Mr. G. F. Seward to Mr. Burlingame


Sir: I had at first intended to send a statement, similar to the one I now address to you, to the Secretary of State. The matter is one in which you expressed much interest when we were consulting about it here, and it was concluded that I should hand the statement to you, and that you should bring it to notice in the appropriate quarters. Such course I find to be the more desirable since my time will allow me to do no more than offer a summary of what I wish to say, and since many things may be explained by you, or urged by you with greater force than by me. If, moreover, this may be considered as an acknowledgment of the interest which you have heretofore taken in consular matters in China, and of the consideration which you have extended to the consuls, it will serve another purpose which will be gratifying to me.

The statement is designed to point out what appropriations by the government are needed immediately in order that the consulates may be made comparatively effective. It is offered with some degree of confidence as founded upon my experience in Shanghai for four years, two as consul and two as consul general.

In the outset I will touch upon the inadequacy of existing provisions, and upon the basis of my recommendations. I will then offer my recommendations, successively, concerning the appropriations needed for consuls, for clerks, for interpreters, for jails, and for offices.

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Remarks concerning the inadequacy of existing provisions.

1st. In 1856 there were five ports in China at which foreigners were at liberty to reside and to carry on trade. Congress in that year made certain provisions for the salaries of consuls, and in 1860 certain provisions for jails and marshals at those ports, as shown in table No. 1, appended.

2d. Meanwhile, the progress of foreign commerce has been very marked. As an illustration it may he noted that there are now seventeen open ports, and that foreigners have access, under a system of passports, to all parts of the empire. In 1856 the value of the trade of Shanghai (exclusive of opium) was $28,056,586 94; in 1864, $70,411,865, and the trade at this port, as that of a commercial centre, indicates fairly the general tendency.

3d. Since 1860 the provision for one of the old ports, Ningpo, has been taken away, and salaried consuls provided for two other ports, Swatow and Chinkiang.

Nothing more has been done, excepting that the appropriations for interpreters, &c., have been shifted around according to the exigencies of the service. The provisions as they now stand are shown in table No. 2.

4th. Starting with the assumption that the original provisions were judiciously made, it remains only to compare tables Nos. 1 and 2, to enforce the conclusion that existing appropriations are unsatisfactory and inadequate.

This demonstation of a very important point is perhaps as clear as I could make it by entering into an array of statistics. If such be wanted, the archives of the State Department will be found to contain them in an available form.

Remarks concerning the basis of the recommendations about to be made.

5th. Without expressing a high degree of admiration for the schedule of 1856, I may say that it is at all events valuable as indicating the rate of pay which has been given heretofore to the consuls in China.

That this is not too high, I might bring a mass of evidence to show; but the simple fact that at such rate the government has had difficulty in keeping the consulates filled, will be more suggestive than anything else which can be offered. Of the four consuls sent to China at the beginning of Mr. Lincoln’s administration, I was the only one who found a regular officer to relieve, and, of the four, I am the only one who has remained here. I shall not, therefore, enter into any statement of the peculiar duties of consuls in China, or of the high rates of living and other expenses here, or of the nature of the climate at the ports, points concerning which, moreover, if it shall be necessary, you will be able to speak with all requisite force.

6th. There are certain anomalies, however, in the original schedule which I propose to avoid. Thus, this may be laid down as a certainty, that a consulate in China without the means of communication with the Chinese, or without a bailiff to execute the orders of the court, or a lockup for offenders, is an absurdity. It is because we have had too many such consulates that we have found the evil-doers in China patronizing the American name. I propose, therefore, to avoid leaving any of the offices without the means of communication with the Chinese, or without constables and lockups, as was done under the schedule of 1856. And I propose, also, to adapt means to the ends to be accomplished better than was done in that schedule. Thus it was not exactly logical to supply some of the offices, each with a marshal at $1,000 a year, and a jail at $600, allowing only $800 for wages of jail-keeper and cost of providing for prisoners; which is, in effect, as $600 is but fair pay for a keeper, granting $200 for the cost of providing for prisoners, against $2,200 for arresting, lodging, and watching them.

7th. With such changes as are manifestly desirable on the score of efficiency and economy, I shall, however, make my schedule simply a development of the original schedule. This I do with the object of securing more readily the assistance which is needed immediately; for I do not wish to be thought to declare that such assistance will afford us more than a comparatively efficient consular establishment here. There are radical faults in our system which even now are recognized and must soon be remedied.

8th. To render clear the method I have pursued in developing the original schedule, I have arranged the ports in schedule No. 2 in classes.

This arrangement indicates approximately the relative importance of the ports in a commercial point of view but it is designed particularly to indicate the relative needs of the consulates. Thus, as commercial cities, neither Ningpo nor Chinkiang would deserve to be ranked before Kiukiaug; yet, owing to circumstances of location, Ningpo as near Shanghai and a favorite resort for bad characters, and Chinkiang as the lowermost port of the Yangtze river, they need more effective consular establishments. I may remark that I have omitted entirely five ports, which are yet of too inconsiderable importance to warrant the recommendation of any expenditure on their account This brings me to

Remarks concerning the appropriations needed for the salaries of chief consular officers.

9th. For the salary of the consul general at Shanghai should be appropriated $7,500. The justice of this recommendation may be seen, partially, by a comparison of the commercial importance of the port with that of various other leading ports of the world, as indicated [Page 481] so far as concerns ns now, with some degree of accuracy in the consular reports of the arrivals of American vessels. The following is prepared from the book of commercial relations for 1862, showing the arrivals for the year ended September 30, 1862:

At Shanghai 771 vessels.
At Calcutta 108 vessels.
At Havre 181 vessels.
At Havana 595 vessels.
At Rio Janeiro 156 vessels.
At London No report.
At Liverpool 789 vessels.

The salaries given are: At Shanghai, $4 000; at Calcutta, $5,000; at Havre, Havana, and Rio Janeiro, $6,000; at London and Liverpool, $7,500. In this connection I have to remind you of a letter from the merchants of Shanghai transmitted by you to the Department of State in 1863.

10th. My recommendations for the ports of classes 2 and 3 are, for the former $4,000, and for the latter $3,000 a year. This is so manifestly fair, having in view the old schedule, that it is not necessary to offer any remarks.

11th. For the ports of class 4 we should hardly be able to secure salaried officers, who would be likely to be useful and permanent at a less rate of pay than I have recommended for the consuls of class 3. Under existing circumstances, so great an outlay would not be desirable. I should therefore recommend the government to trust to merchant consuls at those points for the present, granting to them, however, a certain amount of assistance which will be pointed out further on, (vide paragraphs 16 and 21.)

Remarks concerning appropriations for consular clerks.

12th. I may remark that my recommendations do not contemplate the appointment of special clerks for China, and that I shall leave in your hands the very important subject of the appointment of student interpreters. An allotment, for immediate service in China, of three of the thirteen clerks already provided for by Congress, might not be considered excessive, and if such allotment should be made, the disposal of them might justly be made as shown in the schedule. The assistance which may be received from the interpreters at the ports of class 2, (vide paragraph 14,) will perhaps suffice for a few years yet, and at the ports of class 3 there is hardly sufficient work to be done beyond the abilities of the principal officers to render it necessary to allow clerks. Lest there may stand an appearance of selfishness in my recommendation, I again call your attention to the letter referred to in paragraph 9.

Remarks concerning the appropriations needed for interpreters and cost of interpretations.

13th. For the salary of the interpreter at Shanghai I recommend the appropriation of $2,500. His duties are extensive and difficult. You are aware that he acts as an assessor in the Chinese courts in cases where citizens of the United States are concerned in actions, civil or criminal, against Chinese. By local regulations, his dissent from the judgment of the magistrate gives the complainant the right of appeal, and the dissent of the consul in the higher court gives the right of appeal again to the high authorities at Peking.

The interpreter now sits with the magistrate twice each week, and usually a large portion of the day is thus consumed. It is his duty a so to conduct preliminary examinations in eases of complaints made by Chinese against our own people. He must attend the court on trial of like cases, and whenever there are native witnesses to be examined. All these duties, in addition to those of conducting the correspondence with the native officials, quite fill up the time of the present excellent officer. The manner in which such work shall be performed will always go far to determine the nature of our relations with the authorities.

14th. At the ports of class 2 I recommend that provisions should be made for commissioned interpreters at the old rate of $1,500 a year each. The time and services of these interpreters should be considered as belonging to the government, and they should be instructed to assist the chief consular officer in such duties as he may assign to them. In case of the sickness or absence of the chief officer, they should assume charge of the consulate until the receipt of instructions from the consul general. With such duties the above rate of pay may be considered as the very lowest which should be given.

15th. For the ports of class 3, it is hardly necessary to appoint full salaried interpreters, and the course which I recommend is to fix specific allowances for the cost of interpretations, which may be drawn against by the several consuls as may be necessary. I have estimated that $750 a year for each port would suffice. So much might not in fact be required, but I think that the scale may very well be fixed according to my recommendation. The accounts of the consuls would be liable to be checked in this office, and, of course, to audit at the treasury. Disproportioned outlays would very readily point out abuses.

16th. For the ports of class 4 I recommend the allowance of $500, under this head in each case. The foregoing remarks, mutatis mutandis, will also apply here. It may be questioned whether an allowance for an interpreter should be granted to a merchant consul, and such [Page 482] course is certainly not sanctioned by the custom in other countries. But a very exceptional state of affairs exists here. A consul in China who has anything at all to do will find it necessary to communicate with the native authorities. These officials are numerous, and talk and write excessively. A merchant consul must have a degree of patience to listen to them at all, and a still greater degree of disinterested benevolence to pay out of his own funds for all the talk and writing about matters which do not concern him as an individual, but which, not unfrequently, may merit his careful attention as a consul. I think, therefore, that you will approve this recommendation.

Remarks concerning appropriations needed to defray expenses for constables and care of offenders in China.

17th. It seems desirable to make the appropriations for constables, for rentals of jails, for care of offenders, &c., under one general head, rather than to divide them as heretofore into unwieldy parts. The consuls may then draw against their several allotments for such purposes of the kind, and to such extent as may prove to be necessary.

18th. In this way one source of expense will be done away with—the marshals. The only useful men of the kind who have been appointed heretofore have been selected on the spot. The persons who have been sent from home at much expense have either found the service distasteful, or proven unfit for its peculiar duties. The amounts given to such officers would, under the arrangement I propose, defray the total expense for constables, &c., likely to be incurred at the respective ports, excepting Shanghai, to which they are now allotted.

19th. I recommend the establishment of a general prison for United States convicts in China, at Shanghai. Such prison would be more economical, relatively, and more secure, than the petty jails which must otherwise be established. This would be true for obvious reasons. Shanghai seems to be the appropriate point for it, as it is central and in more frequent communication with the other ports.

20th. The amount required to support the general prison would be, say, $10,000 a year, to cover rental, hire of keepers, transportation of prisoners, cost of food, fuel, clothing, medical attendance, &c. That this large sum is not excessive will be indicated by my statement that for the year ended 30th June last, the expense of the jail in use at this port, not including marshal’s salary, was $4,066 94. The number of prisoners in a general prison would probably range from 50 to 100. The rental might be set down at $2,000 a year, and the wages of keepers at $2,000 more, leaving, say, $6,000 to defray general expenses and cost of transporting of prisoners. The latter outlays should be paid here on the certificates of the consuls sending them forward.

21st. At most of the ports it would not be found necessary to rent and support special jails, as those of other nationalities might be used for the temporary confinement of criminals. For each of the ports of class 2, $1,000; for those of class 3, $750; and for those of class 4, $500 a year would probably cover necessary expenses. It may be readily determined from year to year whether such allowances will be satisfactory.

Remarks concerning appropriations needed to defray expenses for rentals of offices.

22d. My recommendation is to allow an amount, not to exceed ten per centum, on the salaries of all the commissioned officers in each office. I think this will accord with the spirit of the act of 1856, (vide section 22d.) In commercial consulates the consul and one or two clerks, perhaps, compose the whole force of the establishment. Here, where the chief officer is to be accomodated, and an interpreter, and a constable, and perhaps one or more clerks; and actions at law are to be heard, roomy offices are very essential.

Remarks in review.

23d. The total amount of my recommendations for all branches of the consular establishment in China is $68,650, or an average for twelve ports of $5,720 83. The amount of the original appropriations for the five ports was $33,350, or an average of $6,670.

I think, therefore, that I may claim that my schedule looks to a Comparatively economical establishment. It may be additional evidence on this point to state the fact that the cost of the British consular establishment at this port alone is at least $75,000 per year, or more than the outlay which I recommend for all China.

24th. I might leave my subject here, but I wish to add a word upon a point which should be spoken of in season and out of season. I mean the practice which has heretofore periodically ejected from the consulates the men who have been in them just long enough, perhaps, to understand fairly the duties of their positions. I would be glad to have Congress secure the opinion upon this head of the Fifth Auditor of the Treasury, who has charge of the greater portion of the consular accounts. It may be suggestive to learn from him how many consuls make up their accounts in a fairly satisfactory form, and of such how long they were in learning this elementary part of their work. He may, also, perhaps, state approximately the average term for which consuls remain in office.

And if it be the case, as I think it will be found, that but very few of the consuls manage this part of their work satisfactorily, a very pertinent commentary is afforded regarding the manner in which they are likely to manage then duties of a more responsible character.

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25th. But if it be desirable to have experienced consular officers generally, how much more are they needed in countries where the United States holds an intercurrent jurisdiction? If it should be said that our government has planted in China, for instanpe, several colonies, our people would apprehend the significance of the statement. This is, in effect, what has been done, and yet the machinery of government which has been provided has been given without a full appreciation of the fact. And a more intricate system than the one which has grown up can hardly be imagined. Here are colonies, so to speak, of at least a dozen different powers, each with its own code and corps of officers. Out of the intercourse between these and of all with the imperial authorities often grow questions which might test the abilities of the most clear-headed jurist, and which certainly do try the good nature and good sense of those who have to deal with them.

26th. I have not spoken concerning the need of officers familiar with the language of the country. You have taken up the point in your excellent recommendations concerning a college at Peking, and it is not necessary for me to add anything except in the tenor of the foregoing remarks. Is a man so educated likely to enter the service, or to remain in it, when, after perfecting himself in its duties, some stranger may at any moment usurp the place which should fall to him? To some not dependent upon the service, and certain, at least, of acquiring in it valuable experienae, and, perhaps, rapid promotion, or urged by a desire to be useful to their country, this very disorganization may have its recommendations, but this will not be the case with many. Indeed, I have found it difficult to secure intelligent men as assistants in my own office, or to supply vacant consulates, for the reason that the service holds out no inducements except for the passing moment.

27th. And this want of permanency works ill effects again, since it creates a jealousy of the consular service, which is regarded as a state institution for the benefit of peculiar classes instead of a necessary arm of the government. So it happens that Congress, in handlings the consular appropriation bills, dwells over them in a petty spirit not exhibited toward any other branch of the government.

With these brief remarks, submitted in the hope that they may be of use, at a moment when our country is entering upon a new commercial era in which our consulates must take a higher place, I remain, sir, your obediens servant,


Hon. Anson Burlingame, Boston, Mass.

Table No. 1.—Appropriations of 1856 and 1860.

Port. Salary of consul. Salary of interpreter. Salary of marshal. Expense of jail, &c. Office rent. Total.
Canton $4,000 $1,500 $1,000 $1,400 $400 $8,300
Shanghai 4,000 1,500 1,000 1,400 400 8,300
Foochow 3,500 1,500 1,000 1,400 350 7,750
Amoy 3,000 1,000 1,400 300 5,700
Ningpo 3,000 300 3,300
Total 17,500 4,500 4,000 5,600 1,750 33,350

Table No. 2.—Present appropriations.

Class and port. Salary of consul. Salary of interpreter. Salary of marshal. Expense of jail, &c. Office rent. Total.
1. Shanghai $4,000 $1,500 $1,000 $1,400 $400 $8,300
2. Hankow 1,000 1,400 2,400
Foochow 3,500 1,000 350 4,850
Canton 4,000 1,500 1,000 1,400 400 8,300
3. Ningpo
Swatow 3,500 350 3,850
Chinkiang 3,000 300 3,300
Amoy 3,000 1,500 1,400 300 6,200
Total 21,000 4,500 4,000 5,600 2,100 37,200
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Table No. 3.—Appropriations recommended.

Class and port. Salary of consul. Salary of consular clerks. Salary of interpreter, or cost of interpretations Judicial expenses, general jail, lockup, constables, &c. Office rent. Total.
1. Shanghai $7,500 $3,000 $2,500 $10,000 $1,300 $24,300
2. Hankow 4,000 1,500 1,000 550 7,050
Foochow 4,000 1,500 1,000 550 7,050
Canton 4,000 1,500 1,000 550 7,050
3. Ningpo 3,000 750 750 300 4,800
Swatow 3,000 750 750 300 4,800
Chinkiang 3,000 750 750 300 4800
Amoy 3,000 750 750 300 4800
4. Kiukiang 500 500 1,000
Tien-tsin 500 500 1,000
Newckwang 500 500 1,000
Chefoo 500 500 1,000
Total 31,500 3,000 12,000 18,000 4,150 68,650