The Secretary of State to the Minister in China ( MacMurray )
171. Your telegram 325, August 14, 2 p.m., and your 326, August 14, 3 p.m.
Your recommendations have received my very careful consideration. As you are aware, the Department assumed the lead in being insistent that in pursuance to the Washington Treaty a Customs Conference should be held; that the scope of the Conference should be broadened so that the whole subject of tariff relations would be considered; that a Commission on Extraterritoriality should be appointed with full power to consider the subject in its entirety and report; and that this was insisted upon by the Department with the other powers, of whom some were disposed not to go to the extent we were willing to go, though at last they substantially acquiesced in our views. The responsibility for the Washington treaties was largely this Government’s, and we have insisted on various occasions that we intended to carry out those treaties in absolute good faith and to consider the whole matter of extraterritoriality and our tariff relations with the objective of satisfying Chinese aspirations. I realize how weak the Government is, and I concur fully in your views regarding its impotency. However, since we have insisted on going ahead, and in view of our responsibility for the Washington treaties and for their fulfillment, I cannot believe that it is wise for the United States to take the lead in abandoning the Conference and in giving public notification to China that she has no government. Even if we believe that there is no prospect of a central government sufficiently strong to carry out its treaties, it seems to me that we should not take the lead. It would bring the hostility of the Chinese people upon us and give to other nations an opportunity to lay the blame upon us for the failure of the Conference and furnish them at the same time with a sought-for excuse for abandoning the Conference. I realize that you are on the ground, and I place in your opinion and Mr. Strawn’s the greatest confidence. But the action you suggest, I feel certain, would fail to be understood in the United States and would meet quite likely with disfavor. It is my preference that, unless you are able to put forward some controlling reason, action should not be taken. Cable to me fully, please, whatever further suggestions you may desire to offer.