Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 14.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a dispatch recently received from the consul-general at Canton transmitting a letter of the viceroy with regard to the wanton drowning of a Chinese by American men-of-war’s men in September last. The case was reported to the Department at the time both by the consulate-general and the legation, and in reply to the representations of the latter an acknowledgment was received.

The facts, which appear to be established, are that an unoffending Chinese of good class was met on a bridge by some men in the uniform of American sailors, of whom there were a number on shore leave at that time. These sailors were seen to throw him over the parapet into the mud, where he died of suffocation, but they made good their escape; and as it afterwards proved impossible to identify them, no one was punished.

The only thing that could be done to make some measure of amends was to allow a money compensation to the family of the murdered man in the same manner that we would have demanded one had the victim been an American and the aggressors Chinese. This course was recommended by the court of inquiry with the concurrence of the American consul-general and was urged by the legation.

Up to this time nothing has been done by our government, and it now appears that unfortunate results may quite probably ensue. I am strongly of the opinion that for the sake of our national honor and reputation for fair dealing, as well as in the interests of abstract justice, some reparation should be made for this crime. If a favorable [Page 116]decision of the Department regarding this question were to be telegraphed to me or to the consulate-general at Canton, it would have a very beneficial effect on the feelings of the Chinese.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 1.]

The American Consul-General to Chargé Coolidge.

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith copy of the communication from the viceroy of the Two Kwangs with translation with regard to the drowning of a Chinaman here last year.

This unfortunate case has been fully reported to the legation by Mr. Cheshire. It is one that should be settled at once and an indemnity paid the family of the deceased Chinaman, otherwise the action of our government in declining to meet what the Chinese consider a just demand may result in unpleasent relations between the Americans and Chinese here. If the case is not settled I shall have the greatest difficulty in securing redress from the authorities here in the case of attack on the persons and property of Americans in this district.

Unfortunately all foreigners have openly discussed this case, both here and in Hongkong, and the opinion generally is in favor of the Chinese claim. Many unfair attacks have been made in the press, which have been copied in the Chinese newspapers.

The family of the drowned man come to the consulate constantly, but I am obliged to tell them that I have heard nothing from my government, and I can not say what might happen if the family, who are encouraged by the English papers and by foreigners to press their claim, are not indemnified.

I have, etc.,

Julius G. Lay.
[Subinclosure.]

The Viceroy of the Two Kwangs to Consul-General Lay.

Sir: In the matter of the death by drowning of Ho Choy Yeen, assistant comprador of the S. S. Kansu, which act was caused by some American sailors throwing him into the creek (off Shameen), sometime ago I deputed officers, who, with the former consul-general (Mr. Cheshire), held a joint inquiry into the case and in the decision arrived at it was recommended that the Government of the United States be asked to indemnify the family of the deceased; also that continued efforts should be made to ascertain if possible the real culprits, who, in the event of their being found and their guilt established, should be dealt with as provided by the laws of their country (the United States).

The above decision was signed by the members of the court of inquiry as evidence.

At various times I have telegraphed the Waiwu Pu (Chinese department of foreign affairs) in regard to this matter, and received replies to the effect that the question had been submitted to the American minister, who promised to bring it to the notice of his government. This is all a matter of record.

Now, I beg to state that a long time has elapsed and the real culprits have not been found out, neither has anything been done in the matter of providing for an indemnity (for the deceased family).

The family of the deceased and the gentry and merchants of Canton have repeatedly petitioned me about the arrest of the guilty and the payment of indemnity as decided by the court of inquiry, but nothing has been settled or arranged, and their request was very strong and urgent.

I beg to observe that if some plan of meeting the case is not devised without further delay it is to be feared that the feelings of the people may become more and more aroused, and most probably another trouble will arise which may impair the friendly relations existing ‘ between the two governments.

I know and have respect for the honest and straightforward way your honor deals with questions that arise, and I therefore have the honor to request that, acting on the decision rendered by the court of inquiry, you will be good enough to lay this matter before his excellency the United States minister at Peking, requesting him to bring it to the notice of your government, asking that an indemnity be paid to the family of the deceased and at the same [Page 117]time every effort be made to ascertain who the real culprits are and have them punished, thus complying with the stipulations of treaty and maintaining friendly relations between our respective countries.