Monday, May 2, 2016

Documents in History: Reply to the 1852 Letter of President Fillmore

Commodore Perry Meeting the Japanese Commissioners
In 1854, Perry returned to Edo Bay to take the reply of the Japanese government from the letter that he delivered last year. A translation of the letter was made. Explore the contents of the reply of the Japan to the presidential letter.


The return of your excellency, as ambassador of the United States to this Empire, has been expected according to the letter of his Majesty the President, which letter your excellency delivered last year to his Majesty the Emperor of this Empire.

It is quite impossible to give satisfactory answer at once to all the proposals of your government, as it most positively forbidden by the laws of our Imperial ancestors; but for us to continue attached to the ancient laws, seems to misunderstand the spirit of the age; however, we are governed now by imperative necessity.

At the visit of your excellency last year to this Empire, his Majesty the former Emperor was sick, and is now dead. Subsequently, his Majesty the present Emperor ascended the throne; the many occupations in consequence thereof are not yet finished, and there is no time to settle other business thoroughly. Moreover, his Majesty the new Emperor, at the succession to the throne, promised to the princes and high officers of the Empire to observe the laws. It is therefore evident that he cannot now bring about any alteration in the ancient laws.

Last autumn, at the departure of the Dutch ship, the superintendent of the Dutch trade in Japan was requested to inform your government of this even, and a reply in writing has been received.

At Nagasaki arrived recently the Russian ambassador to communicate a wish of his government. He has since left the said place, because no answer would be given to any nation that might communicate similar wishes. However, we admit the urgency of, and shall entirely comply with, the proposals of your government concerning coal, wood, water, provisions, and the saving of ships and their crews in distress. After being informed which harbor your excellency selects, that harbor shall be prepared, which preparation it is estimated will take about five years. Meanwhile a commencement can be made with the coal at Nagasaki by the next Japanese first month (Siogoots,) (16th February, 1855)

Having no precedent with respect to coal, we request your excellency to furnish us with an estimate, and upon due consideration this will be complied with, if not in opposition to our laws. What do you understand by provisions, and how much coal?

Finally, anything ships may be in want of that can be furnished from the production of this Empire shall be supplied. The prices of merchandise and articles of barter to be fixed by Kurakawa Kahei and Moryama Yenosoke. After settling the points before mentioned, the treaty can be concluded and signed at the next interview.
[Seals attached by order of the high gentlemen]

Moryama Yenoske 

Hawks, Francis. Narrative of the Expedition of An American Squadron to The China Seas and Japan, Performed in the Years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the Command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by Order of the Government of the United States, Volume I. Washington D.C.: A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer, 1856. 

Explore also:
Perry Expedition and the Opening of Japan (Part 9): The Treaty of Kanagawa

No comments:

Post a Comment