393.1123 Coltman, Charles/77: Telegram

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


73. The Department has given your 112, April 18, 8 p.m., the most serious consideration, especially as you recommend that the terms therein suggested for the settlement of the Coltman case should be accepted.

While I am disappointed at the second proposal of the Chinese Foreign Office, I am inclined to think that it must be accepted as the most that can be obtained with respect to the punishment of the officers, unless you are able to secure assurances that within the limits of its executive authority the Chinese Government will discountenance their being employed in the future by any of its military subordinates.

Proposal number three, with respect to compensation to the Coltman family, of course is satisfactory.

The first proposal, that relating to the apology by the Tutung, I do not consider satisfactory. His letter which you received through the Foreign Office and enclosed in your despatch 1410 of March 14, ignores the conditions you had made as to the manner and form of his apology, and to my mind does not even convey any real acknowledgment of regret for the affront to the United States in the person of its consul. The part of the letter wherein the unexpected presence of the consul is referred to impresses me, as I think it must others, not as an apology but as an equivocal expression by which [Page 735] fault is imputed to the consul instead of to those who were guilty of the attack. To be acceptable to the American Government the Tutung’s apology must contain a clear-cut, unambiguous expression of regret for the attack on the consul in place of the sentences referred to above.

Regarding the manner of the apology, my only concern is that it should be as formal and as public as in other cases in which Chinese officials have had occasion to make apologies to the representatives of other States whose nationals had been killed or whose officials had been subjected to indignity or jeopardy by agents of the Government of China. I suggest two alternatives which you may present. The Tutung may apologize at the Kalgan consulate to your personal representative (as you proposed in your note of March 14 [7] to the Foreign Office53) or apologize with similar formality to you personally at the Legation. I leave the details to your discretion, but I desire you to be guided by the principle that the apology should be given in such a public and formal manner that it will be generally known that the Tutung has not been able to escape responsibility for the safeguarding of American lives and for the respect which is due to American officials.

I would be heartily sorry if, as you indicate, no satisfactory settlement can be obtained without the use of diplomatic pressure hurtful to China, but I have made it clear from the beginning of this case that this Government would regard the spirit in which it was dealt with as a test of the good will and responsibility of the Government at Peking.

  1. Ante, p. 729.