Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 50.]

Sir: It becomes my painful duty to inform you of another outrage by Japanese, resulting in the death of a subject of her Britannic Majesty and the fearful wounding of two others.

On the 15th instant, about 3 o’clock p. m., Mr. Marshall, a merchant of Yokohama, Mr. Clarke, in the employ of the American house of Augustine Heard & Co., Mr. Richardson, of Hong Kong, on a visit to Japan, and Mrs. Bonadaile, were riding on the Iakaido, or public highway, within the treaty limits. They were entirely unarmed. When about three miles from this place they met the train of the karo (secretary) of the Prince of Satsuma, consisting of several hundred armed retainers. They drew off quietly on the side of the road, occupying only such small portion as was needed, moving in single file, and proceeded without molestation until they had reached nearly the centre of the train, where, in pursuance of orders given by the secretary, who is said to be a relative of the Prince, they were surrounded by his followers and fiercely assaulted.

Mrs. Bonadaile fortunately escaped, by the aid of the gentlemen with her, without injury. Yet, as large locks of hair were cut from her head, it is evident that her sex afforded no protection from the assault of these cowardly assassins. Mr. Richardson was most frightfully wounded, and after having ridden more than a mile in this condition, fell from his horse and crawled to the side of the road. Here, while piteously begging for water, he was repeatedly thrust through with spears and cut with swords, his neck being nearly cut through.

Messrs. Clarke and Marshall were severely wounded, but found refuge in the American consulate at this place, where they were immediately attended by Dr. Hepburn, of the Presbyterian mission.

To this opportune refuge and this immediate medical assistance they owe their lives. They fainted on their arrival, and could not have survived had they been obliged to continue their flight through this train to the point where the road diverges to Yokohama, and thence to that place.

On the arrival of myself and our consul in Japan, Colonel Fisher took possession of the building in this place formerly occupied by the American consul, and refused to reside in the premises provided at Yokohama, as unsuitable, insufficient, and unhealthy. The other consuls, having been better accommodated, had all removed to Yokohama. In this determination I sustained him. A refuge was thus at hand for these gentlemen, and I rejoice in the action which secured it.

It is with pleasure I state that an American boy, of only fourteen years of age, Frank Schoyer, walked through these Satsuma men more than a quarter of a mile to the residence of Dr. Hepburn, and thus secured his prompt attendance on the wounded.

On the arrival of Messrs. Marshall and Clarke at the consulate, our flag was hoisted, Union down, as a signal to the men-of-war in port; and our consul requested Mr. J. O. P. Stearns, an American citizen, casually there, and Mr. Ayton Mann, one of his household, to inform the British and French ministers at Yokohama of the occurrence.

On the return of Mr. Stearns to the consulate, with Dr. Jenkins, of the British legation, swords were drawn on them by some of the same band, who were only kept off by the determined attitude of Mr. Stearns, who proceeded through their ranks with revolver ready for use.

Captain Buys, of the Netherlands steam corvette Vice-Admiral Koopman, was at the same time warned off the Iokaidoi while proceeding to the American consulate by an officer having the hand on his sword. Captain [Page 1049] Büys offered to place a guard of marines at the consulate for its protection, which courtesy I felt it my duty to acknowledge. I enclose No. 1, Mr. Pruyn to Mr. de Wit.

It is with great pleasure that I am enabled to make known to the President the considerate courtesy of his excellency Monsieur Duchesne de Bellecourt, his Imperial Majesty’s minister plenipotentiary. On being informed of the affair, he at once went with a portion of his guard to the residence of the American consul, distant nearly four miles from the foreign residences at Yokohama, and caused a body of marines to be landed for its protection. Within a short distance from the consulate a mounted Japanese made a demonstration of attack, but his sword was only half drawn, when the sergeant of that guard knocked him off his horse, and at the same moment another Japanese, at a still shorter distance from the consulate, for similar cause, was fired at with revolvers, wounding him slightly in the leg.

As the consul thought it unnecessary that the guard should remain during the night, he was kindly furnished with rockets, to be used if necessary, and arrangements were made to respond to his signals for assistance.

I felt it my duty to acknowledge this courtesy. (Enclosure No. 2.)

No provocation was given. As it is customary, however, when a man of high rank passes with his train, for others to dismount and to pay other marks of respect, it is probable that the non-compliance with this Japanese custom may have been regarded by the secretary of Satsuma as an insult, or, what is still more probable, been taken advantage of to justify the outrage on the principles of Japanese law.

I received the first intelligence of this calamitous affair at Yedo, at about 8 p. m., by means of a few hurried lines from Eugene Van Reed, an American citizen, who was on the Iokaido some distance beyond the scene of its occurrence. He fortunately understands the Japanese language, and is popular with the people, and owing to the warnings of some of them he was able to reach Yokohama by boat. Shortly after a more detailed and accurate statement from our Consul reached me from Kanagawa. I immediately despatched the letter to J. K. de Wit, esq., the consul-general of the Netherlands. Mr. de Wit came to the legation early on the morning of the 16th.

We demanded an interview with the ministers of foreign affairs at 11 o’clock of the same day. One of the governors was sent to the legation with a message that the ministers were so busily engaged that it was impossible to see us, and, further, that no interview had ever been granted under such circumstances. It had always been usual to agree upon interviews several days in advance. In short, the difficulty appeared to be that it did not comport with the dignity of the Japanese government to have an interview thus in a measure forced on it. We then insisted he should return at once to the ministers and say we intended to go to Yokohama the next day to meet our colleagues; that we were advised that great excitement naturally existed there; that we desired the interview as the friends of the Japanese government, and for its sake; that if the ministers would receive us that afternoon, well; if not, the consequences would rest with them.

The governor wished to continue the conversation, but Mr. de Wit and myself withdrew from the room, and refused to converse longer on the subject.

The governor said, as we were retiring, that he had some business with me. I replied that if the ministers had more important business than that which affected the lives of American and other citizens, I had not, and I declined to transact any business with the Japanese government whatever while the question as to the interview was undecided. Mr. Portman followed me to my office and informed me that the governor was much distressed, and said that he did not dare return without giving his message, as it would involve serious consequences to himself. I authorized Mr. Portman to receive his message, which [Page 1050] he accordingly did. It was to the effect that a governor of foreign affairs had been despatched to Kanagawa, and that a guard would hereafter be maintained at the residence of the American consul at that place. This had before been refused, probably with a view of forcing all foreigners from Kanagawa, as the request to leave it was invariably enforced by the representation that it was not safe to reside there.

The message was in reply to a letter that day addressed to the ministers, of which I transmit a copy. (Enclosure No. 3.)

At one o’clock we received notice that the ministers would receive us at three o’clock p. m. at the residence of the third minister.

At that hour Mr. de Wit and myself arrived at the place of meeting, and were received by the second and third ministers (the first minister being very sick) and by two assistant ministers.

We commenced by informing them that what was said on that occasion must be understood as coming from the ministers of the United States and of the Netherlands jointly—that both these powers were known to be and had always been the friends of Japan, and that it was for that reason we had considered the present interview important. That in the outset we wished to inform their excellencies that it was customary for the ministers of foreign affairs of the United States, and of all the countries of Europe, to see the ministers accredited to their respective governments, on an emergency, even without notice; and we wished this distinctly understood, as we might have occasion to ask for an interview, even with less ceremony than on the present occasion.

I then proceeded to read a brief statement of the occurrences of the 15th; the attack on Mr. Marshall’s party; the offensive attitude assumed to Mr. Stearns, to Captain Büys, and the offensive demonstration towards the French guard. I called the attention of the ministers to the fact that no provocation had been given, and that there appeared to be an indiscriminate hostility to foreigners, and then asked what information the ministers had received in relation thereto. They replied that they had only received a report of the attack on the party of Englishmen and the death of one of their number, but that no time had been afforded for details to be given. We then asked what had been done towards the arrest of the offenders. They replied, they were investigating the affair. We represented that it was proper they should at once arrest the chief personages of the party, before they escaped to the Prince of Satsuma’s dominions, that otherwise the government might be obliged, as on former occasions, to say they could not find the parties, and that such excuse would not be admissible now. They replied they did not know who were the offenders. We gave them notice that we had reliable information that the orders for the attack had been given by the secretary of the prince, and required his arrest.

The ministers finally were forced to say that this could not be done; that they could not arrest so important an officer of the prince of Satsuma; that if, after investigation, they were satisfied of his guilt, they would require him to be arrested by that prince, and that he would thereupon deliver him to the government, We informed the ministers that our letters represented that much feeling existed at Yokohama, and that we feared that if an impression should go forth that this man would escape punishment, that the Tokaido would be seized. Our letters show that this had been proposed, in view of the passage over it, the next day, of the ambassador of the Mikado. They hoped this would not be done, as it would add to the complication. We then asked whether they would authorize us to assure our colleagues that the guilty parties would be punished, whatever their position, and that they would act promptly and vigorously. This they authorized us to do.

Our interview terminated, after the exchange of the usual civilities, with the expression of the hope that Mr. de Wit and myself would use our influence to prevent the seizure of the Tokaido, or any other hostile act.

[Page 1051]

Mr. de Wit and myself left Yedo early the next morning, to remain here a few days. He is now at the consulate of the Netherlands, and I am a guest of Mr. Fisher, at Kanagawa. A meeting of the foreign ministers is to he held this day; but the mail will close before I can advise you of its results. It is with difficulty I can find time to prepare this hurried despatch.

There are now four British men-of-war, under the command of Admiral Kuper, three French and one Dutch men-of-war, in this port. Considering it very desirable that our flag shall shortly be seen in these waters, I have taken the liberty to write to Captain McDougall, of the Wyoming, at Hong Kong and Shanghai, requesting him to visit this port as soon as he can do so consistently with his orders and the public interests committed to his charge.

I return to Yedo to-morrow.

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. 113.]

Sir: I have the honor to thank you most cordially for the very friendly and prompt manner in which Captain Büys, in command of his Netherland Majesty’s steamer Vice-Admiral Koopman, offered to place a guard of marines at the American consulate at Kanagawa for its protection on the 15th instant, when the desperate acts of Japanese assassins on that day rendered such protection eminently desirable, and to request you to convey my sincere thanks to that distinguished officer,

It will be my duty, as well as great pleasure, to make known to the President of the United States this friendly action, which cannot fail to cement more closely the friendship which has so uninterruptedly marked the relations between the Netherlands and the United States.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,

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

J. K. de Wit, Esq., His Netherland Majesty’s Consul General, &c., &c., &c., in Japan.


No. 112.]

Sir: I have the honor to convey to your excellency my profound thanks for the very friendly and prompt manner in which you proceeded with your guard to the American consulate at Kanagawa on the 15th instant for its protection, while it had the good fortune to afford a refuge to Messrs. Clarke and Marshall, two subjects of her Britannic Majesty, who were desperately wounded by Japanese assassins on that day; also, for your offer to furnish the American consul with a guard to remain at his residence, and for the excellent arrangements you caused to be made for the landing of marines from the French men-of-war in that port for his protection in case of necessity, and to beg you will also convey my thanks to the naval officers of his Imperial Majesty for their courtesies on that occasion.

[Page 1052]

It will be my duty, as well as a great pleasure, to make known your friendly action to the President of the United States.

Such courtesies cannot fail to cement more closely the friendship which has so uninterruptedly marked the relations of France and the United States, and which have never been more warmly reciprocated than during the reign of his Imperial Majesty.

I avail myself of this occasion to renew to you the assurance of my distinguished consideration.

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

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

His Excellency Duchesne de Bellecourt, Minister Plenipotentiary of France, &c., &c., &c., in Japan.


No. 110.]

I most respectfully insist that you shall, without any delay, place a suitable guard at the residence of the American consul at Kanagawa, and that this very night one shall be placed there.

And I now give you notice, that if this be neglected the Japanese government will be held responsible for any accident which may happen by reason thereof.

With respect and esteem,

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

The Ministers of Foreign Affairs, &c., Japan.