Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.

No. 427.]

Sir: I have the honor to confirm, on the overleaf, my cipher telegram of the 16th instant1 and to inclose copy of the convention submitted by Prince Ching and Earl Li Hung-chang, their note of [Page 215] submission and my acknowledgment thereof. The dean of the diplomatic corps also received a brief note requesting the ministers to visit the plenipotentiaries to discuss the proposed terms of settlement on the 20th instant or on any other day which might suit their convenience.

The German minister has not yet arrived; the new British minister is here, but has not yet taken charge; the French minister is ill, so there must still be some delay before commencing negotiations. In the meantime I hope to receive reply to my telegram of the 16th instant.

It will be useless for the foreign representatives to meet with the Chinese plenipotentiaries for discussion until the powers have more fully agreed among themselves. I still think it best, as I have already written you, and which I understand is in accordance with the views of the Department, that a convention—the most preliminary possible—should be made which shall include the restoration of order, the reestablishment of potential government, agreements to negotiate, how and when, guarantees of punishment, indemnities, and future protection of all foreign rights and interests; to be followed by due appointment of plenipotentiaries, who shall make as nearly as can be done a general final settlement, leaving as little as possible for separate negotiations between the separate powers. However, a purpose seems now to be indicated by most of the representatives here to let the very first negotiations include and settle as much as possible, and let separate negotiations with the various powers settle the rest.

The expeditions which left here and Tientsin for Paotingfu some days since met with no opposition on the way, and the city was surrendered on their approach without firing a gun.

We have no information of their determination as to proceeding farther into the interior or returning, though it is reported that the French and German troops will remain there indefinitely, the former because of their and the Belgian interest in the railroad, and the latter for what reason is not known.

Count von Waldersee is here, but further great international movements appear not to be necessary, Chinese soldiers, so says Li Hung-chang, having been ordered not to fire on or oppose the movements of the foreign armies in any way. This seems to be confirmed by the reports from Paotingfu expeditions, and indicates a practical suspension of hostilities in this province.

I have seen the French proposals and anxiously await your views thereon. Lord Salisbury telegraphed the British minister that all the governments have agreed to them.

I have the honor to be, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 1.]

Prince Ching and Li Hung-chang to Mr. Conger.

Prince Ching, by Imperial decree president of the Tsungli Yamen and minister plenipotentiary, and Li Hung Chang, Imperial commissioner and minister plenipotentiary with full powers; senior reader to the heir apparent; senior grand secretary state; minister of commerce; superintendent of trade for the northern ports; viceroy of Chihli and earl of the first rank, make the following communication to his excellency E. H. Conger, minister of the United States, etc.:

Last spring the Boxer bandits made their appearance around Pekin and caused the most unheard of calamities; they multiplied so fast that at last they besieged the [Page 216] foreign legations, and then the Powers sent troops to Pekin and the court removed to a distant place. If anyone had predicted these events several months beforehand nobody would have believed him. But now the court is aware that these misfortunes came through the protection given the Boxer banditti by prince and ministers; these delinquents, therefore, are to be severely punished according to Chinese law as the proper tribunals may decide, and we, Prince Ching and Li Hung-chang, have been appointed plenipotentiaries with full power to open negotiations for peace at once and settle this affair. But our negotiations will not be confined to one country, nor will the questions be the same with all the countries concerned; add to this the unusual nature of the case, and it will be seen that the negotiations are beset with difficulties.

In view of this we think it will be better first to settle general questions with the combined Powers in a special convention applying to all, and then proceed to negotiate a separate treaty in detail with each Power as varying conditions will require. This done, the commercial treaties may then be settled if any changes are to be made in existing ones, and finally rules for application of treaty provisions in specified provinces may be made for the common benefit and lasting security of both high contracting parties.

We inclose herewith for your consideration, and that of the diplomatic corps, copy of a draft of the preliminary convention we propose, and we ask that your excellency will telegraph our proposals to your Department of State, with the view to an early settlement of these matters.

Besides sending you this copy, we have sent similar ones to your colleagues, and we now beg your excellency to consider this matter and favor us with a reply.

[Inclosure 2.]

Translation of inclosure with dispatch, dated October 15, 1900, from Prince Ching and Li Hung-chang, peace commissioners.

His Majesty the Emperor, being oppressed with sorrow for the unexpected events of the past few months, has now appointed the writer, Prince Ching, to return to Pekin to verbally express this sentiment, and has given to us—namely, Prince Ching and Minister Li Hung-chang—full plenipotentiary powers to settle all affairs that may come under discussion. As a preliminary we now submit the subjoined draft of articles proposed for a special convention between the combined powers and China.

  • Article 1. Laying seige to legations of foreign ministers is a high offense against one of the important principles of international law; no country can possibly tolerate such a thing. China acknowledges her great fault in this respect, and promises that it shall never occur again.
  • Art. 2. China admits her liability to pay indemnity for the various losses sustained on this occasion, and the powers will each appoint officials to examine and present all claims for final consultation and settlement.
  • Art. 3. As to future trade and general international relations, each power should designate how these matters should be dealt with—whether the old treaties shall continue, or new conventions be made slightly adding to the old treaties, or canceling the old treaties and negotiating new ones—any of these plans may be adopted, and when China has approved, further special regulations can be made in each case as required.
  • Art. 4. This convention will be made by China with the combined powers to cover general principles which apply alike to all. This settled, the foreign ministers will remove the seals they caused to be placed in various parts of the tsungli yamen, and then the yamen ministers may go to the yamen and attend to business as usual. And further, each power should arrange its own special affairs with China so that separate treaties may be settled in due order. When the various items of indemnity are all arranged properly, or an understanding has been come about them, then the powers will successively withdraw their troops.
  • Art. 5. The troops sent to China by the powers were for protection of the ministers and for no other purpose, so when negotiations begin for the treaties of peace each power should first declare an armistice.

Note.—The “separate treaties” mentioned in article 4 are distinct from commercial treaties in article 3; each treaty will have its own procedure. The titles and precedence of plenipotentiaries for insertion on the first page of the convention can be arranged at the meeting.

[Page 217]
[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Conger to Prince Ching and Earl Li Hung-chang.

No. 227.]

Your Highness and Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the note of your highness and your excellency transmitting a copy of a proposed convention by your highness and your excellency suggesting certain terms as a basis for a settlement of the recent troubles which made it necessary for foreign powers to bring troops into China.

I have, as you request, telegraphed the convention to my Government, and shall soon be ready to discuss it with you.

I avail myself of the occasion to assure your highness and your excellency of my highest consideration.

E. H. Conger.
  1. Printed ante.