Mr. Hay to Mr. Conger.

No. 858.]

Sir: I inclose for your information a copy of an instruction I have addressed under to-day’s date to the American embassies and legations at London, Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, Rome Tokyo, The Hague, Brussels, Vienna, and Madrid, pointing out the importance of an early agreement between the powers which signed the final protocol at Peking, of September 7, 1901, in regard to the proposed abrogation of the provisions of that protocol, relating to the conservancy of the Whang-pu River and to the acceptance of the new obligation which the Chinese Government desires to assume in that respect.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.
[Inclosure.]

Mr. Hay to Mr. _______ _______

Sir: This Government has taken a profound interest in the various projects for the improvement of the navigation of the Whangpu River, a question of ever-increasing importance for the foreign commerce of Shanghai and China generally. Since the signing of the final protocol of Peking, of September 7, 1901, in which provision was made for this work, which year by year is becoming more urgent, it has on numerous occasions made earnest representations to the Chinese Government to appoint representatives on the conservancy board as provided for by annex 17 of the final protocol and thus complete the organization and enable it to begin the work assigned it by the agreement of China and the powers. Our efforts have not overcome the disinclination of the Chinese Government to make the necessary appointments, nor have we even been able to secure the unanimous and active support of all the diplomatic representatives at Peking in our efforts to conquer Chinese dilatoriness.

Opposition to the provisions of annex 17 of the final protocol, especially to the additional taxes which it imposed, has furthermore steadily increased among a considerable section of the foreign community of Shanghai, and this, coupled with the persistent opposition to the conservancy board of the Chinese viceroy at Nanking and of the Chinese maritime customs, on the ground that the terms of the protocol seriously infringe Chinese sovereignty, forced on this Government the belief that the scheme as therein provided for must be considerably amended if this vital work is to be undertaken at an early date, or at all.

On the 9th of June last the Chinese foreign office addressed a note to the diplomatic representatives of the powers at Peking, asking the repeal of annex 17 of the final protocol of September 7, 1901, and expressing the desire to improve the bed of the Whangpu River under the sole control and at the sole expense of China. With this note was submitted a set of proposals outlining the manner in which it sought to accomplish this end.

The minister of the United States at Peking, having transmitted the suggestions of the Chinese Government to Washington, was informed that they were unobjectionable in principle to this Government if good and sufficient guarantees were given that China would promptly begin the conservancy work, carry it to a satisfactory termination, and maintain it afterwards.

The above reply was duly communicated to the Chinese foreign office, and the latter, on August 5 last, informed the American minister that the Chinese Government offered as guaranty for the carrying out of the work certain revenues aggregating about 600,000 taels annually. The foreign office expressed the hope that this would be accepted by the United States as a sufficient guaranty.

On the 11th of August, the American minister at Peking, under instructions from this Government, addressed a note to the Chinese foreign office in which, [Page 200]after stating the general acceptance by this Government of the proposals of China, he said that the United States before considering the abrogation of the provisions of the final protocol must insist that China submit detailed plans and a general programme of the way in which it proposed doing the work. It was to be clearly understood, however, that whereas the United States was willing to waive temporarily its right to insist on China complying with the terms agreed to by her in Article VI of the final protocol concerning the improvement of the course of the Whangpu River, it would do so only so long as the Chinese Government promptly and satisfactorily discharged the new obligations which it now wished to assume. Should it become evident at a later date that the conservancy work was not being done promptly, or should there be evidence of a disposition not to carry out the work to the satisfaction of all interests concerned the United States would insist upon full and strict compliance with the detailed plan for the carrying out of the proposed work.

No reply has been received from the Chinese foreign office to the above communication, although it has intimated to our minister that it would submit a detailed plan for the carying out of the proposed work.

Considering, however, that the abrogation of these provisions of the final protocol of Peeking, relating to the conservancy of the Whangpu, can only be brought about by the unanimous agreement thereto of the signatory powers, this Government is of opinion that the universally recognized urgency of the work makes an early agreement among the interested powers imperatively necessary. Such desired agreement can be more promptly reached, it is believed, by direct submission of our views to the interested powers than through the diplomatic representatives at Peking.

You are therefore instructed to submit the above statement of the views of this Government to the attention of the minister of foreign affairs and to urge his serious consideration of them. Should the proposals submitted by the Chinese Government to the signatory powers in June last meet with the general approval of the ________ Government it is hoped that it will see its way to instruct its representative at Peking accordingly, so that this important undertaking may be promptly begun to the satisfaction of all the powers concerned and to the benefit of the vast commercial interests it so vitally affects.

I am, etc.,

John Hay.