Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.

No. 491.]

Sir: Confirming my telegrams of the 14th ultimo and your replya of the 16th ultimo, concerning the seizure and appropriation of a large [Page 40]tract of property as a conquest of war by the Russian military forces at Tientsin, I have the honor to inclose herewith the correspondence between the respective legations and consulates of Russia and the United States concerning it.

The Belgian consul, by direction of his minister, has also pretended to occupy another large tract there. The French and Japanese have extended the boundaries of their concessions, and the Austrian and Italian ministers have served notice that they, too, will soon demand settlements.

The Belgian minister informs me that they have no intention of a settlement, but only wish a site for a consulate.

I have made the protest evidenced by inclosures herewith, because I believe the action, especially of the Russians, is in violation of their publicly declared intentions, and because I believe all settlements at the treaty ports should be international.

The several armies came here, as they have all declared, for a general purpose, and not to gain any special advantage for individual governments. This “grab game,” therefore, in which they are indulging, is neither fair nor consistent.

Since there are so many regularly established concessions at Tientsin an international one is hardly to be expected, but all action in relation to securing new or extending old concessions should be deferred until order is restored, the Chinese Government reestablished, and the rights and interests of all can be considered.

The notice of the Japanese consul has only just arrived, but I have instructed Mr. Ragsdale to make like protest in this case.

It would be advantageous to us in many ways to have an American concession at Tientsin, but we have learned by experience that it takes both money and citizens to own and operate a concession. We have not enough there of either. The Department is familiar with our former efforts to sustain the desirable concession which had to be abandoned in 1896. If, however, the United States Government can in any way take upon itself part of the burden, as the other governments do, it may be advisable for us to demand consideration of our rights to a concession while the others are taking and dividing up all available territory. If, upon receipt of this, the Department desires any action taken in this direction, I will thank you to instruct me by telegraph.

I inclose mapa showing British, Russian, Japanese, German, and French concessions; also land recently seized by the Russians.

I have, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 1]

Mr. Ragsdale, United States Consul at Tientsin, to Mr. Conger.

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on yesterday the Russian consul here gave notice to the consuls of the different countries that the land fronting on the Bund, or east bank of the Peiho, extending from (and including) the railroad station to Meyers’ godown, a distance of nearly 2 miles, would be reserved for the use and benefit of the Russian Government.

[Page 41]

To-day a like notice was given by the Belgian consul that his Government would reserve the land on the east bank of the river for a distance of about 1 mile below that already claimed by the Russians. The distance back from the river is not given by either claimant. I have asked for a map showing the exact area claimed. If given, I will forward you a copy.

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure.]

russian circular announcing occupation of left bank of the peiho, opposite foreign concessions at tientsin.

[Translation.]

My Dear Colleague: His Excellency Lieutenant-General Linevitch, commander in chief of the Russian expeditionary force in Chihli, has directed me to inform you that since the 17th of June last the Imperial Chinese troops have joined the rioters (Boxers) who attacked the foreign concessions and the railway station occupied by the Russian troops, and that on the 23d of June the Russian reenforcements, which came to raise the blockade, swept the left bank of the Peiho from below the railway station up to the petroleum godown of Messrs. Meyers & Co., and have established themselves there by right of conquest in having taken possession by force of arms and at the price of Russian blood spilled, in order to prevent the Chinese from returning to resume the firing. His excellency considers all this tract of land included in that from above the railway station to the petroleum go-down as having become the property of the Russian troops on the 23d of June by act of war.

The Russian flags have been planted, and notice posted upon boards in many places within this territory, which has been occupied and protected by the Russian military authorities. Therefore his excellency can not and will not recognize, except by his special authorization, any cession whatever of this territory of which he has taken entire and complete possession.

It is understood that the rights of those landowners (other than Chinese) whose titles have been duly registered in foreign names before June 17 will be safeguarded.

I avail myself, etc.,

N. Poppé, Consul-General of Russia.
[Inclosure 2.]

Mr. Conger to Mr. Ragsdale.

Sir: I beg to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch of the 8th instant, with reference to the taking over of certain lands at Tientsin by the Russian and Belgian consuls for the use of their respective Governments. I will be much pleased to have a map showing exact locations and area of same, as well as any other information you may have obtained on the subject. In the meantime you are instructed to make a vigorous protest against this action of the consuls, and demand that no American interests or rights be in anyway infringed upon. I shall at the same time bring the matter to the attention of the Russian and Belgian ministers here.

I am, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Ragsdale to Mr. Conger.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith printed circular, or express, issued by Comte du Chaylard, consul-general of France, which reached me yesterday. The proclamation being arbitrary and extraordinary I have thought it was best to send [Page 42]you this copy before investigating the fact that it may be important to American ownership. Up to this time no official communication has been sent to the consuls of the various nationalities, but I shall at once investigate the extent to which American interests are involved and report to you later.

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure.]

french circular announcing the occupation of certain territory at tientsin in addition to its former concession.

The consul-general of France, president of the municipal council, wishing to warn foreign residents against the consequences they would expose themselves to by buying ground in the quarter presently annexed to the French concession, has the honor to inform them that the municipal council will not recognize as valid any contract subsequent to June 17, the date on which hostilities began.

All land holders, bearers of regular titles issued before the 17th of June, are requested to exhibit them at the French consulate, where they shall be duly verified and registered.

The extension of the concession includes all the grounds as follows:

  • First. Between the Rue de Paris, the Taku road, the Quai de France, extended as far as the old building of the London Mission in the Chinese city.
  • Second. The zone situated west of the French concession and limited by the Taku road, the extra British concession, the mud wall, and a line running from the said wall and abutting on the river in front of the London Mission building.

G. du Chaylard,
Consul-General of France.
[Inclosure 4.]

Mr. Ragsdale to Mr. Conger.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith copy of the circular letter sent to the members of the consular body in re claim of territory by the Belgian consul. So far as I have been able to find out, the rights of American citizens are not involved.

In this connection I have also to report that the territory claimed by the Russians does not include property belonging to American citizens. In this event, is it desirable that I file a protest against their action in acquiring territory?

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure.]

notice addressed by belgian consul to consuls of other nations at tientsin.

My Dear Colleague: I have the honor to inform you that in accordance with instructions from His Belgian Majesty’s legation at Pekin, I have this day occupied the territory situated opposite the foot of the German concession and extending along the river to a point about 50 meters below the petroleum godown of Messrs. H. Meyer & Co., thence to another point about a kilometer lower down. The ground is bounded on the sides by two straight lines, is limited on the inside by the railway, beginning from the railway crossing, about If kilometers from the mud wall up to another point distant about 1¾ kilometers, equally distant from the point of intersection of the road and the above railroad.

The Belgian flag has been planted upon the territory and its limits marked.

I have, therefore, the honor to inform you that every sale, cession, or transfer of property within these limits can not and will not be recognized as legal. It is understood [Page 43]that titles in the names of Europeans (other than Chinese) which have been duly registered prior to taking over of this territory will be safeguarded.

I avail myself, etc.,

Chevalier de Melote.
[Inclosure 5.]

Mr. Conger to Mr. Ragsdale.

Sir: I beg to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch of November 26 with inclosure, with reference to land recently taken over by the Belgian consul.

I note that you have not yet protested against similar action on the part of the Russians for the reason that no property belonging to Americans is included. It is to be regretted that you did not at once protest against the action of the Russian consul, as instructed in dispatch of the 13th instant. It is rather late now, but the protest should still be made (sending copy to the legation), not only on behalf of any private or particular American interests, but against the rights of any power to forcibly seize and hold to its sole use property in an open treaty port which may be needed for the use of all the powers.

If Russia, or any other power, desires a new concession, or an extension of an old one, consent of the Chinese Government should first be obtained, and all the public or international rights of the other powers should be respected.

In this same dispatch you were requested to furnish a map showing the exact location and area of these lands, which I will be pleased to have as, soon as possible.

I am, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 6.]

Mr. Conger to Mr. Ragsdale.

Sir: I beg to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch of November 24 inclosing circular published by the French consul-general with reference to extension of French settlement, a copy of which reached me from another source some days ago, and to say that I hope soon to hear from you the result of your investigations as to what American interests, if any, are involved.

I can not understand by what right the French forcibly seize and annex property to their settlement in an open treaty port, when all nationalities have rights which must be respected, without obtaining either the consent of the Chinese or other Governments interested. I am not yet advised what individual American rights are affected, but whatever they may be, you will not overlook them.

We can not agree that either the French consul or municipality can pass upon the validity of any American title to property outside of the legally constituted French settlement. If the French desire to extend their concession, they should wait until order is restored and it can be legitimately accomplished.

You are authorized to make due protest against this action, in behalf of all American interests, whether private, public, or international, sending me a copy of your protest.

I am, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 7.]

Mr. Ragsdale to Mr. Conger.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your dispatches of November 30, and to report that I have complied with the instructions therein required. I also inclose copies of the protest sent by me to the consul-general of France and the consul of Russia.

[Page 44]

In this connection I desire to say that I have not yet been able to procure an intelligent map of the concessions proposed, although they were promised to me. I will make another effort.

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure 1.]

Mr. Ragsdale to the Russian Consul at Tientsin.

Sir: Having reference to the circular letter sent to the members of the consular body by you some days ago announcing the annexation by your Government of the east bank of the Peiho, opposite the present foreign concessions, I have the honor to file my earnest protest. I hold that no power has the right to forcibly seize and hold to its sole use any property in an open treaty port which may be needed for the use of all the powers. I maintain, further, that if any power desires a new concession, the consent of the Chinese or other governments should first be obtained, and that all public or international rights of the other powers should be respected.

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure 2.]

Mr. Ragsdale to the French Consul-General at Tientsin.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your printed circular, dated November 22, 1900, with reference to the extension of the French concession. Inasmuch as the proceeding is so irregular and at variance with the usual and legitimate method of acquiring concession rights, I am compelled to file an earnest protest against any such arbitrary action, and I now do so on behalf of all American interests, whether private, public, or international. I can not understand by what right you forcibly seize and annex property to your settlement in this port (where all nationalities have rights which must be protected) without first obtaining the consent of either the Chinese or other governments interested. I can not agree that either yourself or the French municipality has the right to pass upon the validity of any American title to property outside of the legally constituted French settlement. If you desire to extend your concession, I hold that you should wait until order is restored, and then proceed legitimately, keeping in mind the rights acquired by other nationalities.

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Inclosure 8.]

Mr. Ragsdale to Mr. Conger.

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith copy of a letter just received from the acting consul for Russia in reply to my letter protesting against the annexation of territory at Tientsin. Shall I take any further action?

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure.]

The Russian Acting Consul at Tientsin to Mr. Ragsdale.

Sir and Dear Colleague: In reply to your note of yesterday, with reference to my circular letter announcing the occupation by the Russian military authorities of [Page 45]the eastern bank of the Peiho opposite the present foreign concessions, I have the honor to inform you that all questions concerning this matter are to be addressed to the said military authorities.

I am, etc.,

N. Poppé.
[Inclosure 9.]

Mr. Conger to the Russian Minister at Pekin.

Sir: The United States consul at Tientsin has just informed me that on the 7th instant the Russian consul gave him notice that the land fronting on the “Bund” or east bank of the Peiho River, extending from and including the railroad station, to Meyer’s godown, a distance of nearly 2 miles, had been taken by the Russian military forces and would be reserved for the use and benefit of the Russian Government.

In view of the frank declarations of the Russian Government that it had no designs of territorial acquisition in China, I can not believe that such action has been seriously taken, or that it will receive the approval of the Russian Government.

Tientsin is an open port, and the property under consideration is needed by, and should be reserved for the use of, all the powers. Even in ordinary peaceful times, if foreign occupation of it were necessary, it should be occupied as an international settlement, such as was recently insisted upon and secured in the extension of the Shanghai settlement. But now, under the present movement of the allied forces in China, there are still stronger reasons why this large tract of land, including, as it does, an important public railway station and other property necessary for international use, should not be appropriated by a single power.

I therefore take this opportunity to protest against such appropriation of this property and beg your excellency to have the matter investigated; and if the reported action is found true, to request instructions from the imperial Russian Government which will prevent any such appropriation of territory.

I improve this occasion, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 10.]

The Russian Minister at Pekin to Mr. Conger.

My Dear Colleague: In response to your excellency’s letter of the 14th instant in reference to a communication sent by the gerant of the Russian consulate at Tientsin to the United States consul there, I beg to inform you that there is no question whatever of acquiring territory by conquest on the part of Russia nor of the taking possession of the railway station at Tientsin by the Russian Government, and if the communication of Mr. Poppé, above referred to, contains any expressions which could be so construed they have certainly been erroneously used by him.

I beg to add that in this matter the object of the Russian military authorities has been to prevent the seizure of and speculation in land by certain parties within the radius occupied by the Russian troops for military purposes since last June.

I avail myself, etc.,

M. de Giers.
[Inclosure 11.]

Mr. Conger to the Russian Minister at Pekin.

My Dear Colleague: I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your excellency’s note of the 16th instant, replying to mine of the 14th instant, in which, referring to the occupancy by the Russian military of the railway station and other property at Tientsin, you say:

[Page 46]

“That it can be in no way a question of territorial conquest of any sort whatever on the part of Russia, nor of the taking possession of the Tientsin railway station by the Russian Government, and if the aforesaid communication from Mr. Poppé contains any expressions which could give rise to any such interpretation, they certainly have been employed by him only as the result of an error.”

I inclose herewith a copy of Mr. Poppé’s communication,a from which you will see that it is unequivocally declared that the Russian troops have seized this property and established themselves therein by right of conquest, and claim that it has become their property by act of war, and that in consequence the commander in chief of the Russian expeditionary force has taken full and entire possession thereof.

I am very glad to receive this disclaimer from your excellency, and I beg that you will instruct the Russian consul at Tientsin to correct the evident error he has made in his notice to the consuls.

I also hope that the Russian military will receive instructions to carry out the declared policy of the Imperial Russian Government in this regard.

May I ask you to kindly return the copy of Mr. Poppé’s communication.

I improve this occasion, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 12.]

Mr. Conger to the Belgian Minister at Pekin.

My Dear Colleague: The United States consul at Tientsin has just informed me that on the 8th instant the Belgian consul formally notified him that the Belgian Government proposed to appropriate to its sole use and benefit a considerable tract of land on the east bank of the Peiho River in Tientsin.

Under the present disturbed conditions, and while this part of the Empire is under military occupation, it is difficult to understand how the Belgian Government can rightfully appropriate this property; and believing that international settlements will better serve general commerce and trade, and more adequately assure the rights and interests of all foreigners than separate settlements, I am constrained to protest against the appropriation and occupancy reported, and beg your excellency to have the Belgian consul instructed to desist from the proposed seizure or occupancy of said property until order is restored and the rightful possession of the land be acquired, or its necessity for international use be determined.

I improve the occasion, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 13.]

The Belgian Minister at Pekin to Mr. Conger.

My Dear Colleague: I have the honor to acknowledge your excellency’s letter of the 14th instant. In reply I hasten to inform your excellency that, in marking off the limits of a piece of ground at Tientsin, and in raising the Belgian flag over it, it was my intention to take a purely conservative measure destined to reserve such portion of said ground as might be required for the future building of a Belgian consulate and the required dependencies.

I avail myself, etc.,

Joostens.
[Inclosure 14.]

The Austrian Minister at Pekin to Mr. Conger.

The imperial and royal ministry of foreign affairs has been informed that several powers have recently occupied tracts of land at Tientsin upon which to establish settlements or to increase those which they already possess, and has directed me to [Page 47]communicate the following declaration to the plenipotentiaries of the foreign powers at Pekin:

In order to be able to effectually protect our interests in commerce and navigation, the Imperial and Royal Government considers it necessary, after the restoration of order in China, to establish a consulate at Tientsin, and it will require for this purpose a settlement like the others already have.

For this purpose the Imperial and Royal Government has decided to exact from the Chinese Government, in the course of the next negotiations, a suitable tract.

In view of the recent occupations of Tientsin, the Imperial and Royal Government desires now to advise in advance the foreign representatives at Pekin of this intention, in order to preserve an equity of rights with the other powers and to secure itself against any prejudice in the question of settlements or concessions of land.

M. Czikann.
[Inclosure 15.]

The Italian Minister at Pekin to Mr. Conger.

Having been informed that several of the powers have recently occupied at Tientsin territory for either establishing settlements or extending those already established, and in accordance with orders of the minister for foreign affairs, I beg to bring to the notice of the foreign representatives at Pekin the following:

In order to effectually protect our commercial and shipping interests, the Royal Government may consider it necessary to establish a consulate at Tientsin, and consequently a settlement, such as the other powers already have.

In order to do so, the Royal Government may consider it necessary to demand of the Chinese Government, in the course of future negotiations, a suitable location.

With reference to the recent occupations at Tientsin, I beg to inform the foreign representatives of this contingency, in order to reserve to the Royal Government equal rights, without prejudice, with the other powers, in the matter of settlements or concessions.

Salvago Raggi.
[Inclosure 16.]

Mr. Ragsdale to Mr. Conger.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith an express just circulated by the Japanese consul. It speaks for itself.

I am, etc.,

James W. Ragsdale, Consul.
[Subinclosure.]

notice promulgated by the japanese consul at tientsin.

His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s consul, being desirous to prevent the possible confounding of the right of ownership of land and premises within the limit of the Japanese settlement, has the honor to notify that he will not recognize the validity of any transfer of right of ownership of land or premises within the following limits, made after the 17th of June, the day of opening of hostilities, or those transfers which, although made before the above date, have not been duly verified by the Chinese authorities at the time of such transfers:

limits of the japanese settlement.

North: From a point 600 feet westward of the Nanmen (the south gate) to Chiakao, along the ditch outside the Tientsin city wall.

Northeast: From Chiakao to the northeastern boundary of the French settlement along the Peiho.

East: The boundary line between the French and Japanese concessions.

South: The mud wall.

[Page 48]

West: The straight line drawn from the point 600 feet westward of the Nanmen (the south gate) to the point 450 feet westward of the Haikwanmen (mud-wall gate near the Haikwansu).

Nagamasa Tei,
His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Consul.
[Inclosure 17.]

Mr. Conger to Mr. Ragsdale.

Sir: I have to acknowledge receipt of your dispatch of the 28th instant, inclosing notice published by the Japanese consul in the matter of extending their concession.

You will make a respectful protest against this action, urging that in the present disturbed condition of affairs, with the absence of the Chinese Government, and during the actual military occupation by foreign troops, such appropriation of territory by a single power can not be made with a due consideration for the rights of all others interested. All extensions of existing settlements or locations of new ones should be delayed until the restoration of order and upon a conference of all concerned, in order that the interests of all the powers may be respected and conserved.

I am, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
  1. Printed ante.
  2. Not printed.
  3. Printed ante.