File No. 774/310–313.

Ambassador Reid to the Secretary of State.

No. 689.]

Sir: A reply has now been received from the foreign office to my notes of May 8 and July 12, written under your cable instructions of May 7 and July 11, and communicating your proposals about the approaching opium conference.

I hasten to inclose herewith a copy of this reply. It will be seen that while the British Government accepts your proposal for a meeting of the joint commission at Shanghai on January 1 next, and will nominate three British delegates, whose names are to be hereafter communicated, it thinks certain modifications in the scope and procedure of the commission desirable.

The inquiry into the production, commerce, use, and disadvantages of opium in the Far East, named by you as one of the objects of the commission, should be, in its judgment, made prominent in the instructions.
It believes the work would be hastened if the representatives were expected to study in advance the opium question in their respective countries, and come prepared to inform the commission at the outset as to regulations and restrictions in force there.
This would require modifications of the instructions, which at present, in the view of the British Government, look to fuller investigation after the joint commission meets than time permits, and to proposals for changes in the administrative regulations of different countries before the commission has made these investigations or ascertained the precise present needs.

Finally, the British Government points out that it has itself already made such investigations concerning India and other British territories, and does not consider a fresh investigation necessary. When the representatives of other countries have done similar work it will be ready to meet them.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure 1.]

Ambassador Reid to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Sir: With reference to Mr. Carter’s note of the 26th of February last and to previous correspondence on the subject of the opium trade in China, I am happy now to be able to state, on behalf of my Government, that the Governments concerned have agreed to an investigation of this question by a joint commission.

In answer to my Government’s inquiries, no Government has expressed any preference as to the date or place of the meeting of the commissioners, although Shanghai has been mentioned as appropriate. Thus the Government of the United States find themselves invited to suggest such date and place, and believing that Shanghai will be found agreeable and convenient to the other powers concerned, venture to name that city as the place of meeting and January 1, 1909, as the date.

The President wills appoint as commissioners not more than three persons familiar with the subject, and Congress will be asked to appropriate a sum of money not to exceed $20,000 for the expenses of the commission.

[Page 97]

It is the idea of my Government that each commission should proceed independently and immediately with the investigation of the opium question on behalf of their respective countries with a view—

To devise means to limit the use of opium in the possessions of that country.
To ascertain the best means of suppressing the opium traffic, if such now exists, among their own nationals in the Far East.
To be in a position when the various commissions meet in Shanghai to cooperate and offer jointly or severally definite suggestions of measures which their respective Governments may adopt for the gradual suppression of opium cultivation, traffic, and use within their eastern possessions, and thus to assist China in her purpose of eradicating the evil from that Empire.

I may add, for your information, that the Government of Portugal have also accepted, in principle, participation in the investigation.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure 2.]

Ambassador Reid to the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Sir: With reference to my note of the 8th of May last relative to the subject of the opium trade in China, I have the honor to inform you, under instructions from my Government, that the United States opium commission is now at work on the question with a view to limiting the use and transportation of the drug in the United States, such use and transportation having already been restricted in the Philippine Islands.

The investigations to date show clearly the opium question to be of the highest importance to the United States, and the commission are therefore also considering the question of opium derivatives; also internal consumption of crude opium, licit and illicit; internal manufacture and use of chandu morphia and other derivatives, licit and illicit; extent of poppy cultivation in America; possibilities of poppy cultivation; Federal laws regarding importation and municipal laws governing use of opium and derivatives.

My Government, therefore, ventures to suggest that, for the ultimate success of the joint commission, it would be advantageous if each commission could, before the joint meeting on January 1 next at Shanghai, study the opium question as it affects its possessions, in the same manner as the United States commission is now carrying on its investigations.

I have, etc,

Whitelaw Reid.
[Inclosure 3.]

The Minister for Foreign Affairs to Ambassador Reid.

No. 27558.]

Your Excellency: With reference to your excellency’s notes of May 8 and July 12 last, communicating to me the suggestions of the United States Government as to the constitution, scope, procedure, and time and place of meeting of the proposed opium commission, I have the honor to state that His Majesty’s Government accept with pleasure the proposal that the joint commission shall meet at Shanghai on January 1 next, and that they propose to nominate three British delegates.

The names of the delegates will be communicated to your excellency as soon as they have been selected.

While His Majesty’s Government have every desire to further the general objects which the United States Government have in view, they can not but think, after consulation with their expert advisers, that the attainment of these objects would be facilitated were the proposed scope and procedure amended in certain respects.

In proposing a commission the American Government, it is understood, had in view the investigation of the opium trade and the opium habit in the Far East, with the object of arriving at a decision as to whether the consequences [Page 98] were not such that civilized powers should do what they could to put a stop to it. A preliminary investigation of the facts by means of a commission before the subject of restrictive and repressive measures could be profitably considered was also pronounced to be necessary by the French foreign office in their note of the 3d of July, 1907, which you were good enough to communicate to me on October 30 last.

In the opinion of His Majesty’s Government a commission sitting at Shanghai would be well placed for making the detailed inquiry advocated in that note, into “the production, commerce, use, and disadvantages of opium” in the Far East, and its findings on the facts would be in the highest degree valuable and important. I therefore venture to suggest that this aspect of the commission’s duties should be brought out in the instructions to be framed for its guidance. The findings of the commission on the facts would naturally govern the nature of its recommendations.

His Majesty’s Government consider that its labors would be expedited if the representatives of the several Governments were first to acquaint themselves fully with the opium question as it presents itself in their respective countries, and were thus in a position to inform the commission, when it assembles, as to the regulations and restrictions there in force, and to formulate and discuss proposals for amending them in points in which they may be found in the course of the joint inquiry to affect the opium trade and the opium habit in the Far East. If this view of the procedure to be followed commends itself to the American Government and to the other powers, the instructions outlined in your excellency’s note of the 8th of May will perhaps be reconsidered. As these instructions at present are worded they would require the delegates of the several Governments to undertake a more responsible and extensive investigation than time permits, and to make proposals for altering the administrative regulations of their respective countries before the commission had entered upon its inquiry or had ascertained the precise nature of the remedies which the present circumstances of the opium trade and the opium habit in the Far East may require.

As regards India and the other British territories concerned, the opium question has already formed the subject of investigation by commission or of instructions from His Majesty’s Government, and it is therefore unnecessary, as far as this country is concerned, that a fresh investigation should be conducted for the investigation of facts which are already well known. The British representatives would be ready to meet the other commissioners when the latter had concluded their inquiries and to place the result at their disposal.

I shall be grateful if your excellency will submit these suggestions to the consideration of the American Government and will communicate to me in due course their final wishes as to the scope of the joint commission and the procedure to be followed by it.

I have, etc.,

W. Langley

(In the absence of
Sir E. Grey