The Japanese Embassy to the Department of State

substance of instructions received by the japanese ambassador from his government

The question of the treatment of Japanese subjects lawfully resident in the United States has been the subject of repeated representations on the part of the Japanese Government to the Government of the United States, especially in regard to the California Alien land Laws of 1913 and 1920.

The position taken by the Japanese Government on this question, which unfortunately still remains unsolved, is well-known to the United States Government. (Vide the Japanese Ambassador’s notes or memoranda to the Secretary of State dated respectively May 9, 1913, June 4, 1913, July 3, 1913, August 26, 191315 and January 3, 192116).

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The recent decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Porterfield v. Webb and three other kindred cases, which upheld the validity of the laws of California as well as similar legislation of another State, together with the previous decision determining the non-eligibility of Japanese to United States citizenship,17 have afforded Japanese subjects resident in the United States no relief whatever, but have confirmed the rigorous limitations placed upon them in the enjoyment of those ordinary civil rights which are freely accorded to nationals of many other countries, even of those having no treaty relations or engagements with the United States; a situation which is apparently without parallel in the history of modern commercial intercourse between friendly nations.

Although it would be premature to attempt an accurate estimate of the effect these decisions will have upon the actual interest of Japanese in the United States, or to speculate on the course these particular Japanese might choose to follow in the future, it is sufficiently evident, that, in view of the fact that no small portion of Japanese residents in the Pacific Coast States have hitherto been permitted to find their legitimate living in agriculture and in businesses closely connected therewith, these decisions will seriously affect the living of a great many of them. In spite of all that is and has been said against them, no impartial observer of the facts in the case would deny that these peaceful, law-abiding, energetic and thrifty people have, by their honest labor, contributed in a marked degree to the development and prosperity of local industry. And yet they are made to suffer an unbearable hardship—unbearable because their immediate means of livelihood is jeopardized—in the name of the legislative freedom of the people of the community, whose welfare they have served so much to promote, simply because the exercise of such freedom is found technically defensible under the existing laws of the country.

Furthermore, if the matter were to be left without recourse to some remedial measure other than judicial, it is feared that the so-called anti-Japanese element in the States where its activity has hitherto been permitted to develop freely, will find in the decisions of the highest tribunal of the country encouragement to devise still further means of persecution against Japanese, and it is not unlikely that the sinister influence of such a movement would soon be extended to other States. Events in the political and legislative history of the Pacific Coast and neighboring States in the past few years will furnish sufficient ground for such apprehension.

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In these circumstances the Japanese Government feel constrained to call the most earnest attention of the Government of the United States to this matter and invite their friendly consideration of it with a view to some adjustment thereof, which shall be fair and satisfactory to both sides.

It would be needless to recall here the sincere desire and earnest effort of the Japanese Government and people to preserve and draw still closer by all means the important and happy relations of traditional friendship and good neighborhood with the American Government and people. Nothing would be sadder and more disappointing to the Government and people of Japan than to discover a serious difference with their esteemed and trusted friends across the Pacific. That the Japanese Government and people are fully determined to exhaust all just and honorable means to reach a fair and rational solution of the question which has unhappily been pending between the two countries for some years, is sufficiently demonstrated by the degree of forbearance the Japanese have been exercising through the various stages of the discussions, extending over a period of more than a decade. It is confidently believed that the United States Government entertains no misgiving in this respect. Nor is it doubted that the United States Government may lack proper appreciation of the grave effect the judicial decisions above referred to cannot fail to exercise upon the vital interests of the Japanese lawfully resident in the United States.

It is not the intention of the Japanese Government to venture any comment as to the soundness of the judgment passed by the high and distinguished American tribunal that justly holds its place of honor in the annals of the history of the administration of justice. All that the Japanese Government claim for their subjects in the United States is, as elsewhere, fair and equal treatment, in the matter of enjoyment of ordinary civil rights, such as is given freely to other nationals, to which they believe they are justly entitled, and therefore the Japanese Government are unable to acquiesce in these measures adopted by several States of the Pacific Coast, which in their opinion unfairly and indiviously [invidiously?] discriminate against Japanese, for the discrimination is not based on their individual merits, but on the race or nationality to which they belong. In this claim the Japanese Government are only voicing the united sentiment of the whole people of Japan.

At the same time the Japanese Government cannot believe, even for a moment, that the United States Government, which stands at all time for international justice based on broad principles of human right and liberty, should ever approve the practice of singling out the nationals of a friendly Power, which has a very natural and [Page 463] worthy pride of its recognized position in the family of nations, as the object of obnoxious discrimination. On the contrary there is every reason to believe that the United States Government is just as earnest as are the Japanese Government in the desire to maintain and strengthen the friendly relations between the two countries and co-operate in every way possible for betterment of the world’s condition in general, which seems to demand today, more than ever, full accord between the two great Powers on the Pacific.

It is with these considerations in mind that the Japanese Government, in a mostly friendly spirit and with perfect candor, reiterate their request to the United States Government to give the matter its serious consideration, to the end that some steps be taken looking to the removal of the undue hardship inflicted upon Japanese in the United States and to the prevention of a recurrence of such legislative or other form of persecution against them. Having unwavering faith in the well-known sense of justice and fair play of the American people, the Japanese Government cannot but feel confident that this people will not be loath to support their Government in any honorable endeavor it may make in order to satisfy the just and reasonable claim of a friendly nation. Vexatious as the question may seem at first glance, the Japanese Government remain unshaken in their conviction that it is not one of differences in fundamental principles, but largely an outcome of misunderstanding or misapprehension created by unfortunate local conditions, and is, if approached in a proper spirit, susceptible of a solution which will be consistent with honor and the true interests of both countries.

The Japanese Government earnestly hope that the matter as presented above will commend itself to an early and sympathetic consideration of the United States Government.

  1. ibid., 1913, pp. 629, 632, 635, and 651, respectively.
  2. ibid., 1921, vol. ii, p. 319.
  3. Takao Ozawa v. United States, 260 U. S. 178.