The Ambassador in Great Britain (Houghton) to the Secretary of State
[Received May 6—3:50 p.m.]
92. Your 66, May 5, 8 p.m., was read to Wellesley63 today, who stated Peel and Stewart of the British delegation were not government officials and for business reasons could not delay leaving China although their actual departure was not known to Foreign Office until yesterday. Wellesley pointed out this still left official British members of the delegation to continue conversations with the possibility of the two above-mentioned members returning later. He will discuss your telegram of May 5, 8 p.m., with Chamberlain64 on Monday or Tuesday and advise Embassy of British position, which he stated was still under contemplation but naturally influenced by reports from British Minister, Peking.
[Paraphrase.] Wellesley said that he himself feared that granting tariff autonomy with a consolidation of debts under foreign control might postpone still further any benefit from customs revenue to China as a whole. He pointed out that the Chinese did not favor debt consolidation. Since more debt consolidation looked toward giving security to the many and in some instances very questionable loans made by the Northern Government, which proceeds had in part been used to fight against the South, he indicated that he was fearful about what attitude might be taken by Canton in regard to such debt consolidation, in view particularly of British interests in South China. He remarked that it was his recollection that when he had his conversations in Washington with MacMurray,65 the latter was in agreement with him about the inadmissibility of debt consolidation and the tendency of such consolidation to thwart the fulfillment of the Washington Conference’s purposes.[Page 750]
In his opinion, this program seemed to be inconsistent with the frequently announced policy to release China from foreign interference, as far as possible, with which the British Government was in accord. [End paraphrase.]