Mr. Swift to Mr. Blaine.

[Extract.]
No. 56.]

Sir: I regret to find it my duty to inform you that an attempt was made at this capital, on the 18th instant, to murder Count Okuma, His Imperial Majesty’s minister for foreign affairs.

The full result of the attempt to take the life of this distinguished Japanese statesman remains in doubt. In fact the injuries inflicted upon him are of so serious a nature as to keep his recovery in a state of uncertainty for some days to come, though I am glad to be able to say that there is good reason to hope for a favorable outcome, at least so far as can be foreseen at this early stage. The circumstances of the affair, as nearly as they can be gathered from a number of conflicting reports, are as follows:

On the afternoon of the day above named, about five minutes past 4 o’clock, Count Okuma was in the act of returning from the Imperial Palace to his official residence, which is in the same inclosure with the foreign office and reached through the same principal gate. His carriage was closed but with the window for the moment open, that is, the sash was down. The count occupied the inside of the vehicle alone. He had been attending a cabinet meeting in the Emperor’s presence. The street upon which the foreign office fronts, runs north and south; the premises looking upon it from the west. He was approaching his home from the north, which is the direction of the Palace, and when near the principal gate it seems the driver upon the box observed a suspicious looking man following the carriage and quickened his pace to avoid him. Just as the carriage was on the turn to enter the gate this suspicious individual, who was dressed in foreign or European clothes, and who proved to be a Japanese named Kurushima Tsuneki, aged twenty-seven, approached and threw a dynamite bomb through the window. It entered from the left side and exploded with a sound like that of a small cannon, which was heard at a great distance, more than a mile in some instances. It is thought that Count Okuma, who is spare in figure, was seated with his right leg thrown over his left, as it was the right leg which received the force of the explosion, and the principal injuries. Upon hearing the sound of the bursting shell, the driver whipped up his horses, running rapidly up the slight elevation from the gate to the door of Count Okuma’s official residence, a distance of about 200 feet. Here the count was taken out of the carriage and laid upon a sofa. He [Page 544]was conscious. It was found that his right leg was injured in two places, one at the knee and the other near the ankle. The bone was found to be badly crushed in both places. He had several minor injuries about the face and hands. On a consultation of surgeons which was held as soon as possible, it was deemed necessary to amputate the leg above the knee, which operation was successfully performed about 8 o’clock p. m.

Since that time the count has rested easily without fever, and the symptoms have all been of a favorable character. The sailing of the steamer by which this dispatch will be forwarded takes place too soon to enable me to announce to you the pleasing intelligence that the crisis is past and that he is out of danger. Yet there is much reason to hope for such a result. The count is a man of good health and habits and still in the prime of life, placing the chances much in his favor.

The news of the attempted assassination reached me at the “Roku mei-kan,” a social club frequented by diplomatic and other gentlemen, some distance from the legation and near to the foreign office. Finding that to send for my carriage would delay me in reaching and formally offering my aid and sympathy to the wounded minister and his countess, and Mr. Dun, our secretary of legation, happening to be at the club with me, we ordered jinrikshas and proceeded at once directly to the count’s residence, reaching there about 5 o’clock. We found the prime minister, Count Kuroda, and several other members of the cabinet, as well as some of the diplomatic corps, already arrived upon the same errand and in attendance.

We found that troops had been stationed around the building and precautions taken against emergencies, though so far as I know it was merely a measure of precaution, and in fact not needed.

As for the miscreant Kurushima, the assassin, he did what it seems all Japanese do under similar circumstances) what was entirely to be expected of him, and what renders the problem of Japanese civilization so extremely doubtful and perplexing to all interested in it, that is to say, immediately upon hurling his missile, and without waiting to take note of the result upon his victim, he whipped out a knife brought along for that specific purpose, and cut his own throat, severing the jugular vein, and was dead before anybody had time to think of arresting him. Mr. Denison, of the foreign office, who was in the building and who hurried forth upon hearing the explosion, told me that when he reached the scene he saw the smoke still lingering in the air over the place, and at the same time the body of the perpetrator of the deed lying, apparently quite dead, close by. He is understood to have been a young student; whether he had an accomplice is not as yet known to the public. In fact, the affair is in the hands of the police, who keep their own secrets. It is worthy of remark that it is understood that the assassin is a student of Chinese. By that it is meant that his education is entirely oriental in its effect and tendency, and prosecuted by a study of the Chinese ideographic characters, beginning and ending in oriental and therefore conservative processes and objects, and that he knew nothing of European learning and western ideas, which can only be reached by the study of some one of the European languages, and of course the Roman alphabet. Of the origin, bearing, tendency, and effect of this dastardly crime and other similar acts, I shall avail myself at an early day of making some suggestions and remarks.

I have, etc.,

John F. Swift.