The Acting Secretary of State to the Russian Chargé d’affaires.

Sir: Referring to your note of August 4 (17), and to my reply thereto of the 23d instant, concerning a reported resolution of the admirals of the allied fleets at Taku to interdict the Chinese plenipotentiary, Li Hung Chang, from communication with the Chinese authorities in the event of his arrival at Taku, I have now the honor to inform you that a supplementary report, under date of yesterday, has been cabled by the United States naval commander in those waters.

Admiral Remey therein states that in a conference with the admirals held on that day (August 24) it was agreed that the Italian admiral should write to the dean of the foreign legations in Pekin “for instructions in case Li Hung Chang should arrive at Taku,” and it was also agreed that, pending a reply from Pekin, Li Hung Chang should not be allowed to communicate “with shore Chinese authorities.” Admiral Remey has dissented from the latter proposition. He further reports that a misunderstanding has existed concerning the action taken at a prior conference. He learns that the conference considered that the prohibition to which your note of the 4th (17th) relates had been agreed upon at a previous meeting, but that was not the American admiral’s understanding. His objection, made at the time, was acknowledged and should have been noted with any mention of the proposition, but in the signed protocol of the meeting there was no formal note nor any allusion to the matter. At the meeting of August 24 Admiral Remey states that he would inform his Government of the misunderstanding, and he expects that the fact of his disapproval will have been notified by the other commanders to their respective Governments.

The views of the Government of the United States touching the action of the admirals at Taku have been communicated to the representatives of the United States in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, Rome, Tokyo, and St. Petersburgh for communication to the governments to which they are respectively accredited, so that the Russian Government is doubtless by this time advised of our attitude in the matter.

I inclose for your fuller information a copy of the telegram in question, which was sent on the evening of August 24.

The views of this Government have also been communicated to Admiral Remey.

Be pleased to accept, sir, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

Alvey A. Adee,
Acting Secretary.

Telegram sent to the representatives of the United States in Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, Borne, Tokyo, and St. Petersburg.

The following note was received by us from the chargé of the Russian Government at this capital, August 17:

“I have just received a communication from the Imperial Government informing me of the resolution of the admirals of the allied fleets interdicting the plenipotentiary [Page 19] of the Chinese Government, Li Hung chang, from all communication with the Chinese authorities in the event of his arrival at Taku.

“This resolution being inexplicable, in view of the fact that all the powers have recognized the utility of admitting his (Li Hung chang’s) services, in the eventual negotiations for peace, and especially because it would be impossible for him to fulfill his mission in the character of Chinese plenipotentiary if this were done, it would be desirable that the interested governments should give orders to countermand the above-mentioned decision.”

Inquiry of Admiral Remey, commanding our fleet at Taku, was first answered that no such resolution had been adopted. He now cables that the admirals have agreed to write the dean of the legations in Pekin for instructions in case Li Hung chang should arrive at Taku, and meantime not to allow him to communicate with Chinese shore authorities. Remey dissented from last proposition.

We take the same view expressed in the Russian note. In interests of peace and effective presentation of just demands of all the powers against China, it seems important that the Chinese plenipotentiary should be able to communicate both with his own Government and its military commanders, whose action will be necessary to any suspension of hostilities as required in my telegram to you of 22d. Chinese minister here is without powers or advices. Li Hung chang is prima facie authorized by imperial decree to negotiate, and is the only representative of responsible authority in China so far as we are advised. We have instructed our representative in China in the spirit of the Russian note.

Any misunderstanding or divergent action on this subject by representatives of the powers in China would be unfortunate, and we would be glad to learn from other powers if there are reasons not known to us which in their judgment should lead to a view different from that which we take.

You will communicate this to the minister for foreign affairs, inviting early response.

Adee, Acting.