Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.
Peking, China , November 20, 1900 .
Sir: I have the honor to confirm your telegram of the 16th instant.
When we reach the matter of reformation of the Tsung-li Yamen I will present the requirement that the minister for foreign affairs shall be able to speak some foreign language. But I fear this will limit the choice to a very small number of mostly young men, and preclude the selection of the stronger, better educated men of China. * * *
We are discussing the question of Peking as a treaty port, but in order to reach an agreement on the preliminary demands I fear this will have to be deferred to a later period in the negotiations.
As to the demand for posthumous honors, I have conferred with my colleagues and I find that this, too, must come later in the negotiations, if at all. With the exception of Chang Yin-huan, it is not known how thoroughly the others interested themselves in foreigners or foreign affairs. So far as our relation with them at the tsungli yamen was concerned, their friendship toward foreigners was notable only in contrast with the intense antiforeign sentiments of their colleagues.
I will urge the agreement upon a lump sum for indemnity at the proper time, and think if that plan can be adopted it will expedite final settlement. I have from the start tried to make the preliminary demands as general and as simple as possible, in order to avoid asking impossible terms which might defeat the purposes aimed at. I have been afraid that if we demand in the beginning the death of all the strong men surrounding the court their execution will be impossible, because there will be nobody to perform the work, and it is hardly to be expected they will execute themselves.[Page 49]
General Tung Fu-hsiang has command of all the troops with the court, and is practically master of the situation, and I have urged my colleagues to leave his name out of the first demand, so that he might carry out the imperial order for the execution of the others; but my colleagues are unanimous in their insistence that in view of the leading part he and his troops have taken in the whole antiforeign movement, his name must be included in the very first demand, and, if the impossibility of compliance is made evident, some different arrangement can be made as the negotiations progress.
You will observe from this that the word “ultimatum,” which I have used in my telegrams, is not to be taken in its usual sense of meaning a fixed period within which demands must be complied with or hostilities will begin, but rather as an irrevocable decision, with a sort of mental reservation, that, in case of meeting actual impossibilities, it may be slightly changed. We have found it rather difficult to secure an agreement of the ten ministers upon all points, so several compromises have had to be made. We have, however, finally agreed in principle upon all the points named in my telegrams, except the one which requires China to agree to adopt such financial measures as the powers may indicate, to guarantee the payment of the said indemnities, and the interest on the public loan. * * *
I fully appreciate the importance of a speedy termination of negotiations. Trade is at a standstill. The revenues of China are falling off at the rate of half a million dollars per month; the expense of these great armies is adding so rapidly to her liabilities that soon it will be impossible for her to pay. Practically all missionary work is suspended, the business of our manufacturers and exporters at home is suffering, and unexpected internal disturbances may rise to further complicate matters at any time. Yet I think no settlement should be made that is not reasonably comprehensive, with an assurance of permanency, and adequate guaranties for the future.
I have, etc.,