Mr. Jones to Mr. Rockhill.
Chinkiang, July 24, 1896. (Received Sept. 4.)
Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department of State that on the 12th day of May last a serious disturbance occurred at Kiangyin, an important town, 60 miles below Chinkiang, on the Yangtze River, within this consular district, in which the American Southern Presbyterian Mission was attacked, the house wrecked and stripped of its furniture and belongings. The two missionaries, Messrs, Haden and Little, residing there, were enabled to escape without injury, and made their way by steamer to Chinkiang.
As will be seen, this was not a disturbance originating in any anti-foreign or antimissionary feeling on the part of the people, but was the result of a conspiracy formed by three men with the purpose of extorting money. Ultimately it grew into proportions beyond their control, and became, in point of fact, an antimissionary riot.
The missionaries, Messrs. Haden and Little, had resided two years at Kiangyin, and had been treated by the people with every kindness and consideration, and this disturbance came upon them, to use their own expression, “like a clap of thunder from a clear sky.” The circumstances of the outbreak as related by them were as follows: Some ten days before a Chinese man, Huan by name, known as “the doctor” and bearing no good reputation in the community, called to see Messrs. Haden and Little, and told them that he came on behalf of the proprietor of the property occupied by them to take away the doors and windows of the house, as they were not included in the articles of the lease,” or in lieu thereof they would pay him $100. I may state here that the mission had rented this property for a period of ten years, and had paid the rent in advance. The missionaries promptly refused to allow him to take away the doors and windows or to pay him $100, and he went away in no good humor. A day or two after the proprietor himself called, represented that he was in need of money, and proposed that they should add another year to the period of the lease, and pay him the rent in advance, and that if they would do so he would give them a feast in acknowledgment This proposition was agreed to and the additional [Page 76] rent paid. The feast was accordingly given them, but the “doctor,” the intermediary, was not invited, at which slight he felt aggrieved, and, in Chinese parlance, “lost face.”
One morning about daylight, a day or two after this incident, the next neighbor, a widow, created an alarm, and when the missionaries came out aroused by her cries, she informed them that their back gate was open, and that thieves had entered their premises. They found evidences that someone had been on their grounds, but supposing that it was merely an attempt to steal their pigeons, thought nothing more of it. The next night their servants discovered two men in the back yard, but allowed them to escape without interference. A day or two subsequently, to wit, on the 12th of May, they were surprised by the appearance of a hundred men or more in front of the house, prominent among them and apparently their leader was the “doctor,” who blandly told them that a child or two of the neighborhood was missing, and that they had come to search their house for the missing children, and demanded admission.
The missionaries replied that no missing children were secreted there, and that neither the “doctor” nor his friends could be admitted on any such errand; that if they wished, they might report the matter to the magistrate, and that he would be free to come and search the house, if he thought necessary; one of the missionaries at the same time went to the yamên of the magistrate and reported the presence of the crowd at their house and requested his protection.
Shortly after the magistrate, attended by ten or a dozen of his yamên runners, proceeded to the scene. By this time the crowd had greatly increased and numbered now over a thousand people. The magistrate was informed of the object of the gathering, and requested to search the premises that the excitement might be allayed and further difficulty avoided. The magistrate made a search and nothing was found. At this point of proceedings the “doctor” came forward, and on his knees begged that he might be allowed to search, declaring that he had reason to believe the missing children were buried in the back yard. He was told to search, which he did, and in a few moments unearthed, wrapped in a straw matting, the dead body of a Chinese child about 18 months old, and which apparently had been dead about fifteen or twenty days.
At this astonishing discovery the magistrate confronted the missionaries and asked them, pointing to the dead body, what they had to say about it? Of course, their astonishment was such they could say nothing. In a few minutes the news had spread through the excited and suspicious crowd. The tumult became ungovernable, and while the magistrate wasted his breath in frantic and helpless appeals for order, the house was wrecked and plundered before his eyes. The missionaries fled through the back premises and reached a neighboring fort in safety.
These facts, as soon as they reached me, were communicated to the taotai of Chinkiang, whose jurisdiction extends to Kiangyin. He at once instituted vigorous measures for the arrest and punishment of all concerned in this outrage, officers were promptly sent to the scene of trouble, and a searching investigation opened.
At an examination held by the magistrate at Kiangyin, the deputy from Chinkiang, and a deputy from Soochow, sitting together with judicial authority, it was established beyond all doubt, that the trouble was brought about by three men, Huan Chi-yao, otherwise known as [Page 77] the “doctor,” Tsiang Suk-chu, and Chen Sing-long, who conspired together to lay at the door of the two missionaries the grave charge of kidnaping children, with a view to utilize their eyes, hearts, lungs, etc., for medical purposes, and who executed their fiendish design by actually burying a dead child in the premises of the mission and unearthed it in the presence of the mob for their conviction and possibly their destruction.
These men were duly arrested. At their trial they were brought before and examined by their judges, separate and apart. Each one was made to kneel upon a coil of iron cable in giving his testimony, a custom of the Chinese in all criminal cases, and the only species of torture used on this occasion. The testimony and confessions of the prisoners corroborated, and they were condemned, Huan Chi Yan and Chen Sing Long to be executed by decapitation, Tsiang to be strangled. By the testimony and confessions of the prisoners, it appears that Huan, the “doctor,” who had repeatedly requested small loans of money from the missionaries and been refused, and who had “lost face” in the community by his exclusion from the feast which the proprietor had given them, cherished a feeling of resentment toward those persons and made up his mind to get even with them by extorting money from them.
Tsiang, who was a friend of the missionaries and in constant intercourse with them, kept a little shop, which was practically an opium den, and the familiar resort of Huan. These men had been associated since boyhood in the friendliest relations, and “how to get even with the missionaries” was the question now frequently discussed by them. Tsiang was led into the scheme by the promise of a share of the profits, and he it was who suggested the idea of introducing the dead child, and knew where one was to be found, which he pointed out to Huan, but in the meanwhile kept up his friendly intercourse with his proposed victim. Chen Sing Long was a simple good-for-nothing peasant, known heretofore for nothing good nor bad, ignorant and worthless, a town loafer who would do anything he was told to do for a few cash or a bowl of rice. When the arrangements for the execution of this diabolical conspiracy were concluded, Chen was simply told to “come along,” and accompanied the others, taking part in digging up the child, carrying it to the grounds of the missionaries and burying it there, which occupied a part of two nights. On the morning the child was to be discovered buried in the missionaries’ premises and the guilt of the missionaries established an outside friend or two only was to proceed to the house with the conspirators, when it was thought that, confronted with the evidence of their guilt, the missionaries would pay money to hush the matter up, but unfortunately for this scheme many others were attracted to the spot and a tumult occurred not provided for in the programme, so that the affair passed beyond the control of the conspirators, their plan for the extortion of money was a failure, and a serious riot was the result.
Huan bore his trial with bravado. He is a man about 39 years old, and has the appearance of a student. Tsiang underwent more or less trepidation, but finally told his story straight. He is about the same age as Huan, and a villainous-looking rascal. Chen, a round-faced, stupid-looking man of about 26 years of age, preserved his character as a simple, ignorant peasant throughout, and was entirely indifferent to his fate. Of the three, he only commanded my commiseration, for apparently he knew no better.[Page 78]
Many other arrests have been made of persons taking part in the riot, and upon examination and trial fifteen of them have been condemned to minor punishments.
The magistrate at Kiangyin, at my instance, issued a proclamation, which was posted broadcast throughout the district, setting out the facts of the case as here related and exonerating the missionaries completely from any participation whatever.
I demanded of the authorities a searching examination and the arrest and punishment of the conspirators and the participators in this outrage on an American Christian mission; I demanded an ample indemnity to the missionaries for their losses; I demanded that the property the mission heretofore rented be secured to the mission by a title deed to the land on a reasonable payment of its value; I demanded that the authorities secure them in the peaceful possession of their land and protect them in the prosecution of their missionary duties, and that proclamations from the viceroy to this effect be given and posted throughout the length and breadth of the three provinces.
I am happy to be able to report that most of these demands have already been complied with, and reliable assurances have been given me that the others will likewise be complied with.
It is proper that I should state in concluding this report that throughout the whole of this unhappy affair I have had the cordial cooperation of the Taotai Lü of Chinkiang, whose intelligent, vigorous, and straightforward action from beginning to end has won my highest admiration as well as my deepest gratitude.
I have, etc.,