Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 25.]

Sir: The 21st article of the treaty of Japan with Great Britain provides that “all official communications addressed by the diplomatic and consular agents of her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain to the Japanese authorities shall henceforward be written in English. In order, however, to facilitate the transaction of business, they will, for a period of five years from the signature of that treaty, be accompanied by a Dutch or Japanese version.

This period will expire on the 26th day of August, 1863.

In view of this article, the Japanese government have for a long time caused instructions in reading and writing the English language to be given to a large number of these officials. It is known that, while many of them can read and write with great readiness, they have made little progress in speaking the language.

I have received a letter from the minister of foreign affairs, of which I enclose translation, No. 1. After consultation with the young gentlemen attached to this legation, I sent a copy, of which I enclose copy, No. 2.

It is proper to say, in this connexion, that the Reverend S. R. Brown, of Kanagawa, a missionary from the Reformed Dutch church of the United States, had offered, through Mr. Harris, to take charge of any number of young men whom the government might send to him for that purpose; and at an interview which I had on the day of the receipt of the letter, with one of the government of foreign affairs, I offered to invite to this legation, for the purpose of giving such instruction, a very capable young gentleman now at Kanagawa, who has been professor in an institution in California, and to provide for his support while so engaged.

Meanwhile I proposed to make known their wishes to the government of the United States, and suggested it was possible the President might, in view of the great advantages which would result, cause a suitable instructor to be provided.

I was answered that the government preferred to send the men to the legation, and it was desirable that no delay should take place in commencing instructions.

I have thought it proper to make this detailed statement, as it is extremely desirable that all official correspondence with our minister and consuls shall be in our own language, thus insuring greater freedom in our intercourse.

It is very obvious that this imposes an unpleasant burden on the legation, in which I must, to some extent, share; but I did not feel at liberty to refuse the request, and am pleased to say, that I think the gentlemen attached to this legation will faithfully and successfully discharge the duties which they have so cheerfully assumed.

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

ROBERT H. PRUYN, Minister Resident in Japan.

Hon. Wm. H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.

No. 1.

To His Excellency Robert H. Pruyn, Minister Resident of the United States of America, &c., &c.:

In our country there are but few who have a knowledge of the English language. It will not be in accordance with the stipulation in our treaties with [Page 1033] the several powers if conferences cannot be held in that language when the time for doing so will have arrived; and, besides, it will also cause inconvenience at interviews. It is, therefore, desirable for us to send suitable persons to your legation to receive instruction in that language. We now request your excellency to make an arrangement for that purpose, and give us your reply in writing.




No. 2.

In reply to your letter of the 15th instant, I have the honor to say that it will afford me great pleasure to receive at this legation such young men as you may wish to send for the purpose of receiving instruction in our language.

Messrs. William In graham Kip and Robert C. Pruyn, secretaries attached to this legation, have, at my request, kindly undertaken to devote such time each day, except on our sabbath day, as may be necessary for the purpose of such instructions; and Mr. Portman, the intrepreter of this legation, will, with great pleasure, give such time as he may be able to spare from his duties for the same purpose.

With respect and courtesy,

ROBERT H. PRUYN, Minister Resident for the United States of America, &c., &c.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, &c., &c., &c.