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

No. 525

Sir: The Department has received a despatch from the American Consul at Chungking, dated September 14, 1923,66 enclosing a copy of his despatch to your Legation, of the same date, in reference to the looting of the “I Yang Maru” at Foochow.

In the last page of the latter despatch he states:

“Since T’ang Tzu-mu’s order has been in effect, an unarmed officer has boarded American steamers at Foochow and upon assurances from the Captain and the commander of the small U.S. naval guard stationed on each steamer by Rear Admiral Phelps, that no munitions of war were on board, has quietly left the ship. It is hoped that such orderly procedure will continue to be followed in so far as American steamers are concerned.

“With a view to assuring a continuance of such procedure, on September 14, this Consulate addressed a communication, copy of which is enclosed, to General T’ang Tzu-mu, requesting his continued protection of American steamers in accordance with the treaty.”

This procedure is contrary to the policy of this Government as expressed in its instruction No. 843 of July 8, 1918,66 to the Legation wherein the Department rules that it cannot approve official acquiescence on the part of our representatives in China to the search of American merchant vessels by unarmed insurgents who have not been recognized as belligerents.

You should instruct the Consul at Chungking in future to abide by the above mentioned ruling. You may inform him, however, that as regards the particular case at Foochow, Szechuan, it is believed inadvisable to attempt to withdraw from the position he has [Page 751]already taken. Such action might be misconstrued by the insurgents and thereby prove detrimental to American interests.

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
William Phillips
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