Mr. Thornton to Mr. Seward
Sir: Lord Stanley has instructed me to state to you, for the information of the government of the United States, that he has lately received reports and documents from Sir Harry Parkes, her Majesty’s minister to Japan, relating to the persecution of native Christians in that country, and showing that the feeling against that religion is unfortunately increasing.[Page 433]
Amongst the documents is a decree ordering the distribution among 34 daimios of about 4,000 native Christians, who are to be kept at hard labor for a term of three years, during which time kind persuasion is to be used to induce them to turn to their old religion. At the expiration of that time they may be condemned to capital punishment if they still refuse to recant. In writing to Sir Harry Parkes upon this subject Lord Stanley has pointed out the necessity, in seeking to avert the threatened evil, of proceeding with caution. A rupture with Japan would paralyze a trade which promises to be of great value, while its immediate effect would scarcely be other than to increase, for a time at least, the pressure for persecution which the governing powers in Japan, however well disposed, might be unable to withstand.
The feelings of the United States, of France, and of England, upon this subject are well known, and the concurrence of other powers may be confidently assumed. If, then, the powers of Christendom should be compelled to adopt a common action to repress or revenge a policy of systematic religious persecution, the Japanese government would be exposed to serious danger.
But as her Majesty’s government consider that the Japanese government have the power, if only they have the will, to restrain the fanaticism of their people, Lord Stanley has instructed Sir Harry Parkes, if occasion should unhappily arise for doing so, to act, as far as possible, in concert with his colleagues in behalf of native Christians; but he does not authorize him to take any more decided measures than those of friendly representation and remonstrance, unless, indeed, the persecution of native Christians should lead to a similar persecution of foreign Christians, and among them British subjects, in which case her Majesty’s minister would be justified in applying to the commander of her Majesty’s naval forces in the waters of Japan for his co-operation in protecting their persons and property, at the same time holding the Japanese government responsible for any wrongs done to them.
I have the honor to be, with the highest consideration, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,
Hon. William H. Seward, C. B., &c., &c., &c.