393.1123 Seymour, Walter F./9

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

No. 880

Sir: The Department refers to your telegram No. 377 of May 21, 1928, 5 p.m. reporting the text of a communication delivered by the American Consul General at Shanghai, under the instruction of the Legation, to the Shanghai Bureau of Foreign Affairs for transmission to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Nationalist Government at Nanking, demanding that certain measures be taken in consequence of the killing of Dr. Walter F. Seymour at Tsining, Shantung, on April 16, 1928.

The Department notes that this communication embodies a request “that the murderer be arrested and executed.” The Department questions the advisability of specifying in cases of this sort the exact nature of the punishment which it expects to see imposed upon the criminal. It would prefer that the request or demand, as the case may be, call for arrest and trial of the criminals and the imposition of punishments commensurate with the offenses committed. [Page 289] This phraseology would obviously leave it open to the Department subsequently to protest against a miscarriage of justice or failure to impose the degree of punishment which the Department feels is required and which the Chinese law applicable may authorize.

In accordance with your suggestion, the text of the communication in reference was made public and was widely published. One of the results following this action was the publication in the New York Times of May 25, 1928, of a letter addressed to the editor by the Reverend Arthur J. Brown, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, New York City, pointing out that the position taken by the American Government in this communication, in the matter of punishment and indemnity, was dissimilar from that taken by the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in connection with the death of its missionaries and the loss of its property. The difference of viewpoint is adequately explained and the Department does not feel disposed to criticise the statements made. The headlines and comments in several newspapers laid particular emphasis upon the fact that the execution of the murderer of Dr. Seymour had been demanded by the American Minister.

With the exception of the point in reference, the Department approves the terms of your communication to the Nationalist Minister for Foreign Affairs and commends its vigorous tone and the promptness with which it was presented. The Department awaits with interest the report of the action taken by the Nationalist authorities to apprehend, try, and punish the culprit and to carry out the other demands made.

There is transmitted herewith a clipping of the Reverend Arthur J. Brown’s letter to the New York Times, published on May 25, 1928.50

I am [etc.]

For the Secretary of State:
Nelson Trusler Johnson
  1. Not printed.