Mr. Goodnow to Mr. Hay.

Sir: I beg to hand you (in duplicate) translation of edict of June 29. As a piece of special pleading and self-justification I know of no equal to it.

I have the honor to be, etc.,

John Goodnow,

The instructions of the Chinese Government to ministers abroad.

The following decree, dated the 29th of June last, was recently received by His Excellency Viceroy Liu K’un-yi, at Nankin, and a copy of it was sent to his excellency Yu Taotai here, which we translate below:

imperial decree.

[29th June.]

The fighting which has begun between China and foreign nations has been caused by a succession of unlooked-for circumstances and adverse incidents everywhere, all of which were beyond the anticipation of the Government. Our ministers in foreign countries, being separated from their country by a succession of wide oceans, naturally are unable to give reliable versions of what has occurred in China to the governments to which they are severally accredited, and consequently can not speak with authority on the crisis nor on the real policy of the Government. It is our intention, therefore, to speak now in detail on the question for the special information of the said ministers abroad.

In the first place, there sprang up in the provinces of Chihli and Shantung a number of anarchists and rebels, who settled down in the country villages and began to teach the people boxing and quarterstaff exercises, mixing with these certain devilish incantations and invocations. The local authorities concerned failed to awake to the seriousness of this movement or suppress it in its infancy, hence the people began to be excited and restless, numbers joined, and within a tenth month almost the whole countryside was filled with the followers (of these anarchists), who spread up even to the very walls and precincts of Pekin itself.

These anarchists, with their devilish charms and incantations, were looked upon by the masses as imbued with supernatural powers, the number of believers accumulating daily. Then some of them began to turn their thoughts on chaos and rebellion, and started the cry against missionaries and their converts.

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In the middle of June matters suddenly came to a head. Churches and mission premises were attacked, burned, and destroyed, converts were ruthlessly massacred; the entire populace of Pekin were incited to rise, forming a fierce and resistless avalanche which it was utterly impossible to keep back. Previous to this we had received dispatches from the ministers of the various powers in Pekin asking to be allowed to bring into the capital foreign troops to protect the legations. The Government, who had by that time seen that matters were getting serious, willingly went beyond the limit of international law and gladly gave the required permission. The result was that some 500 foreign troops entered Pekin for that purpose. This is a clear proof of the solicitude with which the Government regard the representatives of friendly countries. In ordinary times there had been no enmity between the members of the legations and the general masses in Pekin, but when the foreign troops came to the capital, instead of attending to the duties for which they had come—viz, guarding the legations—they wandered about, sometimes mounting the city walls and firing their rifles, and at other times patrolling the streets, so that people were repeatedly hit by the bullets fired by these legation guards. More than this, these soldiers were wont to ramble about beyond bounds, and at times even tried to enter Tunghua gate of the “Forbidden City” almost by force. Had these foreign soldiers not been prevented by the palace guards they would have succeeded in getting within the “sacred precincts.” In consequence of all this, anger was loudly expressed by both our soldiery and the masses; there was a union of dissatisfaction at the conduct of the foreign legation guards which evil-minded men and outlaws immediately took advantage of, and, the worst passions of the masses being aroused, a series of massacres and pillaging of Christians followed in defiance of all laws. The various powers then called for additional troops into Pekin, who, however, were opposed halfway by the anarchists and their followers. Fighting followed, and the additional troops were compelled to retire.

At this crisis the anarchists and rebel populace of the two provinces of Chihli and Shantung had already spread chaos throughout the whole territory, forming one united body, which made it impossible for the Government to treat with them. It must be, however, noted that the Government was never unwilling to send commands to troops to vigorously suppress these anarchists and rebel populace, but owing to their near proximity, as it were, under our very elbows, it followed that if severe repressive measures were ordered we would not be able to protect the legations with us and a great calamity would at once ensue. There were also fears that the rebel populace of both Chihli and Shantung would rise together at this crisis and unite in massacring all missionaries and converts within those provinces and leave none alive. We were therefore forced to hesitate and consider the situation, the one course feasible at the time being to request the ministers at the various legations to abandon Peking temporarily for Tientsin.

While this proposition was being” discussed between us there suddenly came the news that the minister for Germany, Kê Tê-lin (Baron von Ketteler), had that morning, while proceeding to the tsungli yamen, been murdered by the anarchist enemies of the Christians. It appeared that the German minister had the day before notified by letter the tsungli yamen that he was going there the next day, but that owing to constant disturbances occurring on that route the ministers of the said yamen refused to consent to a meeting with the said German minister on that day. With the murder of the German minister the rebels found themselves caught in a dilemma from which there was no alternative save to go on in their reckless course, and, as it appeared to the Government at the time that in view of this it would be unwise to send the various ministers, although with strong escorts for their protection, to seek safety at Tientsin, the matter had perforce to be given up. The only course the Government could do was, therefore, to issue stringent orders to the troops guarding the said legations to be all the more on the lookout, to keep strict watch over their safety, and prevent sudden attack on them.

At this crisis we were suddenly surprised to hear that General Lo Yung-kuang, commanding our forts at Taku, had been personally addressed on the 16th June by the foreign officers in that vicinity who demanded the handing over of the said forts to the foreign fleets, which, if not done by 2 o’clock the next day, would be forcibly taken possession of. Naturally, Lo Yung-kuang refused to do “this. At the expiration of the time the foreign fleets indeed began to open fire at our forts and a battle ensued for the whole day, until at last our troops, unable to do more, abandoned the forts to the foreign troops. A war had thus been commenced which was not of our beginning or choosing. For you will perceive that, even if China should, regardless of her own power and strength, rush into war, was it likely or reasonable that she would of her own accord elect to fight all the powers at once? Was it probable that, granting such recklessness, she would have relied on a rebel populace to commence a war against all the powers?

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We sincerely trust that the governments of the various powers, when approached by your excellencies, will take the above under their serious consideration and make allowances therefor, and that the said governments be informed of the serious dilemma in which this Government has been placed, and that we were surrounded by forces utterly beyond our control. Your excellencies are commanded to explain all these in detail to the various foreign governments to which you are accredited.

You are to explain the true intentions of this Government in this matter, and that we have given stringent orders to our commanders of troops to protect as usual the various legations to the best of their ability, and that this Government will take upon itself the responsibility of suppressing and punishing these anarchists and rebel populace.

Your excellencies are to continue as before your duties in respect to our international relations with the various powers, and you are warned not to keep aloof and stand by as spectators (in the present difficulties of this Government). Let these instructions be telegraphed to the various ministers concerned.

Note.—The characters “Wai-pu” are here used to signify “forbidden governments,” but the character “pu” has also the meaning of “small states” or “tribes” and is often used in connection with the Mongol and other indigenous and tributary tribes, which abound on the northern, northwestern, western, southwestern, and southern frontiers of China proper.—Translator.