The British Ambassador (Howard) to the Secretary of State

No. 61

My Dear Mr. Secretary: With reference to our telephone conversation this morning, I saw Mr. Sze at eleven o’clock this morning.

He repeated to me substantially what you told me he said to you yesterday about his fears regarding the probable result of sending foreign troops to Shanghai, and he said that he was at our disposal to send any messages to Mr. Chen or Mr. Koo at any time, if we desired him to do so. I thanked him and said that I understood that he had suggested that the British Government should abandon sending any troops to Shanghai in return for a guarantee of security for the foreign settlement there, which would continue as heretofore, pending the revision of existing treaties and arrangements.

Mr. Sze said that, in his opinion, not only must the despatch of troops be abandoned, but that troops actually there must be withdrawn, and that China must have the promise that the Powers would agree to the abolition of special rights and treaties within the concession. In that case, he felt sure that the leaders would be able to give satisfactory guarantees against violence or bloodshed.

I told him that His Majesty’s Government and, I believed, all the other Powers interested, were anxious to satisfy Chinese national aspirations so as to settle all the questions at issue finally, and put an end to the most unfortunate anti-foreign feeling now rampant in China, but that His Majesty’s Government felt very strongly about not giving way to force. Rights and privileges established by treaty could only be legally abolished by common agreement between the parties and that it would be a most lamentable precedent if nations felt that they could, by threats of bloodshed and violence, oblige others to abandon their treaty rights.

I said that I would, however, telegraph to the Foreign Office his kind proposal to send any messages that we might wish but that as he knew, Mr. O’Malley was actually discussing these matters with Mr. Chen.

Mr. Sze asked if I knew what point the negotiations had reached. I told him that I did not, but that I imagined they had been successful up to a point, inasmuch as I knew that business establishments and banks had been reopened at Hankow as the result of assurances given by Mr. Chen that they would be protected.

I am telegraphing this afternoon to Sir Austen Chamberlain to ask him to let me know, for your information, what he feels about your programme of getting into touch with the different Chinese leaders for the purpose of obtaining assurances, not only as regards Shanghai, but also for the lives of foreigners in the interior and, [Page 63] unless I misunderstood you, also with the ultimate object of perhaps persuading them to join in a sort of Bound Table Conference on Treaty revision and the other matters at issue between China and the interested Powers. I will not fail to let you know as soon as I get his reply.

Yours very truly,

Esme Howard