393.1123 Coltman, Charles/13: Telegram

The Minister in China (Schurman) to the Secretary of State


4. My telegram no. 2 of January 2. This afternoon I personally presented note stating our demands. C. T. Wang said that he had intended to send me the report of his investigators in a day or two with an expression of the regrets of the Government for the shooting. He requested that in the meantime I take back my note. He told me the substance of the results of their investigation. Only minor details were affected, except for the charge by the soldiers that the first shooting was by Coltman. Sokobin’s testimony and the condition of the pistol which was taken from Coltman directly after the shooting disprove this allegation.

I declined to withdraw my note and declared that if the minor details were all as Wang stated, it did not make any difference whatever in the two great issues which were the affront to the Government of the United States and the slaying of one of our citizens.

… I solemnly told him that American-Chinese relations had reached a crisis. The attitude of the United States toward China had always been one of benevolent helpfulness. I cited examples of this. The American Government now wished to know whether it was the intention of the Chinese Government to prevent the United [Page 716] States from continuing that attitude. The American Government looked upon the Coltman case as a test of the confidence which it could place in the Government of China. My Government considered China’s attitude in this case as simply incomprehensible. The obvious thing to do, and the advantageous thing for China, was to immediately give satisfaction, within a day or two. I reiterated the statement that the minor variations in the story were not relevant and I urged Wang to center his attention on the grave and indisputable issues involved.

I talked from 4 to 5:30 o’clock and then left. I received the following at 9 o’clock from Wang:32

[“] The Chinese Government profoundly deplores the Kalgan incident resulting in the loss of life of an American citizen. The Chinese Government especially regrets the fact that an American consul was present although his identity was unknown at the time when the firing took place thereby placing the safety of the American consul in jeopardy also; for this action on the part of its soldiers the Chinese Government sincerely apologizes to the Government of the United States of America.

I have the honor further to inform Your Excellency that my Government has made a careful investigation into this case and I beg to reserve to myself the future opportunity of communicating with Your Excellency in the immediate future in regard to the same.”

I expect there will be discussion, haggling, and delay with respect to other points. Would the Department consider it wise to say something to Chinese Chargé at Washington to be telegraphed to the Government at Peking?

  1. Quotation not paraphrased.