No. 317.

Original handed to Secretary of State by the minister from the Netherlands April 10, 1873.


Report of a conference between Baron Gericke d’Herwijuen, minister of foreign affairs, and the Japanese embassadors Iwakura and Ito, held at the foreign office, at the Hague, March 4, 1873.

Mr. Van der Hoeven, formerly minister resident in Japan, and Mr. Von Weckherlin, recently appointed to the same post, were present at this conference.

After the customary compliments, the minister of foreign affairs opened the conference by informing his excellency Iwakura that he had hastened to accede to the desire manifested by him to have an interview, and that he was prepared to listen to any communications which he might have to make.

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His excellency Iwaknra replied that he did not doubt that the government of the Netherlands had been apprised by its representative in Japan of the important political changes which had taken place there within a comparatively recent period; that the government of the Ten no had, therefore, deemed it necessary to send an embassy to America and Europe for the purpose of strengthening the friendly relations which exist between Japan and the governments with which that country had concluded treaties; that this was the principal object of the mission which had been confided to him, but that he had desired to avail himself of that occasion to learn the opinions of the different cabinets in regard to a revision of their treaties with Japan, so that he might, on his return, inform his government in relation thereto.

The minister of foreign affairs replied that he had been made aware by the dispatches of the minister resident in Japan, of the recent changes in that empire; that he appreciated the feeling which had prompted the sending of the embassy; that he was happy to see it in the Netherlands, and was ready for an interchange of views in regard to the revision of the treaties with the Japanese embassadors, although he regretted that they were not invested with more ample powers. He reminded them that the proposition to revise these treaties emanated from the Japanese government; that the Netherlands were not, in the main, dissatisfied with the existing treaty, but that in order to comply with the desire of the embassadors, he would refer to some points which, in his opinion, needed improvement.

He felt obliged, however, to begin by remarking that he could not enter into details since that would be of no practical utility, the embassadors having stated that they were not invested with the full powers necessary to conclude a new treaty. The present conference must therefore be limited to general considerations.

The minister especially desired to remark that any arrangements which might in future be made should bear that character of stability which is so desirable in commercial matters, and that the necessary precautions must therefore be taken against anything like arbitrariness or instability.

The Japanese embassadors said that they accepted that principle. The minister then remarked that it was desirable to have Japan more fully opened to foreign commerce.

He thought, especially, that relations between foreigners and Japanese should be favored. This end might be attained by granting permission to foreigners to travel in the interior and to transact commercial business with the inhabitants. These foreigners should, of course, be under the control of their consuls. The government of the Netherlands would even prefer this system to the opening of new ports. If, however, in addition to granting such facilities for trade in the interior of the country, the Japanese government should also open new ports to commerce, the government of the Netherlands would, of course, be very much gratified, and would regard the adoption of such a measure as a new proof of the friendly sentiments of Japan toward foreigners.

Mr. Iwakura promised that he would, on his return, inform his government of the desire expressed by the government of the Netherlands.

The minister of foreign affairs then referred to a subject to which he felt obliged to call the attention of the Japanese government.

This point had also, if he was not mistaken, been treated of by the other governments with which the embassadors had been in communication 5 he referred to the position of the Christian inhabitants of Japan.

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News concerning persecutions to which these Christians are exposed had recently reached Europe, and had everywhere produced a painful impression.

The Netherlands, where religious liberty had existed for centuries, naturally attached great value to a more tolerant course of conduct toward these Christians.

The minister took the liberty of commending this subject to the particular attention of the Japanese government.

He thought that lie might do this with the more freedom, inasmuch as the Netherlands occupy an independent position in relation to this question, owing to the fact of their having no missionaries in Japan, and therefore not being obliged to interpose in their favor.

The embassadors promised that they would commend this matter to the attention of their government on their return, and gave information of an encouraging character.

The minister of foreign affairs then spoke of the clause contained in the fifth article of our treaty with Japan, according to which Japanese courts are to be opened to Netherlander for the purpose of enabling them to enforce their just claims against Japanese subjects. In the opinion of the minister, corroborated by that of Mr. Van der Hoeven, there are, properly speaking, no courts in Japan. When a subject of the Netherlands has a claim against a Japanese, diplomatic or consular interference usually becomes necessary. The matter is then settled executively. Justice must naturally suffer under this system, and this is especially the case when complaints are made against the communal administrations or against the Japanese government itself. The minister therefore thought that he might recommend to the Japanese government the separation of the executive from the judicial power.

Mr. Iwakura replied that the Japanese government was aware that its judicial system was defective, but said that it was difficult to effect in a short time so radical a re-organization as that of the separation of the executive from the judicial power; that, nevertheless, a kind of independent court had been established some months previously, and that this was a proof of the desire of the Japanese government to reform its judicial system. He promised that he would likewise recommend this point to the attention of his government on his return to Japan.

The minister of foreign affairs then stated that so far as the Netherlands were concerned, there were no more points of a general nature with regard to which an interchange of views with the embassadors seem to him necessary.

After having deliberated with each other for some time, the embassadors said that, for their part, they desired to speak of the question of the Simonoseki indemnity.

The minister of foreign affairs replied that he could not refrain from expressing his astonishment at hearing a question alluded to which, properly speaking, was, or at least ought to be, a question no longer. An extension of the time allowed for this payment had repeatedly been granted to the Japanese government. That government had promised three years ago that the debt should be paid on the 15th of May last, and that no further delay should be asked for. The government of the Netherlands had seen with surprise that, only eight days before the time appointed, the Japanese government had sent a communication stating that the embassy was instructed to take measures in Europe for the procurement of a further extension. It was to be expected that the engagement contracted by the Japanese government would be more punctually fulfilled, and that for its own interest it would have desired to [Page 730] avoid placing itself in a position which prevented it from negotiating with all powers on the same footing.

The embassadors replied that they were obliged to act in obedience to the orders which they had received from the Emperor, and the minister said that was evident, but that he had, nevertheless, thought that he could not refrain from making the observation that he had made.

The embassadors then remarked that they had prepared a memorandum in relation to the Simonoseki indemnity; they requested the minister to give his attention to this document, and expressed the wish that, for the present, a further extension might be granted.

The minister promised them that he would examine this memorandum, and that he would send them a written reply. Referring to the letter addressed by the Japanese government to the minister resident of the Netherlands, containing the promise to abide by whatever should be agreed upon between the Japanese embassadors and the government of the Netherlands in relation to the Simonoseki indemnity, he desired to know whether the Japanese government was prepared to fulfill its engagements in case the government of the Netherlands, as was by no means unlikely, should be unable to admit the force of the arguments advanced in the memorandum.

The embassadors replied that they would, on their return to Japan, inform their government concerning what they had done in regard to the Simonoseki indemnity, and that they begged the government of the Netherlands to grant them a further extension, at least until that time. They recognized, moreover, in the most solemn manner, the obligation of Japan to pay the amount which was still due in case the government of the Netherlands should persist in demanding payment.

The minister of foreign affairs said that he would bear this statement in mind. He renewed his promise of a written reply to the memorandum, and ended the conference after having exchanged a few words of courtesy with the embassadors and having informed them of the latest news from Japan, which had just been received at his department.