Mr. Goodnow to Mr. Cridler.

No. 287.]

Sir: I received your telegram of July 23 on the 24th. As therein directed, I called on His Excellency Li Hung Chang on July 24 and wired you as follows:1

As you will note, I took down in writing the first part of the above telegram. It seemed to me that there were two important points in it, and I read to him in Chinese twice as the message which I would send home. Vice-Consul-General Hykes was with me as my interpreter, and Earl Li had present Marquis Tseng and Dr. Mark. Earl Li was positive that the Boxers and rebellious troops can be at any time stopped by the Chinese Government. This I asked him three or four times in different ways. When he said to me that the ministers were safe, I asked him who was included in that statement. He answered “the ministers.” I asked him, “What about the women and children, preachers and teachers, customs people and guards?” He answered, “I know nothing about those people; they are unimportant.” I told him that we could not consider them unimportant, and the mere delivery of the ministers would not settle the whole matter. He replied that from the Chinese standpoint others than the ministers do not count. * * *

He sent to me on the 29th and I wired you on that date, “Li asks answer my telegram 24th.”

On July 31 I received the following telegram from you:

This Government will not enter into any arrangement regarding disposition or treatment of legation without first having free communication with Minister Conger. Responsibility for their protection rests upon Chinese Government. Power to deliver to Tientsin presupposes power to protect and to open communication. This is insisted on. Hay.

[Page 263]

I called on Earl Li on that date and wired you as follows:

Delivered message Li to-day. He dictated question, “If free communication is established between ministers and their Governments, will America arrange that allies will not advance on Pekin pending negotiations?” Says if unfavorable answer he will have nothing more to say. Says he to-day wired Tsungli Yamen give minister my cipher message. Expects answer in eight days.

When I read him your message, of which I gave him a copy in Chinese, he said it was what he expected, and at once asked me to send you the question, which I did, as dictated by him.

I told him that the same principle seemed to be involved in it, but he said he desired it to go to you, as he had nothing more to say if the answer was unfavorable. He talked a good deal on the line that now was the opportunity for America to show her friendship. I told him that while the friendship of the Americans to the Chinese people was undoubted, yet the Chinese Government, by imprisoning the minister and threatening his life and threatening the lives of a large number of Americans, had put itself in a very unfriendly attitude and could hardly expect friendly intervention by America while that attitude continued. He said that he was convinced that free communication would be allowed to the ministers within a few days. I then told him of the formal refusal of the Tsungli Yamen to me to deliver my message to Minister Conger. He knew of this and said that he greatly deprecated such refusal and had wired the yamen urging them to deliver my message and return to me whatever message Minister Conger might choose to give, whether in cipher or in plain words. He then maintained that he could not get a reply under eight days.

I to-day received the Secretary’s message, as follows:

I do not think it expedient to submit the proposition of Earl Li to the other powers. Free communication with our representatives in Pekin is demanded as a matter of absolute right and not as a favor. Since the Chinese Government admits that it possesses the power to give communication, it puts itself in an unfriendly attitude by denying it. No negotiations seem advisable until the Chinese Government shall have put the diplomatic representatives of the powers in full and free communication with their respective Governments and removed all danger to their lives and liberty. We would urge Earl Li earnestly to advise the Imperial authorities of China to place themselves in friendly communication and cooperation with the relief expedition. They are assuming a heavy responsibility in acting otherwise. Hay.

And my reply of August 2:

Delivered your message Li. Says Tsungli Yamen wired him they are seriously considering his proposition to send ministers Tientsin.

When I gave him your message he made no reply at all, but said that he had good news for me, viz, that the Throne was seriously considering his proposal to send the ministers to Tientsin. I asked him if it had been decided to send them, or if only the ways and means were under discussion. He answered that the Tsungli Yamen was now considering the practicability of sending the numerous foreigners safely through the region from Pekin to Tientsin, which, he said, was thickly infested with the Boxers. If it was decided practicable to send them, then they would seriously consider the advisability of sending them. * * * I urged upon him the absolute necessity of following your advice. He gave me no indication of his further intentions. He blames the missionaries for the trouble and made a number of statements regarding missionary methods. * * *

This morning (August 3) Li has returned to Comte de Bezaure, French consul-general, a message which the latter had given him in [Page 264] plain French for M. Pichon. In regard to this Li wrote that it had been decided that no messages would now be given to the ministers, as the foreigners were advancing from Tientsin toward Pekin. This letter is more openly hostile than anything Li has said before, although he continually laid stress on the undesirability of an advance on Pekin.

  1. Printed ante.