No. 398.
Mr. De Long to Mr. Fish.

No. 380.]

Sir: I have the honor to advise you that this morning I was called upon by one Capt. Benjamin Pease, who stated to me that he was an American citizen, resident at the Bonin Islands, where he had resided for the last three years. That he had come to me, at the request of a large portion of the residents of that group, to find out under what governmental protection the residents of that group of islands were, if under any whatever.

In answer to my further inquiries, he informed me that the group of islands commonly known and called the Bonin group, is composed of three large islands named Parry, Bonin, and Baily, and of a large number of unnamed smaller islands.

That one Captain Beachy, of Her Britannic Majesty’s ship of war Blossom, took formal possession of the Bonin group in 1828, by planting a post on the land with a copper plate on it, engraved on which is the claim of the British authorities to the island.

That at the time Commodore Perry visited Japan and entered into a treaty with this people, his fleet rendezvoused for a period at this group, at which time an American naval officer, commander of the ship Plymouth [Page 636] of that squadron, took formal possession in the name of the United States Government of Baily Island by hoisting an American flag thereon and saluting it. That the post and plate of the British and the flag of the American officer are still there. That nine years ago the Japanese government under the Tycoon sent an officer with some sixty families to the group and took formal possession in the name of Japan. That this officer took such lands as he desired from the foreign residents, giving them deeds, leases, &c., for the residue. That he summoned all of the foreign residents, and required them to sign a letter to the Tycoon thanking him for the privilege of residing there, which they did. That this rule lasted for about fourteen months, when all of the Japanese were recalled, and none have since been there.

That on Bonin Island there are twenty-five American residents, seventeen British residents, four French residents, and a number of Hawaiians, making in all, sixty-eight. That on Parry Island there is one American and one Hawaiian resident, and on Baily Island one American and one native of the Gilbert Islands.

That the group has an area of about one hundred and fifty square miles, the climate being very fine and the soil wonderfully productive, being specially well adapted to the raising of stock of all kinds. The fisheries are abundant, and the harbor of Port Loyd as fine and commodious as any in the world, having an inner harbor so secure that whale-ships have frequently been hove up there and repaired.

That there are about twenty-six children between the ages of five and sixteen living there wholly uneducated, as no one can be induced to locate there and teach, as the country is governed wholly by lynch law.

That frequent disputes arise, and no means of obtaining redress for wrongs exist.

That the harbor of Port Loyd is about four hundred and eighty miles from Yokohama, and about five hundred from Kobe 5 thus it is situated nearer to this than any other open port in Japan. Captain Pease further stated that the Japanese commission when there formally declared the whole group open to foreign settlement and trade. That he (Captain Pease) was now about to proceed to Hawaii to send out a large stock of cattle, but, in common with the other residents, wished, before embarking in any extensive business arrangements, to learn what laws they were subject to. In reply I have advised the captain that I would at once submit this inquiry to you for your instruction, requesting to know if the United States Government asserted any jurisdiction over or claim to the islands, and if not, if I should recognize the Japanese jurisdiction, (if still asserted.) and if so, whether I should appoint Captain Pease, or some other resident American, consular agent for the United States.

I therefore respectfully submit this statement to you for your instructions in the premises.

I have, &c.,