Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward
Sir: The British government have demanded ten thousand pounds sterling for the murder of the two British sailors at the legation in June last. The Japanese government have refused to pay the amount, and offered to pay three thousand dollars as a provision for the families of the deceased.
In the despatch of Earl Russell, which was kindly shown me by Colonel Neale, her Britannic Majesty’s chargé d’affaires, it is intimated that the amount can be assessed on the daimio, whose retainer murdered the sailors. I am informed by the Japanese government that this daimio is poor, and utterly unable to pay so large a sum as is claimed, or even a tenth part thereof.
The sum demanded is so large as evidently to be intended as a punishment of the daimio, instead of a provision for the families of the deceased, and probably in ignorance of the position of the parties.
There are daimios in Japan who have large territories and princely incomes; there are others who are merely retainers of the Tycoon or other territorial princes.
It is to be regretted that this case is not disposed of in advance of the claim which may be made for the murder of Mr. Richardson, a British merchant, in September, of the particulars of which I advised you in my No. 50.
As the party offending at that time is a relative of the rich and powerful Prince of Satsuma, the principle intended to be enforced for the June murder may be made to apply for the September outrage. As the Prince of Satsuma is sovereign of the Lew Chew group, which he holds independent of the Japanese government, and from which he derives an income of more than $200,000 per annum, a way for redress is open without any hostile act in Japan.
The foreign community is very much excited by rumors, on the one hand, of hostility on the part of the Japanese, and, on the other, by preparation of redress said to be in progress by Great Britain. It was reported a few days since that two British regiments were on their way to Japan. This rumor had reached the Japanese government, and I was spoken to on the subject. The British minister, in reply to my inquiry, informed me that he had no information on the subject, and believed and hoped the rumor was unfounded.
It is now said, and perhaps with truth, that a British fleet is shortly expected here. If so, it is probably to enforce the demand which may be made for the murder of Mr. Richardson.
It is proper that I should make some further remarks on this case. In my despatch No. 50 I informed you that no provocation had been given to the retainers of Satsuma. I have no information now that anything occurred to justify or palliate the attack on any principle known to our law. But the usages here are peculiar; and it is possible that unconsciously an insult was offered which would have occasioned the murder of a retainer of another prince. Early this month there was a collision between the retainers of two daimios on the tokaido growing out of some claim for precedence.[Page 1064]
It is known, however, that some time before the attack was made, Mr. Mar, shall exclaimed “For God’s sake, Richardson, do not let us have any trouble!” To which Mr. Richardson replied, “Let me alone; I have lived in China fourteen years, and know how to manage this people.”
It is supposed that the horse of one of the party forced itself between the norimon, in which the karo or secretary of Satsuma was seated, and the retainers who marched as a guard beside it. This is regarded as an insult, which would justify the cutting down of any Japanese according to their usage.
It should be said that Messrs. Marshall and Clarke deny that any provocation was given, while admitting that the above remarks were made, which I feel it my duty to make known to you, without any disposition, however, to justify or even palliate the outrage.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.