Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward

No. 16.]

Sir: I have the honor to enclose a copy of a letter received from the minister for foreign affairs, in which it is announced that his Majesty the Tycoon does not think it expedient to avail himself of the privilege conferred by the convention of tendering Simonoseki, or some eligible port in the inland sea, in lieu of the indemnity which he therein agreed to pay to the four powers. (Enclosure No. 1.)

A similar communication was at the same time addressed to my colleagues; but as the representatives of England and Holland had announced to the Japanese government that their governments preferred that another port should be opened, and the minister of France had been instructed that the government of his Imperial Majesty thought it better that the pecuniary indemnity should be paid, it was not thought we could frame a reply in which all could unite, I therefore transmitted a letter to the Gorogio, of which I send copy, (enclosure No. 2.)

As by the terms of the convention it was entirely optional with the Tycoon to open a port, and as the effect of the decision was to make the obligation to pay the indemnity absolute, it appeared to me that it was advisable to offer to receive the first instalment at the time named, as it was understood that the money was already in the treasury and appropriated for that purpose. I therefore suggested to her Britannic Majesty’s chargé d’affaires that it would not be [Page 247] inconsistent with his duty, under the letters he had received declaring the preference of her Britannic Majesty’s government, to unite in receiving the money provided the Japanese government paid it, with the understanding that such receipt should not be understood as committing our governments to the extension of the times of payment of the remaining instalments. We therefore had a conference and agreed to make that proposition; whereupon I addressed a letter to the Gorogio, of which I enclose copy, enclosure No. 3, which corresponds substantially with the reply sent in by each of my colleagues.

You will see the government wish an extension of the time of payment of the second instalment, leaving it only to be inferred, not expressed, that the remaining instalments will be hereafter paid agreeably to the terms of the convention. But they make no promise to do so, and it is more than probable that if this extension be granted similar efforts will be made to extend the time of payment of the other instalments, which will prove an embarrassment to trade for several years. I concur with my colleagues in the opinion that no such extension should be granted.

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


Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, &c, &c., &c.

[No. 1.—Translation.]

In order to arrange the difficulty caused by the hostile acts of Mori Daizen against the ships of various powers, an agreement was entered into by us with the representatives of the treaty powers on the 22d of the 9th month, (October 22, 1864,) providing that in view of the mutual interests of the governments interested, it is optional to open Simonoseki or another port in the inland sea, or to pay a sum of money as indemnity, as stated in that written instrument.

After having fully taken the present state of things in our country into due consideration, we have come to the conclusion that the opening of a new port is not only undesirable, in view of our internal affairs, but that it would also be attended with inconvenience for the several powers.

The real cause which involved the friendly intercourse between the two countries in great difficulties is the action of Mori Daizen; the money of the indemnity therefore should be demanded of him; but as one of the Daimios of our country, it is impossible to allow him to enter into negotiation on the subject with the several powers, and hence our government was compelled to assume the responsibility.

If a port be opened instead, the inconvenience of both countries will increase twofold, and therefore, after mature deliberation, we have decided to choose the latter alternative, to wit, the payment of the indemnity.

The Choshu difficulty is still unsettled. Yet one portion of the sum of indemnity to be paid in six instalments shall be delivered in the 6th month of this year, (August, 1865,) and because this Choshu difficulty has not yet been disposed of, it is desirable that for the payment of the balance an extension of one year be granted, and it is proposed that the second instalment be paid in the 6th month of next year, and further payment, as provided by convention, from the last named date.

As you are well acquainted with the state of affairs in our country, we do not doubt that you will fully comply with our desire.



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

No. 2.

Mr. Pruyn to the Gorogio

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellencies’ letter of the 10th day of the 3d month, (5th instant.)

It announces that the government of his Majesty the Tycoon has, after mature deliberation, [Page 248] decided not to tender Simonoseki, or some other eligible port in the Inland Sea, in lieu of the indemnity, the right of which was reserved by the late convention.

Your excellencies therefore propose to pay the first instalment of the indemnity in the 6th month of the year, the second instalment in the 6th month of next year, and the four remaining instalments at intervals subsequent to the second payment, as provided by conyention.

Sufficient time has not elapsed to enable me to receive instructions on the subject of the convention from my government and to learn its preferences.

I feel assured, however, it would have cheerfully accepted a new port in lieu of all or part of the indemnity, had such been the wish of the Japanese government.

I sincerely hope that the decision which has been made, founded, as it is, on a more intimate knowledge of the commercial and political relations of the several parts of the Empire with each other, may be such as is best calculated to improve the relations with the treaty powers, and to insure internal peace and tranquillity.

Meanwhile I shall transmit to my government a copy of the letter of your excellencies. On the arrival of instructions from our respective governments, the ministers of the four powers will be in a position to take your excellencies’ letter into full and friendly consideration, and give such answer as may be in our power, as to your proposal to extend the payment of the balance of the indemnity.

With respect and esteem,

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

Their Excellencies the Ministers Of Foreign Affairs, &c., &c, Yedo.

No. 3.

Mr. Prnyn to the Gorogio

In continuation of my letter No. 36, in relation to your excellencies’ announcement, that the government of his Majesty the Tycoon had resolved to pay the indemnity agreed on by the convention of October 22, 1864, renouncing the right reserved therein to tender in lieu thereof an open port, it becomes my duty to inform your excellencies, that at a recent conference between my colleagues and myself we arrived at the following conclusions, which harmonize with those contained in my said letter No. 36, (enclosure No. 2.)

The decision of his Majesty the Tycoon becomes now a part of the convention, and has the effect to make the obligation to pay the indemnity absolute.

The representatives of the four powers will therefore be prepared to receive the first instalment at the time mentioned by your excellencies, but only on condition that such receipt shall not be considered as binding their respective governments to the extension of the time fixed for the payment of the remaining instalments. The undersigned would be authorized, with his colleagues, to accept the further instalments as they successively become due under the convention. The convention having doubtless before this been ratified by the powers, parties thereto cannot be changed by their representatives. They must therefore make known your excellencies’ wishes to their respective governments for their decision. It will be competent if they shall decide, in a friendly spirit, to comply in whole or in part with the request of his Majesty the Tycoon to propose such equivalent advantages as may be regarded as necessary and just.

Animated by the most friendly sentiments, I have transmitted a copy of your excellencies’ letter to my government, which will, at an early day after an interchange of views with the governments of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, give instructions to its representatives, corresponding with the decision at which they shall arrive.

With respect and esteem,

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

Their Excellencies the Ministers Of Foreign Affairs, &c., &c., Yedo.