Opening Of Japan
Author: Perry, Matthew C.
Opening Of Japan
In view of the events that have followed, the ending of Japan's
self-isolation and the opening of that country, first to American commerce,
and later to world-wide intercourse, must now be regarded as an achievement of
momentous consequence, far exceeding in importance all that even the most
prophetic statesmanship of the time could foresee.
Under the shoguns (or military chiefs) who after the seventh century
overshadowed the hereditary rulers, the Mikados, there grew up in Japan a
feudal system whereby the generals, recognized as overlords, increased and
perpetuated their power. The attempts in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries to introduce Christianity were met with resistance and persecution,
and ended in failure. In the same centuries Japan traded with the Portuguese,
but excluded them in 1638. After this the Japanese isolation was complete,
except for restricted trade with the Dutch, until the conclusion of Commodore
About the middle of the nineteenth century a large amount of American
capital was invested in the whaling industry in Japanese and Chinese waters,
and one motive for the sending of Perry's expedition to Japan was the
protection of the whalers. Other things leading to that step were: the
discovery of gold in California; the growth of industrial and commercial
centres on the Pacific Coast of the United States; increasing trade with
China; and the development of steam-navigation, necessitating coaling-stations
and ports for shelter in the Orient. At the same time progressive minds in
Japan were advancing in knowledge of Western science and political affairs;
thus the East and the West were almost prepared for a change in their mutual
In 1851 the United States Government empowered Commodore John H. Aulick
to negotiate and sign commercial treaties with Japan. On the eve of his
intended departure he was prevented from sailing, and in the following year
Commodore Matthew C. Perry, brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of Lake
Erie, succeeded to his mission. He was invested with extraordinary naval and
diplomatic powers, his immediate object being to establish a coaling-station
in Japan. On November 24, 1852, he sailed from Norfolk with the Mississippi,
leaving other ships to follow as soon as ready. With his squadron he entered
the Bay of Tokio (then called Yedo) in July, 1853, causing great commotion
among the inhabitants of the Japanese capital, who mistook his appearance for
a hostile approach. It required both firmness and tact on Perry's part to
open friendly communication and present his proposals; but he succeeded in
doing so much, and then, saying that in the following spring he would come for
an answer, he withdrew to China. In February, 1854, he returned to Tokio with
a fleet of eight vessels. After some parley, the Japanese authorities agreed
to a conference at Kanagawa, a seaport adjoining Yokohama. Of the
negotiations that followed and the treaty in which they resulted, the
following pages tell, and Commodore Perry's own account is the best record of
his distinguished service not only to his own country and Japan, but likewise
to the civilized world.
After concessions made by the Japanese, the greatest good feeling
prevailed on both sides, and there seemed every prospect of establishing those
national relations which had been the purpose of Commodore Perry's mission.
In accordance with the harmony and friendship that existed, there was an
interchange of those courtesies by which mutual good feeling seeks an outward
expression. The Japanese had acknowledged with courtly thanks the presents
that had been bestowed in behalf of the Government, and now, on March 24th,
invited the Commodore to receive the various gifts that had been ordered by
the Emperor in return, as a public recognition of the courtesy of the United
The Commodore, accordingly, landed at Yokohama, with a suite of officers
and his interpreters, and was received at the treaty-house with the usual
ceremonies by the high commissioners. The large reception-room was crowded
with the presents. The objects were of Japanese manufacture, and consisted of
specimens of rich brocades and silks; of their famous lacquered ware, such as
chow-chow boxes, tables, trays, and goblets, all skilfully wrought and
finished with an exquisite polish; of porcelain cups of wonderful lightness
and transparency, adorned with figures and flowers in gold and variegated
colors, and exhibiting a workmanship that surpassed even that of the ware for
which the Chinese are remarkable. Fans, pipe-cases, and articles of apparel
in ordinary use, of no great value but of exceeding interest, were scattered
among the more luxurious and costly objects.
With the usual order and neatness that seem almost instinctive with the
Japanese, the various presents had been arranged in lots, and classified in
accordance with the rank of those for whom they were respectively intended.
The commissioners took their positions at the farther end of the room, and
when the Commodore and his suite entered, the ordinary compliments having been
interchanged, the Prince Hayashi read aloud, in Japanese, the list of presents
and the names of the persons to whom they were to be given. This was then
translated by Yenoske into Dutch, and by Mr. Portman into English. This
ceremony being over, the Commodore was invited by the commissioners into the
inner room, where he was presented with two complete sets of Japanese coins,
three matchlocks, and two swords. These gifts, though of no great intrinsic
value, were significant evidences of the desire of the Japanese to express
their respect for the representative of the United States. The mere bestowal
of the coins, in direct opposition to the Japanese laws which absolutely
forbid all issue of their money beyond the Kingdom, was an act of marked
As the Commodore prepared to depart, the commissioners said there was one
article intended for the President, which had not yet been exhibited. They
accordingly conducted the Commodore and his officers to the beach, where one
or two hundred sacks of rice were pointed out, heaped up in readiness to be
sent on board the ships. As that immense supply of substantial food seemed to
excite some wonder on the part of the Americans, Yenoske the interpreter
remarked that it was always customary with the Japanese, when bestowing royal
presents, to include a certain quantity of rice, although he did not say
whether the quantity always amounted, as on the present occasion, to hundreds
While contemplating these substantial evidences of Japanese generosity,
the attention of all was suddenly riveted upon twenty-five monstrous fellows
who tramped down the beach like so many huge elephants. They were
professional wrestlers and formed part of the retinue of the princes, who kept
them for their private amusement and for public entertainment. They were
enormously tall, and tremendously heavy. Their scant costume, which was
merely a colored cloth about the loins, adorned with fringes and emblazoned
with the armorial bearings of the prince to whom each belonged, revealed their
gigantic proportions in all the bloated fulness of fat and extent of muscle.
Two or three of these huge monsters were the most famous wrestlers in
Japan and ranked as the champion Tom Cribbs and Sayers of the country.
Koyanagi, the reputed bully of the capital, was one of them, and paraded
himself with the conscious pride of superior size and strength. He was
especially brought to the Commodore that he might examine his massive form.
The commissioners insisted that the monstrous fellow should be minutely
inspected, that the hardness of his well-rounded muscle should be felt, and
that the fatness of his cushioned frame should be tested by the touch. The
Commodore accordingly attempted to grasp his arm, which he found as solid as
it was huge, and then passed his hand over the monstrous neck, which fell in
folds of massive flesh, like the dewlap of a prize ox. As some surprise was
naturally expressed at this wondrous exhibition of animal development the
monster himself gave a grunt expressive of his flattered vanity.
They were so enormously big that they appeared to have lost their
distinctive features, and seemed to be only twenty-five masses of fat. Their
eyes were barely visible through a long perspective of socket, the prominence
of their noses was lost in the puffiness of their bloated cheeks, and their
heads were set almost directly on their bodies with merely folds of flesh
where the neck and chin are usually found. Their great size, however, was
more owing to development of muscle than to deposition of fat; for, although
they were evidently well fed, they were not less well exercised, and capable
of great feats of strength.
As a preliminary exhibition of the power of these men, the princes set
them to removing the sacks of rice to a convenient place on the shore for
shipping. Each of the sacks weighed not less than one hundred twenty-five
pounds, and there were only two of the wrestlers who did not carry each two
sacks at a time. They bore the sacks on the right shoulder, lifting the first
from the ground and adjusting it without help, but obtaining aid for the
raising of the second. One man carried a sack suspended by his teeth, and
another, taking one in his arms, turned repeated somersaults as he held it,
apparently with as much ease as if his weight of flesh had been only so much
gossamer and his load a feather.
[See Rice Planting]
After this preliminary display, the commissioners proposed that the
Commodore and his party should retire to the treaty-house, where they would
have an opportunity of seeing the wrestlers exhibit their professional feats.
From the brutal performance of these wrestlers, the Americans turned with
pride to the exhibition - to which the Japanese commissioners were now in
their turn invited - of the telegraph and the railroad. It was a happy
contrast, which a higher civilization presented, to the disgusting display on
the part of the Japanese officials. In place of the show of brute animal
force there was a triumphant revelation, to a partially enlightened people, of
the success of science and enterprise.
The Japanese took great delight in seeing the rapid movement of the
Liliputian locomotive; and one of the scribes of the commissioners took his
seat upon the car, while the engineer stood upon the tender, feeding the
furnace with one hand, and directing the diminutive engine with the other.
Crowds of the Japanese gathered round and looked on the repeated circlings of
the train with unabated pleasure and surprise, unable to repress a shout of
delight at each blast of the steam-whistle. The telegraph, with its wonders,
though before witnessed, still created renewed interest, and all the beholders
were unceasing in their expressions of curiosity and astonishment. The
agricultural instruments having been explained to the commissioners by Doctor
Morrow, a formal delivery of the telegraph, the railway, and other articles,
which made up the list of American presents, ensued.
The Prince of Mamasaki had been delegated by his coadjutors ceremoniously
to accept, and Captain Adams was appointed by the Commodore to deliver, the
gifts; and each performed his functions by an interchange of compliments and a
half-dozen stately bows.
After this, a detachment of marines from the squadron were put through
their various evolutions, while the bands furnished martial music. The
Japanese commissioners seemed to take a very great interest in this military
display, and expressed themselves much gratified at the soldierly air and
excellent discipline of the men. This closed the performances of the day.
The next day (March 25th), Yenoske, accompanied by Kenzeiro, his
fellow-interpreter, came on board the Powhatan to acknowledge formally, in
behalf of the commissioners, their gratitude for the exhibition of the
marines, the locomotive, and the telegraph, with all which they declared
themselves highly delighted. Yenoske and his coadjutor were invited to seat
themselves in the cabin of the Commodore, and, after some expressions of
courtesy which the Japanese officials were careful never to intermit, proposed
to talk over some points in connection with the projected treaty. The
Commodore said he had no objections to the discussion of the matters
informally; but he protested against considering the interpreters as the
official representatives of the commissioners, with the latter of whom only,
he declared, could he treat authoritatively.
Monday, March 27th, was the day appointed for the entertainment to which
the Commodore had invited the commissioners and their attendants. Accordingly,
great arrangements were made in the flagship preparatory to the occasion. The
quarter-deck was adorned with a great variety of flags, and all parts of the
steamer were in perfect order, while the officers, marines, and men dressed
themselves in their uniforms and prepared to do honor in every respect to
their expected visitors. As it was known that the strictness of Japanese
etiquette would not allow the high commissioners to sit the same table with
their subordinates, the Commodore ordered two banquets, one to be spread in
his cabin for the chief dignitaries, and another on the quarter-deck.
Previous to coming on board the Powhatan, the commissioners visited the
sloop-of-war Macedonian, being saluted as they stepped on her deck by
seventeen guns from the Mississippi lying near. The great guns and boarders
having been exercised for their entertainment, the commissioners, with their
numerous attendants, left for the Powhatan, the Macedonian firing a salvo in
their honor as they took their departure. On arriving on board the flagship,
they were first conducted through the different departments of the steamer,
and examined with minute interest the guns and the machinery. A boat was
lowered, with a howitzer in its bows, and this was repeatedly discharged, much
to their amusement; for they evidently had a great fondness for martial
exercise and display. The engines were next put in motion, and they evinced
the usual intelligence of the higher class of Japanese in their inquiries and
The Commodore had invited the four captains of the squadron, his
interpreter, Mr. Williams, and his secretary, to join the commissioners at his
table. Yenoske, the Japanese interpreter, was allowed the privilege, as a
special condescension on the part of his superiors, to sit at a side-table in
the cabin, where his humble position did not seem to disturb either his
equanimity or his appetite. Hayashi, who always preserved his grave and
dignified bearing, ate and drank sparingly, but tasted of every dish, and
sipped of every kind of wine. He was the only one, in fact, whose sobriety
was proof against the unrestrained conviviality that prevailed among his
The Japanese party upon deck, who were entertained by a large body of
officers from the various ships, became quite uproarious under the influence
of overflowing supplies of champagne, Madeira, and punch, which they seemed
greatly to relish. The Japanese took the lead in proposing healths and
toasts, and were by no means the most backward in drinking them. They kept
shouting at the top of their voices, and were heard far above the music of the
bands that enlivened the entertainment by a succession of brisk and cheerful
tunes. In the eagerness of the Japanese appetite there was but little
discrimination in the choice of dishes and in the order of courses, and the
most startling heterodoxy was exhibited in the confused commingling of fish,
flesh, and fowl, soups and syrups, fruits, fricassees, roast and boiled,
pickles and preserves. As a most generous supply had been provided, there
were still some remnants of the feast left after the guests had satisfied
their voracity, which most of these Japanese, in accordance with their custom,
stowed away about their persons to carry off. The Japanese always have an
abundant supply of paper within the left bosom of their loose robes, in a
capacious pocket. This is used for various purposes; one species, as soft as
our cotton cloth, and withal exceedingly tough, is used for a handkerchief;
another furnishes the material for taking notes, or for wrapping up what is
left a feast. On the present occasion, when the dinner was over, all the
Japanese guests simultaneously spread out their long folds of paper, and
gathering what scraps they could lay their hands on, without regard to the
kind of food, made up an envelope of conglomerate eatables in which there was
such a confusion of the sour and sweet, the albuminous, oleaginous, and
saccharine, that the chemistry of Liebig or the practised taste of the
Commodore's Parisian cook would never have reached a satisfactory analysis.
They not only always followed this practice themselves, but insisted that
their American guests, when entertained at a Japanese feast, should adopt it
also. Whenever the Commodore and his officers were feasted on shore, paper
parcels of the remnants were thrust into their hands on leaving.
After the banquet the Japanese were entertained by an exhibition of negro
minstrelsy, got up by some of the sailors. The gravity of the saturnine
Hayashi was not proof against the grotesque exhibition, and even he joined in
the general hilarity. It was now sunset and the Japanese prepared to depart,
with quite as much wine in them as they could well bear. The jovial Matsusaki
threw his arms about the Commodore's neck, crushing in his tipsy embrace a
pair of new epaulettes, and repeating, in Japanese, with maudlin affection,
these words, as interpreted into English: "Nippon and America, all the same
heart." He then went toddling into his boat, supported by some of his more
steady companions, and soon all the happy party had left the ships and were
making rapidly for the shore. The Saratoga fired the salute of seventeen guns
as the last boat pulled off from the Powhatan, and the squadron was once more
left in the usual quiet of ordinary ship's duty.
The following day the Commodore landed to have a conference in regard to
the remaining points of the treaty, previous to signing. He was met at the
treaty-house by the commissioners. As soon as the Commodore had taken his
seat, a letter was handed to him, which the Japanese said they had just
received from Simoda. It was from Commander Pope, and had been transmitted
through the authorities overland. Its contents gave a satisfactory report of
Simoda, and the Commodore at once said he accepted that port, but declared
that it must be opened without delay. Hakodate, he added, would do for the
other, and Napha, in Riu Kiu [Loo Choo Islands], could be retained for the
third. In regard to the other two he was willing, he said, to postpone their
consideration to some other time.
The Commodore now proposed to sign the agreement in regard to the three
ports, and directed his interpreter to read it in Dutch. When the document
had been thus read and afterward carefully perused by the Japanese, they said
they were prepared to concur in everything except as to the immediate opening
of Simoda. After discussion, it was finally settled that, though the port
might be opened, the Japanese would address a note to the Commodore, saying
that not everything which might be wanting by ships would be furnished there
before the expiration of ten months, but that wood and water and whatever else
the place possessed would be supplied immediately; and to this note the
Commodore promised to reply and express his satisfaction with such an
The question now came up with respect to the extent of privileges to be
granted to Americans who might visit, Simoda, in the discussion of which it
was plain that the Japanese meant to be distinctly understood as prohibiting
absolutely, at least for the present, the permanent residence of Americans,
with their families, in Japan. The distance, also, to which Americans might
extend their excursions into the country around the ports of Simoda and
Hakodate was settled; and it is observable that, at the special request of the
Japanese, the Commodore named the distance, they assenting at once to that
which he mentioned.
The proposition to have consular agents residing in Japan evidently gave
great anxiety to the commissioners. The Commodore was firm in saying there
must be such agents, for the sake of the Japanese themselves as well as for
that of his own countrymen, and it was finally conceded that there should be
one, to live at Simoda, and that he should not be appointed until a year and
eighteen months from the date of the treaty.
Two more articles, including the new points that had been discussed, were
now added to the transcript of the proposed treaty; the Japanese promised to
bring on board the Powhatan next day a copy in Dutch of their understanding of
the agreement as far as concurred in, and the Commodore departed.
In the next two days several notes passed between the Commodore and the
Japanese commissioners, in the course of which various questions that had been
already considered were definitely settled; and the American interpreters were
occupied, in cooperation with the Japanese, in drawing up the treaty in the
Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese languages. On the 29th the ships Vandalia and
Southampton arrived from Simoda with the confirmation of what Commander Pope
had already said in his despatch - which had been transmitted by the Japanese
authorities, overland, to the Commodore - namely, that the harbor and town of
Simoda had been found, on examination, suitable in every respect for the
purposes of the Americans. All was now in readiness for the final signing of
Accordingly, on Friday, March 31, 1854, the Commodore went to the
treaty-house with his usual attendants, and immediately on his arrival signed
three several drafts of the treaty written in the English language, and
delivered them to the commissioners, together with three copies of the same in
the Dutch and Chinese languages, certified by the interpreters, Messrs.
Williams and Portman, for the United States. At the same time the Japanese
commissioners, in behalf of their Government, handed to the Commodore three
drafts of the treaty written respectively in the Japanese, Chinese, and Dutch
languages, and signed by the four of their body delegated by the Emperor for
Immediately on the signing and exchange of the copies of the treaty, the
Commodore presented the first commissioner, Prince Hayashi, with an American
flag, remarking that he considered it the highest expression of national
courtesy and friendship he could offer. The Prince was evidently deeply
impressed with this significant mark of amity, and returned his thanks for it
with indications of great feeling. The Commodore then presented the other
dignitaries with the various gifts he had especially reserved for them. All
formal business being now concluded, to the satisfaction of both parties, the
Japanese commissioners invited the Commodore and his officers to partake of an
entertainment prepared for the occasion.
The tables were spread in the large reception hall. These were wide
divans, such as were used for seats, and of the same height. They were
covered with a red-colored crape, and arranged in order according to the rank
of the guests and their hosts, an upper table raised somewhat above the rest
being appropriated to the Commodore, his superior officers, and the
commissioners. When all were seated the servitors brought in a rapid
succession of courses, consisting chiefly of thick soups, or rather stews, in
most of which fresh fish was a component part. These were served in small
earthen bowls or cups, and were brought in upon lacquered stands, about
fourteen inches square and ten inches high, and placed, one before each guest,
upon the tables. Together with each dish was a supply of soy some other
condiment, while throughout there was an abundant quantity, served in peculiar
vessels, of the Japanese national liquor, the sake, a sort of whiskey
distilled from rice. Various sweetened confections and a multiplicity of
cakes were liberally interspersed among the other articles on the tables.
Toward the close of the feast, a plate containing a broiled crawfish, a piece
of fried fish of some kind, two or three boiled shrimps, and a small square
pudding with something of the consistence of blancmange, was placed before
each, with a hint that they were to follow the guests on their return to the
ships, and they were accordingly sent and duly received afterward.
After the feast, which passed pleasantly and convivially, compliments
being freely exchanged, and healths drunk in Liliputian cups of sake, the
commissioners expressed great anxiety about the proposed visit of the
Commodore to Yedo. They earnestly urged him not to take his ships any farther
up the bay, as they said it would lead to trouble by which the populace might
be disturbed and their own lives perhaps jeoparded. The Commodore argued the
matter with them for some time, and, as they still pertinaciously urged their
objections to his visit to the capital, it was agreed that the subject should
be further discussed by an interchange of notes. The meeting then broke up.
When it was determined by our Government to send an expedition to Japan,
those in authority were not unmindful of the peculiar characteristics of that
singular nation. Unlike all other civilized peoples, it was in a state of
voluntary, long-continued, and determined isolation. It neither desired nor
sought communication with the rest of the world, but, on the contrary, strove
to the uttermost to prevent it. It was comparatively an easy task to propose,
to any Power the ports of which were freely visited by ships from every part
of the world, the terms of a commercial treaty. But not so when, by any
Power, commerce itself was interdicted. Before general conditions of commerce
could be proposed to such a Power, it was necessary to settle the great
preliminary that commerce would be allowed at all. Again, if that preliminary
was settled affirmatively, a second point of great moment remained to be
discussed, viz., to what degree shall intercourse for trading be extended?
Among nations accustomed to the usages of Christendom, the principles and
extent of national comity in the interchanges of commercial transactions have
been so long and so well defined and understood that, as between them, the
term "commercial treaty" needs no explanation; its meaning is comprehended
alike by all, and in its stipulations it may cover the very broad extent that
includes everything involved in the operations of commerce between two
maritime nations. But in a kingdom which, in its polity, expressly ignored
commerce and repudiated it as an evil instead of a good, it was necessary to
lay the very foundation as well as to adjust the terms.
Hence the instructions to Commodore Perry covered broad ground, and his
letters of credence conformed to his instructions. If he found the Japanese
disposed to abandon, at once and forever, their deliberately adopted plan of
non-intercourse with foreigners (an event most unlikely), his powers were
ample to make with them a commercial treaty as wide and general as any we have
with the nations of Europe. If they were disposed to relax but in part their
jealous and suspicious system, formally to profess relations of friendship,
and, opening some only of their ports to our vessels, to allow a trade in
those ports between their people and ours, he was authorized to negotiate for
this purpose, and secure for his country such privileges as he could, not
inconsistent with the self-respect which, as a nation, we owed to ourselves.
It must not be forgotten, in the contemplation of what was accomplished, that
our representative went to a people who, at the time of his arrival among
them, had, both by positive law and usage of more than two hundred years,
allowed but one of their harbors, Nagasaki, to be opened to foreigners at all;
had permitted no trade with such foreigners when they did come, except, under
stringent regulations, with the Dutch and the Chinese; were in the habit of
communicating with the world outside of them at second-hand only, through the
medium of the Dutch who were imprisoned at Dezima; and a people who, as far as
we know, never made a formal treaty with a civilized nation in the whole
course of their history.
There were but two points on which the Commodore's instructions did not
allow him a large discretion to be exercised according to circumstances. These
were, first, that if happily any arrangements for trade, either general or
special, were made, it was to be distinctly stipulated that, under no
circumstances and in no degree, would the Americans submit to the humiliating
treatment so long borne by the Dutch in carrying on their trade. The citizens
of our country must be dealt with as freemen, or there should be no dealings
at all. The second point was that, in the event of any of our countrymen
being cast, in God's providence, as shipwrecked men on the coast of Japan,
they should not be treated as prisoners, confined in cages, or subjected to
inhuman treatment, but should be received with kindness and hospitably cared
for until they could leave the country.
The nearest approach to a precedent was to be found in our treaty with
China, made in 1844. This therefore was carefully studied by the Commodore.
Its purport was "a treaty or general convention of peace, amity, and
commerce," and to settle the rules to "be mutually observed in the intercourse
of the respective countries." So far as "commerce" is concerned, it permitted
"the citizens of the United States to frequent" five ports in China "and to
reside with their families and trade there, and to proceed at pleasure with
their vessels and merchandise to or from any foreign port, and from either of
the said five ports to enter any other of them." As to duties on articles
imported, they were to pay according to a tariff that was made part of the
treaty, and in no case were to be subjected to higher duties than those paid,
under similar circumstances, by the people of other nations. Consuls were
provided for, to reside at the five open ports, and those trading there were
"permitted to import from their own or any other ports into China, and sell
there and purchase therein, and export to their own or any other ports, all
manner of merchandise of which the importation or exportation was not
prohibited by the treaty." In short, so far as the five ports were concerned,
there existed between us and China a general treaty of commerce.
The Commodore caused to be prepared, in the Chinese characters, a
transcript of the treaty, with such verbal alterations as would make it
applicable to Japan, with the view of exhibiting it to the Imperial
commissioners of that country should he be so successful as to open
negotiations. He was not sanguine enough to hope that could procure an entire
adoption of the Chinese treaty by the Japanese. He was not ignorant of the
difference in national characteristics between the inhabitants of China and
the more independent, self-reliant, and sturdy natives of the Japanese
islands. He knew that the latter held the former in some degree of contempt
and treated them in the matter of trade very much as they treated the Dutch.
He was also aware that the Chinese, when they made their treaty, did know
something of the advantages that might result from intercourse with the rest
of the world; while as to the Japanese, in their long-continued isolation,
either they neither knew nor desired such advantages, or, if they knew them,
feared they might be purchased at too high a price in the introduction of
foreigners, who, as in the case of the Portuguese, centuries before, might
seek to overturn the empire. It was too much, therefore, to expect that the
Japanese would in all the particulars of a treaty imitate the Chinese.
Of the difficulties encountered, even after the Japanese had consented to
negotiate, the best account may be given from the conferences and discussions
between the negotiators, of all which most accurate reports were kept on both
sides, in the form of dialogue. At the first meeting of the Commodore with
the Imperial commissioners, on March 8th, he acted on the plan he had proposed
to himself with respect to the treaty with China, and thus addressed them:
Commodore Perry. I think it would be better for the two nations that a
treaty similar to the one between my country and the Chinese should be made
between us. I have prepared the draft of one almost identical with our treaty
with China. I have been sent here by my Government to make a treaty with
yours; if I do not succeed now, my Government will probably send more ships
here; but I hope we shall soon settle matters amicably.
Japanese. We wish for time to have the document translated into the
This was but one among a hundred proofs of their extreme suspicion and
caution; for there was not one of the Imperial commissioners, probably, who
could not have read, without the least difficulty, the document as furnished
by the Commodore; and certain it is that their interpreters could have read it
off into Japanese at once.
The Commodore, who wished to do as far as possible everything that might
conciliate, of course made no objection to a request so seemingly reasonable,
though he knew it to be needless, and was content to wait patiently for their
reply. In one week that reply came in writing, and was very explicit: "As to
opening a trade, such as is now carried on by China with your country, we
certainly cannot yet bring it about. The feelings and manners of our people
are very unlike those of other nations, and it will be exceedingly difficult,
even if you wish it, to change immediately the old regulations for those of
other countries. Moreover, the Chinese have long had intercourse with Western
nations, while we have had dealings at Nagasaki with only the people of
Holland and China."
This answer was not entirely unexpected, and put an end to all prospect
of negotiating a "commercial treaty" in the European sense of that phrase. It
only remained therefore to secure, for the present, admission into the
kingdom, and so much of trade as Japanese jealousy could be brought to
concede. At length, after much and oft-repeated discussion, the point was
yielded that certain ports might be opened to our vessels; and then, in the
interview of March 25th, came up the subject of consuls.
Japanese. About the appointment of consuls or agents, the commissioners
desire a delay of four or five years, to see how the intercourse works. The
governor of the town and the official interpreter will be able to carry on all
the business of supplying provisions, coal, and needed articles, with the
captain, without the intervention of a consul.
Perry. The duties of a consul are to report all difficulties that arise
between American citizens and Japanese to his Government in an authentic
manner, assist the Japanese in carrying out their laws and the provisions of
the treaty and recovering debts made by the Americans; and also communicating
to the Government at Washington whatever the Japanese wish, as no letters can
be received after this through the Dutch; and if no consuls are received, then
a ship-of-war must remain in Japan constantly, and her captain must do the
duties of a consul.
Japanese. If we had not felt great confidence in you, we should not have
consented to open our ports at all. Consuls may be accepted by and by, after
experience has shown their need; and we hope that all American citizens obey
the laws of their country and behave properly.
Perry. True, and I hope no difficulty will arise; and this appointment of
consuls in Japan, as they are in China, Hawaii, everywhere else, is to prevent
and provide for difficulties. No American will report his own misdeeds to his
own Government, nor can the Japanese bring them to our notice except through a
government agent. This provision must be in the treaty, though I will
stipulate for only one, to reside at Simoda, and he will not be sent probably
for a year or two from this time.
And thus it was that the Commodore had to explain everything and feel his
way, step by step, in the progress of the whole negotiation.
Japanese. The commissioners wish every point desired by the Admiral to be
stated clearly, for the Japanese are not equal to the Americans, and have not
much to give in exchange.
Perry. I have already stated all my views as regards our intercourse, in
the draft of the treaty you have. [This was one prepared by the Commodore
after the rejection of the transcript of the Chinese treaty.] Let the
commissioners state their objections to it. This treaty now to be made is
only a beginning; and as the nations know each other, the Japanese will permit
Americans to go anywhere, to Fujiyama - all over the country.
Japanese. We have found restrictions necessary against the Portuguese and
Then followed observations by the Japanese on Pellew's entry into
Nagasaki harbor, which showed how much dislike of the English that event had
occasioned. A strong proof of their remarkable caution was furnished by the
Japanese at the conference held on March 28th when most of the terms of the
treaty had been agreed upon.
Perry. I am prepared now to sign the treaty about these three harbors.
Mr. Portman, interpreter, then read in Dutch that portion of the treaty
which contained such points as had been already agreed upon.
Japanese. It is all correct except that we have objection to opening the
port of Simoda immediately; if any vessels were to go there in distress, we
should be glad to furnish them with provisions, wood, and water.
Perry. You have already consented, in one of your letters to me, to open
that port immediately. I am very desirous of settling that matter now, as I
wish to despatch the Saratoga home to inform the Government, before Congress
adjourns, how matters are advancing; that will take some time, and there is no
probability that any ships will come here before ten or twelve months have
expired; so that it will make no difference to you whether you put it in the
treaty to be opened now or in ten months.
Japanese. We are willing to put it in the treaty "to be opened now," if
you will give us a letter or promise that no ships will come here before the
President gives his permission.
Perry. I cannot do that very well, but I am willing to put it off ninety
days; that will be about the time I shall return from Hakodate; it was your
own proposition, yesterday, to open that port immediately. I consent to this,
however, to show you how desirous I am to do what I can to please you. I
cannot consent to a longer time.
Japanese. If we put it in the treaty to be opened now, we would like you
to give us an order that no ships shall enter that port before ten months.
Perry. I cannot do that. But there is no probability that any ships will
come here before that time, as I shall not leave here for three months, and
they will not hear of it before that time; and when they do hear of it, it
will take several months for ships to make the voyage here. If you choose I
will keep one of the ships at Simoda for several months.
Japanese. If ships go there before that time we shall not be able to give
them other than provisions, wood, and water.
Perry. The ships that may go there will want such things only as you may
have; if you have them not, of course you cannot and will not be expected to
furnish them; but, as I said before, there is no probability that ships will
go there before the expiration of ten months.
Japanese. When you come back from Matsumai, we shall have plenty of
provisions at Simoda for the whole squadron; but to other ships we cannot
furnish more than wood, water, etc.
Perry. When we return from Matsumai we shall not want many provisions, as
we shall be going to a place where we shall get plenty. It is only the
principle I wish settled now. I have come here as a peacemaker, and I desire
to settle everything now, and thus prevent trouble hereafter; I wish to write
home to my Government that the Japanese are friends.
Japanese. We will write you a letter stating that we cannot furnish you
anything before ten months, but that we can furnish wood and water
immediately, and that we will furnish such other things as we possibly can.
This letter we should like you to answer.
Perry. Very well; I will.
Japanese. [Entering on another part of the terms agreed on.] We will not
confine Americans, or prevent them from walking around; but we should like to
place a limit to the distance they may walk.
Perry. I am prepared to settle that matter now, but they must not be
confined to any particular house or street. Suppose we make the distance they
may walk, the same distance that a man can go and come in a day. Or, if you
choose, the number of lis or ris may be agreed upon.
Japanese. We are willing that they shall walk as far as they can go and
come in a day.
Perry. There is no probability that sailors would wish to go on shore
more than once from curiosity; besides, they will have their daily duties to
attend to on board ship and will not be able to go on shore.
Japanese. We do not wish any women to come and remain at Simoda.
Perry. The probability is that few women will go there, and they only the
wives of the officers of the ships.
Japanese. When you come back from Matsumai we should like you to settle
the distance that Americans are to walk. It is difficult for us to settle the
Perry. Say the distance of seven Japanese miles in any direction from the
centre of the city of Simoda.
Japanese. Very well. A few miles will make no difference. You are
requested not to leave agents until after you have experienced that it is
Perry. I am willing to defer the appointment of a consul or an agent one
year or eighteen months from the date of the signing the treaty; and then, if
my Government think it necessary, it will send one.
In fact, not an article of the treaty was made without the most serious
deliberation by the Japanese. In answer to a question from Captain Adams, in
the very first stages of the negotiation, they replied: "The Japanese are
unlike the Chinese; they are adverse to change; and when they make a compact
of any kind they intend that it shall endure for a thousand years. For this
reason it will be best to deliberate and examine well the facilities for trade
and the suitableness of the port before any one is determined on." Probably
nothing but the exercise of the most perfect truthfulness and patience would
ever have succeeded in making a treaty with them at all; and from the language
of one of their communications, it is obvious that, with characteristic
caution, they meant that their present action should be but a beginning of
intercourse, which might or might not be afterward made more extensive,
according to the results of what they deemed the experiment.
This, it must be remembered, was the first formal treaty they ever made
on the subject of foreign trade, at least since the expulsion of the
Portuguese, and they evidently meant to proceed cautiously by single steps.
There is observable throughout the negotiations the predominating
influence of the national prejudice against the permanent introduction of
foreigners among them. The word "reside" is but once used in the whole
treaty, and that in the article relative to consuls. The details of
conferences, already given, show how anxiously they sought to avoid having
consuls at all. Indeed, Commodore Perry says, "I could only induce the
commissioners to agree to this article, by endeavoring to convince them that
it would save the Japanese Government much trouble if an American agent were
to reside at one or both of the ports opened by the treaty, to whom complaints
might be made of any malpractice of the United States citizens who might visit
the Japanese dominions." They wanted no permanent foreign residents among
them, official or unofficial. This was shown most unequivocally in the remark
already recorded in one of the conferences - "We do not wish any women to come
and remain at Simoda."
Simoda was one of the ports open for trade with us; they knew that our
people had wives and daughters, and that a man's family were ordinarily
resident with him in his permanent abode, and that if the head of the family
lived in Simoda as a Japanese would live, there would certainly be women who
would "come and remain at Simoda." But more than this. It will be remembered
that the Commodore had submitted to them our treaty with China, and they had
held it under consideration for a week, at the end of which time they said:
"As to opening a trade, such as is now carried on by China with your country,
we certainly cannot yet bring it about. The Chinese have long had intercourse
with Western nations, while we have had dealings at Nagasaki with only the
people of Holland and China." Now what was "such a trade" as we carried on
with China? The Japanese read in our treaty that five ports were open to us,
that permission was given "to the citizens of the United States to frequent"
them; and further, "to reside with their families and trade there." This they
deliberately declined assenting to when they refused to make a treaty similar
to that with China. They surely would not afterward knowingly insert it in
any treaty they might make with us.
The only permanent residence to which they gave assent, and that most
reluctantly, was the residence of a consul. Temporary residence was allowed
to our shipwrecked citizens, as well as to those who went to Simoda or
Hakodate on commercial business. They are allowed to land, to walk where they
please within certain limits, to enter shops and temples without restriction,
to purchase in the shops, and have the articles sent to the proper public
office duly marked, where they will pay for them, to resort to public-houses
or inns that are to be built for their refreshment "when on shore" at Simoda
and Hakodate; and until built, a temple, at each place, is assigned "as a
resting-place for persons in their walks." They may accept invitations to
partake of the hospitality of any of the Japanese; but they are not permitted
to enter "military establishments or private houses without leave." Without
leave, our citizens cannot enter them within the territories of any nation
with which we have a treaty. In short, the whole treaty shows that the
purpose of the Japanese was to make the experiment of intercourse with us
before they made it as extensive or as intimate as it was between us and the
Chinese. It was all they could do at the time, and much, very much, was
obtained on the part of our negotiator in procuring a concession even to this
But, as he knew that our success would be but the forerunner of that of
other powers, and as he believed that new relations of trade once commenced,
not only with ourselves, but with England, France, Holland, and Russia, could
not fail, in the progress of events, to break up the old restrictive policy,
effectually and forever, and open Japan to the world; and must also lead
gradually to liberal commercial treaties, he wisely, in the ninth article,
secured to the United States and their citizens, without "consultation or
delay," all privileges and advantages which Japan might hereafter "grant to
any other nation or nations." And the Commodore's comments on this article
conclusively show that he, at least, did not suppose he had made a "commercial
"Article IX. This is a most important article, as there can be little
doubt that, on hearing of the success of this mission, the English, French,
and Russians will follow our example; and it may be reasonable to suppose that
each will gain some additional advantage, until a commercial treaty is
accomplished. Article IX will give to Americans, without further
consultation, all these advantages."
All other powers were forced to be content in obtaining just what we, as
pioneers, obtained. Their treaties were like ours. That of Russia was copied
from ours, with no change but that of the substitution of the port of Nagasaki
for Napha in Riu Kiu. We respectfully submit, therefore, that all, and indeed
more than all, under the circumstances, that could have been reasonably
expected has been accomplished.
Opening Of Japan