Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 80.]

Sir: Last evening Takemoto Kai-no-kami, senior governor, and five other governors for foreign affairs, waited on me. They were directed by the government to say, as I had stated to the ministers when at Yedo, though refusing to enter into any negotiations for closing this port, that I would transmit any communications in reference thereto which they might send me for the consideration of my government; the ministers proposed sending a letter, but a personal explanation might be necessary. They were instructed to ask what reception would be given to an embassy in Europe and in the United States. To this I replied, I was not prepared to say what reception would be given to one in Europe, but that I could say, without hesitation, that an embassy would be kindly received in the United States; and that any representations it might be instructed to make would be listened to patiently, and carefully considered, [Page 464] though I could hold out no hope of success. They said that if an embassy should be sent, they begged most earnestly that no such expensive reception should be given to it as on the occasion of the former one. I was then asked, as Russia had no minister here, whether, if it were decided to send such embassies, I would consent to be the medium of communication with that government. They preferred this, rather than request the friendly services of my colleagues. I replied, that in view of the uninterrupted and firm friendship which had signalized the relations of the United States and Russia, I would willingly transmit any communication they wished to make, as I had no doubt it would be agreeable to my government, and not unacceptable to his Majesty the Emperor of Russia. I then asked whether they had conferred with my colleagues on the subject, and was informed they had not; that the government would now consider the subject, and, as soon as they had arrived at a decision, would confer with my colleagues. The governors then said, as I was so much engaged, they would take their leave, though they had other business which they would postpone for a few days. When they solicited the interview, the message brought to me was, that it was the governor of Kanagawa who wished to be received; and I had replied, that, unless his business was pressing, I wished it postponed for two days, as I was preparing despatches for my government, and also for the immediate return home of my son, Robert C. Pruyn, who has been attached to the legation for nearly two years. I then stated that I had hoped, when I heard of their arrival from Yedo, it was for the purpose of fixing an early day for the payment of the sum agreed to be paid to the owners of the Pembroke. The senior governor answered he had been absent from the castle for several days, but his colleagues informed him that the government were now reconsidering the subject, and would communicate the result in a few days. It is impossible to say whether there is any serious intention of sending such embassies. It may be that wishing to gain time, and finding it impossible to entangle my colleagues and myself in the meshes of an endless and useless negotiation, it is regarded as the most available alternative. It may be, also, that there are some influential officers who covet the honor, and, perhaps, more eagerly the safety, of an honorable exile at this time. While it may be impossible to refuse a post connected with foreign affairs, disgrace, death, or an equivocal and doubtful promotion await all upon whom the unwelcome mantle falls. Every minister and governor for foreign affairs, save one, who was in office at the time of my arrival, has disappeared from the stage. Death, fines, imprisonment have been the acknowledged fate of some; unheard-of offices and posts, which remove from all contact with foreigners, the declared rewards of others. The present senior governor is the only one who has outlived all changes. One prediction I can make with safety. If any embassy is sent, Takemoto Kai-no-kami, senior governor for foreign affairs, will be the chief. It is very unsafe, however, to make any predictions in this country. The players are unseen, and only occasional glimpses of a portion of the political chessboard can be obtained. The chance discovery of the position of a few of the pieces furnishes the only data for conjecturing the position of others, which may, perhaps, control the result.

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

ROBERT H. PRUYN, Minister Resident in Japan.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.