Mr. Harris to Mr. Cass.

No. 26.]

Sir: The clause of the third article of the treaty of Yedo, which gives American citizens the right of residence in this city for the purposes of trade, after the 1st of January, 1862, has occupied much of my thoughts for some months, and has caused me not only solicitude, but anxiety.

The population of this city is widely different from that of any other place in the world. Its chief elements consist of the hereditary princes, the nobles, and the high officers of the government, with the retainers of the princes and nobles, and the followers of the high officials. The aggregate number of these retainers and followers, all of whom are armed, is very great. It is said to be over 300,000 men. The character of this class is an important consideration. They lead a life of idleness, and many of them are exceedingly dissolute. Towards those whom they regard as being their inferiors, they are arrogant and aggressive. They haunt the streets in great numbers, frequently in a state of intoxication, and, being always armed, are not only prompt in taking offence, but ready to seek it.

The feelings of these men towards foreigners are a mere reflex of the opinions of their masters, and as a majority of the latter are opposed to the presence of foreigners here, it may be fairly assumed that an equal proportion of their followers are hostile to us. I cannot conceal from you my serious apprehensions that, with the present state of feeling, very grave difficulties might arise from the presence here of American citizens for the purposes of trade.

I have no cause of complaint for myself, but whenever I leave my residence I am attended by a retinue that commands respect; and, in addition to this, my official position is well known.

But the merchant could have no such protection; he could not afford to support such an escort, and even if he did retain one, his social position would deprive him of nearly all the benefit of it.

If all the foreigners in Japan were prudent and discreet men, the danger arising from their residence in this city would be diminished, but not entirely averted. Unfortunately, a portion of them are neither prudent nor discreet, and they are numerous enough to imperil the safety of the orderly and well-disposed, and seriously endanger the amicable relations that have been established with so much difficulty and labor with this government.

Yedo is neither a commercial nor manufacturing city; the imports are confined to the supply of the inhabitants, and of exports there are none. The manufactures are limited to the production of the coarser articles for common use, which are of too little value to allow of charges for transport. Kanagawa is now, and must remain, the seaport of Yedo, as, after leaving Kanagawa, vessels can nowhere approach the shore nearer than three miles, and at Yedo they must anchor at the distance of five miles from the shore.

The business of this city is exclusively a retail one, and it is carried on in a [Page 794] manner which would apparently prevent a foreigner from conducting it. The class of persons who would be the principal purchasers of foreign productions never enter a shop to make purchases; the vendor carries his goods to the residence of his customer, and there, kneeling on the ground, he exhibits his wares.

The trade already developed gives a promising hope of the ultimate establishment of a large and beneficial commerce with this country, but these hopeful prospects may be seriously damaged, and possibly utterly destroyed, by a collision between the foreigners and Japanese, and I greatly fear that the indiscriminate admission of foreigners, at the time fixed by the treaties, to the right of residence in this capital, will lead to the most deplorable consequences, and to a state of affairs fatal to the best interests of all.

I have endeavored to lay before you a concise statement of the prospect before us in reference to this matter, and I respectfully request your serious consideration of it.

I have had frequent conferences with my colleagues, the English and French ministers, and we are united in our opinions on this subject.

It has been agreed between us that we should write to our respective governments asking for discretionary power to postpone the opening of this city for one year, with the power of renewing the postponement from time to time as actual exigencies might require.

I address you thus early, not only on account of the importance of the subject, but also in view of the great delay that frequently occurs in the transmission of my despatches to you.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Hon. Lewis Cass, Secretary of State, Washington.