No. 168.
Mr. Fish to General Schenck.

No. 408.]

Sir: It is understood that the Japanese government has officially proposed to the government of His Majesty the King of Italy a provisional arrangement on the following basis:

Italians may circulate freely in the interior of the empire on condition that, on leaving the limits of the consul’s jurisdiction, they shall be under the protection and jurisdiction of the territorial authorities, as is the practice in all the countries of Europe.
For this purpose Italians of good character shall individually obtain passports from the minister of foreign a flairs and through their own authorities.
In case Italians or their property suffer damage, the Italian government shall have the right to demand reparation in accordance with Japanese laws; but the government shall not interfere in any affairs until the Italian subjects have employed all means in their power to procure justice before Japanese tribunals, and there has been, in cases where there existed no reasonable doubt, an evident refusal of justice.
The government of Japan engages that in case of criminal judgment to be given against Italians, they shall not be subjected to corporal punishment.

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I am informed unofficially, that the proposal, though entertained for a time by Mr. Visconti, is not at present favorably considered by him, and that it is by no means certain that the proposal will be accepted. There may be special reasons why Italians should seek free access to the parts of the interior of Japan where the egg of the silk-worm is prepared for export, could this be done without affecting the position of other foreigners in Japan. The President might look without disfavor on efforts in this direction to gratify them; but it is impossible to shut the eyes to the fact that there is a large party in Japan who regard the ex-territorial right, now possessed by the treaty powers, as a denial of the independence of Japan, and who, availing themselves of aid from any quarter, in shaking them off, will regard the proposed arrangement as a step in that direction. Thus, though it is true that any advantages gained to Italians in this respect must inure, under the provisions of existing treaties, to those of our countrymen who may desire to avail themselves thereof, yet the President is forced to consider the wider question, whether justice is administered in Japan with certainty, equity, firmness, and celerity, and on the basis of such principles of jurisprudence common to Europe and America, as may warrant the surrender of the defensive rights which we now possess.

Japan has had no firmer friend than the United States; no one more ready than we to recognize her rightful autonomy. But, on a candid review of the situation, the President is forced to the conclusion that it is not yet safe to surrender to the local authorities the guaranteed rights of ex-territoriality. We have not such knowledge of the administration of justice in that kingdom, and of the means for the protection of the liberties and rights of foreigners, as would justify such surrender at this time. It appears to us, also, that the welfare, safety, and the interests of all foreigners in Japan are at the present dependent, in a large degree, upon the unity of action and of policy of all the treaty powers, and that the acceptance by any one of those powers of privileges for its own citizens, which may be proposed as an inducement to separate that state from the other treaty powers, in the policy which has heretofore been common to all, would tend to the serious discomfort of all the powers in their future relations with Japan, and would weaken their position in the negotiations which must soon be entered into for the revision of the treaties.

You are therefore instructed to seek an interview with Earl Granville, at which you will communicate to him verbally these views of the President, and will say that Mr. Marsh and Mr. Bingham will be instructed in this sense, and you will endeavor to have similar instructions transmitted to the British minister at Rome and at Japan. Should the government of Great Britain desire to suggest any different action to effect the desired object, you will report it for consideration. But as at present advised, separate instructions and action would appear to be sufficient.

Instructions identical with these (mutatis mutandis) are sent to Mr. Washburne, Mr. Bancroft and Mr. Gorham.

I am, &c.,

Hamilton Fish.