Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: I had the honor, in my No. 13, to inform you of a rumor that the Tycoon had abdicated, and that the Prince of Kiusiu had been named as his successor as the head of the Tokugawa family; that Mr. Roches, the French minister, had returned to this port, but whether to resume his position or en route to France, I was not then aware. On yesterday, the 29th of February, the foreign representatives held a conference, at which he was present. He announced his determination to resume his functions and delay his departure, having received, by the last mail which reached Yokohama during his recent stay there, instructions from his government to remain until his successor arrived. He held conferences with the Tycoon while at Yedo, on the 12th and 19th February. The Tycoon in the first interview declared his intention of submitting to the will of the Mikado; but at the same time denying his right to invade or deprive him of his possessions as the head of the Tokugawa family, insisting upon protecting them to the utmost. At the same time he repeated the history of this struggle as I have attempted to give it in my previous dispatches, and alleged that the Mikado was in duress and not acting of his own free will. On the second interview he informed Mr. Roches that he had abdicated and that the Prince of Kiusiu, a boy of about seventeen years of age, was his successor as head of his family; that he, the late Tycoon, would act for the prince, and be the manager of his affairs; that it was intended only to protect their patrimonial estates and no further than that, to carry on the war against the Mikado.
This abdication was promulgated at Yedo on the 19th February, but as yet we have received no official notice of it. I trust this act, by which Japan is left without a Tycoon, and with but a single government, that of the Mikado, will result in peace; but it is difficult to say, there are so many discordant elements and separate interests, that dissensions and strifes may yet continue.
I inclose, marked No. 1, copy of Mr. Roches’ letter, announcing his return, which was received by me late last night.
Yesterday, Date Iyo No Kami, one of the officers charged with the conduct of foreign affairs, arrived from Kioto and paid me a visit of ceremony. He arranged for a business conference for to-day, at one o’clock, with all the foreign representatives, and it is just concluded. He said to us that the officer ordering the fire upon foreigners on the 4th instant had been examined and found guilty of a grievous offense, and been sentenced to death, and that to-morrow had been assigned as the day of execution. That we should also receive to-morrow the [Page 680] apology from the Mikado’s government. We then arranged to go to Osaka on Thursday, the 5th instant, reopen our legations for a short time, and return to Yokohama. The Costa Rica mail closes in a few moments, and I have no further time to write.
From Nagasaki I hear all is quiet. The new governor of that port, appointed by the Mikado, sails to-morrow for that place. I inclose copies of two official communications received by me yesterday from the United States consul there, marked Nos. 2 and 3.
I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.