he viewed the matter in any of its aspects as it appeared to me.

Upon the recent renewal of violence in China I addressed Prince Lobanow a note, dated August 8, copy of which is inclosed, calling attention to the fact that I had been prevented from again presenting the matter in person by his inability to receive the diplomatic corps upon his previous reception day, and that I was desirous to know that the note promptly reached him. I requested the kindness and honor of an acknowledgment of its receipt.

I have, etc.

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure in No. 127.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Prince Lobanow.

Your Excellency: Referring to the note of this legation of May 23/August 4, relating to the request of my Government that certain American citizens in China be granted the privilege of asylum upon Russian territory in case they find it necessary to seek refuge from violence at the hands of Chinese fanatics, and referring to my interview with your excellency, and also with Count Kapuist, upon the same subject, I now have the honor to again call attention to this painful matter, so full of peril to men and women of the United States now in greatly exposed positions.

For many months all accounts have corroborated the opinion that a dangerous spirit of hostility to foreigners was growing in China; at the same time the power of the Chinese Government has evidently grown weaker.

[Page 1077]

Your excellency has been informed already through the official channels of my Government of the declination of the Russian minister at Peking to grant this privilege of asylum on the ground that he had no power to extend it, and of his refusal to telegraph to his Government for that power upon the ground that it would be useless to do so.

Being extremely desirous of doing everything possible to avert what I believed to be a growing peril to my countrymen, and also to see removed as quickly as possible the attitude of my Government being denied the right of friendly asylum for its citizens where deemed necessary to save life, I respectfully and earnestly repeat my request that this matter be given favorable and immediate attention.

If not to your excellency, at least to Count Kapuist, I earnestly requested that telegraphic instructions to the desired effect be sent to the appropriate quarter, and this request I respectfully and earnestly repeat.

I herewith inclose a telegraphic clipping from the London Times, under date of August 3 and 4, giving the most trustworthy public information of rioting and murder of the character sought to be safe guarded against. I inclose also a similar telegram of August 3 from the Paris edition of the New York Herald, and another extract from the same journal of July 31, all showing the fatal and very general spread of this murderous spirit throughout China.

I attempt no comment upon these two facts—that American men and women are being murdered by a lot of fanatics, and others exposed to the same fate are still denied friendly shelter in adjacent territory of the Russian Empire.

I most earnestly request immediate attention to this situation, which, I know, if I have made it plain, will at once commend itself to your appreciation as much as it can possibly do to mine.

As your excellency did not receive on Wednesday last, when it was my purpose to again speak to you upon this subject, and as I do not desire to unnecessarily encroach upon your valuable time, nor to be in doubt about this promptly coming to your attention, I request the kindness and honor of an acknowledgment of its receipt.

I avail myself, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.