The Consul General at Canton (Jenkins) to the Minister in China (MacMurray)17
Sir: I have the honor to report that your telegram of July 24, 2:00 a.m., was received in this Consulate General on the morning of July 26. It was immediately decoded and embodied in a note which was delivered to Mr. Chen by special messenger about 4:00 o’clock that afternoon. As it was not convenient for me to call at the same time, I sent a personal note to Mr. Chen to inform him that I would call to see him the following morning in respect to your communication.
When I saw Mr. Chen at 11:00 a.m. the next day, I endeavored to let him understand as you instructed that his original note might serve a useful purpose but that this value would probably be lost if he indulged in further communications for propaganda purposes. Mr. Chen frankly said that he would have to reply to the American Minister’s message because “it furnished too good an opportunity to be missed”. Mr. Chen added, however, that he would take the precaution to couch his views in more restrained language than in the past, and he hoped the Consulate General and the Legation would appreciate the attitude of the Nationalist Government.[Page 850]
Mr. Chen drew my attention to the fact that the Legation had evidently given publicity to the Minister’s instructions to the Consulate General on July 24, whereas he (Chen) had not received the Consulate General’s note until the afternoon of July 26. I explained to Mr. Chen that this was undoubtedly due to the Legation’s failure to realize how slow telegraphic communication was in these times and that the Minister was evidently under the impression that the message would reach me much sooner than it actually did. In this connection, the Legation will doubtless be interested to know that Reuter’s telegram conveying the verbatim text of the Legation’s message was published in the Hongkong Morning Post of July 26 (before the telegram had been delivered to this Consulate General) and actually reached Canton an hour or two earlier than the Consulate General could deliver its note to the Canton Foreign Office.
The Consulate General is just this moment in receipt of Mr. Chen’s reply dated July 28, which has doubtless been published in the Cantonese newspapers this morning. Copy of Mr. Chen’s note is enclosed and the Legation’s particular attention is invited to the final paragraph which contains a threat against the United States and other Powers concerned in the event of a resumption of the Tariff Conference and the perfection of arrangements for a loan to the Peking régime based on customs receipts.
There has been considerable talk in the local newspapers of late in advocacy of a declaration of tariff autonomy by China. Mr. Chen has not alluded specifically to this in his conversations so far as I can ascertain, but he has intimated on more than one occasion, as he does in this note, that the so-called Nationalist Government will take drastic measures of some sort should the Powers arrange for a loan to the Wu Pei-fu–Chang Tso-lin group.
As previously reported in despatches from this Consulate General, the Cantonese regime seems to be confident of the success of its military expedition against the North and Mr. Chen has assured the writer of this despatch that not only would the Cantonese armies soon reach the Yangtze River, but that there would be a real government in Peking in the near future with which the United States and the other Powers could deal. Political leaders down here seem to anticipate important changes in the affiliations of military leaders in the Yangtze Valley although they have mentioned no names and given out no details. It is felt, however, that the situation is full of grave possibilities and that the Legation should be prepared for far-reaching changes in the North in the near future. The Southerners may possibly meet with an overwhelming defeat but if they should be successful in attracting other powerful leaders to their cause, the predictions of the Cantonese may materialize more speedily than now seems possible.[Page 851]
In conclusion may I express my hearty approval of the intimation contained in the Minister’s telegram to the effect that further discussion with Mr. Chen is not desired … I am still of the opinion, however, that if our Government could permit the Legation to publish a statement more clearly defining the attitude of the United States in relation to China, the results might be beneficial.
I have [etc.]
- Copy transmitted to the Department by the consul general as an enclosure to his despatch No. 612, July 29; received Sept. 2.↩