Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, With the Address of the President to Congress December 7, 1915
File No. 893.01/58.
Minister Reinsch to the Secretary of State.
Peking, November 3, 1915.
Sir: I have the honor to report that on the 20th  ultimo the Japanese Chargé d’ Affaires, accompanied by the British and Russian [Page 73] Ministers, called on the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and made a verbal communication to him in succession and in practically identic terms. The substance of the representations, I am informed from a reliable source, is correctly given in the text as published in the Peking Post of the 2nd instant herewith enclosed.
On November 2, the Minister for Foreign Affairs transmitted to the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires and to the British and Russian Ministers an answer, of which an English translation is herewith enclosed.
I have [etc.]
Japan and the Monarchy Question.
Text of the Japanese Note.
[From the Peking Post, November 2nd, 1915.]
The following details of the visit of the foreign diplomats to the Wai Chiao Pu on October 28 are obtained from a reliable source:—
At half past five in the afternoon of October 28, Mr. Obata, Japanese Chargé d’ Affaires in Peking, accompanied by Sir John Jordan, British Minister, and M. Krupensky, Russian Minister, called on Mr. Lu Cheng-hsiang, Chinese Foreign Minister and Acting Secretary of State, at the Wai Chiao Pu and delivered to Mr. Lu the following advice:
In view of her special position in the Far East, Japan is very anxious about the contemplated change of the Kuoti, or form of State in China, on the ground that a hasty change is calculated to lead to internal risings in the country to the detriment of the peace and order of the Far East. The recent bomb outrages at Shanghai are evidence of anti-monarchical signs. Japan wishes to know whether the Chinese Goverment is confident of maintaining perfect peace and tranquillity within her territory. In case of disturbances, whether they directly or indirectly touch upon the interest and privileges of Japan, she will be compelled, though very reluctantly, to take adequate measures for their protection. The Japanese Government draws the attention of the Chinese Government to the signs of unrest in the Yangtze and other Southern Provinces on account of the people’s opposition to the contemplated change and, in view of the seriousness of the European War, China, as a nation in the Orient should adopt very careful measures to preserve the status quo, which is the most important thing at the present critical moment. Although the contemplated change is the true wish of the Chinese people, nevertheless, in case the monarchical restoration gives rise to sudden uprisings of the opposition parties, not only will the Chinese people who suffered misery and distress during the recent revolutions go through a fresh period of suffering, but also those foreign Powers who have close relations with China will share the consequences.
The Japanese advice paid a handsome tribute to the ability of H. E. Yuan in suppressing the late rebellion and maintaining peace throughout China after his inauguration as President of the Chinese Republic, which has contributed not a little to the preservation of peace in the Far East, for which the Japanese Government and people admire and respect him. Hence for the sake of the perpetual peace of the Orient, the Japanese Government sincerely hopes: that H. E. Yuan will temporarily delay the contemplated change for the present until long administration and permanent peace have been established in China. In conclusion, the advice added that Japan has not the slightest intention of interfering in the internal affairs of this country; her counsel and advice are given in a perfectly friendly manner in the interests of the Orient, inasmuch as tranquillity or unrest in China concerns also Japan’s future welfare.
A translation of the answer of the Chinese Government to the Chargé d’Affaires of Japan and the Minister of Great Britain and Russia.
On the 28th of October, you, Monsieur le Chargé Affaires, verbally communicated an advice of the Japanese Government. I have duly taken note of it. The matter is one which is entirely China’s internal affair, but as the Japanese Government has been good enough to offer advice, I now reply fully and in detail as follows:
With regard to the question of the monarchy, there has been for some time a body of opinion in favor of it. The Government, intent on maintaining the present form of government, has always opposed it. Of late, however, the number of people in favor of it has daily increased numbering among them men of power and influence in the country; the undercurrent has become stronger and stronger, and the combinations have become more and more numerous. If the Government were to use solely methods of forcible suppression, not only would the will of the people be set at naught, but there would have been considerable danger to peace and good order for which the Government would have been reluctant to undertake the heavy responsibility. The only course for the Government, consequently, has been to respect the wishes of the people and promulgate the bill passed by the acting Li Fa Yuan to organize the Assembly of Citizens’ Representatives to consider and determine this fundamental question. When the people of the provinces petitioned to the Li Fa Yuan for the change of the form of government, the President, on September 9, expressed to the Li Fa Yuan the opinion that the change was unsuitable to the circumstances. On October 10, a Presidential mandate, quoting the petition of various Mongolian and Mohammedan Princes and nobles to change the form of government, again stated that any hasty and rash change was undesirable and admonished all the superintendents of elections carefully to obey the provisions of the law in the discharge of their duties. On October 12, a further telegram was dispatched to the superintendents of elections to observe the election laws scrupulously and not to be hasty or careless. It is evident therefore that the Government did not originally approve of the step and a fortiori, has not had any intention of bringing about a hasty change. But as according to the Constitutional Compact of this country the sovereignty is vested in the whole body of the people there has been no other course but to await the decision of the people. Placed in this difficult position, the Government has exhausted every means of compromise, actuated with the desire on the one hand to respect the laws and on the other to obey the wishes of the people so as to preserve the general peace.
At the time when the discussion in regard to the form of government was at its height, the Government, apprehensive that it might lead to the occurrence of untoward events, more than once telegraphed to the civil and military officials of the provinces to ask whether they could absolutely maintain public peace and good order. The reply each time and in every case from the respective officials was that if the will of the people was obeyed in the solution of the question of the form of government, the provinces would hold themselves responsible for the public order so that when the change should be carried out no untoward event would occur. The sources of information at the disposal of foreigners cannot naturally be as full and as accurate as those of the Chinese; inasmuch as the provincial officials have uniformly reported that they would be responsible for peace and good order, and have not reported of any strong undercurrent of opposition, nor of any ground for anxiety in regard to Shanghai, the Yangtze region, and South China, the Government can only place full credence and reliance on these reports.
As for the reasons why our people desire the monarchy, they are these. With China’s immense area, the differences in the five races, the changeableness of popular feeling, and the comparatively low standard of education of the masses, the frequent change of the head of the State under a republic will be a source of great danger and disturbance, as witness recent events in other countries. Not only will life and property of Chinese be in jeopardy, but the business and interests of subjects and citizens of friendly Powers in China will likewise be insecure. The Republic has now been established four years in China, during this time, men of wealth and capital have been unwilling [Page 75] to invest their money, the business and trade of the people as well as the administration of officials have lacked permanent policies and plans, a feeling of instability has prevailed, and government has been difficult. It is for these reasons that the people desire a change in the form of government. Since the large majority of the people of this country has considered that the republican form of government is unsuitable to China, and since the question has been referred to the Assembly of Citizens’ Representatives for decision the constitutional foundation of the State is already shaken and in the minds of men there are expectancy and hesitation. The political conditions have been affected and trade and commerce are showing signs of stagnation. If evil persons should seize the opportunity to disseminate false rumors, the people would be even more disturbed. In case troubles should arise on account of this constitutional question remaining protracted without a decision, not only would our own people suffer loss and injury, but the subjects and citizens of friendly Powers in China would also be subject to apprehension and alarm. So long as the form of government which has been referred for decision remains undetermined, so long will there be unrest in men’s minds and so long will there exist an element of danger. This is the more so since at the time of the communication of the Japanese Government’s advice, five provinces have already declared for constitutional monarchy. In sum, on the part of the people of the country, the hope and expectation are for the benefits of permanent peace and tranquility; on the part of the Government there is the further hope and expectation that the subjects and citizens of friendly Powers resident in China will be secure in the pursuit of their business and that the peace of the Orient will be maintained, in which hope and expectation the Chinese Government is in complete accord with the Governments of the friendly Powers.
There is a small number of turbulent rebels who are seeking refuge in foreign countries and in other localities beyond the jurisdiction of the Chinese Government. Whether a republic or a monarchy, as in the past so in the future, their character will always be that of destruction and violence, and their plans those of trouble and turmoil. The utmost they can do is the spreading of rumors to incite sedition and rebellion, but they are devoid of all power and influence. In the last few years they have created occasional disturbances, but they have immediately been suppressed so that the general situation has never been affected. The provinces are now taking added precautions against them; it is hoped that the Governments of the friendly Powers in all localities beyond the jurisdiction of the Chinese Government, will cooperate in future, as heretofore, in keeping them under restraint and control. They will thus certainly have no opportunity of creating trouble.
The Chinese Government appreciates the good intentions of the Japanese Government which has tendered advice in a friendly manner and has declared that it has no intention whatever to interfere in the internal affairs of China. Inasmuch as the Japanese Government is animated purely and solely by the desire to maintain the peace of the Orient, this desire coincided entirely with that of the Chinese Government. The Japanese Government may rest assured that the Chinese Government will spare no means to attain this object and aim.
I request you, Monsieur le Chargé d’Affaires, to convey the above to the Japanese Government.
Form to the British Minister.
On October 28, your excellency, together with the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires and the Russian Minister, called at the Wai Chiao Pu and the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires verbally communicated the advice of the Japanese Government. Your excellency, acting upon the instructions of the British Government, associated yourself with it and also asked whether the Chinese Government was confident, that the change in the form of Government could be carried out without untoward events. I have duly taken note of this. I reply to your excellency in the same sense in which I have replied to the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires. The reply is as follows: (Here follows the reply to the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires).
Respecting the question addressed by your excellency, the Chinese Government is at all times, in accordance with international law and customs, responsible [Page 76] for the maintenance of public order, in the carrying out of the change in the form of government, the Government is confident that there will be no untoward events.
I request your excellency to convey the above to the British Government.
Form to the Russian Government.
On October 28, your excellency, together with the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires and the British Minister, called at the Wai Chiao Pu and the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires and the British Minister, one after the other, verbally communicated the advice of their respective Governments. Your excellency, acting upon the instructions of the Russian Government, associated yourself with it. I have duly taken note of this. I reply to your excellency in the same sense in which I have replied to the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires and the British Minister. The replies are as follows: (Here follow the replies to the Japanese Chargé d’Affaires and the British Minister.)
I request your excellency to convey the above to the Russian Government.