Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.

No. 419.]

Sir: I have the honor to confirm my telegrams of the 24th and 27th instants and to say that at this end of the line but little, if any, progress is being made toward a settlement of existing troubles.

Better order is being established in the city, and particularly in the portions under the jurisdiction of the Americans and Japanese; the Chinese are returning to their homes, opening their shops, etc., but each army is acting independently and controlling in its own way the section over which it has charge.

Outside the city the Chinese soldiers and Boxers are as active and hostile as ever. Scouts and reconnoitering parties are meeting them or being fired upon from ambush almost daily.

Foreign troops have been sent out in various directions from 5 to 30 miles and have met and punished them severely in several places, but they return again or others appear elsewhere.

On the 25th instant a note was received by the dean of the diplomatic corps from Prince Ching, copy of which I inclose, reciting the efforts of the ad interim viceroy of Chihli (I think the provincial treasurer, since executed by the Pao-ting punitive expedition) to exterminate the Boxers, but we have no evidence of the success of his efforts, and I apprehend they do not extend much beyond the issuance of orders and proclamations, to which little or no attention is paid. I also inclose copy of a note received by the dean of the diplomatic corps yesterday, transmitting copy of an Imperial decree appointing Jung Lu to assist in peace negotiations, and also ordering Prince Ching to communicate concerning negotiations with the Viceroys Liu Kun-yi of Nanking and Chang Chih-tung of Wuchang.

These viceroys are at their homes. Li Hung-chang is at Tientsin, Jung Lu is at Paoting-fu, and Prince Ching here. None of them has exhibited any powers, nor has there been any request made to start negotiations.

[Page 37]

The Russian minister, with his whole legation staff, removed to Tientsin on the 29th. The French are to follow soon. The Germans have been ordered to go when the others do. The Japanese have expressed a willingness to go, so that there seems little prospect of beginning early negotiations here. There is considerable objection to accepting Jung Lu as a negotiator, because during the siege he was commander in chief of the Imperial troops, and soldiers belonging to his special corps were often in evidence in our immediate front. I am not sure, however, that it will be persisted in.

It has been my idea, and with which, upon conferring freely, as directed, with Mr. Rockhill, I find he agrees, that negotiations of the most preliminary character should be started here at once, or just as soon as the Chinese Government showed an earnest effort and a sincere desire to negotiate.

For instance, declaring the purpose of the foreign powers in landing troops in China, and the Chinese agreeing at once to suspend hostilities, restore order, and speedily arrange for just and reasonable indemnity to the several powers and for full reparation for all wrongs and injuries suffered by their citizens and subjects, and to guarantee that for the future the treaty and international rights of all the powers shall be secure and all interests and property of foreign citizens be adequately conserved, and mutually agreeing that plenipotentiaries shall be appointed to negotiate an equitable settlement of all the questions arising out of the recent troubles, and that as soon as such plenipotentiaries are duly named and qualified the foreign troops, except adequate legation guards, not to exceed an average of 1,000 for each legation, shall be retired to points near the coast pending the completion of negotiations, etc. This would make a start, would give a base for negotiations, which could then be conducted at some convenient place for the powers, and the presence of the allied forces at Peking and coast points would compel Chinese to keep faith, at least pending the completion of negotiations. If this can not be done, and done quickly, complications are likely to arise and possible differences among the powers result, which will compel separate settlements and the certain dissolution of the Empire.

The Germans are now insisting upon the surrender and punishment of the original and real instigators of the crisis in Peking * * * before any negotiations whatever are begun. This should by all means be accomplished, and probably can be, before final settlement, but if it is to be insisted on as preliminary to all, then no negotiations will be possible.

I have, etc.,

E. H. Conger.
[Inclosure 1 in dispatch No. 419.]

Prince Ching to Mr. de Cologan.

The 29th the viceroy pro tempore of Ohihli addressed to me the following communication:

“I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the communication in which you say to me: ‘The Boxers of Chihli and of Peking are within your jurisdiction, and you ought to disperse them without delay. If they dare to recommence the struggle, exterminate them with your soldiers in order to prevent new reprisals.’ Mr. de Giers told me in an interview that in the neighborhood of Feng-tai, where they were repairing the railway, there were still Boxers armed with guns, who held the country, and requested me to have them disbanded or destroyed. It is necessary that you act with vigor.

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“The beginning of hostilities between China and the powers [said the pro tempore viceroy of Chihli] had for its origin the existence of the Boxers. They are the cause of the ruin of Peking and of Tientsin and of the destruction of the inhabitants. My heart has been most grievously affected, and I burn with a desire to take and execute their chiefs and arrest their followers. But thinking of the means to accomplish this, I consider that the deserted soldiers are also scattered everywhere for the purpose of creating disorder, and that the first thing to do is to suppress them. I have not a sufficient military force for both tasks.

“I have commenced by presenting to the Throne the question of the Boxers and asking for an Imperial decree ordering all the great military chiefs to exterminate them. On the 10th instant the Taotai Tan Wen-huan, at the head of the Boxer chiefs Tsao Fu-tien, etc., nine in all, came to Tientsin to renew the troubles. I immediately sent some officers to arrest these Boxers. Eight were beheaded and their (heads) exposed. Tan Wen-huan escaped by a circuitous route. Three Boxers were taken alive. Che San, one of them, was examined, sentenced, and beheaded. As to Tan Wen-huan, I have requested from the Throne his degredation.

“Tsao Fu-tien is the chief of the Boxers of Shantung and was the instigator of the troubles at Tientsin, but the Tsao arrested at Tientsin is another individual. The real Tsao Fu-tien has fled with the Taotai Tan, but his crimes are innumerable and his capital condemnation is necessary for the public good. As to the other Boxers, they are the principal leaders in the subprefectures of Ching Hai and Yen Chiu (Chihli). I think it is necessary to decapitate them or they will continue to incite uprisings among the people.

“After the destruction of Peking and Tientsin a large number of Boxers took refuge in the subprefecture of Liang Hsiang, near Peking, and around Tientsin there are also some. If they are not immediately exterminated they will recommence their mischief. So I have sent some large forces to exterminate them. I have also sent a brigadier-general from Tientsin, Lin Che-piao, and a lieutenant colonel, Tan Tien-kuei, into the north of Chihli; a general of division, Lu Pen-yuen, in the region of Ho-chkiu-fu (near Tientsin), with order to confer with the general commanding at T’sang Chou, Nei Tsung-yi, and I have enjoined all the camps from south to north to unite their efforts, hoping thus to destroy the very root of the Boxers. Those which were at Tientsin exist no longer. This then is the present situation of the question of suppressing the Boxers.

“I have received the communication in which it is said that the European powers desire to send out troops to exterminate the Boxers in order to end the troubles and protect the merchants. Now the Boxers sometimes show themselves and then disperse. I fear that the arrival of foreign troops would frighten the people and cause them to flee en masse, while the Boxers would scatter on all sides. So China herself ought to accomplish the task of exterminating the Boxers in her own territory and of protecting the missionaries in order to hasten the conclusion of peace and the protection of commerce.

“In regard to the region of Feng-tai, where they are at present repairing the railway, and where there are still some Boxers, it is necessary to immediately exterminate them; but in these localities there are foreign troops. If the Chinese troops are sent there it is to be feared that conflicts will occur.

“I beg you to discuss this question with the foreign ministers. When European troops may be in the neighborhood they ought to permit the Chinese troops to pass for the purpose of going to fight the Boxers, each controlling their own soldiers and not impeded by the operations of the others. This will facilitate the suppression of the rioters, etc.”

I (Prince Ching) consider that the viceroy pro tempore of Chihli offers some excellent ideas concerning the suppression of the Boxers, and that his letter is very sensible. I therefore submit it to the examination of your excellency, and beg you to communicate it to your colleagues.

[Inclosure 2 in dispatch No. 419.—Official dispatch.]

Prince Ching to Mr. de Cologan.

On September 9 I received an Imperial decree as follows:

“Li Hung-chang has at different times requested us by telegraph to designate one or more princes and ministers to treat of peace.

“I have named Prince Ching and ordered him to return to Peking and put himself in telegraphic communication for negotiations with Liu Kun-yi and Chang Chih-tung. I have besides charged Jung Lu to concert with them in negotiating; and in order to facilitate their relations Jung Lu has gone to Huo-lu. I order him to go [Page 39] immediately to Paoting-fu and await there until the arrival at Tientsin of Li Hung-chang, etc. Respect this.”

I hasten to make this known to you and beg you to communicate it to your colleagues.