Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 72.]

Sir: While there can be no doubt that the Tycoon is far more powerful than the Mikado, and has at his command the wealth and military force of the empire, the influence of the latter has, of late years, been frequently and potentially exerted in controlling public affairs, and determining the policy of the empire.

Theoretically, the Mikado is the Emperor, and the Tycoon, though not nominally even next in rank, is clothed with the executive power of the empire. The Mikado confers all titles of nobility, and any edict issued by him must be obeyed. These orders may, however, be easily evaded and he kept in ignorance of such disobedience, in consequence of his seclusion, or, if openly disregarded, the Emperor is forced to submit, because destitute of means to enforce obedience.

As I have explained, this shadow of power may become real and formidable by the aid of Daimios, who, though nominally subject to the Tycoon, as well as the Mikado, may be emboldened to defy the Tycoon’s power, especially if shielded by the orders of the Mikado, to whom fealty is first due.

I have felt, as I have on several occasions informed you, that it was of vital importance to obtain the sanction of the Mikado to the treaties. There can be no question that his public proclamation to that effect would contribute greatly to the peace of the empire, and to the improvement of its relations with foreign powers, by putting it out of the power of the hostile Daimios to justify their hostility, by the real or pretended opposition of the Mikado to the treaties.

I have, therefore, frequently urged upon the Tycoon’s government that the Mikado’s assent to the treaties should be obtained, injustice to the treaty [Page 231] powers, and as a measure of security and stability to his own government. In the numerous interviews before and consequent on the operations at Simonoseki, my colleagues and myself united in pressing this closely and energetically on the government of the Tycoon.

We have been assured that the Mikado and Tycoon were at length in accord on this subject, and that, as soon as the Tycoon had completed his preparations for the security of the Mikado, the latter would make public proclamation thereof; but that it would not be safe for him to do so at present, as he was surrounded by and under the control of powerful numbers of the Sako or hostile party.

The Gorogio finally agreed that the minister, one of their number who had represented them at Kioto, should address a letter to the ministers of treaty powers, stating that the Mikado had avowed his friendship toward foreigners, and that he would embrace the earliest safe opportunity to declare the same publicly. Letter No. 1 was thereupon sent to each of the ministers, but was returned, because not sufficiently explicit. It was again transmitted to us with a confidential enclosure, of which I now send translation.(Enclosure No. 2.)

This is an important paper, provided we are assured of the sincerity of the Tycoon’s government, as conclusive upon the point that the Mikado, as well as the Tycoon, has abandoned all hope of closing the ports and all opposition to the treaties.

A large force has been sent from Yedo, well armed and disciplined, uniformed for the first time like foreign troops, to swell the numbers gathered and assembled at Osacca for the purpose of enforcing the sentence against Choshu. I have asked that information be given of the progress of events, but cannot, as yet, say whether this can be expected.

I also enclose No. 3, translation of a very able and interesting letter sent to the British minister before the expedition to Simonoseki, which you will see contains statements corresponding with items of information already transmitted, and which I am inclined to regard as a more satisfactory history of the intrigues caused by the treaties than we have hitherto been fortunate enough to obtain.

So many of the facts stated are known to be true as to justify the belief that the history of the secret conferences at Kioto may be regarded as reliable.

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.

No. 1.


I have the honor to state in writing that, upon my arrival at Kioto, I fully represented the circumstances of the relations with the treaty powers, as previously stated to you at the interview with my colleagues—the meaning of all of which was understood—wherefore everything, as hitherto, will be strictly observed; but now an important opportunity is presented to tranquillize the public feeling—the order for despatching troops for the punishment of Choshu having been issued, it is, therefore, desirable that you will note this first.

With respect and esteem.


His Excellency Egbert H. Pruyn, Minister Resident of the United States of America, &c.

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No. 2


The present state of the relations of our government with the foreign powers has been well understood and acquiesced in at Kioto, as I stated in the accompanying letter of this date, the 23d; hence the sending of envoys to the foreign countries has been abandoned, and the closing of ports shall not be mentioned; but there still remains hostile persons, and the Choshu matter has not been disposed of, wherefore I cannot communicate this to you in an official letter; those hostile persons, and also Choshu, will soon be punished, however, and when his Majesty the Mikado shall have been informed accordingly, this will be settled definitely, and a communication again be made. As the secret meaning could not be made perfectly clear to you from the accompanying letter alone, I now state that meaning privately and in a friendly manner, and it is requested that you will keep this secret and not let it be known.


No. 3.


A Japanese giving an Account of the state of affairs at present existing in his country, with a glance at the unsettled and agitated feelings of its inhabitants, and wishing to learn by what means it may be possible to change or calm down these oppositions for some time prevailing.

A peculiar state of affairs exists in this country. The person who is our Emperor we call Tenshi, Son of Heaven; he lives in Kioto, and for a long time (the length of a cotton-thread) has reigned over us. The higher officers surrounding him, as his immediate ministers, we call Kangé. In olden times the Mikado governed by himself with the assistance of these officers. But now even centuries have elapsed since the government fell into the hands of a man of a military character, (Booké,) the Sai Shogung, (Tycoon.) By a state of confusion introduced into the government, by making small things large, and reducing large ones by bringing about violent and astonishing changes, the government assumed a new form and lapsed into the hands of the Tokugawa dynasty, whose reign has continued to the present day.

For more than three hundred years the government was carried on by the direct line of the house of Tokugawa, and during that period the country enjoyed profound peace.

The Mikado left everything in the hands of the Tycoon, and the power of the military, Book6, came far to exceed that of the officer of the Mikado.

At this period Japan was closed, and of all nations, the Butch and Chinese alone were privileged to have trading relations with us. But Commodore Perry appeared, and at Uraga and Yedo insisted upon making a treaty of commerce and friendship. The Tycoon called a meeting of Daimios, and put before them the demands of Perry, and asked their opinion whether the ports should be opened for foreign intercourse, or whether they were prepared to engage in a war and commence hostilities.

For a long time the question was discussed, but no person of sufficient might and forethought was there to give good advice. Among those most opposed to the Daimios was the prince of Mito, but as they were not prepared for war, it was judged better to defer hostilities.

A member of the Gorogio, a very clever and far seeng statesman, Abe Ise no Kami, knowing well all the merits and demerits of the question at issue, concluded a treaty, when Perry appeared a second time, without any further reference to the other Daimios and the national feelings, and consequently many nations came to Japan. But the people who were on the side of the prince of Mito, and deSIRous of making war with foreign countries, rather than submit to such a new order of things, have made of late years great disturbances, (like wasps disturbed in their nests,) retainers of Daimios, throwing up their masters and becoming Lronius, were going through the country assembling people of their own ideas, went to Kioto, and represented to the Mikado that foreigners should be driven out of the country. These ignorant people further represented to the Mikado that there is no better country in the world than Japan, producing everything good for man, and have, therefore, no wants from without to be supplied, and that now, for the first time, we have had intercourse with foreign countries—trade ruins the interest of Japan. All the articles of daily use have been scarce, and great is the suffering of the country people in consequence; this has been undoubtedly the fault of the government of Tokugawa.

The Tycoon has ignored the Mikado, and his authority does not obey his orders, but looks only to his own advantage.

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From what these officers report to the Mikado he believes them, and had little idea of the strength of other countries; the retainers of Choshu also trusted in the Lronius, and came to the conclusion that foreigners ought not to be allowed to remain any longer in Japan.

Three traitorous officers of the Mikado, Sango, Anega Kojo, and Nakayama caused much difficulty by raising alarming reports and making false and unfounded representations to the Mikado. The power of the court of Kioto, however, waxed great and began to rise like the morning sun, in its strength, while that of Yedo was gradually declining like a setting one.

Thereupon, Satsuma, and other powerful Daimios, seeing the drift of things, assembled at Kioto, and took counsel together, with a view of discussing the errors of the government, and of applying some remedy to its weakness. Among these Daimios, some were foremost in proposing to put off the closing of Japan until the country should become sufficiently rich and powerful to accomplish it effectually, and without dishonor. But Choshu, backed in his designs by Anega and Sango, succeeded in influencing the Mikado, and making it falsely known that the Mikado had declared himself for the closing of Japan, to which he had only given a partial and undecided consent.

Accordingly, on the 10th of the fifth month, the order for the breaking off of all relations with the foreigners was on its way to Yedo. Although the Daimios did not approve of these proceedings, they were still obliged to yield to the order of closing, supposed to have emanated from the court of the Mikado. They regretted the fact, and left Kioto.

In the mean time, fruitless negotiations were going on in Yokohama with the foreigners.

But now, Choshu, exasperated at the issue of his favorite plans, fired upon the men-of-war and merchant vessels of France, Holland, and America, contrary to all existing laws or rules. Meanwhile, in Kioto, the ill-designing Sango, and Anega Kojo were in constant league with Lronius, and deceiving the Mikado; but at length the Koogay Anega Kojo fell by the hands of those in favor of the foreigners—he was murdered by a Daimio’s retainer, in secret. But still the affairs were not settled, notwithstanding many consultations and discussions, which, although worth recording, I shall not now repeat.

Envoys were sent by the Tycoon to Choshu to examine into his conduct; they were murdered, and fell victims to the revenge of Choshu.

Satsuma’s eyes were opened since the fight at Kagolima, and affairs appeared to him in a new light; he changed in favor of foreigners, and thought now of making his country powerful and completing his armaments. Many Daimios began to take serious thought at the battle of Kagolima and its results, and began to calculate the disadvantages of being hostile to foreigners.

Choshu’s power was sinking fast, and the fire of his doings was burning itself out. One of the ministers of Choshu, called Masida Dango, a very cunning and designing man, sent for his retainers in all directions, assembled all the Lronius, and went to Kioto, and proposed to the Mikado and his officers that they should go to the god of Dai Sui Koo, in the province of Isi, in order to pray for the expulsion of the foreigners, his covert design being to carry him captive to Yedo, close Yokohama, and upset the dynasty of Tokugawa, and assume the Tycoonship himself. This was discovered in Kioto, and Choshu was expelled from the capital by the Daimios Aisoo, Satsuma, Yekamonno, Kami, Himesi, and Esteizen.

The Koogays concerned in the plot of Choshu, afraid that punishment might overtake them, threw up their appointments, left Kioto, and took refuge in the territories of Choshu The remainder of the Lronius went to the province of Yamato and raised a rebellion there, used violence, and murdered many unoffending country people.

The Mikado called a meeting of Daimios at Kioto, and they went there again last year, in the eleventh month. At this meeting much had been discussed about the foreigners trading in Japan, but without any definite resolution being come to.

After this Choshu fired upon a steamer at Satsuma at anchor at Tauonra, and burned also some cotton junks at Kamimoseka. This caused the Mikado to give an order to the Tycoon to punish Choshu. The Tycoon promised this, and called in secret upon Satsuma, Heigo and Kohula, Greshu, Unshu, and Inshu to carry the order into effect. Before punishment could be inflicted, Choshu got news of the intended expedition against him and gathered together many Lronires to defend him, and made them spread reports in his favor.

The following is a record of his misdemeanors and crimes:

First offence.—Choshu, Mito, Isihasi, Bisen, Inaba, and the Lronius informed the other Daimios that Satsuma, Higo, and Etiszen were friendly with foreigners and desire commerce and opening of the country, and that therefore their advice should not be accepted; they also informed the Koogays to the same purport.

Second offence.—Choshu, Mito, Isihasi, Bisen, Insha, and the Lronius told the merchants of Ohosaka that the reasons why all the articles of daily use had become so dear was that Satsuma, Higo, and Etiszen had sent them all to Nagasaki, and sold them there to foreigners, which caused great misery to the inhabitants of Japan. The merchants of Ohosaka believed these statements to he true and took great dislike to Satsuma, Higo and Etiszen.

Third offence.—Choshu burned a cotton junk belonging to Satsuma at Kaminoseki and murdered the officer on board the same, exposed his head at Ohosaka with the statement that Satsuma was desirous, of foreign trade and was making large gain by sending the [Page 234] necessities of daily nse to foreign countries, and that this man whose head was exposed was punished in obedience to the mandate of Heaven. Also some hundreds of people were murdered by Choshu in secret for trading with foreigners.

Fourth offence.—Last year, on the 8th month, Choshu, by intriguing through the Koogay Sango, tried to excuse himself to the Mikado by addressing him in writing. At present Sango is in Choshu and entertained under his protection.

Fifth offence.—Choshu tried to embitter the Tycoon against Satsuma by spreading reports that Satsuma tried to usurp the Tycoonship himself.

There are many other crimes and offences committed by Choshu which, are too numerous to be recounted here.

For a third time the Daimois assembled in Kiota, but they were not clever and farseeing, so that they were nearly all for the closing of the ports. The only Daimios who were in favor of the opening were Satsuma, and Etiszen, and a few others of smaller importance. Therefore Satsuma and Etiszen were not admitted in the council of the Daimios, and the Tycoon, Isihatsi, Kawakai, Itakoosa and other Daimios were misled by Choshu and formed the resolution to close Yokohama and only allow trade to go on in Nagasaki and Hakodati.

This successful stroke raised Choshu again into further importance, so that the presence of Satsuma, Heigo, Geshu (Aki,) who were in favor of the opening, were no longer required in Kiota, which made them much regret the consequences of such ill-advised resolutions, and they returned to their respective provinces grieved and their influence much impaired. The remaining Daimios fixed upon the utumn of this year as the time for the closing of Yokohama.

Stotsbasi was appointed defender and commander-in-chief of the Ohosaka castle and defences of the seacoast. He is about to erect more than twenty batteries and arm them with some 3,000 cannon to be made with all speed in order to protect the county.

Postscript.—I have heard that two Dutch men-of-war have arrived here with instructions from their king to obtain satisfaction for the insult offered to their flag and the injury committed last year at Simonoseki, and that the English ships are to accompany them to cooperate with them. I sincerely hope that this report may turn out to be true in the interest of my own county. Although I am a very ignorant person, it appears to me that from the Mikado down to the Lronius there is a considerable darkness and ignorance prevailing as to the progress of events and civilization of foreign countries, and that therefore they look down upon foreigners as brutal savages, believing themselves in their conceit to be wonderfully powerful, and to this ignorance can be traced the immoderate desire that exists for the closing of the country. Choshu looks upon his conduct as a great deed, as having been the cause of the closing of the ports. This shall cause also a general war with the whole of Japan, which shall not only cost the lives of many thousands and impoverish the empire, but also be bought by Great Britain with many lives, which is contrary to the rules of the gods. If now Great Britain would have mercy upon our uncivilized people and teach them the power of your government, and, together with Holland, destroy Choshu, in so doing showing the forces and power of war to the whole empire, this would open the eyes of the whole of Japan, and acknowledging their mistake, they would in future observe the treaties.

In case this could not be done speedily, it would be good then to go to Ohosaka to show the British forces to the Mikado and make a new treaty with him. This would have the desired effect without any loss of lives.

That I, a Japanese by birth, should request you to send ships to Chosu, must be viewed by you with astonisment and like a traitor to my country, but it is because our country-people being ignorant of the power of Great Britain are only deSIRous of closing Japan, in which case civilization would never spread over our country.

For many years I have contemplated and regretted the above state of things, but there is little help for it, and therefore I again beg, that in order to save and enlighten our country-people, you will kill the prince of Choshu, and then my wishes will be fulfilled.

Although I intended to enter further upon the particulars respecting the present state of affairs in Japan, it would not be ready for the departure of the Dutch ship-of war, and therefore you will kindly take all that I have said in a favorable light.

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