Mr. Barrett to Mr. Sherman.
Bangkok , April 5, 1897 .
Sir: In addition to my consular dispatch No. 37, entitled “Important concession granted to an American by the Siamese Government,” as being a matter of commercial interest, I have the honor to call the Department’s attention to the matter in a dispatch.
The granting of the concession of the absolute electric-lighting privileges for twenty years of Bangkok and suburbs, representing a population of over half a million, and spread over a large area, by the Siamese Government to Mr. Lawrence E. Bennett, an American civil engineer, I consider one of the most noteworthy evidences of what American energy can accomplish in the Far East, if the opportunity is appreciated and developed in the proper way.
There has been so much discussion of prospective concessions to Americans in China and other countries of Asia, that I am pleased to have this one actually obtained and put into practical working in the country to which I have the honor to be accredited.
Especially is it gratifying to me, and I hope to the Department of State, that this concession is granted within one month after the adjustment of recent difficulties with the Siamese Government. It is material evidence that American influence has not suffered, and that the opportunity for Americans of energy, reliability, and capital in Siam has not been unfavorably affected by recent events.
Had American companies or American interests made earlier and stronger efforts, in accordance with repeated previous reports and recommendations of mine, other concessions and other opportunities for the development of commerce, trade, and general business could have been secured and seized, which have gone into the hands of companies and representatives from European countries.
Mr. Bennett has won his concession by showing to the Siamese Government that it would gain rather than lose by the transaction and by proving that he could do what was expected as well as, or better, than anyone else. It is also the result of hard, persistent endeavor on his part and of competition with others for the valuable rights granted. As United States minister I have given him such moral support as was permissible and legitimate, and I am confident that the policy that I have followed here under your esteemed direction has been such as to enable the Siamese Government to place confidence in any relations they may have with Americans now or in the future. There is, of course, very much to be desired yet in the way matters are managed by the Siamese and in the promulgation of improvements of all kinds—the upbuilding of trade and commerce with foreign lands—but I am hopeful that experience and observation will prove to the Siamese Government the advantage of development and progress. They deserve credit, however, for having done much that commends itself to foreigners.
Finally, as suggested by Mr. Bennett’s concession, I would urge through the Department of State, what I have said many times before, that now is the time for American material interests in the far East to be built up from Japan to Java. One of the greatest opportunities of the world is here. Great Britain, Germany, and France are competing [Page 482] more hotly everyday for the chief share of its growing business and trade. Their merchants, exporters, steamship companies, and commercial representatives are leaving no stone unturned to thoroughly exploit the fields open in Japan, China, Siam, and neighboring lands and colonies. May Americans awake to the situation before it is too late.
I have, etc.,