Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.
Peking, August 17, 1905.
Sir: In further reference to my telegram of the 15th instant, reporting on the general situation in China resulting from the boycott of American trade, as directed by you, I have the honor to state as complementary thereto that my report was based on the reports received nearly daily from our consular officers. I need not, I think, detail the latest reports to you, as I am advised by our consuls that they are regularly reporting to the Department on conditions in their districts. Briefly stated, my reports show that at Niuchwang, Tientsin, Chin-kiang, Hankow, Hangchow, Fuchau, and Nanking nothing has occurred of a nature to disturb trade or cause undue apprehension.
At Chefoo the boycott has caused some agitation, but nothing at all serious has occurred. The same may be said of Amoy, though the agitation there has, it would seem, been more serious.
At Canton, as was to be feared, the agitation has been great, and the boycott carried out to a certain extent, but it has not the full and hearty support of the mercantile classes.
* * * * * * *
The situation is only serious at Shanghai. Our consul-general reported to me that while American trade was suffering heavily, and [Page 217] it was feared that it would take it a long time to regain the ground lost during the boycott, he saw signs that the Chinese were weakening as the possible direct losses to them became more apparent. The leader of the movement, Tseng Shao-ching, was chiefly depending for keeping up the agitation on the students, the most violent of whom are those who have studied abroad and in whose hands the movement is becoming an antiforeign one. Tseng has no longer the influence he appears to have had with the merchants, as it was against the latter’s wishes that the recent decision was reached to cancel contracts for all classes of American goods. Great anxiety is felt on account of this last move, which may bring bankruptcy to many Chinese and large losses to the American and other foreign firms dealing in American goods.
This apprehension has grown so great that the foreign chamber of commerce got the consular body at Shanghai to telegraph on the 11th instant to the dean of the diplomatic corps to take action to “stop the action of the agitators and to pacify popular opinion. * * *” The diplomatic corps seems not disposed to act on this telegraphic request, but to await full reports by the respective consuls on the situation.
The viceroy at Nanking appears to be waking up to the gravity of the situation and has promised to take action. The viceroy at Fuchau has also shown in the Amoy affair a willingness to take strong steps to arrest the agitation. The viceroy at Canton has not so far done much to put a stop to the movement, but, judging from the little headway the boycott would seem to be making there I hope the situation will not grow more serious.
The inclosed translation of the proclamation recently issued at Wuhu shows probably the nature and scope of the instructions sent out by the foreign office here at my request. If I am correct in this belief the instructions were, as I surmised, inadequate to meet the situation, but it will slowly awaken to the proper comprehension of its duties.
I have, etc.,