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CONSULATE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
Hankoio, July 2, 1868. SIR: I have received from George F. Seward, esq., United States consul general, your " regulation ” of June 1, 1868, relative to the edict of the Chinese government prohibiting the use of the Straw Shoe channel, extending from Theodolite Point to Swallow Rock on the Yangtsze Kiang.
I came out to China in 1863, and have had consular charge of the three ports on the Yangtsze. I think I may safely say that I am more familiar with the accidents on the river than any other consul in China, and I speak from actual observation when I assert that there is no more prolability or possibility of collision in this Straw Shoe channel than on the main channel of the river, if ordinary diligence and care is used.
The Chinese government speak of the danger incurred by the native shipping from steamers, and collisions having already occurred, resulting in loss of life and property."
In 1865, the Shanghai Steam Navigation Company's steamer - Ho quong," under the command of the most experienced commander ther. on the river, Captain Simmons, collided with a junk in this channel : 10 lives were lost, and the consul general at Shanghai awarded full damages to the Chinese owners. I have carefully interrogated the different captains now running on the river, and their testimony is uniform that - no other collisions have occurred in this cut-off, and no lives have been lost."
I look upon this edict of the imperial government as emanating from the fertile brain of Tseng-Kuo-Fan, who, as one of the guardians of the throne, wields immense influence at Peking; his object, I think, is a straiegic one, to divert the foreign steamers from one of the approaches to Nanking. If he succeeds in this step, what is to prevent him from asserting that frequent accidents have occurred in the other cut-offs, " resuliing in loss of life and property," and close them also ? I will enumerate the principal cut-offs in order, and it is only following the idea to a logical conclusion, if the imperial government close one cut-off, they may close all the cut-offs on the Yangtsze Kiang between Chinkiang and Hankow :
No. 1, Nanking cut-off or Straw Shoe channel..saves 5 miles.
....saves 7 miles.
...... saves 4 miles. No. 4, Dove Point ....
..saves 6 miles, No. 5, Olyphant Island.
..saves 4 miles. No. 6, Hunter Island..
.saves 4 miles. No. 7, Collinson Island ..
..saves 4 miles. No. 8, Gravener Island ..
...saves 10 miles. No. 9, Huquong ............................saves 4 miles.
48 miles sare.
If this fatal concession is made it will be one insidious step towards closing the river altogether. It is quite a significant fact that the Straw Shoe channel or Nanking cut-off is the only one of the nine above endmerated navigable during the entire year; in mid-winter the lead shows from three to three and a half fathoms; in the narrowest part, if 200 junks were moored three deep on each side there would still be room for
the two largest steamers on the river the Plymouth Rock. of 2,380 tons, and the Fire Queen, of 2,886 tons-to pass each other. There are other cut-offs on the Yangtsze; if they were all closed it would involve a loss to the American steamers now on the river of $50,000 per annum in coal alone. The pecuniary sacrifice, however, is nothing compared to the surrender, as I consider it, of a treaty right.
Looking dispassionately on the subject, with the light of five years' experience, I am constrained to return the regulation without my approval. I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,
G. H. COLTON SALTER, Consul of the United States, Hankou and Kiukiang. His Excellency S. WELLS WILLIAMS,
United States Chargé d'Affaires ad interim.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
Peking, July 28, 1868. SIR: I beg to acknowledge your despatch of the 2d instant, giving your reasons for not assenting to my decree of June 1, 1868, prohibiting the use of the Straw Shoe channel to American steamers.
As these reasons (some of which are hypothetical) do not in my view outweigh those in favor of the measure, I shall publish tbe decree, and send it, with all the papers, to the Secretary of State, to be submitted to Congress.
In your despatch you very properly refer to your long acquaintance with the ports and navigation of the Yangtsze river as entitling your opinion on this decree to much weight. It is possible, indeed, if care be taken, that there is no particulardangerin navigating the Straw Shoechannel, yet here has been the scene of the only two serious collisions on the river which I now remember. In one of them, on April 5, 1865, by the American steamer Hu-Kwang, three women were drowned; and in another one, last year, by a French steamer, a score of men were precipitated into the water as their junk was crushed, but happily no lives were lost.
So long ago as 1861 the use of this cut-off by foreign steamers was deemed to be so dangerous to the native crafts lying there that the Tarpings, then in possession of Nanking, prohibited it, and Governor General Li, on reoccupying the city, complained of the danger of collision. In the spring of 1865, when the British and French commissioners accompanied the Chinese officers in their visit to Nanking, preparatory to opening it as a new port, the latter drew the attention of their associates to the risk attending the constant passage of steamers through this channel. The governor general says:
The channel varies much in width, and the water at times runs deep and strong, and at other times with less force. Hitherto, native vessels trading up and down the river, and among them salt junks and timber rafts. have used this reach, and as these last are clumsy, if steamers pass up and down by them they cannot easily inove out of the way. .
These arguments, based on facts of constant occurrence, are worthy of consideration on grounds of humanity. By co-operating with the Chinese authorities in restricting this channel to native craft, we show a desire not to unnecessarily incommode them; and it appears by your table of the various cut-off's that our steamers only lose seven miles in the whole trip to Hankau by avoiding this one-l10 great sacrifice for them if thereby life and property are rendered more secure.
There is no power in the Chinese government to close the others without our assent. You allude to strategic and other reasons which have induced them to close this, but only one reason has ever been brought forward by them, viz: a desire to prevent accidents in future and relieve the fears of the native boatmen, and I have no idea that they have had any other motive or object.
They have issued no edict about the matter, for it could not affect us. They have, in the exercise of their guardianship of their own territory, shown the danger of this channel, and I have issued a decree supporting and enforcing the regulation over American steamers. The British minister has done the same, and the French, Russian, and Prussian ministers all approve the propriety of this rule, which does not close the navigation of the river in any way, and merely requires steamers to take the safest of two channels,
If the Chinese steamers use the forbilden passage, they should be reported and required to keep to the main channel. I ai, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. WELLS WILLIAMS. G. II. C. SALTER, Esq.
U. S. Consul, Hankuu.
DEPARTMENT OF STATE,
Washington, February 6, 1869. SIR: Referring to Mr. Williams's despatch No.25, of the 22d of August, 1868, enclosing copies of a regulation made and published by him, with the assent (nearly unanimous) of our consuls in China, for the purpose of giving effect to the prohibition by the Chinese government of the use of the “Straw Shoe channel” to steamers navigating the Yangtsze river, I have to state that this regulation, as a notification to citizens of the United States of the consequences of disregarding an order of the Chinese government, made in the exercise of the police of its internal waters, is reasonable and necessary for the security of navi. gation, and is approved.
The fourth section of the act of June 22, 1860, (12 Stat., 73,) to which you refer, has for its principal object to enable our chief diplomatic representative to establish such process, pleadings, and practice, in the consular courts as may be necessary to give effect to the treaties and to the laws of the United States, including the common law, equity, and admiralty. The succeeding section appears to be intended as an enumeration of the subjects to which the power granted by the fourth section is applicable. It is certainly judicious to avoid, as I understand Mr. Williams las avoided, the assertion of a power in the minister to inake that unlawful which was not forbidden by the laws of the United States or of China. Such a power is legislative, while the act cited purports by its title and the general tenor of its provisions to confer only judicial power. I am, sir, your obedient servant,
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. J. Ross BROWNE, Esq, &c., dc., &c.
I No. 100.
MARINE HOSPITAL AT CHICAGO.
THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Report of the supervising architect, relative to the marine hospital at
MARCH 1, 1869. Referred to the Committee on Commerce and ordered to be printed.
TREASURY DÉPARTMENT, February 27, 1869. SIR: In response to the resolution of House of Representatives of the 20th ultimo, calling for certain papers and information respecting the marine hospital at Chicago, Illinois, now in course of erection, I have the honor to submit a report of the supervising architect of this department, with accompanying papers, which will, I believe, be found to contain all the information required by the resolution. Very respectfully,
Secretary of the Treasury. Hon. SCHUYLER COLFAX,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Office of the Supervising Architect, February 27, 1869. SIR: In accordance with your instructions I have prepared and have the honor to submit the following report, which I believe will be found to embody the information called for in the following resolution of the House of Representatives, adopted January 20, 1869, viz:
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to communicate to the House all the facts, estimates, contracts, correspondence, and official papers connected with the build. ing of the marine hospital at Chicago, Illicois, and to state whether the estimates for building such hospital exceed the amount provided specifically by law; and if so, by what authority the building of said hospital has been uudertaken to cost a larger sum.
The Secretary of the Treasury was directed by the first section of the act approved June 20, 1861, to dispose of the marine hospital and grounds in Chicago by public auction to the highest bidder, and to “make, execute, and deliver to the purchaser a good and sufficient deed for the premises, conveying all the right, title, and interest of the United States."
The second section of the act directed the Secretary of the Treasury, out of the proceeds of the sale, to purchase a new and more eligible site and erect a new hospital thereon," but provided that the new building and site should in no event cost more than the amount realized from the sale of the old hospital and grounds. It was further provided that possession of the old hospital and grounds should be retained br the department until the new building should be completed and ready for use. In accordance with the provisions of this act, the property was sold in the month of September, 1864, at public auction, under the administration of my predecessor, to Mr. J. F. Joy, for the sum of $132,000, which was promptly paid, and a deed for the premises duly executed and delivered to the purchaser.
It will be observed that the act assumed, without knowing what sam would be realized from the sale of the property, that the proceeds would be sufficient to purchase a new site and erect a hospital with ample accommodations for the requirements of the marine hospital service at the port of Chicago, and also that the new building would be completed so speedily that the retention of the old hospital would not materially affect the rights of the purchaser, who, by the first section of the act, was the holder of a deed conveying "all the right, title, and interest of the United States.” These results have not been realized. The conditions under which the property was offered undoubtedly affected the sale very materially, persons being unwilling to purchase without obtaining possession at once, or at a fixed period thereafter; as a consequence the amount available for the erection of the new building was less than was anticipated, and far less than the amount necessary to erect a hospital building adequate for the port of Chicago. The purchaser of the property is, also, still deprived of possession, although he paid the full amount of the purchase money more than four years since, and holds a deed conveying to him all the right, title, and interest of the United States."
The records of the department show that due diligence was observed in endeavoring to procure a suitable site for the new hospital in pursuance of the requirements of the law, but, at the time of my accession to office, no site had been obtained. In the Secretary's report for that year (1865) certain recommendations, based upon a thorough examination of the workings of the marine hospital establishment under the existing system, were made, which, it was confidently believed, would induce Congress to sanction the policy of dispensing with most of the United States hospitals, and of substituting therefor the system of providing for the marine patients by contract in municipal or private hospitals, thereby obviating the necessity for erecting any new hospitals, including the proposed hospital at Chicago.
These recommendations of the Secretary were but partially adopted. The act of April 20, 1866, simply authorized the Secretary to dispose of certain marine hospital buildings and lands appertaining thereto, but did not release the department from the obligation to erect a marine hospital at Chicago. The purchaser of the property, Mr. J. F. Joy, haring in the mean time demanded possession of the property he had paid for, as already stated, and claimed damages for its detention, the Secretary of the Treasury, on the 25th of April, 1866, addressed a letter to Hon. E. B. Washburne, chairman of the Committee on Commerce of the House of Representatives, asking such a modification of the second section of the act of June 20, 1864, as would authorize the department to