Mr. Bingham to Mr. Evarts.
Japan, Tokei, January 19, 1881. (Received February 18.)
Sir: On the 23d ultimo Mr. Alexander C. Jones, United States consul at Nagasaki, inclosed for my consideration a written memorandum signed by all the consuls at that port save the Russian, wherein it is stated that the consuls having had under consideration a letter of date the 28th of September last, which was addressed to Her Britannic Majesty’s chargé d’affaires in Japan by Fleet Surgeon Lawrence, Royal Navy, in relation to the regulation of public houses in the Nagasaki foreign settlement, have concluded that “this is only part of a wider question,” viz: such revision of the treaties with Japan as will place “the management of the settlement on a better footing” by an international arrangement giving to the foreign settlement a municipal organization, and providing that administration of the affairs of the settlement be intrusted to a corporate body composed of the Kewrei and the consuls of the treaty powers, and also three additional members to be elected by the foreign land-renters to be constituted an elective constituency, each land-renter to have one or more votes in “proportion to the quantity of land held by him.” To this foreign body the administration of all municipal matters is to be intrusted, together with power to collect the land-rents now paid to the Japanese Government, and, after paying over to the Japanese Government an amount “equivalent, say, to the natural rent of the land” (of which amount it is supposed this foreign body corporate would be the exclusive judge), to retain the balance in their hands.
It is further suggested in the memorandum that this council should also be empowered to levy license fees from public houses and to declare forfeitures for the violation of such license regulations, and also to levy a limited tax on land-renters and householders, and further to enforce the regulations by penal enactments.
As this is but another of the many schemes to place the open ports of this empire under the control of foreign consuls, to the exclusion of the rightful authority therein of the Imperial Government of Japan, and to subject American citizens residing therein to fines, penalties, and restrictions imposed by European consuls and European residents, who very largely outnumber Americans in every open port; and as it contravenes alike the treaty rights and declared policy of our government in Japan, it seemed to me well to advise Mr. Jones of my unqualified dissent from all that is proposed by the memorandum of the consuls at Nagasaki, and I accordingly did so advise him in my dispatch No. 1005, of date the 14th instant, a copy of which I have the honor to inclose herewith.
You will please observe that I especially refer Mr. Jones for a further expression of my views on this subject to my No. 400 to Mr. Fish, Foreign Relations for 1876, pages 374–377; also to my No. 614 to Mr. Mangum, of date September 5, 1878, and to your instruction to this legation, No. 400, of date December 6, 1878.
Allow me to say that in Japan as at home it is, in my opinion, our duty and our interest to practice upon our old-time and long-tried policy: justice to all nations, entangling alliances with none. We can best, I am sure, promote our interests in Japan by rejecting any and all officious [Page 689]intermeddling therewith by European states, and by asserting our right to make and revise our treaties with Japan without European dictation, and to enforce them in accordance with our written obligations and the requirements of justice.
I have, as you will observe, suggested to Mr. Jones that, in my opinion, all needful municipal regulations for the open ports of Japan, so far as not already enacted, would be at once enacted by this government, it the foreign consuls would signify their readiness to recognize the manifest rights of this government, and announce their willingness to enforce the same in accordance with treaty obligations.
I trust my action may meet your approval.
I have, &c.,