Mr. Griscom to Mr. Hay.

No. 33.]

Sir: I have the honor to refer to the report of the American vice-consul at Daitotei to the Department of the 23d November, in relation to the wreck of the American ship Benjamin Sewall off the Formosan coast and to the cruelty of the natives to members of the crew who reached Botel Tobago Island.

In view of the statement of our consul that he deemed the “censure” of the Formosan government to be inadequate to prevent future outrages of a similar nature, I addressed to the minister for foreign affairs a note, a copy of which is inclosed herewith, with a view to bringing about a thorough investigation of the incident by the Japanese Government and the punishment of the offenders.

A copy of the minister’s reply, informing me that an investigation will be made, is also inclosed herewith.

I have, etc.,

Lloyd C. Griscom.
[Page 443]
[Inclosure 1.]

Mr. Griscom to Baron Komura.

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to call the attention of your excellency to certain events which recently occurred on Botel Tobago Island, near the coast of Formosa.

The Benjamin Bewail, an American wooden ship of some 1,300 tons burden, was wrecked in a typhoon on October 4 last and was abandoned on October 5, the crew leaving her in boats. One of the boats reached the island of Formosa in safety with all its occupants alive and well; the other unfortunately reached Botel Tobago Island, and while the crew were seeking a convenient place to land natives came out from the shore in numbers, and after robbing the boat and its occupants deliberately hacked holes in it with their knives, pulled out the bottom plug, and when the boat was half full of water upset its crew into the sea, with the result that seven persons were drowned. Three American citizens and a Japanese woman, the wife of the third mate, an American, were among the drowned. Thanks to the efforts of the government of Formosa, the survivors reached the island of Formosa in safety. To Doctor Goto and the civil administration of Formosa the gratitude of the survivors and of my Government is due for their prompt efforts to discover and rescue the shipwrecked sailors and the subsequent assistance so kindly rendered them. The United States consul at Tamsui expressed his appreciation in a letter addressed directly to Doctor Goto.

Another aspect of the unfortunate incident was brought to the attention of Doctor Goto by the American consul in a letter of the 7th ultimo, wherein the hope was expressed that in the event of any other unfortunates being cast up on Botel Tobago the natives would treat them with more hospitality than they have hitherto shown. In Doctor Goto’s reply to the above letter he states that “this government have efficiently and strictly censured them (the Botel Tobago islanders), and will warn them not to repeat such misconduct again in future.” The consul now reports to me that “with all due respect to the Formosan government, I do not consider that severe and sufficient ‘censure’ will be a sufficient deterrent to the said natives from repeating the offense should occasion arise.”

I have the honor to bring the matter to the knowledge of your excellency with a view to submitting to the high sense of justice of the Imperial Government the question as to whether a censure, however efficient and strict, is an adequate punishment for the murder of seven shipwrecked sailors. This is the second American vessel which has been wrecked on Botel Tobago Island within a year, and the matter is therefore one of considerable interest to American mariners. It is hoped that upon investigation it will be found necessary and advisable to administer to these islanders some punishment suited to their wild and savage condition.

I take advantage of this opportunity to renew, etc.,

Lloyd C. Griscom.
[Inclosure 2.—Translation.]

Baron Komura to Mr. Griscom.

Mr. Minister: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch dated the 17th instant, calling the attention of the Imperial Government to the alleged outrages perpetrated by the natives of Botel Tobago Island, near Formosa, against the refugees of the American wrecked ship Benjamin Sewall.

I beg to say in reply, that I have lost no time in referring the matter to the Formosan government, and I shall not fail to communicate again with your excellency so soon as I shall be in receipt of the answer from the said government.

I avail, etc.,

Baron Komura Jutaro.