Mr. Denby to Mr. Olney .
Peking , August 15, 1895 . (Received Sept. 26.)
Sir: I have the honor to confirm your telegram of the 13th instant, as follows:
Yesterday’s instructions referred only to Kutien investigation by two American members concurrently with British. Szechuan investigation may go on as reported in your dispatch No. 2278, unless you have grounds to distrust the result.
In this connection it seems proper to review my action with regard to the proposed organization of a commission to go to Chengtu and examine into the facts connected with the riots in the province of Szechuan, and to report to me.
After the riots were over the English and American missionaries all left Chengtu. The French bishop and all his associates remained. The French Government immediately conferred with the Chinese minister at Paris, and directed the French minister at Peking to organize a commission, composed of the French bishop and several of his associates and three Chinese officials, to sit at Chengtu and investigate the causes of the riots and all matters appertaining thereto. This commission was duly organized, and has, I believe, completed its labors.
I had no consul nearer Chengtu than Hankow, and Mr. Child was reported to be sick. On consultation with the British minister, he informed me that he intended to send the British consul at Chungking with an English missionary to Chengtu, and proposed that I should send an American missionary to assist in the investigation, who should report [Page 109] to me. As all the missionaries resident at Chengtu had left, and as I particularly desired an early investigation, I agreed to this plan.
One, if not more, of the Chinese designated by Sir N. R. O’Connor to sit on the commission was a member of the French commission. I reported this matter to you in my dispatch, No. 2278, of July 1 last.
It must be said that this commission has never been organized. Mr. Tratman, the consul at Chungking, Gould not leave his post. His place has not yet been supplied. In fact, nothing has been done.
While matters were in this embryotic state the American missionaries held a meeting at Shanghai the 5th of July, and another the 12th of July, at which strong grounds were taken against the proposed commission, and resolutions were adopted, which were forwarded to you, wherein a commission composed of Americans alone was demanded. When these resolutions reached me, I concluded that it would be better to wait until you had passed on the request embodied therein before consummating the arrangement of the joint commission proposed by Her British Majesty’s minister. I accordingly sent to you dispatch No. 2293, of July 26 last, from which it will appear that I notified the British minister that I withdrew from all participation in the proposed commission. I also wired Mr. Tratman to the same effect, and I formally withdrew the appointment of Mr. Lewis as a member of that commission. I also informed the consul general officially to the same effect.
In spite of this action on my part, which I thought was generally known by foreigners in China, public meetings have been held at Shanghai, and at various other places, at which I have been denounced and abused for taking part in a commission which is held to be objectionable. The proceedings of three meetings have been forwarded to you, and the public press in the United States has, I am told, joined in denunciation of me. As I have regularly reported my official action to you, it will be for you to judge whether attacks on me are justifiable.
I will only say that I am staying in Peking now at the risk of my life. Forty thousand persons have died of cholera here in a very short period of time. There are cases in several legations very close to me, and as soon as I can receive answers to late telegrams I shall go to the Western Hills, 10 miles away, where I can do my business as well as here.
It is not necessary for me to repeat the suggestions made in my dispatch No. 2293, further than to say that I still think that an international commission to consider all questions touching the residence of Christians in China is desirable. I realize that there will be great difficulty in procuring the Western Powers to unite in such a commission. I realize, also, that the President may hesitate to join in such a commission. Should an international commission for any reason be held not to be feasible, there would remain the question whether a commission composed of Americans alone should be organized.
I await your instructions.
I have, etc.,