Mr. Williams to Mr. Seward

No. 14.]

Sir: I have the honor to send you a translation of an edict which appeared recently in the Peking Gazette, that more fully sets forth the sense of the stipulations in the recent treaties, respecting the propagation of Christianity in the empire, as held by the imperial government, than anything it has issued since those treaties were signed. The wording of the edict does not confine the admission as to the right to disseminate their doctrines to the Roman Catholics; it is likewise applicable to Protestants, to Greeks, and all branches of the Catholic church. On these grounds, as well as exhibiting the feelings of this government, its perusal cannot fail to interest you.

The occurrences referred to in the memorial have been briefly narrated to me by M. Bellonet, the French chargé d’affaires, and serve to render the admissions made in the edict more significant. About a year ago the Christians residing in the small prefecture of Yu-yang, lying in the southeastern part of Szchuen province, along the northern bank of the Yangtse river, were much disturbed by their pagan countrymen. It does not clearly appear what causes led to this opposition; but it is alleged, among other things, that the latter were incited by an officer of rank, who had been degraded in the adjoining province of Kweichau for having been concerned in the death of a French missionary three years ago. (See Diplomatic Correspondence for 1863, p. 939.) It is said now that, instead of being really sent away, he had been allowed to tarry on his journey, and had remained in this region, where he had prejudiced the gentry against the Christians.

However, the excitement ran so high against them in November last that their chapel was burned, the sacristan killed, and the missionary, M. Errol, fled to a native friend in another village, who sheltered him for a few days. Being traced to this place, he then applied to a military officer for protection; but the friendly villager who had received him was killed by the pursuers. He finally got away when the excitement subsided, and the Christians were unmolested for several months.

Last summer the French bishop of this part of Szchuen sent another priest, named M. Mabilean, to Yu-yang-chau; but no sooner had his arrival there become known than the opposition revived, and in an endeavor to appease the evil-disposed [Page 485] natives, and defend some of his own converts, he lost his life, and his body was treated with indignity.

The tone of this edict and the circumstances attending its publication indicate a desire on the part of the imperial government to restrain such acts of violence against the converts; but how far it will be able to punish criminals and preserve the peace depends much on the behavior of the Christians, the disposition of the local authorities, and other causes which cannot be immediately controlled. In this region no ill-will is apparent against the native Christians of any sect; and it is difficult to decide, with the imperfect knowledge I have of this affair in Szchuen, what views to take of the bearings of it.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

S. WELLS WILLIAMS, Chargé d’Affaires.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.

An imperial command.

The foreign office has sent up a memorial stating that a Roman Catholic missionary has been killed by our subjects in the department of Yu-yang, and that some houses belonging to the Christians have also been plunderer and burned; and requesting that severe measures be taken to punish the offenders. As evidence of this, the following communication has been received from the French chargé d’affaires:

“In the department of Yu-yang, in the southeastern part of Szchuen, a man named Fung Szyin, with several others, have burned and destroyed the houses of the Christians in a village near the city of that name, and also robbed them of their property. Another man, named Fung Wan-yuen, had led on a mob and destroyed their chapel, and beaten the sacristan, Ho Kwei, so that he died. The local magistrate having delayed to investigate this affair and punish the criminals, they went even further, and robbed the missionary, M. Mabileau, of all his property, wounded and killed him, and then threw his body into the river. A garbled report of this affair had been sent up, saying that certain fellows had gone into the chapel, where they had high words with the man, and proceeded to throw stones, by which he was killed. It was also reported that the prefect had invited Fung Szyin and others to his office, to a feast, and there consulted how they could best destroy all evidences of the transaction.”

Now, as it is allowed in the treaties for missionaries to propagate their faith in the empire, if difficulties arise between them and others, or cases come into our courts, it is only right that justice and equity be observed in setting them, treating natives and foreigners alike, whether they are Christians or not. In this way alone can the minds of all parties be calmed and satisfied. If the circumstances mentioned in this memorial are correctly stated, it is very necessary that the case be immediately examined into and settled justly, in order to act impartially towards all. Let Tsungshih and Loh Ping-chang, the commandant and governor-general of Szchuen, truthfully inquire into the facts of the case and settle it immediately. Let Fung Szyin, Chang Pei-chu, and Sung Wan-Siuen, and all others who have been complained of, be arrested for trial and punished. Let there be no remissness or collusion. Let these same officers also dismiss the prefect of Yu-yang from his post, for having delayed and misrepresented this case, and let them go to the place themselves to learn the facts. Respect this.