The Martyrdom of an Empire

“ A HAPPY land,” observes my confident and enthusiastic interlocutor, by way of peroration to a prolonged eulogy of the distant country from which he knows I have just returned,—“truly a fruitful, plenteous, prosperous land. A sort of ’ region in Guiana, all gold and bounty ;’ wealth in abundance, to aid the course of vigorous progress we all admire; comfort prevailing everywhere ; a government resolute in projects of advancement, and encouraged by the sympathy and generous support of the entire civilized world; a people fertile in resource, and united in the pursuit of a vast material development, — what can await this favored race but a future, by no means distant, of substantial power and shining splendor ? Who, but that he were an American, would not be a Japanese ? ”

Having listened to this species of rhapsody on more occasions than I can reckon together, and finding it, finally, a trifle monotonous, I resolved to attempt a remonstrance. Cautiously feeling my way, I remarked, —

“ That is really your opinion, I take it.”

“ Certainly, it is my opinion,” comes the spirited answer, — “ undoubtedly my opinion ; everybody’s opinion ; your opinion first of all, of course, since you are from the very place, and know all about it.”

I conceal the fact that most persons who do me the honor to converse with me upon Japan speak with an air of knowing infinitely more “ about it ” than a ten years’ residence has enabled me to learn, and resume my humble imitation of Socratic inquiry.

“Then you actually believe that Japan is, as you would put it, the home of wealth, plenty, and prosperity ; that comfort and content are the portion of every citizen; that vigorous progress is the order of the day, the powers of Europe and America contributing a magnanimous moral support; and that the government is leading the people, by short and easy stages, to a position of national dignity, strength, and grandeur, such as any state might be proud to achieve, even through centuries of toil and endurance.”

“ Unquestionably. The established truth is not a thing to disbelieve.”

“ Ah, — the truth ” — Here my colloquist evinces a certain disquietude.

“ You do not mean — surely, you cannot possibly mean ” —

“ I mean, my friend, that if you and the others who express themselves with such blind faith in Japan’s destiny imagine that country to be the abiding place of all happiness and high fortune, exempt from the pains that harass nations whose physical might is inferior to their ambitious spirit, you cherish as sad a delusion as the courtiers who flattered themselves and their master that Mexico rejoiced and thrived under the imperial rule ; or the statesmen who in all times have proclaimed the beatitude of native India under Saxon sway ; or, to come nearer the present hour, the political poets who sing the sweet serenity of Irish peasant life under the hard hand of English domination. I have heard all that is in your minds — your wishes, doubtless, being father to your thoughts — too often to misapprehend the common error. What you have to do, if you desire to argue out the true condition of Japan and her prospects, is to accept, at the beginning, a whole series of disagreeable premises. You must know that she is not rich, but poor, — very poor ; that many of the inhabitants are suffering bitterly from positive want; that the government is in straits which may almost be called desperate, for lack of funds requisite to the conduct of public business ; that progress, in the sense of material development, has been necessarily so curtailed, in the past two or three years, as to be virtually suspended ; that even the schools, which are the crowning glory of the Japanese social system, have been alarmingly diminished ; that the outlook offers nothing but bankruptcy and national ruin ; and that all this is the direct handiwork of the foreign powers, through their accredited agents, some of whom have acted with deliberate purpose in bringing about the calamitous state of affairs, while others have ignorantly or carelessly coöperated, only a small minority striving, and that with indifferent success, to avert the fatal consummation. When you have grasped these fundamental facts, you may begin to build upon them a new and more trustworthy set of speculations concerning the fate of the most interesting of Asian empires.”

The effect of this conversation upon my companion — a fair representative of the pleasantly disposed class of Eastern connoisseurs — suggested to me the expediency of submitting a brief statement of what Japan really is at this day, describing her misfortunes and the causes thereof, and leaving for easy discovery the means by which she may be lifted from undeserved distress and humiliation. The narrative of her griefs cannot be an agreeable one, and no reader of this paper must expect to be entertained by those fanciful flights and decorative artifices which usually accompany records of Oriental experience. There is little light to the shadow of the story, unless it be found in the hope that America may be induced to stretch a helping hand across the Pacific, and tear away some of the injustice that has planted itself, in the name of the United States, upon Japanese soil. But that result must come hereafter, if it come at all. The present gloom seems unrelieved by a single ray.

It should perhaps be admitted, in the first place, that the sanguine views of unreflecting observers were not always as groundless as they now are. There was a period, not very remote, when Japan seemed likely to justify the brightest expectation. She took her place in the line of civilization, and held it with an intelligent firmness and a comprehension of her responsibilities that excited warm admiration. Every successive disclosure of her policy was marked by singular sagacity and propriety. Her domestic reforms, radical though they were, produced no convulsion, but resulted in an increased social stability. Her measures and manifestations of internal improvement extorted approving acknowledgment from those who were most reluctant to praise. Her external relations were regulated on principles which, for liberality and integrity, could not be surpassed ; and if the convenience of strangers was allowed too large a share in dictating the system of intercourse, the fault was easily excusable on the part of an administration oppressed with a world of unfamiliar cares and embarrassments. Undoubtedly, Japan appeared to be solving the great problems of government with a facility calculated to astonish as well as gratify her friends, whom, after all, it is impossible to blame severely for neglecting to look beneath so satisfactory a surface. But the time has come when the surface is stripped away, and the interior tribulations reveal themselves too prominently to be overlooked. The impetus which kept the empire in motion from the days of the restoration, in 1868, has failed. The vital force which animated the whole machinery of government and society, so far as their practical operations were concerned, has waned. In the plainest words, the nation is destitute of money, — as nearly penniless as a nation can be and yet preserve the outward decencies of existence. How this has come about, by what oversights of the unwary, and what malignant machinations of the unfriendly, as well as to what utter consternation of those most deeply concerned, — the rulers of the empire, — I shall undertake to explain.

The opening of Japan, as every one is aware, was effected by the United States of America. Precisely what this country intended to accomplish by that imposing deed it would be difficult to say. What it did accomplish was to open a clear way for the realization of one of Great Britain’s most ardent hopes. Our commercial needs have never been pressing, but the extension of English trade began to be, a quarter of a century ago, a matter of extremest importance to the merchants and manufacturers of that kingdom. It was supposed that Japan would prove a superb market for British products ; and she was, indeed, and always has been, a considerable purchaser, though not to the extent originally anticipated. How complacently we played England’s hand, in the early proceedings, is shown by the events that followed the diplomatic successes of our first official representative there, Mr. Townsend Harris. This gentleman was peculiarly well qualified to perform the duties confided to him, and, with the exception of one error of detail,— an error of most disastrous consequences in the sequel, though intended to be remedied by his own hand, — he laid the ground-work of foreign intercourse with as just and honorable a regard for Japanese rights as for the interests of his own countrymen. The first effective commercial treaty with Japan was draughted by him in 1858, upon terms which, in general, were not disadvantageous to the unsophisticated people with whom he was dealing. It required two years of constant and weary struggle on his part to overcome their repugnance to an agreement of any sort; but within a few weeks of its negotiation, an English envoy, Lord Elgin, visited Yeddo, and executed a compact virtually identical in form and substance, and differing only in the reduction of the impost on particular English fabrics from a reasonable to a merely nominal charge.1 Thus England strolled comfortably over the course which had been laid out with severe labor by the United States, and which could not have been peaceably prepared by English agencies in less than double the time employed by Mr. Harris. Everything that could be done to facilitate Lord Elgin’s plans was done by our representative. He gave the new-comer a copy of the American treaty, instructed him in the methods of transacting business in the unfamiliar field, and lent him a Dutch interpreter, without whose aid he could not have communicated an intelligible idea. All this was in accordance with the demands of high courtesy, and in due time Mr. Harris received an inestimable token of recognition in the shape of a royal snuff-box ; but if he had foreseen what was to follow in after-years, he never would have moved a hand in aid of British ingress to Japan. The discrepancy in customs duty above mentioned was the first manifestation of a determined resolve to break down every obstacle to the untaxed admission of English goods, no matter at what cost or injury to the freshly opened nation.

It is here necessary to describe with precision the unfortunate mistake in Mr. Harris’s convention of 1858, — that mistake which, in spite of his good intentions throughout, has been to Japan “ the direful spring of woes unnumbered.” As he has frequently declared, he never intended nor expected that the treaty should represent anything but a temporary arrangement. It was intended to cover the term of fourteen years in its political provisions, and five years in its tariff stipulations. It did, indeed, provide for a readjustment of the customs duties in 1863, in case the Japanese government should desire it. But the date of a general revision was fixed at 1872. This revision was to take place upon the demand of either of the contracting parties. Contrary to the common rule, no limit was assigned to the operation of the treaty. It was, in fact, interminable, unless a revision could be agreed upon in 1872 or later. If its terms had been mutually beneficial, or the reverse, there would probably have been no objection to a partial or a thorough reconstruction, as the case might be. It is easy to understand, however, that if it were strongly to the disadvantage of one side the other side would have a powerful interest in opposing any change. And so it has been. The working of the treaty has proved flagrantly injurious to Japan, and proportionately favorable to the foreign powers, — exceptionally favorable to England, that country having the most extensive trade connection. Under these circumstances, the English representative has always met the appeals of the Japanese for revision with evasion, or with counter-proposals so monstrous as to destroy all hope of a just negotiation. The weaker party has had no choice but to submit to the prolonged infliction of a cruel burden ; the only alternative — unless some nation be led, in the name of international honor, to speak a rescuing word on her behalf — being a downright renunciation of the oppressive enactment, which might entail the perils of an unequal war.2

Mr. Harris has more than once stated what was in his mind when he arranged for “ revision ” at specified dates. The explanation, I regret to say, is not sufficient to excuse his deplorable oversight, though it shows his purpose to have been considerate and upright. In a letter written to me, some years before his death, he thus reviewed his own action : —

“ The tariff appended to the treaty of Yeddo (1858) was made entirely by me. Not one of its provisions was the subject of discussion, nor were any amendments to it offered by the Japanese commissioners. This unprecedented proceeding arose from the necessities growing out of the ignorance of the Japanese of a tariff of duties on imports, and of the manner in which customs should be collected. They frankly avowed their want of knowledge in the matter, and placed themselves in my hands, relying, as they said, on my doing them justice. . . . In fixing the rates of duties, I desired, on the one hand, to give such a revenue as would substantially show the Japanese the benefits of foreign trade, and, on the other, to avoid such excessive taxation as would amount to prohibition. I constantly told the Japanese commissioners that before the time came around for revising the treaties they would have gained such experience as would enable them intelligently to deal with this matter themselves ; remarking that, while ten years was an important part of a man’s life, it was as nothing in the life of a nation. I never for a moment claimed a right to interfere in matters which purely belong to the municipal affairs of every nation. Such interference is the result of absolute conquest, and not of any international right.”

It is thus apparent that there was no design to exercise control over the tariff for more than a few years. In fact, the rates of impost would not have been designated by the American consulgeneral, but for the inability of the native authorities to regulate that part of the business. If he had taken the precaution to insure the absolute expiration of the treaty and its appendages at a proper date, all would have resulted as he desired. But the word “ revision ” spoiled the whole. He probably thought he had done everything essential to the convenience and security of all parties, and perhaps imagined he was serving the Japanese by averting the need of preparing an entirely new document, and going over the same ground again, within so short a time. We may assume it did not occur to him that any one would resist a call for revision. He knew that he would himself have accepted such a call in the right spirit, and believed others would do likewise. Yet, granting that to have been his conviction, he was strangely at fault. All the treaty makers that followed him, English, French, Dutch, German, and the rest, adopted his phraseology, and their governments have systematically adhered to the letter of it. There has been no disposition, on their part, to allow an interpretation favorable to Japan, on the basis of what was meant by the original compact. The treaty is therefore held to be interminable by those who are interested in so regarding it, notwithstanding that such a view is totally without precedent, and untenable on any principle of the law of nations; or, if not interminable in fact, it is made so in effect, by the crafty expedient of proposing terms of revision which are known to be inadmissible by Japan. That country is consequently chained down to a set of arbitrary and intolerable regulations, the nature of which was never comprehended by those who first subscribed to them, and which are not only offensive and degrading to the sovereign and his advisers, but are also inconsistent with the true independence of the state, harassing to the government, destructive to all enterprise, and subversive of every hope of national prosperity.

The determination to hold Japan rigidly to her bargain is most emphatically proclaimed by England, since England has, as I have said, the largest concern in maintaining the present system. It was England, moreover, that gradually introduced alterations into the tariff drawn up by Mr. Harris, until finally, in 1866, the comparatively fair rates of duty were crowded down to five per cent. ad valorem, or its equivalent, upon every article of commerce. This five per cent. duty, let it here be said, barely suffices to pay the expense of the customs machinery. Even in 18G6 the native officials were quite unenlightened as to their country’s real needs. It was not until after the restoration, in 1866, that a correct apprehension of affairs displayed itself; but the decree of financial doom had been passed under the previous régime. A few significant figures will tell the truth respecting England’s preponderating material interest. The yearly imports from that country into Japan are valued at about twenty millions of dollars, nearly double the amount of what is sent from all other countries combined ; the United States, for example, supplying the worth of only about three millions. The duties paid by English merchants, under existing rates, do not aggregate one million; whereas, if the tariff were, let us say, one fourth of what our own is, they would amount to eight or ten millions. But the desire to get English wares admitted upon easy terms is not the only reason for keeping the imposts low. There is another and a far more insidious motive. The Japanese must be prevented from developing their own industries, and competing with the products which England pours into her ports. Nay, more : the markets must be so manipulated as to crush out existing industries, as far as possible. It is needless to state that, before the advent of foreigners, Japan found no difficulty in supplying her own wants. Her cotton fabrics, for one thing, were ample in quantity and excellent in quality.

Now, England sells her four millions’ worth of raw cotton and three millions’ worth of manufactured, annually. A huge proportion of the native commodity has been driven out of the field of competition. How it has been driven out no one needs to be told who is acquainted with the methods employed by Great Britain for enlarging the area of her commercial tributary possessions. But who shall answer the melancholy question, What has become of the army of cotton growers, spinners, sellers, and the multitudes directly and indirectly dependent on them ? As it is with cotton, so, in a less degree, it is with other articles. The domestic producer cannot stand against the capital of the British merchant, and, with a tariff that anybody can override at pleasure, every attempt at home encouragement by the government would be futile, even if the government were possessed of funds to apply to that purpose.

The government! Let us see how it sustains the financial pressure which the treaties have put upon it. The several critics, to begin with, unite in acknowledgments of its frugality ; and, indeed, no external testimony to its economy is needed when the treasury reports exhibit an annual expenditure of less than sixty millions of dollars. The amount is certainly not large for a nation of nearly thirty-five millions of inhabitants, but, small as it is, it must be regularly collected, from some source. Whence does it come? In the United States, the entire cost of carrying on the government business is defrayed by the customs ; in England, the customs supply nearly one half; and in all countries where commerce has any hold at all, they contribute a considerable share. But in Japan they yield less than one seventeenth part, and of the total national expenditure only about one thirtieth part. The great burden of taxation falls directly upon the farmers, — the very class that should be as nearly as possible exempt, — who are assessed close upon four fifths of the whole. The government has been unsparing in its efforts to relieve them. Five years ago, a revenue of sixty-eight millions was required, and of this amount fiftyone millions were taken from the tillers of the soil. In the anxiety to lighten this weight, the authorities retrenched in every direction, and within two years succeeded in reducing the land tax to thirty-eight millions, — the total income being fifty-one millions. But the strain was too severe, and it was found that no degree of care and circumspection could keep the disbursements at that figure. They rose first to fifty-three and then to fifty-five millions, agriculture furnishing, in the latest instance, forty-one millions, while the duties on imports were only twelve hundred thousand dollars. What a state of things is this ! And yet no shadow of blame can be fastened on the government. The inevitable expenses of the nation have been immensely augmented by foreign intercourse. These expenses cannot be curtailed; the intercourse cannot be checked. At the same time, the treaties forbid that the external commerce shall bear its due proportion of the very outlay it causes. If the government had foreseen the resolution of the European powers to deny forever (through the diplomatic agents) its right to change the treaties and raise the tariff, it would have refrained from diminishing the land tax, and kept the few millions it so sorely needs. But a step of that kind cannot be retraced without serious difficulty, and it is unlikely that any further reimposition than that just alluded to will be made. It is easy, now, to see that the authorities were over-confident, and to say that they should have estimated more exactly the temper of the foreign ministers. Yet who can reproach them for failing to guard against so improbable a contingency as the deliberate design of one or more great European powers to withhold from them the means of meeting their engagements, sustaining their country’s credit, and even preserving its independent existence among the nations of the earth ?

For that is what it must come to, if the means of relief be not soon provided. The plainest evidence indicates a settled purpose to impoverish the country, render it incapable of maintaining its own industries, make it dependent upon England for supplies, and so hamper the public finances as to compel, if possible the negotiation of British loans which, again, shall be used as new instruments of oppression, until, while preserving the outward aspect of autonomy, it shall be virtually degraded into the condition of India. It is startling to discover, as may be done by minute scrutiny, to what extent this precious design has already been wrought out. Nothing but the fact that beneath the easy and docile bearing of the populace there exists a spirit — predominantly among the cultivated classes—of sturdy self-respect and intense pride of race saves the outlook from desperation. There is not upon the earth a more passionately patriotic community than the samurai, or gentry of Japan. Pride, however, is anything but a protection against humiliation, and patriotism does not afford a refuge from grinding want. Many of the people are bitterly and miserably poor, — a thing almost unknown before the advent of strangers, — and the deprivations of poverty are on the increase. One of the numerous baleful results of foreign machinations is a heavy depreciation of the domestic currency, brought about, presumably, with the view of weakening the national credit; the immediate effect of which is to destroy the government’s power of succoring the distressed by direct bounty, or building up safeguards against pauperism by promoting industrial enterprises. All it can do is to sustain its high character for integrity, by meeting every engagement with honorable promptness; and this it will do to its last hour. Meanwhile, it looks among those who have brought these sorrows upon the country for some token of sympathy or consolation, and sees no sign.3 If it turn to England’s agents, feebly hoping against hope defeated a hundred times, the most it gets is a cheerful discourse upon the blessings of “ free trade,” which the great island kingdom of the West would fain implant in the little island empire of the East. So long as Japan is tending toward that blissful consummation, an absolutely unrestricted commerce, it is impossible that its political machinery can work otherwise than happily and well. The ruin of a mass of cotton producers, the suffering of millions concerned in the manufacture and sale of that staple, the paralysis of a dozen, or a hundred, domestic industries, and the slow starvation of the helpless victims to alien greed,—these are trifles to which the promoters of a lofty economic principle can give no heed. But what have the Japanese to say upon this head ? To them the idea of one nation, whose annual customs revenue is a hundred millions, prating about perfect freedom of trade to another, which collects only two millions, and has no intention of collecting more than eight or ten, is the extremity of impudence and absurdity. England undoubtedly has greater needs than Japan, but Japan assuredly has some. What covers the English pretense of untrammeled commercial intercourse with overwhelming mockery, in their eyes, is the circumstance that Great Britain imposes a tax of larger amount upon its imports from Japan than the entire customs revenue of Japan from every source. More than this, the income to the British treasury proceeding from duty upon a single Japanese product is greater than all the customs receipts of Japan put together.4

The knowledge of this is sufficient to outweigh all the financial theories that the English legation can bring forward. But the English legation has a " might ” behind it, against which Japan’s assertion of indisputable “ right ” never can prevail.

If the experiment is tried, at times, of appealing to the honorable instincts of other Western representatives, the result is equally disheartening. French diplomacy in the far East is simply a reflection of English diplomacy. The system of imitation is probably a relic of the Napoleonic policy, which the republic has not found opportunity to rectify. For years past, the French minister has really had no duty to fulfill except that of implicitly following the lead of his British colleague. The German envoy, who might be supposed to act more independently, and who in earlier times has done so, has placed himself so thoroughly under the guidance of the English as to have been recently incited by the latter to the commission of a sheer outrage upon civilization and humanity, namely: the breaking through of a quarantine, established during a cholera epidemic, by a German ship which came directly from an infected port. This and other like proceedings having been traced to the same inimical source, little expectation of fair treatment is cherished in that quarter. Russia is not unfriendly, but she has projects of her own in Asia, and declines openly to manifest the commiseration which her plenipotentiary does not hesitate to declare. Italy is well disposed, and shows it, but the position of Italy is not such as to enable her to support a struggling country against the determined onslaughts of greater powers. The lesser European states sail in England’s wake, as a matter of commercial instinct. There is one nation which might do all that is required for the legitimate relief of Japan without a serious effort, whose duty, indeed, it is to make some reparation for the wrongs that have followedits original action, and which, in serving the cause of justice, would, as it happens, be also serving its own material interests ; but when the United States is called upon, even by its own diplomatic officers, to perform its share in the work of reinstatement, the plea is either rejected, or is evaded by some rigmarole of fictitious negotiation, which results solely in shattering anew a timid, half-grown faith, covering with fresh contempt the pretense of republican magnanimity, and conferring unspeakable aid and comfort upon those who aim at the destruction of Japan’s sovereignty.

As if the conditions of the treaties were not of themselves severe enough, they have been singularly aggravated by accidents which have determined the personality of the foreign representation in Japan. By an untoward fate, the United States, which should have been the prop and stay of the inexperienced government in time of trouble, was deprived at an early date of the services of a most worthy minister, all of whose successors, save the latest, were, to speak leniently, incapable of appreciating the magnitude and gravity of their duties; while Great Britain, which under any circumstances would almost necessarily have exercised a hurtful influence, has sent out a series of envoys, most of whom, and conspicuously the present incumbent, have undertaken to wield the authority of tyrants over a vanquished nation. Townsend Harris, acting under a mistaken sense of his obligations, resigned his post on the incoming of the first republican administration, in 1861. Had he not done so, he would probably never have been removed, and the defects of his convention of 1858 would have been repaired; while his sagacity and stern probity would have been exerted for the protection of those who needed it, against all oppressors. A few years after his retirement arrived the Englishman who, if search had been made for the purpose, would have been chosen, above all others, as the one who could keep in constant irritation the sores of foreign aggression, and whose nature and training would lead him to maintain a course of relentless persecution, and whose controlling principle would be to add to the injury of persistent invasion of Japan’s rights the insult of offensive brutality, frequently extending to physical violence, in his treatment of her rulers and statesmen. The career of this official has been so amazing in its extravagance as to call for a brief description. Without a formal statement of his phenomenal performances, no notion of their character, or of his own, could be conveyed.

Harry Smith Parkes went to the East as a civil - service attaché, some forty years ago. By energy and activity he rose, while still a young man, to the important position of British consul at Canton. There, in 1856, he first sought and found distinction in the line of occupation which he seems never to have abandoned. He was one of the chief movers, if not the principal instrument, in bringing about the war which grew out of the still memorable “ Arrow ” affair, — a war which, with its authors, was denounced in Parliament with an unparalleled force and unanimity of invective. Nobody denied that Parkes and his associates had provoked hostilities for which there was no tenable ground, but the defense was that it was done for the purpose of breaking down Chinese isolation and extending British trade. The scheme was in a measure successful. Manchester goods penetrated the walls of Canton, and perhaps served to shroud some of the odd thousand corpses with which British cannon had strewn the soil. But the blood of these innocent murdered men was too much for the conscience of England at home. It is not necessary to repeat the language in which parliamentary leaders of all parties, excepting the heads of the ministry, stigmatized the transaction. It nearly caused the overthrow of the cabinet, and nothing but the vast popularity of Lord Palmerston enabled him to keep his place, after a dissolution, and to protect the originator of the mischief. When Lord Elgin was sent out to close up the business, be expressed himself with contemptuous frankness as to the fraudulent quarrel that had been forced upon China ; but Parkes was just then a valuable man, owing to his knowledge of the native tongue, and his services were in request at Peking, where, by the bye, he was captured, and nearly met his death at the hands of the exasperated mandarins. For this mishap he was supposed to be entitled to compensation, and he was kept employed in China, retaining always his reputation for irascibility and hatred of Asiatics, until 1864, when a vacancy occurred at Tokio, then Yeddo,5 which he was appointed to fill. It was at that time thought that Japanese turbulence might require to be treated with a heavy hand, and that Parkes was by inclination and experience eminently qualified for such a task. It is on record that the first thing he did, after landing, was to fly into a rage — no earthly being knows why — with the governor of Nagasaki, and to commit an assault on that poor trembling creature which nearly frightened his spirit out of its body. His second formal act was to indite a dispatch to the foreign office, in which was given the key-note to all his after-utterances, — a cry of defiance, wrath, and menace, launched with a liberal and comprehensive vindictiveness against the whole Japanese race.

From that moment the attitude of Parkes — who had been made a K. C. B. — was unswerving in hostility to the people among whom he dwelt and the government to which he was accredited. What he has done he has declared to be for the glory of England generally, and more especially for the benefit of its trade. There is no reason why that claim should not be allowed him. If he has believed all along that the interests of his mercantile countrymen are advanced by the devices he has practiced, he must have whatever credit belongs to him. Perhaps it is true that the terror he long inspired prevented all attempts to readjust the conditions of foreign commerce, and left the traders in possession of the advantages bestowed by the treaties. But it is difficult not to suppose that he must sometimes have contemplated the possibility of Japan’s regaining her natural privileges, and calculated the consequences of inevitable reaction. For it cannot be believed, even by him, that his long catalogue of enormities will be forgotten. Can he imagine they will be forgiven ? Governments do not forgive, for example, the furious smashing of a glass, on a public occasion, with the assurance that their nation can be as easily dashed in pieces. Nor are they likely to condone a formal threat to occupy the shore line of their principal port with alien troops, avowedly to protect Englishmen in landing from their ships wherever they choose, instead of at the appointed customs stations, as required by Japanese law. They will not readily overlook the habit, of a dozen years’ continuance, of emphasizing arguments in diplomatic debate by fist-shakings in the faces of cabinet ministers, and beatings of tables with rulers, inkstands, and other available implements. They can hardly reconcile themselves to having been compelled, by dire menaces, to dismiss in disgrace a prominent official, the superintendent of customs in Yokohama, solely because he called the queen of England a queen, instead of applying to her the identical title belonging to the Mikado. The recollection will not glide pleasantly away that Japanese dignitaries, while traveling in Europe, were called upon to discharge their private servants, because one of these latter, not knowing his English excellency, refused to carry his trunk up the staircase of a hotel, and another, knowing him, inadvertently addressed him as “Mr.” instead of “ Sir Harry.” The affront of sending threatening letters direct to the prime minister, in violation of personal decency and universal established usage, which requires that the foreign office shall be the channel of all communications to and from a foreign envoy, is not a thing to drop into genial oblivion. The emperor himself will be slow to pardon a harangue which, in the ostensible form of a New Year’s address from the combined diplomatic corps, was really a lecture on his sovereign duties, so grossly impertinent that other envoys were compelled to disavow it. The record of a high-handed attempt to annul the treaty clause forbidding the importation of opium, and to allow English merchants to ply the same extirpating vocation in Japan that renders them infamous in China, cannot be blotted out; nor can the memory of the more successful scheme for permitting English traders to evade the export duty on coal, which was accomplished by the mere issuing of a decree, twelve years ago, falsely declaring that the native authorities had agreed to such an arrangement, and resulting in a loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Japanese treasury. The terrible devastations of cholera, in recent years, which would in all human probability have been warded off but for the refusal to submit English ships to quarantine regulations, will be a lasting and unanswerable reproach. Physical assaults, such as knocking down an officer, who is now one of the highest ministers of state, on the beach of an open port, and rubbing his face in the sand, linger with rankling persistence in the minds of those who have endured them. Announcements that the government shall pass no laws in any way affecting British subjects, without approval and indorsement from the legation, likewise belong to the class of inexpiable offenses. So does the prolonged struggle to prevent the Japanese from taking full control of their postoffice, which they manage excellently well. It is needless to continue the recital. All these inflictions, and more, have been practiced upon the long-suffering Japanese by the representative of the most civilized country of Europe. The list might be indefinitely extended, and even the few instances above related — which are set down at random, without reference or reflection — might be presented far more impressively, if the object were other than to give a plain and uncolored statement of what a spirited but helpless people are compelled to endure. The fact that they are helpless, or believe themselves to be so, is the sufficient explanation of their silent submission. Resistance on the part of the government would entail worse evils, it is feared, than any yet encountered. Too much weight is probably given to this apprehension, and the unconcerned spectator of events may easily convince himself that England would not venture to prosecute a war for the upholding of a heartless bully, or the enforcement of a cruelly unjust and oppressive treaty ; but the statesmen of Japan are novices, and perhaps ignorant of their own reserves of strength. At any rate, they shrink from risking the sacrifice of their remaining privileges. They have too much cause to feel that they stand alone and friendless in their grief. Europe, as has been said, mocks at their sorrows. America listens, holds out fair promises, and at the expected moment of action escapes from the fulfillment by a paltry subterfuge. Three years ago, through the exertions of persons acquainted with the situation, a new treaty for the United States and Japan was drawn up, and transmitted, with the cordial and earnest approbation of Mr. Bingham, our minister, to the state department at Washington. It did not provide for restitution of all, nor yet one half, of what we had taken from Japan, but it loosened our grip upon her tariff, and recognized her exclusive right to control the coastwise trade. To that extent it was a fair contract. After a little delay, information was vouchsafed that it was satisfactory to the president, and that, with a trifling emendation or two, it would be submitted to the senate. There was great rejoicing in Tokio, as may be conceived ; but when the document was returned, the trifling emendation turned out an absolute invalidation of the whole transaction. It consisted of an additional clause, making the treaty inoperative until all the other powers should conclude a similar agreement! Inasmuch as England would never, under any circumstances, willingly consent to a similar agreement, and could be brought to it only by the pressure of an example from the United States, it would have been more straightforward, though not quite so polite, to tear up the original draught, and send back the pieces. Since that rebuff, the Japanese government has seemed to abandon all hope of relief from any outside direction.

Enough has been said to show how disastrously the treaties have affected the direct revenues of the empire, but something remains to be explained respecting their indirect hostile influence. If the relations of Japan to foreigners were the same as those which prevail in Europe and America, neither the poverty of the people nor the straitened circumstances of the government would necessarily stand in the way of enterprise and prosperity. The resources of the soil could be developed by capital from abroad, which, indeed, has long been clamoring for admission. To sanction this, however, under existing circumstances, would be an act of suicide. The tariff incubus was not the only adverse feature in Mr. Harris’s first compact. There was also a provision for what is clumsily called “ extra-territorial jurisdiction,” by virtue of which no alien is amenable to the tribunals of the country, but may be tried only by the consuls or other officials of his own land. It is, indeed, insolently claimed by every power except the United States that foreigners are not bound to observe or respect the laws of Japan. What Mr. Harris thought of his own handiwork, in this particular, may be judged by the following extract from one of his letters to the present writer : —

“ The provision of the treaty giving the right of ex-territoriality to all Americans in Japan was against my conscience. In a conversation with Governor Marcy, the secretary of state, in 1855, he strongly condemned it as an unjust interference with the municipal law of a country which no Western nation would tolerate for a moment; but he said that it would be impossible to have a treaty with any Oriental nation unless it contained that provision. The examples of our treaties with Turkey, Persia, and the Barbary States gave precedents that the senate would not overlook. I fear that I shall not live to see this unjust provision struck out of our treaties, but I fondly hope that you may see it fully abrogated.”

Like the tariff infliction, this harsh regulation was copied by the framers of other conventions, but not with regret, nor with a desire for its ultimate suspension. It is in complete force at this day, and the consequence which we have to consider in connection with the question of employing outside capital is that no foreign participant in an internal enterprise could ever be held to account for his deeds before a court in which the Japanese could place confidence. He might cheat or rob his native partner to any extent, and redress could be sought nowhere but from a judge who would almost certainly be ignorant of law, who would probably be swayed by partiality, and might very possibly have a direct interest in defeating justice. Under the American system of appointments, there is never a guaranty that capable men, not to say honest men, will be chosen consuls. The English plan is theoretically better, but experience has not taught the Japanese to trust the British courts too implicitly. As for the consular delegates from the majority of European states, their procedure would invariably be open to suspicion ; for they are traders and speculators almost without exception, and would inevitably be mixed up in all sorts of undertakings the moment that the funds of strangers should be allowed ingress. Their official position would give them unusual advantages, without imposing upon them any restraints ; and, no matter what they might be guilty of, they could be arraigned only before themselves, so to speak. That settles, in the negative, the whole question of using foreign capital, and destroys the last chance of Japan’s pecuniary redemption except by measures apart from and remedial to those embodied in the treaties.

I have now told all that is requisite, I trust, to dispel the prevalent illusion concerning the condition of a country which has shown itself deserving of immunity from more than the ordinary cares and trials of aspirants to the comity of states, but which has been made to suffer to an extent exceeding that which would commonly be awarded to a flagrant offender against the law of nations. While doing her best to win the applause of the civilized world, and actually gaining it in no usual degree, she has, unknown to the mass of her admirers, been enduring all the torments of wretchedness and despair. Whether the bitterness of her experience, together with her gallant struggle against adversity, does or does not constitute a claim upon the commiseration and forbearance of the powerful, I shall not pretend to say. That question is for others to decide, as is also the proper method of affording redress for past injuries, should redress be deemed due. My purpose has been simply to upset a popular fallacy, and to reveal the darker side of a picture which represents, to most eyes, the fairest ideal of a nation’s happiness. I shall be content if I can persuade the intelligent reader to take a serious view of what has hitherto attracted him only as an amusing field for the play of his gayer fancy. When that is done, with hearty and general consent the decree of justice will follow in rapid sequence.

E. H. House.

  1. The articles were manufactured woolen and cotton goods. Our consul-general fixed the duty for these commodities at twenty per cent. ad valorem. The English negotiator reduced it to five per cent.; not more than enough to pay the cost of collection. Mr. Harris at once warned the Japanese of the false step they were taking, but the document had been signed, and it was too late to repair the evil.
  2. The late Mr. Henry C. Carey, of Philadelphia, whose appreciation of the Japanese situation was always keen, wrote as follows respecting the painful condition of that country and its rulers: “ The Japanese government has stood in the position of being compelled to submit to all the provisions of a treaty whose maintenance cannot fail to result in utter ruin; or, on the other hand, risk being involved in a war with a nation that has always in the Eastern seas more vessels of war than would be required at once to close all that great domestic commerce now carried on by means of boats and ships between the various towns and cities, islands and provinces, of the empire.”
  3. It is true that private expressions of profound commiseration and of intense indignation against the authors of Japan’s misfortunes have not been wanting, but these have been of but slight practical avail, owing to their unofficial character, notwithstanding that they have frequently proceeded from high personal authority. General Grant, for example, during his recent visit there, was outspoken and emphatic in his condemnation of the inhuman practices of certain diplomatic agents, and on one occasion plainly declared that the government would have been justified in sinking a German ship which broke through a cholera quarantine in Yokohama Harbor, under singularly aggravated circumstances, and by the express order of the German envoy. General Grant did not hesitate to say that the judgment of the civilized world would have sustained such action on Japan’s part. Again, the governor of Hong Kong, Sir John Pope Hennessy, whose whole public life has been a noble protest against the infliction of wrongs upon the feeble, has placed on record his abhorrence of the methods employed by the majority of foreign representatives in Japan; but Japan is apart from his jurisdiction, and even in his own colony the wise and humane policy he has established is often bitterly contested by the large trading class which seeks only for immediate gain, reckless of what the future has in store. Yet the mere presence in the East of a man like Hennessy is of more value to his country’s true interests than the extrvagant exertions of a score of average envoys would be, even if not misdirected, as they commonly are.
  4. The relations of the two countries, so far as their customs receipts of the latest recorded year are concerned, and the difference between the burdens imposed by each upon the other’s trade, may be concisely set down as follows: —
  5. English duty upon Japanese tobacco $2,600,000
  6. English duty upon Japanese tea 60,000
  7. $2,660,000
  8. Japanese duty upon all English imports 960,000
  9. Gain of English over that of Japanese treasury $1,700,000
  10. It is furthermore apparent that, in the same year, the sum gathered in England upon Japanese products was larger than that secured in Japan, not only from foreign goods, but even from total collections, both on imports and exports: — English duty on Japanese products $2,660,000
  11. Total Japanese duty upon imports, $1,379,824
  12. Total Japanese duty upon exports, 939,564
  13. $2,319,388
  14. Excess of English duties upon Japanese goods over total Japanese duties $340,612
  15. This calculation is based upon an English to bacco duty of only three shillings per pound. It has since been raised to three shillings and sixpence for unmanufactured, and four shillings and fourpence for manufactured, tobacco.
  16. 6 This incidental allusion to the former name of the Japanese capital recalls one of Parkes’s most characteristic manifestations of spite. At the time of the imperial restoration, thirteen years ago, the use of the word “Yeddo " was formally forbidden, on account of its association with the long supremacy of the usurping house of Tokugawa, and “ Tokio ” was substituted therefor. But the British legation has never recognized the change, and persists in adhering to Yeddo, to this day, notwithstanding the government’s declared dislike of the title. To harass and mortify the authorities by all methods, great and small, is a prominent feature of the policy which this minister deems requisite for maintaining the supremacy of British influence.