Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 23.]

Sir: When I arrived in Shanghai on May 20, last, on my way to my post, I was informed by our consul-general that a few days previously the leading native merchant guilds of that place had held meetings for the purpose of declaring a general boycott against all American goods and persons residing in China for the purpose of forcing the Government of the United States to amend its laws concerning the exclusion of Chinese. The Chinese public was told that our government was attempting to force that of China to sign a treaty highly detrimental to Chinese interests and that the people of China ought by means of the proposed boycott to resist America’s demands. Telegrams were sent by the meeting to some twenty cities in China, all interested in the American trade, urging them to take the proposed action, which was to be put in force on or about August 1 next.

Our consul-general, while not believing that the proposed anti-American agitation could have very series results, was nevertheless anxious about it, and asked me to see the heads of the native guilds, which he had asked to meet him at the consulate-general for the purpose of talking the matter over with them.

I agreed to Mr. Davidson’s request, and on May 21 I met the committee of representative merchants and bankers of the local guilds and explained to them that they had been misled and were evidently not aware of the true state of the negotiations now pending between the two governments, otherwise they would have refrained from taking the hasty action they had, which could only tend to create bad feeling and embarrass trade without any object. I then read to them the memorandum of which I inclose a copy. I asked them to make it known to their guilds. This they promised to do, and they left assuring me that they were perfectly satisfied with my explanations.

A couple of days later, the local native press continuing to print inflammatory articles against our country and encouraging the proposed boycott, I suggested to Mr. Davidson that he should see the taot’ai and ask him to put a stop to such foolish and lawless agitation. Mr. Davidson saw the taot’ai, but no action was taken by him.

On my arrival in Peking I found numerous telegrams and dispatches from our consuls and citizens, reporting that the movement had spread to Foochow, Amoy, Canton, Hankow, Tientsin, and to several interior towns of this province, and fears were expressed that the ignorant people of the interior might commit acts of violence against foreigners if the Chinese Government did not take prompt action to check the [Page 206] movement and state the true conditions of the negotiations for a new treaty.

I therefore asked the Prince Ch’ing in the first interview I had with him on June 3 to take prompt action to put a stop to the agitation. This he promised to do, but as the inflammatory articles continued to appear, particularly in the Peking native press, I felt obliged to call his attention to the matter in a note. This having remained unanswered for a week, I wrote him again, and the day before yesterday I received the inclosed reply, which tends to strengthen my belief that the movement was with official approval, if not actually at official suggestion. The action of the foreign office would probably not have been taken yet had it not been that the energetic viceroy, Yuan Shih-k’ai, saw the possible danger lurking in it and took prompt and radical action to suppress it. He also wired to the foreign office here advising it strongly to instruct the viceroys and governors of the various provinces to use their efforts to arrest the movement. I have thanked the Viceroy Yuan for his prompt and wise action, during a visit I paid him at Tientsin a few days ago.

I inclose a copy of the proclamation issued in Tientsin by order of the viceroy.

On receipt of the note from the Prince Ch’ing I cabled the Department.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 1.]

Minister Rockhill to the Chinese guilds.


In 1894 the governments of China and the United States, animated by the desire to amicably settle the question of the coming of Chinese laborers into the United States, which previous treaties had either left in an unsatisfactory condition or which previous experience had shown required change and amendment, concluded a new treaty for a period of ten years.

The last article of this treaty of 1894 provided that, if six months prior to the date on which it expired (7th of December, 1904,) neither of the signatory powers had declared its desire to terminate it, it should be in force for another period of ten years.

The Chinese Government informed the American Government during the summer of 1904 that it did not wish to see the treaty of 1894 extended beyond the date fixed for its termination; that is to say, December 7, 1904. At the same time it declared its willingness to begin negotiations for the conclusion of a new treaty regulating the subject of the entry of Chinese laborers into the United States. In August of last year—that is to say, about seven months ago—the Chinese Government, through its minister at Washington, submitted a first draft of a treaty for the consideration of the American Secretary of State. This was to serve as a preliminary basis for negotiations.

This first draft was carefully considered by the Secretary of State of the United States, and, in due course of time, a reply was sent to the Chinese minister, Liang Ch’eng, with a counter draft, in which the proposals made by China in its draft were embodied with such changes as were deemed necessary, to the end that the treaty when concluded should in no wise conflict with the laws of the United States, while at the same time they met all the wishes of the Chinese Government.

These proposals of the American Government were translated by the Chinese minister to his government at Peking, and some three months later—that is to say, the early part of this year—a new draft, embodying some of the modifications suggested by the United States, was received by the American Secretary of State from the Waiwu Pu.

This last draft is still before the American Government and is now the basis on which negotiations between the two governments are being conducted. It is confidently believed that it will enable the two governments who are equally animated by an earnest and sincere desire to remove this question from the field of discussion, and who are conducting [Page 207] the negotiations in the most amicable mannner, to reach a final settlement both just and satisfactory to the two nations.

Although it would not be proper at the present stage of the negotiations to disclose the provisions which in one form or another will be incorporated into the treaty when finally agreed upon between the two countries, it may be categorically and emphatically stated that neither by word nor implication has the United States sought to in anyway impede the return to the United States of Chinese laborers rightfully entitled so to do, nor to put burdensome restrictions in the way of Chinese subjects not belonging to the laboring classes who may wish to visit the United States or to reside therein for purposes of pleasure or study. On the contrary, it is the earnest desire of the President and the people of the United States to extend to this latter class of visitors all such courtesies and facilities as they may desire, to become better acquainted with our country, its resources, its industries, its mode of thought, its method of administration, by which knowledge, better than all other means, the relations with China may become closer and even more friendly than they have ever been. It is believed that the proposals which are now being considered by the United States and China looking to this most desirable end will fulfill our expectations and realize the friendly wishes of our President and our people.

[Inclosure 2.]

Minister Rockhill to Prince Ch’ing.

Your Imperial Highness: I have the honor to inclose a copy of a Chinese newspaper, the Ta Kung Pao, containing a notice that advertisements of American firms will hereafter be refused publication in that paper, and a copy of a letter addressed by the same paper to an American lawyer in Tientsin, informing him that his advertisement in the paper must be taken out. This is but one of many instances brought to my notice in which newspapers, handbills, and posters, have been employed to urge the Chinese people to boycott American products, inciting a spirit of hostility to our people.

Recently in a conversation with your highness I called your attention to this agitation and received from your highness the assurance that the matter was due to the foolish action of persons ignorant of the real situation, and that your highness would take into consideration some plan for putting a stop to it. On two other occasions I made reference to the matter to your board, to his Imperial Highness Prince Ch’ing, president of the board of foreign affairs, through two secretaries of this legation when visiting the yamen. In view of the fact that the organizations which are responsible for this agitation state that they have communicated their views to the board of foreign affairs I am at a loss to understand why no sufficient action has been taken to put a stop to this foolish movement.

I trust, therefore, that your imperial highness will at once take the necessary steps to this end. Such senseless talk in no wise contributes to the friendliness and confidence which should exist between the peoples of our countries, and might not unlikely lead the ignorant to acts of violence against Americans and other foreigners.

I avail, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 3.—Translation.]

Prince Ch’ing to Minister Rockhill.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt recently of several letters from your excellency regarding the organized boycott against American goods in several ports of China.

Your excellency says this agitation is based on absolutely groundless reports of extraordinarily harsh terms now being enforced on Chinese in the United States, and you request that steps be taken immediately to arrest this movement.

My board finds upon investigation that this movement has not been inaugurated without some reason, for the restrictions against Chinese entering America are too strong and American exclusion laws are extremely inconvenient to the Chinese.

The coolie immigration treaty has now expired, but although this treaty is null, the exclusion restrictions are still enforced.

The great inconveniences brought to all Chinese merchants has thus led to this movement, but if the restrictions can be lightened by your government and a treaty drawn up in a friendly manner then this agitation will of its own accord die out.

[Page 208]

My board has already telegraphed to the various coast and river ports instructing the viceroys and governors to use every endeavor to undeceive the merchants and others, that the affair may not spread into a general movement.

As to the report made by your consul at Foochow, mention of which you made in your recent dispatch, my board has already sent telegraphic instructions to (the governor of) said province directing him to use strict methods and put an end to the affair.

It becomes my duty therefore to send this report to your excellency’s dispatch.

A necessary dispatch.


[Inclosure 4.]

A proclamation issued by the Tientsin prefecture, Tientsin district, and the chief of police, enabling all to know that, whereas the people have been collecting in large numbers to meet for deliberation, it must be prohibited, as it is contrary to law.

We have now been informed by the governor general that if in future twenty or more people collect in numbers to meet for deliberation, it is imperative that the chief of police be first informed of the purpose and date of the meeting. At the time set for the meeting an official shall be appointed to proceed to the place to examine and listen to the discourse. If they shall dare to discourse upon an untruthful topic and by the use of fine words cause others to believe, or if there are any who, on their own authority, meet for deliberation, the leaders shall certainly be seized and dealt with accordingly.

As in duty bound we issue this proclamation, thereby enabling all to clearly understand. In accordance with this proclamation we trust that all the people of Tientsin will act as one body and obey accordingly. A special proclamation. Do not disobey.