Mr. Hay to Mr. Cambon.
Washington , April 20, 1899 .
Excellency: I have given, with all the urgency permitted by the pressing cares of my office, careful consideration to your note of March 29 in relation to the extension of the French concession and the foreign settlement at Shanghai.
From the correspondence on file in this Department it is found that the understanding reached in 1896, to which you refer, took the form of a request addressed to the yamen by Mr. Denby, as dean of the diplomatic corps for a simultaneous extension of the Anglo-American and French settlement at Shanghai. To this request the yamen replied unfavorably on the ground that the proposed extensions, as shown by the maps transmitted to the yamen, would cover a very large area of territory. Mr. Denby’s reply, as dean, acknowledged the Chinese answer and gave notice that the subject would be again presented by the foreign representatives, either collectively or individually. Thereafter the diplomatic corps appear to have left the whole matter to the consuls at Shanghai for, under date of December 8, 1897, Mr. Denby reported having written a letter to the senior (German) consul at Shanghai informing him that before any diplomatic action could be taken “a very serious effort should be made by the foreign consuls to procure the consent of the local authorities.”
From the foregoing it appears that the several foreign interests at Shanghai in the matter of territorial settlements were deemed to be so far conjoint that extension in the several and general interests of the concessionaries was to be treated as a measure of common interest by concerted action, if possible.
Subsequently, in December last, Mr. Conger reported that a separate application had been made for the extension of the French settlement against which the other powers protested and asked for instructions, he having already remonstrated against any extension “which will bring American-owned property under the jurisdiction of any single foreign power.” The Department approved his remonstrance to this extent.
The justice of this ground of remonstrance appears to have been admitted by the French consul who offered, in writing, to provide that the rights to trial in the American court and of registry of land in the American consulate would be respected should the proposed French extension embrace American property or interests; but it does not appear that he was authorized by his Government to make this offer, and it has not been renewed so far as I am advised.[Page 282]
Under date of January 8 the United States consul-general at Shanghai reported that the Chinese Government offered to grant a settlement open to all nations in common, and that the consuls of Great Britain and Germany were acting in favor of such general extension “for the residence of all foreigners.”
So far as appears this Government has not specifically approved the movement made at Shanghai early last winter for an extension of the specific Anglo-American concession. No maps or details showing the proposed extension have been sent hither. So far as this Government is able to understand the question from the limited information it now possesses it would be disposed to favor a general extension for the benefit of all the treaty powers, in which France and the United States would share on equal footing with the rest. It would seem from your note that the pending question of such a general extension had not been brought to your attention. Inasmuch as it implies an abandonment of the movements set on foot last winter for a specific Anglo-American extension, and substitutes a plan in the general interest of all foreigners for an extension of the “foreign settlement” as distinguishable from the French concession, the justice and equity of the latter proposal may well be open to consideration. As it now stands, I infer from the statements of your note that the only application for an extension now pending in behalf of any particular nation is that presented by France. Although the area over which any extension of foreign settlements may be effected is necessarily limited, and notwithstanding that the treaty powers who have heretofore obtained special settlements have consolidated them in one general foreign settlement under a general administration of all the foreign consuls, each of those powers would, as an abstract proposition, be entitled to an equivalent separate extension should any be demanded and granted in favor of France or any other single power. If this were done the geographical conditions of the locality would very soon hem in most of the concessions so that a limit would perforce be set to the extension of one or more national concessions by the accretion of contiguous territory. The alternative solution of the question would seem to involve some such joint agreement as that latterly proposed in the common interest of the treaty powers.
The United States Government, however, as I have already said, has not supported any application for a specific American extension and I may add that it has no desire to do so if the effect would be to prevent an equal privilege of extension in behalf of France or any other treaty power.
The matter is, however, at present in such shape that I am unable to make a more definite response to your note without further information on the subject. I have accordingly called upon Minister Conger to report the situation fully to me, accompanied by maps and plans distinctly showing exactly what privileges are sought in behalf of France or in behalf of the proposed general foreign settlement, with a statement of what American interests if any are comprised within the territory which is proposed to be added to the French concession or to be the foreign settlement. I have also instructed Mr. Conger that, while reserving all rights of equality of treatment for the United States in whatever solution may be eventually arranged, any steps that he may adopt toward reaching such a solution shall be taken in a spirit of mutual consideration, giving to all ascertained foreign interests in [Page 283] the premises the same respect as he shall ask for the interests of the United States.
Upon receiving Mr. Conger’s report I hope to be in a position to give him definite instructions, the justice and considerateness of which will, I doubt not, fully commend themselves to your Government.
Be pleased to accept, etc.,