Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward
Sir: It has been determined to send the embassy to Europe, of which I informed you in my despatch, No. 80, of the 1st ultimo, but I have not yet been advised whether it has been finally decided to send any to the United States. I presume that question is in abeyance in consequence of the demands I have made, and of which it may be thought best first to dispose.
Mr. de Bellecourt, the minister plenipotentiary of France, having been recalled, at his own request, expects to leave here next month. He has encouraged the sending of this embassy, as he will be in France when it arrives, and Admiral Jones has represented that an autograph letter of his Majesty the Tycoon, [Page 473] expressing sorrow for the murder of Lieutenant Camus, will tend to the amicable adjustment of that affair. A mission which will have the appearance of being sent specially to deprecate the anger of France will doubtless be imposing, and gratify the minister and the government.
But while that matter may incidentally be disposed of, the object and sole object of the mission is to solicit the consent of the treaty powers to the closing of this port. Of this you have already been advised as it was first disclosed to me.
On the 4th instant two vice-ministers waited upon Lieutenant Colonel Neale, her Britannic Majesty’s chargé d’affaires, to make known the purposes of the government.
The vice-ministers, after saying that the government had so decided, said that the governors for foreign affairs, who were present, would make known the reasons which had influenced the government, and that they had nothing more to communicate.
Colonel Neale asked why it had been thought necessary for them to come down from Yedo to make that bare announcement, and then leave the principal business to be disposed of by governors.
The vice-ministers replied the governors were better acquainted with the subject. Colonel Neale said he would hear what the governors had to say, but would write it down as coming from the vice-ministers, as it would be said in their presence.
The governors then said Colonel Neale was aware of the great hostility there was in the country to foreigners, to which he replied he was not aware of any such thing, but thought the people were friendly. One of the vice-ministers then said it was necessary to close Kanagawa. Colonel Neale said he would listen to no such remarks.
The governors then asked Colonel Neale to aid them in their mission by explaining the difficulties they labored under. He said he knew nothing of their difficulties, and could say nothing to aid them; that he had nothing to say one way or the other; they had a right to send a mission whenever and wherever they pleased; but while it was gone he would watch affairs closely, and every mail a letter would follow their embassy explanatory of affairs here. That he held war in the one hand and peace in the other for them to choose; that he would watch the progress of trade; if it was stopped, he would stop their trade; if they stopped supplies to foreigners, he would stop their supplies. They asked whether he meant he would stop imports. He said no; he meant he would stop their home trade between their different ports.
Colonel Neale then asked why so many stores were closed at this place. One of the governors rather pertly said “perhaps it is because the people cannot afford to keep them open.” This remark he severely rebuked. Colonel Neale says the interview lasted four hours, and was far from satisfactory.
The above is a brief account of it given to me by Colonel Neale.
The embassy is expected to leave here so as to embark from Shanghai in a steamer of the French line, the Messageries Imperiales, on February the 20th.
Although the French minister has insisted upon its being composed of men of higher rank than of former missions, it is quite certain the material of which it will be composed will be of the same comparatively low rank, as heretofore.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c., &c., &c.