Mr. Rockhill to Mr. Denby, jr., chargé.

No. 1312.]

Sir: The Department has been unavoidably prevented from instructing you in regard to the representations it deems proper should be made to the Chinese Government on the subject of the Szechuan and Fukien antiforeign riots of 1895. The delay has arisen from the inability of our consul at Foochow, through a severe and protracted illness, to prepare [Page 58] his report on the proceedings of the commission sent to Kutien, embodying his conclusions as to the adequacy of the punishments imposed by the Chinese authorities on the individuals found guilty of participation in the outrage, or on officials who were proven to have been remiss in the discharge of their duties toward American citizens residing in the province.

The report of Lieutenant-Commander Newell, U. S. N., the joint commissioner with Mr. Hixon, has long since been received, but even at the date of writing Mr. Hixon’s report has not reached the Department. Under date of May 2, instant, in the dispatch to the Department forwarding a copy of Commander Newell’s report, in which lie in general terms concurs, Mr. Hixon says:

The accompanying report is, in many respects, far from being satisfactory to me, and especially so in its phraseology and in the general arrangements of presenting the details. Moreover, the case against the officials is not made out as strong as it might have been, according to the data now at hand. Nevertheless, as stated in my note of concurrence, the report is generally correct as far as it goes.

The divergency in the opinion of Mr. Hixon is therefore one of degree and not of facts or conclusions, and so the Department has determined to no longer defer writing you upon this important subject.

It is desirable that the subject of these riots should be treated as a whole, for, while the incentive motives are not the same in the two present instances, the graver question of official responsibility which, unfortunately, underlies most antiforeign riots in China, is in this, as in all cases, the principal subject of our concern. The earnest desire of this Government, and it is confidently expected a like desire animates that of China, is to render the recurrence of outrages of this nature impossible by the adoption of such measures as experience has now shown best suited to that end. The punishment of those who have actively participated in antiforeign riots has everywhere proved unavailing in preventing the recurrence of similar events, nor have the proclamations of provincial authorities, nor even the most solemn imperial decrees, for instance, that of August 9, 1895, been much more effective. In every case, moreover, before adequate reparation has been obtained by the treaty powers, long negotiations with the provincial authorities or the Tsung-li Yamên have been necessary, and the punishments finally inflicted have consequently lost-much of their material and moral effect by this enforced delay.

It can not be expected that the uprisings of irresponsible and ignorant mobs can be definitely prevented in China any more than in any other country, but it is confidently believed that a formal and categorical recognition on the part of the Chinese Government of the residential rights of American citizens in the Empire and of their determination to hold responsible and punish local officials upon the occurrence of a riot, must certainly produce a far reaching and beneficial effect.

The commission sent last year to investigate the antiforeign riots in Szechuan has stated its belief to be that “the simplest and most efficacious policy for the case is to insist that the local officials shall be held responsible and punished without further investigation than is necessary to establish the fact that such riots have occurred $ for we are firmly convinced that, except in the case of open rebellion, no such riots of any extent can take place if the local officials are energetic in the use of their influence and the means that they have at their disposal.”

Commander Newell, in his report of the Kutien riots, says that but for the inertness, inefficiency, and culpable neglect of certain provincial [Page 59] and other authorities, whom he mentions by name, the massacre of Hua shan could have been prevented. Since then the dilatory conduct of the viceroy of the Min Che provinces, Pien Pao-chuan, in regard to the consideration of the questions affecting Americans residing in his provinces, as stated in your No. 2500, of April 2, 1896, is additional proof of the necessity for more emphatic action on the part of the Peking Government in enforcing, as there is no shadow of doubt they can do, due consideration for the Emperor’s edicts and its own orders.

Two more examples emphasizing these conclusions may be cited. I refer to the conduct of the magistrate of Kiang-yin during the anti-missionary riot of May 12 of this year (reported in your No. 2533, of May 23), and to the even more recent troubles of Lammo, in Hunau, mentioned in your No. 2549, of June 19. Here again the conduct of the local officials would seem to affirm the conclusions reached by the Szechuan investigating commission and adopted by the Department.

The general conclusions to be drawn from the foregoing statements as to the best means of preventing the recurrence of the antiforeign riots in China would seem to be:

The formal recognition by China of residential rights of American citizens.
The determination of and formal declaration by China to hold responsible and promptly punish, not only all individuals or officials directly or remotely involved upon the occurrence of any riot in which peaceable American citizens have been involved, but also the viceroy or governor of the province in which it has occurred and who is directly responsible to the throne for the acts of every one of his subordinates, although his only fault may be ignorance.

Your long residence in China and your familiarity with the Chinese character will undoubtedly enable you to act intelligently in such matters and render unnecessary detailed instructions for your guidance at the present time. Before discussing, however, with the Tsung-li Yamên the views of this Government, as herein indicated, with a view to devising means whereby formal recognition of these general principles may best be obtained and effectively promoted to guard and protect the interests and rights of our citizens in that empire, the Department invites from you counter suggestions as to the method that, in your judgment, should be adopted to accomplish these desirable ends.

Perhaps the submission of a draft note embodying these views with such suggestions as you think fit to offer, before presenting it or discussing the subject with the Tsung-li Yamên, will afford the best and surest way of informing the Department upon this subject. However this may be, it desires you to give the matter your prompt, earnest, and careful consideration.

This course will not prevent you, however, from at once acquainting the Chinese Government of the fact that the United States is now seriously considering the question of devising means for the further and more perfect prevention of these lamentable outrages, and that you may be authorized at any moment to formulate and present its views upon the subject, not doubting that the well-known reputation of China to accord exact and equal justice in all cases will not be wanting to meet your Government’s wishes in a matter of such importance toward maintaining the amicable relations that have uniformly characterized both countries.

I am, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill,
Acting Secretary.