393.1123 Coltman, Charles/72

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

No. 1410

Sir: Referring to my despatch No. 1378 of February 28, 1923,48 I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a note which I received on March 3rd from the Minister for Foreign Affairs transmitting [Page 728] a communication he had received from the Military Governor at Kalgan submitting a formal apology for the death of Mr. Coltman and what purports to be an apology for the attack upon the American Consul at Kalgan.

I also enclose a copy of a note which I presented to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on March 7th, in reply to his note of February 10th,49 rehearsing the situation and reiterating my demands in respect of the most important of the unfilled conditions. I also enclose a memorandum49a of the conversation I had with the Minister for Foreign Affairs on the occasion of presenting this note and which had largely to do with the question of the punishment of the guilty officers, in the course of which the Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that he had received information from Kalgan direct three days before that two of these officers had been dismissed. …

. . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I have [etc.]

Jacob Gould Schurman
[Enclosure 1—Translation]

The Chinese Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Huang Fu) to the American Minister (Schurman)

F. O. No. 380

Sir: I have the honor to recall that on February 10, 1923,49 this Ministry addressed to you a Note in reference to the matter of the American merchant at Kalgan, informing you of the measures taken in connection therewith, which communication I have the honor to assume you received and noted.

A despatch has now been received from Military Governor Chang Hsi-yuan, as follows:

“At the time this case originated I was not in Kalgan, being absent on official business, and in consequence of this fact an incident was created wherein an American merchant was so wounded that he died. For this I desire to express sincere apologies. At that time the American Consul at Kalgan was present at the scene of the occurrence. This was certainly most unexpected and is the cause of even greater regret on my part.

“I have prepared this special letter of apology and request that it be transmitted to the American Minister in Peking.”

I have the honor, Mr. Minister, to inform you of these facts and to express the hope that you will take note of them.

A formal despatch.

Seal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
[Page 729]
[Enclosure 2]

The American Minister (Schurman) to the Chinese Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Huang Fu)

No. 432

Your Excellency: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your Excellency’s note of February 10th in reply to my note of January 3rd, which demanded that the Chinese Government make atonement, so far as might be possible, for the shooting and death of an American citizen, Mr. Charles L. Coltman, and the affront offered to the American Government through the firing on Mr. Samuel Sokobin, the American Consul.

Of the six demands made by me under instructions from my Government for the expiation of this crime the first, namely the apology by the Chinese Government, has already been complied with. I understand also from Your Excellency’s note that there will be no further attempts on the part of the Chinese authorities to prohibit the transportation of currency by American merchants for use in the conduct of their business. If this be corrected the fourth of my demands has also been satisfied.

With regard to the sixth demand contained in my note of January 3rd, while formally reserving the right of my Government to present in the future claims for damages suffered by American merchants in consequence of the interruption of their business. I am not desirous of going further into the matter at the present time.

Of the six demands made in my note of January 3rd there remain unsatisfied the following, namely: the second, which calls for an apology from the Tutung to the Consul; the third, which requires the summary dismissal from the army and permanent exclusion from the Chinese service of the Chief of Staff, the Chief Adjutant, and Adjutant Wang, and, in addition their punishment under Chinese law for the killing of an American citizen; and, the fourth, which stipulates for the payment of an indemnity, to be determined by the American Government, to the family of Mr. Coltman.

In Your Excellency’s note of February 10th the following substitutes are proposed in lieu of compliance with the foregoing demands, namely:

  • “1. The Tutung of Chahar will in accordance with the spirit of this Ministry’s note of January 3rd to Your Excellency prepare a note apologizing to Your Excellency, but he cannot apologize to the present American Consul at Kalgan, Mr. Sokobin.
  • “2. This Government will issue an instruction to the Tutung of Chahar to examine thoroughly the Chief of Staff of the Tutung’s office, the Chief Adjutant and Adjutant Wang who was sent to the [Page 730] place where the affair arose, and to punish them according to law as a warning for the future.
  • “3. Out of pity and regard for the family of the American merchant, Charles L. Coltman, it is permitted that the Chinese local officials shall in conformity with precedent consult together and give his family a compassionate allowance as an evidence of sympathy.”

As to the first of these proposed substitutes it must be observed that the affront to the American Government having been publicly offered to the American Consul in Kalgan the indignity cannot be obliterated without public expiation by the Tutung in Kalgan.

In view, however, of the objection urged on the ground of difference in rank between the Tutung and the Consul, I am willing so far to modify the second demand contained in my note of January 3rd as to agree that the Tutung’s apology shall be made to the Government of the United States and presented by him to my personal representative, who will be the Counsellor of this Legation, at the Consulate in Kalgan, on a day and at an hour to be named by me,—the form and terms of the apology having also been approved by me in advance.

As to the second substitute it is understood that up to the present time no punishment has been inflicted upon the Chief of Staff and the two other officers. Yet whether they intended it or not, they and especially the Chief of Staff who exercised that day the highest authority are responsible for the greatest crime which could be committed against a friendly nation, namely, the killing of its citizens and the firing on its officials. That retributive justice moves so slowly in China must be a source of profound astonishment and regret to jurists all over the world who follow the history of these proceedings, and their anxiety will not be allayed by the fact that Your Excellency in desiring to settle this case is moved, not by a sense of outraged justice, but by special considerations growing out of the friendship between China and the United States. For my own part, while I am gratified with this manifestation of good will to America and shall in the future as in the past seek by all legitimate means to promote the friendship between our two peoples, I make my appeal not to friendship but to justice when I demand in the present case for the Chief of Staff and the other offending officers a punishment commensurate with the enormity of this crime they have committed against the citizens and government of the United States.

[Page 731]

As to the third substitute, namely the permission to the Chinese local officials to give, out of pity and regard, a compassionate allowance to the family of Mr. Coltman, I have only to observe that it is altogether inacceptable.

I have already indicated the modifications I am willing to make in the first of the unsatisfied demands, namely, the apology from the Tutung. For the rest I have, in the circumstances, no alternative to renewing, as I herewith formally renew, the two remaining unsatisfied demands in the form in which they were made in my note of January 3rd, being as follows:

  • “3. The summary dismissal from the Chinese army of the Chief of Staff, the Chief Adjutant and the third officer described above and the permanent exclusion of all of them from future employment in the military or civil service of the National or the Provincial Governments of China; and, in addition, the punishment of these three officers for the unjustifiable killing of Mr. Coltman by inflicting on the principal offender and also on the abettors or accessories of the act the respective maximum penalties prescribed by law for such crimes.
  • “4. Indemnity for the family of Mr. Coltman as determined by the American Government.”

In requesting an early reply, I avail myself of this opportunity to extend to Your Excellency the renewed assurances of my highest consideration.

Jacob Gould Schurman
  1. Not printed.
  2. See telegram no. 48, Feb. 11, from the Minister in China, p. 723.
  3. Not printed.
  4. See telegram no. 48, Feb. 11, from the Minister in China, p. 723.