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Memoirs of Robert Dollar
Vol. 2 - Chapter Twelve

The old Chinese city of Ichang is walled, and built along the Yangtse and a small river. The so-called foreign part (there are very few living there as there in no foreign concession, and all are under Chinese rule) is further down the Yangtse and is fairly well built, although not a modern city.. Along the river it is comparatively well built up, with stones as a bund. The street is narrow, but there are good stone steps at frequent intervals along the front. These are necessary as the rise and fall of the river is fifty feet. All freight has to be carried up these steps to be stored in godowns, and when re-shipped, must again be carried down to lighters to be transferred to steamers, that lay at anchor four hundred or five hundred feet from the shores, all steamers making this port are of shallow draft.

At the time we were visiting Ichang there was so much looting of property and so many fires of incendiary origin, that building was at a standstill, as men were afraid to work. A condition of terror existed in the entire community from fear of the lawless soldiers. There being no law or order, the soldiers helped themselves to anything they wished, and as they have cleaned out all the native shops, their next move will be on the foreign godowns. But the great drawback to their undertaking such a depredation is, that there are seven foreign gunboats anchored a few hundred feet from the buildings, and the foreign commanders are determined to land troops and clear out the lawless Chinese at the first move they make toward looting the godowns. They number about ten thousand and the crew of the gunboats are only about five hundred, but the latter are confident of success even against such odds. The Chinese citizens are now signing a petition asking the foreigners to make it a foreign settlement, and prevent any soldiers from coming into it. This matter has the serious consideration of both Chinese and foreigners, but the initiative must come from the Chinese.

The Chinese Chamber of Commerce of this city entertained me at luncheon in the Salt Gabelle Building, their own building with its contents having been totally destroyed by fire set by the soldiers a few days previous. The merchants presented me with an address in Chinese, which translated, reads:

"Ladies and Gentlemen. We feel greatly honored that you favor us this tiffin. On account of the recent upset general condition of affairs, we did not entertain you soon after your arrival from Hankow as first arranged.

"This is the first time you come to this city. What impresses you most, is no doubt to us, the burnt down houses done by looters. We feel rather shy to describe to you such event. Within half year's time there were already two lootings, but we cannot blame soldiers because they did not receive their pay. General Wong is to blame, he causes such looting because he converts soldiers' pay to other purposes and sometimes he speculates. Hence, Ichang condition is always in the midst of danger. The only remedy is to stamp out such constant danger by having an International Settlement established.

"You people can see better than we can and even know what our utmost need is. Szechuen Province is world known rich in natural resources. Hence, we cannot deny the fact that transportation helps development of natural resources. There are two means to transport, either by railway or steamship. As there is no railway between Ichang and Chung King, then what helps us to transport? Steamers!

"As far as we Dah Chuen Tung are concerned, we feel indeed gratified that you assigned us as your shipping hong. You added one more steamer, the Alice Dollar, that shows you give us more help in the matter of transportation, but all of us must bear in mind that co-operation promotes mutual profit."

I replied in a conciliatory tone and tried to re-assure them by stating that it is always darkest just before daybreak, and that if they wanted International protection that the initiative


must come entirely from themselves; as it would never do for foreign nations to land troops except on the greatest provocation; hut, in the terrible extremity in which they were placed I was willing to assist them m every way I could, and if order could not be restored I would be in favor of a foreign settlement to prevent murder. While the American Government has no consul, it is ably represented by Mr. Smith, the British Consul General, who is very favorably located in large grounds with fine, large buildings. This is certainly in great contrast to the American Government, which has neither grounds nor a consular representative of its own. It is to be hoped that our congressmen will realize that there are American interests on the upper Yangtse River

Although the losses from stealing are very great, they do not compare with the destruction of property by fire, as the latter is not only a loss to the community but is of no benefit to anyone. No effort is being made to re-build, the people being completely discouraged. Inasmuch as I am more convinced than ever of the great future commercial prosperity of this district, we have let a contract to remodel an office building we bought sometime ago, and will make it attractive and creditable to Americans visiting Ichang. Later on, we have more improvements in view.

I sent the following letter to Dr. W. W. Yen, Minister of Foreign Affairs at Peking, and a copy to the United States Minister at Peking, the Hon. E. C. Crane.

His Excellency;—

Dr. W. W. Yen,

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peking.

My dear Sir:

In private conversation with Chinese, I hear a lot of talk about having Ichang made a Foreign Concession, and was much surprised today at a public meeting to hear it openly asked for.

As you are aware, the town has been looted twice, and last night several places were entered and everything of value stolen.

I can assure you the situation is tense and requires drastic and vigorous means to stop it. Every soldier should be driven from this part of the country.

I have told the people in public, as well as in private, to go slow about forming an international settlement, and to give the Government another opportunity of cleaning out the robbers.

Our office has been looted and destroyed twice, and we have paid our Chinese for all their losses, but that is insignificant compared with the terrible losses by robbery and fire that Chinese merchants have suffered. Vigorous action is necessary.

(Signed) Robert Dollar.

The Hon. E. C. Crane.

U. S. Minister, Peking.

My dear Sir:—

I have just completed a trip to Chungking, and am more than ever convinced of the great possibilities of Szechuen Province.

We now have two steamers on this run giving a bi-weekly service, and we are well patronized.

I enclose copy of letter sent to Dr. Yen. This place has become as bad as parts of Russia. Might is right, no law or order at all.

Mrs. Dollar joins me in kind regards.

I intended sailing from Shanghai on our new steamer Robert Dollar about the sixth or seventh of July via Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Calcutta and Bombay for New York.

(Signed) Robert Dollar.

Messrs. Jardine Matheson & Co. have built a very large three-story godown, and Butterfield & Swire have also built extra storage accommodations.

The British and American admirals will meet in Ichang, and no doubt discuss the subject and decide on a policy of patrolling and protecting foreign interests on the river. But, far greater interest must he aroused in America of the great opportunity that is presented to American commercial interests in the fully opening up and developing of the great trade than can he carried on between the outside world and the seventy millions of people in Szechuen Province. Only a short time ago the United States had seventy millions of people. Think of the probable condition of affairs if they had had no communication with the outside world. Yet this is practically the case over there today. While there are a half dozen steamers running from Ichang to Chungking, in Szechuen Province, their combined cargo capacity is much less than 1000 tons. While there are a great fleet of junks of all kinds and sizes, they can only run at certain stages of water (the same being true of our steamers.) The risk incurred by them is greater than in any other class of transportation in the world. The loss in junks runs as high as 20% per annum, and the correct accounting of the loss of life is over 1000 per year. Think of it!—three lives a day for every day of the year.

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