Mr. Bigelow to Mr. Seward

No. 244.]

Sir: Recalling the communication received at this legation from the British [embassy at Paris, dated December 19th, 1865, in reference to the mode of transmitting [Page 274] the Japanese indemnity, a copy of which was enclosed in my despatch No. 226, I have now the honor to transmit to you a note verbale, received from Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, advising me of what appears to be a very satisfactory settlement of all the questions growing out of the convention signed at Yokohama on the 22d of October, 1864. By this note I am advised that the representatives of the treaty powers have concluded a final arrangement for the payment of the whole indemnity, a modification of the tariffs, and new guarantees for the opening of the Hiogo. The part of the telegram communicating this intelligence which fixed the time when the Hiogo was to be opened, unfortunately was not legible.

By the same note I was advised of the proposal of the British cabinet to divide the indemnity fund equally between all the powers. The liberality of this proposal places the United States under greater obligations than any of the other treaty powers, inasmuch as our equitable proportion of it was, I believe, the smallest. I did not hesitate to embrace this proposal, subject only to the conditions by which my power was limited. Subject to the same conditions, I accepted the proposal of Great Britain to deposit the first instalment of $500,000 in the English military chest at Yokohama, and its equivalent, in sterling, at the board of treasury, in London, subject to the order of the four powers. The note verbale of Mr. Drouyn de Lhuys, and mine in reply, are herewith annexed. France accepts these propositions, and Holland undoubtedly soon will do so, if she has not already. Nothing will then be wanting for the distribution of the fund but the ratification of the treaty by Congress. I hope, with the ratification, to receive your instructions as to the disposition of the money that shall be placed to the credit of the United States.

I am, sir, with great respect, your obedient servant,


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


Verbal Note.

The affair of the Japanese indemnity had heretofore given rise to two questions: 1st. In effecting the payment of the first instalment of the indemnity, the Japanese government had asked for a delay of one year for the payment of the second instalment. Was this request to be discarded or to be granted; or was there occasion to remit part of the indemnity; and in the two latter alternatives what compensation should we ask for in return? 2d. How should the indemnity be divided, and how should the sums paid over by the Japanese government be received?

It was thought advisable to leave the first question to be decided by the representatives of the four powers interested in Japan, acting together. The last news received from that I country shows that that point must by this time be settled. Indeed, the ministers of France and England have sent to Paris and London copies of a memorandum drawn up and signed by them and their colleagues from the United States and the Netherlands, in which declaring that there would be advantage in remitting the two-thirds of the indemnity to the Japanese government, if in return it were disposed to give us the three following compensations: the opening of the port of Hiogo and of the town of Osacca to the commerce of the four powers as early as the 1st of January, 1866, the ratification of the treaties by the Mikado, and a revision of the custom-house tariff. They have decided to go to Osacca, where the government of the Tycoon had just arrived, to conclude at once, amicably, with it, the negotiations relating to this affair. Now a recent telegraphic despatch addressed by Sir Harry Parkes to the British government, under date of Shanghai, December 8, states that the Mikado had approved the treaties, a modification of the tariffs had been obtained, the opening of the port of Hiogo was again guaranteed, and the indemnity was to be punctually paid. The allied naval forces which had brought the European agents to Osacca were, therefore, sent back to Yokohama. We have now, consequently, only to come to an agreement with regard to the second question.

The government of the Emperor had thought at first that the division of the Japanese indemnity might be effected in accordance with the following plan: the two-thirds of it, [Page 275] say two millions of dollars, to be divided among the four powers concerned, proportionably to the number of men employed by each, in the Simonosaki expedition; France, the United States, and the Netherlands to levy each $140,000 upon the last third as a compensation for special losses; and the remaining $580,000 to be divided into four equal shares among the four powers. The British cabinet appearing to be more in favor of an equal division of the whole of the indemnity among the four powers, the government of the Emperor makes no difficulty in adopting this plan, and is ready, should this system of division be adopted also by the government of the United States, to apply it to the $500,000 already paid in by the Japanese government as the first instalment of the indemnity. As for the manner in which each government is to receive this money, the British cabinet proposes that the $500,000 already deposited in two of the banks of Yokohama should be handed over to its commissariat chest at Yokohama, in which case an equal sum in pounds sterling would be held by the Treasury Department at London, subject to the draft of the powers entitled to share in it. If, as there is reason to suppose, this combination is not of a nature to create objections, even at Yokohama, the government of the Emperor is prepared to accept it also, and only desires to know whether the government of the United States would acquiesce in it also, in which case the plan proposed could be at once carried out.

Verbal Note.

The minister of the United States at Paris has been advised of a despatch recently addressed by Sir Harry Parkes to the British government, dated Shanghai, December 8, 1865, which states that the Mikado had approved of the treaties entered into between the government of Japan and the governments of England, France, Holland, and the United States; that the tariffs had been modified; that the opening of the Hiogo had been guaranteed anew, and the stipulated indemnity was to be punctually paid,

The minister of the United States is also advised that the English cabinet had proposed that the covenanted indemnity, as well what had already been paid as what should hereafter be paid, should be equally divided between the four treaty powers.

Assuming that the telegraphic advices from Sir Harry Parkes shall be sustained by official despatches, and that the Senate of the United States will ratify the convention at Yokohama of 22d October, 1864, the minister of the United States does not hesitate to embrace the liberal proposal of the British cabinet, if found acceptable to the other treaty powers.

The British cabinet also proposes to deposit the first instalment of $500,000 in its military chest at Yokohama, and an equivalent in sterling to the credit of the treaty powers at the treasury in London. This proposal also the minister of the United States is ready to embrace, subject always to the conditions attached to his acceptance of the preceding proposition.