393.1123 Lincheng/51: Telegram

The Counselor of Legation at Peking (Bell) to the Secretary of State

161. My 159, May 16, 9 a.m.79 Further consular reports from Lincheng indicate that foreign captives have been taken to Paotzeku and there is nothing to indicate progress in negotiations between Chinese authorities and brigands.

On early morning 13th a band of men, possibly soldiers, attempted to rob a bank in Tangshan. General fright ensued and, as it was feared an attempt might be made to loot railway property, the company of American troops stationed there prepared for action, but fortunately no necessity arose.

On night of 13th bandits held up small village near Pehtaiho and looted shops and salt revenue office.

At meeting of diplomatic body this morning it was decided, in view of unsatisfactory nature of views [news?] from Lincheng, that dean should inquire of Chinese Government reason for failure of negotiations and exact information as to what Government had done and was doing, and should also again remind the Chinese Government that the “sanctions” would progressively increase as each day elapsed.

Diplomatic body feels strongly that impotence of Central Government has never been more clearly demonstrated than in this affair and feels also that, as the authority of the Central Government declines, diplomatic body’s power is also being progressively lessened and its ability to secure protection for foreign nationals correspondingly diminished. It was decided that representatives of [powers] possessing fleets or squadrons in Asiatic waters should consult their governments and their admirals on the station with a view, should necessity arise, to making a joint naval demonstration at Taku near Tientsin. The idea is that ships should go to Taku for moral effect on Chinese Government and people and to demonstrate that our nationals must be protected and that our just demands cannot be ignored. The foreign representatives would not threaten the Chinese Government or commit themselves in advance towards any particular course of action. They would not even notify Chinese Foreign Office the ships were coming and there would be no salutes to Chinese flag or visits of courtesy to Chinese officials by foreign vessels. The demonstration would simply be to remind the people of China that there is a point beyond which we cannot [Page 640]be flouted. British, French, Italian, and Japanese representatives are communicating with their Governments and senior naval officers in this sense, but it is clearly understood that, on receipt of necessary authorization from home Governments, demonstration will not be made until the moment when, in opinion of the representatives here, it will create the greatest effect. I understand our fleet is somewhere between Tsingtau and Chefoo, but, in the absence of naval attaché in Shanghai with Minister, this telegram is being repeated to latter for comment and for consultation with Admiral Anderson,79a who is understood to be in Shanghai or on the Yangtze.

Please instruct.

Schurman [Bell]
  1. Not printed.
  2. Admiral Edwin A. Anderson, U. S. N., commander in chief of the Asiatic Fleet