Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.

No. 3.]

Sir: It is very difficult to determine precisely the state of affairs now existing in this country. Whether there is any Tycoon having the authority heretofore professed by him, or whether the supreme power now rests exclusively with the Mikado, and is exercised by a council of Daimios appointed by him, is the question which troubles the representatives of all the treaty powers.

All the information we have upon this important question comes through the retainers and officials of the Tycoon, no communication whatever having been made to us from Kioto or from any other place. The officers whom we see, and through whom we conduct our negotiations, are the same who have heretofore conducted all business transactions, and they move on in the same orderly manner, and apparently with the same assurance as before. I received only last night, from the prime minister Itakura Iga No Kami, notice that Matsduira Buzen No Kami had just been appointed assistant Gorogio, and that another person had that day been promoted to the office of governor of foreign affairs, and this by order of the Tycoon.

Notwithstanding all this, the Tycoon himself informs us, in his reply to the address of the diplomatic body, and to which I shall again refer, that he “resigned the governing power, which he had inherited from his ancestors, upon the mutual understanding that he should assemble all the nobles of the empire to discuss the question disinterestedly, and, adopting the opinion of the majority, decide upon the reformation of the national constitution.”

The Daimios were summoned to Kioto; Satsuma, Tosa, Gashu, and some others arrived, bringing with them large numbers of troops. Among the Daimios retainers were some fifteen hundred armed men, owing service to Chosin, all of the above-named Daimios being in opposition to the Tycoon. Their retainers outnumbered at the time the friends of the Tycoon assembled at Kioto. On the third instant they took possession of the nine gates of the Mikado’s castle, turned out the regent and the princes, and took the entire charge and control of the Mikado. The Tycoon was at that time in his own castle, about one mile from that occupied by the Mikado; he was at once surrounded by his friends and retainers, and war, for a time, was imminent. The Tycoon says that these Daimios coerced the Mikado into issuing a decree accepting his resignation, and abolishing the office, without waiting for the assembling of the general council which had been ordered.

In fact, these opponents of the Tycoon, arriving in advance of a large majority of the Daimios summoned, bringing with them bodies of troops numbering in all some twenty thousand, overawed the Tycoon and his few friends at Kioto, and took forcible possession of the Mikado and the government.

On the sixth instant the Tycoon left Kioto, accompanied by some of his friends, about seven o’clock in the evening, and reached his castle in this city about four o’clock on the afternoon of the seventh.

On the eighth instant the representatives of France and Great Britain together had an audience with him, the result of which I am, by the kindness of Sir Harry Parkes, enabled to give to you in inclosure No. 1.

The Tycoon signified his desire to see the representatives of the treaty powers, and upon consultation with my colleagues of France, Great [Page 619] Britain, Holland, Italy, and Prussia, it was determined unanimously to call upon him in a body, present him with an address, and thus learn if possible his present position and future prospects. On the afternoon of the tenth instant we made him such a visit, and Mr. Roche, the French minister, on behalf of the diplomatic body, delivered to him such address, a copy of which I inclose, marked No. 2.

His reply thereto was read by him in person, and then a copy furnished to each representative. I transmit a translation of it, marked inclosure No. 3. I have received, but not officially, a document purporting to be a proclamation issued by the Mikado at Kioto, establishing a form of government, and appointing Satsuma, Tosa, Etchizen, Aki, and Owari, five of the principal Daimios, a council, assisted by a large number of lesser officials, to carry on the government. I have no doubt of the authenticity of the paper, and I inclose a copy translation, marked No. 4. Attached to this proclamation there is one which seems to have been issued by the Tycoon’s authority, announcing the fact that he had been dismissed from the office of Shogoon.

From this new government (if there be such) we have as yet received no communication, and, if rumor speaks true, already has dissension been sown in their ranks and difficulties arisen among them. The Tycoon himself, and his friends, among whom I am told are many of the most influential and powerful of the Daimios, seem indisposed to yield to this new arrangement, but are willing, or express themselves so, to abide the decision of a general council of Daimios, after full and free discussion.

I doubt whether this will be granted, and my fears now are that a civil war will be the result, the Tycoon and his adherents upon the one side, arrayed against Satsuma and his allies upon the other. The Tycoon, as head of the Tokugawa family, is probably the most powerful and wealthy person in Japan. In his own right he owns large provinces and receives vast revenues. All of the open ports in Japan, including Yedo, Osaka, and Ne-egato, are in his provinces. He has been very liberal in his negotiations with the foreign representatives, is desirous of faithfully observing the treaties, and of strengthening the friendly relations with other powers, especially the United States, and in my opinion is the most progressive and liberal in his ideas of any Japanese official.

I inclose herewith No. 5, copy translation of a protest sent to the Mikado by the retainers of ten Daimios, on the sixth instant, but which did not reach me officially.

I also inclose No. 6, the substance of a very long communication addressed to the Mikado by Maki No Suruga No Kami, a small Daimio. I cannot give you an exact translation, as my interpreter (Sikey Shinpatchi) has been at work on it for two days and finds it very hard to properly translate. As it is not an official document, and was not officially received, this copy I trust will be satisfactory.

It is hardly necessary for me to say that in case there should be a collision, I shall endeavor to preserve a strict neutrality, protecting, as far possible, American interests.

I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient and humble servant,


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

[Page 620]

No. 1.

Memorandum of interview with the Taikun, January 8, 1868.

Present, her Britannic Majesty’s minister and the minister of the Emperor of the French.

The Taikun spoke as follows:

I became convinced, last autumn, that the country would be no longer successfully governed while the power was divided between the Mikado and myself. The country had two centers, from which orders of an opposite nature proceeded. Thus, in the matter of the opening of Hiogo and Osaka, which I quote as an example of this conflict of authority, I was myself convinced that the stipulations of the treaties must be observed, but the assent of the Mikado to my representations on this subject was given reluctantly. I therefore, for the good of my country, informed the Mikado that I resigned the governing power, on the understanding that an assembly of Daimios was convened for the purpose of deciding in what manner, and by whom, the government, in future, should be carried on. In acting thus, I sunk my own interests and powder, handed down to me by my ancestors, in the more important interests of the country. The Mikado accepted my resignation on the understanding which I named, but desired me to continue the direction of the state as heretofore until the voice of the nation should be taken.

The Daimios had been summoned to appear at Kioto, and some had already arrived, when at mid-day, on the 3d of January, Satsuma, Tosa, Geishin, Owari, and Echizen took possession of the gates of the palace, dismissed the sessho, who had been appointed by the late Mikado to act as the guardian and adviser of the present one during his minority, placed an instrument of their own in his stead, forbid the kuges, who had hitherto enjoyed the confidence of the Mikado, to approach the palace, and placed about him other kuges whose opinions were identical with those of the five Daimios. Having met together in a mock assembly, they then called on me to resign my office of shogun, my rank of maidaijin, and land representing 2,000,000 of kokus of revenue.* As these belonged to me of my own right, and as it was contrary to the agreement to forestall, in this way, the decision of the assembly, I withdrew my forces to Osaka.

Having told you what has passed, I now desire to have your opinion and advice.

M. Roches. When we heard, last autumn, of the step taken by his Majesty the Taikun, we were all of us moved with admiration of the patriotism which had dictated it. We, moreover, were convinced of the wisdom shown by his Majesty in appealing, on this momentous question, to the voice of the nation, and we trust that, notwithstanding what has since occurred, he will still find menus to attain his object.

Sir Harry Parkes. When I learned verbally from the Taikun’s ministers at Yedo, as well as from the documents which they placed in my hands, that the Taikun had handed back to the Mikado the powers which had been intrusted to his ancestors, and had called a national council to deliberate as to the constitution of the new government, I considered it a wise step, and as such I reported it to my government. I am much obliged to the Taikun for the above explanation of the state of affairs, which, while it affects Japan, must also affect, to some extent, foreign nations, and I shall be therefore still further obliged to the Taikun if he will give me some information as to his future intentions.

In reply to this and subsequent questions from the two ministers, the Taikun gave the following information:

It has hitherto been Satsuma who has been the leading spirit in the councils of the five Daimios I have above named, but there are already signs of their being dissatisfied with the extreme lengths to which he is going. My policy, from the commencement, has been to determine this question of the future form of government in a peaceful manner, and it is in pursuance of the same object that, instead of opposing force by force, I have retired from the scene of dispute.

It would, moreover, have been unseemly for me to have been the first to draw the sword so near the palace of the Mikado, against whom I should have appeared to be arrayed, though I well know that such would not really have been the case. The Mikado is but a child, who is being guided by those into whose hands he has fallen. With respect to the question asked by the British minister as to the meaning of the Mikado’s decree, ordering me to confer with two or three Daimios at Kioto, on any foreign question of importance which might arise before the assembly of the Daimios had been held, which decree was communicated to the British minister by the Gorojin of Yedo, I inquired from the Mikado who were the Daimios referred to. The Mikado replied that he did not know. I put my question and received this answer in writing. It was then evident to me that the decree was not his own, and I accordingly did not feel bound to obey it. As to the guard at the nine gates of the palace at Kioto, and the [Page 621] reason why I allowed it to be changed, the case was as follows: Although Alcazu was intrusted with the general command of the guard, some of the gates were held by the men of Satsuma and other Daimios. Through these entered the kuges who had been banished from the court, and who, having thus obtained access to the Mikado, persuaded him to issue a decree for the guardianship of the nine gates to be taken from Aidzu and intrusted to Satsuma. With that decree it was necessary to comply, and my own men, as well as those of Aidzu, were withdrawn. When I was ordered by the Mikado to resume the direction of affairs pending the decision of the assembly, it was the civil as well as the military government that I continued to hold. As to who is the sovereign of Japan, it is a question on whom no one in Japan can entertain a doubt. The Mikado is the sovereign. My object from the first has been to take the will of the nation as to the future government. If the nation should decide that I ought to resign my powers, I am prepared to resign them for the good of my country, It was to avoid bloodshed that, when I saw the five Daimios had broken faith, I left Kioto, and withdrew to this place. Here it is my intention to await the course of events. My object and my intentions remain unaltered. I am still prepared to abide by the decision of an assembly of Daimios. This assembly, however, must be a genuine one, and must not consist of Satsuma and a few of his adherents only. Whether these Daimios will attack me or not, I cannot say. There are signs of discord in their councils. There is also dissatisfaction among other Daimios, who had come up to Kioto, as they thought, to attend a general assembly of Daimios. Some of these have now left again, while others, who were on their way, have turned back on learning what has taken place. What or where is the government of the country at this moment I cannot say. Nominally it would seem to reside with the young Mikado, but for my own part I know that he is at the mercy of a faction, and that though decrees may be issued in his name, they do not really emanate from him; I furnish you with a copy of one that is said to have been issued by him, but which I do not recognize as official. It is my intention to address a protest to the Mikado, advising him that such a government is in fact no government. I do not, however, pledge myself to be bound by the answer I may receive from the Mikado.

No. 2.

Address of the diplomatic body to the Tycoon, at an audience at Osaka, on the 10th January, 1868.

At a moment when the government of Japan is undergoing important modifications, the representatives of the foreign powers who signed the treaties feel themselves called on to give expression to their feelings of high esteem and gratitude towards the Uyesama, who, by his energy and loyalty, has succeeded in securing the faithful execution of the said treaties. Thoroughly determined to stand aloof from the existing dissensions relative to the form of government, the representatives here present express but one hope—it is that a national and stable government may be formed which will afford to them sufficient guarantees for the loyal execution of international engagements.

Independently of their desires, they possess a right—it is that of being informed officially, and without delay, of the government with whom they have to deal, in maintaining the interests which they have the honor to represent in Japan.

They trust that the Uyesama will take into serious consideration both their wishes and their right, and that he will be pleased to inform them, with the least possible delay, of the government to whom they are in future to address themselves.

No. 3.

Reply of Uyesama to the address of the diplomatic body, at an audience, on January 10, 1868.

My ancestor Tyeyasuko established the Japanese form of government, with all its fundamental principles and all its details; and for more than two hundred years, from the Tenshi above down to the lowest of the nation, there is no one who has not honored his virtues and enjoyed the fruits of his beneficence.

But the world has changed. Since the conclusion of treaties with foreign powers, it has been impossible to avoid seeing some imperfections in laws considered true and beautiful. From the very first moment when I succeeded my predecessor I saw this, and designed, in consultation with Kioto, to effect a reformation in these laws. I have no other motive but the following: With an honest love for my country and the people I resigned the governing power which I had inherited from my ancestors, and with the [Page 622] mutual understanding that I should assemble all the nobles of the empire to discuss the question disinterestedly, and, adopting the opinion of the majority, decide upon the reformation of the national constitution, I left the matter in the hands of the imperial court.

In order that this great work may be carried out, his Highness the regent, who was appointed by the will of the late Emperor to be a protector and adviser to the young sovereign, and several of the princes of the blood and of the nobles of the court, accepted my resignation of the governing power; but an imperial order was given to me at the same time to continue to exercise that power in all tilings in the same way, as heretofore, until a decision should be arrived at by a general council of Daimios. I awaited that meeting, and was fully resolved to take a part in it myself. Unexpectedly, however, one morning several Daimios made their way into the palace by force of arms, drove out his Highness the regent, appointed by the late Mikado, together with the princes of the blood and the nobles of the court, brought in their stead nobles who had been banished from his presence by the late Emperor, altered the original imperial command, and, without waiting for the general council, abolished the office of the Shogoon.

My hatamotos and fudai daimios were greatly incensed, and urged on me, night and day, that no other course could be pursued but that of taking military measures against this violent crime of breaking the laws of Japan and contravening the wishes of the people. But, as my original object in laying down the governing power was to insure unity among all classes of the people, such excess of zeal was contrary to the course I had resolved on. However much I might be in the right, I certainly would not be the cause of a national convulsion. In order to avoid such an unfortunate disturbance I came down to Osaka.

The reason for my doing this is not what superficial observers might suppose. Looking at their criminal act from the point of view of a love for my country and its people, I cannot with indifference see them possessed of the person of the young sovereign, giving loose to their own selfish desires under the name of the Emperor’s wishes, and distressing the people.

For the sake of my nation I must explain this. I will endeavor to convince those who differ from me, if such there be, ask for the opinion of the majority of a general council, and pray earnestly for the prosperous government of my country. It is because I follow my ancestor Tyeyasu in his love for the people, and desire to carry out the instructions left by the late Emperor, that I am animated by the earnest wish to unite my powers with those of the whole nation, to proceed according to the most perfect reason and justice to carry out the work I have proposed to myself and obtain the opinion of a general council.

It is not necessary for the powers with whom treaties of peace have been concluded to concern themselves about our internal national affairs. What is important is that they hinder not the course of just principles.

Since I have observed faithfully all the provisions of the treaties, I hope to deserve your approbation still more by protecting the interests of all the powers. And you will comprehend that, until the form of the government shall be settled by a general discussion by the whole country to observe the treaties, to carry out all the stipulations made with foreign powers, and to conduct foreign relations generally, is my office.

No. 4.


Draft of a proclamation of the court of Kioto.

That Tokugawa Naifu shall give up the supreme power, and that the Shiogoonate shall be abolished, are two points that have been finally accepted by the Emperor. Since the year Uski, (15 years ago,) we have been in a worse position than ever existed before. The late Mikado’s heart was afflicted for many a year—this every one knows; therefore has the Mikado now made up his mind to return to the old form of government as exercised by the Mikado, (à l’osei au lieu du bakfu,) to restore the national power, and to settle the elements of the new constitution.

Therefore the Mikado shall, from this moment, abolish the office of seikan (seisio chambaku) and the bakfu (government of the shogoon,) and shall establish temporarily the three departments, viz, the sosei, the titei, and the sanjo, and the whole business shall be conducted by them. According to the constitution of zyz-moo, (660 a-X,) the sinsing, (nobility,) buhen, (military men,) tosho, (kuge,) and the dsigne, (low officers,) may offer their advice without regard to their rank.

As it is also the Mikado’s intention to share good and evil with his people, every one should put aside his former bad customs, and serve the nation with a true heart.

1. The members of both Naizan, (the secret council,) Tchokumoa, (the second council,) the Kokudgi Gojogakari, (the department of interior affairs,) the Gizo, the Buke [Page 623] Tenso, the Shogoshaku, (Prince of Aidzen, to whom the defense of Kioto was confided,) and the Siosidai, (Prince of Kumava, Governor of Kioto,) are abolished.

Those appointed are as follows, viz:

Sosei: Arisugawara Setzn No Mia.
Titei: Ninguadsi No Mia, } Kuge.
Tamasina No Mia,
Nakayama Dainagon, (Fukio,)
Nakanomikado Tsunagon,
Owari Dainagon, } Princes of.
Etsisen Saisio,
Aki Siosio,
Tosa Siosio,
Satsuma Saisio,
Tanjo: Ohara Saisio, } Kuge.
Madenokodsi Nobeng,
Nagatamiro Sammi,
Twakwia Sosio, (Fukio,) } Kuge.
Hasimoto Sosio,

Three caros of each of the before-mentioned princes.

A Dadjogwan, (Prince minister, higher in rank than the Quambaku, a dignity which not only a member of the five Quambaku families, but any one, may obtain,) shall be re-established afterwards. May every one remember this, that he can also rise to this post.

2. The ceremonies of the Mikado’s court shall be changed afterwards; but the Quambaku families (the five Seke) and the families of Daidsin (families from which these dignitaries were taken) shall be abolished now.

3. To change, for the better, the ancient evil customs, permission to speak freely must be given to every one; therefore, any one, without distinction of rank, who has an opinion, may offer his advice to the Mikado freely, and as it is the most important duty of the Mikado to find out intelligent persons for the government service, every one finding a proper person will speedily offer his information.

4. For many years past the price of everything has been so high that we could do nothing. The rich became richer, and the poor poorer, and the reason thereof was that the manner of governing was not the right one. The greatest treasure of a Sovereign is his subjects, and we are now in a position to eradicate the evil customs of many hundred years; every one, therefore, knowing a plan to prevent this before-mentioned misfortune, may submit it freely to the Mikado.

5. When Katsumia Onkato married into the Onanto family some years ago, and when this marriage was allowed by the late Mikado’s will, it was because he hoped to drive away the foreigners; but afterwards the Shogoon died, and this was nothing but a false pretense of the Yedo officials, from which no result came therefore; it is hoped that she will return as soon as possible, and in a few days some Kuge shall be sent to receive her back. This must be remembered.

This is settled and proclaimed in one paper, that the Prince of Chosin may return again to Kioto. He is restored to his former rank and dignity. This has been brought about by Satsuma, Tosa, and Aki.

Yesterday, on the 9th day, (3d January,) the subjects of Satsuma, Aki, and Owari, in armor, surrounded and occupied the palace of the Mikado; to the following Kuge and to the subjects of the Uye Sama entrance into the palace is forbidden, viz:

Setsio Sakino Quambaku; Sadaidsin; Udaidsin; the former Quambaku Sadaidsin; the former Quambaku Udaidsin; the former Sadaidsin; the former Udaidsin; the former Ichidsio daidsin; Naidaidsin; Hini dainagon; Askai dainagon; Tanagiwara dainagon; Hannoro dainagon; Sandio Tsunagon; Nomiya Tsunagon; Koesi Saisio; Toy oka Okurakio; Fusihara Sammi; Uva Tsudi Shudio.

Proclamation of the Tycoon.

To the Ohometzhes and the Ometzkes:

The imperial order was given on the 10th day of this month, (4th January,) to communicate to the Daimios, the Hatamotos, and the Gosanke, the following decree:

Copy of the imperial order.


It has pleased the Mikado to dismiss the present Shogoon, at his request, from the office of Shogoon,

[Page 624]

Copy of a proclamation of a Shakora Iga No Kami to all officials, high and low.

12th month.

As the title of Shogoon has been abolished, all subjects must use the title of Uyesama.

As the title of Midaisama has ceased to exist, the title of Goventsiasama must be employed instead.

No. 5.


Protest of Daimios, sent to Mikado.

The imperial design of a great change which was lately determined upon, with the view of promoting peace and harmony in our country, by establishing a policy that would avoid the many evils that have hitherto existed, (ei,) that of having many heads instead of one, and which was to have been discussed at a general meeting of the Daimios, and while all classes of the people were expecting this consultation with anxiety, the armies of the summoned princes suddenly appeared at the court of the Mikado, on the 3d of January, 1868, (the last 9th day,) warlike equipped. Consequently great surprise and excitement have taken place.

We are informed that Nijo Deuka, who held office during the reign of the late Mikado, as well as up to the present time, and several other nobles, have been dismissed; and we are also informed that the Shogoon will likewise be deprived of his office, title, and estate. We are not aware of the reason of the Tycoon’s being so dealt with, but we apprehend the result of the contemplated reform in the government if the Mikado is influenced by these dissenters, more especially in this time when all classes of the people praise him for having surrendered to the Mikado the great power which has descended to him from his ancestors, besides having accused himself of incompetency, and also in his using every effort to support the imperial cause.

We sincerely desire that orders will be given immediately to prevent warlike people from frequenting the imperial residence, so as to calm as quick as possible the general excitement.

We also earnestly desire that the public affairs will be managed in such a manner as will be decided only by a majority at a general assembly, and that the proposed reform will be carried into effect.

As we look upon the present condition of our country as very critical, we have taken this liberty, which we feel our duty, and which we trust you will not find amiss.

With respect and esteem,

HATCHI SOOKA SHINANO, Retainer of Matsdaira Awa No Kami.

HISANO SHIROBEI, Retainer of Matsdaira Mino No Kami.

MIZOGOOTCHI KOWOON, Retainer of Hosokawa Ettiwoo No Kami.

YAMAWOORA GENGDAYOO, Retains of Arima Nakats Kasa Tagoo.

NISHIMOORA KIUJIRO, Retainer of Namboo Mino No Kami.

SAKAI HABEI, Retainer of Matsdaira Higen No Kami.

TANABE ITCHIZAEMON, Retainer of Nuva Sakudayoo.

TOBA GENZAEMON, Retainer of So Tsshuma No Kami.

TSROODA HABEI, Retainer of Mizogootchi Seino Shin.

TOTOKI SETTS, Retainer of Tatchi-Cana Hida No Kami.

[Page 625]

No. 6.


Protest of Daimio Maki No Suruga No Kami to the Mikado.

I take the liberty to state as follows: I feel much honored in having been summoned to attend the imperial court, knowing that I am but a vassal. Yet I fear by acting I may compromise any good feeling that may have been held towards me by the Tokugawa family, by innovating an old custom. Yet I think it would be disloyal on my part to remain silent on this important question. It appears that the Tycoon reported to the Mikado his intention to resign his official power. This intention was too soon accepted by the Mikado, and every one regrets that an important matter should have been settled without due consideration, and I feel confident that such will be the cause of national troubles. Since the governmental power has passed into the hands of the Shogoon family, the restoration of that power by the Mikado has often attempted, but in vain, owing to the only nominal power of the imperial court. Such was the case formerly, and is clearly understood by everybody. The governmental power was given by the Mikado to the Tokugawa line, on account of one of their members having successfully quieted national disturbances which had lasted for several hundred years, thereby relieving the nation from much cruel suffering. We are consequently indebted to Almighty God and him for the peace we have enjoyed up to the present time. The code by which that member of the Shogoon family was guided was wise and good, and is beyond comparison. Since then, however, many changes have taken place, and those laws are now found inadequate to the present time, more especially since Japan has had intercourse with foreign nations. The opinion of the Kuges and Shogoon family on that subject widely differed. Of this the cunning took advantage, and committed many outrages under the pretext of supporting the imperial cause. In this respect, however, the Daimios greatly differed in opinion, but now all are quite satisfied that foreign intercourse has proved beneficial to the country at large. Most of the Daimios, who originally disliked what they called this “intrusion” on the part of foreign nations, are now greatly in favor of them, as well as the late Mikado, who, in proof of this friendly feeling, ratified the treaties.

The policy of the present Mikado, however, widely differs from that of his predecessor on this point, he being influenced by those who only affect assistance to the imperial cause and the advancement of the country, but who, in fact, are working for selfish ends, and who will be sure to prove disloyal when their real aid and influence is called for.

I feel confident that there is but one way to re-establish that peace which our country much needs, and that is, by reinstating to the Tokugawa family its former authority, and I sincerely trust his Imperial Majesty will be pleased to do so at once, as delay may prove fatal.

I feel it has been very forward on my part to so distinctly state my feelings on this important question, but I would rather forfeit all claims to rank, and even life, than to withhold my opinion on a subject that affects so directly the welfare of my country. With respect and esteem,


  1. Or above £2,000,000 in value.