393.1121 Smit, Albert H./4: Telegram

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

131. Legation’s 122, February 12, 3 p.m. Following telegram has been received from Meyer on board U.S.S. Pillsbury, Tungchow:

“February 14, 9 p.m. Judgment of the Tungchow Magistrate’s Court, dated February 8th, but not delivered until today, holds Smit partially to blame for the accident and imposes a fine of $100 or 50 [Page 510] days in jail (1 day in jail for each $2 of fine). Appeal must be filed within 10 days. Private settlement with family of the deceased is being arranged.

Little interest has been shown in the case by the local people, and there has been no attempt by radicals to use it for propaganda purposes. Am informed that the judgment is similar to those rendered by same court in like cases [in] which Chinese were defendants. Smit arrived here from Jukow today and is leaving early tomorrow on a Japanese steamer for Shanghai where he will report his presence to the American Consul General. He has not yet paid the fine, and I have advised him not to do so until the matter has been referred to the Legation.

After Smit’s departure from Tungchow tomorrow morning my return to Nanking would appear warranted. Am now aboard U.S.S. Pillsbury to which I transferred this evening.”

Legation proposes to telegraph Nanking suggesting that with or without the cooperation of the District Attorney he might hold in his judicial capacity a preliminary investigation committing Smit for trial in the United States Court for China if presumptive evidence of an offense more serious that [than] constitute[s] class over which Consulate has jurisdiction is developed.

If the Department approves, I also propose to address a note to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reciting the facts of this case, pointing out American nationals in China enjoy extraterritorial status, and suggesting that it communicate with the Ministry of Justice to the end that Tungchow Magistrate’s Court be instructed that it has no jurisdiction. It would seem desirable, in addition, to invite the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the adverse effect which incidents of this nature will have on Sino-American relations in general and on the negotiations now taking place looking to the eventual relinquishment by the American Government of extraterritorial rights in China and expressing the hope that the appropriate authorities all over the country be reminded that the right of jurisdiction over American citizens is vested solely in the appropriate American authorities.

Department’s instructions are requested at earliest possible date.

  1. Telegram in three sections.