Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.
Peking, September 27, 1900.
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.,