Mr. Wu to Mr. Hay .
Washington , December 1, 1899 .
Sir: Under date of November 7 of last year, it became my duty to lay before you the views of my Government respecting two opinions of the Attorney-General upon the laws and treaties relating to the admission of Chinese into the United States. These opinions, in view of my Government, were in direct opposition to the true intent and meaning of the treaties, and neutralized their effect in important particulars to the serious injury of many Chinese subjects.
It is not my purpose at this time to repeat the reasons then given, which seemed to me conclusive, but in connection with the second opinion, discussed in my note relating to the persons included in the exempt class, I desire to add a fact not then noticed by me. I gave reasons to show that the opinion was in direct opposition to the understanding of the negotiators of the treaties between the two countries and to the spirit of the laws of the United States, and I now add that it is in direct opposition, also, to the previous rulings of the executive officer of the United States, who is charged by the laws with the enforcement of the treaties. The Secretary of the Treasury at that time, the Hon. John G. Carlisle, in the regulations of 1893, published for the enforcement of the laws of the United States respecting the Chinese, made the following declaration for the guidance of the officers of the United States: “No class of Chinese are prohibited from coming into the United States, or remaining here, except such as may properly and within the meaning of said statutes be known as ‘laborers.’”(See series 7, No. 18, U. S. Internal Revenue, 1893, p. 9.)
It is needless for me to say to you that Mr. Carlisle is not only a statesman intimately acquainted with the spirit and policy of his Government, but that he is one of the first lawyers of his country. After the treaty of 1894 went into effect—that is, in 1896—new regulations were issued from the Department of the Treasury, signed by the Acting Secretary, the Hon. Charles S. Hamlin, to whose bureau Chinese matters especially belonged, and in which the declaration above quoted also appears, with this additional statement: “The persons [Page 197] referred to in the acts of Congress to which these regulations apply, and whose immigration into the United States is prohibited, are limited to Chinese laborers.” (See Regulations, 1896, p. 9.) Thus it will be seen that from the passage of the first exclusion act in 1882 until July, 1898, when the opinion of the Attorney-General above referred to was given, for a period of sixteen years the prohibition to enter the United States was distinctly confined to Chinese laborers only, other classes not being included in the prohibition—a uniform course of procedure long enough followed to establish a precedent and custom until it was suddenly set aside by the said contrary opinion.
In view of this conflict of opinion on the part of the highest officials of the United States, I think it my duty to repeat the request made in my cited note, that His Excellency the President would take cognizance of this question, and would investigate whether the terms of solemn treaties are not being distorted from their original purpose and their just interpretation, and whether relief may not be given to the Chinese subjects now suffering from the enforcement of the opinion of the Attorney-General.
If this can not be done, I respectfully request that you will take up with me for negotiation an additional clause of the treaty of 1894, to make clear and place beyond the cavil of any lawyer the true scope and meaning of Article III of that instrument. In view of the well-known intent of the negotiators of that treaty, and of the friendly sentiments which you entertain for my country, I make this request with much confidence and hope.