French-Korean Treaty of 1886: a religious hotbed

The French Legation in the early 1900s / Robert Neff Collection

On the rainy morning of May 1, 1886, the French warship Primauguet sailed into Jemulpo (modern Incheon) harbor. On board was Francois George Cogordan, the French plenipotentiary, and his staff, who had come to negotiate the French-Korean Treaty. Over the next couple of days, the harbor was filled with the booming of cannons as courtesy visits were made to the French warship by the captains of the other foreign warships.On shore, the Korean government made preparations to escort Cogordan and his party to Seoul. Judging from the American warship’s logbook, many were anticipating a wet ride, but fortunately, the weather cleared on May 6.According to an account published in a Chinese newspaper, the French mission, escorted by a detachment of French sailors and a guard provided by the Korean monarch, arrived in Seoul in the evening — presumably just before the closing of the city gates. It seems that most of the French rode in palanquins or chairs but Cogordan’s wife (Sophie Augustine Marie) may have been riding upon a horse. In his diary, Dr. Horace N. Allen, an American missionary-doctor in Seoul, wrote:

“The French plenipotentiary F. G. Cogordan arrived today. The French Minister’s lady rode on Mrs. Allen’s saddle. They will enter no negotiations till the Coreans promise to grant religious liberty.” As the French rode through the gate, they “were thronged by crowds of [Koreans] desirous to witness the strange arrival from another foreign country to visit their sovereign.” The French were then led to the former residence of Paul Georg von Mollendorff (a German who had once advised the Korean court) which had been “courteously prepared… arranged for their comfort in the European style.” It might be interesting to note that one of Mollendorff’s residences was reportedly haunted.Over the next couple of days, preparations were made for the impending negotiations which were expected to be difficult as the French insisted on religious freedoms. According to the Chinese newspaper:“All seemed going smoothly, when rumours of dissatisfaction at the proposed insertion of the Christian Clause in the treaty resounded through the city. Who the authors of all this threatening disturbance were is not clearly known, but it was not spontaneous, and, certain busybodies, not altogether Corean, were supposed to be its originators.”A correspondent for a Japanese newspaper also commented about the hostility towards the “Christian Clause.”“The King is favourably inclined to grant religious liberty, but the followers of the ex-Regent are so numerous, and so bitter in their hatred of Christianity (as represented by the Roman Catholic Church), that it is doubted by some whether it would be wise to grant 스포츠토토존 it just now.”

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