Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: On the 8th instant, Hagashi Kuza Saki Noshosho, envoy of his Majesty the Mikado, arrived from the town of Hiogo, some two miles distant from the foreign concession by water, accompanied, by six officers and a retinue of about twenty retainers. He was received at the landing near to the custom-house by a guard of French and English marines, the American marines, at that hour, being on duty at the barricades and picketing the posts and streets. The foreign representatives had assembled in a large room in the custom-house, which we had caused to be prepared for the conference. The envoy was dressed in the peculiar costume of the court of the Mikado, and caused to be carried in advance of them the flag of the Mikado. His robe was of rich white flowered silk, his trowsers of the same material but of a silver color, and he wore upon his head the peculiar triangular-shaped black hat tied on with purple cords. We found him a very intelligent and quick man, evidently desirous of cultivating friendly relations with foreign powers, and continuing on the part of the Mikado the same terms heretofore existing between those powers and the Tycoon.
There were present at this interview the representatives of France, Great Britain, Holland, Italy, Prussia, and myself.
The envoy first presented a letter addressed to the representatives, which he caused to be at once translated, and a copy of which I inclose, marked No. 1. This letter announces to the sovereigns of all nations that permission has been granted to the Shogoon (Tycoon) to return the governing power according to his own request; that the Emperor of Japan would henceforward exercise supreme authority, both in regard to the internal and external affairs of the country, and that the title of Emperor should be substituted for that of Tycoon, which has heretofore been used in the treaties.
Under the circumstances I received this announcement as addressed to the President, inasmuch as the Mikado says in it “that it is desirable that the representatives of all the treaty powers should recognize this announcement,” and I attribute that reading of the text to the ignorance of the Mikado court as to the form of our government, a point upon which I shall take an early opportunity to give them information. I further understood that no slight was intended, as all the representatives were furnished with an original letter in the same terms.
Our interview then lasted some two hours. We first called the attention of the envoy to the unprovoked and outrageous attack upon the foreign residents on the 4th instant by the retainers of Matsdaira Bezen No Kami, and assured him that our present position was one of self-defense. That Hiogo and Osaka had been opened to foreigners under the treaties heretofore concluded with Japan, and that we were entitled to protection from the Japanese government; that the first thing for the Mikado to do was to give to our government ample reparation for the outrage committed. He then assured us that the Mikado would disapprove of the acts of Bezen, and asked us to reduce those demands to writing, forward them to him on the ensuing day, and he would transmit them at once to Kioto for consideration. He offered at once, if we would withdraw our forces, to assume on the part of the Mikado the entire protection of foreigners here, guaranteeing that there should be no recurrence of similar outrages. He desired us for the present to continue our occupation of the custom-house as our legations, and [Page 657] promised to appoint superintendents for Hiogo and Kobé in order that business here might at once be resumed. That in a few days a governor, having ample authority, would be appointed for Hiogo, and soon we should be re-established at Osaka.
Our conference was pleasant; the bearing of the envoy was all we could desire; his replies to inquiries prompt and to the point, and we were all very favorably impressed with him.
After the conclusion of this interview the foreign representatives held a consultation and unanimously resolved to ask the naval commanders to withdraw their forces and to resign the protection of the place to the Mikado, and also to give up the steamers which had been seized at our request.
I inclose No. 2, a copy of such resolution as signed by all the representatives, and inclosure No. 3, copy of my letter addressed to Commander Creighton, United States senior naval officer in the port.
On the same afternoon all the foreign sailors and marines were withdrawn, and the envoy substituted in their place the retainers of Satsuma and Choshin Meder, the Mikado flag. In the course of two days thereafter all the guns were removed, the barricades and batteries demolished, foreigners had reinstated themselves in their places of business, and we are now under protection of the Mikado as the head of this government here.
I inclose No. 4, Commander Creighton’s answer to my inclosure No. 3. The steamers have all been delivered up to the proper authorities and have left this port.
On the next day, the 9th instant, the foreign representatives again held a conference, at which we unanimously agreed upon the reparation which we should demand from the Mikado in consequence of the attack of the 4th instant, embodied it in a written form, signed by all the representatives, and sent it to the envoy for transmission to Kioto. I inclose No. 5, a copy of this document. On the 14th instant we received through the envoy a communication from Date Iyo No Kami and Saiyo Saki No Chinnagow, announcing that “his Majesty” considers the demands just and reasonable, and that the punishment will be inflicted. I inclose a copy of that communication marked No. 6.
On the 10th instant we had a second interview with the envoy at the custom-house, which passed off as pleasantly as the former one. He assured us that foreigners should be protected in all of the dominions occupied by the Mikado, and that the treaties with foreign powers should be faithfully executed on the part of his government. That the Tycoon was in rebellion against the supreme government, and unless he submitted, force would be used to subjugate him. That he had received and forwarded to Kioto our demand made the day previous, that it was reasonable, and should be replied to immediately. That superintendents should be immediately appointed to conduct the necessary business at Hiogo, until a governor should arrive to relieve them. That in a few days quiet would be restored at Osaka, legations would be provided for us there, and we would be invited to return to that city. He desired, however, that foreigners should be cautious against going to Nishinomia, a little village about nine miles east of here and on the road to Osaka, for the reason that there was encamped a body of Bezen’s retainers, and some assault might be made upon them. He also assured us that Nagasaki would pass into the hands of the Mikado without trouble, as the Tycoon’s officers had left it.
At the envoy’s suggestion, we then appointed a committee of two of [Page 658] our number, the English and Prussian representatives, to explain to the envoy and furnish him with copies of all the treaties, conventions, and agreements heretofore made by the foreign powers with Japan.
On the 11th instant we received from the envoy a letter announcing the appointment of Mashita Sajremon, Ito Shinsooke, Nakajima Sakootaro, and Krajima Tozo, as superintendents in the custom-house (Kobé) Hiogo; a copy translation of this communication I inclose, marked No. 7.
On the same day (the 11th instant) our committee, Sir Harry S. Parkes and Mr. Van Brandt, held their first conference with the envoy, for the purpose of furnishing to him copies of the several treaties, conventions, and agreements. It was an interesting conference, and I send you, inclosed, marked No. 8, a full and complete memorandum thereof.
On the 14th instant they held their second and last interview with him, the memorandum of which I also inclose, marked No. 9.
On the 13th instant we received from Yoshiakira, at Kioto, a letter announcing the appointment of himself by the Mikado, as chief administrator of foreign affairs, to be assisted by Sanjo Saki No Chinnagow, Higashi Kuze Saki No Shosho, (the envoy,) and Date Iyo No Kami. This is a step in the right direction, and will, I hope, bring us in connection with officers of higher rank than has heretofore been assigned to the discharge of the duties of the foreign affairs. Yoshiakira is a prince of the blood and of the second rank.
I inclose a copy translation of this communication, marked No. 10. It also contains the distinct statement that all engagements are to be observed.
This afternoon, the 17th instant, we had a united conference with the envoy, when he expressed his determination, in consequence of advices received, to return immediately to Kioto. He informed us that in the course of three or four days he should receive news from the Mikado, announcing the time of the execution of Bezen’s officer who directed the attack upon the foreigners, and inquired whether the apology of the government should be delivered before or at the time of such execution. We informed him that the acts should be simultaneous. He also informed us that about the first of the month the Mikado had sent two envoys to the Tycoon at Yedo, asking his submission; that they were accompanied by a body of troops, who were to remain in the province of Mino until the determination of the Tycoon was made known to them. If it was opposed to such submission, the troops would press on towards Yedo. That more recently they had send another envoy, but as yet no information had been received from any of them; that the foreign representatives should be immediately informed upon the reception of any news from Yedo or its vicinity, and that the foreign community at Yokohama would not be disturbed by the Mikado’s forces.
He left the conference, and went directly by steamer to Osaka, on his way to Kioto.
I inclose, marked No. 11, copy translation of a notice posted in Hiogo and Kobé on the 8th instant, and signed by three or four superintendents appointed at Kobé. It shows the good intentions of these men.
Since the withdrawal of our forces, we have had no disturbance or difficulty, and all now seems quiet at this place.
Trusting that my action will be approved, I have the honor to be, sir, your very obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.