Mr. Van Valkenburgh to Mr. Seward.
Sir: Yesterday an officer of Higashi Kuze Jijin called with a message from that functionary to the effect that a dispatch had been received by him from the Mikado’s court in regard to the Stonewall, and soliciting her delivery. It would give the Mikado great pleasure, I was informed, to proceed from Kioto to Osaka, to visit the Stonewall in the Osaka Boads and receive her in person.
In reply I repeated the statement frequently made already, that the Stonewall could not be delivered until peace shall have been restored in Japan, or until I shall have received specific instructions from you to do so.
I readily granted the request to make this statement in writing for transmission to the Mikado’s court or government, and I now have the honor to transmit herewith No. 1, copy of my letter to the ministers for foreign affairs on that subject.
In anticipation probably of my inability to resist the magnificent offer of a visit from that sacred personage to receive the Stonewall in person, a rumor got abroad in Yedo that satisfactory arrangements for the delivery of that ship were being completed, and late in the evening of that day Enomoto Idsumi No Kami, the commander-in-chief of the Tycoon’s or Tokugawa navy, came down in one of his steamers from Yedo and called on Mr. Portman, to inquire into the truth of that rumor, which he said had reached him from a source so as to excite his most serious apprehensions.
After receiving an assurance precisely similar to the one I had made to the minister for foreign affairs on that day, with which he declared himself perfectly satisfied, Idsumi No Kami stated that he regretted to be unable to call officially on me.
“He could not expect to be considered at present an officer of the Japanese government, neither could he admit that those who acted in the name of the Mikado fairly represented the government of this country. Most of those persons, it was well known, had been convicted of crime in former years and escaped punishment; having nothing to lose but everything to gain from radical changes, the disastrous consequences of which, if unsuccessful, would fall on more responsible heads. Those political adventurers, under high-sounding titles not legitimately conferred upon them, now acted as [Page 764] the willing instruments of ambitious Daimios and others, with no other object, as would soon become more evident, than plunder and self-aggrandizement.
“It would also soon be shown that the government of the Tycoon, which gave peace to Japan during an uninterrupted period of nearly three hundred years, could not be effaced in a day.
“The government of the Mikado, so called, as at present constituted, is an impossibility. Its principal supporters were already abandoning the scheme. Choshin had withdrawn, and also Hossokawa. Tosa was about following that example. The Daimios who remained with this so-called Mikado’s government, with the exception Of Satsuma, had but little influence and power; and several of those were growing less zealous in their cause. The Daimios of the north, on the other hand, were thoroughly united, ready to raise their flags and to march for the re-establishment of the former government and the maintenance of their rights.
“Between this united north and the other provinces of Japan now stands the Tycoon Or Tokugawa, from ancient times by far the wealthiest and foremost among the clans.
“Our policy,” Idsumi No Kami said, “is not only not to take up arms at present, but also to prevent the north from entering into operations other than defensive. War once commenced, no one can foresee how long it may last and how it may end. The navy is faithful and obedient; the army is stationed in the two provinces of Köodzuke and Simodzuke, obedient to its discipline, and ready for any emergency at the first signal.
“The reports from the army are entirely satisfactory. Our principal anxiety is caused by a body of some two thousand five hundred of our Shogitai, (volunteers,) who guard the Mia Sama in his temple of Wuyeno, in Yedo, and whom it is difficult to restrain.
“The people in Yedo, and wherever the troops of the southerners are stationed, are greatly oppressed; but it is the true interest of Japan, however we may deplore this state of things, to wait a little longer, in the hope that moderation may at last prevail in the Mikado’s councils, and the project of confiscating the property and the rights of thousands of our people be abandoned.
“To prevent collision between the volunteers and the southern troops our efforts are now chiefly directed. If fighting becomes general in Yedo, hostilities may be expected to break out in several parts of Japan, the north always excepted. Between Hossokawa and Satsuma it may come to blows at any moment, and the ill feeling between the great Daimios of Kaga and Etshiren is still more intense. There are other Daimios besides, of smaller caliber, who would seize the first opportunity, if presented, of attacking a neighbor, and absolute anarchy and frightful bloodshed might be the result of any hasty or ill-considered action on our part. The officers of the Mikado’s court, who attempted to exercise authority in Oshu and Dewa, (the north,) have promptly, though in a most respectful manner, been taken in charge, and when the proper time shall have arrived, the Tokugawa regular army and navy, if it be unavoidable, will receive orders to march, and will know, I trust, to do their duty.
“It may easily be imagined, therefore,” Idsumi No Kami continued, “of how much importance it is to all Japanese, in fact, that the Stonewall should not now be delivered. The present unsatisfactory state of things may possibly continue some three or four months longer. If, unfortunately for the Tycoon’s cause, orders should be received to deliver this ship to this so-called Mikado’s government, it would be my duty, as representative of the Tycoon, or Tokugawa, to protest against such transfer; and I would do so respectfully, but at the same time most energetically.
“The Stonewall was bought with my master’s money, and duly transferred to his authorized agents in American waters. If now my master, who was then Tycoon, and the recognized sovereign of Japan, should simply become a Daimio, or chief of the Tokugawa clan, I claim, that even in such case this ship can only be given to him, and to no one else. All the great Daimios possess men-of-war, or armed steamers. Choshin and Satsuma, in addition to those already possessed, have each ordered an iron-plated steamer in England. The Prince of Hizen, now governor of Yokohama, has recently ordered a war steamer in Holland. Unless, therefore, those Daimios all transfer their steamers to the Mikado, it could not reasonably be expected that the Tycoon, or Tokugawa, should present or transfer his ships, nor could the Mikado reasonably claim such transfer as being equivalent to confiscation.”
With his thanks for the assurance received, Idsumi No Kami concluded his statement by expressing his entire confidence “that the government of the United States, through its representative, would under no circumstances become a party to confiscation of Tycoon’s, or Tokugawa, property.”
The foregoing is a clear expression of the views of the Tycoon, or Tokugawa, on the Stonewall question. Enomoto Idsumi No Kami, and two other officers of equal rank, are now the representatives of the [Page 765] Tokugawa clan, and recognized as such by the agents of the Mikado’s government. This statement, therefore, is fully entitled to consideration.
Educated in Europe, where he spent five years, he consistently advocated progress, and a liberal foreign intercourse; and to his present responsible position he was promoted by the Tycoon, or Tokugawa, (whose confidence he entirely possesses,) when the troubles increased, and his elderly councillors admitted their inability successfully to cope with them.
From all I can learn, I am inclined to put faith in Idsumi No Kami’s statement of the present political situation. I believe it to be quite true and entirely free from exaggeration. Not less interesting is his exposé of the Tycoon’s, or Tokugawa, policy—passive resistance, with force in the background.
To this policy his chief retainers have adhered from the beginning of this unfortunate civil war, and to this policy I feel confident they will adhere to the end, unless it should become unavoidable to put forth the strength they claim to possess; and this, I can only hope, as much almost for the sake of this people as for our interests, may yet be avoided.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.