Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 77.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith a translation of a note which I received on the 26th instant from Prince Ch’ing regarding the attitude of the Chinese Government in re its responsibility for the boycott in reply to three notes which I had addressed to him on the 7th and 14th instants, copies of which I sent you in my dispatch No. 60, of the 17th instant.

I also inclose copy of the note which I sent Prince Ch’ing under date of the 27th instant in reply to his.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 1.]

Prince Ch’ing to Minister Rockhill.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s two dispatches of the 7th and 14th instant, in which you call attention to the movement being openly organized in Shanghai, Canton, and other cities in China, to interfere with American trade. Your excellency stated in these dispatches that the United States Government will hold China directly [Page 223] responsible for any losses to American interests; that you were obliged to demand that one Tseng Shao-Ch’ing, a member of a Shanghai commercial guild, be deprived of his rank and otherwise punished; that as to the new treaty of immigration, when the Chinese Government shall have put an end to the boycott, negotiations in regard to said treaty may be resumed.

In reply I have the honor to state that this idea of a boycott of American goods came directly from the trades people. It did not come from the Chinese Government by any means, and the Chinese Government certainly can not assume the responsibility.

As to Tseng Shao-Ch’ing, he is merely a member of a commercial guild, and we can not enlarge upon his offense and deal severely with him for fear of exciting still more trouble and disorder. But the mutual friendship of our two governments is very sincere; we have never had any disagreements at all. So China considers this a very important matter, and at the very first orders were sent out to crush the movement on account of the great friendship of our two countries. Then when the dispatches were received from your excellency containing instructions from your government, I, the prince, and my ministers again sent telegraphic instructions in the matter to the superintendent of trade for the south and the viceroys of the Min Cho and Liang Kwang provinces, directing them to issue proclamations explaining the matter to the trades people; also to order the local official to consult with the especially enlightened and upright gentry, and by explanations exhort the people to carry on their businesses in the usual manner, everybody quietly attending to his own affairs; if any more wild rumors were spread around, relying upon which people raised any disturbance, then it would be their duty to make careful investigation immediately and take measures to put a stop to the trouble; this is all a matter of record.

It is my opinion that the reason of all this boycott affair lies in the coolie immigration treaty. My board has already exhorted all merchants to carry on their business as of old and ordered that the matter be thoroughly inquired into and stopped. So the result must be that the people will not continue to tread in their former paths. If we can at an early date take up the friendly discussion of the treaty and decide upon the changes therein the Chinese will not have any grievance with regard to harsh treatment and everybody will be pleased and glad to submit. American commercial interests in China will increase daily, and all this is just what our two countries hope for.

It becomes my duty to send this dispatch to your excellency with the request that you transmit the information contained therein to the Department of State.

A necessary dispatch.

[Inclosure 2.]

Minister Rockhill to Prince Ch’ing.

Your Imperial Highness: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your highnesses reply to my three notes of the 7th and 14th instant in reference to the attempt now being made in Shanghai and other cities of China to restrain our commerce in those places and throughout the Empire generally.

In reply I would say that your highness misunderstands me if he thinks I charged the Imperial Government with having started the movement. I did say, however, that the movement was encouraged by persons having official rank, and that, to judge by the words of your highness in your note to me of the 1st of July, I was constrained to believe it had a certain amount of your sympathy.

My government is emphatically of opinion, however, that it has been and still is the duty of the Imperial Government to completely put a stop to this movement, which is carried on in open violation of solemn treaty provisions and of the laws of China, and is an unwarranted attempt of the ignorant people to assume the functions of government and to meddle with international relations.

This agitation has been carried on and strengthened by grossest falsehoods against the Government and the people of the United States, and to the great detriment and danger of Americans residing in China whom the Imperial Government is bound by treaty to “defend from insult or injury of any sort.”

I have had on numerous occasions to explain to your board that the Government of the United States was most desirous to meet, so far as the general interests of our country permitted, the wishes of the Imperial Government concerning the coming of Chinese subjects to the United States other than those of the laboring classes. So far as this can be done without the action of the Congress of the United States the government has already done it, as your excellency is aware, by the copy of the President’s order of June 24 last, which I had the [Page 224] honor to informally communicate to you a month ago at least and a copy of which was given the Chinese minister at Washington for the information of your government. Can anything be clearer than the President’s words in this order?

“Under the laws of the United States and in accordance with the spirit of the treaties negotiated between the United States and China all Chinese of the coolie or laboring class—that is, all Chinese laborers skilled or unskilled—are absolutely prohibited from coming to the United States; but the purpose of the Government of the United States is to show the widest and heartiest courtesy toward all merchants, teachers, students, and travelers who may come to the United States, as well as toward all Chinese officials or representatives in any capacity of the Chinese Government. All individuals of these classes are allowed to come and go of their own free will and accord and are to be given all the rights, privileges, immunities, and exemptions accorded the citizens and subjects of the most favored nation.

“The President has issued special instructions through the Secretary of Commerce and Labor that while laborers must be strictly excluded, the laws must be enforced without harshness, and that all unnecessary inconvenience and annoyance toward those persons entitled to enter the United States must be scrupulously avoided. The officials of the Immigration Department have been informed that no harshness in the administration of the law will for a moment be tolerated and that any discourtesy shown to Chinese persons by any official of the government will be cause for immediate dismissal from the service.

“Unfortunately in the past it has been found that officials of the Chinese Government have recklessly issued thousands of such certificates which were not true, and recklessness has also been shown in the past by representatives of the American consular service in viséing these certificates. The purpose of the government is to make these viséed certificates of such real value that it is safe to accept them here in the United States. This will result in doing away with most of the causes of complaint that have arisen. The Chinese student, merchant, or traveler will thereby secure before leaving China a certificate which will guarantee him against any improper treatment.”

The action of the President of the United States is in all matters limited by the laws and statutes, as your highness knows. Pending further action of Congress the President can not take any step beyond that which he took when he issued these orders, which show his spirit of justice and of friendliness to China and his determination that “the widest and heartiest courtesy be shown your people.”

But notwithstanding this your government has allowed the agitation to continue to the great pecuniary loss of your own people, as well as mine. Why have you not told them that the Government of the United States has already taken such steps as it was able to take at the present time and that your government, trusting in the justice of the President, of the Government, and of the people of the United States, commanded the people to stop their insulting agitation and to await the further action which the two governments may find it possible to take to remove all causes of misunderstanding between the two peoples. This would have shown real friendship and a proper appreciation of the President’s action and clearly expressed wishes. It would not have been necessary for the President to tell your government through me of his astonishment and dissatisfaction at the inadequate means it had until now taken to end this hostility to us, nor would he have had to doubt the friendliness of China toward us.

As to the punishment of the ringleader of the agitation, Tseng Shao-ching, I note your highness’s remark that you can not deprive him of his official rank and punish him as his offense merits “for fear of exciting still more trouble and disorder.” This recognition of his guilt by your highness is still further reason for me to insist with your highness that he should unquestionably be punished not only for his own offense, but as a clear indication of the displeasure which his conduct has given the Imperial Government, and a government with which you wish to keep the closest relation of friendship.

I avail, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.