The Foreign Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (James L. Barton) to the Chief of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State (MacMurray)

Dear Mr. MacMurray: Bearing directly upon the subject of the conference you were so kind as to give us the honor of having with you in New York two weeks ago on the subject of China and the relation of American missionaries to the present situation, I would like to submit to you a question which is evidently coming to the front in China, perhaps more rapidly than some of us are aware.

It is evident that a spirit of opposition to the extra-territorial conditions and of government protection for American missionaries is rising in some parts of China. There has just come into my hands a statement in terms as follows:

“Without attempting to enter into the general question of extraterritorial rights but having regard to the fact that we are here as messengers of the Gospel of peace and that our task is to establish peace by leading men and women one by one into that new life in Christ which takes away the occasion for all wars, we express our earnest desire that no form of military pressure may be exerted to protect us or our property, that in the event of our capture by lawless persons or our death at their hands no money be paid for our release, no punitive expedition be sent out and no indemnity exacted. We take this stand believing that the way to maintain righteousness and peace is through suffering without retaliation and through bringing the spirit of personal good will to bear on all persons under all circumstances. So we understand the teaching and example of Jesus Christ our Lord and it is to the extension of His Kingdom that our lives are dedicated. In signing this statement we wish it to be clear that we have no authority to speak for our missions or churches, and sign simply in our individual capacity.”

This statement originated in China, but I have no information as to how many if any signatures were secured thereto. I would like to ask therefore if you can make a ruling upon some points which seem to bear upon this entire question.

The extra-territorial rights in China are rights by treaty as I understand. Has an American the right and privilege of vacating rights thus secured?
Should a missionary, in accordance with the above statement, decline to accept those rights as they relate to his person and property? Would that position endanger the life and property of other American missionaries, and if other American missionaries, then other Americans engaged in other pursuits in China?
If a missionary, contrary to the treaty, should be arrested and imprisoned and should refuse to make an appeal to his consul or the representatives of his government in China for protection, would the consul or representatives of the government, for that reason, refuse to insist that the Chinese Government should observe the treaties existing between the United States and China quite irrespective of the wishes of the party more directly affected? In a word, has an American the right in any country, and would that right be recognized by the U. S. government, to vacate his rights which belong to him as an American citizen by treaty, thus excusing the government in his case from insisting that treaties shall be observed? That is, can an American in China in some respects be an American citizen and in other respects not, so far as the claiming of his rights as a citizen are concerned?

I am preparing an article bearing upon some of these subjects for the general instruction of mission boards represented in the Committee of Reference and Counsel, and I would very much appreciate a ruling if you could give me one upon the question involved in this communication for use with these boards and with the missionaries concerned.

I have [etc.]

James L. Barton