Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.
Pekin, October 11, 1901.
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.,