Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.

No. 769.]

Sir: Confirming my telegrama of the 9th ultimo and Department’s replya of the 12th ultimo, I have the honor to report that on the 14th ultimo I made formal application for the re-cession to the United States of the old United States concession at Tientsin, having previously received verbal assurance of a willingness on the part of Prince Ching and Li Hung-chang to grant it. The matter was referred to Li Hung-chang, the viceroy of this province, by the foreign office, but becaues [Page 55]of his illness, or for some other reason, he did not reply. However, in the meantime his secretary had informed me that he was giving it his attention. On the 7th instant I wrote him again and received reply that he had instructed the taotai at Tientsin to consult the English and German consuls and report. I immediately wrote him that as this was a matter which concerned only China and the United States it was wholly unnecessary to consult any other governments, and that such consultation on his part was, in fact, only an invitation for them to interfere, and that the United States Government could not allow such interference. I also called and had a personal conference the 9th instant, in which he said that after the concession was surrendered by the United States it was then divided between Germany and England. I knew this could not have been possible and so told him, but added that if it were so that was the end of it, as we were not asking a concession from England or Germany, but only from China. My Government, however, would not be satisfied except upon conclusive proof that such was the case. He said, of course their records were all destroyed, and he only had an indistinct recollection of the matter, as it was done during the viceroyalty of Wang Wen-shao; but the German and English consuls must have a record of it, and that was why he wished to consult them.

To-day he sent his secretary and the customs taotai of Tientsin to tell me that he was mistaken; that the matter had been talked about, but was not in fact given to the Germans and English, because of the opposition of the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Company and the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company, who were the owners of practically all the land in the tract. I told them, as I had also told Li Hung Chang before, that if it was not given to the United States the Germans or English would take it, and therefore it was not a question whether or not these companies should be under foreign jurisdiction, but under what foreign jurisdiction. They replied that the English and Germans, soon after our giving it back, had agreed in writing that they would not ask for it, but would leave it in control of these two companies. I said that the affairs of last year had changed all this, and that had it not been for the notice which I served in February last the tract would have been seized before this as they have seized other property. But they still urge the opposition of these two companies as an excuse, and add, further, that the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company has been sold out to Belgian, Russian, and French interests, and they can not understand what we can want of a concession where the land is all occupied, leaving no place for American merchants or business, and they say that these companies will strongly suspect a design to dispossess them. I insisted that all rights of property in Chinese or others would always be respected under the jurisdiction of the United States. They then said the taxes would necessarily be very high, and as these two companies owned practically all the land, they would have all the taxes to pay. I replied that even now the roads had to be kept up, policed, and lighted and it would probably cost them no more then than now. They answered that now the Chinese board of works improved the streets and that they paid no taxes, etc.

Instead of this tract they offer and beg us to accept a much larger and unoccupied tract a long way down the river, outside of all the other concessions. I replied that this would not satisfy us, but that this [Page 56]tract, even with its present occupants, exactly suited our purpose and was the only tract we desired.

They then asked if we would be willing to agree that a representative of one of these companies should always have a place on the council of municipal government. I replied that we desired the concession on the same terms as to jurisdiction and control as concessions had been given to other powers, and could take it with no other restrictions.

They finally said that the viceroy was very anxious to please the United States, and would consent to giving the concession if I insisted upon it, but he had sent them to explain to me all the difficulties in the way and the troubles and complications which would probably arise out of it. I replied that I understood it all, and if the concession was properly granted to the United States we would have to meet the difficulties as they arose, and at any rate they should not invite difficulties and opposition by consulting these companies or anybody else.

The fact is, these companies represent some of the foremost and wealthiest Chinese in the Empire, and they do not wish to be turned over, together with their property, to foreign jurisdiction, and the viceroy does not like to brook their opposition. It is possible that before the affair is concluded we shall hear of some strenuous German opposition. In fact, I am not certain that they will not resurrect some documentary evidence giving Germany title, because in the correspondence transmitted to the Department with Colonel Denby’s dispatch No. 2559, of July 10, 1896, there is a letter from the taotai, saying that he would take the concession back and would then turn it over to the Germans.

I inclose the correspondence had thus far concerning the matter, and have, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Conger to the Board of Foreign Affairs.

F. O. No. 280.]

Your Highness and Your Excellencies: During the occupancy of Tientsin by the allied forces many of the foreign powers have taken advantage of the situation to possess themselves of large tracts of territory in that vicinity for separate national settlements or for other purposes. The United States has taken no part in such appropriations of property, preferring to organize international settlements where possible. But since this seems impossible at Tientsin at the present time, and since normal relations have been reestablished between the powers and China, so that it may properly be done, my Government has instructed me to request the recession to the United States of the very small tract in Tientsin well known as the United States concession. This tract comprises all the land lying between the British and German concessions and extending from the Peiho River back to the Taku road. The boundaries are well known and established, but at a later date they can be more accurately surveyed and marked.

This concession was set apart for and granted to the United States in 1860 at the same time that the English and French concessions were granted to them. For many years jurisdiction was exercised over it by the United States consul, but on June 27, 1896, it was, for what then seemed sufficient reasons, surrendered back to the Chinese Government; but now conditions have so changed as to make it necessary and desirable for the United States to again take it under its jurisdiction. It will also be an advantage to China to have the United States exercising jurisdiction along with the other governments at Tientsin.

[Page 57]

I beg to add that during a recent conversation with his excellency, the Chinese plenipotentiary, Li Hung-chang, before the signing of the protocol, he assured me that the act of recession should have his approval and cooperation.

Trusting that this request will meet with the hearty approval of your highness and that the proper local officials will be immediately given the necessary instructions to carry it out, I improve this first occasion to congratulate you upon the reorganization of the foreign office, and to assure your highness, etc.

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 2.]

Prince Ch’ing to Mr. Conger.

F. O. No. 261.]

Ch’ing, prince of the first order, president of the board of foreign affairs, etc., sends this reply:

A few days since I received your excellency’s dispatch concerning the former American concession at Tientsin, which was restored to China, requesting that it might be retroceded to the United States, etc.

The contents of the dispatch have been carefully noted and I have issued instructions to the superintendent of trade for the north to take the matter into consideration and report.

As in duty bound I send this reply for your excellency’s information.

[Inclosure 3.]

Mr. Conger to Earl Li.

F. O. No. 292.]

Your Excellency: On the 14th ultimo I had the honor to send to his highness, Prince Ch’ing, president of the foreign office, a request on behalf of my Government for the recession of the former United States concession in Tientsin. His highness, acknowledging receipt, informed me that the matter had been referred to your excellency to be arranged. This was done in pursuance of previous personal conference, in which both his highness and your excellency had expressed a willingness to make the recession.

It would seem, therefore, that it was only necessary to formally confirm your verbal assurance and issue the proper instructions to the local officials, so that I might instruct the consul of the United States to again assume jurisdiction of the concession. For nearly a month I have been waiting for this, and I regret that I am constrained to again call the attention of your excellency to the matter and request its early determination.

I improve the opportunity, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 4.]

Earl Li to Mr. Conger.

F. O. No. 272.]

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt just now of your excellency’s note concerning the desire of your Government to have the concession at Tientsin which was surrendered restored to them and to have the local officials instructed to make the transfer, etc.

With regard to this case, we some time since received the instructions of the board of foreign affairs, and already on the 17th and 20th (September 29 and October 2) wrote to the taotai appointed to inquire into concession affairs at Tientsin, Mr. Chien Jung, directing him to investigate, deliberate, and decide upon the matter and to send a reply. We also clearly stated to him that the concession in question is situated between the English and German concessions, covering the whole plot of ground situated there and extending from the Peiho to the Taku road, and that since your Government was anxious to have the transfer made quickly, he ought to [Page 58]consult with the English and German consuls, and then, according to the old boundaries, turn the territory over to the control of your honorable country, all of which would be perfectly just, which is a matter of record.

Up to the present there has been no reply from Ch’ien, taot’ai, as to his compliance with these orders, and I have sent further instructions, urging him to make haste in dealing with the matter and send reply. Aside from this, as in duty bound, I send your excellency this reply, and have the honor to wish your excellency all prosperity.

Card inclosed.

[Inclosure 5.]

Mr. Conger to Earl Li.

F. O. No. 294.]

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s note of yesterday, concerning the recession to the United States of its former concession in Tientsin, in which your excellency says you have instructed the taot’ai, Mr. Ch’ien, to consult with the English and German consuls before acting in the matter.

I am greatly surprised at this, for it is entirely a matter between China and the United States, in which other governments have no concern, and should be settled without reference to them. Your excellency has not deemed it necessary to consult the United States in regard to concessions granted to other powers in Tientsin, and I fail to see why an exception should be made in this case, by inviting interference, which is wholly unnecessary, can not be allowed by the United States, and may lead to annoying complications.

I avail, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 6.]

Earl Li to Mr. Conger.

I have just seen the customs taot’ai, Huang Chien-hang who tells me that the old American concession at Tientsin was really not divided and given to the British and Germans, but in fact was bought by the China Merchants’ Steam Navigation Company and the Chinese Engineering and Mining Company for the use of their respective companies. I have directed the taot’ai, Huang, to have personal interview and come to some satisfactory arrangement.

In sending this I have the honor to wish your excellency all prosperity.

Card inclosed.

  1. Printed ante.
  2. Printed ante.