No. 277.
Mr. Bingham to the Secretary of State.

No. 885.]

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.,

[Inclosure No. 1 in No. 885.]

Mr. Van Buren to Mr. Bingham.

No. 3549.]

Sir: Being prevented by the storm, which seriously affects my health, from waiting upon you in person to-day, I beg to inclose you a copy of a communication addressed to the senior of the foreign consuls here by the ken rei of Kanagawa, upon the subject of the medical inspection, &c., of vessels arriving from Nagasaki, and about which I wished to converse when I had the pleasure of meeting you. The ken rei’s letter reads as follows:

Sir: I have the honor to inform you that, as cholera has been prevalent in Nagasaki since the 2d instant, I am desirous to have a medical officer visit all vessels, excepting men of war that come here via Nagasaki, immediately on their arrival, in order to question the captain and doctor, and ascertain whether any deaths or cases have occurred on board; and, if so, that neither crew, passengers, nor cargo be permitted to land.

“Trusting that you and your colleagues will concur in this, and oblige me with an early reply,

“I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant,


I find that the consuls are unanimously agreeable to complying with the request of the ken rei, so far as a medical inspection of vessels is concerned, but insist that before any other steps can be taken the consul of the nationality to which the particular vessel sought to be quarantined belongs, must be satisfied by the certificate of a medical officer appointed by him that the vessel is infected, and such placing on quarantine or other action must be directed by said consul.

I have, &c.,

[Page 606]
[Inclosure No. 2 in No. 885.]

Mr. Bingham to Mr. Van Buren.

No. 672.]

Sir: I have your note of this date, in relation to the written request of the ken rei of Kanagawa of date the 8th instant, a copy of which you inclose. This letter of the ken rei is to the effect that the Japanese Government gives notice to the consuls at Yokohama that, because of the prevalence of cholera in Nagasaki, all vessels (except men of war) arriving in the former port from Nagasaki are to be inspected by a medical officer appointed by this government, and if, upon inquiry, such officer shall ascertain that persons have suffered or that deaths have occurred on board from cholera, such vessel shall be put into quarantine, and neither the crew, passengers, nor cargo thereof be permitted to be landed.

I see no reason why this government may not make an order to that effect, nor why such order should not be respected by you and every other consul at Yokohama; I understand from your note that all the consuls at the port concur in assenting to the raedical inspection of such vessels, but insist that no further steps beyond the inspection can be taken save by the action of the consul of the nationality of the vessel inspected, who, upon the certificate of a medical officer, to be appointed by him, that the vessel is infected, will then decide whether the vessel shall be subject to quarantine.

This qualification seems to imply that each consul will decide for himself whether a vessel of his nationality has been infected with cholera or should be required to go into quarantine, thereby substantially declaring that a quarantine proclaimed by this government in its own ports is not to be respected by any foreign vessels, and that quarantine of foreign vessels, under all circumstances, within the territorial waters of Japan can only be declared by the consul of each nationality.

This claim of the consuls severally to prevent a quarantine of foreign vessels in the port of Yokohama does not accord with the declared policy of our government toward Japan, nor with its obligations thereto, and is, in my opinion, a needless denial of the undoubted right of this government to protect its people against the importation of pestilence into its own waters by foreign vessels.

I have to request that you furnish me a copy of any correspondence on this subject which you may have had with the Ken Rei, and also a copy of any quarantine regulations which you may have received from him.

I am, &c.