Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 76.]

Sir: In further confirmation of my cable dispatch to the Department of this date in reference to the present situation as affected by the boycott, I would say that my reply is based on my most recent reports from our consular officers.

Under date of August 18 Consul-General Rodgers writes me from Shanghai that the taot’ai of Shanghai had that day informed him that he would take immediate steps to end the agitation by laying strong injunctions upon all classes and suppressing literature, etc. Mr. Rodgers adds:

I think I am justified in thinking that the agitation is gradually subsiding, since there is less talk and more disposition to use American goods.

Consul-General Lay, under date of August 12, writes me:

The viceroy has issued a proclamation at last. It is good as far as it goes, but I don’t believe it will completely wipe out the boycott agitation. * * * He considers it best to at first appeal to the “boycotters,” and if they continue to boycott he may issue orders later to suppress it. * * * I think the agitation will die in time. The movement can only affect our trade here to a small extent.

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From Nanking, under date of August 16, the vice-consul in charge sends me a dispatch from the viceroy (in whose jurisdiction Shanghai lies), stating that he has given instructions to all the customs taot’ais under his jurisdiction to enjoin the merchants and people through the heads of their guilds to cease posting placards, uttering unfriendly remarks, holding mass meetings, distributing tracts, etc.

None of our consuls at ports other than those mentioned above have reported anything of a particularly disquieting nature within the last fortnight. Mr. Fowler, our consul-general at Chefoo, having informed me that the native staffs of the maritime customs, post-office, and telegraph had issued strongly-worded boycott circulars—that this attempt to extend the boycott had originated with the staff of the service at Shanghai—I called the matter to the attention of the foreign office and the inspector-general of customs and post-offices. To-day I am informed by the office of the latter that strongly-worded circulars of disapproval have been issued and the commissioners of customs directed to strictly prohibit any similar actions of the Chinese staff.

The agitation having been taken up at Tsing-tao (Kiao Chou), I requested the German minister to take such action as he felt at liberty to arrest it. He informed me yesterday that he had asked the governor of Kiao Chou to suppress it in every shape and form.

At Niuchwang the Japanese authorities have sometime since taken measures to prevent its spreading in that locality.

In Hongkong the colonial authorities have, it is reported, broken up public meetings held for boycott purposes.

The most important step yet taken to break the boycott was that of the Shanghai piece-goods dealers, who on the 22d instant telegraphed to Viceroy Yuan at Tientsin requesting him to take steps to prevent the spreading of the agitation to his province and to encourage the free circulation of trade. By this means they could dispose of their large stock of American piece goods on hand, as well as those which they had contracted for in America.

The viceroy promptly took the action requested, “gave orders to all officials under his jurisdiction that trade be carried on as usual,” and ordered the taot’ai of Tientsin to notify the public to the same effect. I inclose herewith a copy of the proclamation issued by the latter official. Similar ones have been posted throughout the province.

I think that I am not going too far in thinking that this step practically breaks the boycott so far as our piece-goods trade is concerned. Consignments of piece goods for Shanghai will hereafter be shipped direct to Tientsin instead of being, as they are under usual conditions, forwarded there from Shanghai as a distributing point.

From previous dispatches, both from this legation and from the consul-general at Shanghai, the Department will have learnt that the agitation is now being carried on not by the merchant classes, but by irresponsible persons, mostly of the student class, under the lead of a few Chinese merchants and very likely by a few foreigners.

* * * * * * *

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
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Important proclamation by the Tientsin prefect.

Proclamation is hereby issued to notify the public that on the 22d, seventh moon (August 22), I, the prefect, received instructions from Viceroy Yuan to the effect that the Shanghai piece-goods dealers had telegraphed him, stating:

“On account of the boycott movement at Shanghai it was agreed not to order any goods from America. But the movement of not buying American goods has been much discussed in this and other ports, so that the merchants in the interior have not dared to order any goods from us. All the goods in stock can not therefore be disposed of. We have ordered many goods from America through the American merchants, and we are responsible for them on arrival. If we take delivery of these goods, the trade in the south being already stopped, we can not sell them.

“In addition we have already large stocks in hand. Several tens of millions of taels of goods will be on our hands, and no money can circulate. There will be great danger of our being ruined, and the whole Shanghai market will be upset. We are greatly alarmed at this prospect. In the northern provinces there is a better chance, but we have ascertained that some students have gone north to try and stir up an agitation there. If they succeed, the danger to trade will be much increased. We understand that your excellency sympathizes with the difficulty of the merchants in every way, and the Tientsin market is very quiet. We are grateful to you for that. But in Manchuria, Shantung, and other parts of the north there may be agitators at work in regard to this movement. We beg you, therefore, to give orders to all the officials in your jurisdiction to stop the movement and to encourage the free circulation of trade, in order that the merchants in the south may be relieved. We earnestly await your attention to this.”

The viceroy on receipt of the petition gave orders to all officials under his jurisdiction that trade be carried on as usual. In addition he ordered me, the prefect, to notify all the people that they must carry on the trade as usual.

I, the prefect, on receiving the instructions, do hereby notify the public that the merchants of Tientsin must not injure the trade by being misled by this boycott movement. The chamber of commerce has been also notified to this effect and directed to use its influence with the people, which it has done by the issue of public notice. The trade here, therefore, is quiet at present, and the market is increasingly prosperous. But having received the above instructions, I am in duty bound to issue this and exhort you to continue as you are. Let the condition of the Shanghai market be a warning to you, and you must on no account follow the same example and ruin the trade of this post.

Ling Fu-peng, Prefect.