Mr. Cambon to Mr. Hay.
Washington , March 29, 1899 .
Mr. Secretary of State: As you are aware, the French concession and the international concession, better known under the name of “the foreign settlement,” in which the American concession had been merged for some years past, were organized at Shanghai more than forty years ago, in execution of the treaties concluded at the [Page 280] time when certain Chinese ports were opened to international commerce. These concessions adjoin each other, and extend in an easterly direction along the Wampoa. Their enlargement, which is rendered necessary by the increase of the European population, which is now crowded within the boundaries originally established, has been since 1896 the object of an agreement between the foreign consuls at Shanghai, and in that year a systematic plan for the enlargement of the French concession and the foreign settlement was decided upon, with a due regard to their common interests and to their particular needs. This plan fixed especially the directions in which the two concessions should be extended.
The representatives of the powers at Pekin, after approving the plan, presented to the Chinese Government a joint request for an enlargement of the two concessions at Shanghai, on the basis thus settled by the consuls. The tsungli yamen replied that the request could not be entertained, but the diplomatic corps persisted, and reserved the right to again insist upon its request whenever circumstances should appear favorable.
Such has been the state of this matter up to the present time.
My Government has just been informed that steps authorized by the diplomatic agents of Great Britain and the United States at Pekin are now being taken by the English and American consuls at Shanghai, near the Chinese authorities of the port, with a view to obtaining an enlargement of the foreign settlement. These agents are said to have asked especially that two quarters on the west and southwest of the French concession on the left bank of the Wampoa, which were designated in the common plan of 1896 as to be eventually joined to our concession, be added to the international concession.
If this portion of the requests of the English and American consuls should be favorably entertained by the Chinese authorities our concession would be inclosed on three sides by the foreign settlement, and would thus be rendered incapable of subsequent enlargement, as its fourth boundary is the Wampoa. The injury which would result to our interests from this breach of the agreement made in 1896 would render it necessary for my Government, against its will and to its deep regret, to oppose China’s giving satisfaction on these points to the agents of the United States and Great Britain. If those agents think that by opening separate negotiations with the Chinese authorities they have a prospect of obtaining an enlargement of the foreign settlement my Government will be pleased with their success, but it desires, and the Federal Government will doubtless admit that it is expedient, that their requests should not include lands or quarters previously designated as to be claimed for the enlargement of the French concession.
I would, therefore, be very much obliged to you, Mr. Secretary of State, if you would have the kindness to instruct the American agents at Pekin and Shanghai not to deviate from the agreement made in 1896, so far as relates to the directions in which the enlargement of the foreign settlement is to be made, and which are designated in the plan adopted in common by the consular corps at Shanghai. It is needless to say that my Government is ready to instruct the minister of the Republic at Pekin to come to an agreement with his colleagues to act again, by means of an identical note, near the tsungli yamen, for the purpose of procuring its consent to the requests for an enlargement of [Page 281] the international and French concessions, which were presented to it in 1896.
Without dwelling upon the friendly spirit in which the present step is taken, and with the conviction that yon will admit that the request of my Government is based upon equitable considerations, which appear to have been lost sight of at Shanghai,
I beg you to accept, etc.,