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

No. 327

Sir: The Department refers to the Legation’s despatch No. 375 of August 7, 1930, transmitting a copy of a despatch dated April 3, 1930, from the American Consul at Swatow58 inquiring whether there are, in other portions of the treaties between the United States and China, in addition to Article VII of the additional articles to the treaty of Tientsin of 1858,59 specific authorizations for the establishment and conduct of schools by American citizens in China.

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In reply to the Legation’s inquiry you are informed that, so far as the Department is aware, the only specific authorization given to American citizens to establish schools in China to be found in the treaties between the United States and China is that contained in Article VII of the treaty in reference.

Referring to the second paragraph of the despatch of April 3, 1930, from the American Consul at Swatow, you are further informed that the questions whether it was intended that the treaty authorization to establish schools should be limited in its application to places open to general foreign residence, i. e., to open ports, and whether it was intended that such schools should be primarily for the education of American children, have apparently never come up for discussion between the American and Chinese Governments. The Department can recollect no instance of an attempt made by the Chinese authorities to regulate or to close a school established by American citizens either within or outside of an open port, when the school was conducted for the education of American children. The question of the right of American citizens under the treaties to establish schools in China which entail the employment of Chinese and impart instruction to Chinese children in secular subjects was discussed in the Department’s instruction No. 1402 of November 15, 1929, to which the American Consul at Swatow refers in his despatch.

In considering the status under the treaties of schools established in China by American missionary societies, it must be recognized that the right to establish schools and the right to preach Christianity seem to have been, in the view of the treaty negotiators, distinct one from the other. The Department does not interpret the existing treaties beween the United States and China as necessarily expressing the assent of the Chinese Government that the two forms of activity may be combined. On the contrary, while Article XIV of the treaty of 1903 grants to American and Chinese citizens complete immunity in the peaceable teaching and practicing of the principles of Christianity, it also expressly provides that Chinese Christians, “being Chinese subjects”, shall conform to the laws of China and that “Missionaries shall not interfere with the exercise by the native authorities of their jurisdiction over Chinese subjects.” The Department interprets the reservation to the native authorities of “jurisdiction over Chinese subjects” as including jurisdiction over Chinese citizens in matters relating to the secular education of Chinese persons, whether in the capacity of instructors or other employees, or as students.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
W. R. Castle, Jr.
  1. Neither printed.
  2. For additional articles (specifically art. vii), see treaty of trade, consuls, and emigration, signed at Washington, July 28, 1868, Malloy, Treaties, 1776–1909, vol. i, pp. 234, 236.