Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward
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,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.