Mr. Portman to Mr. Seward.

Sir: Under instructions from Mr. Van Valkenburgh to report to you the intelligence from this part of Japan, I have the honor to transmit herewith, No. 1, copy of the official account of the recent battle between Osaka and Kioto, and No. 2, copy of the Tycoon’s letter to the Mikado, intrusted to his commissioner therein referred to.

My notification of the 11th ultimo, copies of which I herewith transmit, was issued on that day. I am unable to say to what extent it has been used by the Tycoon’s government, but previous to that date many wealthy merchants and others were leaving Yedo, and it gives me much pleasure to report to you that the exodus has entirely stopped, and that the most perfect tranquillity has apparently been restored.

I am fully aware that it was never contemplated to claim for the principle of exterritoriality such an extended application; but the fact of the [Page 682] notification having been printed at the government office in Yedo sufficiently shows that it met with the Tycoon’s entire concurrence, and it is quite probable also that it will be assented to by those who now oppose his government.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh informed me that he sent you a copy of his instructions to me not to deliver the “Stonewall” to the Tycoon’s government.

As war now is reported to exist between the Mikado and Tycoon, the notifications of the foreign representatives enjoin the observance of strict neutrality, and under those circumstances the “Stonewall” will, for the present at least, have to remain under our flag.

The Tycoon persistently denies that there is war between the Mikado and himself, claiming that the Mikado is a minor; that his guardians, appointed by the former Mikado, his father, have been forcibly removed by a coalition of Daimios, of which Satsuma is the chief; that other persons were, put in their places by Satsuma, and that it is in the name of the Mikado, and through those persons, that Satsuma and his confederates are now acting.

The issue, therefore, lies not between the Mikado and the Tycoon, but between the Tycoon and Satsuma.

There are many great Daimios who have not yet defined their position, but appear to maintain an armed neutrality. Nearly all of those are well provided with rifles of the latest inventions.

It is well known that in former years the Portuguese exported large quantities of gold from this country. Since their expulsion, now more than two hundred and fifty years ago, this export was stopped, with exceptions so trifling as scarcely to deserve any mention. The mines continued producing, however, and the accumulated product, an extremely small portion of which was only required for the currency, formed a reserve fund to be used by the Shogoon of Japan in a great emergency, such as a foreign war for example.

I have reason to believe that the value of the gold in the hands of the Tycoon, in the shape of bars, is enormous. I can scarcely credit the statement of my informant, as that might appear exaggerated; but assuming that the mines only produced to the value of one million of dollars per annum, it would follow that the Tycoon, who is known to have no debt, would at present command a treasury containing gold and surplus to the amount of at least two hundred and fifty millions of dollars.

The Tycoon will deny his being in possession of so much treasure. Some of the foreign representatives decline to believe in the Tycoon’s wealth, but I feel sure that, sooner or later, this will prove to be correct.

From Mr. Van Valkenburgh’s dispatches you will have learned that in the early part of the last month no less a personage than the karo, or secretary of the Prince of Bezen, made an indiscriminate attack on the foreign settlement at Kobé, (Hiogo,) and that the foreign representatives, several of whom narrowly escaped being hit by the bullets of his retainers, now demand the punishment of that secretary. Satisfaction for the outrage has been promised by the government of the Mikado, or of those who, according to the Tycoon, claim to act in his name, and in case of refusal of Bezen to surrender his secretary the Mikado is to make war against him.

The Mikado, therefore, is supposed to disagree with Bezen, and it cannot be expected that the Tycoon will indorse him. It would appear, therefore, that the Prince of Bezen, or his secretary, acted on his own responsibility, only obeying his own passionate impulses. There is [Page 683] nothing to guarantee that other Daimios will not make similar attempts at any moment. To-day the governor of this port issued a notice requesting foreigners not to go on the Tokaido, (the main road to Yedo,) as a train of Mito’s men would pass through Kanagawa on their way to that capital. The governor was apprehensive of something happening, and yet the Prince of Mito is the Tycoon’s eldest brother.

To-day, again, intelligence was received from Nagasaki that the flags of Satsuma, Choshin, and Toda, over the custom-house, were hauled down, and that that port is now under the protection of the agents of twelve Daimios.

The names of those Daimios are not given, but their act in hauling down those flags may sooner or later form or be twisted into a casus belli between them and the three Daimios named. The Tycoon remains inactive, simply organizing his forces in this part of Japan. It is expected that other Daimios will soon quarrel with each other, and before long there may be more than one civil war in Japan, each more or less independent of the other.

In none of these will there be any political principle at stake; they will be simply questions of supremacy of one Daimio over another, and eventually, it is hoped, they may be all reunited in some way under the scepter of the Mikado or Tycoon, or perhaps of both.

In one respect only all agree, according to their professions, and this is unbounded veneration for the Mikado; and yet this veneration did not prevent Choshin from making the attempt, now nearly four years ago, of carrying off the Mikado to his provinces. Satsuma recently was more successful, and the Mikado is now to all intents and purposes the vassal if not the prisoner of that bold and unscrupulous Daimio.

The real sovereign of this country is not the Mikado, who is represented as powerless; neither is it the Tycoon, who is checked. The ruler is the spirit of evil, which appears to be all-powerful, and to control every nobleman in this country.

Mr. Van Valkenburgh has kindly authorized me to explain his views to you, but even if I should enlarge upon them, as they have now been formed, I beg respectfully to submit, with reference to the foregoing, and in view of the utter unreliability of the ruling classes in Japan, that such terrible engines for mischief as iron-clads should never be permitted to get into their possession.

No means should be spared to prevent this, and I hope that you will be pleased to approve of this suggestion and to give it effect.

The Japanese have abundance of treasure and of breech-loading rifles, and entertain no friendly feeling towards foreigners, as the Bezen attack has fully shown. If they are allowed to possess iron-clads, the great western powers may soon find themselves compelled to send home their wooden ships and keep squadrons of superior iron-clads in these seas.

Every fourth man in this country belongs to the two-sworded class, and it is now the highest ambition of nearly all these men to excel as sharpshooters. The military element, always strong, has been over-stimulated from many causes—the principal one being the rivalry among Daimios in obtaining the most improved fire-arms. It was never expected that war would break out. So little did the Tycoon himself expect this, that he allowed Satsuma to surround the Mikado’s palace at Kioto—a measure which, if in the least foreseen, he could easily have prevented. No one knows now what the next hour may bring forth.

It is well worthy of consideration what the effect may be not only on our relations with this country, but perhaps also with China at a future day, if this nation becomes fully armed, and while the proud [Page 684] spirit, by which it still appears to be animated, is not friendly towards foreigners, and at the same time so aggressive and so little under control.

The supply of rifles cannot well be stopped; that of iron-clads, I sincerely hope, may not be a difficult matter, as they can only be built in the United States, England, and France.

The Tycoon has again declared his intention to abdicate; it is doubtful whether he will carry out that intention. He may resign as Shogoon, but will undoubtedly insist upon remaining the chief of the Tokugawa family, and this is pretty much the same thing under another name.

I transmit inclosure No. 3, copy of proclamation relating to that intention to abdicate, and establishing representative government of some sort for this country. I do not believe this new move to be a bona fide one, and to deserve much commendation at present.

I also transmit inclosure No. 4, copy of my letter to the Gorogio, on learning the intended abdication of the Tycoon.

The Monocacy and Iroquois are both in port.

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


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

No. 1.

Official account of the recent action between Kioto and Osaka, by Okubo Sazen No Sho, colonel commanding the advance guard, as given verbatim.

On the 27th day of the twelfth month (the 21st day of January) the Tycoon received the first intelligence of the occurrences at Yedo on the 19th, the destruction of the Sat-suma yaskis, and on the next day he received a report in writing.

Satsuma, who must have received that intelligence at about the same time, suddenly became very imperious and overbearing at Kioto—so much so, that the Mikado at once ordered Owari Daimangong and Matsudaira Okura Tayu (the prince of Etshizen) to proceed to Osaka and summon the Tycoon to Kioto to repress those troubles.

In his interview with the two princes the Tycoon declared his willingness to put down those disturbances by force, if necessary, but, as this might lead to war, he proposed that first the Mikado should himself attempt to get rid of those troublesome Satsuma men.

The Tycoon in the mean time made preparations to go to Kioto in person. A public notice was given at Osaka, and the advance guard was ordered to proceed to Nigo, (the Tycoon’s castle at Kioto.) This guard was to consist of no more than two battalions of five hundred men each.

The Tycoon’s preparations being completed, Colonel Okubo Sizen No Sho, in command of the advance guard, embarked with his men at 6 o’clock p. m. of the 2d day of the first month, (26th January,) at the Hatshiken Ya, the landing place at Osaka, and at 7 o’clock the next morning he arrived at Yedo. On the same day two other battalions proceeded by land to the temple Kurotani, in the eastern part of the city of Kioto, and they went as far as Fugimi.

Colonel Okubo was accompanied by the Ohometske (herald) Takikawa Harima No Kami as especial commissioner of the Tycoon to the Mikado, who was furnished with a letter from his master, announcing his approach for the purpose of tranquillizing Kioto, and stating that he would cause the arrest of the Satsuma men, and if the Mikado could not act, force would be used if necessary, and in such manner as the Mikado might command. In this document the offenses of Satsuma were recapitulated as far as they were known.

At 11 o’clock a. m., on the third day, Takikawa Karima No Kami, the herald, left Yedo by the Tobakaido and reached the gate of Yodzuzuka at Kioto, a distance of 1½ ri, (a little over four miles.) An escort of two hundred men was given to Takikawa, and they were only armed with swords. At this gate the herald was informed that he could not pass—neither he nor any armed men of Tokagawa, (Tycoon.)

The gate, he was further told, on behalf of the officer in charge, was held by Choshu, men, who acted as assistants of Satsuma, and under instructions from the Mikado.

The herald then said that he could not believe this, as no such instructions had been communicated to him or to Tokugawa, of whose advance guard his escort formed a part, and that this guard was on the way to Nigo castle. The commanding officer of [Page 685] the gate then repeated that though Choshin men, the port was in fact held by Satsuma, and they were only assisting.

Near Yodzuzuka is a large temple called Tojee—this temple was Satsuma’s headquarters; and Takikawa found himself suddenly surrounded by Satsuma men, dispatched from headquarters, who refused him to pass.

He then returned to Yedo, having no power to force the gate; but some of the officer of his escort remained.

On his return to Yedo both Takikawa and Colonel Okubo reported to Matsudaira Boozen No Kami, commander-in-chief, asking for instructions. The instructions came, “Go and pass, but don’t fire first—and not unless attacked.”

At 3 o’clock p. m. both left Yedo with the two battalions, and at a distance of about fifteen streets* from that town, Takikawa’s officers, who had remained in front of the gate, were jnet with a message that Satsuma had reported their approach to the Mikado, and desired them to wait until a reply could be received.

The Tycoon’s advance guard proceeded and soon met troops, who were challenged. The reply was, “we are Choshin men patrolling.” Civilities were interchanged, and. the Choshin men were allowed to pass. The advance guard continued to proceed on the tobakaido—a very narrow road of only twelve feet in width—till within three streets of the Korjeda bridge, at a distance from Yedo of one ri. This bridge spans a small stream on which, a little to the westward, the temple of Tojee, Satsuma’s headquarters, was situated. On the other side, and commanding the bridge, two guns, with Satsuma’s men, could be clearly discerned. On the right was a temple among the trees, and there were two more guns, and among the farm-houses in the rear, troops had been stationed. It was evident that Satsuma’s men were in position, and the order was given to halt. The men wished to go on, but he restrained their impatience by reminding them of the instructions not to fire first.

As Takikawa, the herald, on passing in the morning, had found the road clear up to the gate of Yodzuzuka, it was further evident that the Satsuma troops had only been for a couple of hours in their position, and this promptness was conclusive as to Satsuma acting not under orders, but on his own responsibility.

Okubo dispatched an officer to ask for the answer of the Mikado, stating that the attempt to stop Tokugawa’s men was unwarrantable. Hossokawa Okin Daibu’s men, to the number also of two battalions, had gone up to Kioto that day, and as he had instructions to pass, he would now proceed to do so. The reply was that the Mikado had not yet been heard from, but as soon as his command was received it would be communicated.

Okubo’s men were eager for action, and became more so when it was perceived, with the aid of field glasses, that Satsuma’s men were carefully taking the range of their guns. The position of Okubo’s men was, at this stage, as follows: 1st, two companies of sharpshooters in front; 2d, Colonel Okubo; 3d, four field pieces, two abreast; and 4th, the two battalions of infantry, in line on the narrow tobakaido.

The number and strength of Satsuma’s force were unknown.

After a brief pause, eight Satsuma soldiers stepped from the ranks and halted. An officer was sent by Okubo a distance of seventy ken, (four hundred and twenty feet,) to meet them; and he was told that as Satsuma’s messenger had not yet returned from the Mikado, the force would not be allowed to pass. Okubo then said: “Since this morning a messenger might have gone and returned from the gosho (Mikado’s palace) at least four or five times. He did not believe a messenger had been sent at all. The Mikado has given you no instructions. You do not speak the truth, and I shall now proceed.” Okubo’s officer was only armed with a sword. The Satsuma men replied: “If you attempt to pass by force, by force you will be resisted.” The parleying here terminated, and Okubo’s officer returned. The Satsuma men only fell back a distance of eight ken, (forty-eight feet,) wheeled round, cocked their rifles, and fired a volley. This, evidently, was a signal, for immediately fire on all sides was opened by the men of Satsuma. Five cannon balls in less than a minute passed Okubo, thus showing how carefully the range had been taken. On one side of the narrow road on which he found himself with his command, were low lands and rice fields, and on the other side the ground was covered by brushwood and some trees. While exposed to this galling fire, and unable to deploy his men, he gave the order to fall back to a better position, when he found himself suddenly attacked in the rear by the men he had allowed to pass some time before, and who claimed to be Choshumen. But for his two companies of sharpshooters in front, who made excellent practice in picking off the enemy’s gunners, his command would wellnigh have been annihilated. His retreat was in good order, and three streets further down he again attempted to take up position. Satsuma’s sharpshooters in the meanwhile advanced and engaged; and his own, finding themselves outnumbered, retreated, firing; the loss was great on both sides. Towards midnight Okubo was re-enforced by one hundred and fifty men of the Daimio Kuwana, by whom, principally, the firing was kept up till 2 o’clock in the morning of the fourth day, when, on both sides, the firing slackened. Before daybreak, however, the engagement became more general. [Page 686] Re-enforcements must have been received on both sides. The retreat was continued to Yoko Ojimura, where the road was slightly wider, and among the houses and intrenchments hastily thrown up the battle continued the whole day, the enemy remaining under cover of the wood, from which it was found impossible to dislodge them.

The Tycoon’s force was too large, and not well handled; the position was bad, and they were constantly in each other’s way. At 4 p. m. Okubo was wounded and carried off the field.

Towards evening the enemy advanced in force to the Kobashi bridge of Yedo. It was important to hold that point, and the fighting was very severe. The loss of general officers was very great, and Satsuma’s sharpshooters were very numerous.

The Castle of Yedo, near the bridge, was a point of importance, and being the property of Inaba Minonokami, a Tycoon’s gnojin, not the slightest doubt was entertained that the Tycoon’s commanders would be able to avail themselves of it; as it was, then, they had calculated to make a stand and place their forces in line of battle. But the officers in charge of the castle closed the gates and refused admittance.

The plans being thus entirely disarranged, the position of Yedo became untenable, and the order was given to fall back on Yawata, in the direction of Osaka. There a stand was made, and the Tycoon’s forces began to drive back the enemy with every prospect of continued success, when suddenly they were attacked by a heavy fire in the rear. This attack must have proceeded from the troops of Yodo Idsuminokami, supposed to be a warm Mend of the Tycoon.

Early in the morning of that day Colonel Okubo with others of the wounded was carried past their camp. They met with great cordiality from them, and in front of the camp were only to be seen two old-fashioned brass six-pounders.

The attack in the rear was with rifled artillery of much heavier caliber. It was soon perceived that the battle was virtually over. There is said to have been no rout, and most of the troops retreated in good order. Firing was still kept up on both sides, but at daybreak of the 6th (the 30th January) the retreat became general, firing desultory. At 2 p. m., to delay the pursuing forces, Hirakata was set on fire; and in the evening of that day the two commanding officers, Matsudaira Bootennokami and Iakinaka Tangonokami, arrived at Osaka.

On the side of the Tycoon were contingents of the following Daimios: Matsu Yama, or Matsudaira Okinokami; Aidzu Yama, or Matsudaira Higonokami; Kuwana Yama, or Matsudaira Etshünokami; Ogaki Yama, or Toda Awajinokami; Oshi Yama, or Matsudaira Simosanokami; Shimedzu Yama, or Sakai Wutanokami; Yosida Yama, or Matsudaira Giobu Jayu.

On the other side were the larger Daimios of Satsuma, Aki, (Geshü,) Choshü, and some smaller ones.

The Daimios Owari, Etshizen, Hikone, Josa, Higo, (Kiüsiü,) Sendai, Inshü, Saga, Kurumé, Iye, and others, had from one to two battalions in Kioto, but remained neutral, for reasons best known to themselves.

The battle began on the 3d, (the 27th January,) in the afternoon, and lasted, with but little intermission during the evening of the 5th, till the morning of the 6th day of the first Japanese month, (the 30th January last.)

The number of men engaged on both sides is not known, neither has it as yet been possible to ascertain the losses in killed, wounded, and missing.

No. 2.

To the Mikado:

Your servant Yoci-nobu (name of Tycoon) respectfully submits that since the 9th day of the last month the imperial pleasure has not been consulted in the affairs of government, but that it is now notorious, even to the humblest person in the empire, that the unscrupulous cunning of Matsudaira Shuri Daibu (Satsuma) exercises full sway.

Disturbances and robberies have been incited and committed by those Satsuma men in Yedo, Nagasaki, Gashu, and Joshu, interrupting communications from east to west, and the empire is in confusion.

Their acts, as set forth in the appended document, are odious in the sight of Heaven and in that of the people. I request, therefore, that an order may be issued delivering those retainers into my hands. If compliance with this order be refused, I shall take measures to execute it.

[Memorandum appended.]

Aggressive acts of Satsuma’s retainers and their accomplices.

In spite of an order of the Mikado, that matters of importance must be settled after consultation, they, (the Satsuma men,) on the 9th day of the last month, suddenly, and [Page 687] in contempt of the young sovereign, undertook to alter the policy and to manage things in their own way.

Sesseih Denka, former minister, of the late Mikado, and who during the minority of the present sovereign had special powers to act, has now been dismissed and prevented from entering the Mikado’s palace.

They treat the Mia and Dosios members of the Mikado’s family or household in the most high-handed manner.

Under pretense of guarding the nine gates of the palace, they and others, by exciting the retainers of other Daimios, get up threatening demonstrations with weapons in hand within the precincts of the Mikado’s palace, thus showing utter disrespect to the imperial government. This is a great rudeness.

They, (the Satsuina’s retainers,) by assembling Ronins in the Satsuma’s yaskisin Yedo, instigated the robberies in that city. They fired on a camp of Sakai Sayemonnodjo. They set lire and destroyed, for the sake of plunder, many houses in Yashu and Soshu. Evidence can be produced.

No. 3.

Proclamation by the Tycoon, issued by the Gorojin, the 26th day of the 1st month, (19th February, 1868.)

After mature consideration, Wuyesama (the Tycoon) has formed the intention to abdicate, and to nominate Kee Tshunangong, Prince of Kishü, as his successor.

A petition to this effect having been submitted to the Mikado, the present proclamation is issued under instructions.


As it is proper to determine the principle of the constitution of Japan with due regard to the wishes of the majority, I have resigned the supreme power to the Mikado’s court, and advised that the opinions of all the Daimios should be taken.

On examination of my household affairs, (the administration of Tycoon’s territories,) many irregularities may exist, which may dissatisfy the people, and which I therefore greatly deplore.

Hence I intend to establish a Kogijo, (public opinion place of business, Parliament,) and to accept the opinion of the majority.

Any one, therefore, who has an opinion to express, may do so at that place and be free of apprehension.

Notification by the Gorogio.

With reference to the foregoing proclamation by the Tycoon, all officers, whether entitled to go to the audience of the Tycoon or not, their sons and others, Daimios’ officers, farmers, merchants, and others, any one who has an opinion to express, will do so in writing at the Kogijo, (Parliament.)

If warranted by circumstances, communications may also be made verbally. Until suitable buildings shall have been selected for the Kogijo, the present Hiogo Sho (the criminal court) will be used for that purpose.

The day of opening of Parliament shall be made known afterwards.

Circular by the Gorogio to the officers of the government.

As soon as the Kogijo (Parliament) shall be established, the chief of each department of the public service will select one of his officers to represent that department.

When a department employs less than five officers, no representative need be sent; and when a department employs many officers, one out of every fifty officers must be sent.

The 27th day of the 1st month, (the 20th February, 1868.)

[Page 688]

Notification by the Gorogio.

As the Kaigi (hall of assembly) will be opened, all superior officers and nobles who have an opinion to express, though they may not be in the service of the government, are hereby invited to come to the castle at Obirma, on the 29th day, at 10 o’clock a. m.


As on the 19th January last the port of Kanagawa was closed by a naval engagement being fought within its treaty limits, and with the view of preventing a repetition of similar infringements of the treaty between the United States and Japan, notice is hereby given to whom it may concern, and for the better observance of strict neutrality by the United States, that any hostile encounter, or even attempt to that effect, within the ten-ri treaty limits of Kanagawa, on the sea or on land, by the forces of either party to the civil war now existing in Japan, will be considered a deliberate infringement of the said treaty, and as such must expect to meet with a decided expression of the displeasure of the United States.

No. 4.

Mr. Portman to the Gorojin.

No. 21.]

I have this day learned that by a recent proclamation his Majesty the Tycoon has announced his intention to abdicate, and to nominate Kee Tshünangong, Dono Prince of Kishu, as his successor. Firmly believing that his Majesty Stotsbashi is the first sovereign of Japan who has adopted a fixed foreign policy—that of promoting friendly intercourse with the treaty powers—and of judiciously encouraging foreign trade so as to render it an active agent in furthering the interests of his people, I do not hesitate to assure your excellencies, as the consistency and wisdom of your government have been fully appreciated, no less than the great difficulties by which your sound and liberal policy has been surrounded, that the abdication of his Majesty the Tycoon, should it unfortunately take effect, will be sincerely regretted by the government of the United States. And I can only hope that your excellencies will soon have it in your power to announce that his Majesty has been able to reconsider his intention, and will remain the chief of the government of Japan.

With respect and esteem,


Their Excellencies the Gorojin, &c., &c., &c. Yedo.

  1. Thirty-six streets to one ri or Japanese mile.