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It was equally impossible to entertain the idea of the Powers creating themselves a new Government at Peking which would not be recognized as a national one by the Chinese.
What we had to do, in his opinion, was to try and get as soon as possible into negotiation with some authority who could satisfy us that he or they possessed genuine full powers from the recognized Government of the country. This had decided the Emperor, as for as his own troops and Ministers were concerned, to order their withdrawal from Peking, after taking local circumstances into consideration and communicating with the Commanders of the other foreign detachments; but they were to obey these instructions at the earliest practical date, and leave even if the other detachments remained in Peking.
Count Lamsdorff went on to develop very clearly his own personal view of the best position for the allied forces to take up at the present conjuncture.
It has been urged on his consideration that an immediate evacuation of Peking by the allied forces would be interpreted by the Chinese as a triumph for them, and would be followed by a fresh rising, disorders, and massacres, and a consequent loss of foreign prestige in China.
He had weighed this consideration very carefully, but was still firmly convinced that the continued presence of our troops in the capital, after the release and safe conduct of our Legations and the Europeans to the coast, would be fraught with even more disastrous consequences.
It was impossible to entertain seriously the proposal which had been put forward in some public quarters that the allied forces, lowering themselves to the level of savagery of the Chinese, should, before leaving Peking, inflict some indelible mark of their presence there which would impress itself on Chinese memory, as razing the city to the ground, or perpetrating some other equally barbarous act of vandalism; and his Excellency dreaded the possibility of the foreign troops there getting out of hand, and yielding to the temptations of pillage and other acts of violence.
By withdrawing their detachments from the precincts of Peking, and concentrating them in a strong position near the coast such as the base now occupied at Taku and Tien-tsin, the allied forces would remain with a firm grip on the throat of the capital and be in communication with their ships and Governments and with their supplies.
It was evidently in his Excellency's opinion most desirable to keep military action well in hand, and not to let it lead foreign policy instead of following its guidance.
In this respect he referred to various erroneous impressionS
created by the incorrect reproduction in the press of some Russian military telegrams.
It had been assumed that Russia was taking advantage of the present crisis to extend her territory and influence at the cost of China, by permanently occupying territory on the right bank of the Amur in Manchuria and at Newchwang, and by seizing control of the customs and lines of railway in which foreign capital was interested.
This was entirely incorrect. Russia had no such intention; and any places which she had been obliged by the attack of Chinese rebels on her frontier to occupy temporarily, she intended when the status quo ante and order were re-established to restore to their former position.
She was also prepared to hand over as soon as possible to the regular authorities of the Chinese Customs the management and control of the custom-house at Newchwang, which had been temporarily taken in hand by the occupying force, and, in accordance with the official declaration already made to me, the control of any Chinese railways which had also been provisionally assumed would be restored to the former management on the termination of hostilities, and indemnity only claimed for the expenses incurred in repairing and managing the lines.
This, Count Lamsdorff said, had been expressly stated in the Circular instruction to M. Lessar, which he had been instructed to communicate to your Lordship.
The object of this Circular, he said, was to give the Governments with which His Imperial Majesty was cordially co-operating in China the earliest intimation of the instructions sent to M. de Giers and General Linevitch, and he trusted that your Lordship would see in the statement of the considerations on which they were based a fresh proof of the Emperor's desire to follow a line of general policy and aims in agreement with those of Her Majesty's Government and other Powers equally concerned in minimizing the dangers to their interests of the present serious crisis in China.
His Excellency said that M. de Lessar had reported that an early intimation of your Lordship's views on the subject of this Circular, which had at once been forwarded to you, had been promised as soon as they could be ascertained.
I said that I was of course unable as yet to state what view your Lordship was likely to take of the Russian proposal for an immediate evacuation of Peking, but I felt sure that your Lordship would be grateful to him for having supplied a clear exposition of the views and intentions of the Emperor of Russia in this respect; and I reminded him of the statement of policy made on behalf of Her Majesty's Government in the House of Commons, which I had
communicated to him unofficially, and which seemed in most essential points to agree very closely with the policy of the Imperial Government, which he had just been explaining to me.
The Marquess of Salisbury.
I have, &c.,
CHARLES S. SCOTT.
Sir C. Scott to the Marquess of Salisbury.-(Received September 10.) St. Petersburgh, September 5, 1900.
ON receipt of your Lordship's telegraphic instructions yesterday I at once called on Count Lamsdorff and informed him that Her Majesty's Government had not as yet received any answer to the communication which they had addressed to Peking, and would, therefore, not be in a position to form a confident judgment on the important questions raised in his Excellency's Circular telegram, which M. Lessar had communicated to your Lordship, until they had received from Her Majesty's Minister and General in the Chinese capital fuller information as to the position there.
Count Lamsdorff said that he quite understood this. He was himself anxiously awaiting similar information from M. de Giers and General Linevitch, and, at any rate, an acknowledgment by them of the instructions sent to them.
It would almost look as if the delay were caused by the insecurity or interruption of communications between Peking and Tien-tsin, and this caused him serious anxiety.
I told his Excellency that I had also received communication of the answer returned by the United States' Government to the Russian Circular, and inquired whether he regarded it as satisfactory, and what replies had been received from other Governments.
Count Lamsdorff replied that the American answer was of the same undecided character as that of the replies which he had received from other Governments; they had none of them committed themselves to an expression of entire agreement with the view of the Russian Government as to the expediency of a prompt evacuation of Peking by the allied military forces, nor had he, in fact, expected such an agreement. They had generally expressed entire adherence to the principles and aims set forth in the Russian communication, and the German Government, when doing so, entirely agreed to the expediency of withdrawing the Legations without delay from Peking, but was doubtful of the prudence of withdrawing the military forces as well from the Chinese capital at the present moment.
It was clear that none of the Governments could form a decided opinion on this point until they had received fuller information as to the position from their own Ministers and Generals on the spot.
The object of the Circular communication, which the Emperor had desired him to address to the other Governments co-operating in military measures in China, was to give them the earliest possible intimation of the instructions which he had caused to be telegraphed to the Russian Minister and General in Peking, desiring that they should withdraw to Tien-tsin as soon as it was possible for them, in consideration of local circumstances, to do so.
They were to communicate with the Commanders of the other foreign detachments before doing so, and, although no precise date had naturally been fixed for the evacuation, they were to leave as soon as they considered it practicable, without delaying their departure until the other detachments had received similar instructions.
Count Lamsdorff said that although the Emperor had decided on this course for his own troops, His Majesty had no desire to influence by his action the decision of other Governments, who might not be able to take the same view of its expediency.
Count Lamsdorff said that he had carefully weighed the considerations urged on his attention by the American and other Governments, who apprehended the possibility of serious consequences, and a misapprehension of motive in the withdrawal of the allied forces now occupying Peking. The objections urged to evacuation at the present moment would, in his Excellency's opinion, apply with equal force to an evacuation at any later date, and, if acted on, might entail the occupation for several years of Peking by an international force.
His Excellency went over again the arguments which he had used at our last interview, reported in my despatch of the 30th ultimo.
He repeated his firm conviction that the Emperor of China and the recognized Government would never return to the capital while it was occupied by foreign troops.
The Emperor and Court were confidently reported to be now out of reach in the Province of Shansi, and to be still entirely under the baneful influence of Prince Tuan, who had accompanied them.
Under such circumstances, negotiations with them, or with a duly accredited Plenipotentiary of the recognized Government, was impossible.
The only way to get a legitimate Government back to Peking was to withdraw the allied forces outside the precincts of the capital.
He repeated that the allied forces would, in his opinion, be able to exercise more effectual pressure on any Chinese Government by concentrating themselves in a strong position outside the capital, in touch with their base on the coast, where their strength would be receiving constant reinforcement.
It might be desirable, in view of any necessity for ulterior military measures, that detachments should be left on the line of communication to keep it open, and it was very important that the railroad should be repaired and put in working order, and gradually secured, if necessary, up to the very walls of Peking.
If, which he did not think probable, negotiations came to nothing, and the Powers were obliged to declare formal war against the Chinese Government, or proceed to enforce their demands, they could, with the formidable force which would by that time have been collected at Tien-tsin and Taku, be able to advance rapidly on the capital under the leadership of the experienced Commanderin-chief whose services have been placed at their disposal.
He did not like the position in which the allied detachments now found themselves at Peking, and was convinced that their remaining there would be fraught with more serious and dangerous causes of embarrassment than could possibly ensue from their withdrawal.
I learn from my Austro-Hungarian colleague that his Government, in replying to Count Lamsdorff's Circular, expressed a desire to regulate its action entirely in accordance with that of the other Powers, and with the agreed principles of policy and common aim in China referred to in this communication; but, as their interests in the Far East and participation in the common action were so much inferior to those of other Governments concerned, they did not feel justified in pronouncing a decided opinion on the expediency of the immediate withdrawal of the military forces from Peking, the more so, as their Chargé d'Affaires there, who had been wounded, was already leaving, and the Austrian detachment in Peking was a very small one.
The French Government, I understand, while agreeing in principle with the Russian Government, has urged a full con sideration of the possible consequences of immediate evacuation, and desires to receive fuller information as to the position before deciding the date of withdrawing their forces.
The Japanese Government appears to entertain serious apprehension of the consequences of a premature withdrawal of the allied forces now occupying Peking.
The Marquess of Salisbury.
I have, &c.,
CHARLES S. SCOTT.