393.1123 Coltman, Charles/35: Telegram

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

21. Your telegram No. 36 January 30, 5 p.m. is noted with approval and appreciation.

From the enclosure with your despatch No. 1254 of December 23rd43 as well as from local newspapers received the Department gathers that the military governor of Kalgan was sent by the Chinese Government to conduct the investigation of the Coltman affair and is responsible for the statement that the Consul and Coltman fired first on the guards and for other false statements that have been used by the Chinese authorities to obstruct a settlement. On this assumption, which you will of course verify, I feel that the governor’s attempt to protect his subordinates (apparently even to the extent of declining to arrest them) has so far identified him with the case as to place upon him the same responsibility as would have attached to him if he had been present in Kalgan and cognizant of the matter.

It is apparently the intention of the governor and of his military superiors who exercise influence with the Peking Government to delay and to haggle over terms of settlement in the hope of wearing down the patience of this Government to a point where it will accept terms less distasteful to the controlling military faction. If therefore the facts justify such an attitude, I would suggest the advisability of your taking early occasion to see the Prime Minister again, emphasize the period of time that has elapsed without any indication of the Chinese Government’s willingness to make a just settlement, point out that the delay is at least in large measure due to the military governor’s confusion of the issues in the attempt to protect his subordinates, and state that if full satisfaction has not been given in accordance with your demands of January 3rd within a reasonable time, this Government will consider that the obstructiveness of the military governor is in effect a ratification by him of the action of his subordinates, making him so far responsible for the case that this Government will add to your terms a demand for his dismissal from office.

While inviting your comment or criticism upon this suggestion, I authorize you to act upon it immediately if in your judgment it would expedite a satisfactory settlement of the case. As to what constitutes a reasonable period for settlement, I am inclined to think that February 15th which is two months from Coltman’s death would be a suitable time limit, but your comment as to the date is [Page 723] requested. It might be advisable to refer only in general terms to settlement “within a reasonable period”, in the first instance, reserving the communication of a date until the attitude of the Chinese Government may seem to justify the specification of a precise time limit.

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