Mr. Breckinridge to Mr. Olney.

No. 132.]

Sir: I have to confirm my telegram of August 23, in regard to the admission of American missionaries in China to Russian territory.

Referring to my No. 127, of August 15, upon the same subject, I inclose copy and translation of a note from Mr. Chichkine of August 9/21, received yesterday evening.

[Page 1078]

I also inclose copy of my reply to Prince Lobanow, of this date, discussing the mode of applying the conditions imposed and referring to the treatment which has been given by his Government to this business.

While the Russian Government does not reply in terms to the inquiry whether their laws deny the right of asylum to our citizens in peril of their lives, as in China, yet it is only too plain that such is the case, and also that it is extremely difficult to get them to effectively exercise their ready power to waive its application in the present emergency.

This matter has occasioned me no little anxiety, both as to the nature of the subject and, especially under the pressure of recent events in China, as to the possible peril to some of our people at remote and exposed points in that country.

I have tried to keep as closely in touch with the Department as the circumstances seemed to permit. The last note from the foreign office has seemed to me to require a reply no less full than the one I have made, though, as stated in my No. 127, I did not expect to communicate with the Russian Government further upon the subject until I received instructions based upon that statement of the case.

I will not lengthen this dispatch by recapitulating the points in my present note to Prince Lobanow; but referring to it and to the other inclosure, I respectfully submit my action in the premises and the present status of the case.

I have, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.
[Inclosure 1 in No. 132.—Translation.]

Mr. Chichkine to Mr. Breckinridge.

Mr. Envoy: In answer to the two notes which you have had the goodness to address to the ministry of foreign affairs, dated May 23/ June 4 and July 27/August 8, I hasten to inform you that the Imperial Government finds no inconvenience in permitting the American missionaries, victims of religious persecution in China, to pass the frontier and to give them asylum on Russian territory. At the same time, the members of American ecclesiastical missions can only resort to Siberia after they have bound themselves in writing to abstain from all religious propaganda and from all interference in religious matters.

I deem it my duty to add that, in conformity with the decision taken by the Imperial Government, our minister at Peking, as well as the competent authorities in Siberia, has been furnished the necessary instructions to this effect.

Please accept, etc.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 132.]

Mr. Breckinridge to Prince Lobanow.

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note of His Excellency Mr. Chichkine of August 9/21, in reply to the notes of this legation of May 23/June 4 and July 27/August 8, informing me that the Imperial Government finds no inconvenience in [Page 1079] permitting American missionaries who may be victims of religious persecution in China to pass the frontier and to give them refuge in Russian territory.

I note the condition attached, that said missionaries can only enter Siberia after they have bound themselves in writing to abstain from all religious propaganda and from all interference in religious matters.

His excellency further has the goodness to state that in conformity with this decision the Russian minister at Peking as well as the competent authorities in Siberia have been furnished with the necessary instructions.

I have not failed to telegraph this gratifying assurance to my Government and to confirm it more fully by mail.

In regard to the condition imposed upon the privilege of asylum in Russian territory, I wish to call your excellency’s attention to a feature in its application which may entirely neutralize the benefits intended to be bestowed.

First, however, I wish to emphasize the fact that no privilege upon Russian soil has been requested or desired for these citizens above those extended to any other persons. This legation has sought to make it very plain that the sole purpose is in the interest of humanity to save life, and that our citizens would be expected to obey strictly the laws of the Empire or to surfer the just consequences of not doing so.

To return, then, to the manner in which the proposed condition is to be applied, I note that these citizens are only to be permitted to cross the frontier “after” they have bound themselves in writing, etc.

I believe it is the practice of the Imperial Government to turn back at the frontier all those of whom a condition is required unless they conform to or have complied with that condition, as certified by the proper imperial authority, who may be stationed in the country from which the applicant comes or in some country through which he has passed.

As I have tried heretofore to make clear, the only cases in which the hospitalities of the Empire could be of avail to our citizens in China are those in which they are comparatively near the Russian border, and hence are remote from Pekin and the coast, where the minister and consuls are located. Their danger consists chiefly in the remoteness of their location and the suddenness of their peril.

Hence it would seem quite impossible for them now to enter into the required agreement and have it acted upon by his excellency the minister at Pekin, the only official beyond the frontier mentioned in the note now under consideration, in time to be of much service to them. This might have been of service when the American minister at Pekin first sought to provide them with such a permit; but if in the midst of the present peril they are to communicate with Pekin and then wait until they can get a reply, it would seem to be a dangerous delay.

I ask, then, if this emergency can not be met by letting our citizens cross the frontier simply upon condition that they obey the laws after they enter the empire?

It is an immediately operative permit that I have sought to procure.

I trust your excellency will not misconstrue me when I say that the delay which has occurred in this business is a matter of extreme regret to me. At the earliest possible moment I sought to impress with all proper earnestness the peculiar character of this question in the estimation of my Government and in that of all the people of the United States. Tour excellency’s reception of my statements was gracious and gratifying; but from some cause, despite my continued efforts, no attention [Page 1080] to the business could be secured; and my note of July 27/August 8, written when you were not receiving the diplomatic representatives, and which requested, in view of the nature of the case, the honor of an acknowledgment, that I might know if it had received your own attention, was not acknowledged. Of course, there may be good and sufficient reasons for all this that I do not know. I could only report the facts to ray Government as they occurred. Having now this measure of favorable action, I hastened to telegraph it to my Government, both for the benefit of our exposed citizens and to correct, as far as this favorable information can, the impression justified by the former condition of this business. I now avail myself of this opportunity to make this frank statement to your excellency, as a course both right in itself and best conducive to good relations between our respective Governments and countries.

I further avail myself, etc.,

Clifton R. Breckinridge.