Mr. Swift to Mr. Blaine.

No. 80.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith a copy of a communication from His Excellency Viscount Aoki, His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s minister for foreign affairs, addressed to me, which, as you will observe, requests me to transmit to each of certain American citizens therein named a medal and brevet commemorative of the promulgation, in February, 1889, of the imperial Japanese constitution, and of the fact that the said American citizens were present on that occasion and witnessed the ceremony.

The American citizens to whom I am requested to forward these medals and brevets are my predecessor in this mission, ex-Governor R. B. Hubbard; Mr. F. S. Mansfield, late secretary of legation, both now living in Texas; Mr. Edwin Dun, present secretary of this legation; and Dr. Whitney, interpreter.

I may also mention that they were present at the ceremony as representatives of the United States.

Inasmuch as both Governor Hubbard and Mr. Mansfield have ceased to hold any diplomatic or other official relation with the Japanese Government, there appears no reason, so far as I can see, why the acceptance or refusal of the articles thus offered them may not be left to their own discretion, at least so far as I am concerned. For that reason, and in view of their recent position at this legation, I felt called upon, as a matter of courtesy due to my predecessor and late secretary, to forward the medals, etc., direct to them without comment or suggestion, which I did. I trust this action may not meet with your disapproval.

Whether the medal referred to is such a present or other gift as falls within the inhibition of section 1751 of the Revised Statutes is a question that I do not feel called upon to decide, but refer to yourself for instructions in future cases, for in the case of Governor Hubbard and Mr. Mansfield I have already acted, at least as to sending the medals.

It is true, however, that in case they accept or reject I shall hereafter be called upon officially to notify the Government of His Imperial Japanese Majesty of the fact. If it be such inhibited gift, it is quite possible that I am wrong in forwarding it to any citizen who by law can not accept it.

I was recently requested by His Imperial Majesty’s Government to forward to a gentleman in the United States consular service in Japan a medal recognizing his action in jumping into the sea and, at some risk to his own life, rescuing a drowning Japanese subject. I forwarded the article to the gentleman without offering anyofinion as to his right to accept it, but leaving that question to himself. I did so, because I thought the medal issued under such circumstances hardly fell within [Page 576] the restriction of the statute. Nor, except upon a very strict construction of the statute, perhaps, does it in the medal commemorative of the new constitution which I have forwarded to Governor Hubbard and Mr. Mansfield.

But it is exceedingly probable that the question is not a new one to the Department, and that it may have been long since settled one way or the other.

Whether the United States minister here can properly in any case be the medium of communication and transmission of any kind of testimonial between the Government of Japan and citizens of the United States is a question in my mind not entirely free from doubt, and if there be a settled rule, I should be glad to know and will cheerfully follow it.

Another question I wish specially to be instructed upon. You will observe that the other citizens to whom these medals have been issued are Mr. Dun and Dr. Whitney. These articles are now in this legation. Mr. Dun, being actually secretary of this legation, it follows that the objection to his accepting, if any there be, grows out of the question as to whether this commemorative medal is such a present, emolument, favor, etc., as is prohibited United States diplomatic officers by the Constitution and laws of the country and especially section 1751 of the Revised Statutes. If so, it would seem as a logical result that I have no right to offer it to them, but should return it to the foreign office with a statement of the reasons. The same may be, and probably is, the case as to Dr. Whitney’s right to accept the medal issued to him. It is possible Dr. Wlritney, who is merely interpreter to this legation, and not technically a secretary, may not stand in precisely the same position in the premises with Mr. Dun, although the reason for the rule would certainly seem to apply as strongly in his case as in that of any other diplomatic employé. Yet I separate them and ask for instructions in each case, and also in Governor Hubbard’s.

I have, etc.,

John F. Swift.
[Inclosurein No. 80.—Translation.]

Viscount Aoki to Mr. Swift.

Sir: His Imperial Majesty, my august sovereign, having been graciously pleased to confer the medal commemorative of the promulgation of the imperial constitution upon those gentlemen who attended the ceremony on February last, I have the honor to forward to you herewith the brevet and the medal and the accompanying note, and beg to request that you will transmit the same to Your Excellency’s predecessor, Mr. Richard Hubbard, and three other gentlemen as specified in the inclosed list, who attended the ceremony.

I avail, etc.,

Viscount Suizo Aoki,
Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Name list.

His Excellency Richard Bennet Hubbard, envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary; Frederick Sherwood Mansfield, esq., first secretary; Edwin Dun, esq., second secretary; Dr. Willis Norton Whitney, esq., interpreter.