893.00/9964: Telegram

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

360. Your telegram No. 158, May 15, 1 p.m., received this morning.

The proposal to revive the exclusion of Chinese troops from the 20-li zone has not been adopted. It was urged at a meeting of the Tientsin commandants on May 11th by the Japanese general who further proposed that this zone should be cleared prior to the arrival of the Nationalists of Northern troops now within it to the number of at least 8,000. General Castner51 who had consulted me, on learning the proposal would be made, declined to associate himself with it. In behalf of General Butler52 (who takes the position that our marine brigade is not part of the protocol53 forces and who is represented at commandant’s meetings only by his chief of staff for the purpose of liaison) there was read a statement of his position embodying the following:

“Our defined mission is the protection of American lives and the lives of any other foreigners who are within the area prescribed as [Page 224] a safety zone for Americans. The area of that safety zone is now specified in plans known to the foreign commandants. Circumstances and conditions might call for an extension or change of that area but the brigade commander will not, at this time, be a party to extension of our lines beyond the area now prescribed for our troops.”

Although the British commandant favored the proposal as creating a more favorable military position in the ultimate eventuality of an attack in force, the British Minister considers that the driving out of the Northerners now there (which would be necessary in order to maintain an impartial attitude if the Southerners are later to be forbidden entry) would be needlessly provocative.
Having in view such contingencies as it is within reason to anticipate, I do not feel that it is necessary to keep Chinese armed forces out of the native city.
I believe the officers in command of the various American forces in China are fully aware of our Government’s desire to avoid if possible any clash and may be relied upon to avoid any provocative act or association with others in hasty action which might involve us in any conflict not forced upon us by the necessity for the protection of American lives.
  1. Brig. Gen. Joseph C. Castner, U. S. Army, commanding the Fifteenth Infantry at Tientsin.
  2. Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler, U. S. Marine Corps, commanding the Third Brigade.
  3. Foreign Relations, 1901, appendix (Affairs in China), p. 312.