393.1123 Seymour, Walter F./10

The Consul at Tsinan (Price) to the Minister in China (MacMurray)40

L. No. 7

Sir: I have the honor to report further on the matter of the murder of Dr. Walter F. Seymour at Tsining, Shantung, on or about April 16, 1928, making reference to this Consulate’s telegram of April 26th, 3 P.M., despatch L. No. 2, of April 26th, and telegram of April 27th, 8 P.M.41

Today we received a telephone call from Dr. Thornton Stearns, an American missionary physician attached to the hospital of Shantung Christian University, stating that the Northern officer who had given the first report described in the Consulate’s second telegram was at his home and prepared to tell us the story of the murder.

The account as given Mr. Stanton42 and me in person is substantially as follows:

The officer, who gave his name as Li Chan-yuan ([Chinese characters]), was attached to the munition transport department of the Chihli-Shantung Army, evidently—though the point was not clear—as some sort of petty officer, at the city of Tsining. He was not clear as to dates, but we gathered that it was early in the forenoon of either April 15th, 16th, or 17th, that, in company with two or three other Northern soldiers, he took refuge in the American Presbyterian Mission Hospital at Tsining, upon the occupation of that city by Southern troops. He was quite positive that the Southerners were all Feng Yu-hsiang’s43 so-called “Mongolian cavalry”, for he described them as mounted; wearing slouch caps; and speaking a dialect almost unintelligible.

At this point it is necessary to record his statement that the place where he and his companions took refuge,—discarding their uniforms and putting on civilian clothes with Red Cross bands on their sleeves to make it appear that they were members of the Hospital staff,—was the Hospital proper, while the events connected with the shooting of Dr. Seymour took place in Dr. Seymour’s residence compound adjoining. Hence, the officer did not himself see what happened, but only heard it from Dr. Seymour’s gateman.

Some hours after these men had taken refuge in the Hospital,—not, as previously supposed, immediately thereafter,—a group of [Page 285] Southern soldiers came along, marking up the houses for the billeting of troops. Arriving at Dr. Seymour’s residence compound, they were told that this was a foreign hospital. They asked to see the foreign doctor, and Dr. Seymour came out and talked with them. This conversation was friendly and evidently satisfied this first group of soldiers, who left on good terms.

They were followed, however, by another group of soldiers who likewise demanded admittance. Again Dr. Seymour came to the gate and explained the position. The soldiers became insistent and angry; called Dr. Seymour a “Laomaotzu” (a new term of contempt for foreigner); and one of them shot him dead. They then left.

The gateman rushed immediately to the Hospital and described what had transpired, to the Chinese members of the Hospital staff, including the officer.

Asked whether he knew the unit of command to which the Southern soldiers belonged, the officer stated that all he was sure of was that they were Feng Yu-hsiang’s Kuominchun cavalry, but that he thought the second group of soldiers wrote on the gate of the Hospital and residence compounds the name of the unit which was to be quartered there, and to which they presumably belonged.

Asked as to the behavior of the Kuominchun troops in Tsining he said that, in seeking billets, they would simply go in and take possession of a place which opened its doors freely to them, but that, if a gate were locked, they would break it in, shoot the inmates, and loot the place.

Asked whether he saw any other foreigners about the Mission premises, he said he noticed a foreign woman and another man at Dr. Seymour’s funeral. He said he saw Dr. Seymour’s body at the funeral.

We tried to get the officer to write a deposition, but he appeared to be almost illiterate. He dictated a brief statement, however, which was read to him, and which he signed, giving the brief outline of the facts as known or reported to him.

The officer escaped through the Southern lines by posing as a messenger sent by the Hospital to fetch medical supplies.

I hope that further details may eventually be obtained from the gateman, the only person attached to the Mission who actually saw and heard what transpired.

I have [etc.]

Ernest B. Price
  1. Copy transmitted to the Department by the consul in his despatch No. 9, April 30; received June 11.
  2. Telegram of April 27 not printed.
  3. Edwin F. Stanton, consul at Canton.
  4. Independent military leader who joined the Nationalist forces in 1928.