Every one has read the treaty which has just been concluded between the United States and China. Everyone has read it, but in it there are expressions which not every one understands. There are clauses which seem vague, other clauses which seem almost unnecessary, and still others which bear the flavor of “surplusage,” to speak in legal phrase. The most careful reading of the document will leave these impressions—that is, unless one comprehends the past and present condition of foreign intercourse with China—in which case it will be seen at once that there is no word in the treaty without a meaning, and no clause in it but was dictated by a present need or a wise policy looking to the future. It will interest many of your readers to know why this, that, and the other provision was incorporated in the treaty; it will interest others to know in what manner and to what extent the treaty will affect our existing relations with China. Apart from its grave importance, the subject is really as entertaining as any I know of and—asking pardon for the presumption—I desire to write a few paragraphs upon it.
We made a treaty with China in 1858; Mr. Burlingame’s new treaty is an addition to that one, and an amplification of its powers. The first article of this new treaty reads as follows:
article i. His Majesty, the Emperor of China, being of the opinion that in making concessions to the citizens or subjects of foreign Powers of the privilege of residing on certain tracts of land, or resorting to certain waters of that Empire for the purposes of trade, he has by no means relinquished his right of eminent domain or dominion over the said land and waters, hereby agrees that no such concession or grant shall be construed to give to any Power or party which may be at war with or hostile to the United States the right to attack the citizens of the United States or their property within the said lands or waters; and the United States, for themselves, hereby agree to abstain from offensively attacking the citizens or subjects of any Power or party or their property with which they may be at war on any such tract of land or waters of the said Empire; but nothing in this article shall be construed to prevent the United States from resisting an attack by any hostile Power or party upon their citizens or their property. It is further agreed that if any right or interest in any tract of land in China has been [End Page 123] or shall hereafter be granted by the Government of China to the United States or their citizens for purposes of trade or commerce, that grant shall in no event be construed to divest the Chinese authorities of their right of jurisdiction over persons and property within said tract of land, except so far as that right may have been expressly relinquished by treaty.
In or near one or two of the cities of China the Emperor has set apart certain tracts of land for occupation by foreigners. The foreigners residing upon these tracts create courts of justice, organize police forces, and govern themselves by laws of their own framing. They levy and collect taxes, they pave their streets, they light them with gas. These communities, through the liberality of China, are so independent and so unshackled that they have all the seeming of colonies— insomuch that the jurisdiction of China over them was in time lost sight of and disregarded—at least, questioned. The English communities came to be looked upon as a part of England, and the American colonies as part of America; and so, after the Trent affair, it was seriously held by many that the Confederate ships of war would be as justifiable in making attacks upon the American communities in China as they would be in attacking New York or Boston. This doctrine was really held, notwithstanding the supremacy of China over these tracts of land was recognized at regular intervals in the most...