Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 63.]

Sir: I regret to have to announce the total loss of the American bark Cheralie, of New York, on the east coast of Japan, in the province of Hitats. There are special circumstances connected with this disaster which afford great cause for thankfulness. The officers and crew were not only saved, but treated with humanity and kindness by the officers and people of the province. Nothing which could be done was left undone to display good will; even a flagstaff was erected by the Japanese at the temple appropriated for the use of the crew, from which to display our national flag.

Intelligence of the disaster was sent to this city overland, and the Japanese ministers immediately placed at my disposal the steamship-of-war Tshoyo Maro, which carried to the scene of the wreck our consul at Kanagawa, our marshal, and an American pilot.

I have the honor to transmit, enclosure No. 1, copy of the report of the American consul, which gives in detail an account of the shipwreck and of the friendly offices of the Japanese; also copy of my letter of thanks to the ministers of foreign affairs, enclosure No. 2.

Shortly after the departure of the Japanese ship-of-war, I received from the French minister the kind proffer of the services of the steamer Duplex. His official letter, which shows that this offer was occasioned by apprehension that our officers and seamen were in danger, was accompanied by a private letter, which exhibited that feeling more transparently.

As he stated in that letter, he heard the Japanese express the fear that the wrecked foreigners would be badly received by the population on the spot, and therefore had taken some military measures and precautions. I had no information which led me to doubt the good feeling of the population of the locality, or that any military precautions had been taken by the government; nor had I any reason to distrust the disposition or ability of the government to extend all needful assistance and protection. Still, as the weather was stormy and threatening, I would have accepted this offer had I not feared that it would be regarded by the Japanese government as an evidence of distrust. And further, while I had no apprehension that the presence of the Duplex would provoke any hostility. I was satisfied that if her captain went there under the influence of the fears and reflecting the views of his minister, complications might arise, for which I did not wish to be responsible. I felt it to be my duty, therefore, to decline the offer.

To insure at the same time the safety of the Americans who were wrecked [Page 1056] and who had gone to their relief, I took the precaution to ascertain whether any real cause of apprehension existed. I had learned to receive with distrust all the rumors and news of which Yokohama is the prolific parent, and which keep it in a state of constant alarm. But as the lives of our people might be endangered, I asked that a governor for foreign affairs might be despatched at once to this legation with all the information in possession of the government in relation to the wreck and the situation of the crew. At 9 o’clock that same evening one of the governors visited me. He expressed himself highly pleased that I had declined the assistance of the French steamer, and assured me that no uneasiness existed on the part of the government, and that no unusual precautions had been taken. I thereupon addressed to the minister of France a letter conveying this gratifying information, which confirmed me in my opinion that no necessity for further aid existed.

I enclose No. 3, translation of the official letter of the minister of France, and Nos. 4 and 5, copies of my replies.

It is due to our consul to state that the allusion of the minister to the case of the Guinea and the unfriendly remarks of our consul are founded on a difference which has arisen between the minister of France, acting as consul general, on the one side, and the American, English, and Dutch consuls on the other, growing out of the wreck of that vessel and of the questions of insurance thereat arising, with the merits of which I am not acquainted. I took occasion, however, to inform the minister of France, unofficially, that I had no doubt that the remarks of Mr. Fisher had been misunderstood, and that I was sure that a satisfactory explanation could and would be given.

I should add, that about the time our consul reached the wreck I received from the captain of the ship written notice of the shipwreck, accompanied by the boat-flag, to attest the nationality of the vessel, which were brought by the Japanese overland. The vessel is a total loss; also the cargo. The captain and seamen have safely reached Kanagawa.

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. 13.]

Sir: I have the honor officially to inform you, that on the night of the 22d ultimo the American bark Cheralie, of New York, on voyage from Hakodadi to Shanghai, China, struck a sand knoll, and has since stranded and become a total wreck, about one hundred miles due northeast from this port.

About midday of the 27th the governor of Kanagawa sent word to me that he had information that a vessel, supposed to be American, had gone ashore in the neighborhood of Cape Chi-o-yo-she, but he would know more about it on the morrow and duly inform me. On the 28th he received and sent word it was an American vessel, and that after having been driven into the breakers, had cut away her masts, and would become a total wreck; also that a government steam gunboat would be placed at my disposal on the next morning to proceed to the wreck for the relief and rescue of the crew. The next day was thick, foggy, and rainy, so that the vessel did not come down until about 5 o’clock p. m.

The governor immediately sent word to me of the arrival of the ten-gun boat Cho-yo-maroo, and requested to be informed whether I would go, and at what time. I told his messenger I would be on board at any hour he might name [Page 1057] The hour of 9 a. m. the next day, 30th, was fixed upon, and I was promptly on board. On reaching the deck Captain Ya-ta-bo-re-ki-dro and his officers received me with the usual man-of-war civilities, and tendered to me the use of his cabin, which I accepted. At 9½ a. m. the ship weighed anchor and we stood down the bay, the wind blowing fresh northwest. Accompanying me I had taken Mr. Hogg, our marshal, and Mr. Connor, the pilot. The Japanese government also sent a high official from the custom-house department and one from the marine department, with an interpreter. The wind having increased to about half a gale, the ship lay at anchor at Uraga about five hours, and then steamed on, intending to anchor inside Cape King for the night. This purpose the high officer of customs and captain communicated to me, when I said I would not in any way control; that is your exclusive province, and beg you to do what you think best. I will state, however, that my anxiety is great to reach the wreck as early as possible, as it may be the captain, passengers, if any, and crew, may be suffering from sickness, want, or injuries; and as my government is at all times particular to render the speediest relief to shipwrecked seamen, I hope as little delay will occur as is consistent with safety.

The captain immediately concluded to keep on through the night. As we got outside the wind increased, and the sea off Capes King and Blanco was very rough; still we steamed on, and at daylight, the 1st of December instant, had made but about thirty miles beyond the last-named cape. We continued on our course—wind still freshening more and more—until, finding we made no headway, the order was given, 12 m., “about ship,” and returning fifteen miles, we anchored at 3 p. m. opposite the village Comi-ma-to. There we lay twenty-seven hours. Providentially the wind abated during the night and through the forenoon of the 2d, and at 4 p. m. we again got under way. The night was comparatively calm; at 6 o’clock on the morning of the 3d we found ourselves directly opposite the wreck, about three miles distant.

At seven the vessel came to an anchor within two miles of the wreck, lowered the captain’s gig, and with three of the highest Japanese officials, the interpreter, Mr. Hogg, Mr. Connor, and myself, started to go to the wreck. We had gone within three-fourths of a mile of it, when it became evident that it would be madness to go nearer, as the current and breakers would inevitably swamp us.

We then made for the entrance, three miles distant, through the mouth of the river Tone-gawa, immediately north of the point marked on Perry’s chart Sandy Hook, or Cape Chio-yo-shi. On our way, about midway, we met a Japanese surf-boat, and transferred the Japanese officers and myself to the same, Mr. Hogg and Mr. Connor returning temporarily to the ship.

This entrance is dangerous, being through a heavy surf, almost constantly breaking all the way across the channel; but after a hard pull we got through, reached calm water and the fishing village of Chi-yo-shi, province of Si-mo-o-sa. Here I was taken to the residence of the had man of the village, and treated to tea.

After certain official inquiries were made, we again took boat and proceeded up the river about three miles, when we again debarked. From thence we walked through delightfully shaded groves, and hedged road-ways, to the temple Gin-gin. Just before reaching it, my eyes were delighted with beholding, floating to the breeze from a respectable flagstaff which had been erected for that purpose by the Japanese authorities, our dear old national ensign, and had the captain raise the flag on. As we entered the temple grounds, temporary buildings were seen on every side, and a large number of soldiers on guard; those on duty “turning out” at a carry as we passed through the entrance.

In the temple I found Captain Farrell, of the bark, and his officers and crew of fourteen men, all in tolerable health; one who had been saved from the [Page 1058] breakers, and resuscitated from drowning, not as well as the others, but convalescing.

The captain then related to me, on the 22d ultimo, at noon, his observations were good in every respect; that they were then about forty-five miles from land; that at twelve o’clock at night, having just turned in, the second mate on watch, weather murky, cloudy, with all sail set, and wind fresh, he felt the ship strike on what turned out the next day to be a sand knoll, about two and one-quarter to two and one-half miles from the shore, a low sandy beach. He immediately sprung on deck, when she struck again, and through the darkness they could barely discern the outlines of the shore, and hear the dashing of the breakers; at once clewed up all sail, the ship still thumping very heavily. In this condition they lay all night. Next morning the wind increased, blowing them directly on shore into the breakers; the current, the captain says, being fully six miles per hour, north by west. During the day and that night the wind increased to a gale, and they expected the vessel to go to pieces every moment. The next day, 24th, the ship had driven in still more and more, when, to lighten her up, they cut away the fore and main mast, and were in the act of cutting away the mizzen, when the wind and a lurch of the vessel broke it off by the head, and all came down with a crash, but no one injured, though narrowly escaping; also threw overboard heavy cables, except fifteen fathoms. The ship then lightened up, so that the wind took her right into the breakers, where she became hard and fast in the sand, and would have gone all to pieces but for her remarkably strong build. We then walked to the wreck, and found her lying head on, about three miles north of the channel of the river and cape above named, one hundred yards from the shore at high tide, and is a total wreck. The province is Hi-ta-chi; the town is To-ka-no-wara.

The captain and crew, by throwing overboard their trunks, boxes, and bags, saved most of their clothing, which were washed ashore; but no provisions.

The same day the captain abandoned all as hopeless; when I made arrangements with the Japanese officials sent with me, to wreck her if possible, and ship the cargo and saved articles from the wreck to Kanagawa, which I doubt not will be speedily and faithfully done.

That evening we endeavored to go to the ship; but finding it impossible to go through the breakers at the mouth of the river, we were compelled to return to the temple and spend the night. Had we gone into the breakers, we would undoubtedly all have been lost.

On the morning of the 4th, at ten, we again walked to the river; and embarking in boats at 1 p. m., were all in safety on board the steamer. At 2 p. m. we had again got under way, and headed for this port. At 4 p. m., the 5th, we arrived at this anchorage all comfortable and safe.

The danger of the current, the fear of the wind rising, and the uncertainty of the anchorage, impelled me to the speediest possible embarkation and geting under way; for had the wind risen as on the 1st, the steamer could by no means have remained by the wreck, but must have gone either thirty-five miles to the northward, or seventy-five miles to the south, to find any sort of a secure anchorage or protection; and it might have been a week or two, or even three weeks, before we could have got on board of her. No sailing vessel, in my opinion, should venture within six to ten miles of this place; and with the wind east-northeast, north, or northwest, no ordinary steamer should venture nearer than from three to five miles. I think it one of the most dangerous places I have ever seen; and it puts one in mind of Squam beach more than any other place I now remember.

I have now to state to your excellency, with the greatest satisfaction, the true kindness with which the captain and crew had been treated. A temple was given them, and such food as the Japanese can afford. They had also [Page 1059] a guard of about 200 men that the sailors should have the fullest protection and no accident befall them from the people.

As for myself and the party, I know not in what terms to express my gratitude to the officials sent by the government and the chief officials of the province when the wreck occurred, and the captain and officers, one and all of the ship, each vied with each other in administering to our wants. Wherever I went the utmost deference was paid me by officials and by the people, and the same deference and respect paid me as to the governor of the province.

Eggs, chickens, ducks, fruit, rice, oysters, sweet potatoes, and fish were supplied us in abundance and without charge.

I beg leave to thank the civil and naval officers, one and all, and the government, with all my heart, for their every act of kindness to the men and myself and party, and beg to ask your excellency to state so to the governors of foreign affairs and their excellencies the ministers of state.

This proof of friendship, this demonstration of good faith to foreigners, this undeniable attestation of intention to fulfil every treaty obligation and manifestation of their desire to filfil all the obligations of the most enlightened humanity will be regarded by the whole world as conclusive evidence of their desire to be coequal with the other civilized powers. Indeed, I cannot but regard this act, as it most assuredly is, an unparalleled demonstration of the rapid advance this remarkable people and government are making towards a full emancipation from exclusiveness which is to place them speedily in the front rank of nations, if not to make it and them a Christian country and people— a nation soon to be counted as among the first and most enlightened of the earth.

Again requesting you to thank the government and officers of the ship, each and every one of them, for their courtesy, kindness, and respect in behalf of our country and for myself,

I am, my dear sir, most respectfully, your obedient, humble servant,

GEORGE S. FISHER, United States Consul.

His Excellency General Robert H. Pruyn, Minister Resident, Yedo.


No. 141.]

I have the honor to thank your excellencies for the prompt and friendly services of a ship-of-war despatched by the Japanese government to the scene of the wreck of the American ship Chevalier, and for the efficient aid extended to the shipwrecked officers and seamen by the officers of the province, as well as by the officers from this city.

I am happy to be able to state that no lives were lost on that occasion, and that the crew of the vessel have arrived in safety at Kanagawa.

Colonel Fisher, the American consul, reports to me that the officers of the ship-of-war treated him with courtesy and kindness during the passage; that on his arrival at the wreck he found our countrymen most comfortably accommodated and amply supplied with provisions, and the officers and people of the neighborhood were kind and friendly,

It is highly satisfactory to learn that the same friendship for my country, which I am happy to know animated his Majesty the Tycoon and your excellencies, extends so generally to officers and people of this empire.

The bare fulfilment of treaty obligations cannot of itself create nor increase cordiality between nations. It is the spirit which prompts and accompanies such fulfilment which gives character and force to the act.

[Page 1060]

The instant information given by the Japanese officers of the wreck, their humane attentions in advance of orders from Yedo, the immediate despatch of a vessel-of-war by your excellencies bearing our consul to the wreck, and the cordial and friendly feeling which marked the conduct of all your officers, show that higher and better, because more humane and friendly, motives than the desire to fulfil treaty obligations influenced your excellencies and all your subordinate officers.

It would gratify me if your excellencies would cause my thanks to be conveyed to the captain of the Tsho-yo-maro and to the chief officer at Tsh-yo-shi.

The President of the United States will receive with great satisfaction the report which it will be my duty and pleasure to make as a proof of the present and a sure promise of the continued existence of a spirit of friendship between the two countries which will, whenever opportunity offers, be manifested in beneficent acts.

With respect and esteem,

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

Their Excellencies Midsuno Idsumi No Kami, Itakura Suwo No Kami, Ogalawara Dsusio No Kami, Ministers of Foreign Affairs, &c., &c., &c., Yedo.


My Dear Colleague: Among the information which reached me last evening in regard to the recent wrecking of an American ship on the coast of the province Hitals, I notice an announcement that the Japanese government, when placing at your disposal, on the 30th of this month, (ultimo,) the steamer which conveyed the consul of the United States to the place of the wreck, deemed proper to take certain precautions indicating doubt of the friendly disposition of the inhabitants of that province towards foreigners.

Though by reading the last number of the newspaper, the Japan Herald, I learned to my great surprise that Mr. George S. Fisher, at a recent consular meeting on the subject of the wreck of the Dutch brig Guinea, had thought proper to direct attacks against me, which are said to have been rather sharp, (I do not yet know the wording and the motives,) yet I would not, for such a question, the solution of which, if required, may be arrived at in the usual diplomatic way, fail in the duties prescribed to me as well by the cordial relations which unite our respective governments as by the feeling of solidarity, which in this country should unite all the members of the great western family.

In order thus to fulfil this duty in a manner so as to avoid all erroneous interpretation of the feeling inspiring me on this occasion, I have the honor to inform your excellency that I am prepared, in the absence of a ship-of-war of the United States in these waters, to send to the place of the wreck his Imperial Majesty’s ship the Duplex with the mission to inquire into the state of affairs on the spot, and to assure the authorities and citizens of the United States of such protection as they may be in need of.

In case your excellency accept my proposition, I would request you to write a few lines to the consul of the United States for the purpose of giving this agent to understand that the mission of the Duplex has no other object than personal protection, and that it should not be taken as an intention of meddling in any manner whatever with the special matter of the wreck of the American [Page 1061] ship, a question, the direction of which, according to French law, pertains exclusively to the consul of the wrecked vessel’s nationality.

I despatch a special messenger to your excellency in order to receive more promptly your answer and the letter which the Duplex, if she has to go to the spot, will take to the consul of the United States.

I have the honor to be, my dear colleague, your excellency’s most obedient, humble servant,

DUCHESNE DE BELLECOURT, Minister Plenipotentiary of France in Japan.


No. 130.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt, this hour, of your excellency’s despatch of this day, in which you offer to send his Imperial Majesty’s steamer Duplex to the province of Hitals, where an American ship has been wrecked, for the protection of American interests, in the absence of an American ship-of-war, and to render assistance to the American consul at Kanagawa, who has gone to the scene of this disaster in a Japanese government steamer, most kindly despatched for that purpose by the government of Japan.

Since I have had the honor to represent the United States in this empire your excellency has embraced every opportunity which has offered to manifest your friendly feeling to myself personally, and to prove, by deeds as well as words, that the hereditary friendship of France and the United States continues sincere and strong.

This fresh proof of friendship moves me deeply, and I should at once most thankfully accept your offer were I not assured that the mission of mercy on which our consul has gone will terminate peacefully. I have no reason to doubt either the willingness or ability of this government to render all needful assistance and protection.

I have for greater certainty, however, instituted futher inquiries, and shall have the honor, early to-morrow, to give you their result.

Meanwhile I avail myself, &c.,

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

His Excellency Duchesne de Bellecourt, His Imperial Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary in Japan.


No. 131.]

Sir: I have just had an interview with a governor of foreign affairs, and he assures me that the Japanese government have taken every precaution to insure the safety of the seamen and property of the American ship which has been wrecked, and that every assistance will be rendered, and all needful protection given to its crew and our consul,

I avail myself, &c.,

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

His Excellency Duchesne de Bellecourt, His Imperial Majesty’s Minister Plenipotentiary in Japan.