Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 70.]

Sir: In further reference to the subject of the present boycott, I inclose herewith an editorial from the North China Daily News, of Shanghai, a British paper, which expresses very closely, and much better than I could hope to do, the views of the best foreign element in China on the danger of this movement, which up to a certain point had the sympathy of many Americans, as well as persons of other nationalities.

I am, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Extract from North China Daily News, August 17, 1905.]

The boycott.

We asked the other day whether the Chinese merchants here did not think the boycott had gone far enough. Their answer practically is that it has gone not only far enough but a great deal too far, for it has got beyond their control altogether, the reins having been taken up by a crowd of irresponsible students and talkers, who are full of patriotism because they have nothing to lose but their heads, which in a sense they have lost already. The boycott has spread so dangerously in the country, urged on by inflammatory posters and pictures and pamphlets in which Americans are reviled almost in the fashion of Chou Han, and terrible stories are told of the cruelties practised on Chinese immigrants at American ports and other places, that we understand that unquestionably English goods are now being returned from the country as unsaleable, because they were imported here by a firm supposed to be American. We are glad to know that the Waiwu Pu has telegraphed orders to his excellency Chou Fu, the viceroy at Nanking, to use every effort to suppress the boycott in his jurisdiction. The diplomatic body generally has taken up the question, and when our taot’ai returns he will be asked to explain why it is he has not ordered the issue here of the antiboycott proclamation similar to that issued at Wuhu, which the magistrates at Sungkiang, which is within his honor Yuan’s taot’aiship, have put forth there. We understand that the Chinese merchants here have asked the general chamber of commerce to assist them in undoing the work they so imprudently inaugurated, but the movement has become so general now that the central government, through the provincial authorities, must put it down. Peking must be made to realize the gravity of the movement, which from being anti-American is becoming antiforeign and antidynastic. His excellency Yuan Shih-k’ai has suppressed it so thoroughly in his jurisdiction that the Chinese merchants at Tientsin are now ordering from America direct goods which would otherwise have been imported from Shanghai, and the Japanese administration at Niuchwang will have none of the boycott on any account. Our taot’ai when he comes back must be made to understand that unless he suppresses the boycott here it will infallibly bring on the most serious financial crisis that Shanghai has experienced, with heavy losses to foreign, and losses that will mean ruin to native, merchants and bankers. A very heavy responsibility rests on Viceroy Chou Fu. What Yuan Shih-k’ai has done he can do, and he is expected to do it promptly, every day’s delay increasing the danger. Two thoughtful letters on the boycott will be found in our columns to-day, both written by American citizens. Mr. Grafton repeats what we have said more than once, that the threat of the boycott was effective, as the American papers show, in making the Americans realize the injustice that has been done for years by “asinine immigrant inspectors;” but as soon as President Roosevelt and the American people understood how the provisions of the exclusion act were being abused by the inspectors, strict injunctions were issued to these inspectors to change their attitude altogether. If the former treatment of the exempt immigrants justified the threat of the boycott, the present position does not justify for a minute the dangerous antiforeign complexion that the boycott has now assumed, as we are sure Mr. Grafton himself would now concede.

The letter signed “Onlooker” gives a very forcible yet temperate presentation of the other side of the question. That there has been a great deal of fraud in the past on the part of the Chinese is undoubted, but there is unfortunately reason to believe that in many cases these frauds were connived at by American officials on this side of the Pacific. It is important, too, for the Chinese who are now raging against their best friends, the Americans, to remember that, as “Onlooker” points out, “while the charges of harsh, humiliating, and discriminating [Page 220] treatment of the Chinese in entering the United States are, in many cases, well founded, the Chinese have as much liberty in the country, after they once pass the customhouse as they would have in any other country in the world—much more than they enjoy in their own country.” “Onlooker” goes on to remind the Chinese—and it ought not to be necessary to remind them—of what the Americans, as a people and as individuals, have done for their elevation. An enormous stream of American money, freely sent without any idea of putting the Chinese under an obligation, pours steadily into China for the maintenance of schools, hospitals, and other charitable objects. Not only is this very boycott in its methods the fruit of American teaching, but many of its hotheaded promoters and supporters have received their education in American schools, and are now biting the hand that fed them. “I will not dwell,” says our correspondent, “on the American Government’s stand for the preservation of China’s integrity while most of the world was planning the partition of the Empire, nor on the many other acts of constant friendship—contemplated return of Boxer indemnity, for instance—that the great Republic has shown to this country.” Indeed, as we have said already, no foreign power has been a better friend to China in the past than the United States has been, and that hundreds, or rather thousands, of Americans in China are showing themselves everyday.

The boycott in the form it has now assumed is a phenomenon of madness that must be crushed by the power of the government, whose sincerity will necessarily be judged by the result of its efforts to crush it; and it must be crushed promptly, or injury will be done which it will take months or even years to repair.