Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 359.]

Sir: The high commissioners of customs affairs opened on Saturday last, the 22d instant, the “Council of customs affairs “(Shin-wu-Ch’u), with a staff of twenty yamen clerks. An additional number is to be sent up from the customs establishments. The first high commissioner is to receive taels 4,000 a month, and the second taels 3,000.

The inspector-general of maritime customs has been informed that henceforth the council of customs affairs will have sole charge of all customs matters except those in which foreign interests are directly involved. The council’s authority is nevertheless felt at once in the maritime customs service by orders it has given shifting employees of the staff and directing that all publications of the maritime customs shall be submitted to it for approval before being published. These changes may have far-reaching consequences and are in direct contradiction with even the qualified explanations given the British chargé d’affaires, as they interfere directly with the present “constitution” of the maritime customs service. Unfortunately the expression “present constitution of the customs” has never been defined, and it is likely to occasion much trouble hereafter according to the interpretation put on it by the Chinese or the bondholders.

I have the honor to be, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.