File No. 1571/31.

Minister Calhoun to the Secretary of State.

No. 43.]

Sir: I have the honor to refer to Mr. Fletcher’s dispatch No. 1288, dated November 10, 1909,1 on the subject of the Whangpoo conservancy, and to inclose herewith for your information a copy of the reply made on December 14 last, by the dean of the diplomatic body to the Wai-wu Pu’s note of October 26, 1909, a copy in translation of which was forwarded with Mr. Fletcher’s dispatch mentioned above. The department will note that the foreign representatives not only refused to acquiesce in the claim of the Wai-wu-Pu that “China has met all her obligations under the special Whangpoo conservancy agreement and other nations should not have any criticisms to make,” but also unequivocally stated their determination to hold China to the provisions of the final protocol of 1901.

As predicted by Mr. Fletcher in his No. 1301 of November 23, 1909,2 the dredging work was resumed on November 25 with the aid of the 300,000 taels furnished by the Imperial Government in accordance with the promise contained in their letter of October 16 to the dean. (Vide Mr. Fletcher’s No. 1288.)

In January it became common knowledge in Shanghai that the imperial high commissioner, Viceroy Jui Cheng, together with Viceroy Chang Jenchun, had memorialized the Wai-wu-Pu to inform the foreign powers that China “was neither willing nor obliged to spend further money on the conservancy work.” The Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce formally protested to the consular body and requested that the matter be brought to the attention of the diplomatic body. I inclose a copy of the chamber’s letter of protest to the consular dean.

In view of the fact that the main features of the conservancy work—namely, the closing of the ship channel and the opening of the Astrea channel—would probably be completed by next September, and further considering that the money in hand is nearly exhausted and no definite arrangement has as yet been made for obtaining the necessary funds for finishing the whole conservancy scheme, which included de Rijke’s plans for the removal of Pheasant and Pootung Points as well as work on the upper reaches of the river, the conservancy board deemed it advisable for the sake of economy to give M. de Bijke notice of the termination of his engagement on November 30 next, six months before the expiration of his contract, the directors of the board being of the opinion that the work of maintenance of the Astrea channel could safely be intrusted to a junior engineer. Upon being informed of the action of the conservancy board, the dean of the consular body made a strong protest and requested that the letter of dismissal be withdrawn. A similar protest was made by the chamber of commerce to the consular body. Copies of the various letters concerning M. de Rijke’s dismissal were [Page 354] forwarded by the consul dean to the dean of the diplomatic body, copies of which are respectfully forwarded herewith.

At a recent meeting of the diplomatic representatives of the respective Governments directly interested in the project—i. e., Great Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the United States—a general discussion of the situation was had. The suggestion was received with favor, that doubtless the adverse attitude of the Chinese authorities toward the continuation of the work was in part influenced by the want of money, and that foreign interests would have to take into consideration some method for providing the money if the work was to be continued, especially so if it is to be continued under the protocol of 1901.

The further suggestion was made that the diplomatic representatives were without information as to just how much of the work had been completed, how much remained to be done, and particularly as to how far the unfinished work was essential to the protection of what had been done, and to the realization of the benefits originally contemplated. To obtain this information expert investigation and advice was necessary, and such service was not within the command of the diplomatic representatives.

It was also stated that, at the instance of the Shanghai commercial interests, a survey of the work done had been made, and a report as to the same, including soundings and other data, had been furnished some expert consulting engineers in London, with a view of obtaining their opinion as to both the efficiency and sufficiency of the work done, and what, if anything, was necessary to be further done. It was stated that a report from the London engineers could not be expected until some time in the fall.

It was also stated that the Imperial Government had some kind of a report from the imperial high commissioner upon the subject, the nature and extent of which were not known. For the information of the diplomatic representatives it was decided that the dean should again address a note [copy inclosed] to the Imperial Government with a special view of obtaining a copy of the report aforesaid and that the intention of the Imperial Government might be ascertained.

In this same connection I beg to report that the dean, in a private conversation I had with him, expressed the opinion that the powers interested would doubtless have to take some affirmative action to have the work continued, either under Chinese administration, or under the administration originally contemplated by the protocol of 1901. Also that in either contingency some steps would have to be taken by foreign cooperation to raise the additional money required. He asked me what authority I had, if any, to confer with our colleagues directly interested, with a view of reaching some agreement on the subject. Having in mind the last instruction on the subject received by this legation from the department—to wit, the department’s instruction, Serial No. 658, dated November 2, 19091—I said I might join in such a conference for the consideration of a proposition to raise money for the imposition of a surtax upon riparian lands, trade, and navigation, but not upon commerce. I beg to inquire if there is any objection to my joining in such a conference [Page 355] for the consideration of devising plans to raise money, provided that such plans shall only be tentative and must be first submitted to the department for approval before becoming operative, etc.

I have, etc.,

W. J. Calhoun.
[Inclosure 1—Translation.]

The dean of the diplomatic body to the Prince of Ch’ing.

Your Imperial Highness: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your highness’s note of October 26 last, on the subject of the work of correcting and conserving the Whangpoo. I did not fail to communicate this note to the chiefs of mission at Peking.

The latter have not thought it possible under the circumstances for them to adopt the point of view of the Imperial Chinese Government. The representatives of the powers have, in fact, decided that so long as the work on the Whangpoo is not complete to the extent and within the limits provided in the final protocol of 1901, they can not consider that the Chinese Government is absolved from the obligations to which it is bound.

My colleagues have accordingly requested me to inform your highness of the impossibility of acquiescing in the statements which I have transmitted to them.

I seize, etc.,

[Inclosure 2.]

Chairman of the Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce to the senior consul.

No. 2077.]

Sir: I have the honor to draw the attention of the consular body to a statement published in the North China Daily News of the 3d instant to the effect that Viceroy Jui Cheng, who was appointed high commissioner for the Huangpu conservancy, has given orders to the conservancy board not to close any further contracts beyond the amounts so far granted, including the 300,000 taels which were lately placed at the disposal of the board, and further that with Viceroy Chang Jen-chun the Wai-wu-Pu has been memorialized to communicate to the foreign ministers that China is neither willing nor obliged to spend further money on the conservancy work.

This question was discussed by my committee at their meeting held on the 10th instant, when it was decided to request you to make urgent representations to the diplomatic corps at Peking with a view to their taking prompt measures to insure the carrying out of the work for permanently conserving the river.

My committee also desire to point out that the viceroy seems to have overlooked the convention of the 27th September, 1905, by memorializing “that China is neither willing nor obliged to spend further money.”

In conclusion I would like to state that the engineers engaged by the chamber to report on the conservancy work are due to arrive early in February, but in the meantime my committee view with anxiety a trend of events which points to the possibility of a prolonged stoppage of the work and to the further disregard of the treaty obligations by which China is bound.

I have, etc.,

William D. Little.
[Inclosure 3.]

Secretary Carruthers, of Whangpoo Conservancy Board, to Consul Siffert, dean of the consular body.

Sir: By direction of the conservancy board, I inclose copy of a letter addressed to the engineer in chief of the board, Mr. J. de Rijke, giving notice of the termination of his engagement from the 30th of November, 1910.

[Page 356]

I am further instructed to say that plans for the completion and maintenance of river improvement are being prepared, particulars of which will be forwarded to you for the information of the consular body as soon as possible.

I have, etc.,

A. G. H. Carruthers.

Directors of the Whangpoo Conservancy Board to Mr. de Rijke.

Sir: The main parts of the conservancy work are expected to be finished by the end of September this year and work carried on after that time will be principally in the way of maintenance and preservation rather than in the way of extension. Considering that the simpler work of maintenance can safely be carried on under the direction of an engineer of less conspicuous attainments than those which have been fortunately at the board’s disposal in planning and carrying out the principal conservancy scheme, and considering further that the funds appropriated for conservancy work are nearly exhausted and that no fixed source of further income has as yet been provided for, the directors of the conservancy board have decided that it is advisable, for the sake of economy, to terminate your engagement as engineer in chief.

You are accordingly notified that on the 30th of November, 1910, being six months after the end of the present month, your appointment as engineer in chief of the Whangpoo Conservancy will cease.

The board takes this occasion to assure you of its high appreciation of the invaluable services you have rendered, and repeats that it is solely on account of the less important nature of the work still to be done, and for the sake of necessary economy, that it has decided to dispense with your services.

We have, etc.,

  • Ts’ai Nai-Huang.
  • H. F. Merrill.
[Inclosure 4.]

Chairman of the Shanghai General Chamber of Commerce to the Senior Consul.

Sir: The committee of this chamber learn with regret that the conservancy board have notified Mr. de Rijke that his appointment as engineer in chief of the board will terminate on the 30th November next.

In view of the present state of the river, with the various works shown in the plan not completed, and a considerable part not commenced, I have the honor on behalf of this chamber to protest most strongly against so early a termination of Mr. de Rijke’s agreement.

I would therefore be obliged if the consular body would give this protest their support and press for the withdrawal of the conservancy board’s letter.

I have, etc.,

David Landale.
[Inclosure 5.]

The Senior Consul to the Directors of the Whangpoo Conservancy Board.

Gentlemen: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 19th ultimo, with a copy of your letter to Mr. de Rijke, engineer in chief, giving notice of the termination of his engagement from the 30th of November, 1910.

In reply I beg to remark—first, that by virtue of its own clause, this contract holds good till the month of June, 1911; further, that it would be extremely prejudicial to the interests of the port to dispense with the present engineer in chief’s services as long as the various works contemplated are not completed and the maintenance of the good results obtained is not secured.

I am therefore directed to protest most strongly against Mr. de Rijke’s proposed dismissal, and to request that you will withdraw the above-mentioned letter.

I have, etc.,

D. Siffert.
[Page 357]
[Inclosure 6.]

The Dean of the Diplomatic Body to the Prince of Ch’ing.

Your Highness: In my letter of December 14 last I bad the honor to inform your highness in the name of the diplomatic body that the representatives of the powers were of the opinion that “as long as the conservancy work of the Whangpoo River remained unfinished to the extent and within the limits of the final protocol of 1901 the Government of China could not be considered as freed from the obligations which it had assumed.” My colleagues, consequently, reserved the right to return to the question at the proper time.

The diplomatic body calls to mind that the Imperial Government has always declared that it had the continuance of the work on the Whangpoo as much at heart as the foreigners, and that its intention, repeatedly affirmed, was to do everything to conserve the works which had already been achieved. The Imperial Government, however, has not expressed its opinion of the manner in which it considers that these works, which evidently are as yet incomplete, should be finished; nor has it indicated rom what source it will secure the sums necessary for the continuance of the work and he maintenance of the whole. The Chinese Government has declared in its letter of —— that it will furnish 300,000 taels for carrying out the new dredging contract. This sum is at the present moment exhausted, or at least will be so very shortly. Hence arises a situation in which the diplomatic body is constrained to take an interest.

The representatives of the powers have learned that the Imperial Government had entrusted the study of the question of the Whangpoo to a special commissioner, who obtained the services of a European expert. The report of this commissioner must certainly be to-day in the hands of the administration at Peking. My colleagues have thought that the simplest way for them to learn the intention of the Government of China would be to have this report communicated to them or be informed of its contents in detail. They have, therefore, charged me to request your highness to be so good as to give them a copy of this document or make it possible for them to take cognizance of it. The diplomatic body hopes that in this way it will be possible to arrive at an equitable understanding which will equally safeguard both foreign interests and those of the Imperial Government of China.