Mr. Harris to Secretary of State.

No. 20.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a letter from his Majesty the Tycoon to the President of the United States, and a letter from the ministers for foreign affairs addressed to you. I have enclosed English translations with the foregoing.

These letters express the desire of this government that the opening of the cities of Yedo and Osacca, and the harbors of Hiogo and Neegata, should be postponed, for reasons that are set forth in the letter of the ministers for foreign affairs.

In my despatch No. 26, dated August 1, 1860, I expressed my opinion that it would be judicious to postpone the period fixed by the treaty for the opening of the city of Yedo, and not having found any reason to alter my views since writing that despatch, I respectfully request you to reperuse the same.

I have never been able to visit Osacca, and am therefore unable to say what may be the actual state of feeling in reference to the permanent residence of foreigners in that city; but I am aware that it is in the district called Tien, or Heavenly, by the Japanese, from the fact of its being the residence of the Mikado, or spiritual ruler of Japan, and it may well be that the residence of foreigners in that district would be regarded with dislike by a portion of the Japanese people. Hiogo is simply the seaport of Osacca, and its opening naturally depends on that of the city, and Neegata is a minor consideration.

The present action of this government would seem to be a retrograde movement, [Page 795] but this opinion will be somewhat modified when the present and the past are compared.

Since July, 1859, the prices of all articles of export from this country have risen from 100 to 300 per cent. A change so great and so sudden could not fail to press heavily on all official persons of fixed and limited incomes, and it is from this class that the loudest complaints are heard; and these complaints will continue while they are in a transition state towards a higher rate of salary.

The Dimios receive a large portion of their revenues in kind, and as they dispose of all their surplus, they find their incomes greatly increased. The effect of this is clearly shown by the fact that when I first came to Yedo, in November, 1857, only thirteen of the Dimios out of some three hundred were in favor of opening the country, while at the present time about one-half of them are in favor of the new order of things.

I would respectfully suggest that discretionary power should be given to the diplomatic agent of the United States in this country to act in concert with his colleagues in such manner as he may deem most advisable for the interests of both countries.

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

TOWNSEND HARRIS, Minister Resident in Japan.

Hon. Secretary of State, Washington.


To his excellency the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United States of America, &c.,&c.,.&c.:

We have to state to your excellency that his Majesty the Tycoon has addressed a letter to his Majesty the President on the subject of the treaty concluded with the United States, and by his order a full and clear statement of the fact therein set forth is to be made by us to your excellency.

It was for a period of nearly three hundred years that foreign intercourse was excluded from our empire. That ancient law, owing to the pressing recommendation of his Majesty the President of the United States, was somewhat altered, and it was resolved to allow ships off our coasts to be furnished with wood, water, provisions, and what they might be in need of at the two ports of Simoda and Hakodadi.

Since the arrival in Japan of the minister of the United States, his excellency Townsend Harris, we became gradually better informed upon all that relates to foreign countries as at present situated, and our government, taking this into consideration, concluded the treaties of amity, recently gone into operation, first with the United States, and subsequently with Russia, France, England, Holland, &c, thus establishing freedom of trade.

This, however, carried into effect led to a result generally experienced and very different from what was anticipated: no benefit has been derived, but the lower class of the nation has suffered from it already.

The prices of articles of general consumption are daily advancing, owing to extensive exportation to foreign countries, while but little is imported into our country; and the people of the humbler class, not being able to supply their wants as heretofore, attribute this to foreign trade, and occasionally express themselves to that effect. Yea, even the higher and wealthier classes are generally not favorably disposed towards commerce; so that soon there may be those who will condemn the abrogation of the prohibition of former times, and desire the re-establishment of the ancient law.

The policy of exclusion of foreign intercourse was like an established custom, and had deeply taken root in the national mind, that knew nothing of intercourse with foreign powers. It would, therefore, be a matter of great difficulty [Page 796] to allay the feeling of uneasiness with which public opinion regards the change of policy, even if the difficulty already mentioned did not exist.

While this disadvantage has made itself felt throughout the empire, a general uneasiness is created by referring to the stipulation according to which the ports of Hiogo and Neegata are to be opened, and foreign trade is to be carried on at Yedo and Osacca, which stipulation is to be found in the 3d article of the treaty, and published accordingly. As the time approaches that this stipulation is to be carried out, a greater anxiety manifests itself from an apprehension that the disadvantage and the loss already experienced are to be further increased.

In the present state of public opinion it would be a matter of great difficulty for the government to exert its power and authority for the purpose of demonstrating the benefits to be realized at some future day, and thus causing it to submit to the present uneasiness for some time longer.

To look at things in their present and not in their prospective state is the habit of ignorant people. Should recourse be had to strong measures to accomplish the purpose, the extent of the calamity to result from such action, in direct opposition to public opinion, could not well be estimated. And as for Neegata, there are several sand banks at the entrance of that harbor, which render it unfit to be visited by ships of foreign nations. The minister of the United States, his excellency Townsend Harris, is also of opinion that that place lacks the requirements for commercial purposes. Another suitable port ought, therefore, to be selected and opened on the west coast, according to stipulation. This has not yet taken place, and the selection has been delayed, owing to adverse winds and currents at the time of examination of that coast, which examination had then to be discontinued.

In view of the present state of affairs, the proper time to make suitable arrangements should be waited for. Therefore the opening of the two ports and the two cities should be postponed; public opinion reassured and gradually prepared; commerce organized by degrees; prices of things find their level, and the old custom changed in such a manner that a prosperous intercourse with foreign countries may become the wish of the nation.

Under such circumstances it would not be difficult to open the two ports and the two cities.

Like the sailor under a head wind, who waits until the wind becomes favorable, so should there be patience in waiting for the proper time for perfecting the matter without pressure or compulsion of any kind. For the above-mentioned reason it is desired to postpone the opening referred to for a period of seven years, according to the Japanese era, until the close of the year of the next Hinoto, corresponding to the year 1868 of your era.

It may be expected that such arrangements, allowing time for preparation, will soon bear good fruit and prevent difficulties. Should, however, any pressure be brought to bear upon this matter, the evil consequences of such a course could not well be averted, though it be in accordance with the treaty. This is the true state of affairs. People are apt not to heed the recommendation of others, but to be in favor of all that they themselves originate. This is a common thing in human nature.

The best course to be pursued is to take into consideration the true nature of men and things; to use no compulsion; to enlighten the people by degrees, and to prepare the time when of their own accord they will look to the future with confidence; and surely there will be no other means to meet the present emergency.

As, however, the postponement of fulfilment of any treaty stipulation may lead to a disagreeable impression being formed, we hesitated until now to make this communication. We have taken the subject repeatedly in mature consideration, and feel confident that there is but one way to arrange the matter, [Page 797] and that is as above suggested. This measure is not only in the interest of our empire, but it will undoubtedly tend to strengthen the existing ties of friendship, and to secure the advantages of commerce permanently. For this reason has his Majesty the Tycoon addressed a letter to his Majesty the President, with the object of postponing the opening of the two ports and the two cities as above mentioned.

We consulted the ministers of foreign powers on this subject, and also fully explained it to the Prussian minister, last arrived, who agreed to the reasons set forth, in consequence of which, in the treaty concluded with Prussia, the article referring to the two ports and the two cities was omitted.

It is our heartfelt desire that your excellency will take the foregoing in due consideration, and in view of the urgency of the case and the importance of our statement, be pleased to submit the matter to his Majesty the President, and cause it to be settled and accepted in conformity with our wishes, and for the perpetuation of the existing friendship between the two countries.

We also consulted his excellency Townsend Harris on the subject, who partly agrees with us. A communication by him will also be made to your excellency.

We further beg leave to inform you that similar communications have been sent to the governments of those powers having treaties with Japan.

Stated with respect and courtesy.

On the 23d day of the 3d month of the 1st year of Runkin.



The Tycoon of Japan to the President of the United States:

Greeting: I have to state to your Majesty the President of the United States of America, that since a treaty was concluded between my empire and the United States, the relations between the two countries have been in steady progress of organization, and that the time approaches when much of what is stipulated in that treaty is to go into effect. But there are several obstacles in the way of execution of that article of the treaty which relates to the opening of the ports of Hiogo and Neegata, and the admittance of foreign trade in the cities of Yedo and Osacca. I therefore desire to postpone the opening of the places above named. More particular information on this subject will be communicated by the members of my council for foreign affairs, Kudsi Yamato no Kami and Ando Tsusima no Kami, to the minister of foreign affairs of the United States. I hope that your Majesty, animated by friendly feeling, will consent to this.

I wish happiness and prosperity to the United States.

On the 23d day of the 3d month of the 1st year of Runkin.

[Name of his Majesty the Tycoon.]