Commissioner Rockhill to Mr. Hay.

No. 8.]

Sir: I have the honor to confirm as follows my cablegram to you of the 21st ultimo from Pekin; paraphrase:

(Mr. Rockhill very carefully examined the situation with the minister and entirely concurs with him in all his views and the steps he proposes to take in interest of reestablishment of peace and order. Mr. Rockhill and Mr. Conger agree as to no reduction in military forces in Pekin until preliminary settlement has been made.)

In explanation of the above dispatch I have the honor to state that I reached Pekin on the 18th September, making the journey up to Taku on the U. S. S. New Orleans and from Taku to Pekin by transportation furnished me by order of General Chaffee.

I stopped in Tientsin long enough to inquire into the general condition of the place and to visit not only the whole of the foreign settlement but also the native city. In the former I found the foreign troops in complete possession of everything and acting much as they would in a conquered city. In the native city the provisional government has begun to establish some semblance of order, and the Chinese were more numerous there than in any other part of Tientsin. The authority of this Government is, however, strictly limited to the native city and denied outside of it. * * *

Between Tientsin and Pekin the country for several miles on either side of the highroad has been abandoned by the Chinese, and the villages are one mass of ruins, some now held by detachments of foreign troops, others completely deserted. A few peasants may now and then be seen hiding in the fields of corn or sorghum, trying to cut some of the now ripe grain, but when their presence is detected by the foreign soldiers traveling along the road or on the river, they are exposed to being shot at. I saw several corpses along the road, evidently those of peasants shot in this manner. I am pleased to be able to state that our troops here and everywhere are behaving as we could wish them to, and their discipline and fine bearing are greatly admired by all. From our officers commanding detachments along the route I [Page 206] heard that during the last few weeks several reconnoissances had been made to points from 5 to 7 miles on either side of the road and at which the presence of Boxers had been reported. Though the latter were found in force, they offered no serious resistance to the troops and fled as soon as they were attacked. So little resistance did they offer that both our officers and men said they had not the heart to cut them down, and none now consider them as constituting any danger to our lines of communication or likely to undertake any operations against us.

On arriving in Pekin I went very carefully and in great detail over the whole situation as created by recent events in north China with Mr. Conger, General Chaffee, and Gen. James H. Wilson, and read all the correspondence which has passed between Mr. Conger, the Department of State, and the Chinese Tsungli Yamen. Two days before my arrival in Pekin Mr. Conger had addressed to Prince Ching, who had returned to the capital some days earlier, commissioned by the Emperor to open negotiations with the diplomatic representatives at Pekin for the reestablishment of peace, a note urging upon him the necessity of the Emperor’s return to Pekin as the most potent means of restoring tranquillity to the country and consequently facilitating and expediting negotiations. “While he (the Emperor) remains at a distance,” says Mr. Conger in his note, “surrounded by the same advisers as before, the prospect of a permanent settlement must remain doubtful, * * * for it suggests both to foreign governments and to the people that there will be no change in the policy of the Throne toward foreign powers and their subjects in China.”

The views of Mr. Conger on this subject were identical with my own, as the Department is aware by my cablegram of September 21. Another point on which I was pleased to find my views coincide with those of our minister was the imperative necessity of maintaining the present force of troops in Pekin until after the signing of at least the preliminaries of peace and the demonstration by the Chinese Government of not only its willingness but its ability to restore order. Any withdrawal of troops from the capital before the return of the Emperor would, in our opinion, be unquestionably prejudicial to American interests, as it would be represented by the Chinese Government to the people, and universally so believed by them, to be due to fear or as a result of imperial commands. The moral effect on the people of the occupation of Pekin by the powers would be minimized by such a step and the conclusion of satisfactory negotiations greatly jeopardized. In our opinion the withdrawal from Pekin should be gradual and contingent on the reestablishment of order in the disturbed provinces, especially in that of Chihli, and we believe that nothing would so stimulate the Chinese Government to energetic action as a hope of putting an end to the foreign occupation of the capital.

* * * * * * *

From General Chaffee and General Wilson I learned that in various reconnoissances in the neighborhood of Pekin—extending over a large area of country—no opposition had been made to the troops by the parties of Boxers met with; they had on every occasion dispersed at the first attack. Such being the condition, the imperial troops and the Boxers having apparently ceased to hold the field, no longer forming any organized force against which our troops can possibly operate, it becomes apparent that the only power which can bring about the complete reestablishment of order is the Chinese one, To this task it [Page 207] should now be strictly held, and it is my belief that it can easily and rapidly accomplish it.

The return of the Chinese Government to Pekin being once recognized as an indispensable preliminary to the reestablishment of order, it would seem that no offensive military operations not necessitated for purposes of defense should be now engaged in by the international forces, for such would unquestionably fill the Chinese with not unfounded apprehensions as to the intention of the powers and thereby delay, if not make impossible, the desired return of the Emperor to Pekin. If punitive expeditions should be decided upon, they can be led without a doubt throughout the length and breadth of China, but the result would be to utterly defeat the ends we have in view, and anarchy might reign throughout the Empire, but they can never exercise, as some foreigners now think, a quieting influence on the country.

While in Pekin I called on Prince Ching. He told me that he thoroughly concurred with Mr. Conger’s views concerning the necessity of the Emperor’s return to Pekin, and that he and the other high officials now in Pekin had memorialized him to do so, sending him a copy of Mr. Conger’s note. I urged upon him the necessity of his Government taking prompt and effective measures throughout the country to completely reestablish order as the only means of arresting offensive operations on the part of the foreign forces. He answered that imperial orders had already been sent for the extermination of the Boxers everywhere and that they were being carried out. Li Hung Chang, he told me, had also issued a proclamation in Chihli, which would greatly tend to attain these ends. * * * The straightforward and clear declaration by the United States of its policy in China as made known to him through your circular of July 3 last, and your note to Wu Ting-fang of August 22 were, I gained, a source of sincere gratification to him. He finally assured me that his Government would not fail in any effort to promptly reestablish order and honestly perform the conditions necessary to future cordial relations. In all this I think the Prince was absolutely sincere. It remains to be seen how far his views and suggestions meet with the support of the Emperor, now exposed to the influence of hostile advisers.

I had also while in Pekin several conversations with Sir Robert Hart, whose long experience in China entitles his views to every consideration. He looked upon the Boxer movement as a national and patriotic one for freeing China of the foreigners to whom, rightly or wrongly, is attributed all the country’s misfortunes during the last half century. Though crushed at present, he feared that unless the powers could agree to treat the question in a conciliatory spirit which would tend to establish cordial relations with China, a state which had never existed in the past, it might some day come to life again, when the world might have to face an armed China, not a rabble carrying spears and tridents. He thought that China could still pay a reasonable indemnity, though its finances were in a bad condition. Perhaps it could pay £50,000,000, or £100,000,000, but he feared the powers’ demand, would greatly exceed these figures and that further cessions of territory would be insisted upon, which would continue indefinitely the feeling of unrest, suspicion, and hostility on the part of the Chinese.

Referring to the coming negotiations of Prince Ching with the diplomatic representatives, he told me that he had prepared for him a statement of facts showing China’s responsibility in the present troubles. [Copy inclosed.] * * *

[Page 208]

Sir Robert said that he believed that the Chinese would readily agree to the severest punishment of Prince Tuan, Prince Chuang, and all those who were responsible for the present troubles, but he held that the punishment should only be demanded after the Emperor had returned to Pekin and the first steps had been taken in the negotiations. He believed that if insisted upon at the present moment, all the guilty would probably escape. * * *

Mr. Conger agreeing with me in thinking that it was urgently necessary to impress on the viceroys of Nanking and Wuchang the advisability of their memorializing the throne in favor of the Emperor’s return to Pekin, and of ascertaining how far they would support Prince Ching’s views, I decided to leave Pekin at once and proceed as rapidly as possible to those two provincial capitals. I left Pekin on the 24th ultimo and arrived in Shanghai on the 30th.

I asked Admiral Remey, when on board the Brooklyn, off Taku, on the 27th September, on my way down here, to have me sent up the Yangtze on one of our men-of-war now stationed at Shanghai, and believe that the viceroys would be pleased at my thus visiting them. We owe them much for the perfect order they have maintained in their provinces during the present troubles. I shall leave as soon as the Admiral’s orders are received.

Admiral Remey having mentioned to me on the 27th September that the naval commanders off Taku had decided, at the suggestion of the German vice-admiral, he believed, that an international naval force should be sent to capture Chin Wangtao, near Shanhai Kuan. Believing, as I do, that such an operation is not only uncalled for but might possibly be highly prejudicial to the real interests of the United States and as it is contrary to the views held by Mr. Conger and myself, I sent you on the 1st October a cablegram, which I now have the honor to confirm, as follows (paraphrase):

Admiral Remey informed Mr. Rockhill last Thursday commanding officers naval forces made an agreement attack Tsing Wangtao. Although now garrisoned Chinese forces, they are passive. Military operations except on the defensive at the present moment will unquestionably retard the return of the Emperor Pekin, the restoration of order by China, which it declares that it has begun, and conclusion of preliminaries peace. * * *

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill,
United States Commissioner.

Siege of Pekin.—Memoranda for Prince Ching.

In 1898 the attitude of the Kansuh general, Tung Fuh Hsiang, and his soldiers caused the legations to bring guards to Pekin for their temporary protection.
During 1899 foreigners in China were disquieted by reports from Shantung concerning the Boxers’ movements. No edict had as yet been seen approving of them, but they were said to be supported by the provincial officials.
Early in 1900 the Boxers crossed from Shantung into Pechili and reached Paotingfoo, burning churches and massacreing converts wherever fallen in with. Legation guards were again brought to Pekin.
Boxer outrages continued, and the situation became more grave when Fengtai was reached. The decision of the foreign representatives to strengthen the legation guards was, however, impossible to give effect to, and the force led by Admiral Sir E. Seymour had to return to Tientsin, owing to the destruction of the railway.
On the 11th June the chancellor of the Japanese legation, Mr. Sugiyama, was killed by Tung Fuh Hsiang’s soldiers near the Yung Tingmen gate, and on the 13th the Boxers entered Pekin by the Hatamen gate and began burning houses, etc., in every quarter. On this the legations posted their guards to protect the legation quarter, [Page 209] and Chinese were no longer allowed to circulate freely; the protection of the legations required this.
On the 14th June Pekin and Tientsin could no longer communicate, and the naval authorities at Taku decided to occupy the Taku forts, as forces would have to pass them for the rescue of the legations. On the 18th the yamen directed the foreign representatives to quit Pekin within twenty-four hours; on the expiration of the time the firing began and the siege commenced.
Before the siege the Boxers, although said to be supported by the Shantung provincial authorities, were not known to have been recognized by edict, but after the siege began edict after edict praised them for their doings, and princes and high ministers were appointed to lead them; the proclamations of these leaders were also seen in the streets. Accordingly for the Boxer doings, whether they harmed natives or foreigners, the Government can not disclaim responsibility; on this point every, power will insist. If it be said that what was done was neither with the Emperor’s knowledge nor by the Emperor’s wish, it will be asked, Who, then, is emperor, the ministers, who do not obey the Emperor’s orders, or the Emperor, who obeys ministers? Argue it as you may, the fact is that the Government is responsible, and the Government will have to atone for all that has occurred.
It will be no easy task for either side now to propose or assent, and China’s task will be by far the hardest. But, to settle this business, there are only two plans—either follow Tung Fuh Hsiang’s advice and fight it out, or devise some way of making a peaceful arrangement. Now, as to fighting it out, the fact that China’s military strength could not arrest the steps of the foreign forces, and that a fortnight sufficed for them to march victoriously from the sea to Pekin, is in itself enough to show what can be hoped from the noble idea of no surrender. And as for peaceful arrangement, it, too, has its difficulties; but if no daring negotiator will come forward and make peace, then what security can there be for China’s ten-tenths? While on the other hand, if a bold statesman will settle the matter, in the end he will be found to have yielded only a fraction of one of those tenths; this idea is well worth weighing. To conclude, the attack on the legations was the greatest of crimes in international dealings—do not regard it lightly; do not make any mistake about it—and it is something no power can or will condone. Appended for consideration is a draft of a general proposal.