893.841 Surtax/4: Telegram

The Minister in China ( MacMurray ) to the Secretary of State

717. 1. The following has been telegraphed to the American consul at Shanghai:

“87. July 11, 8 p.m. Referring to my telegram number 85 of July 11, 6 p.m., sent you in behalf the Senior Consul.

  • “(1) In view of the fact that it seems certain in our case, and quite likely in regard to the other powers concerned, that military measures will not be employed to prevent imposition of illegal tonnage dues, it results that the only defense we have in this regard is of an economic character. Some such plan as set forth in my telegram above mentioned seems worthy of consideration. Its application would of course be entirely dependent upon the attitude of the foreign commerce interests concerned, who must determine whether they prefer to submit to this and doubtless further increased port duties and illegal taxation of every character or to attempt to put a stop to such activities on the part of the Chinese by taking some affirmative action.
  • “(2) It is felt that the extraordinary ability of the Chinese to rearrange trade transportation, as evidenced during the recent Canton boycott, makes for the feasibility of the plan under discussion.”

[2.] The Senior Minister’s telegram to the Senior Consul referred to above is as follows:

“85. July 11, 6 p.m. The Senior Minister has requested me to transmit to you the following telegram for him:

At diplomatic body meeting this morning the Heads of Legation, in discussing the term of illegal tonnage dues, considered what, if any, economic measures might be successful in prevention of illegal tonnage dues. To this end, they examined the feasibility of the redistribution of foreign trade to ports where there would be no apprehension of illegal imposts; with the idea that should foreign commerce find such a plan practicable, mere knowledge of its consideration might possibly serve sufficiently to dissuade Chinese authorities against a radical invasion of foreign treaty rights without the necessity for putting any such plan into execution—although such a plan [Page 437] should not be decided upon unless prepared to carry it into actual effect if necessary.
Please consider this matter without delay in consular body meeting, either giving the Heads of Legation the benefit of your views on this subject preliminarily, or preferably in your discretion, discussing the matter with the several foreign chambers of commerce prior to reporting thereon.”

[3.] The Minister and I discussed this proposition prior to his departure and decided to offer it to the Heads of Legation for what it might be worth; as something which, while likely impracticable, at the same time was worthy of examination with a view to finding some method other than force of arms which would prevent the imposition of illegal port dues in particular and unwarranted imposts in general. The other diplomatic representatives felt that it was worth while exploring the matter further and referring to the consular body at Shanghai and the several foreign chambers of commerce there for examination and report. It was believed that the mere fact that foreign commerce was considering such drastic economic action in their defense might of itself have a beneficial effect in impeding if not entirely preventing illegal taxation here.

For the Minister: