The American Historical Review/Volume 23/The Mikado's Ratification of the Foreign Treaties



From many points of view the most interesting period in the whole history of Japan lies between 1853 and 1868, between the appearance of Commodore Perry and his black ships in the Bay of Yedo and the restoration of the Mikado as the temporal ruler of Japan. It is the period in which Japan renewed her foreign intercourse, abandoned for more than two hundred years, and came into contact with the maritime countries of Europe and America. It is the period also of the rapid decline and fall of the Shogunate and the concomitant rise of the imperial power. Within a few years the question of foreign intercourse became involved, apparently beyond extrication, with the turbulent domestic politics of the time. This was not understood by the first foreign representatives at the court of the Shogun. They emphasized the importance of foreign rights and foreign relations, but the Japanese were far more concerned with the internal struggle, at times stained with blood, between the Shogunate and the supporters of the imperial house. As long as this interrelation of foreign and domestic affairs continued, there could be little hope of peaceful intercourse, for the lives of foreigners were sacrificed to serve some political end. Fortunately the separation came before the political crisis ended in civil war but it came under circumstances which have been but little understood and the significance of the event has not been properly appreciated, even at the present day.[1] Of all the events in that period of stress and turmoil, none had a greater or more lasting import than the Mikado's sanction of the foreign treaties on the 5th of November, 1865.

The fundamental difficulty lay in the disputed powers of the Shogun. For six and a half centuries the temporal power in Japan had been exercised almost without exception by military leaders, generally holding the office of Shogun. From 1603 until 1867 this office was held by members of the Tokugawa family, beginning with the great general and administrator, Ieyasu. During his lifetime and that of his strong successors there was no question of the power of the Shogunate to determine all administrative matters without even a reference to the Mikado at Kyoto.[2] The epochal edicts of exclusion and seclusion of 1624, 1636, and 1638, were issued without any reference to the throne; and the later laws governing foreign intercourse, such as the edicts of 1825, 1842, and 1843, were promulgated in the same manner.[3] In this respect the foreigners were right when they believed that the Mikado had relinquished his temporal powers.

It was the Shogunate itself which raised the question of the reserved powers of the Mikado. Unwilling to accept the responsibility for altering the foreign policy of the empire, as proposed by Commodore Perry at his first visit in 1853, it referred the question to the throne and to the feudal lords. The imperial court at Kyoto and a majority of the daimyos (feudal lords) favored the maintenance of the exclusion laws, and the former sent down instructions to the Shogun at Yedo to drive the foreigners away.[4] Some defensive measures were taken, but eventually the Shogunate determined to grant the requests of the Americans, and the treaty of March 31, 1854, was signed. In this, and some of the contemporary treaties, the Tycoon (Shogun) is spoken of as the Emperor of Japan. The Perry treaty, and the British and Russian compacts which soon followed, were reported to the Mikado and his approval was granted in February, 1855.[5] Thus the weakness of the Shogunate had established two precedents, that treaties must be referred to the Mikado and approved by him, and that the daimyos might claim the right to be consulted about foreign affairs.

During the next few years the smouldering opposition to the Shogunate steadily increased, and its enemies made much of the weakness manifested in the reversal of the wise exclusion policy of the early Tokugawa.[6] Within the Shogun's castle there were divided counsels, a small minority of enlightened officials using all their influence in favor of the maintenance of the new foreign relations. So when Townsend Harris, the first American consul-general, sought to secure a treaty of commerce in place of the earlier treaty of peace and friendship, the liberal leaders had to face a growing opposition. Fortunately Harris conducted himself so well during his fifteen months' residence at Shimoda that he won the confidence of the Japanese. That moral victory gained, it was possible for him to secure an audience of the Shogun, and later to convince the enlightened prime minister, Lord Hotta Bitchiu-no-Kami, that Japan's best interests lay in enlarged intercourse with all the great powers.[7] With the negotiation of this master-treaty we are not concerned. But when it was almost agreed upon the Japanese commissioners stated that such was the opposition in the Castle that the treaty would have to be referred to the "Spiritual Emperor" at Kyoto for his approval, and "that the moment that approval was received, the daimyos must withdraw their opposition". Harris very naturally inquired what would happen if the Mikado refused his assent and was told "in a prompt and decided manner, that the government had determined not to receive any objections from the Mikado". If this was the case, he then asked, what was the use in delaying the negotiations "for what appears to be a mere ceremony", and he was told "that it was this solemn ceremony that gave value to it".[8] He proposed, therefore, that they complete their work, but postpone signing the treaty until the end of sixty days. This was agreed to, the draft was completed on February 26, 1858, and Harris looked forward to April 21 when it would be signed.

The positive assurance of the Japanese commissioners was justified by all the previous relations between the Shogunate and the imperial court. Never had a request for the formal approval of an act been denied. So two minor officials were sent up to Kyoto to secure the imperial sanction for the treaty, Hayashi Daigaku-no-Kami, who had been one of the signatories of the Perry treaty, and Tsuda Hanzaburo. Hayashi presented to the imperial court a letter from Hotta, the prime minister, but the opponents of the Shogunate saw in the low rank of Hayashi and Tsuda a chance to make trouble and crying out that their presence was an insult to the throne they prevented a favorable reply.[9] This was the first rebuff of the Shogunate.

Lord Hotta, alarmed at the evidence of open hostility in Kyoto, then went up himself to reason with the court. The address which he presented was a remarkable document, the work of a forward-looking statesman, amazingly modern in its point of view for that period.[10] It pointed out the changed conditions in international affairs, the increasing relations between the world-powers, their mutual dependence, and the impossibility that any country should remain secluded. Hence Japan would either have to establish amicable relations with the powers or engage in a disastrous war. He strongly believed that this was the opportune moment for throwing off the traditional policy three centuries old, and for playing a real part in the affairs of the world. He would open intercourse with foreign countries, encourage reciprocal relations, exchange ministers, encourage shipping, remedy internal weaknesses, develop the national resources, and make military preparations. Believing in a worldstate, he felt, as a loyal Japanese, that the Mikado alone was "so noble and illustrious as to command universal vassallage". "To have such a ruler over the whole world is. doubtless in conformity with the Will of Heaven." In the meantime, however, he advocated something not unlike the modern "League of Nations".


When our power and national standing have come to be recognized, we should take the lead in punishing the nation which may act contrary to the principle of international interests; and in so doing, we should join hands with the nations whose principles may be found identical with those of our country. An alliance thus formed should also be directed towards protecting harmless but powerless nations. Such a policy could be nothing else but the enforcement of the power and authority deputed (to us) by the Spirit of Heaven. Our national prestige thus ensured, the nations of the world will come to look up to our Emperor as the Great Ruler of all nations, and they will come to follow our policy and submit themselves to our judgment.


It should be remembered, therefore, that at this time the Shogunate advocated foreign intercourse as a sound national policy.

At first Hotta was almost successful, but the hostile court nobles (kuge) compelled the kuambaku (imperial prime minister) to alter the text of the Mikado's reply, so that it denounced the foreign policy of the Shogunate, and demanded, that the opinions of the Three Houses of the Tokugawa family[11] and of the daimyos be consulted before again asking for the imperial sanction.[12] Lord Hotta, baffled, returned to Yedo on June 1. Harris, in the meantime, had gone up from Shimoda, ready for the formal signing of the treaty on April 21, only to be told that Hotta had not returned. As he waited week after week, he is said to have threatened to go to Kyoto himself and there negotiate directly with the Mikado.[13] When Hotta finally arrived, Harris was persuaded to agree to a further postponement, until September 4. In the meantime. Lord Ii Kamon-no-Kami, who had been appointed tairo or regent, hoped that he might be able to gain the approval of the imperial court.

At this time there was a further complication in the Yedo administration. It arose over the question of the succession to the office of Shogun. The incumbent, Iesada, was dying without an heir. Two claimants were presented, representing two of the Three Houses. We cannot dwell upon this incident, except to note that the action of the Shogun and Lord Ii in designating the young scion of Kii, instead of the more mature son of the former Lord of Mito, embittered the latter noble and his party in the Castle. Men who favored foreign intercourse went into opposition to the administration because of the dispute over the heir, and Nariaki, former lord of Mito, and one of the most influential of the feudal lords, became the open leader of the anti-foreign faction in the Yedo government, Iemochi was designated as heir on July 11, the imperial court approved the appointment, and on August 4 the formal installation was held.

Lord Ii, therefore, had settled the vexed question of the heirship, and he had until September 4 to win the Mikado's approval of the Harris treaty. But on July 23 the United States steamship Mississippi arrived at Shimoda with the news of the Tientsin treaties negotiated the month before between China and Russia, the United States, France, and Great Britain. It was thought that the victorious squadrons of the Anglo-French allies would cross over to Japan and demand a liberal commercial treaty. Harris at once started for Yedo to urge that the Japanese sign his treaty, without any compulsion, thus granting peacefully and with honor all that the European powers supported by their guns could demand.

The message which Harris sent to Yedo created a profound sensation in the Castle. A special conference of the higher officials was at once called. A majority favored signing the treaty at once. Lord Ii, the tairo, advocated a brief delay until the imperial approval might be obtained. But the majority felt that this was no time for further negotiations at Kyoto, and they finally had their way.[14] Lord Ii instructed the two Japanese commissioners to consult with Harris, urging him to wait a while longer, if possible, but if he deemed it inadvisable, to sign the treaty at once. Harris repeated his reasons why Japan should conclude his treaty before the fleets arrived, Iwase and Inouye accepted them, and the treaty was signed early on the morning of July 29, 1858, on board the U. S. S. Powhatan.

This action of Lord Ii, in instructing the commissioners to sign the treaty if it seemed best, furnishes an explanation of many of the events of the next seven years. A treaty had been signed without the imperial approval, and in violation of the imperial instructions. This involved the whole question of foreign affairs in the turmoil of internal politics; it gave a rallying cry to the supporters of the Mikado and the opponents of the Shogunate—"Honor the Emperor and expel the Barbarians"; and it placed the Shogunate at once on the defensive.

Yet there was little else for Lord Ii to do.[15] He believed that the treaty should be signed, and he hoped to the day of his death to secure an ex post facto ratification by the Mikado. The tense situation at Yedo must also be recognized. On August 14, the Shogun died, but not until punishments had been meted out to the great lords who had opposed the appointment of Iemochi as heir. The new Shogun entered upon his administration with divided counsels instead of a strong Shogunate organization to oppose the rising influence of the Mikado. In August the Russian and British envoys arrived from Tientsin, as expected. The Dutch agent came up from Nagasaki, and in October the French envoy arrived. With all of them treaties were negotiated, based upon the Harris treaty and with slight modifications. And these treaties also were signed without the Mikado's approval.

It now became necessary for Lord Ii not only to secure the Mikado's sanction for the treaties, but also to curb the open opposition of the anti-Shogunate factions in Yedo and Kyoto. The court, encouraged by the division of counsels in Yedo, had secured an imperial decree ordering the tairo or one of the princes of the Three Houses to present himself in Kyoto with an explanation of the foreign situation.[16] Lord Ii could not go himself, and two of the three princes were undergoing domiciliary confinement for their opposition to the designated heir, while the third was a minor. His failure to obey the summons further embittered the hostile party. Finally, in October, he sent up Lord Manabe, of the roju (cabinet), to appease the court, and stamp out the opposition there. Soon after his arrival in Kyoto a number of samurai and townspeople who had taken part in the hostile propaganda were arrested and sent to Yedo, where they were imprisoned with a number arrested there. These were punished by a special court, some beheaded, and others banished. At Kyoto some of the kuge were confined and others forced out of office.[17] These strong measures of Lord Ii added fuel to the flames of opposition.

Then Manabe sought the imperial approval of the treaties. It must now be noted that the approval simply had to be gained. The Shogunate was no longer confident of its influence, it could no longer overawe the court. It was forced, therefore, to recede from its former wise position that the exclusion laws should be annulled for the best interests of Japan, and so fell back to the equivocal view that the treaties were but temporary evils which could not be avoided, that the Shogunate did not desire to cultivate friendly relations with the foreign powers, and that as soon as adequate armaments were prepared the barbarians would be expelled.[18] This was a very different argument from that advanced by Lord Hotta only a few months before. It was no easy matter to secure the Mikado's endorsement of even this temporary measure; but finally, after three months of discussion, on February 2, 1859, the imperial answer was delivered. This took the form of approving the resolution of the Shogun, the tairo, and the roju to keep the barbarians at a distance and eventually restore the old policy of seclusion, and authorized the Shogun to take temporary measures to this end.[19]

This effort to secure the Mikado's approval of the treaties, covering a full year, indicates clearly the weakening of the Shogun's influence and the corresponding increase in the court's prestige. The change was further shown by the elation of the Shogunate at the conditional approval at length gained. Lord Ii, however, fully recognized the inherent weakness of such a sanction and worked strenuously for another year, and until his assassination, to improve the relations between the court and the Castle and thus gain an unqualified endorsement of the Shogun's foreign policy. The commercial treaties, therefore, had been negotiated without the imperial approval, and the enlarged foreign relations then inaugurated were agreed to be but temporary. Hence the anti-Shogun, anti-foreign factions had ammunition close at hand. With increasing insistence they demanded that the period of temporary intercourse be brought to a close and that the loyal patriots unite to drive the barbarians into the sea. The Shogunate, during the next six years, had to pursue a temporizing policy. Convinced that foreign relations were absolutely necessary and eminently wise, it tried to live up to the treaties on the one hand, and to quiet the dangerous domestic opposition on the other. Hence its position was unenviable. As the opposition became more violent, and the very existence of the Shogunate was in jeopardy, it tried to bring the foreigners to a realization of its problems and to an amelioration of some of the treaty terms which aroused most opposition in the country. But it always hoped that better understanding of the problem would convince the hostile imperial court of the wisdom of foreign relations.

With the opening of the new ports under the liberal terms of the commercial treaties, on July 1, 1859, friction at once developed. There were faults on both sides, but unquestionably the most offense was given by some of the pioneers of commerce and the first seamen to visit the ports. Blood was soon shed. In the next few years there were several attacks upon foreigners and two attacks upon the British legation. These outrages fall into two categories, those committed by the Japanese as reprisals for wrongs done, and those committed for political reasons—either to involve the Shogunate in war with the foreigners or else to destroy some of the hated barbarians whose presence in Japan was deemed a pollution. In the first class should be placed the murder of two Russian seamen on August 25, 1859, of two Dutch sea-captains on February 26, 1860, the second attack on the British legation on June 26, 1862, and the murder of Richardson on September 14. In the first two cases the crimes were probably in revenge for offenses committed by other Europeans, and in the last case, although Richardson had given offense, yet his assassination was in harmony with the anti-foreign views of the Satsuma men who committed it. In the second category we note the murder of the American interpreter, Heusken, on January 14, 1861; the first attack on the British legation, July 5, following; the murder of Lieutenant de Camus on October 14, 1863; and of Major Baldwin and Lieutenant Bird on November 21, 1864. The burning of the unoccupied British legation on February 1, 1863, was certainly a political act, and possibly the burning of the American legation on May 24 was incendiary and not an accident, as the Shogunate always protested.

With the assassination of Lord Ii, the masterful tairo, on March 24, 1860, the Shogunate lost its most virile defender. His successors, unable to carry on his policy of suppression of the opposition, soon reversed it and restored to favor those who had been punished, and turned against many of the pro-foreign leaders. But this volte-face was deemed weakness and failed to strengthen the declining administration. Early in 1861 the government determined to appease the anti-foreign agitators by securing a postponement of the opening of Yedo, Osaka, Hiogo, and Niigata. This matter was placed before the treaty powers and those in Europe assented in terms similar to the London Convention of June 6, 1862. The American consent, although the first to be given in principle, was not formally announced until January 28, 1864.[20]

The foreign representatives were now beginning to realize vaguely that the "ecclesiastical emperor" in Kyoto was a more powerful personality than they had been led to believe. On December 13, 1859, Mr. Harris warned the Shogunate officials that if they failed to observe the treaties and a war ensued, the powers would then negotiate directly with the representatives of the Mikado.[21] But Harris always believed that the Mikado had given his consent to the treaties.[22] Mr. Alcock, the British minister, first realized the flaw in the ratification, in June, 1861,[23] but when he asked the ministers for foreign affairs if the Mikado had sanctioned them he understood them to reply in the affirmative.[24] Yet in March, 1862, he recommended to Lord Russell that "the sanction of treaties" be one of the conditions attached to the postponement of the opening of the ports,[25] but Lord Russell doubtless felt that this question should not be raised. And in June, 1862, although the French minister did not believe that the treaties had been ratified, asserting that the Japanese ministers had admitted as much to Alcock and himself, yet the diplomatic corps agreed "to raise no questions which would imply a doubt as to the validity of the treaties".[26] This became the official attitude of the foreign ministers until Mr. Pruyn, the American minister, in 1863 raised the question anew.

With the successive attacks upon the foreigners, the demands for reparation rapidly increased until they reached a maximum after the Richardson murder. The Russians, the first to lose a national, had asked for no money indemnity. Mr. Harris asked for only $10,000 as a support for Mr. Heusken's widowed mother. For the first attack on the British legation $10,000 was asked for the two wounded men, but for the second attack £10,000 was demanded, and for the murder of Richardson £100,000 was demanded from the Shogun, and £25,000 and the punishment of the murderer, from the daimyo of Satsuma. The size of this demand, the assessment upon Satsuma, a feudal state with whom the British government had no direct relations, and the method of collection, made it the most notable of all punitive demands upon a non-European state.

The growth of these demands paralleled the rise of the antiforeign opposition and furnished arguments against the greedy and insulting foreigners. The maximum demands, in the Richardson case, came, moreover, at a most inopportune time.

The opposition to the Shogunate, using the unpopularity of its foreign policy as an issue, had rapidly increased. Kyoto, formerly neglected by the feudal lords, now teemed with daimyos under the leadership of powerful western feudatories, the daimyo of Choshiu, and the father of the daimyo of Satsuma. The result of their agitation was the sending of a mission to Yedo to demand, in the Mikado's name, the closing of Kanagawa (Yokohama)—offering Shimoda again in exchange—and to secure the Shogun's consent to one of three proposals, that he go up to Kyoto to consult with the court concerning the expulsion of the foreigners, that he appoint five of the anti-foreign maritime daimyos to act as regents (tairo), or that he appoint Hitotsubashi, the recent Mito candidate for the Shogunate, as guardian, and the ex-daimyo of Echizen as tairo.[27] The Shogun decided to accept the first and last of the three demands. This has been deemed by some to be the beginning of the end of the Shogunate. Never before had a Shogun been ordered to present himself at the Mikado's court. Not since 1634 had a Shogun visited Kyoto, and then Iemitsu paid his respects to the Mikado as an act of grace and not of duty. The Englishman, Richardson, was assassinated by members of the train of the Satsuma chieftain, who had been the escort of the imperial envoy to Yedo.

For almost a year the Shogun put off this humiliating visit to Kyoto, thus increasing the indignation among the hostile courtiers and feudatories. Just when it could be no longer delayed the British demands for reparation for the Richardson murder arrived and were withheld for twenty-three days by Colonel Neale, the chargé, pending the arrival of the British fleet.[28] When the demands were presented, on April 6, the Shogun was on his way to Kyoto.

Thus the crushing British demands played into the hands of the anti-foreign party at the great conference at Kyoto. The enormous amount demanded of the Shogun for the murder of a foreigner who had given, from the Japanese point of view, cause for punishment, was considered a grievous insult; and the fine assessed on Satsuma penalized one of the leaders of the pro-Mikado party. The negotiations at Yokohama betwen the Japanese and the Anglo-French allies, culminating in an offer of military assistance to the Shogunate against the hostile daimyos, and the rejection of the offer by the government, cannot be dwelt upon here.[29] At Kyoto the hostile party was in the ascendant. At the first conference between the Mikado and the Shogun the latter accepted the imperial commands to expel the barbarians, using peaceful negotiations if possible, but if this did not succeed then they were to be swept away.[30]

Even after this agreement, the Shogunate officials hoped that they might prolong the negotiations and eventually find some outlet from the impasse in which they found themselves. But the opposition very shrewdly refused to trust the Yedo party. It demanded that a specific date be fixed for the expulsion. The Shogun and his advisers tried to avoid such a decision, but on June 5 the issue was joined, and the Mikado fixed the 25th of that month as the date for the expulsion of the barbarians.[31] The Shogun dutifully accepted this decree, knowing full well that it could not be enforced, and fully intending to temporize further if possible. So, at Yokohama, on the morning of June 24, the representative of the Shogun paid over to the British chargé £110,000 in payment of the indemnities for the murder of Richardson and the second attack on the British legation, and shortly afterwards forwarded to the foreign ministers the following communication:


I have the honor to inform your excellency that I have received full powers to act on the subject herein stated.

I have received orders from his Majesty the Tycoon, now residing at Kioto, and who received orders from the Mikado to cause the open ports to be closed and the foreigners (subjects) of the treaty powers to be removed, as our people will have no intercourse with them; hence negotiation on this subject will afterwards take place with your excellency.[32]


This order was the logical outcome of Lord Manabe's equivocal statement early in 1859. The Shogunate had asserted that the foreign relations were only a temporary evil. Now, with the rapid increase in the imperial prestige, the time had come when the Shogunate could be compelled to bring these relations to a close. But the Shogunate knew that it would be madness to attempt to expel the foreigners, especially when at that moment the largest fleet ever assembled in Japanese waters lay off Yokohama. So it would continue to temporize.

At this time a constructive suggestion was made by the American minister, Robert H. Pruyn. On June 27 he forwarded to Mr. Seward a despatch in which he proposed that a naval demonstration be made at Osaka for the sole purpose of securing the Mikado's approval of the treaties.[33] He had at last perceived the absolute necessity of this sanction. Unhappily Great Britain refused to support this proposal[34] and the suggestion was not carried out until two years later.

As the Shogunate still controlled the administration, it believed that it could use the designated date as the time for opening negotiations, instead of expelling the foreigners. But one of the anti-Shogunate (and hence anti-foreign) daimyos of the west determined to take matters into his own hands, and so on the early morning of June 26, the armed ships at Shimonoseki, at the entrance to the Inland Sea, in the territory of the daimyo of Choshiu, fired upon the first foreign ship to come within range, the little American ship Pembroke.[35]

This opened a new and interesting phase of Japanese foreign relations. In turn, Choshiu fired upon a French and a Dutch ship of war, and then foreign shipping avoided the straits. The American minister sent down the Wyoming to destroy the offending vessels, and the French admiral later destroyed some of the batteries. For over a year the foreign ministers discussed the situation at Shimonoseki. The straits were closed by Choshiu, the Shogun was unable to open them, and Choshiu was actually in open rebellion against him. Most of the ministers and their home governments agreed that the opening of the straits was not worth the effort, and Great Britain especially adopted a policy of moderation, after the criticism aroused by the destruction of Kagoshima, the capital of the Satsuma fief, in August, 1863. Choshiu also overreached himself and, after attempting to secure control of the Mikado's person, was ordered to retire from Kyoto.

The weakening of the anti-foreign party, after the loss of Choshiu's leadership, was at once evidenced by the Shogun's withdrawal of the expulsion edict in November, 1863, although he still wished to discuss the closing of the port of Kanagawa. But Sir Rutherford Alcock, the British minister, who returned to his post in March, 1864, took the position that the only safety for foreigners and their interests in Japan lay in the support of the Shogunate, that the court and most of the daimyos were hostile to foreigners, and that an example should be made of some of the trouble-making feudatories. As Choshiu had given cause for punishment, and was still closing the straits, he believed that the blow should fall there.[36] Thus it was that an allied expedition was organized ostensibly to open the straits, but really to crush the leader of the anti-foreign party. Before it finally sailed from Yokohama, the aggressive conduct of Choshiu had lost him his influence with the imperial court and he was actually an outlaw, with the Shogun instructed by the Mikado to carry out measures of reprisal. So the allied fleet, comprising British, French, and Dutch ships of war and a chartered American steamer, which sailed against Choshiu (despite strict orders from the home governments—which arrived too late)[37] was sent to destroy an outlaw prince instead of the masterful leader of the pro-Mikado, anti-Shogun forces.

The batteries at Shimonoseki were destroyed in September, 1864. Choshiu was humbled, and begged for mercy, promising to pay an indemnity to cover the damage he had done, the cost of the allied expedition, and a ransom for the town of Shimonoseki, which might have been destroyed. At Yedo there was suppressed rejoicing. The Shogunate, which had approved of the allied expedition, rejoiced that the Europeans had made the way easy for its own punitive expedition against Choshiu, but it regretted that a Japanese daimyo had made so poor a showing against the foreigners. Moreover, it did not intend to permit direct intercourse between Choshiu, a feudal fief, and the treaty powers. In the negotiations which took place at Yedo and Yokohama and which resulted in the convention of October 22, one of the first points to be raised by the foreign representatives was that the Shogun should secure the Mikado's sanction of the treaties, and a promise was given that every effort would be made to secure this ratification.[38] But this point was not touched upon in the convention, that document being solely concerned with determining the amount to be paid by the Shogun, instead of by Choshiu, for indemnities, ransom, or expenses. This sum was fixed at $3,000,000, and instead of paying part or all of it the Shogun might offer to open Shimonoseki or some other eligible port in the Inland Sea.

Like so many other conventions, that of October 22, 1864, created more difficulties than it settled. The British and American ministers hoped that the Shogun would open a new port in lieu of paying the heavy indemnity, for they were more interested in the development of commerce than in the exaction of a money fine.[39] The Dutch consul-general agreed with them in part but the French minister and his government believed that the money was more to be desired than a prospective improvement in trade. However, as the plans for confiscating some or all of the Choshiu territory had fallen through, because of the opposition of other western lords, the Shogunate decided that it would be better to pay the indemnity than to open a port in territory which it did not own. In announcing this decision, on April 5, 1865, it requested the postponement of the second installment of the indemnity.[40] This request left the door open for argument. The British chargé suggested that a proposal be made to reduce the indemnity in return for opening Hiogo at once, instead of in 1868, and a downward revision of the tariff.[41] On April 25, he developed this idea in a despatch to Earl Russell, this time suggesting that, in addition to the two concessions already mentioned, the written adhesion of the Mikado to the treaties be included, and the three be accepted as equivalent to one-half or two-thirds of the indemnity.[42] This proposal won the approval of Earl Russell and he at once undertook to gain the consent of the other treaty powers.

With the United States he had no difficulty; Holland, while preferring the indemnity, was ready to agree to the British proposal if the other powers would do so; but France flatly refused, asserting "that money was a substantial penalty which once received could not be recalled, whereas permission to trade at Shimonasaki might be rescinded at any moment", and later that the powers had no choice in the matter so long as Japan was willing to pay the indemnity.[43]

But the joint action which Lord Russell could not bring about was finally accomplished by the forceful British representative in Japan. On July 18 Sir Harry Parkes arrived in Yokohama, as the successor of Sir Rutherford Alcock, who had been recalled actually but not ostensibly for violation of instructions in the Shimonoseki affair.[44] Late in October he received a despatch from Lord Russell, penned on August 23, which instructed him "to ascertain the real state of affairs" in Japan, in conjunction with his colleagues and in communication with the roju. This despatch really called for an investigation and a report, but it also pointed out the views of the British Foreign Office. A man of less initiative and assurance would doubtless have followed the letter of his instructions, but Parkes intended to carry out their spirit as well. Wrongly interpreting a statement in one of Russell's despatches to mean that the French foreign minister had agreed that the four representatives in Japan should decide as to whether the three conditions should be accepted as a substitute for two-thirds of the indemnity, he at once summoned his colleagues to a conference.[45] As a matter of fact M. Drouyn de Lhuys had only suggested that the four representatives should decide whether the Shogun should be permitted to postpone the payment of the indemnity installments.[46] On October 26 Parkes easily convinced the French and Dutch representatives of the wisdom of the British proposals. He had the more satisfaction in winning over the former, because M. Roches had specific instructions to insist upon the payment of the indemnity. A memorandum was then agreed upon to the effect that it would be expedient for the representatives to proceed to Osaka and negotiate there with the Tycoon and four of the roju who were then at Kyoto engaged in the preparation of the second punitive expedition against Choshiu. A long preamble was prefixed to this decision with the object of reconciling the divergent instructions of the four representatives.[47] When Mr. Portman, the American chargé, arrived from Yedo on the 30th he promptly signed the memorandum.

This was the second joint naval demonstration to be organized by the foreign diplomats in Japan, and once more they acted contrary to their specific instructions. Although ostensibly a peaceful undertaking, the fleet was a powerful one. The British furnished five vessels, the French three, the Dutch one, and as there was no American ship-of-war available Mr. Portman was invited to join the British frigate Pelorus. The squadron arrived off Hiogo on November 4. The next day letters were sent ashore from the foreign representatives to the Japanese ministers announcing their arrival for the purpose of determining "certain questions of grave importance arising out of the Convention of October 22, 1864". In his letter Sir Harry Parkes stated that he and his colleagues would demand "a prompt and satisfactory settlement of the questions referred to", and emphasized the importance of securing the formal approval of the treaties by the Mikado, while he closed with the suggestive statement that he was accompanied by Admiral King, commander-in-chief of all the naval forces of Her Britannic Majesty in China and Japan, and that his letter was dated from the admiral's flag-ship.[48]

Of course there were no "questions of grave importance" arising out of the Convention of 1864. The Japanese had paid the first installment of the indemnity almost a year before it was due, and they had asked for a delay of a few months in making the second payment. But this request was used as a lever for forcing certain concessions which the treaty powers desired. And the pressure was applied at a most opportune time, for Japan was threatened with civil war because of the Choshiu complications.

In a conference between Abe Bungo-no-Kami and the foreign representatives, on the 11th, it was pointed out that the opening of Hiogo and Osaka had been postponed only on certain conditions as set forth in the London Protocol of 1862, that the conditions had not been kept by Japan, and that hence Great Britain could insist upon the immediate opening of the port and city.[49] Also, the powers would insist upon the punctual payment of the indemnity. Therefore it would be better for the Shogun to grant the three demands of the powers—that Hiogo and Osaka be immediately opened, that the formal consent of the Mikado to the treaties be obtained, that the tariff be reduced to a five per cent. basis—in return for the remission of two-thirds of the indemnity.[50]

Lord Abe agreed that the Shogun had not been able to carry out the conditions of the London Protocol, but explained the difficulties under which he labored and craved the indulgence of the powers. He also maintained that the opening of Hiogo and Osaka was out of the question at the present time, whereupon the ministers replied that if the Shogun would not open Hiogo then the powers might insist upon it under the treaties of 1858, and it was even suggested that there was nothing in the treaties to prevent them from opening trade with the daimyos at their own ports. This was an indefensible position, taken to frighten the Shogunate into submission, for nothing would be more dangerous at this time than for the foreigners to supply munitions and armaments directly to Choshiu and other western daimyos.

On the 14th a second interview took place, in which two lesser officials announced that the Tycoon agreed to the justice of the representatives' demands, especially as to the ratification of the treaties, but that it would take time to convince the Mikado, and that a delay of fifteen days should be granted. In reply the representatives said that at most they would wait for eight or ten days, and in order to hasten the decision of the Shogun they added that in the interval they might visit Shimonoseki or other places in the Inland Sea, which they knew the Shogun would be most anxious to prevent.[51]

In Kyoto there was great excitement. The leading Shogunate officials urged the court to ratify the treaties, lest war between Japan and the allied powers ensue.[52] But the conservatives were not easily convinced. This proceeding would rob them of their mightiest weapon against the Shogunate. On the 19th Lord Abe and Lord Matsumai were dismissed from the roju on orders from the Mikado. This news reached the representatives, and they were convinced that a conservative reaction had set in at Kyoto. So they sent identic notes to the Tycoon, which were delivered in Kyoto on the 23d, to the effect that if a categorical reply to the proposals were not made in writing within the allotted ten days, which would expire on the 24th, they would consider "that its absence denotes a formal refusal of our conditions on your Majesty's part, and we shall, in that case, be free to act as we may judge convenient".[53]

This scarcely veiled threat produced an immediate effect. On the afternoon of the 24th a member of the roju, and other Japanese officials, came aboard the flag-ship to announce that the Mikado had ratified the treaties, that the Tycoon had agreed to the downward revision of the tariff, but that instead of opening Hiogo and Osaka, the Tycoon would pay the full amount of the Shimonoseki indemnity.[54]

The Osaka demonstration won for the powers two of their three demands without their yielding a penny of the indemnity. The refusal to open Hiogo and Osaka was a small loss, for these cities would be opened in any case on January 1, 1868. The tariff was revised by the Yedo Convention of June 25, 1866, and remained in force until the treaties of 1894, in spite of all the Japanese efforts for revision after 1872. But the most important of the concessions was the Mikado's ratification of the treaties. It was a great pity that this fundamental act was coupled with a tariff revision for the benefit of the commercial powers.

With the Mikado's sanction of the treaties of 1858–1861, it no longer became the patriotic duty of loyal Japanese to strive for the expulsion and extermination of the foreigners. For the first time in seven years, foreign affairs were divorced from domestic politics. On the one hand, all Japanese were free to take advantage of the material and moral contributions of the West, and on the other the treaty powers were freed from a dangerous dependence upon the Shogunate. Up to this time, as Alcock so often pointed out, the Shogun was the strong support of the treaties, and with his power their maintenance was inextricably involved. But with the Mikado's sanction, the foreign treaties had behind them the rapidly increasing prestige of the Emperor. Hence the supporters of the imperial house realized, as Satsuma had realized in 1863 and Choshiu in 1864, that it was eminently advisable to be pro-Mikado and pro-foreign at the same time, to use foreign materials to beat down the Shogunate, whereas up to this time the Shogunate had largely profited through foreign intercourse. This good understanding with the imperial court made it easy, in 1868, when the Shogun had resigned, and civil war broke out, for the treaty powers to open direct relations with the restored Mikado. If the ratification had not taken place in 1865, or at some time before the civil war, it is quite possible to believe that some, if not all of the treaty powers, would have at once gone to the aid of the Shogunate forces—as the French minister actually proposed—and thus become involved in a terrible civil war between the supporters of the Mikado and those of the Shogun. As it was, a measure of suspicion lingered for some years, the imperialists suspecting the powers which had been so closely associated with the Shogunate, and some of the powers believing that the new imperial government might be anti-foreign as the old Kyoto court had been.

From every point of view, therefore, the ratification of the treaties of 1858 by the Mikado becomes a subject well worth careful study. Every event in the relations between Japan and the foreign powers from 1858 until 1865 was affected by this question. Once it is understood and appreciated, much that seemed unintelligible to the diplomats of that troubled period now seems measurably clear.

  1. For a more detailed study of the period see Treat, Early Diplomatic Relations between the United States and Japan, 1853–1865.
  2. Gubbins, Progress of Japan, 1853–1871, pp. 71, 269; Satoh, Agitated Japan: the Life of Baron Ii Kamon-no-Kami Naosuke, p. 5; Akimoto, Lord Ii Naosuke and New Japan, p. 113.
  3. Parl. Papers, 1866, LXXVI. [3615], p. 4; Senate Ex. Doc. 59, p. 79, 32 Cong., 1 sess., serial 620.
  4. Gubbins, Progress of Japan, p. 92.
  5. Ibid., p. 100.
  6. The gradual weakening of the Tokugawa Shogunate in the preceding century cannot be considered here. The process was accelerated with the coming of Commodore Perry and the problems then presented.
  7. For a Japanese record of Harris's arguments see U. S. For. Rel., 1879, pp. 620–636, serial 1902.
  8. Griffis, Life of Townsend Harris, p. 288.
  9. Satoh, Life of Lord Hotta, pp. 69–71.
  10. Ibid., pp. 73–79.
  11. The princely houses of Mito, Owari, and Kii.
  12. Satoh, Life of Lord Hotta, pp. 84–85.
  13. Griffis, Life of Townsend Harris, p. 314.
  14. Akimoto, Lord Ii Naosuke, p. 159.
  15. Satoh, Agitated Japan, pp. 74, 88–89. Akimoto, Lord Ii Naosuke, p. 154.
  16. Satoh, Agitated Japan, p. 93.
  17. Satow, Japan, 1853–1864, pp. 31–34.
  18. Satow, in Cambridge Modern History, XI. 838.
  19. Satoh, Agitated Japan, pp. 115–116.
  20. U. S. For. Rel., 1864, III. 484, serial 1218.
  21. Parl. Papers, 1861, LXVI. [2829], correspondence respecting affairs in Japan, p. 55.
  22. U. S. For. Rel., 1863, II. 1035, serial 1181.
  23. Alcock, The Capital of the Tycoon, II. 132.
  24. Parl. Papers, 1862, LXIV. [2929], correspondence respecting affairs in Japan, p. 31.
  25. Parl. Papers, 1863, LXXIV. [3079], pp. 15–22.
  26. U. S. For. Rel., 1863, II. 1035, serial 1181.
  27. Satow, Japan, 1853–1864, p. 58. Satow, Kinse Shiriaku, p. 29. In this version no choice is mentioned.
  28. Parl. Papers, 1864, LXVI. [3242], pp. 35–44.
  29. U. S. For. Rel., 1863, II. 1092–1098, serial 1181.
  30. Ibid., pp. 1114–1115.
  31. Satow, Japan, 1853–1864, p. 87. Parl. Papers, 1864, LXVI. [3242], p. 68.
  32. U. S. For. Rel., 1863, II. 1120, serial 1181.
  33. U. S. For. Rel., 1863, II. 1125, serial 1181.
  34. Ibid., I. 420, lviii–lix, serial 1180.
  35. U. S. For. Rel., 1863, II. 1129–1137, serial 1181.
  36. See his despatches in Parl. Papers, 1865, LVII. [3428].
  37. Ibid., pp. 45, 56, 57. U. S. For. Rel., 1864, III. 594, serial 1218.
  38. Parl. Papers, 1865, LVII. [3428], pp. 122–125, 129–130. U. S. For. Rel., 1864, III. 559–560, 567–575, serial 1218.
  39. U. S. For. Rel., 1864, III. 582, serial 1218. Parl. Papers, 1865, LVII. [3428], p. 137.
  40. U. S. For. Rel., 1865, III. 247, serial 1246.
  41. Parl. Papers, 1866, LXXVI. [3615], p. 15.
  42. Ibid., p. 19.
  43. Ibid., pp. 1, 29, 30, 31, 48.
  44. Lane-Poole, Life of Sir Harry Parkes, I. 478.
  45. Parl. Papers, 1866, LXXVI. [3615], p. 63.
  46. Ibid., p. 30.
  47. U. S. For. Rel., 1865, III. 266–267, serial 1246.
  48. Parl. Papers, 1866, LXXVI. [3615], p. 78.
  49. The representatives had no instructions to raise this point. Russell had proposed it to the powers in July 12, 1865, but no agreement was reached. Parl. Papers, 1866, LXXVI. [3615], p. 21.
  50. U. S. For. Rel., 1865, III. 268–272, serial 1246.
  51. U. S. For. Rel., 1865, III. 272–274, serial 1246.
  52. Note the Shogun's memorial to the Mikado, in Adams, History of Japan, II. 24–27.
  53. Parl. Papers, 1866, LXXVI. [3615], pp. 82–85.
  54. Ibid., p. 86.

    The above survey of the effort to secure the Mikado's ratification of the treaties indicates how carelessly Captain Brinkley has treated this question in his excellent History of the Japanese People, p. 675. "While things were at this stage, Sir Harry Parkes, representative of Great Britain, arrived upon the scene in the Far East. A man of remarkably luminous judgment and military methods, this distinguished diplomatist appreciated almost immediately that the ratification of the treaties by the sovereign was essential to their validity, and that by investing the ratification with all possible formality, the Emperor's recovery of administrative power might be accelerated. He therefore conceived the idea of repairing to Hyogo with a powerful naval squadron for the purpose", etc. As a matter of fact, Parkes merely carried out what Mr. Pruyn and Mr. Winchester had proposed.

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