Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.

No. 33.]

Sir: With reference to my dispatch No. 25, of the 11th ultimo, you will perceive that at 12½ o’clock at night, or in the morning, of the 9th ultimo, on the occasion of the communication being made to me by the commissioners of the Mikado, of the collision that had occurred on the previous afternoon at Sakai, the particulars of which were then withheld from me, I received a verbal invitation to visit the Mikado at Kioto.

In reply, and while expressing my extreme gratification at the invitation, I reiterated my determination, as announced two days previous, to proceed to Yokohama on the following Monday, (the 11th,) where, in view of the approach of large bodies of armed men on the way to Yedo, I deemed it important to look in person to the protection of American interests in anticipation of collision between those armed men and the forces of the Tycoon.

The invitation to visit the Mikado was accepted by me, for some future day, and as soon as I could have completed my preparations to that effect. In this decision the representatives of France, Prussia and Italy concurred; the representatives of England and Holland, however, at once agreed to proceed to Kioto at the time, appointed by his Majesty the Mikado.

After my return to Yokohama, and also after the reparation demanded from the Mikado’s government for the Sakai murder had been rendered, the French minister deemed it proper to change his mind, and those [Page 709] three representatives, namely, of England, France and Holland, accordingly proceeded to Kioto.

On Sunday, the 22d ultimo, the French and Dutch representatives had an audience from the Mikado, and on the following day the British minister, on his way from his temporary residence to the Mikado’s palace for the purpose of having his audience, was suddenly and savagely attacked by two fanatics, apparently abetted by others, who, however, did not actively participate in the assault.

I have the honor to transmit herewith, No. 1, a detailed account of this attack, also showing the number of wounded and the reparation tendered at once by the Mikado’s government.

The English minister then had his audience on the next day, the 24th ultimo, but no account of what transpired on that occasion has as yet been furnished me.

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


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

Attack on the English minister, Sir Harry Parkes, and guard, at Kioto.

Our readers are aware that an attack of a singularly desperate character was made upon the British minister, as he was proceeding, on the 23d instant, to have an audience of the Mikado at Kioto.

In order to understand what occurred it is necessary to hear in mind the order in which the procession left the temple which had been set aside for the British legation. First rode the inspector of the legation escort, accompanied by Nakai Kozo, an officer of the Mikado, formerly belonging to the Satsuma clan. Next came the mounted escort of the legation, immediately preceding Sir Harry Parkes, by whose side was riding Goto Shojiro, an officer of high rank iu the new foreign department. Sir Harry was also accompanied by Mr. Satow. A detachment of the 9th regiment, under the command of Lieutenants Bradshaw and Bruce, followed, and Mr. Mitford, who, having no horse, was riding in a kango, brought up the rear. By great good luck, Dr. Willis, of the legation, and Drs. Purves and Ridings, of her Majesty’s navy, who had accompanied the minister to Kioto as guests, had followed to see the procession enter the palace.

As the leading files of the procession turned the corner of the street, only a few hundred yards from the temple, several armed Japanese sprang suddenly out of houses on both sides of the street, and commenced cutting all around with their two-handed sword, with fearful rapidity and force. The horses, of course, became wildly excited, and little opportunity was afforded to the men of the escort of using their lances with effect in such a narrow street. Nakai Kozo jumped from his horse and engaged one of the assailants, but stumbling fell and received a severe cut on the head. Another ruffian—and it is probable that only two presisted in the attack—rushed madly down the line, cutting and hewing on each side of him, and dealing terrible wounds at each stroke of his two-handed sword. At this moment Goto Shojiro, who, with the minister, had not yet turned the corner, seeing the confusion ahead, dismounted and ran to the front, which he reached in time to rescue Nakai Kozo from his assailant, whom between them they killed and decapitated on the spot. The second man, springing about like a wild beast and still slashing about him, was stopped at last, after nine out of eleven of the escort, one man of the ninth, and a Japanese betto, had been wounded, besides four horses. He received several wounds from lance, bayonet, sword, and pistol, but so rapid was his action, and so surprised were the objects of his attack, that he was able to take refuge in a back yard, where he was fortunately secured alive but exhausted.

Of course going on to the court was out of the question. The first care was to get the wounded men, who, one and all, behaved nobly, back to the temple. All the men behaved with the utmost steadiness—a quality greatly needed in the case of a party hemmed in narrow streets, not knowing the extent of the attack or the number of the enemeis who might have been contained among the throng who hovered around them. The doctors made such temporary shift as they could to stanch the blood, which in some cases was flowing with a rapidity that threatened to be fatal. Some time was lost [Page 710] in getting coolies for those who, faint from the loss of blood, could not stick to their horses; but all of the men who were not physically incapacitated from so doing insisted pluckily on riding home. As for the prisoner, no more coolies being forthcoming, a couple of shopkeepers were pressed to carry him.

No praise is too high for the energy, kindness, and skill displayed by the surgeons in their attendance on the wounded men, and it is easy to see how the difficulties of their labors were enhanced by the total absence of skilled assistance. In an incredible short space of time the wounds were temporarily dressed and the men laid comfortably in their beds.

In the mean time a preliminary examination of the prisoner was held, who at that time was believed to be dying. He at first stated that he had no accomplices; that he was originally a priest, from a temple near Osaka; that he had come to Kioto to enlist in the shimpei, a corps which is being raised as a nucleus for the Mikado’s army, and which is recruited from a class of ronins and idlers for whom the government is anxious to find employment and means of livelihood. He afterwards admitted having an accomplice, and said that they had set out to kill foreigners. On being shown the head of the man who had been decapitated by Goto Shojiro he recognized it as that of his accomplice. He said that he had never seen foreigners before. At a third examination he confessed to having three more accomplices, who were to have followed up his action, should it have failed. These men were immediately arrested.

It appears almost miraculous that two desperadoes should have dared to attack some seventy armed Englishmen, and have been able to do so much bloody mischief before they were stopped. Sir Harry Parkcs had a remarkable escape. A man in front of him was severely wounded, and being himself in full uniform, and mounted on a large horse, he presented a conspicuous object for the blow aimed at him by the second ruffian, as he rushed round the corner. Fortunately the man tripped as he. was in the act of delivering the blow, and falling forward he missed his aim. It took partial effect, however, on the minister’s betto and on Mr. Satow’s horse, which was wounded by the same cut in two places.

The betto who was near Sir Harry’s side was wounded in the leg.

It is pleasing to record the action of the Mikado’s government upon this occasion. Of their own spontaneous action, without demand and without prompting, they have offered every reparation in their power for the insult offered the English minister.

During the evening, messages of condolence from the Mikado himself were received by the minister, and several of the members of the court and principal Daimios, called in person, and visited the wounded men. Their sympathy and regret were evidently genuine and unaffected.

The best proof of sincerity, however, which the government has given, is the promulgation of a proclamation which makes it known throughout the empire that the Mikado regards attacks upon foreigners as infamous and detestable. Samurai who may be guilty of such a crime will be degraded, their swords will be taken from them, and their names struck off the roll of gentlemen. In grave cases they will be beheaded by the common executioner, and after death they will be subjected to the further indignity of having their heads exposed for three days. Such an act, taken in conjunction with the public evidence which the Mikado has given of his personal friendship towards foreigners, will, it may be confidently hoped, go far to root out the fanatical hatred with which a certain party in Japan regard us. It is to this spirit that the attack which we record to-day must be traced. The murderers rushed upon certain death in the exaltation of patriotic frenzy. This is evident from what fell from the prisoner, who afterwards, When he found himself being treated with the greatest kindness by those whom he had tried to kill, expressed deep contrition and shame for a crime which, up to that time, he had regarded as an act of piety.

The Japanese government having perfectly satisfied Sir Harry Parkes and those of his colleagues who were present at Kioto of their good faith and regret for what occurred, a second day was fixed for Sir Harry’s audience of the Mikado. The 28th, the third day of the third Japanese month, an auspicious day was chosen, and this time, happily, nothing occurred to mar the proceedings. Extraordinary precautions had been taken by the Japanese, and an attack would have been almost impossible.

The minister was much pleased with his visit to the Mikado, who personally expressed his regret for the murderous attempt upon Sir Harry’s life on the 23d.

The foil owing day the legation left Kioto. The wounded men were carried down to Fushimi in long litters, which were transferred to the river boats that were to carry them to her Majesty’s ship Adventure. At Fushimi the minister was met by a high officer of the Mikado’s court, who announced to him that the prisoner had been executed that morning, and that his head and the head of the man killed by Goto Shojiro had been exposed in the manner above described. Full publicity had also been given to the sentences passed upon the prisoners. The punishment of the three accomplices was still under consideration, as the degree of their complicity had not yet been clearly ascertained.