Mr. Portman to Mr. Seward

No. 64]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith, No. 1, copy of a memorandum, signed this day, setting forth the course of action unanimously adopted, in accordance with instructions received from their respective governments, by the representatives of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands.

Similar instructions have, no doubt, been sent to this legation. I would have preferred to await their arrival, but I knew that a golden opportunity to place our political and commercial relations with this country on an improved basis had presented itself, and felt no hesitation, therefore, in cordially uniting with above-mentioned representatives in carrying out the instructions that had been received.

This action is unquestionably in continuation of the policy that was inaugurated with the successful expedition to Simonoseki, of which the President was pleased to approve, and which has been productive of so much benefit. It was, moreover, in harmony with Mr. Pruyn’s views, as expressed in his several despatches with reference to the Simonoseki indemnity, and it was, also, well understood, though not frankly admitted, that the temporary transfer of the foreign legations to Osacca, at this juncture, could not but be highly acceptable to the Tycoon and his government, and, in all probability, would be the means of averting civil war, into which the hitherto existing civil commotion appeared likely to culminate at an early day.

The Tycoon, and four of the five members of which the Gorogio is composed, are now at Osacca.

I greatly regret that, on an occasion like the present, there is no national vessel in Japan. Very acceptable arrangements, however, have been made by the vice-admiral commanding her Britannic Majesty’s naval forces on this station for my accommodation on board her Britannic Majesty’s frigate Pelorus, the largest ship in his squadron next to the Princess Royal line-of-battle ship, in which the British minister and staff have taken passage.

The French minister will take passage in the frigate Guerriere, and the Netherlands consul general and political agent in the Dutch sloop Tontinan, and at 10 o’clock to-morrow morning the squadron will sail for Hiogo and Osacca.

The mail closes this afternoon, and only a few hours are left me to complete all my preparations for this trip; I trust, therefore, that you will excuse me from sending a translation of accompanying memorandum by this mail.

I also transmit, No. 2, copy of my letter to the Gorogio, and No. 3, copy of my letter to the consular officers in this country, announcing the temporary transfer of the legation to Osacca.

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

A. L. C. PORTMAN, Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in Japan.

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

[Page 266]
No. 1.


In virtue of the convention signed 22d October, 1864, the Japanese government engaged to pay to the governments of the United States of America, England, France, and the Netherlands, a sum of three millions of dollars, as indemnity for the expenditures made necessary by the expedition.

The representatives of the four powers above named, desirous of testifying to the Japanese government the disinterested views of their sovereigns, and of their sole desire to improve their relations with Japan, left to his Majesty the Tycoon the privilege of settling the payment of this indemnity by opening a new port to foreign commerce, required by the representatives of the said powers to declare whether he would or not avail himself of this privilege. The government of Japan declared about six months ago that it preferred to pay the indemnity, seeing that the state of the country caused it to regard the opening of a new port as impolitic; but at the same time requested the delay of a year to provide for the second instalment of the indemnity.

The representatives of the four powers, while acknowledging the right of the Japanese government to choose between the two conditions, did not consider themselves empowered to grant the postponement asked for, and had to refer to their respective governments. The instructions which they asked for on this subject have reached the undersigned representatives of France, England, and the Netherlands.

The right of the Tycoon to choose between the payment of the indemnity in the terms settled by the convention of the 22d October and the opening of a port on the Inland Sea, is naturally admitted by each of the said powers, but they differ in opinion on the subject of the postponement asked for by the Japanese government.

The cabinets of St. James and the Hague require either the strict execution of the articles of the convention of the 22d October in this respect, or, instead, consent to this postponement, and even to the abandonment of two-thirds of the indemnity on the three conditions following:

First, that the Japanese government open the port of Hiogo and the city of Osacca on the 1st January, 1866; second, that the Mikado ratify the treaties concluded with the foreign powers; third, and last, that the tariff of duties of import be fixed for the greater part of merchandise at five per cent., and can in no case exceed 10 per cent. The cabinet of Paris, on the contrary, would not see any obstacle to according the postponement to the Japanese government, if the latter should act in good faith in respect to the powers, signers of the treaties, and would perceive a danger in imposing on it the opening of Osacca before the epoch fixed by the additional convention of 1862. The cabinet of Paris declares, besides, formally, what is also admitted by the cabinets of St. James and the Hague, that the Tycoon being free to choose between the payment of the indemnity and the opening of a port, we would not have the right, if the prince execute one of these conditions, to exact the opening, by anticipation, of Hiogo and Osacca. ‘The minister of the Emperor adds in recapitulation, in the despatch which his excellency addressed to the cabinets of London, of Washington, and of the Hague, under date of 22d July, 1865, that the imperial government is of opinion that the solution of this question may be devolved on the representatives of the four powers in Japan. In answer to this communication, Earl Cowley has informed Mr. Drouyn d’Lhuys that the government of her Britannic Majesty consented to this last proposition.

The representative of the United States of America has not received any instructions from his government; but the measures settled by the present memorandum being only the consequence of the policy which has been inaugurated between the four powers, signers of the treaties, Mr. Portman, chargé d’affaires ad interim, does not hesitate on this occasion to unite with his colleagues. Mr. De Graeff Van Polsbroek has received from his government identical instructions. In this state of things the undersigned, representatives of the United States of America, of England, of France, and of the Netherlands, have deemed it necessary to assemble for the purpose of a mutual understanding—First, on the means of reconciling the instructions of their respective governments, while preserving intact the union and community of purpose which have already given them such power; second, on the steps to be followed so as to make the best possible of the actual situation. After having examined the question in all its aspects; considering, on the one hand, that the proposition of the government of her Britannic Majesty to abandon a part of the indemnity in return, first, of the opening by anticipation of the port of Hiogo and of the city of Osacca; second, of the ratification of the treaty by the Mikado; and, third, of the revision of the tariff of duties, conforms with the spirit of the convention of the 22d October, 1864; considering, on the other hand, that the government of his Majesty the Emperor does not diverge from the propositions of the cabinet of St. James, except what there might be in them inopportune; considering the state of par ties in Japan: considering that the conditions claimed by England and the Netherlands, if they were spontaneously granted by the government of Japan would no longer present the dangers which France apprehended, if such conditions should be imposed, and would be preferable for all interested in the payment of thier third of the indemnity, and that France would then have no objection to oppose to this new arrangement, which, is repeated, is in ful conformity with the spirit of the convention of the 22d of October; considering that the [Page 267] well-understood interests of the powers, signers of the treaties, and of Japan itself, require a prompt solution of questions depending, and that the abandonment of two-thirds of the indemnity might facilitate and hasten the ratification of the treaties by the Mikado, a ratification which is the best guarantee of the future good relations of the foreign powers with Japan, and that, moreover, the government of the Tycoon has engaged to obtain it from the Mikado; considering that the absence of the Tycoon and his principal ministers renders any negotiation at Yedo, if not impossible, at least illusory—that it is important, however, to affirm our right to obtain in due time the execution of an agreement and of a solemn convention, and to convince the Japanese government, as well as the Mikado and the Daimio, that the foreign powers have irrevocably determined to exact the opening of Hiogo and of Osacca at the time fixed by the treaties, if not obtained before in consequence of a mutual understanding—the representatives undersigned have agreed by common consent to transfer for the moment the seat of their negotiations to Osacca. This measure, which is in perfect conformity with the spirit of the treaties, because the said representatives are accredited to the Tycoon in person, will have, besides, in the eyes of the friends and enemies of the Tycoon, a signification which will singularly influence the happy issue of events which are in preparation.

In fact, the undersigned have been informed that the Tycoon, yielding to the instances of the Mikado and the Daimio who surrounded him, had consented to receive the Prince of Nagato as recipient in regard to conditions which this rebel Daimio had accepted some eight months before from Prince Owari, generalissimo of the Tycoon’s army, but which, upon various pretexts, he had not complied with. But the Tycoon, distrusting, with reason, the real dispositions of his subject, fixed a period (the 13th of December) after which he would consider the favorable conditions which he was willing to have given the rebel Daimio as not-having befallen, and would proceed at once to his chastisement.

The arrival at Osacca of the representatives of the powers, signers of the treaties, happening at this decisive moment, followed by a respectable naval force to treat amicably with the ministers of the Tycoon, will prevent, there is room to believe, the commencement of hostilities, which would, perhaps, be the signal for civil war, the consequences whereof, whatever they might be, could not but injure the political as well as the commercial interests of foreign powers in Japan; at all events, this arrival could not but give the Japanese government the moral support that would facilitate the results of its measures, to the effect of obtaining from the Mikado the ratification of the treaties.

In consequence the undersigned agreed immediately to address to the commanders of the naval forces of their respective countries, in order to have them understand the political situation, and to invite them to proceed to Osacca, where they would sojourn during the time necessary to lead to a good result the important negotiations which call them thither.

The undersigned take this determination, with the intimate conviction that it may lead to very fortunate results, and that in any event it is not of a nature to compromise the safe and conciliatory policy which their respective governments have ordered them to follow in respect to Japan.

A. L. C. POSTMAN, Chargé d’ Affaires of the United States in Japan.

HARRY S. PARKES, H. B. M.’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary in Japan.

LEON ROCHES, Minister Plenipotentiary of the Emperor of the French.

D. DE GRAEFF VAN POLSBROEK, H. N. M.’s Political Agent and Consul General in Japan.
No. 2.

Mr. Portman to the Gorogio

After conferring with my colleagues, the representatives of England, France, and the Netherlands, I have formed with them the unanimous opinion that the promptest mode to secure a solution, alike satisfactory to the Japanese government and to the treaty powers, of all that relates to the convention of the 22d of October, 1864, is to settle the important matter by negotiation with the ministers who are at present with the Tycoon.

I have, therefore, the honor to inform your excellency that I propose immediately to proceed to Osacca with my colleagues, the representatives above named.

The object, as above stated, is so eminently of a friendly character that it cannot fail to be productive of substantial benefit to the government and people of Japan.

With respect and esteem,

A. L. C. PORTMAN, Chargé d’ Affaires of the United States in Japan.

His Excellency Midluno Idlumi no Kami, Minister for Foreign Affairs, &c, &c, &c, Yedo.

[Page 268]
No. 3.

Mr. Portman to Mr. Fisher

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that in concert with the representatives of Great Britain, France, and the Netherlands, I have determined upon temporarily transferring the legation to Osacca, at present the seat of the government of this country, with a view of bringing more promptly to a successful termination important negotiations that have been in progress for some time.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,

A. L. C. PORTMAN, Chargé d’ Affaires ad interim in Japan.

George S. Fisher, Esq., United States Consul, Kanagawa.