393.1123 Coltman, Charles/43: Telegram

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

56. My 52, February 14, 5 p.m.44 I stated to the Premier that I was surprised by Minister for Foreign Affairs’ reply to my note of January 3d and had come to him for an explanation. On February 3d [I had?] received an oral communication from the Premier through a Secretary of Foreign Office in which after rehearsing settlement Premier was prepared to make, which was substantially that of the reply of February 10th45 and which I rejected absolutely, Secretary said that Premier believed granting of American terms would disastrously affect Chinese and American relations and prove injurious to American trade but if I insisted on them Premier would grant them.

Premier replied he had not intended to convey latter impression through Secretary. (He [had?] explained that Premier had got to the point of accepting our demands but that the Tutung who came to Peking a few days later convinced him that the military bosses would not stand for it.) Premier continuing recalled his remark at previous interview namely that he deprecated the disturbance of the good relations between the two countries by this affair. I remarked that highly as we prized and desired Chinese friendship we placed above it justice, the lawful rights of our citizens and the dignity of the Nation.

Premier replied that dignity of America had been vindicated by Government’s apology, in addition Tutung was ready to apologize to Minister but he could not apologize to consul because of consul’s inferior rank. If he should apologize to consul he would lose standing and be compelled to resign especially as consul’s conduct in the matter had not been above reproach. Premier observed dignity of China should also be considered.

Premier expressed opinion that we could reach a mutually satisfactory agreement with respect to indemnity but when I mentioned [Page 726] compensation of 40,000 taels paid to family Captain of S. S. Anlan46 he differentiated the two cases.

Conversation centered on our demand for punishment of officers. Premier remarked it contained two elements, first, foreign compulsion, secondly, specification of penalties, both repugnant to Chinese sentiment especially the first. Problem Premier declared was to satisfy American demand without violating Chinese sentiment. Premier considered this feasible if American Government would agree to Tutung’s voluntarily punishing offenders. He admitted that the officers had been delinquent but claimed they should be punished in a way that would recognize the authority of the Tutung.

I inquired how under Premier’s proposal we could be assured of the certainty of the punishment of the three officers who were responsible for the shooting and of the extent of the equivalence of the Tutung’s punishment to that demanded by us, adding that, the highest possible crime needed for atonement the severest penalties. Premier replied he would be willing to guarantee to me that the action to be taken by the Tutung would be satisfactory to us and as Minister of War as well as Premier he could bring it about, that the Tutung either under the terms of the law or in the exercise of his administrative discretion would do substantially what we had demanded. I added the stipulation that the punishment of the officers should not be put on other grounds than their responsibility for the shooting.

I remarked that our demands had been fixed by my Government, that I thought it unlikely it would modify the terms of the third demand but that I would submit his proposal if he sent it to me in writing.

Further conference on subject with Minister for Foreign Affairs this afternoon.

I reserve comments for subsequent telegram.

  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram no. 48, Feb. 11, from the Minister in China, p. 723.
  3. Captain Carley, a British subject, was killed in 1917 when the S.S. Anlan on the Yangtze River was fired upon by Szechuanese soldiers.