« PreviousContinue »
for many centuries and a written language which can be traced back, perhaps, to the time of the ancient Assyrians, long before the ancestors of the Chinese began their eastward march and founded an empire on the shores of the Yellow Sea. They used the magnetic needle in the fourth century, and printed books in the tenth century, five hundred years before that art was known in Europe.
RELATIONS WITH JAPAN.
THE empire of Japan was founded 660 years before the advent of Christ and was an absolute monarchy until 1889, when the despotism was abolished and a constitution adopted. It consists of four islands lying east of China, with an area of 147,655 square miles, or nearly as large as the state of California, and a population of 40,000,000, or a little more than that of France. The army consists of 80,000 men with 326 guns, and all its firearms, ordnance, and ammunition are made in Japanese arsenals. The navy is composed of seventeen steel and iron vessels, five composite and three wooden vessels, of 37,600 aggregate tonnage, and 11,463 officers and men. The imports in 1890 amounted to $80,000,000, about $7,000,000 of which was bought from the United States. The exports for the same year amounted to $55,000,000, of which $20,000,000 was sold to the United States.
The first intercourse of Japan with Europeans resulted from a visit of a Portuguese company to Nagasaki in 1545, with whom commercial relations were established. They were followed by the Dutch in 1600 and the British East India Company in 1613, with whom similar commerce was opened. Owing, however, to the intrigues and political intermeddling of Catholic missionaries, a decree of the government expelling foreigners from the country was enforced in 1639 against all
aliens except a few Dutch traders, who were permitted, under. severe restrictions, to remain within certain limits of the country.
This rigorous isolation from the other nations of the world was carefully maintained for nearly three centuries. But it must not be inferred that the Japanese were ignorant of all that happened during these many years, in Europe and Asia, since one of the conditions imposed upon the few Dutch residents remaining in the empire was that they were to collect and report to the government all important or interesting information relating to other nations. This information, studiously concealed from the people, was regularly communicated to the emperor and his advisers. Thus they had constant and accurate knowledge of the progress of European commerce and the British and Russian encroachments into Asia. They gave the closest study to the march of these events. They saw that the intrusions of Western civilization were inevitable and that, in the near future, they too would have to face the problem. Hence they were prepared, however unwillingly, to break down the barriers that had been so long and successfully maintained and, by virtue of necessity, to enter into relations with the outer world.
At this auspicious period, Commodore Perry of the American navy, specially commissioned by his government, entered the bay of Yedo. Although accompanied by an armament sufficient to have enforced any demand, he seems to have depended alone, for the success of his plans, upon the impressive moral effect that would result from such a display of force; and his conduct toward the Japanese authorities was marked by a scrupulous regard for their government and a punctilious respect for their people. After a few days of pleasant intercourse and the interchange of courteous civilities with the natives, he communicated to them the object of his
mission and confided to their care dispatches to be conveyed to the emperor. Then he weighed anchor and, without waiting for any reply from the government, put to sea. This strange species of diplomacy, so fully in line with Japanese ideas of propriety, had a happy effect; for, contrasting this conduct of the Americans with that of the British and Russians toward Eastern countries, the people were deeply impressed with the delicate sense of honor displayed by the Americans; and, conscious of their inability longer to avert foreign intercourse, they were now prepared to entertain our advances favorably.
Under these circumstances, Commodore Perry again entered the Japanese waters in 1854, one year from the date of his first visit. This long period of time had afforded the Japanese an opportunity for careful deliberation; and, in view of the necessity of opening the country to foreign intercourse and because of the apprehension that they might soon have to experience some of the peculiar tactics of European diplomacy, they decided to respond to the advances of the United States government. Thus it happened that the visit of Commodore Perry was most opportune, and that officer, who had carefully acquainted himself with the circumstances, at once addressed himself to the successful accomplishment of his delicate task. His various steps in the process of negotiation were taken with caution, and his gracious and courteous conduct so completely dispelled suspicion that he was regarded as the representative of a friendly power with whom Japan might safely treat. Thenceforth his overtures, couched in deferential terms and free from every species of dictation and assumption, were respectfully and favorably considered by the Japanese government; so that, after some short delays incident to the arrangement of such matters, a treaty between Japan and the United States was signed. This treaty, the first one entered into
by Japan, has resulted in the opening of the country to the world and, supplemented as it has been by our just conduct toward that people, has given to the United States a prestige and influence in Japan that no other nation so fully enjoys.
In 1855, Mr. Townsend Harris was appointed consul general of the United States to Japan by President Buchanan and, proceeding there, established his residence at Shimoda on the bay of Yedo, a port opened to our commerce under the treaty negotiated by Commodore Perry. From the beginning of his official career, this remarkable person exercised great influence in Japanese affairs. Although trained to mercantile pursuits, and without any previous experience in diplomacy, he seems to have understood intuitively the character of the Japanese and to have perfectly comprehended the complicated situation that had resulted from the opening of the country to foreign intercourse. And it should be recorded to his honor and to the credit of the government he so ably represented, that the great influence wielded by him was always exerted in a spirit of liberality toward Japan and with unswerving fidelity to the interests of his country.
Soon after his arrival there evidences of a popular revolution were manifested. The opening of the country to foreigners, accepted as inevitable by the state, was resisted by the people, who were not yet willing to receive the western barbarians. The ruler was considered as a usurper and conspiracies were formed for his overthrow. Many of the powerful territorial nobles were in revolt. The country was in a state of chronic disorder and, amidst it all, those foreign nations that had followed the United States in making treaties with Japan, were holding the government to the strictest responsibility, in spite of the fact that it was doing everything in its power faithfully to comply with the treaties. Mr. Harris alone seemed to comprehend the real situation and to ex