The Acting Secretary of State to Ambassador Rockhill.

No. 35.]

Sir: I have to send inclosed for your information copies of dispatches of October 30, November 2, and December 4 from the Legation at Peking, dealing with the situation at Harbin as regards the [Page 226] claim of the Chinese Eastern Railway Co. to the possession of rights of municipal administration there. There is also inclosed an outline map showing the location of the land on which the railway officials propose to establish an international settlement.

The department is disposed to consider Mr. Fletcher’s criticism of this proposal as just. The city of Harbin—that is, all the most available sites for business purposes—would still remain under the administrative control of the Chinese Eastern Railway Co. and the proposed international settlement would probably, owing to its location, remain to a great extent unoccupied, or, if occupied, business houses there would be placed at a great disadvantage. Any such arrangement, moreover, would still be open to the objection which this Government has made from the beginning, that the exercise of municipal powers by the Railway Company is not in harmony with the convention of September 8, 1896, between China and the railway company, and is in violation of the extraterritorial rights of the powers and in violation also of the principle of the open door and equal trade opportunity, to which the Government of Russia has repeatedly committed itself.

You are so thoroughly acquainted with the views of the American Government upon this question that it is unnecessary to enter upon a detailed discussion of the matter. Your attention is called to the clear statement made by the Chinese foreign office in the circular note, a copy of which is inclosed in Mr. Fletcher’s dispatch of December 6 last. It is a satisfaction to the department to find its own position thus strongly supported by the Chinese Government.

I have expressed in my cablegram of this date the desire of this Government to avoid embarrassing the Imperial Government of Russia, which, however, it is hoped will instruct the railway company that no exercise of political powers was intended in article 6 of the convention of 1896.

I have to remind you again of the opinion held by the United States Government that the general plan outlined in my cablegram of November 6, through London, for the neutralization of railways in Manchuria, is the most feasible method for the settlement of this vexed question, and I trust you may be able to obtain from the Imperial Russian Government an approval of the principle involved.

I am, etc.,

Huntington Wilson.