Mr. Portman to Mr. Seward

No. 48.]

Sir: On the morning of the 18th instant I was waited on by governors for foreign affairs, who came to inform me that the Japanese government was prepared to pay the first instalment of five hundred thousand dollars of the Simonoski indemnity, according to the convention of the 22d October, 1864.

Aware that under article 2d of that convention the large sum of three millions (3,000,000) of dollars was payable quarterly in instalments of half a million (500,000) dollars each, “to begin from the date when the representatives of the powers signing it should make known to the Tycoon’s government the ratification of the convention and the instructions of their respective governments,” I only inquired whether similar announcements had been made to the representatives of the other treaty powers.

The governors then informed me that early on that day another governor for foreign affairs had gone to Yokohama for that purpose, and that such announcement would probably be made to the other representatives on the afternoon of that day.

In order that my absence might not embarrass the action of those representatives, I accordingly went down to Yokohama at once, with the object of ascertaining their views on this unexpected announcement.

The unanimous opinion was, in view of the decision taken and communicated to the Gorogio in April last, that no option was left but that the amount tendered should be received. I respectfully beg to refer you to the despatch No. 16, of this series, with its three enclosures.

I now have the honor to transmit herewith, No. 1, a copy of a memorandum dated the 21st August, 1865, agreeing to take delivery of the sum offered, appended to which is a copy of an order to the chartered Oriental Bank and chartered Mercantile Bank, to hold that money in equal sums of two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) dollars each, to the conjoint order of the representatives of the four powers who signed the convention of the 22d October, 1864.

Your instructions as to the disposal of that money have no doubt been sent already. Their anticipated early arrival was an additional reason why I felt no hesitation in consenting to its being received. If the offer of the Japanese government had not been accepted at once when made, the payment of the first instalment might have been indefinitely extended, and the convention, as I learned, had already, in substance, been approved by the governments of Great Britain and France.

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Should the whole amount of the indemnity, namely, three millions (3,000,000) of dollars, so much larger than originally intended, be deemed too large, which was Mr. Pruyn’s opinion, as expressed in his despatch No. 65, of the 29th October, 1864, I beg respectfully to suggest, inasmuch as it is stated in article 3 of that convention that the receipt of money has never been the object of the said treaty powers, but the establishment of better relations with Japan,” &c., that a portion of that indemnity, say five hundred thousand (500,000) dollars, might be most advantageously employed in improvements in both the foreign and Japanese settlements, at the open ports, such as drainage, cleaning streets, &c. In no manner that I am aware of could any portion of such indemnity be employed to greater advantage and be of more lasting benefit to both our political and commercial relations with this country.

I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,

A. L. C. PORTMAN, Chargé d’ Affaires ad interim in Japan.

Hon. William H. Seward, Secretary of State, Washington.

No. 1.


The government of the Tycoon having offered, in April last, to pay, in the course of the sixth month of the Japanese year of Gengi, (which terminated yesterday, Sunday, 20th August, ) to the representatives of the foreign powers who signed the convention of the 22d October, 1864, a sum of five hundred thousand (500,000) dollars, as the first instalment of the indemnity stipulated for in the said convention, and the said offer having been accepted in April last by the representatives of the signing powers, and Taumra Higo No Kami having tendered, on the 19th instant, to the undersigned, on the part of the government of the Tycoon, the said sum of five hundred thousand dollars, the undersigned hereby record their agreement to take delivery of the said money, and with a view to its safe custody, to authorize, by the letter at foot, the deposit of the same in two equal sums of two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) dollars in the chartered Oriental Bank and the chartered Mercantile Bank at Yokohama, each bank to receive one of the said sums and to hold the same subject to the instructions now expected from the respective governments of the undersigned as to the manner in which the said money is to be disposed of.

Signed at her Britannic Majesty’s legation this 21st day of August, A. D. 1865.

HARRY S. PARKS, H. B. M.’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.

A. L. C. PORTMAN, Chargé d’ Affaires of the United States.

D. DE GRAEFF VON POLSBROEK, H. N. M.’s Political Agent and Consul General.

For the Ministre of France—

P. CHEVEY RAMEAU, Geiant du Consulat General de France.



You are hereby authorized to receive from the Japanese authorities the sum of two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) dollars, and to hold the same subject to our conjoint order.

As the delivery of this sum may extend over several days, you will give a receipt at the close of each day for the amount received on that day, which will be countersigned by Mr. Eusden, Japanese secretary to her Britannic Majesty’s legation.

H. S. P.

A. L. C. P.

D. DE GR. P.

P. C.R., (for M. Roches.)


S. G. Richard, Esq., Manager Chartered Oriental Bank.

R. Brett, Esq., Manager Chartered Mercantile Bank, Yokohama.