The Secretary of State to the Minister in China (MacMurray)
185. Department agrees with you that the business of carrying on general transportation and ferry service between the shore and the Hongkong–Canton river boats is as a general proposition open to Americans as it is to others; but the Department believes that such business as it might be carried on when conditions are normal is to be distinguished from the actual conduct of such business at present when it has apparently developed solely as an outcome of the conflicts existing between British steamers and local Chinese. Department believes that the policy which this Government would pursue regarding such business under normal conditions should not be permitted to encourage Americans under present abnormal conditions to involve their Government in questions which it seems would be the care entirely of the British shipping interests that are involved. Of course a distinction should be drawn between general maintenance of communications from ship to shore between steamers and Canton, and the attempts of Americans in their own interest to communicate with ships in Canton harbor, which are proper and in which all the protection that can be given to the American citizen should be received by him. The Department thinks that the commander of the South China Patrol should be guided by the above distinction in his efforts to extend protection to such Americans.
It is desired by the Department that you inform the commander in chief of these considerations. The Department is prepared, if in his opinion new instructions are necessary, to discuss the matter with the Navy Department with a view to the issuance of new instructions.