Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.
Peking, China , December 5, 1900 .
Sir: I have the honor to confirm, as inclosures herein, your cipher telegram of the 27th ultimo, and mine of the 4th instant.
The latter is the full text of the note including the demands which the ministers have unanimously agreed upon to be sent to the Chinese plenipotentiaries. You will observe that several changes have been made in the demands as originally sent to you; the most important of them in compliance with your telegram, and agreed to by a majority of my colleagues only because I strenuously insisted upon them, and in order not to greatly endanger negotiations by further unnecessary delay. AH the ministers, except the Russian and British, had been instructed to sign the note as it was. The British minister had not yet received definite instructions, and the Russian minister had been instructed to sign only on condition that the death penalty was left out. I therefore had the active assistance of these two and the Japanese minister, and have been working with the others ever since the receipt of your telegram.
A meeting was called, at my suggestion, on yesterday. Upon the question of substituting the words “severest punishment” for “death penalty,” the German, Austrian, and Italian ministers voted “No,” but agreed that when it came to signing the note they would sign the changed note. The death penalty having been stricken out, it was thought by a majority of the ministers that there could not be serious objection to the use of the word “irrevocable” in the preamble; but I insisted that it should go out, and, instead of referring to the conditions as “irrevocable,” we would say “absolutely indispensable;” and finally all agreed that if my Government would not give way on this point, they all would, for the sake of harmonious and immediate action, agree to the change. But the German, French, Austrian, Italian, Spanish, and Belgian ministers very much preferred to retain the word “irrevocable,” and begged me to ask my Government to yield. I promised to telegraph you the facts and await instruction.
Their principal reasons for insisting upon the word “irrevocable” were that any change would weaken our case and encourage the Chinese, and that by retaining the word there would be far less danger of quibbles and delays on the part of the Chinese; and that, with the words “death penalty” stricken out there was no danger in leaving the word “irrevocable” in. Besides, they all insisted that it was not used in the sense of an ultimatum. However, whether or not you insist upon its being stricken out, the note will be signed as soon as I hear from you. I am presuming that the British minister will by that time have received his instructions. Everything is so chaotic here and unexpected conditions so likely to arise at any moment that further delay is very dangerous. So many concessions have been made and so many changes agreed to by the several ministers that now, having reached a possible agreement, advantage should be taken of it and the matter closed.
The British minister is expecting to-day his instructions to sign. When he does receive them, they will be only waiting for me. I hope, therefore, very soon to receive your telegraphic approval of and authority to sign the note.
I have, etc.,