Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 36.]

Sir: The teas of Japan are brought to market in a condition which forbids their export. At first they were sent to China to be refined and placed in suitable boxes. Then the necessary materials, such as lead, rosin, iron hoops, hooks, &c., &c., were imported, and the work done here. No duties were charged on these articles, nearly all of which were exported with the teas, until about a year ago, when a duty of twenty per cent. was demanded as for non-enumerated articles. It was claimed, on the other hand, that at the most, five per cent. was chargeable. In this position the subject has continued till this time, British merchants, however, paying the duties to her Britannic Majesty’s consul, who holds the money to await the final decision. I am informed by our consul that he thus holds a large amount of money, paid to him by American merchants.

The first importation of these articles made by an American since my arrival was by R. B. Smith, the agent of Messrs. A. A. Low Brothers, of New York; and our consul for nearly a month endeavored, but ineffectually, to procure, first, their entry free of duty; and failing that, their admission on payment of the duties to him, to abide the event.

He then brought the case to my notice, and I thereupon addressed two letters to the minister of foreign affairs, copies of which I enclose, (enclosures Nos. 1 and 2.)

One of the governors immediately waited on me, and I am happy to say that the articles were at once admitted on payment of duty to our consul.

I think I have succeeded in satisfying the ministry that no duties should be charged on such articles. But it is feared that their free admission may be made a precedent for claims for the admission of other non-enumerated articles.

I have therefore proposed that an additional or explanatory article of the treaty be agreed on, and though there is an evident unwillingness to make any change in the treaty, except to postpone the opening of other ports, I indulge the hope that in some way I shall succeed in finally settling this question, and also in procuring the assent of the government to the employment of Japanese sailors in American ships, which is exceedingly desirable, and which subject I have brought to the notice of the ministers.

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

ROBERT H. PRUYN, Minister Resident in Japan.

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


No. 76.]

The United States consul at Kanagawa has called my attention to an application at the custom-house at that port to admit free of duty certain articles specified in such application, to be used by R. B. Smith, a merchant at said port, solely for preparing and packing tea for exportation.

As the free admission of articles used only for that purpose will greatly increase the sale of tea, and so benefit the government by increasing the amount paid on exportation, it appears unjust to the merchants to demand five per cent. duty, and that the government will, in the end, also sustain a loss.

While your excellencies are taking this subject into consideration, I have to [Page 1040] ask that you will at once, and without any delay whatever, direct the officers at Kanagawa to admit the said articles on payment of the duties to the American consul at Kanagawa, to remain in his hands until the subject; is decided by an agreement between your excellencies and the representatives of the treaty powers. This the custom-house authorities have refused to allow, to my great surprise, as I learn that the course proposed has been pursued by the British merchants and consul for more than a year past.

Your immediate attention is requested to this, as great injury is being done by this delay, to Mr. Smith.

I shall be pleased to hear this day that the necessary orders have been given.

With respect and courtesy,

ROBT. H. PRUYN, Minister Resident of the United States in Japan.

Their Excellencies the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Yedo.


No. 77.]

I called your attention, yesterday, to articles imported by Mr. R. B. Smith, to be used solely for preparing tea for export, and which is claimed should be admitted free of duty.

I have, this morning, a letter from our consul at Kanagawa, stating that the officials at the custom-house there say that the reason why British merchants are allowed to take such articles on payment of the duties to the British consul, was because he made “threats, while they expected better things from the Americans.”

You will see the necessity of putting our citizens on the same footing as British merchants. I must insist on this. If I am unable, by appeals to your justice, to get what is right, how can I satisfy the reasonable expectations of our merchants, whose interests I am bound to protect?

I have written several letters to you, to which I have received no reply. I wish attention given first and at once to this matter. I shall be compelled to ask that Mr. Smith be indemnified for the loss he has sustained by the refusal to place him on the same footing as British merchants are placed.

With respect and courtesy,

ROBT. H. PRUYN, Minister Resident of the United States in Japan.

Their Excellencies the Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Yedo.