Mr. Hay to Mr. Draper.

No. 434.]

Sir: This Government, animated with a sincere desire to insure to the commerce and industry of the United States and of all other [Page 137] 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, Japan, and Russia.

To attain the object it has in view and to remove possible causes of national 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 “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 its “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 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. The commercial interests of Japan will also 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.

In view of the important and growing commercial interests of Italy in eastern Asia, it would seem desirable that His Majesty’s Government should also be informed of the steps taken by the United States to insure freedom of trade in China, in which it would find equal advantages to those which the other nations of Europe expect.

You are therefore instructed to submit to His Majesty’s minister for foreign affairs the above considerations and to invite his early attention to them, expressing, in the name of your Government, the hope that they will prove acceptable, and that His Majesty’s Government will lend its aid and valuable assistance in securing their acceptance by the other interested powers.

[Page 138]

I inclose, for your personal and confidential information, copies of the instructions sent to our ambassadors at Berlin, London, St. Petersburg, and to our minister at Tokyo.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.


To Great Britain, to Russia, to Germany, September 6, 1899, printed pages 129, 131, 140.

To Japan, November 13, 1899, printed below.