The Minister in China (Reinsch) to the Acting Secretary of State

No. 2898

Sir: In connection with your telegram stating that the Japanese Minister had been instructed to talk over with me fully and frankly the Tientsin incident with a view to settlement, I have the honor to state that thus far I have not heard from my Japanese Colleague.

I have the honor to enclose correspondence with the Consul-General in Tientsin (letter to the Minister, July 14th, letter from the Minister, July 16th). The great desire of the Japanese to commit us to a statement of the possibility of American soldiers being in the Japanese Concession on the night of March 12th leaves no doubt in my mind of the use they intend to make of such an admission. I have the honor to refer you to the previous correspondence in this matter to show how impossible it is from the point of evidence and sincere belief to admit that American soldiers were in the Japanese Concession on that night—as is claimed by the Japanese—in large numbers, armed with police clubs, making assaults on Japanese in the principal thoroughfare without a Japanese policeman seeing or apprehending any one of them. It would seem to me exceedingly stultifying to make any such admission in order to settle what remains of this case after the Japanese have already made an apology for the main incidents.

I have [etc.]

Paul S. Reinsch
[Enclosure 1]

The Consul General at Tientsin (Heintzleman) to the Minister in China (Reinsch)

Dear Mr. Reinsch: My Japanese colleague called on me by appointment on July 5, 1919. He expressed a desire to effect a settlement of the Japanese-American incident at Tientsin and stated that in seeking a solution he wished to offer two alternative proposals, which, if I thought the Legation and the Department might be willing to consider and agree to, he would submit to his Government: (1) that a statement by me admitting the possibility of American soldiers having entered the Japanese concession on the night of March 12, 1919, be accepted by the Japanese side, after which the Japanese would agree to pay Corporal Rohner a solatium to the amount of several hundred yen, and to censure their Police Inspector for making false statements to me on the same night; or, (2) in the event that it is deemed impossible for me to make such a statement [Page 434] or the Japanese Government find themselves unable to accept the statement, then Major Nathan, Tientsin, of the Royal Engineers British Army, should be invited by the American and Japanese Consuls General to go over the evidence on both sides and give an opinion as to whether American soldiers entered the Japanese concession on the night in question, it being understood that while great weight would be given his opinion our government would not be bound thereby.

I promised to write requesting your views on the feasibility of these proposals.

As to the statement I am asked to make, Mr. Kamei, Vice Consul formerly in charge of the Japanese Consulate General here, in conversations with me previous to the arrival of Mr. Funatsu,40 kept urging that the American local authorities should admit that American soldiers had entered the Japanese concession on March 12, 1919. I told him such an admission in the face of the evidence submitted could not be made; during a call on May 28, 1919, when he again emphasized the necessity of such an admission on our part, I said that I might be willing to make some such statement as the following:

“In view of the contention of several Japanese gentlemen of standing who claim to have been injured by American soldiers in the Japanese concession on the night of March 12, 1919, the American authorities are willing to acknowledge the possibility of American soldiers being in the Japanese concession on that night, although every effort has been made to investigate this matter and no evidence of their being there can be found.”

Mr. Kamei requested permission to make a copy of the draft to which I assented. I took pains to explain to Mr. Kamei at the time that this was merely a proposed draft of what might perhaps be admitted by the Commanding Officer of the 15th Infantry and myself, if approved by our superiors who were in possession of the record in the case. I further explained that the informal discussion resulting in this draft could not be interpreted as an admission by Colonel Wilder and myself of the Japanese contention. Mr. Kamei replied that he fully understood.

Mr. Kamei during a call here on June 12, 1919, told me that his Minister had hoped I would be willing to omit from the draft statement the last two clauses, “although every effort has been made to investigate this matter and no evidence of their being there can be found.” He explaining [sic] that he and Mr. Obata thought the last clause was a reflection on the evidence presented by the Japanese. I replied that I saw no objection to these deletions and took the [Page 435] occasion to repeat that this was merely a draft drawn up by me informally and unofficially and that nothing was to be implied as binding me or any of my superiors. He stated that this was his understanding. During Mr. Funatsu’s call on the 5th instant, when reference was made to the draft statement, I went over the whole subject with him reading to him the above which I had written out as minutes of my conversations with Mr. Kamei.

I would thank you to give me an expression of your views on the suggested plan of settlement as proposed by Mr. Funatsu.

Yours sincerely,

P. S. Heintzleman
[Enclosure 2]

The Minister in China (Reinsch) to the Consul General at Tientsin (Heintzleman)

Dear Mr. Heintzleman: In reply to your note of July 14th, I have to state that I see nothing in the proposal made by your Japanese Colleague which can, in any way, advance a settlement.

That the payment of several hundred yen, indemnity or solatium—in itself, entirely inadequate,—should be made dependent on our admitting the possibility of American soldiers having entered the Japanese Concession on the night of March 12th, is joining two things which have nothing to do with each other. Whether there were or were not American soldiers in the Japanese Concession on the night, Corporal Rohner was arrested in the French Concession and [wounded?] while being dragged through the Japanese Concession to the police station. The previous presence of American soldiers in the Japanese Concession is a collateral matter.

As was clearly understood in our last conversation, it is to be feared that if any admission of this kind is made, which is contrary to the evidence in our possession and to the unanimous belief of all Americans concerned, it would undoubtedly be used in an attempt to shift the entire responsibility for all incidents to the American side. As it was understood that no such admissions were desirable, I am greatly surprised that without further consultation, you declared yourself willing (1) to make a statement containing such an admission and (2) specifically to engage yourself to omit a sentence which states that we have no evidence of American soldiers being there. After this action on your part, taken on your own responsibility, it may be difficult to avoid the bad consequences which we had all feared. We had a perfectly clear case on which we could rest and it would, in my opinion, have been far better so to rest than to accept [Page 436] a settlement admitting the one point which to every American seemed both impossible and unreasonable but which for a purpose of their own the Japanese desire to have admitted.

As to the second suggestion of making Major Nathan an arbiter in the matter, I cannot see in that a satisfactory solution. …

From the above you will see that I consider the position formerly taken by us in this matter as still to be maintained; namely, that the unsettled points in the controversy are the payment of solatium to Corporal Rohner and some action of censure for the falsehoods told you by the Japanese Inspector on the night of March 12th.

Faithfully yours,

Paul S. Reinsch
  1. Tatsuichiro Funatsu, Japanese Consul General at Tientsin, May, 1919.