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I No. 99. --- -- ------- === =






TRANSMITTING Papers relative to prohibiting steamers sailing under the flag of the United

States from using or passing through Straw Shoe channel in the Yangtsze rirer.

MARCH 1, 1869.-- Referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and ordered to be printed.

To the Senate and House of Representatives :

Referring to my communication to Congress of the 26th ultimo, concerning a decree made by the United States chargé d'affaires in China, on 1st of June last, prohibiting steamers Sailing under the flag of the United States from using or passing through the Straw Shoe channel on the Yangtsze river, I now transmit a copy of a despatch of the 22d of August last, No. 25, from S. Wells Williams, esq., and of such of the papers accompanying it as were not contained in my former coinmuni. cation. I also transmit a copy of the reply of the 6th instant, made by the Secretary of State to the above-named despatch.


Mr. Williams to IIr. Sercard. No. 25.1


Peking, August 22, 1868. SIR: I have the honor to transinit for your consideration, and to be submitted to Congress, the original and printed copy of a decree dated June 1, 1868, (enclosure A,) which I have made in conformity to the act of Congress, and which has received the approval of most of the consuls and been duly published.

This measure of closing the cut-off near Nanking to all steamers navigating the Yangtsze river, was proposed more than two years ago by Prince Kung, but owing to some informality nothing was done at the time. In January last he again urged it upon all the foreign ministers in a despatch, (enclosure B,) wherein he stated the principal reasons for adopting it; but very injudiciously appended to liis proposal the mode of punishing the ressels offending against the rule. This addition would have

involved a violation of treaty rights, and therefore could not be admitted, as I represented to him in my reply, (enclosure C,) but the desirableness of adopting the regulation on grounds of humanity was admitted by all.

The masters and owners of most of the American and English steamers on the river, when inquired of, admitted the same also; and Messrs. Russell & Co., who have control of nearly one-half of the passage steamers, replied as follows when asked their views on the subject:

In accordance with your request, we have made inquiries of the captains of the steamboats under our care; and the result is that we think there is reason in the proposition of the government to close it to foreign steamers. That the danger to native boats is exaggerated is quite possible, but the fact that the cut-off is the anchorage ground, or port of Nanking, seems clear and the constant passage of steamers would be a great inconvenience to the native boats to say the least. We trust, however, that acquiescence in this instance will not lead to other cut-offs being closed where no valid and peculiar reason exists, for if so the wavigation of the river would be much interfered with

Mr. Sands, United States vice-consul at Chin Kiang, while regarding the liberty to trade on the Yangtsze as involving the right to use every part of its channel, still assented to the decree, because the Straw Shoe channel is not necessary to the navigation of the river by steamers, and it is used by the native (raft as an anchorage during stress of weather, such an anchorage being very necessary to them; and steamers passing through the cut-off subject them to considerable damage in being thrown against each other by the swell made by the wheels of the steamers, although there has been but one case of collision in this channel since the river was opened, between native crafts and the steamers."

Dr. Salter gives his reasons for declining to assent to the decree, in his letter of July 2, which, and my reply, (enclosures D, E,) furnish you with all that need be said in addition to the above extracts to explain the subject.

The question brought up in this decree involves a peculiar and novel feature in the international relations between China and the treaty powers, inasmuch as it is territorial, and not commercial or political. The limits of the open ports, and the privileges of access into the interior, with the rights growing out of them, have been arranged in conformity to treaty stipulations; but the treaties contain no provision enabling either party to limit or extend any territorial right conceded in them. The only legal way to reach the object in view, as it appeared to me, so as to make the regulation binding on American citizens, was to make the decree enforce a prohibition of the Chinese government over its owI steamers. The British minister took the same view of it, and I now respectfully submit my action for your consideration, I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


Secretary of State.



Shanghai, July 25, 1868. I am instructed by the United States chargé d'affaires to China to publish the annexed decree, with the opinions thereon inscribed. It will become binding and obligatory in ten days from the date of this notification.


Consul General.


CHINA. In pursuance of section 4th of the act of Congress approved June 22, 1860, entitled “An act to carry into effect certain provisions in the treaties between the United States, China, Japan, Siam, Persia, and other countries, giving certain judicial powers to ministers and consuls, or other functionaries of the United States in those countries, or for other purposes," I, S. Wells Williams, chargé d'affaires ad interim of the United States to China, do hereby decree the following regulation, which shall have the force of law in the consular courts:

Whereas repeated complaints having been made of the danger incurred by the native shipping from steamers passing through the channel commonly known as the Straw Shoe channel, situated between the mainland and the island of Tsih-li-chan, called Tsau-hia on the admiralty charts, lying east of the city of Nanking; and collisions having already occurred between them and the native craft constantly using this reach, resulting in loss of life and property, the Chinese government has seen proper to prohibit the use of this channel, extending from Theodolite Point to the eastern end of the island at Swallow Rock, to all steamers navigating the Yangtsze river:

Now, therefore, in order to give full force and effect to this prohibition, be it known, to all whom it may concern, that all steamers sailing under the American flag are forbidden to use or pass through the above-described Straw Shoe channel, and every infraction of this regulation will render the steamer liable to a fine of 100 taels, prosecutable in either of the consular courts of the United States on the Yangtsze river, or at Shanghai; and in case of collision, to pay full compensation for all damages done to the Chinese or their shipping. (L. S.


Peking, June 1, 1868.

SHANGHAI, June 12, 1868. Assented to: (L. S.

GEO. F. SEWARD, Consul General.

TIENTSIN, June 6, 1868. Assented to: (L. S.

JOHN A. T. MEADOWS, C. S. Vice-Consul.

. CHINKIANG, June 19, 1868. Assented to: (L. S.)

CHAS. J. SANDS, Vice-Consul.

CHEF00, June 8, 1868. Assented to: (L. S.

S. A. HOLMES, U. 8. Vice Consul.

HANKOW, July 2, 1868. I cannot assent to the closing of this channel.


U. 8. Consul, Hankow and Kiukiang.

NINGPO, July 14, 1868. Assented to: (L. S.

EDWARD C. LORD, U. S. Consul.

SHANGHAI, July 29, 1868. A true copy : (SEAL.


Prince Kung to Mr. Williams.

TUNGCHI, 6th year, 12th moon, 9th day, January 3, 1868 Prince Kung, chief secretary of state for foreign affairs, herewith makes a communication.

It appears that at the port of Nanking, along the bank of the Yangtsze river from the Tashing Custom Pass down to the end of the island of Kingsin, and from Swallow rock up to Theodolite point at the end of Tishtichan or Tsanhai island, that there is a narrow passage or cut-off commonly called the Tsan-hiai-hiah, or Straw Shoe channel. It is, however, much used by native craft, among which are many salt junks and timber rafts. In the month of May, 1864, the American steamer Hukwang, belonging to Messrs. Russell & Co., in coming through this passage ran down a salt junk; and the circumstances of this casualty were sooli after made known to the foreign ministers at Peking, to ascertain if they were willing that a regulation should be made for preventing any such accidents in future.

In the month of May, 1867, another steamer was passing through the narrow channel near the Kwanyin gate and ran against several vessels of different sizes, which were injured or sunk, and 18 persons thrown into the water.

On the 24th of August last, this subject was again brought to the notice of the foreign minister at Peking, with the request that they would instruct their consuls to see that the previous decision (about using the channel) was carried out, and that a regulation might be immediately issued by them to that effect, or if possible that a prohibitory notice to steamers not to use this channel be promulgated until the regulation should be decided on. But it has been suggested that if the rule now desired is to be deliberated on by the consuls, that there will be a long delay and a great deal of time unnecessarily lost before it can be all arranged. When the steamer Hukwang ran down the salt junk, the United States authorities fined the captain 1,700 taels, besides making him pay a consideration of 100 taels for each of the three persons who were drowned at the time. But, in fact, it is incumbent on all foreign steamers to use the main channel of the river, and it is rather a freak than a necessity that they pass up this cut-off. The native junks and rafts are very sluggish in their movements, and cannot instantly weigh anchor when they see a steamer, and thus the damages they receive are neither slight nor seldom.

The foreign office is in duty bound to do all it can to protect these vessels and the interest of their subjects, and they therefore now again bring this matter to the notice of your excellency, with the request that you would instruct the consuls to notify the American merchants and the captains of steainers trading on the Yangtsze river that they must thenceforth keep to the main channel of the river in passing up and down, and not go through this narrow passage, the Straw Shoe channel, nor anchor in it, nor off the Salt Commissioner's depot; and that whoever transgresses this regulation and goes through the channel, thereby injuring or sinking any native craft, or causing the death of any person, shall be obliged to recompense the sufferers for the fair value of all their property destroyed, and pay a consideration of 100 taels for every person injured in any way by the collision, and 200 taels as a compensation for every life destroyed. If a merchant or master of steamers thus offending thinks to preserve himself from the consequences of his conduct and refuses to make just compensation, then it shall be permitted to the col.'

lector, acting in conjunction with the commissioner of customs, to detain the goods and the vessel as surety until full compensation be made.

The foreign office now, therefore, make known this plan to your excellency, as well as to all the other foreign ministers at Peking, and we shall instruct the superintendent of commerce for the northern and southern ports, and the inspector general, to the same intent; and we have to request that you will immediately transmit the necessary directions to the United States consuls, that they may make the same fully known to the merchants and captains of American steamers for their observance.

This will exhibit a desire to act impartially to all, and will moreover allay the fears of the native traders. His Excellency S. WELLS WILLIAMS,

United States Chargé d'Affaires.

Mr. Williams to Prince Kung:

Peking, June 9, 1868. SIR: I had the honor to receive the despatch of January 3, 1868, in which your Imperial Highness proposes that the Straw Shoe channel near Nanking shall henceforth be closed, under certain penalties, to the passage of all foreign steamers.

On receiving the above statement and proposition I took measures to get full particulars respecting this channel, and have learned that it is a narrow passage wherein native craft continually go and come, and that there is danger if a steamer suddenly sails through it that the native vessels will be run down. I have therefore made a regulation to prevent and guard against such disasters, and forbidden steamers carry. ing the American flag from going through this reach under penalty of a fine to be inflicted by the United States consul.

But I cannot forbear here to refer, and with some surprise, to the proposal in the despatch under reply, that whenever a steamer violates the law about using this channel, and a collision ensues, the custom-house authorities shall detain the vessel and her cargo as surety till compensation be made. Now the treaty distinctly provides that whenever an American vessel violates any regulation, information of the same shall be sent to the consul, who will investigate and decide the case. The custom-house authorities have no power to act in the matter; and to detain a vessel, therefore, as a lien upon it or its masters for an offence, as this despatch now under reply proposes, is going beyond the treaty. In this your Imperial Highness has assumed greater powers than can be permitted, and the provisions of the treaty cannot thus be overpassed and rules established which it did not contemplate.

Furthermore, it is here proposed to estimate the value of wounds and human life; but who can know beforehand whether the sufferers are high or low, old or young, and thus settle at a fixed rate their worth and the ainount of their just compensation ?

I beg to add, in explanation of the prohibitory regulation which I have now issued against steamers using the Straw Shoe channel, that it only speaks of that passage, and does not refer at all to their anchorage near or off the Yen Kwan or Salt Gabal office. I have the honor to be, sir, your Highness's obedient servant,

S. WELLS WILLIAMS. His Imperial Highness PRINCE KUNG, .

Chief Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.

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