File No. 893.00/1646.

The American Chargé d’Affaires to the Secretary of State.

No. 807.]

Sir: I have the honor to report upon the political situation in China as follows:

The members of the Senate and House of Representatives recently elected and constituting the first National Assembly of China met in joint session on the morning of the 8th of April to celebrate by appropriate ceremonies this inauguration of representative government in China.

The ceremonies were held in the hall of the House of Representatives, one of the buildings of the former School of Finance, which had been altered and refitted for the purpose. * * * The city was gaily decorated with flags and at the beginning of the ceremonies 101 guns were fired in honor of the event. * * *

When the hour arrived for the beginning of the exercises seven Ministers of the Cabinet filed in and took seats on the dais, and the chairman of the committee in charge of the program, who acted as master of ceremonies, called the Assembly to order. There were 682 members in attendance—that is to say, 179 Senators out of a total of 274 and 503 representatives out of a total of 596.

By agreement of the political parties, at a meeting held on the 6th of April, it had been decided that the oldest man in the Assembly should take the chair. The honor thus came to Mr. Yang Ch’ung, a Senator from Yunnan. He called upon the Secretary of the Advisory Council (Provisional Assembly), Mr. Lin Ch’ang-min, to read an address which had been drawn up by a committee appointed for that purpose at the interparty caucus on the 6th instant. A translation of this address was telegraphed to the Department on the 10th of April.1 The address is written in classical style and is full of literary allusions which can be recognized only by the initiated, since there is no acknowledgment and no indication of quotation. In other words, the document is a mosaic of phrases culled from classical writings every one of which to the Chinese scholar is full of meaning because he is able to recall the context. For instance, the opening sentence “The will of Heaven is manifested through the will of the people” in the original consists of eight words only and is a condensation of [Page 113] a passage in the Book of Mencius, which is itself a quotation from the Book of History, the oldest extant writing of the Chinese, a passage which reads: “Heaven sees as the people see; Heaven hears as the people hear.” It has been impossible, therefore, in the translation made of the address, to convey to the non-Chinese reader the wealth of meaning which it contains.

After the reading of the address the President’s representative, Mr. Liang, was called upon to carry to the dais the message of which he was the bearer and lay it upon the Speaker’s table.

The chairman then asked the Cabinet Ministers to descend to the floor of the House and, led by the master of ceremonies, the whole Assembly bowed in unison three times to the five-colored flag, the emblem of the Republic, draped behind the Speaker’s chair.

The exercises were interspersed with music furnished by a military band in the garden, and the whole ceremony was dignified and impressive.

The members of the Assembly were, with a very few exceptions, dressed in western costume—black frock coats and silk hats—in striking contrast to the mass of brilliant colors which always characterized a Chinese crowd in the old days.

Had it not been for the reported intention of the American Government to recognize the Chinese Republic on the 8th of April, it is doubtful whether the Assembly would have opened on that day. The, knowledge of such intention was obtained from the press telegrams which appeared in the papers here. The Legations here were promptly informed by their respective Governments of the contents of the aide mémoire handed to their representatives in Washington by the Department. This report speedily became the topic of the hour. * * *

At a dinner given by the Cabinet to members of the Assembly, on the night of the 8th of April, the President’s secretary, Mr. Liang, made a speech in which he referred to the prospect of recognition by the United States and expressed the hope that nothing might occur to unduly delay it. To this speech, Mr. Wu Ching-lien, Speaker of the Advisory Council, replied, saying that the intention of the American Government to recognize the Republic was fully appreciated by the members of the Assembly and that nothing was going to be done to hinder it, but that he desired to point out that the United States was simply waiting for the organization of the Assembly, and that this fact was plain proof that the United States did not propose to recognize a one-man government, but a government by the chosen representatives of the people. * * *

On the night of the 9th instant the Legation was orally informed that the Brazilian Minister in Japan had communicated to the Chinese Minister there the formal recognition by his Government of the Republic of China. This information was officially communicated to the Legation on the 10th instant. In honor of the event, April 12 has been declared a public holiday, the city is to be decorated with Brazilian flags, the public schools are to be closed, and a general celebration is to be had. The Legation was orally informed last evening that Peru also had recognized the Republic, the information having been communicated by cable from Lima. I can not but feel [Page 114] that this action of Brazil and Peru is probably based upon a misunderstanding of the situation here. Neither Government has a representative in Peking, and having learned of the intention of the American Government to recognize the Republic on April 8, upon the meeting of the National Assembly, and having learned of the formal opening of the Assembly, they have probably concluded that recognition by the American Government has already taken place and have thought that they were following our lead in according the recognition given. The Mexican Chargé d’Affaires has received instructions to act with this Legation and has fully explained to his Government the cause of the delay in giving recognition. The Ministers of Italy, the Netherlands, and Belgium have all expressed to me their desire to have the Republic recognized at an early date by their respective Governments, but have recommended to their Foreign Offices to withhold such recognition until the election of a President.

Since the ceremonial opening of the Assembly there has been no session of either House, but numerous conferences of the political parties have been held. * * *

I have [etc.]

E. T. Williams.

Note.—The Spanish Minister on April 17 at a conference with the Counselor of the Department of State orally conveyed the reply of his Government: “that inasmuch as Spain has no political interests in China, the recognition by the Spanish Government of the new Republic of China will follow the recognition of that Government by the majority of the other Powers.” (File No. 893.00/1663½.)

  1. See ante.