Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Annual Message of the President Transmitted to Congress December 8, 1908
File No. 774/225B.
The Acting Secretary of State to the Chinese Minister.
Washington, May 29, 1908.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith, for your information, copy of a message from the President to the Congress of the United States, recommending an appropriation for the participation of the United States in the proposed investigation of the opium question in the Far East by a joint international commission, to which is attached a copy of a letter, dated May 7, 1908, addressed to the President by the Secretary of State, advocating the participation of the United States in the investigation.
Message from the President of the United States, transmitting a letter from the Secretary of State recommending an appropriation for the participation of the United States in the coming investigation of the opium question in the Far East by a joint international commission.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
In laying before the Congress the accompanying letter from the Secretary of State, I heartily recommend that appropriation be made as therein requested for the participation of the United States in the coming investigation of the opium question in the Far East by a joint international commission.
The cordial reception of this proposal by the Governments concerned is a cause of gratification to the American Government and people. The high aim of this international project, placing, as it does, considerations of human welfare above all others, is a fine example of what is best in modern civilization and international good will and cooperation. Such an undertaking can not but appeal most strongly to the American people, and I am happy to lay before the Congress this opportunity to enable the United States to do its full share in the work.
The White House, May 11, 1908.[Page 88]
In September, 1906, in view of indications that the Imperial Chinese Government was ready to make serious efforts to eradicate the opium evil, the Department of State, by your direction, entered upon correspondence with the Governments of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, and China to learn whether they would favor a joint investigation of this subject so important to humanity, particularly to all nations having any direct or indirect responsibility for the welfare of those oriental peoples among whom opium is used.
As the result of a full exchange of views with the Governments interested I am happy now to have the honor to report that the proposal of the United States has been accepted by all the above-mentioned Governments and also in principle by the Government of Portugal. It has been deemed wise that the investigation be by joint commission; that each Government shall in the first instance prosecute an investigation in its own territories, and that attention shall be given to the commercial and agricultural as well as the other scientific aspects of the subject.
No Government having expressed a particular preference as to the date and place of meeting of the commissioners, and the Government of the United States having found itself invited to determine this point, our diplomatic representatives at the capitals concerned have been instructed to request the Governments to which they are accredited to send their commissioners to meet together at Shanghai, China, on January 1, 1909, the idea being that it will be found convenient for the commissioners of the various Governments to make their investigations during the intervening months, and then to confer together at Shanghai for an exchange of views, which, it is hoped, will result in valuable reports and joint recommendations to the Governments with a view to general and effective action.
The action thus inaugurated by the United States is in conformity to the established policy of our Government, expressed in the treaty which China concluded November 17, 1880, by which the Governments of China and the United States mutually agreed that “citizens of the United States shall not be permitted to import opium into any of the open ports of China, to transport it from one open port to any other open port, or to buy and sell opium in any of the open ports of China.”
This treaty was followed by the act of Congress of February 23, 1887, prohibiting citizens of the United States from engaging in the opium trade with China under heavy penalties.
In 1903 a commission was appointed by the civil government of the Philippines to investigate the opium traffic in those islands and the methods of prevention. After an exhaustive inquiry this commission reported on the 15th of June, 1904, and on the basis of their report a law was enacted providing for a progressive restriction of the importation and sale of opium under special authority of the following provision of the act of Congress “To revise and amend the tariff laws of the Philippine Islands,” approved March 3, 1905.
Provided, however, That the Philippine Commission or any subsequent Philippine Legislature shall have the power to enact legislation to prohibit absolutely the importation or sale of opium, or to limit or restrict its importation and sale, or adopt such other measures as may be required for the suppression of the evils resulting from the sale and use of the drug: And provided further, That after March first, nineteen hundred and eight, it shall be unlawful to import into the Philippine Islands opium, in whatever form, except by the Government, and for medicinal purposes only, and at no time shall it be lawful to sell opium to any native of the Philippine Islands except for medicinal purposes.”
The report of this commission offers an excellent groundwork for the further investigation to be made by this Government.
While the policy of the United States has been clear and positive, to prevent American citizens from having any part in imposing the evils that follow the use of opium upon the people of China and in using all possible means to prevent the use of opium in the Philippines, there is reason to believe that sufficient attention has not been given to prevent the importation of the drug into the United States. The importation of opium into the United States in the year ending June 30, 1907, amounted to 728,530 pounds. While the international investigation now proposed relates to opium in the Far East, an incidental advantage of the investigation may be to point out the necessity, and the best method, of restricting the use of opium in the United States.[Page 89]
The commercial aspect of the subject involves such complicated and widespread trade relations that an effective treatment of it seems impossible unless it be by the concurrent action of the great commercial nations, together with those peoples of the Orient among whom the abuse is most prevalent.
To enable this Government to appoint not more than three commissioners and a secretary and disbursing officer, and to include traveling expenses, stationery, printing, and other incidental expenses connected with the investigation and the meeting of the commissioners, I have the honor to recommend that the Congress be asked to appropriate the sum of $20,000, or so much thereof as may be necessary.
Since the investigation should begin at once and the commissioners are to meet January 1, 1909, it is very important that such appropriation be made immediately available.
Washington, May 7, 1908.