Mr. Pruyn to Mr. Seward
Sir: Under the provisions of the various treaties with Japan, citizens and subjects of the several powers have been assigned land, subject to an annual rent payable to the government, without the payment of any sum by way of [Page 235] purchase money. When land was of merely a nominal value, this was productive of no mischief, hut this settlement has increased with such rapidity, and the improvements are now of so substantial a character, as to have caused a great rise in property. The poorest lots in the settlement have been sold at from $4,000 to $5,000 each, and lots in more favorable situations have increased more than tenfold in value since I have been in Japan, so that the present annual rental may be regarded as fully equal to the price asked for lots on my arrival. It is obvious that a strong temptation is thus offered to adventurers in China and elsewhere to come to Japan, demand a lot, realize a handsome profit, and then leave the country for new-comers to repeat the operation. Another difficulty has arisen from claims being preferred that an assignment of lands should be made to the powers with whom treaties have more recently been made for their subjects, in the same proportion as already granted to those first on the ground.
My colleagues and myself have desired to remedy as far as, possible those evils and to guard against speculation in lands (as heretofore) to be acquired from the government. With that view we have entered into an agreement, of which I enclose (No. 1) a copy, to which we have asked the assent of the government, and which they have promised to give as soon as they shall hear from the governors of the other ports. We also succeeded in making an agreement with the Japanese government, of which I send copy, No. 2, for the enlargement and improvement of this settlement and for the sale of the leases of the land to be assigned to foreigners at public auction at a minimum price to be fixed by the consuls, which I need not describe in detail, as it will sufficiently explain itself. Our object in providing for public rides, &c, was to encourage excursions in directions and to an extent where foreigners would not be exposed to collisions with Japanese, but would have exercise and pleasant rides on safer and better roads. I also enclose (No. 3) approval of agreement.
The block of land set apart for the consulate forms parts of the site where Commodore Perry’s treaty was concluded.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State.