The Acting Secretary of State to the Commission to Negotiate Peace
419. Your 410, January 24, 10 a.m. My 338, January 21, 4 p.m. I believe that the gradual preparation for the abolition of extraterritoriality would be a wise and a just step, but at the same time I feel that some preparation should be made for the adoption of a judicial system to become effective as the extraterritoriality is modified. If it could be impressed upon the Chinese delegates that the continental codes which are now being drawn with the idea of their [Page 682] eventual adoption and which have reached the stage of being printed and distributed for study are not as suitable to their democratic form of government as a judicial system, code of procedure and the most important substantive law based upon the English common law, I feel that an effort to nullify that which has been done and to substitute for it a code based on the English common law might have some reasonable chance of success.
Dr. Willoughby is in America. I cabled you about him recently. He is a thorough student of political economy, knows the theory of the English common law, and fortunately has enjoyed the confidence of the Chinese Government to the extent of having been advisor to the Foreign Office. May I suggest that he might be sent to China and attached to the American Legation with instructions to proceed quietly in an effort to induce the Chinese Government to use the English common law or a code based upon it in place of the code which they are now preparing and which should become operative as and when the laws of extraterritoriality become inapplicable through such arrangements as will be made in Paris?
The subject involves matters of such great importance to America and its trade relations with China that I feel we would be warranted in taking any legitimate steps to insure the adoption of a civil code which would be in harmony with our own laws. The Japanese will make every effort to have the code of China and the judicial structure of China similar to those of Japan. Consequently, I feel that our efforts will have to be rather carefully exerted. I further feel that if an impression is made upon the minds of the officials of China now in Paris and a movement is started in Peking, it would not be without some hope of ultimate success.