Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney .

No. 2293.]

Sir: In my dispatch No. 2288, of the 12th instant, I informed you that I had appointed Rev. Spencer Lewis, of Chungking, to sit with the British consul and an English missionary, on a commission to assemble at Chengtu, for the purpose of examining into the causes of the recent antiforeign riots in the province of Szechuan, and matters connected therewith.

I have received to-day from the consul-general a report of the proceedings of a large meeting held by Americans at Shanghai, at which resolutions were adopted praying the Government of the United States to appoint a commission, headed by a consul of the highest rank, to examine into the whole subject. The report of these proceedings has been forwarded to you. After reflection, and somewhat influenced by the action of the Americans above mentioned, I have concluded that the commission proposed by the British minister would not be sufficiently impressive, and that public sentiment in the United States would not approve of there being only one American on so important a commission. I have accordingly notified the British minister that [Page 97] the appointment of Lewis was countermanded, and that I would take no part in any commission until I had received instructions from you. The question before you now is whether you will direct the organization of a commission composed exclusively of Americans for the purposes indicated.

The question at issue, that is, the protection of foreigners in China, is one of the utmost gravity. It is known to you that no mode has ever been devised for the prevention of riots, which occur almost continuously in some part of the Empire. They involve, of course, great danger to life, enormous destruction of property and suspension or cessation of foreign residence in the localities where they occur. In antiforeign outbreaks no distinction is made by the mob between persons of different nationalities.

It follows that all nations are interested in the questions involved. I am, therefore, of the opinion that, instead of organizing one commission for each nationality, a commission representing all the Western Powers should be created. There is no reason why they should not all take part in such action, except, perhaps, in the case of Russia, whose laws as to foreign ecclesiastics are peculiar.

I inclose a clipping from the North China Daily News of the 18th instant, embodying certain resolutions passed by a meeting of foreigners at Hankow, which strike me as sensible. Should you approve of the idea of holding an international commission it occurs to me that you might with great propriety take the initiative in the movement. The reasons are too obvious to require mention why the lead of the United States in so important a matter would be agreeable to China as well as to the other powers.

I suppose that the plan indicated would produce as little delay as would the appointment of a commission composed of Americans alone, as it is not likely that the President would appoint such a commission unless he were authorized to do so by Congress.

I respectfully await your instructions on the whole subject. It is proper to state that, unless otherwise directed by you, I will present any claim of any sufferer by the riots for payment, without referring the same to you. I will also support any of my colleagues who shall demand the punishment of delinquent officials.

I have, etc.,

Charles Denby
[Inclosure in No. 2293.—Clipping from North China Daily News, July 18, 1895.]

The Rev. David Hill, Wesleyan Mission, moved the second resolution, which was as follows:

Whereas for many years past numerous and extensive riots have occurred in many parts of China, directed against missionaries and other foreigners, whereby serious damage has been done to health and property, while in some cases lives have been taken; and

Whereas no effectual measures have thus far been adopted for the prevention of these outbreaks; and

Whereas foreign property has lately been destroyed on an unprecedented scale, both in Chengtu, the provincial capital, and in other cities of the Szechuan Province (where hitherto the people have always manifested an exceptionally quiet and friendly spirit), thus breaking up the homes of many missionaries and interrupting for an indefinite period important missionary work; and

Whereas these periodical outbreaks have been frequently caused, and ill-feeling has been continuously fomented by the wide circulation of blasphemous and calumnous literature which has emanated chiefly from the province of Hunan.

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We venture most respectfully to urge upon the ministers and representatives of the Governments concerned the following suggestions for their consideration:

That a searching investigation into the Szechuan riots be undertaken by accredited officials representing each of the governments involved; that this investigation be conducted at Chengtu, in the place where the trouble commenced, and that one missionary at least of each mission involved should be present at the investigation.
That the missionaries and the missions should be fully indemnified for their losses. The indemnity shall not be limited to the actual cost of the things destroyed.
That the missionaries shall be reinstated, with official recognition at all the places from which they have been ejected.
That in dealing with those criminally concerned in the riots, whether by personal instigation, culpable neglect, or actual violence, strict impartiality should be preserved, irrespective of rank or position.
That the right of missionaries to reside in the interior should be placed on a clearly defined treaty basis, and this right should be made known by imperial proclamation throughout all parts of the Empire.

In addition to the above, we would respectfully state that, in our opinion, as long as the province of Hunan is allowed to maintain its present condition of isolation and exclusiveness, it is likely that the antiforeign riots will continue, and we would suggest that no step is better calculated to bring these riots to an end and insure peace in future than the definite opening of that important province.