Mr. Hay to Mr. Buck .

No. 263.]

Sir: This Government, animated with a sincere desire to insure to the commerce and industry of the United States and of all other nations perfect equality of treatment within the limits of the Chinese Empire for their trade and navigation, especially within the so-called “spheres of influence or interest” claimed by certain European powers in China, has deemed the present an opportune moment to make representations in this direction to Germany, Great Britain, and Russia.

To obtain the object it has in view and to remove possible causes of international irritation and reestablish confidence so essential to commerce, it has seemed to this Government highly desirable that the various powers claiming “spheres of interest or influence” in China should give formal assurances that—

  • First. They will in no way interfere with any treaty port or any vested interest within any so-called “sphere of interest” or leased territory they may have in China.
  • Second. The Chinese treaty tariff of the time being shall apply to all merchandise landed or shipped to all such ports as are within said [Page 139] “sphere of interest” (unless they be “free ports “), no matter to what nationality it may belong, and that duties so leviable shall be collected by the Chinese Government.
  • Third. They will levy no higher harbor dues on vessels of another nationality frequenting any port in such “sphere” than shall be levied on vessels of their own nationality, and no higher railroad charges over lines built, controlled, or operated within such “sphere” on merchandise belonging to citizens or subjects of other nationalities transported through such “sphere” than shall be levied on similar merchandise belonging to their own nationals transported over equal distances.

The policy pursued by His Imperial German Majesty in declaring Tsing-tao (Kiao-chao) a free port and in aiding the Chinese Government in establishing there a custom-house, and the ukase of His Imperial Russian Majesty of August 11 last in erecting a free port at Dalny (Ta-lien-wan) are thought to be proof that these powers are not disposed to view unfavorably the proposition to recognize that they contemplate nothing which will interfere in any way with the enjoyment by the commerce of all nations of the rights and privileges guaranteed to them by existing treaties with China.

Repeated assurances from the British Government of its fixed policy to maintain throughout China freedom of trade for the whole world insure, it is believed, the ready assent of that power to our proposals. It is no less confidently believed that the commercial interests of Japan would be greatly served by the above-mentioned declaration, which harmonizes with the assurances conveyed to this Government at various times by His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s diplomatic representative at this capital.

You are therefore instructed to submit to His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Government the above considerations, and to invite their early attention to them, and express the earnest hope of your Government that they will accept them and aid in securing their acceptance by the other interested powers.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.