Mr. Conger to Mr. Hay.
Peking, China , December 17, 1900 .
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith copy of my telegram of the 16th instant, and to say that this suggested change comes as a great surprise from the British Government, because we have believed it fully appreciated the necessity of, and was as anxious for, early negotiations as any of us.
The British minister had agreed to the terms of the note as I telegraphed it to you, and believed himself authorized to sign, but preferred to wait formal authorization. Hence my former telegram to you saying that all of my colleagues were waiting for me.
The British minister Insists that the idea of his Government in suggesting the additional paragraph, “Until the Chinese Government has complied with the above to the satisfaction of the powers, the undersigned can hold out no expectation that the occupation of Peking and the province of Chihli by the general forces can be brought to a conclusions” is to limit the scope of possible ulterior operations to the continued occupation of Peking and the province of Chihli only, and so alleviate in part the rigor of the apparent ultimatum in the word “irrevocable.”
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As stated in my telegram, the German and Russian ministers have already agreed to the addition, and all the others, except the Japanese [Page 57] minister, who is waiting a reply to telegram sent to his Government yesterday, have since signified their willingness to accept the addition.
Most of my colleagues construe this British amendment rather in the nature of a promise to withdraw the troops from Peking if the Chinese Government does comply with our demands. If, therefore, the Chinese Government so understands, and properly appreciates the situation, and earnestly desires an amicable settlement, and will, without delay, accept the terms submitted by the powers, and at once set about compliance therewith, the execution of nearly all the demands can either be fully accomplished or such progress made toward that end as will justify the withdrawal from Peking of all the troops except the actual legation guard, and the return of the Court to the capital. It will be impossible for the troops to withdraw before spring, and equally impossible for the Imperial Government to come hither before that time. It never can nor will come while the troops remain.
In the meantime the criminals named can be punished; satisfactory arrangements can be made with the German and Japanese Governments for sending the missions and erecting the expiatory monuments proposed; the Taku forts can be razed or arrangements made therefor; formal decrees can be issued covering other points, and all may be done from Sian Fu, leaving for future adjustment practically only demands Nos. 6 and 11; that is, questions of indemnities, requisite financial measures, and the necessary amendments to the treaties of commerce and navigation. These are the most important of all, and can not be settled at once. They can be much more equitably, satisfactorily, and speedily settled by a conference of the powers, either in Europe or America. * * *
The question of withdrawing the troops from Peking is a most important one, and will soon confront us. For the benefit of China, as well as in the interest of all the powers, it should be accomplished at the earliest possible date. * * * It seems, therefore, that it would be advantageous if such preliminary communication might be had with the strong powers as would prepare the way for telegraphic orders for the immediate withdrawal of troops when the proper stage in the negotiations shall be reached.
It would undoubtedly be necessary to continue considerable foreign force in China some time yet; that is, until negotiations are completed; though by no means the large armies now here. This force, however, ought to be located where it will have the least possible contact with the Chinese people, and interfere in the least possible way with Imperial or local control of Chinese affairs, or the execution of Chinese laws. It should simply remain in China to insure the completion of satisfactory and promised negotiations, or for emergencies possible to arise while China is getting back to normal conditions.
I write this dispatch at this time in anticipation and for the better understanding of probable telegraphic communications likely to be made later on.
I have, etc.,