Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 105.]

Sir: In continuation of previous correspondence about the boycott of American goods, I have now the honor to transmit copies of two more notes which I have in the last few days addressed to Prince Ch’ing on this matter.

My note of September 23, asking again for the punishment of Tseng Shao-ch’ing, the ringleader of the boycott movement at Shanghai, was written because I had reason to believe that the government now felt itself strong enough to deal with this person who was in great perturbation at my pressing for his punishment. Our consul-general at Shanghai had furthermore asked me to call attention to this attempt to revive the agitation in that city.

My note of the 26th instant was based on the recent dispatches and telegrams from our consul-general at Canton.

I inclose also a copy of a note received from Prince Ch’ing transmitting a telegraphic reply from the viceroy of Canton to the communication addressed to him at my oral request about a week ago.

I am disposed to believe that the explanations therein made by the viceroy of his apparent dilatoriness are to a certain extent true; the fear that if he adopted radical measures for at once stopping the movement in the excitable and turbulent city of Canton uprisings might take place is a natural and reasonable one. I think that the agitation will gradually die down.

* * * * * *

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 1.]

Minister Rockhill to Prince Ch’ing.

Your Imperial Highness: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of the “Sin Wan Pao” newspaper of September 14, 1905, containing an open letter from Taot’ai Tseng Shao-Ch’ing of Shanghai, in which the writer openly declares that the boycott of American goods will be continued, notwithstanding the express orders of Their Majesties in the edict of August 31, last, and the proclamation and orders of the viceroy of the Liang Kiang Provinces.

This Tseng is the man whose punishment I requested of your highness in my note of August 14, as the ringleader of the anti-American agitation in Shanghai, and as the man who more than any other had created hostility against us. I urged on you his severe punishment, beginning with the deprivation of his official rank, because I was well aware that persons holding rank by purchase can be as readily punished for their offenses by your government as those holding substantive rank.

With the text of the imperial edict of August 31 before me it is quite unnecessary that I should show in what this man has offended again. He incites your people to violate the treaties between China and the United States, and he scoffs at the imperial commands.

I trust that your highness will see your way to finally comply with my oft-repeated request concerning this man, and that an exemplary punishment will be inflicted upon him—such punishment as is due to the United States and to the dignity of the law in China.

I also desire to renew, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Page 228]
[Inclosure 2.]

Minister Rockhill to Prince Ch’ing.

Your Imperial Highness: Several times of late I have had the honor to call the earnest attention of the board of foreign affairs to the very inadequate measures adopted by the viceroy of the Liang Kuang to put an effectual stop to the agitation in Canton against American trade.

In a proclamation which the viceroy issued a few days prior to the publication of the imperial edict of August 31, he confined himself to telling the people that they must wait until December of this year before putting their boycott into effect. In other words, he approved the plan, but objected to the time for its being put in operation.

Since then the viceroy has, it is true, published the imperial edict, accompanying it with a few tame admonitions but so evidently lacking in earnestness that no one in Canton entertains any doubt that his excellency is in full sympathy with the movement.

Meetings of the agitators are still being held, though the general public is excluded. The native press continues to urge the boycott, and the Chinese employees of our consulate are threatened, as are also would-be purchasers of American goods. In other localities in the viceroy’s jurisdiction the state of affairs is no better, as, for axample, in Swatowand Wuchow.

The imperial edict of August 31 directs the viceroys and governors to order the people to preserve the peace and to carry on their business as usual, and the said viceroys and governors are made responsible for the effective execution of the edict and commanded to severely punish those who incite the people to lawlessness, yet people are not allowed to carry on their business as usual, and those who are threatening the law-abiding and fomenting disturbance are allowed to go unpunished. It is plain, therefore, that the viceroy is not complying with the edict, and I must insist that your imperial highness’s government, to which he is amenable, and which has placed upon him the responsibility of making the edict effective, shall take such additional measures as may be necessary to secure prompt obedience of the imperial will and proper respect for the treaties between the United States and China.

I avail, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Inclosure 3.]

Prince Ch’ing to Minister Rockhill.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, on the 15th of the eighth moon of the XXXI. year Kuanghsü (September 13, 1905), of your excellency’s dispatch, saying that the American consul-general at Canton had telegraphed to the effect that the boycott of American goods in protest against the immigration treaty was still continuing and causing trouble, that the local authorities were not taking any energetic measures to carry out the imperial edict which forbade (the boycott), and that several agitators who had been arrested upon the complaint of the American consul-general had been released after a secret trial; that employees of the consulate were being threatened, and that he feared that further delay in suppressing the boycott might lead to violent disturbances.

Your excellency has requested that more efficient measures than had yet been adopted should be promptly taken to put down the agitation and protect American citizens and their employees at that port.

Immediately upon receipt of your dispatch my board telegraphed to the viceroy of the Two Kuang, directing him to make a thorough investigation at once, take needed action, and report by telegraph.

I have now received his reply, as follows:

“Regarding the protest against the immigration treaty by the merchants of Kuangshi, upon the receipt recently of the imperial edict I at once directed the prefect and district magistrates to go in person to the hall of assembly and read the edict to the company and exhort and induce the merchants to disperse in obedience to the edict and await the negotiation of a fair arrangement by the board of foreign affairs and the American Government.

“For ten days past all meetings and addresses have been entirely stopped.

“Sometime ago, when the daughter of the President came to visit Canton, some persons posted anonymous placards in the streets, containing slanderous expressions, and I received a request from the American consul that two members of the boycott league, Ma Ta-ch’en, and P’an Hsin-ming, said by him to be slippery fellows, might be dealt with. Thereupon I directed the prefect and district magistrate to arrest them and bring them to court, and keep them under surveillance. On examination, Ma Ta-ch’en acknowledged that he had ordered the committee to appropriate funds for the printing of anonymous placards. P’an [Page 229] Hsin-ming knew nothing of the circumstances. They are still held in the custody of the district magistrate, and there has been no secret trial or release. As to the statement that the employees of the American consulate had been repeatedly threatened, sometime since I received from the American consul a copy of an anonymous letter which urged the employees of the consulate to resign their positions, and I presume that it is to this that reference is made. I have already directed an investigation to be made, but the author has not been discovered. The general opinion outside, however, is that the letter in question was fabricated by the employees of the consulate themselves, that they might take advantage of it to make representations.

“In a word, the protest against the American treaty originated among the merchants of the whole province, who were righteously indignant at the persecutions endured. The local authorities have been able only to take measures to suppress it gradually, and at present the agitation is little by little quieting down. If more hasty measures were to be taken, they would stir up a revolution, and it would be more difficult than ever to ward off calamity.

“In obedience to your telegram I have again issued a proclamation instructing the people, and have directed the officials in my jurisdiction to give protection according to the treaties. In addition to this, I beg that you will carefully explain the situation to the American minister in Peking, by which I shall be obliged.”

As in duty bound I forward this reply for your excellency’s consideration.

A necessary dispatch: