No. 189.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.

No. 347.]

Sir: On the 8th instant I received from Mr. Terashima, the Japanese foreign minister, a dispatch requesting me to notify our citizens to refrain from publishing newspapers or periodicals in the Japanese language within this empire; a copy of which dispatch I have the honor to inclose, (inclosure No. 1.) On the same day I replied to Mr. Terashima, requesting an official translation of the press laws issued by his government, a copy of which reply is herewith, (inclosure No. 2.) On the 17th instant the foreign minister sent me an official copy of the press-laws in Japanese, a translation of which, as made by Mr. Thompson, I have the honor to inclose, (inclosure No. 3.) Of these laws it seems to me proper to remark that by the first section all persons are prohibited from publishing a newspaper or magazine, either in native or foreign language, within this empire without license first obtained from the interior department; that by the fourth section, the proprietors, managers, and editors of such licensed publications are required to be Japanese subjects; that by the eighth section the names and residence of correspondents are required to be published, save in the matter of current news, when the article relates to the domestic or foreign policy, &c. of this government, and punishes all such publications under an assumed name; that the twelfth section prohibits and punishes seditious publications tending to incite to the violation of the laws, or to rebellion and resistance to lawful authority; that the thirteenth section subjects the writers and publishers of articles calculated to subvert the government, or to produce insurrection, to imprisonment; that the fourteenth section prohibits and punishes articles which tend to bring the laws into disrepute, and to hinder obedience thereto, or to excuse or defend offenders against the same; that the fifteenth section prohibits the publication of preliminary examinations, &c. in criminal cases; and that the sixteenth prohibits the publication of petitions without the consent of the officers to whom they are addressed.

It is to be observed that Mr. Terashima requests in his dispatch of the 8th instant that I notify my “countrymen to refrain from publishing a newspaper or periodical in the Japanese language,” while the laws enacted by his government prohibit the publication in Japan by foreigners of newspapers or periodicals in any language whatever.

[Page 364]

By the laws inclosed, the privilege to print or publish in Japan is limited to Japanese subjects. The general provisions of these laws, in so far as they prohibit and punish the publication of libel, seditious articles, and the like, may be said to be unobjectionable. To restrict to Japanese subjects the privilege of license to print and publish any matter whatever, as these laws do, seems to me unwise and impolitic, and a manifest departure from the spirit, if not from the letter also, of the treaty of 1858 between Japan and the United States. The third article of that treaty secures the right to American citizens, as such, to reside within certain territorial limits in this empire, and, by implication, to enjoy therein all the rights common to the subjects of Japan; and the eighth article of the treaty assures to American’s resident in Japan “the free exercise of their religion,” which I infer carries with it the right to publish by the press, as well as by speech, the principles and scriptures of Christianity.

Before taking action upon Mr. Terashima’s request, I respectfully submit the whole subject to the Department for instructions, and beg leave to suggest whether it might not be well to insist that the press-laws be made general, so as to allow all foreigners, in common with Japanese subjects, to obtain license to print and publish, subject to the conditions and restrictions specified in the act, within the foreign concessions, and also to secure to the citizens of each foreign nationality the treaty-right to publish whatever pertains to the Christian religion, the principles of which have become incorporate in the laws and constitutions of all western nations.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 347.]

Mr. Terashima to Mr. Bingham.

Sir: It is felt that to allow foreigners to publish in the native language and to circulate among our people newspapers or other such periodicals, would prove a great hinderance to the administration of the government. The undersigned therefore has the honor to request that your excellency will be good enough to notify your countrymen to refrain from publishing any such newspaper or periodical.

With respect and consideration,

His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.

His Excellency John A. Bingham,
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States of America.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 347.]

Mr. Bingham to Mr. Terashima.

No. 295.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your excellency’s dispatch of this date requesting me to notify my countrymen to refrain from publication within His Majesty’s empire of newspapers or other periodicals in the Japanese language.

I would respectfully request your excellency to furnish me a translation of the press-law enacted by your government on this subject.

I have, &c.,


His Excellency Terashima Munenori,
&c., &c., &c.

[Page 365]
[Inclosure 3 in No. 347.]

No. 111.

Notice is hereby given that the press-laws published in proclamation 352, dated the tenth month of the sixth year of Meiji, have been repealed, and the following laws enacted.



When a paper or magazine to be issued from time to time is about to be published, the proprietor or manager shall make written application for permission to the Naimusho, (department of the interior,) through his Fu, Ken, or Cho, (city or town authorities.) Should a paper be published without permission the offense will be investigated by the legal authorities, (in general, violators of the law will be prosecuted before the proper officers by the Fu, Ken, or Cho authorities,) the publication shall be stopped, and the proprietor or manager, editor and printer shall each be fined 100 yen, ($100.) Any one falsely pretending to have received government permission shall pay a tine of from 100 to 200 yen, and the machinery for printing shall be confiscated.
The following points are to be mentioned in the written application: 1. Name of the publication. 2. Time or frequency of publication; whether daily, weekly, monthly, or at irregular intervals. 3. Name and residence of the proprietor. If a company, shareholders are to be excepted, and the name or names and residence of the director or directors are to be given. 4. Name and residence of the editor. If there are several editors, the name and residence of the principal editor. 5. The name and residence of the printer. If the editor also acts as printer, this fact is to be stated. If any one falsifies respecting any one of the five above points his publication is to be stopped or suspended, (to suspend is to stop the publication for a fixed time,) and the person making application shall pay a fine of from 10 to 100 yen.
When the editor or chief editor withdraws from his position or dies, a temporary editor or chief editor may be appointed and the publication continued; in which case, within fifteen days, counting i’rom the day after such withdrawal or death, the proprietor or manager shall make known to the Fu, Ken, or Cho authorities the name and residence of said editor or chief editor. If this is not made known within the given time the publication shall be stopped, and the proprietor or manager shall pay a fine of 100 yen. When any change occurs in any of the other five points mentioned in the second article above, this change shall be made known to the authorities within fifteen days by the proprietor (or manager) and editor or chief editor, under their united signatures. When such change is not made known within the given time, the proprietor, or director and editor, or chief editor shall pay a fine of 100 yen.
The proprietor, manager, editor, and temporary editor shall all be Japanese subjects.
The proprietor or manager may himself be the editor or chief editor.
When there are two editors one shall be chosen chief editor. At the end of every paper or other publication the names of the editor and printer shall be published. When there are several editors the name of the chief editor shall be published. When the editor or chief editor is sick or disabled a deputy may be appointed, whose name must be published. When the names are not thus published, the editor, chief editor, and deputy shall pay a fine of from 100 to 500 yen. The editor or chief editor whose name is thus published shall be held responsible for the contents of the paper or other publication.
When the contents of a paper or book are in violation of any of the rules from the twelfth and onward, or when they are slanderous, the editor shall be regarded as the principal offender and the correspondent as second. If the publication is made with the knowledge of the proprietor or manager, he shall be regarded as an offender equally with the editor.
The name and residence of correspondents shall always be published when, with the exception of current news, they write anything concerning, the domestic or foreign policy of the country, finance, public opinion, spirit of the times, education, laws, politics, religion, or anything affecting the rights of officers or people. When a correspondent writes under an assumed name he shall be imprisoned thirty days and pay a fine of 10 yen. When he uses another man’s name he shall be imprisoned seventy days and pay a fine of 20 yen.
When translations from papers and periodicals are inserted, the name of the translator must be published, except when only current news is given. When the translator violates any of the rules from the twelfth onward, or when he violates the law of slander, he shall be held responsible under the seventh article, which requires that a correspondent be treated as a secondary offender.
When an editor is ordered to be imprisoned for his own offense, the proprietor or manager may, except when the paper is suspended for some special cause, appoint a temporary editor or a new editor, and continue the publication. Unless such editor is appointed, the publication must be suspended.
When any memorial or petition for reform is received at the office of a newspaper or periodical from any well-known department, company, or private person, it must be published in the next number after it is received. When this regulation is violated the editor shall pay a fine of from 10 to 100 yen.
Those persons who, by means of newspapers and other periodicals, incite the people to violate the laws, shall be regarded as guilty of the violation of the laws. Those found thus inciting others shall be imprisoned from five days to three years, and shall pay a fine of from 10 to 500 yen. When any one incites others to rebellion and resistance of authority, he shall be treated as a principal offender, and when detected in thus inciting others shall be punished as the foregoing.
Articles calculated to overthrow the government or to disorganize the country, or tending to produce insurrection, shall render the writer liable to from one to three years’ imprisonment. Should an actual outbreak occur in consequence of such incitement, the writer shall be treated as a principal offender.
Articles vilifying the actual laws or hindering obedience to the laws of the land, or excusing and defending offenses which render the perpetrators liable to punishment, shall subject the writer to from one month to one year’s imprisonment and to a fine of from 5 yen to 100 yen.
It is not allowed to publish the preliminary examination of criminals made before the case is brought to public trial, nor the discussions of the officers of the court who conduct the investigation. Those who offend against this regulation shall be liable to imprisonment for from one month to one year, and to a fine of from 100 to 500 yen.
It is not permitted to publish petitions or memorials without the consent of the bodies to which they are addressed. (In Sho, Shi, and Cho.) Those who violate this regulation shall be punished as directed in the fifteenth article.

The editor of those papers and periodicals which were published by permission before this proclamation was made need not apply for permission again, but only make known to the Naimusho, through the Fu, Ken, and Cho authorities, the five points mentioned in the second article, within ten days after this proclamation has been made known. Those who do not make this known within ten days shall have their publication stopped by the Fu, Ken, or Cho. Those who make application must observe the directions given in the first article.

When there are several editors and no chief editor, one chief editor shall be elected or temporarily appointed within two days after this proclamation is made known.

If after two days the chief editor’s name is not published in the paper or magazine, its publication shall be stopped by the Fu, Ken, or Cho authorities.

Those who make application should apply as before directed.