Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 7, 1896, and the Annual Report of the Secretary of State
Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney.
Pelting, November 24, 1896. (Received Jan. 4, 1897.)
Sir: In compliance with your telegrams of October 31, I have prepared and sent to the Yamên a communication demanding the punishment of the officials who failed to do their duty in the protection of American citizens at Kutien, and demanding, also, damages for Miss Mabel C. Hartford, as directed by you. I inclose a copy of this communication. It is proper to state that I had, before the receipt of your telegram, directed the consul at Foochow to present Miss Hartford’s [Page 65] claim. No claims on account of the English sufferers have been presented and the whole matter of the Kutien outrages has been dropped by the British minister. * * *
I have, etc.,
Mr. Denby to the Tsung-li Yamên.
Messieurs les Ministres: I have the honor to inform you that I have been instructed by my Government to bring to your attention some facts connected with the antiforeign riots which occurred at Kutien the 1st day of August, 1895, and to demand that you take cognizance of the conduct of the officials with regard to the same, and that proper and suitable punishments be decreed against them.
Owing to the severe and prolonged illness of Consul Hixson, his report on the riots mentioned was not received until recently.
My Government has taken action thereon at the earliest possible moment after receiving the report of the consul.
In the matter of these riots it is known to your highnesses and your excellencies that my Government delegated two gentlemen—the American consul at Foochow and Commander Newell, of the United States Navy—to go to Kutien as commissioners to be present at the trials of the criminals who were engaged in the riots, and to investigate all the matters connected therewith. The report of Commander Newell was received at Washington the 5th day of February, 1896; that of Consul Hixson was received quite recently, owing to the facts above stated. In his report Commander Newell uses this language:
To conclude, attention is respectfully invited to the following summary regarding the responsibility of certain officials who, but for their inertness, inefficiency, and culpable neglect, could have prevented the crime that has been made the subject of this report.
He proceeds to charge the following officials with misconduct, as hereinafter stated:
He acted as the go-between or interceder for the Vegetarians that invaded the yamên and demanded the release of the Vegetarians held for using seditious language. He endeavored to prevent the sending of soldiers to Kutien when the district magistrate requested the viceroy to send them. He tried to influence the deputy, Ho Ting, contrary to the appeals of the villagers from An Chong, when that place was threatened with an attack from the Vegetarians assembling at Kung Shan Ch’i in July, 1895, just prior to the massacre, and after the massacre he made light of the affair. His whole conduct indicates that he was in sympathy with the Vegetarians. He was city magistrate at Foochow.
He was district magistrate at Kutien prior to May, 1895. He was weak and inefficient in failing to take cognizance of the lawless acts of the Vegetarians. He allowed himself to be intimidated into the release of the Vegetarians. He entered into negotiations with them and accepted [Page 66] their dictation as to the disposition of prisoners in his custody. He displayed cowardice in disposing of the cases before him. He became alarmed and conferred with the leaders and accepted their false statements as true. He failed to make known to the official sent by the viceroy to inquire into the condition of things—the lawless condition rife in his magistracy. Owing to his timidity, apathy, and supineness, this official was guilty of a gross and criminal neglect of duty.
Li Sen-Sang, the wei-yuan sent by the viceroy in response to the calls of Wang Yu-Yang, district magistrate, Kutien, and of the British consul, and the request of the United States consul, failed to do his duty. He remained only one day at Kutien and then returned to Foochow, reporting that the district was quiet. His conduct deserves the severest censure.
Wang Ju-lin, the official who relieved Wang Yu-Yang in May, 1895, as district magistrate at Kutien, apparently accepted the situation then existing, and remained inactive until the murder at Cho-yang village, when he made a request upon the viceroy for troops.
It has been reported that he was degraded. If he has not been, his conduct should be inquired into.
Ho-Ting, a deputy, was sent in response to the call of Wang Ju-lin to investigate his report. Although impressed with the gravity of the situation he failed after the arrival of the soldiers to take any active steps tending to ascertain the truth of the rumors then flying about or to disperse the Vegetarians. It is reported that he gave no orders to the military to leave the city.
I Chien, acting district magistrate, who superseded Wang Ju-lin as the magistrate of Kutien district, arrived at Kutien August 5, 1895, four days after the massacre. At first he acted with zeal, but his zeal soon fell off.
After the arrival of Hsu Taotai the proceedings of the examination of the prisoners were conducted with apathy on the part of the magistrate and his deputies. This official displayed no desire to obtain any information tending to show the origin of the movement or the conception of the attack prior to the gathering at the fastness.
This method prevented the committee from tracing direct responsibility for the attack beyond the murderers themselves. The magistrate issued an obnoxious proclamation. He unwarrantedly released suspects. The attempt by asking leading questions to make the testimony of different prisoners harmonize and to minimize the numbers engaged showed a disposition to belittle the injury. He deserves censure.
This official was the prefect residing in Foochow. Prior to July, being the superior official, he was in a measure responsible for the perturbed condition of his prefecture, and therefore deserves condemnation. His failure to see that the magistrates performed their duties faithfully deserves censure. He should have informed himself of the true state of affairs and should have taken measures to correct the growing lawlessness.[Page 67]
Ch’en Ping-chi, as acting prefect, failed to inform himself of the true condition of affairs in his prefecture, or, if informed, did not take measures to remedy the same. While on his way to Kutien he failed to render promptly the assistance requested by Dr. Gregory, which humanity demanded. His refusal to allow the consuls to be present at the trial should not be overlooked. He allowed the magistrate to issue an obnoxious proclamation and failed when his attention had been called to the matter to have the same at once recalled. He allowed the magistrate to release incriminated subjects without consulting the consuls, as agreed on, and failed to order rearrests. He furthermore allowed the magistrate and his deputies to conduct examinations and record evidence in a manner at variance with the testimony elicited before the committee.
This taotai, sent in response to the request of the committee for a high official with plenary powers, arrived in Kutien September 10.
From this date the arrests rapidly decreased, and the rigor of the prosecution on the part of the Chinese officials perceptibly diminished. He allowed the magistrate to reissue the obnoxious proclamation. It is proper to state here that this proclamation specifically mentioned Vegetarians and Christians. The former, if disposed to do well in the future, would be allowed to enter the “Lien-chia.” The latter could also be enrolled, but the dates of birth and of becoming Christians must be registered. This had a baneful effect, at once rehabilitating the Vegetarians and checking the arrests, and making Christians a special class.
Hsu Hsing-yi in his report to the viceroy, quoted by the Tsung-li Yamên to the legation, under date October 6, 1895, falsely represented the condition of affairs, and made malicious and false charges against the native Christians.
This official was viceroy prior to May, 1895. He failed to take proper measures to inform himself as to the true condition of affairs in the district of Kutien. He failed to take the necessary steps, when informed by the British consul of the perturbed condition in Kutien district, to correct the same. He failed to act promptly upon the receipt of a request from the district magistrate, in March, 1895, for soldiers, but instead of so doing caused a delay by sending Li Sen-sang to investigate, who failed to perform properly his mission. This viceroy, by removing the district magistrate, Wang Yu-Yang, shortly afterwards, gives proof that prior thereto he had not properly administered the laws. He should be severely dealt with.
Pien Pao-ch’uan, viceroy since May, 1895, is culpable for failing to heed the warning contained in District Magistrate Wang Ju-lin’s request for troops in June, 1895; causing delay by sending Ho Ting to investigate; sending an inadequate force; placing obstacles in the way of the committee reaching Kutien promptly; for so construing the law as to lessen the gravity of the crime; for delay in sending Hsu Taotai to Kutien; for concealing the fact that Hsu was appointed to assist in the inquiry, and for delaying official action in the cases of criminals.[Page 68]
The charges so made by Commander Newell in his official report against the officials named are all repeated by Consul Hixson in his report. This dispatch is already so long that I forbear to make quotations from the consul’s report.
The two commissioners above named, as well as the members of the Chengtu commission, have agreed in stating that the simplest way to prevent antiforeign riots is to hold the local officials responsible for acts occurring in their jurisdiction. In the matter of the Kutien massacre no punishment has been denounced against any official. It is the opinion of my Government that this crime furnishes a suitable opportunity to illustrate the adoption of the policy enunciated. I have therefore to urge upon you the necessity and expediency of causing a searching examination to be made into the conduct of the officials named and of all other persons involved in the Kutien troubles, and of assessing against the guilty severe punishments In this connection, I am also instructed to demand damages for Miss Mabel C. Hartford, an American citizen, who was injured, as hereinafter stated.
This lady was attacked while the massacre was going on by a man with a spear. The man endeavored to transfix her with the spear, but she succeeded in twisting it to one side so that only a slight injury was done. The man then threw her down and beat her violently with the wooden end of the spear. A servant came and after a tussle with the assailant succeeded in wrenching the spear from him. Miss Hartford ran away and concealed herself on the side of the hill. Her nervous system was shocked, and she was sick and confined to her bed for several weeks.
I am instructed by my Government to demand the payment of $1,000, American money, equivalent at present rates to 1,880 Mexican dollars, as damages for Miss Hartford.
In now demanding that the delinquent officials above named shall be tried, and punished if found guilty as charged, I have to state that I am following the precedent that was set in the case of the riots in Szechuan by the Government of China.
On the 14th day of October, 1895, an Imperial decree was issued which specifically denounced penalties against a large number of officials.
Among the officials so denounced were department magistrates, district magistrates, one colonel, one lieutenant, one prefect, one chief of police. It is well known also that the viceroy was degraded. In the much graver riots at Kutien no punishment has been assessed against the delinquent officials. It is not too late to repair this oversight. In addition to the names of the officials already cited, I cite the following whose conduct should be inquired into and who deserve punishment. A detailed statement of the charges made against them can be furnished if desired: Colonel Fang Yu-te, Deputy Chu Tsung-ping, Deputy Nioh Yuan-lung, Expectant Prefect Ch’en Tsung-shu, Deputy Li Chun-hui, Expectant Magistrate Lu Wei-wen, Deputy Chang Wen.