Minister Rockhill to the Secretary of State.
Peking, China, December 23, 1905.
Sir: Mr. Conger, in his dispatch to the Department of State No. 1777, of December 29, 1904, transmitted copy of a note of the diplomatic body at Peking to the Prince of Ch’ing, embodying certain [Page 374]amendments which it proposed as urgently necessary to the rules for the mixed court in the international settlement at Shanghai.
On January 20, 1905, this legation received a copy of an identic note from the Prince of Ch’ing, acknowledging the note of the diplomatic body of December 22, 1904, and stating that he had referred this important matter to the superintendent of southern trade (the viceroy of Nanking), who, after thoroughly investigating the matter, would reply to the foreign office, which in turn would be able to settle the question with the diplomatic body.
On September 8 last, nothing having been received from the Wai-wu Pu in the meanwhile, and the consul-general of the United States having repeatedly called my earnest attention to the urgent necessity of reaching an understanding with the Chinese Government on the matter, as the relations between Chinese and foreigners in the international settlement were getting more and more strained and threatened serious complications, I wrote to the dean of the diplomatic body asking him and those of our colleagues who were interested in the matter to press its consideration on the foreign office until finally settled.
The Dean, Baron von Mumm, having consulted the diplomatic body, accepted my suggestion, and on the 27th of September sent the Prince of Ch’ing a note, practically in the same words as my note to him above referred to.
No reply, however, having been elicited within a reasonable time, on November 22 I addressed the inclosed note to the Prince of Ch’ing, and my British and German colleagues also sent similar ones. Two days later we received a note from the prince, saying that the reply awaited from the superintendent of southern trade had been mailed him and would be received in a few days. On December 4 we finally received communication of the amendments for the rules of the mixed court proposed by the superintendent of southern trade and the taot’ai of Shanghai and accepted by the Chinese Government. These counter proposals are now under consideration by the diplomatic representatives at Peking.
While the above detailed negotiations were taking place, the consular body at Shanghai took upon itself, without consulting, as was its duty, the diplomatic representatives at Peking, to secure from the taot’ai at Shanghai that female prisoners should be imprisoned in the jail of the municipality and no longer in the Chinese court jail. The taot’ai refused to accede to this proposal. I inclose herewith a copy of his note of June 10, 1905, to the senior consul, and the latter’s reply thereto of June 21.
Notwithstanding the refusal of the taot’ai to allow Chinese females to be imprisoned in the municipal jail, in a meeting of the consular body, held on the 26th of July, “at the suggestion of Mr. Potier, consul-general for Portugal, it was resolved to note in these minutes that in future the assessors of the mixed court, when finding that a female defendant should be sentenced to imprisonment, should send her to the municipal jail for female prisoners.”
On the 27th of July our consul-general at Shanghai wrote me the inclosed letter, from which it would appear that either he had not yet seen the minutes of the meeting of the day before, or that he did not realize the binding effect on him of its decisions. This latter explanation seems the more likely from the last two lines of his letter, [Page 375]in which he says that he will instruct the American assessor to adhere to the established rules, overlooking that he was bound by the new decision, against which he had not protested.
I inclose also a copy of Mr. Rodgers’ dispatch to me of August 21, last, in which he again states that the consular body had decided to let the assessors at the mixed court act as they deemed best, and that he had instructed the American assessor to observe the old rules and customs.
Such was the condition of affairs in Shanghai when on December 11 the Prince of Ch’ing sent a note to the dean of the diplomatic body informing him that as a result of an attempt on the 10th by the British assessor at the mixed court to have certain Chinese women remanded to prison in the municipal jail, there had been a fracas in the court room in which several persons had been badly hurt by the foreign policemen, who had finally carried the women off and imprisoned them in the municipal jail.
Considering the statements of the Prince of Ch’ing, the British minister, the German minister, and myself, as representing the powers whose assessors sit most of the time at the mixed court, telegraphed to our consuls-general at Shanghai that the women should ‘ be immediately released from the municipal jail. I inclose draft of the reply to the prince’s note which was agreed upon by the diplomatic body, and which was sent December 17, 1905.
Although the prisoners were released, the mixed court magistrate, under orders from the Shanghai taot’ai, refused to reopen the court until the British assessor had been removed and the foreign police who had taken part in the fracas had been punished. To enforce these demands the Ningpo Merchants’ Guild, the most powerful and aggressive in Shanghai, declared a general boycott on the 18th instant, which promptly resulted in fighting and bloodshed.
The same day most of the ministers called at the foreign office here and urged on the Chinese minister the necessity of the Chinese Government taking prompt and energetic action to stop the agitation and restore peace and order.
On the 19th I received from the Prince of Ch’ing a dispatch giving the text of an imperial edict reviewing the case and ordering the viceroy of Nanking to proceed at once to Shanghai and settle it.
I inclose also draft of a note from the dean of the diplomatic body to the senior consul at Shanghai, which it has been agreed by the diplomatic representatives should be sent.
I have the honor, etc.