Acting Secretary Hill to the Imperial German Chargé d’Affaires.

Sir: In response to your inquiry of the 18th instant as to the attitude of the Government of the United States in regard to the exemplary punishment of the notable leaders in the crimes committed in Pekin against international law, I have the honor to make the following statement:

The Government of the United States has from the outset proclaimed its purpose to hold to the uttermost accountability the responsible authors of any wrongs done in China to citizens of the United States and their interests, as was stated in the Government’s circular communication to the powers of July 3 last. These wrongs have been committed not alone in Pekin, but in many parts of the Empire, and their punishment is believed to be an essential element of any effective settlement which shall prevent a recurrence of such outrages and bring about permanent safety and peace in China. It is thought, however, that no punitive measures can be so effective by way of reparation for wrongs suffered and as deterrent examples for the future as the degradation and punishment of the responsible authors by the supreme Imperial authority itself; and it seems only just to China that she should be afforded in the first instance an opportunity to do this and thus rehabilitate herself before the world. Believing thus, and without abating in any wise its deliberate purpose to exact the fullest accountability [Page 25] from the responsible authors of the wrongs we have suffered in China, the Government of the United States is not disposed, as a preliminary condition to entering into diplomatic negotiations with the Chinese Government, to join in demand that said Government surrender to the powers such persons as, according to the determination of the powers themselves, may be held to be the first and real perpetrators of those wrongs. On the other hand, this Government is disposed to hold that the punishment of the high responsible authors of these wrongs, not only in Pekin but throughout China, is essentially a condition to be embraced and provided for in the negotiations for a final settlement. It is the purpose of this Government, at the earliest practicable moment, to name its plenipotentiaries for negotiating a settlement with China, and in the meantime to authorize its minister in Pekin to enter forthwith into conference with the duly authorized representatives of the Chinese Government with a view to bringing about a preliminary agreement whereby the full exercise of the imperial power for the preservation of order and the protection of foreign life and property throughout China, pending final negotiations with the powers, shall be assured.

Accept, sir, the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

David J. Hill,
Acting Secretary.

Freiherr Speck von Sternburg,