Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.

No. 272.]

Sir: In further reference to the matter of the Nan-chang Fu massacre, concerning which I sent you in my dispatch No. 260 of March 17 a semiofficial statement, I have now the honor to transmit a copy of a dispatch received from our consul-general at Hankow. I some time ago instructed Mr. Martin to secure for me all the information he could on this occurrence.

I have, etc.,

W. W. Rockhill.
[Page 335]

Mr. Martin to Mr. Rockhill.

Sir: Being anxious to find out all I possibly could in relation to the conditions existing in and about Nan-chang Fu, Kiangsi, for some time preceding the late massacre, I sent a request to * * * and received from him a statement as follows:

“I have been in Nan-chang several times: In July, 1901, in April, 1902, in April, 1905, and in October, 1905. I had met Mr. and Mrs. Kingham and knew them as members of the British missionary community. * * * I had also on many occasions met the district magistrate, Mr. Chiang Shao-t’ang, who treated me with unfailing courtesy and who was represented to me by the British and other residents in Nan-chang and elsewhere to be a friendly and efficient official. I was not in Kiukiang during his incumbency of the post of magistrate of Teh-hua Hsien, so that my official intercourse with him, strictly speaking, did not amount to much. I think I must have met Father Lacruche. Consequently the parties to this tragedy are all, or mostly, people whom I have had something to do with.

“As far as I had observed, there was nothing in Nan-chang to lead one to expect an antiforeign or antimissionary outbreak in that city. On the contrary, the impression I formed during my several visits to that place was that, whatever causes of friction might exist in the remoter stations in the interior, the Chinese people, gentry and officials, in the capital, were singularly well disposed toward the missionary community and even supported the educational and medical work carried on there in an unusual degree, besides being well disposed toward western and progressive ideas generally.

“As regards the special disputes between the Roman Catholic (Lazarist) mission and the Chinese authorities, which seem, to judge from the newspapers, to have led up to the outbreak, I am not confident that I ever obtained a really complete or impartial report. The Ch’ih Chiang affair was a fight or series of fights at a place of that name, some 20 miles east of Nan-chang, in the summer of 1901, in which the adherents of the American Methodist Episcopal mission were attacked by adherents of the Catholic mission. * * * The T’ang-p’u or Hsin-Ch’ang Hsien affair occurred, or at least began, in the summer of 1904, with the murder of two Catholics. It developed into a long series of disorders involving the whole prefecture of Jui-chou (otherwise called Shui-chou) fu. At one stage Mr. Chiang was sent up to the disturbed districts to endeavor to arrange terms of settlement. I received reports at the time from Mr. Pownall and other British missionaries. * * * But I have no recent information about either of these ‘cases,’ and can only infer that their adjustment has proved difficult. No British subjects were immediately concerned in either. Bishop Ferrant, of Kiukiang, might be in a position to give you the Catholic side of both stories.

“A serious anti-Catholic agitation has existed in many parts of Kiangsi, at any rate every since 1899. What it is caused by, or whether it has any adequate justification, are questions upon which I should be sorry to express myself confidently. During the years I passed in Kiukiang I heard a great deal about it, but never convinced myself that either side admitted the whole truth. Locally and occasionally Protestant bodies seem to be involved in the same animosity, but in the main the agitation was directed against the Catholics. In several instances it appeared rather as if there was a nominal Protestant party and a nominal Catholic party, each using the support of missionaries in the interests of a native faction; suggesting the inference that the Christian churches were rival clubs whose activities included many other things besides the propagation of religion and works of charity. It would seem libelous and untrue to insinuate that the missions encouraged this state of affairs. On the contrary they all endeavored to contend against it, but that was the impression made on my mind. No doubt the sort of conditions that I mean exist in Hupeh and other provinces as well as in Kiangsi, and constitutes a serious and difficult problem.

“With regard to the attitude of he officials, I had several reasons for considering it less friendly towards foreigners’ enterprises in the latter half of 1905 than it had previously been. But here again I can only state a general impression. Objections were raised which I do not think would have been raised before. There was no outward lessening of cordiality, and it may be that the reason of the opposition that was met with lay more in the nature of [Page 336] the questions at issue than any real change in the attitude of the Chinese. But I gathered, when I was at Nan-chang in October, that others were impressed with the same feeling. In particular I heard that gentry who had formerly given support to the mission hospitals, etc., were less willing to do so. I noticed on the walls posters recommending the boycott of American goods. I can not say that there was any uneasiness, but there seemed to be a suspicion or a supposition abroad that it was no longer good form for Chinese of position to be too intimate with foreigners, and also that this attitude of reserve had been adopted from the time when His Excellency Hu Ting-kan became governor of the province.

“In a general way I had heard, over and over again, from Protestant missionaries, that they anticipated trouble sooner or later from what they regarded as the unjustifiable conduct of the Catholics, whom they credited with an excessive willingness to take up purely native disputes, with a tendency to interfere with the normal operations of the Chinese authorities, and with too great insistence in demanding indemnities for injuries suffered by their adherents. The assumption of official rank by the Catholic clergy was always supposed to be the cause of ill feeling. I always looked upon these opinions as being to some extent ex parte statements of the position, to be corrected by hearing what the Catholics had to say, if they would say anything. But, whatever the truth may have been, those Catholic priests whom I met were always exceedingly careful to avoid unfavorable criticism of the Protestant missions. In some places—i. e., Jao-chou and Ching-te-chen—I found Catholic and Protestant missionaries living on terms of evident mutual friendliness and respect, but elsewhere they seemed to live in worlds apart with little or no intercourse.

“But all this is too general to serve for an explanation of the recent massacre in Nan-chang, and I have to confess that the event took me by surprise. Feeling must have changed seriously for the worse since last October if the people there were really inimical to foreigners. Of course, if the populace and their leaders were actuated by a genuine belief that the magistrate had been mortally wounded by Father Lacruche, it is scarcely necessary to look for any further cause. Even if everything had been perfectly friendly before, a Chinese mob would lose its balance under such a belief. They would know that the magistrate had been engaged in trying to minimize the reparation to be made to the Catholics in certain sectarian disputes up country and would look on such action as patriotic, so that he would be regarded as a martyr to the public cause. As far as I remember the cases, the Ch’in-chiang affair was one in which the Catholics, whether under stress of previous provocations or not, were, in the main, “aggressors, and the Hsin-chiang affair one in which, whether guilty of previous imprudence or not, they were in the main victims of aggression. But the mass of Chinese would make no such distinction. They would regard both as cases where the object to be sought by their officials is to yield as little as possible, and they would remember that these cases were not isolated, but only instances in a long series of more or less serious affairs of the same general kind that had given rise to similar claims. That they attacked the Plymouth Brethren as well as the Catholics is only what previous experience regards as normal. There have been cases in Kiangsi—i. e., the Kwei-chi-Hsien riot of 1899—where the anti-Catholic mob has let it be practically known that their action was exclusively anti-Catholic, and somewhat ostentatiously offered to protect the Protestants. But, on the other hand, in 1900 the mob of Jao-chou, after demolishing the Catholic premises, proceeded to finish their day’s work by setting fire to the China Inland Mission’s premises. In the present instance it is to be noted that the Kinghams lived very near the Catholic establishment. Proximity alone accounts for the attack on them.”

William Martin.