Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that on the 14th instant I received from Higashi Kuze Saki No Shosho, the envoy of the Mikado, a communication, stating that in consequence of the revolt of Tokigawa Yoshinobu, (the Tycoon,) a prince of the blood of the second rank had been appointed commander-in chief of the army of execution, and also asking that strict neutrality be observed on the part of citizens of the United States. Similar letters were addressed to each of the foreign representatives at the same time. I inclose a copy, marked No. 1. We immediately held a conference and had the matter under discussion from day to day until the 18th instant, when, after careful examination, we agreed upon the terms of a notice to be issued by us respectively, and bearing date on that day. I inclose, marked No. 2, a printed copy of the one issued, and No. 3, copies of those issued by my colleagues, the representatives of France, Great Britain, Italy, the Netherlands, and Prussia. I also enclose (No. 4) copy of my letter transmitting these notices to the United States consul at Kanagawa, similar letters having been forwarded by me to the vice-consul at Nagasaki and the consular agents at Hiogo and Osaka. I shall also, by the first opportunity, send copies of the notice to the acting consul general at Shanghai, and also to Hakodadi. It is now more than sixteen days since we have heard from Yokohama direct, the opportunities for communication being very few. At that time the Stonewall had not arrived. Whether she has since arrived and been delivered to the Tycoon it is impossible for me to say. I have not been informed of the nature of the instructions given to her commander, and do not know the expected time of arrival. The question of her delivery, under this complication of affairs, has given me great trouble. I am informed by the representative of Great Britain that there are several men-of-war which have been built in England for some of the Daimios, now acting with the Mikado, on their way out for delivery, and one or two of them are almost daily expected. The situation of affairs is such that the delivery of these vessels at this juncture might prolong this unhappy contest to an interminable length, and have the effect to ruin all foreign trade and commerce in this country.
The Tycoon is still strong east of the Hakim Mountains, having Yedo for his capital, and nearly one-half of Japan is said to favor his position and may fight under his banner. He has the Kaio Maro, a beautiful frigate of about 2,500 tons measurement, and carrying twenty-six guns, built expressly for him in Holland, the Fusiyama, built in the United States, and several steam and sailing vessels and gunboats of smaller size. Some of the Daimios, now in alliance with the Mikado, have each several steamers and gunboats, each party being possessed of quite a squadron. I am of the opinion that there is but one vessel in all the squadrons now in these waters that can successfully compete with the Stonewall if she were properly managed, and that vessel is the English iron-clad Ocean. Such, also, is the opinion of all the naval officers with whom I have consulted upon the subject, or heard express an opinion. The Tycoon, with the Stonewall in his possession, would at once command the seas; could blockade successfully Osaka, Hiogo, and Nagasaki, all now in possession of the Mikado, cutting off all communication, and thus prevent the carrying on of any business, and endanger the lives and property of our countrymen.[Page 672]
After mature deliberation and frequent consultation with all my colleagues, who agree with me upon this question, I have written a letter to Mr. Portman, secretary of our legation, who is now at Yokohama, and instructed him, in case the Stonewall should not have been delivered to the Tycoon before the reception of my letter, to prevent such delivery if possible, and to detain her at Yokohama, or send her to Hong Kong for detention until I shall have returned, when I will probably cause her further detention until I have received instructions through you, sir, in regard to her. I believe it to be the only course I can pursue under the circumstances, having due regard for the honor and the interests of our government.
I inclose (No. 5) copy of my letter to Mr. Portman upon this subject. I have asked Mr. Portman to communicate to the department such information as he may obtain at Yedo and Yokohama during my absence from those places.
Trusting that my action in this matter will be approved by the President and yourself, and that I shall soon be favored with instructions, I have the honor to be, sir, your very obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.