Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.
States Legation, Japan,
January 29, 1875.
(Received February 27.)
Sir: On the 23d instant there appeared in the Japan
Mail, published in Yokohama, a translation of the “Address of Okuma
Shigenobu, as president of the Formosan commission, to His Majesty,” the
Emperor of Japan, a copy of which is herewith inclosed. (Inclosure 1.)
This addresses so extraordinary in some of its statements that the diplomatic
representatives of the foreign powers accredited to His Majesty’s government
deemed it proper to hold a general consultation, with a view to determine
what action, if any, should be taken by them to correct the erroneous
statement made in the address touching their official action in the matter
of the Formosan expedition. This consultation was held yesterday at the
British legation, all the foreign representatives being present except the
Austro Hungarian minister, who is absent. The representatives present agreed
that the written statement herewith inclosed (inclosure 2) should be read to
the Japanese minister for foreign affairs, to the end that the same, or the
substance thereof, might be published by the authority of His Majesty’s
government in correction of the address of Mr. Okuma.
You will observe that it is not intended that this paper shall be published
as the paper of the representatives of the foreign powers, but as the
correction by the Japanese government of so much of the address as reflects
unjustly upon the foreign ministers. This action was deemed judicious
because, as you will doubtless notice, the address states that “after our
(their) troops had started and were on their way, foreign public servants
remonstrated.” In the Japanese text as published, this statement refers
expressly to the foreign representatives as the public servants who
remonstrated. This statement is manifestly calculated, when read in
connection with the context, to create the impression that the foreign
ministers questioned the right of His Majesty’s government to invade Formosa
with His Majesty’s ships and troops. There was nothing in my communications
with this government, as you are already advised by my dispatches to the
Department, which gives even colorable excuse for the statement of Mr.
Okuma, and I am assured by my colleagues that the same may be said of the
action of each of them. I did protest, as I deemed it my duty, against the
employment by the Japanese government of ships and citizens of the United
States in an armed and hostile expedition to Formosa, without the consent of
China, and in violation of our treaty obligations to the government of that
country. The statement of Mr. Okuma is all the more surprising when it is
considered that this government approved my protest and accordingly issued
an order detaching the American ship New York and the American citizens, Mr.
Le Gendre, Captain Casell, and Mr. Wasson, from the Formosan expedition,
days before any part of the expedition sailed from Nagasaki. I beg leave, in
this connection, to refer generally to all my dispatches to the Department
on the Formosan question, and especially to my dispatches Nos. 76* and 78*, dated respectively
the 22d and 24th of April, 1874.
In view of the recent murder by a Japanese, of the acting German consul, Mr.
Haber, on account of the supposed hostility of foreigners [Page 785] to the policy of His Majesty, it seems
somewhat remarkable that Mr. Okuma should have put into his “address to His
Majesty,” first, a complaint against the foreign ministers, to the effect
that they opposed His Majesty’s orders for the armed invasion of Formosa,
and that he should have followed this with the further statement that
“important interests were involved in the chastisement of the savages,” and
that he should have finally added, in concluding his address, the ambiguous
words, “I humbly pray that His Majesty, the Tenno, will eagerly carry on the
work, * * * and that he will not stop with the chastisement of the
When this address was made all the Japanese forces had returned from Formosa,
yet “the work” is to be carried on, and is not to stop with the chastisement
of the savages or Formosans.
In view of the several statements in the address, it seems to me the public
explanation asked for by the foreign ministers is due alike to them and to
their respective governments.
Hoping that my action in the premises will accord with your judgment, and
receive your approval,
I am, &c.,
[Incloure 2 in No.
address of Okuma shigenobu, as president of the
formosan commission, to his majesty.
Shinjisshi, No. 10,
January 15, 1875.
[From the “Japan Mail” of Seib, 23 January, 1875.]
In the month of January, Shigenobu and others, in accordance with the
confidential instructions they had received, laid before your Majesty a
project for the chastisement of the savages. In April the Formosan
commission (lit. board of affairs of the savage land of Formosa) was
instituted, and Shigenobu was appointed its chief, to superintend all
business belonging to it. In May the commander-in-chief, Saigo
Yorimichi, departed to the land of the savages at the head of a force,
exterminated the wicked, pardoned the submissive, and remained there a
long time encamped. During the same month the minister plenipotentiary,
Yanagiwara Sakimitsu, was dispatched to China, and in August the high
commissioner plenipotentiary, Ôkubô Toshimichi, also was sent to the
said country, Toshimichi and the others worked diligently and devotedly
in the discharge of the important trust committed to them. In October, a
convention was exchanged with the said country, and in November,
Toshimichi and the rest reported the fulfillment of their mission. In
December, Yoimichi returned in triumph. From the institution of the
commission up to this date a period of eight months had elapsed.
Hereupon the wrongs of the sufferers were for the first time redressed,
the position of a subject han for the first time
cleared up, security restored to the mariners of all countries for the
first time, and the dignity and influence of the state consequently
After our troops had started and were on the way, foreign public servants
remonstrated. The Chinese government hastily dispatched an envoy, sent
letters, and manifested a wide difference of opinion. Some persons, not
comprehending the views of the government, began to doubt whether it was
justified in the course which it was taking; others discussed the want
of funds, and rumor became so noisy that the state was again
Shigenobu and the others nevertheless accepted the responsibility, but
day and night they were so busily employed that they feared lest their
strength might be unequal to the task. Fortunately, the wise resolution
of His Majesty the Tenno, never wavered, and the councils of the
government became still more resolute. Great military preparations were
made, and the mind of the people, both in the towns and in the country,
learned to recognize the purpose of His Majesty, Some desired to cast
saway their lives and to die for the national cause; others offered to
contribute toward the army expenditure. The civil and military officers
united all their efforts, and the [Page 786] great work of chastising the savages became an
accomplished fact. We have nothing to be ashamed of before foreign
nations concerning this measure, and its glory will not pale before the
deeds done in ancient times.
If, while public rumor was clamorous, we had hesitated or drawn back, the
injuries done to the sufferers would not have been redressed, the
position of a dependent han would not have been
cleared up, the mariners of the world would never have known security,
and a land of cannibals would have been established forever. Had such
been the result, we should not only have been disgraced in the eyes of
the world, but it would have been a sign that the dignity and influence
of the state were about to fall prostrate. Consequently, important
interests were involved in the chastisement of the savages.
I humbly pray that His Majesty the Tenno will eagerly carry on the work
and carefully ponder; that by reflecting on the past he may be enabled
to think out the policy of the future, so as to exalt his wise work to
the highest pinnacle and glory, and that he will not stop with the
chastisement of the savages.
Shigenobu reverently begs that the name of Formosan commission be now
abolished, and himself relieved of the title of president, so that he
may attend to the duties of his proper office. As for the collection of
the documents of the commission and the audit of the accounts, this he
hopes may be completed by the officials of the regular service in about
a month, and a report can then be made, together with a detailed account
of all that has been done since the institution of the commission.
[Inclosure 2 in No. 179.]
Written statement of the foreign
The address of the Japanese minister of finance to His Majesty the Tenno,
on the subject of the Formosan expedition, contains a passage which is
calculated to create an incorrect impression. The foreign ministers did
not remonstrate against the dispatch of the Japanese troops to Formosa,
but some of them protested against the employment by Japan of their
ships and subjects or citizens until it was known whether such
employment would or would not be regarded in a hostile light by China.
Their treaty relations with China fully justified this course, and it
must not be supposed that the foreign ministers remonstrated with the
government of Japan against the employment of Japanese ships and