Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 70.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith No. 1, the compte rendu of a conference held at Yedo, by the consul-general of the Netherlands and myself, with the Corogio, and in pursuance of an invitation originally given to meet [Page 451] them at the governor’s residence at this place, and afterwards at Yedo, on the ground that all the members of the Gorogio desired to be present, and could not absent themselves at the same time.

Copies of the same have been given to our colleagues.

I make no comment upon the extraordinary proposition now made. It is regarded by my colleagues and myself as one threatening serious consequences.

It has long been apparent that nothing but the presence of a formidable force can insure the safety of the foreign community, and it is quite certain that, though individuals may be murdered, no attack will be made so long as such force is at hand. In the absence of it, I think it can scarcely be doubted that hostilities would ensue.

The British chargé d’affaires informs me the government of Great Britain has directed the commander-in-chief of the forces in China to send troops here, whenever requested by him.

A letter has been sent to me by the Gorogio, requesting another conference on Saturday next, of which I enclose translation, No. 2; also copies of the replies of the British representative and myself, enclosures Nos. 3 and 4.

I shall transmit copies of the replies of the minister of France and consul-general of the Netherlands as soon as received by me.

In consequence of placards affixed to the governor’s residence, threatening with death some of the native merchants, several have abandoned their business, and, in two instances, have demolished their dwellings and stores, in proof of their sincerity.

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.

Enclosure No. 1.

Memorandum of an interview of the minister of the United States and the consul-general of the Netherlands with the Gorogio, in the presence of the members of the second council, the governors for foreign affairs, and other officials of rank, held at Yedo on the 26th of October, 1863.

The Japanese government being extremely desirous that the friendship between the United States and Holland with Japan should not be interrupted, has invited you, the representatives of these powers, to this conference, for the purpose of making an important communication.

This important communication will render many conferences necessary, in order that you should hear all its reasons and fully be acquainted with its views. And we, the Gorogio, have, therefore, appointed two commissioners for this purpose, namely, Takemoto Kai-no-kami and Ikido Siuri.

The unsettled state of things in our realm is increasing. We are apparently approaching a revolution; there may be a general uprising among the people who hate foreigners, and to our shame we must confess that we have no power to suppress this insurrectionary movement.

It is principally owing to the opening to trade of Yokohama that this deplorable state of things exists.

If a continuance of trade at Yokohama be persisted in, the state of affairs will grow worse. Trade will suffer, and no doubt disappear in consequence, and then the friendship will be destroyed. It was to establish friendly relations [Page 452] that the treaties were made, as may be seen in the heading of each of them. Friendship is the corner-stone; trade is subordinate to friendship. We have always considered that the framers of the treaty intended it as an experiment, to last as long as it would not prove injurious to Japan. In order to perpetuate this friendship, it is of the highest mutual interest that the port of Yokohama be closed to trade, and, in our opinion, this is the only way to allay the prevailing excitement.

We request you to inform your governments that the notification of Ogasawara Dsulio-no-kami relating to the expulsion of foreigners will be withdrawn, and to ask their consent to have the trade transferred to Nagasaki and Hakodadi. We do not desire any further alteration in the treaty.

A. M. and N. C. G. We regret that a proposition of such great importance was not submitted at the same time to the ministers of France and Great Britain, and we request you to give us the reasons for this omission.

Gorogio. It is our intention to ask the ministers of France and Great Britain to confer with us on the subject; but we desire you to come first, as we first made treaties with America and Holland.

We request you meanwhile not to acquaint these ministers with the subject-matter of the present conference, lest they should decline to meet us.

A. M. and N. C G. This is very probable, for we would have saved ourselves the trouble of coining to Yedo, if we had known of your proposition. We are on the best terms with our colleagues, and I shall not fail to acquaint them immediately on our return, this very evening, if possible, with your views. Our governments would no doubt reprimand us severely if we failed to do so.

We must observe here that we feel ourselves slighted by your invitation to come to Yedo for no other purpose than to listen to the very objectionable proposition you make; we are willing, however, to overlook this, as we are sure it has been occasioned by no want of politeness.

Gorogio. We are very sorry that you look upon it in that light. We intended to come to Yokohama, but the importance of the subject in our opinion was such that we desired all the members of the Gorogio to be present, and as we could not all leave Yedo, we invited you to meet us here, and no slight was intended.

A. M. and N. C. G. We feel convinced that the treaty powers will never consent to the closing of Yokohama for the purposes of trade.

Gorogio. We greatly regret this, as the friendly relations will then be in great danger. An unfortunate accident recently occurred in the vicinity of Yokohama; this is owing to the unsettled state of things in our empire. Similar accidents may occur again, and if this general uneasiness continues, or should increase, perhaps production may decrease; trade in all probability would suffer then, or perhaps come to a standstill altogether, and hence our apprehension for the existing friendly relations.

Could not now the port of Yokohama be closed to trade by the foreign representatives without first instruction from their respective governments?

A. M. and N. C. G. Not a letter of the treaty can be altered by us. We do not think any representative has the power to do so. We are in Japan to see that the treaties be observed, and that our citizens and subjects act in a proper manner. We must distinctly observe to your excellencies that the treaties were never meant to be experiments, but that it is explicitly stated that they were made to perpetuate friendship and commerce between our respective governments and their citizens and subjects.

We cannot agree to receive your plenipotentiaries, as it might be construed that we had entered into negotiations with you on the subject. We will confer with our colleagues, however, and jointly decide whether we will have any further conference on the subject.

[Page 453]

It is impossible to abandon Yokohama. Heavy amounts have been invested in building and warehouses, &c., &c. If we went to Nagasaki and Hakodadi, we would be at too great a distance from the central government, and interviews with the Gorogio would be rendered impossible.

Gorogio. We thought of this, and will appoint plenipotentiaries to reside there, and to hold interviews with the representatives. These plenipotentiaries will have power to decide on all matters without reference to Yedo.

N. C. G. My government has already consented to an extension of the opening of Osacca, Hiogo, &c., and it may be expected that if it make further concessions now, still more would be asked of it.

Gorogio. Should the closing of Yokohama be granted by the treaty powers, no further modifications of the treaty would be required by us.

A. M. and N. C. G. We can give no better proofs of our friendship towards the Japanese than by frankly advising your government to dismiss all idea of having Yokohama closed, but to apply itself diligently in favor of a rigid main tenance and faithful execution of all articles of the treaties.

The abandonment of Yokohama would only serve to encourage the reactionary party, and more alteration would be constantly demanded from your government.

A. M. I call your attention to the fact that the American government has not yet formally consented to postpone the opening of Osacca, Hiogo, &c. I now wish to say that I informed my government last year that I thought it best to give such consent, but now I am satisfied it was a mistake for the treaty powers to make any such concession; it has only encouraged the hostile party to make now more demands.

A. M. and N. C. G. We perfectly agree in considering the application of the Japanese government for the postponement of the opening of Osacca, &c., as a mistake, the revolutionary party having been encouraged thereby to ask now for the closing of Yokohama.

As long as the Japanese government fails to resist this revolutionary party, it will have no peace. We are under the impression that it would be far better for the Japanese government, if it has no power to suppress these revolutionary tendencies, to apply for aid (as last February it intimated that it might do) to the treaty powers.

Gorogio. To call in the aid of the treaty powers is not according to Japanese laws and customs, and would have the most disastrous results.

We received strict orders from the Tycoon to negotiate about the closing of Yokohama, and, therefore, respectfully urge upon you to receive our plenipotentiaries, to confer with them, and to be made acquainted with all the circumstances.

A. M. and N. C. G. We request your excellencies distinctly to understand that we shall not enter into negotiations on the subject; the most we could do would be to listen to your views in order to fully transmit them to our respective governments.

A. M. I wish to say that your ancient usages cannot be alleged and accepted as an excuse for a failure to comply with your treaty obligations, nor for your exemption from the application of the principles of international law. These usages must give way whenever they come in conflict with your new obligations.

N. C. G. What has been done by the Japanese government towards punishing the Prince of Nagato, who, in such a cowardly and treacherous manner, fired from his batteries upon a Netherland man-of-war, and other foreign ships at Simonoseki?

Gorogio. An arrangement is now being made with the Prince of Nagato.

N. C. G. Why was he not promptly punished?

Gorogio. It is the custom in Japan to act with deliberation in such matters.

N. C. G. It is to be regretted that prompt action was not taken in this matter, as my government may now be inclined to think that the Japanese government has not disapproved of the acts of the Prince of Nagato. I have only further [Page 454] to observe that an old Dutch proverb says, that soft surgeons are apt to make hard wounds.

A. M. I am instructed by the President of the United States, in a conciliatory manner, and as a proof of friendship, to caution the government of the Tycoon that any aggression on any of the treaty powers will be likely to lead to your being involved in difficulties with all. I wish also to say for myself that, much as revolutions are to be deprecated and avoided, there are worse things than attempts at revolution which may be put down. A government must have more than a name. It must have and exercise authority, and cause itself to be respected.

The Prince of Nagato has seized one of your ships, and has attempted to seize the person of the Mikado. If the Tycoon should seize his province bordering on the Straits of Simonoseki, and make it imperial territory, no Daimio would in future defy his authority.

Gorogio. This we could not do; we do not know he has made such attempts on the Mikado.

A. M. Why, then, has Nagato been expelled from Kioto?

Gorogio. We believe because the Mikado does not like him.

The Gorogio then urged again that we should not mention to our colleagues what had taken place, as the government wished them to come to Yedo to receive the communication.

We peremptorily declined compliance with such request, repeating that we had come to Yedo in ignorance of the communication to be made; but should we now suffer our colleagues to come under similar circumstances, they would have great cause of complaint against us.

On taking leave we were asked what we thought of the Satsuma matter— whether it was right or wrong; and replied that we had no opinion to offer.

[Enclosure No. 2.]

In regard to the matter about which we yesterday held an interview with your excellency and the Netherlands consul-general, we have to say that we desire further to confer on that subject with you, in the presence of the French minister, the English chargé d’affaires, and the Netherlands consul-general, and request you, therefore, to come to Tskitshi, at the Gunkang Sorenjo, (navy yard, Yedo,) on the 19th day, at 9 o’clock, (the 31st of October, at noon.) Should you not be able to come on that day, we request you to propose another day for that purpose.

And as there is much apprehension lest an accident happen, as was recently represented to you, we request you to come by water. We trust that after consultation with your colleagues you will be able to meet us.

Which we have to state with respect and esteem.





His Excellency Robert H. Pruyn, Minister Resident of the United States.

[Page 455]

[Enclosure No. 3.]

Lieutenant Colonel Neale to their excellencies the Japanese Ministers for Foreign Affairs.

Your Excellencies: I have received your letter inviting me to proceed to Yedo to hold an interview with your excellencies on the 31st instant, upon a subject regarding which you wish to enter on a discussion with me.

My colleagues, the minister of the United States and the consul-general of the Netherlands, have informed me that in like manner you invited them, two days ago, to repair to Yedo to confer with you on an important matter, which you did not specify; and that upon their arrival at Yedo the purport of your communication amounted to the total subversion of treaty rights.

Without further entering into the particulars of your communication, and of which my colleagues have informed me, I have to state to your excellencies that, as the representative of her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, I decline to respond to your invitation of repairing to Yedo for the purpose of discussing any such unheard-of communication, or to receive any envoys charged with similar communications.

The utmost measures I will adopt, under the circumstances, is to report to my government what you may communicate to me in writing, and in becoming terms. I have, therefore, to engage your excellencies to state to me by letter, explicitly and categorically, what the government of the Tycoon proposes, and wishes me to convey to her Britannic Majesty’s government; and it only remains for me to add that, inspired on my part, as the representative of Great Britain, with no hostile feelings nor designs against this country, I trust that the government of the Tycoon will duly weigh and consider the sense and probable consequences which it may desire me to make known to the powerful nation I have the honor to represent.

It is also my duty to add that, pending the reference of any such unusual and extraordinary communication (made to me in writing) to her Britannic Majesty’s government, should hostile or aggressive acts be committed by the government of the Tycoon, or by any Daimio, against the relations of amity and commerce established by treaty made and duly ratified by Great Britain and Japan, such will be resented by corresponding acts of retaliation by her Majesty’s forces, in defence of the national honor, and of the treaty rights I am placed here to maintain and protect.

With respect and high consideration,

E. ST. JOHN NEALE, Her Britannic Majesty’s Chargé d’Affaires in Japan.

[Enclosure No. 4.]

No. 118.]

To the Gorogio:

I have to say, in reply to your excellencies’ letter, that I feel constrained to decline another interview, to listen to further propositions in reference to the abandonment of Yokohama, which I presume is the object of the proposed conference on Saturday next. Nor should I have met you on Monday, had I known the nature of the communication you wished to make on that occasion.

I can only say, as I did at that interview, that if your excellencies wish any proposition to be made to my government, it is indispensable it shall be made in [Page 456] writing. I will promptly transmit a copy to the President, but repeat that I can give you no hope whatever of success. It has become perfectly evident that every concession, thus far granted, has been made the basis of a new demand. I therefore renew the advice I then gave you. Let it be at once proclaimed that his Majesty the Tycoon will faithfully observe the existing treaties and require his subjects to do the same. Peace in Japan will be secured by such an exhibition of good faith and vigor. A contrary course invites to a resistance of the authority of the Tycoon. It holds out expectations which will never be realized, while it encourages a defiance of his authority which may subject him to the twofold danger of a civil war and of serious difficulties with all the treaty powers.

With respect and esteem,

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