Mr. Bingham to the Secretary of
Tokei, Japan, October 21, 1878. (Received November 21, 1878.)
Sir: On the 19th instant I received from Mr. Yan Buren a dispatch of that date, a copy of which is herewith (inclosure 1), in relation to the request of this government, made through the Ken Rei (governor) of Kanagawa, to the effect that all merchant-vessels arriving at that port from Nagasaki should be subject to inspection by a medical officer appointed by His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Government, and upon ascertaining that the vessel so inspected was infected, or that any persons had died or suffered on board thereof from cholera, that such vessel should go into quarantine, and that neither the crew, passengers, nor cargo thereof should, during such quarantine, be landed, and assigning as the necessity for this action that cholera had been prevalent in Nagasaki since the 2d instant.[Page 605]
You will observe that to this reasonable request the consuls at Yokohama, as Mr. Yan Buren reports to me in his dispatch herewith, were unanimous in consenting that the medical officer might inspect such foreign vessels as might arrive in Yokahama from Nagasaki, but that no further steps should be taken until the consul of the nationality of the foreign vessel so inspected should be satisfied from the certificate of a medical officer, appointed by himself, that the vessel is infected; nor should the same be ordered into quarantine save upon the order of such consul.
I have replied to Consul-General Van Buren that this action of the consuls does not accord with the policy of the United States in Japan, nor with our obligations to respect and observe the laws of Japan, and that the action of the consuls is a substantial denial of the undoubted right of this government to prevent the importation of pestilence by foreign vessels into the territorial waters of Japan, a copy of which reply to the consul-general I have the honor to inclose (inclosure 2).
It will occur to you that this consular action puts it in the power of a single consul to import pestilence into this capital against the law of this empire and the protest of every other nationality save that represented by such dissenting consul!
It cannot be doubted, in my opinion, that the right of the Japanese Government to prohibit and prevent from coming into its ports all ships infected with pestilence, is as clear as its manifest right to prohibit and prevent from coming into its ports the armed vessels of a declared public enemy.
I respectfully submit this matter to your consideration, and request instructions thereon.
I have, &c.,