CHINA AND JAPAN
Remarks on the Occurrences in the Gulf of Pecheelee -- Arrival at Woosung -- Reply of the Emperor of China to the President's letter -- Sail for Nagasaki, with Minister Ward on board -- Unique suit of Armor -- Accident to the Machinery -- Sail for Kanagawa -- Yokuhama -- Rapid growth of the latter place -- Arrival at Yedo -- Description of the place -- Police arrangements -- Residences of the hereditary Princes -- Trade between Japan and Shanghai -- Sail for Hong-Kong -- Arrival of the Hartford -- Preparations for the Embassy on board the Powhatan -- Sail for Kanagawa.
The course pursued by the representatives of the Allied Powers in refusing to listen to the proposal of the Pehtang route to Peking, and attempting to force their way up the Pei-ho, gave rise to considerable discussion among the officers of the Powhatan -- a small portion of them contending that the Chinese had an indisputable right to designate the route by which they should proceed to the Capital, and to exclude them from the river with the large escort of gun-boats which was to have attended them as far as Tientsin. But a very slight acquaintance with the character of that peculiar people would suffice to convince any one that, if the Envoy had accepted this unexpected proposal, it would have been regarded as an indication of weakness or timidity, and presumed upon to make further demands upon the spirit of concession thus manifested. The American Minister could not decline to avail of the opportunity offered him to reach the Capital by the route indicated, because the treaty under which he was acting made no mention of the place where the exchange of its ratification should occur, and no importance was attached to the fact that the year, within which the ceremony should have been performed, had already expired.
The last casus belli between the English and Chinese, when sifted down to its original element, consists in nothing but the obstinate adherence of the latter nation to its arrogant and exclusive policy, which causes it not only to disregard the sacred obligations of treaties, but to treat with haughty contempt the diplomatic agents accredited to its government, for the advancement of the commercial interests of the former. As soon as they are whipped into a reasonable concession to the progressive spirit of the age -- to which they will be compelled, eventually, to succumb entirely -- they commence, by stealthy means, to make redoubled efforts to undo all that superior military prowess and intelligence has forced them to do, toward placing themselves on terms of free and friendly intercourse with the more enlightened and liberal nations of the earth -- for it has never been England's policy to exclude other nations from the commercial advantages accruing to herself through her foreign wars, at whatever cost they might have been acquired.
The bone of contention still exists, and, to all appearance, is not likely soon to be removed or destroyed, and it is this which has placed England and the United States in such opposite relations with the Chinese; she has done the fighting and we have reaped the peaceful reward. She could not, with due regard to present honor or future interest, make the slightest concession to the presumptuous arrogance or notorious duplicity of the infatuated claimants of heavenly fraternity, while we, who have not pretended to dispute their right to think as highly of themselves and their Emperor as they choose, and only require that whatsoever privilege they grant unto others shall also be extended to us, can, without derogation to our pride or sacrifice of interest, accept any rational or decent overture they may make. Our treaty called for nothing which the Chinese could not readily concede without humbling their exclusive pride; and the false report made by the English prisoners, relative to the landing of Americans in the attack upon the forts, created so strong a suspicion of our sincerity in professing to be their friends, that it could not be eradicated up to the moment when the treaty was exchanged at Pehtang. When the Embassy had returned from Peking without the occurrence of a single incident to foster this suspicion, and the beautiful box was presented containing the treaty, which was itself handsomely printed, and had a heavy silver case attached to protect the seal, then the Mandarins realized that the professions of respectful consideration that had been made toward their government were not mere empty words of diplomacy, to be taken in a Pickwickian sense.
All were gratified by the results of Mr. Ward's perseverance in effecting the exchange of the treaty, and felt that, although it had been accomplished at some little sacrifice of national and ministerial pride, the evident anxiety of the Mandarins to cultivate friendly relations with him after the catastrophe at Taku, and the absence of any stipulation in the Treaty of Tientsin requiring the exchange to take place at the Capital, constrained him to accept the Emperor's proposal to perform that ceremony at Pehtang. The beneficial operation of the treaty was soon felt upon American commerce, and the English lost no time in demanding the extension of all its privileges and immunities to theirs, under the "most favored nation" clause of former treaties.
We reached the anchorage near Woosung, at meridian, on the 22d of August, and the Minister and his suite, with the Flag-officer, went immediately to Shanghai in the Toey-wan, the former receiving a parting salute of seventeen guns, as his official connection with the Powhatan terminated with the return of the Embassy from Peking.
The steam-frigate Mississippi had returned from Japan, whither she had been sent to convey Minister Harris from Simoda to Yedo, as the latter city had become, on the 4th of July preceding, the official residence of the diplomatic representatives of the nations having treaties with the Empire, and the former was to be closed at the expiration of sixth months from that date. The officers and men belonging to the Powhatan, who had been detailed for temporary service on the Toey-wan, were now returned to the ship, and others furnished that vessel from the Mississippi, preparatory to sailing for Hong Kong, where the chartered steamer was restored to her owners early in September.
On the 9th of September the reply to the President's letter to the Emperor of China was received at Shanghai, having been delivered to Mr. Ward, at the American consulate, with great pomp and ceremony, by the Taoutai of the city. The Imperial document was enveloped in a cumbrous roll of yellow silk, the shape and dimensions of which gave it very much the appearance of a fat baby in swathing bands. It is presumed that this precious manifesto from the hands of the august Bombastes Furioso of Peking, has been carefully filed away in a separate room of the State Department, and that it will be guarded with the paternal solicitude which its peculiar form so forcibly suggests.
By the mail steamer which reached Shanghai on the 15th of September, Flag-officer Tattnall received information from the Navy Department, that the steamer Hartford had sailed from the United States for Hong Kong with Flag-officer C.K. Stribling on board, appointed to relieve him in the command of the East India squadron; but the same mail brought, also, a communication authorizing him to return to the United States via Cape Horn, touching at Yedo, for the purpose of affording a passage to the Japanese Embassy as far as Panama on their route to this country. Although there was nothing in this document which could be construed into an order to return by the route indicated, or to detain the ship on the station until the time appointed for the embarkation of the Embassy (the 22d of February, 1860), Flag-officer Tattnall did not hesitate to assume the responsibility of adopting this course, or of incurring the expenses attending the accommodation of so large an accession to the number of persons on board the ship. As there was some uncertainty, however, as to whether the Japanese Government would not finally conclude to defer sending an Embassy to the United States some months longer, and the Flag-officer desired to communicate with our Minister at Yedo on the subject as early as practicable, the ship was to prepare for sea with all dispatch.
As Mr. Ward was enjoying the brief respite from the duties of his official position, he determined to embrace the opportunity offered him through the kind invitation of the Flag-officer, to catch a hasty glimpse of the beautiful country and the interesting people of whom he had heard such glowing accounts from the officers of the ship. With this pleasing prospect in view, he came on board, attended by his suite, on the 17th, and the next morning we got under way to make our fourth visit to the glorious harbor of Nagasaki.
The passage across the confluent waters of the Yellow and Japan Seas to the picturesque Island of Kiu-siu, was accomplished in three days, against a strong north-easterly wind and a heavy sea, the distance run being about 500 miles, and the passing hours marked alone by the heaving of the log, as each recurring sound of the sometimes too faithful bell reminded the watchmen of the deck that note must be taken of our trackless course and speed.
We remained only one day at anchor at Nagasaki on this occasion, all being anxious to reach the Imperial city of Yedo, which had not yet been visited by any of those on board. The sloop-of-war Germantown was found at anchor here, and we received dreadful accounts from her officers, of the annoyances to which they were subjected by the unsettled state of the currency on shore; the small amount of native coin they were allowed at the Custom-house in exchange for their Mexican dollars, by no means enabling them to gratify their desire for the more curious and beautiful productions of the country. The Ministerial party made the best use of the brief space allowed them to inspect the numerous objects of interest in and near the city, rushing wildly from the Bazaars to the temples, tea and bath-houses, buying an infinite variety of curious and beautiful things, asking endless questions, and admiring vastly the pleasing contrast between the neatness, cleanliness, and system which everywhere prevailed, and the jumbled-up filthiness and irregularity existing in Chinese towns. They were all impressed with the striking natural beauties of the bay and harbor, as well as the splendid scenery in the immediate vicinity, and charmed to get away from the heat and ennui of the fever and ague season at Shanghai, to the bracing and exhilarating atmosphere of these magnificent hills.
The weather looked rather threatening on the evening of 22d of September, heavy clouds hanging gloomily around the summits of the hills, and dropping in palpable mist their load of moisture; but heedless of their portentous aspect, we bade a reluctant adieu to our old acquaintances, who had evinced great pleasure at our return among them, and steamed out into the impenetrable gloom and darkness which hung over the face of the deep. It continued extremely dark and rainy during the night, and as we approached Van Dieman's strait, it was found prudent to await the return of daylight before venturing through this narrow passage to the open sea beyond. For this purpose, the ship was run off from the coast at slow speed for a few hours, and then back in an opposite direction until daylight, about which time it was discovered that the crank-pin of the port engine had broken, an accident which rendered necessary our immediate return to Nagasaki. The disabled engine was disconnected immediately, and we steamed back to the harbor, now distant about 90 miles, using only the starboard one, with which such slow progress was made, that we did not reach the anchorage until the morning of the 25th.
Four days were occupied in repairing the machinery, during which a more favorable opportunity was afforded our passengers to see the lions of the place. While ashore on one occasion, I was accosted in the street by my Chinese servant, who approached with a mysterious air, and requested me to follow him to the residence of one of his countrymen, who had an article for sale, the like of which had never been seen by any one out of Japan. Yielding with natural curiosity to this singular request, I was led into the small upper-room of a rickety wooden tenement, situated in one of the most obscure streets of the town, where I found an old Chinaman seated upon the floor, and surrounded by boxes and trunks. My entrance was at once understood by the old man to intimate a desire to examine the rare and wonderful article so artfully concealed; and opening one of his numerous trunks, he displayed the body, sleeves and gauntlets of a rich and curiously wrought suit of armor. While I was engaged in the inspection of this truly wonderful specimen of Japanese art, the old man drew forth from another trunk the remainder of the dress, consisting of a pair of trowsers, and leggings, with a heavy helmet made of thin lacquered copper, and bound together at the joints with a metal resembling gold. The body of the suit was made of figured buckskin, and covered with thin plates of copper, shining with a purplish brown lacquer, attached to which were stripes of the same metal, hung together by blue silk braid, and forming the skirt of the dress, which extended two feet below the body. The sleeves and gauntlets were of buckskin also, covered with a net-work of steel rings, except on the forearm and back of the hand, where there was a plate of copper polished like all the rest. The leggings were made in the same manner; and in addition to the helmet, there was a brightly polished black vizor, the upper lip of which was adorned with a ferocious-looking gray moustache. Inquiring the price of the suit, I was informed by the worthy son of the money-loving race of the east, that it could not be purchased for less than $1400, protesting that all the yellow ornaments, bands and rings upon it were of pure gold, and that it had once belonged to the grandfather of the reigning Emperor of Japan! The old Emperor, he assured me, had been dethroned and reduced to indigence by his rebellious son, compelling him to resort to the "old clo' man," for the means of procuring the staff of life, which in Japan means rice. I was earnestly besought not to reveal the secret of his being in possession of so sacred a vestment, lest the Governor of the place should hear of it, and have his head taken off immediately, which he assured me would be the consequence of his rashness in exposing it for my inspection, unless I would promise not to divulge his secret. Having no idea of spending a year's pay for such a suit of clothes, notwithstanding its Imperial richness and associations, I made the desired promise and turned to leave, when the old man stopped me to inquire if he might have the privilege of bringing his treasure on board the ship, to exhibit it to the Minister, in whom he evidently expected to find a purchaser. This request was also granted, and he was soon on board the ship with his trunks; Mr. Ward examined the armor, and offered the old man just one-seventh of the price he demanded for it, which, after a little hesitation, was accepted with evident satisfaction. Mr. Ward immediately offered it as a present to Flag-officer Tattnall, but he declined the handsome gift, saying, at the same time, that he would bring it home and deposit it in one of the public institutions of Georgia, the native state of both these distinguished gentlemen, in token of their united amor patriae.
The Governor of the city came on board on the 29th to pay his respects to our Minister to China. He was received with the usual honors, and paid quite a lengthy visit, upon the conclusion of which, the repairs upon the engine having been completed, we got under way again for Kanagawa, feeling now quite assured that the ill-luck which had attended our former effort to reach that place was to be requited by a prosperous and pleasant passage. This somewhat presumptuous confidence was soon dashed with a momentary shudder of dread, though, as every one felt the ship strike heavily upon a sunken rock while in the act of turning her head toward the entrance of the harbor. The tide was unusually low, and the depth of water on this rock (the position of which was not previously known to any one on board,) had been so reduced that, although the ship had frequently passed over the same spot without touching, she now struck against it with considerable force. Fortunately, she was not going very rapidly at the time, and only the solid wood of the steam came in contact with the rock, or the consequences might have involved a longer stay in Japan than we either contemplated or desired. Satisfied that the ship had sustained no material injury, we pursued our course out of the bay, and reached Kanagawa after a pleasant run of three days and a half, anchoring off Yokuhama, on the opposite side of the bay of the latter name, upon which both these towns are situated, on the morning of the 3d of October.
Here we were greeted by our cordial friend, General E.M. Dorr, United States Consul to Kanagawa, and Lieutenant Commanding John M. Brooke, who had, in the month of August preceding, been so unfortunate as to lose the United States schooner Fenimore Cooper, which vessel had been placed under his command several months previously, to enable him to examine and re-survey the route between California and China. He had succeeded in accomplishing the most important part of his laborious duty, when a typhoon caught his little vessel at anchor in this exposed bay, and fairly blew her up on the beach near the town of Yokuhama. No lives were lost, and the friendly assistance rendered by the natives, united with the manly efforts of his own crew, enabled him to save all the government property on board, including the numerous instruments, charts, etc., required in the prosecution of the duties upon which Mr. Brooke had been employed, and for which he is so eminently qualified.
The Japanese authorities had furnished the officers and crew of the schooner, who were thus unexpectedly cast upon their shores, with comfortable quarters in the town, and exhibited toward them, on all occasions, the kindest consideration and the most generous hospitality, which Mr. Brooke reciprocated by imparting to the Governor and other high officials, by whom his society was sought, such information as they desired relative to nautical science, astronomy, etc., subjects in which they manifested a special interest.
I took a short walk on shore in the afternoon, being eager to console myself for the disappointment experienced at being denied that pleasure during our former visit to this interesting and flourishing place. At that time, nothing could be seen in the way of a town, but a small cluster of fishermen's huts immediately on the beach; but as soon as the port was opened to foreign intercourse, it swarmed with busy mechanics and laborers, building houses, constructing wharves and bridges, and making every preparation for the accommodation of the thriving commerce which the sagacious officials foresaw would immediately spring up in the place.
Landing on the inner side of a substantial and commodious stone jetty, about fifty yards long and ten wide, with steps extending nearly half its length, I found almost the entire surface covered with small bales of merchandise neatly done up in straw, ready for shipment in some of the numerous vessels at anchor in the bay. Feeling too much interested, though, in the anticipated pleasure of examining the contents of the many handsome shops, which I had heard the place contained, to cast more than a cursory glance at these staple commodities, I soon found myself in the centre of a wide street, each side of which was lined with a brilliant display of the most beautiful and elaborately wrought lacquered ware, porcelain, bronzes, basket-work, and trinkets and toys of unique and grotesque patterns. Each shopman endeavored to display his wares to the greatest advantage, and evinced his desire to dispose of them by eager but graceful and good-humored pantomime; occasionally, one would be met who had caught a few words of English, and he would attract the attention of the foreign customers by repeating the magical sounds in their hearing, of "me very cheap -- very cheap." They were generally very quiet and sedate in their deportment, however, and if a customer entered one of their shops, every article was cheerfully displayed for the most critical examination, and no effort ever made to palm off one that was indifferent or damaged; on the contrary, if they discovered the slightest defect in the article which had been selected, they would invariably replace it with a perfect specimen, although the difference might be so slight as to be perceptible only to their more practised eyes. As soon as the purchase is made, the article is placed securely in a neatly made box, upon which the purchaser is requested to write his name with the pencil and India-ink handed to him, and then to repeat it to the merchant, who immediately draws forth a cunning little account-book from the ample folds of his capacious gown, and endeavors to fix it in his memory by making sundry hieroglyphic marks therein. A crowd of boys and porters collected around the shops in which the foreigners were making purchases, and offered their services to convey the boxes to the landing, expecting only four or five cents of their coin in payment.
The houses are constructed entirely of wood, and are so slight that one almost fears to treat heavily upon the yielding floors. They are of a single story, almost universally, having one large room in the front, and two smaller ones in the rear, the floors being raised about a foot from the ground. The front is composed of movable panels of thin boards, which are removed during the day and closed at night, the only fastening being an ordinary padlock of rough and simple construction. Shelves are ranged round the rooms for the display of the various articles, and the floors covered with matting, upon which the natives never venture without leaving their sandals ont he step, apparently placed at the front of the building for this special purpose.
Remaining on shore after dark, I had an opportunity of seeing the nightly display of feminine charmers occupying a large Tea-house, which was situated on the main street of the town, quite near to the quarters assigned to Lieutenant Brooke, and the crew of the Fenimore Cooper. The building extended quite two hundred feet along the street, having a wide gallery in front, lighted by huge tallow candles placed on gigantic wooden candle-sticks, and the floor covered with soft, clean matting. Immediately in the rear of the lights were seated in a row about a hundred young girls, ranging in age from 12 to 20 years, with their hair pinned up in massive folds by an array of ornamented pins, large enough for boarding-pikes, and their faces and necks powdered most profusely; their dress consisted of silk gowns, in which the most gaudy and brilliant colors predominated. In front of them were placed lacquered boxes containing tobacco and pipes, with which they regaled themselves occasionally.
The town of Yokuhama is situated on the southern shore of the bay, occupying a space of about a mile square on the level ground between the beach and the marshes in the rear, which extend nearly to the hills some two miles distant. The bluff point which forms the south-eastern headland of the bay, and is called Mandarin bluff, slopes gradually down to this plain, and upward to the range of hills stretching westward into the interior. The rising tides fill the shallow estuary in the midst of the marshes, so that boats of considerable size can float upon its surface; and its width immediately at Yokuhama is about fifty yards. A neat and substantial wooden bridge has been thrown across this narrow arm of the bay, connecting with a long cause-way formed of earth, and protected by stone sea-walls, which leads through the shallows at the head of the bay to the high road over the hills toward Kanagawa. Yokuhama may thus be completely isolated from the main land whenever the Japanese choose to destroy this bridge; and for this reason our shrewd and watchful Minister, Mr. Harris, has used every effort to prevent American merchants from adopting that locality for the establishment of their commercial houses.
Kanagawa is immediately opposite to Yokuhama, the bay at this point being about three miles wide, and the southern portion of the town is built at the base of bold and precipitous heights, approaching so near the water as to leave space for only one narrow street between them, and this is called the Tokaido, being the great highway which extends from one end of the Empire to the other. Over this road pass semi-annually the great pageants presented by the travelling equipages of the Damios or hereditary Princes, who are compelled to leave their families in Yedo during the half-year they are permitted to devote to the cultivation of their immense estates, and the government of the provinces.
A wide valley runs up between the heights referred to and the hills which form the north-eastern shore of the bay, terminating in the headland called "Wooded bluff," on the charts. The town spreads over a large portion of this extended plain, and contains a population of about 200,000. The treaty concluded with Mr. Harris opened this port to foreign commerce, but the Japanese, for some reason of their own,seem to have offered every inducement to merchants who engaged in business in the country immediately after the treaty went into operation, to settle on the Yokuhama side of the bay, by building stores, dwellings, piers, bridges and a Custom-house, to facilitate trade and accommodate the merchants. The apparent anxiety of the government to prevent the settlement of foreigners at Kanagawa, created the suspicion in Mr. Harris' mind that it was designed to make a second Desima of Yokuhama by restricting the foreigners to that insular locality; and he immediately offered a decided but respectful protest against his countrymen establishing themselves there, contending that the treaty designated the former place as the port for the operations of commerce, and that if they accepted the latter, the Japanese would have reasonable ground for future complaint that the terms of the treaty had been disregarded, and, therefore, the claim to settle at Kanagawa had been forfeited. Besides, if at any time a difficulty should arise between Japan and the United States, the residence of American citizens in Yokuhama would place them completely in the power of the native government, and subject them to any indignities or injuries which that government might either commit or instigate.
The superior natural advantages for trade existing at Yokuhama overcame all the diplomatic arguments urged by Mr. Harris, however; and the merchants have effected such permanent arrangements for the prosecution of the business at Yokuhama, that it will, doubtless, continue to be their abode until some unforseen occurrence removes them from the country entirely. The greater depth of water on the southern side of the bay, and the facilities for conducting commercial operations, which have been carried forward with Californian rapidity, offered insuperable objections to the removal over the bay; and even the threats of the Minister to have the merchants ejected from the country unless they yielded to his arguments and persuasions, have failed to produce the desired result.
Finding that all his eloquent appeals to the merchants only seemed to make them adhere with renewed pertinacity to their first choice of a location, the Minister resorted to the more active expedient of requesting the Japanese Government to refuse to Americans the lease of ground upon which to erect their warehouses and dwellings; the result of which has been seriously detrimental to their personal and commercial interests, as since then, the other foreigners doing business in Yokuhama have secured all the most eligible building-lots; the officials having this matter in charge transferring them frequently to other applicants, even after they had been positively promised to Americans.
The Consul at Kanagawa has taken issue with the Minister on this point, alleging that the treaty recognizes him as the proper officer to determine, in conjunction with the native authorities, the place to be occupied by the buildings of American residents; and that the interference of the Minister is only justifiable in the event of a disagreement between him and the government officials. The Consul concurs in the view of the question adopted by the merchants, and exerts all the influence he possesses to induce the native officials to yield to these demands; but without much success, as they do not dare to contravene their instructions from the capital. My conviction is that the Minister is perfectly sincere in his apprehensions of the evil results that may attend the slightest infraction of the treaty; and the opportunity he has exhibited toward the expressed wishes of his countrymen, originates in a somewhat overweening desire to impress the Japanese with his scrupulous respect for the sacred obligations it imposes.
On the next day after our arrival at Yokuhama, we got under way and proceeded up the bay to the anchorage off the city of Yedo, and although the weather was exceedingly unpropitious, a heavy rain falling during the whole day, a large party of officers and all the passengers were too anxious to have their first look at the great city, the entrance to which had so long been barred by Asiatic exclusiveness, to permit the apprehension of a wet jacket to deter them from undertaking the row of five miles in the boats necessary to reach it. The French steam corvette, Duchayla, was anchored about a mile from us; and three miles further toward the forts, which were seen looming up in the western horizon, were three Japanese steamers, a barque, and an ungainly, old-fashioned hulk, built by native mechanics after the Dutch model. Near these vessels was a large assemblage of junks, anchored within half a mile of the forts, which are five in number, and seem to spring out of the water as if each was a separate island. They are built of hewn stone laid without mortar or cement, each piece being so formed as to fit closely in the space between those by which it is surrounded; the walls are about fifteen feet high, and are surmounted by a glacis of the same height, upon which a low parapet wall is built; the few small guns that were visible being mounted without embrasures on the top of the glacis.
Passing to the southward of the southernmost of this range of forts, we pulled across the wide sheet of water which separates them from the land, until we reached the low stone wall extending along the front of the city, at a point where the English flag was seen flying from a staff, designating the residence of the Consul General of Great Britain. We landed upon a narrow wooden jetty, thrown out from the wall, and were instantly surrounded by a large crowd of natives of all ages and both sexes, who regarded us with curious but respectful gaze, and seemed ready to offer any assistance they could render in enabling us to reach the Minister's residence. Accepting the services of two or three volunteers, to act as guides and porters at the same time, we ascended the low bank, and found ourselves on a wide, unpaved streets leading along the front of the city. The suburban city of Sinagawa lay in full view to the southward, and a beautiful eminence which stood nearly in front of us, crowned with majestic trees, and covered with a smooth green sward, suggested the apprehension that we had landed at a greater distance from the populous portion of Yedo than was either convenient or agreeable. We wished, of course, to see as much of the place as possible, but at the same time preferred taking it by easy stages, to walking at the outset an indefinite through muddy streets in the pitiless rain. Adjacent to the eminence mentioned, stood a large and imposing temple elevated considerably above the level of the street, and removed from it some hundred yards, over the gateway of which the English ensign was displayed from a tall flag-staff. The houses fronting on the bay were placed on the inner side of the street, and were of a style similar to those of the other cities we had visited, with the exception that many of them had a low upper story with a narrow balcony extending along the front.
The streets and houses were thronged with people, whose general appearance was decidedly more attractive than that of any whom we had previously seen, the men being more athletic, and the females of a lighter complexion, a rosy pair of cheeks occasionally appearing, to relieve the monotonous tan which was so universal wherever we had recently been, that at last we almost began to doubt the fact of there being any other white people in the world beside ourselves. After walking nearly two miles through the irregular, unpaved streets, splashing away in the mud and rain, and too much engrossed by the thought of being in the Imperial city to heed such temporary discomforts, we finally reached the gateway of the temple, adjoining which stands the residence assigned by the Japanese Government to the U.S. Minister Resident. The buildings are situated on a broad terrace near the summit of a hill rising some two hundred feet above the street, and surrounded by fine old trees, which lend their cooling and romantic shade to the comfort and picturesqueness of the spot. The ascent from the street is easy and gradual, terminating in a short flight of stone steps, over which the inner gateway is erected, having huge and elaborately carved wooden doors. The Minister's dwelling lies immediately on the right of the temple, and is a large one-storied building, covering a space of nearly a hundred feet square, the interior being divided into numerous convenient apartments by the usual sliding panels, or sashes, with paper as a substitute for glass.
We found Mr. Harris' spacious accommodations already occupied by the Minister to China and his suite, who had preceded our party to the shore, but we were received with impressive cordiality of manner, and hospitably assured that there was ample room for all, and a hearty welcome besides. The weather prohibiting any further indulgence of our desire to explore the mysteries of the long-forbidden city that afternoon, we were all compelled to restrain our curiosity until the following morning, hoping that a favorable change would then enable us to gratify it; but the pluvial god seemed to have availed of the darkness of the night to bring into action all his reinforcements, as the clouds poured down their deluging showers until mid-day, and then only relented for a few moments, apparently to tantalize us. Concluding, finally, that there was no prospect of an early cessation of the rain, horses were procured through the kindly assistance of Mr. Huesken; and each attended by an active and bare-legged groom, who seemed necessary appendages to the equestrian turn-out, we sallied forth in the pelting storm to see as much of the great city as possible during the short remainder of our leave. The horses were not much larger than Shetland ponies, and endowed with such an inveterate propensity to kick at every animate object within their reach, that the grooms had to exert all their skill to keep them separated, as we galloped through the muddy streets, plunging knee-deep into puddles and quagmires, utterly regardless of the showers of the turbid element with which we were bespattered. The sound of our approach was the signal for a general rush of the inmates to the doors of the numberless shops passed in our course, and the multitudes encountered in the streets stopped to gaze in undisguised astonishment at the reckless disturbers of their accustomed tranquility; and when one of our party would ever and anon cry out "Ohi-o," it was invariably answered by a simultaneous shout of mirthful recognition from the crowd.
Following implicitly the guidance of the grooms, the narrow and irregular streets in the vicinity of the Minister's residence were soon left behind, and we entered a broad, smooth avenue, lined on each side with handsome two-storied buildings, the lower floor receding some ten feet from the front, and leaving a sheltered space under the upper story for visitors to dismount and tether their horses. Our guides took it for granted that the main object of their transmundane employers was to expend an indefinite amount of the tempting coin of which they had seen specimens, and, accordingly, stopped at one of these buildings, which proved to be a silk store. Removing our muddy boots before stepping on the nicely matted floor, we were shown to the upper story, and received there by several grave and dignified native merchants, who spoke a word to the attendant youths, upon which they rushed into an adjoining room, and reappeared with almost magical celerity, bearing diminutive teapots and cups, with tobacco boxes and pipes. These were placed on the floor in the centre of the room, and a motion being made by one of the elderly gentlemen signifying an invitation to be seated, we presented a specimen of squatter sovereignty never before witnessed in His Imperial Majesty's dominions, by taking up our positions, a la Turque, around the funny-looking tea things, and partaking of the refreshing beverage, with a puff at the infintessimal pipes.
Meanwhile, a small army of genteel-looking young men marched in, with their arms filled with rolls of silk and crape of every color and quality, which they unfolded for our inspection. Soon finding it impossible to come to any understanding, in the absence of an interpreter, with regard to prices, we were compelled to leave the many tempting articles displayed before us without making a purchase, and bidding a graceful adieu to the silken dignitaries, which was returned by a series of profound bows, we remounted our horses and pursued the muddy course toward the Citadel, passing, in one direction, through at least three miles of a closely-built street, upon which the people swarmed in crowds, notwithstanding the inclement weather. Men, women, and children were pattering through the mud and rain with perfect unconcern, stopping only to gaze at the strange and apparently distracted foreigners, and, as far as we could see, in any direction, their number did not seem to diminish. As we passed through this populous street, it was observed that wooden gateways were constructed across it at regular intervals, near each of which a small watch-box was placed for the guard of policemen stationed by it, and we afterward learned that these gates were closed at night, so as to prevent any communication with parts of the street lying outside of the particular square thus enclosed; the policemen and inhabitants of each square being held responsible for disorders occurring within their district, even during absence. Near most of these gates or barriers, tall ladders are placed, to enable the policemen to discover the locality of fires when they occur, and, to sound the alarm, a bell of ordinary size is attached to the upper part of the ladder. Fire-proof houses were occasionally seen, in which the valuables of the immediate neighborhood are placed in case of fire. These are constructed of unburnt brick, neatly plastered outside, and have iron doors and shutters, being generally two stories high. In the course of our ride we passed over two substantial wooden bridges, having a span of seventy or eight feet, the joints or butts of the timbers being covered with copper to exclude the dampness.
I did not have an opportunity of visiting any of the public bathing-houses in Yedo, but I was informed that the practice of promiscuous mingling of the sexes in those establishments which prevails in the southern ports, does not obtain there to the same extent, a low partition dividing the rooms occupied by males and females separately.
Having heard that the Japanese entertained a sort of superstitious veneration for horned cattle, I was a good deal surprised to see several yoke of oxen attached to heavy, rudely constructed carts, with wooden wheels, hauling loads of merchandise through the streets. Bullocks are principally used as pack-animals to carry heavy burthens over the mountainous roads of the interior, but horses are also used for this purpose, their feet being shod with closely woven straw shoes or sandals, tied around the pastern. These gouty contrivances do not last very long, of course, but the attendant arriero always carries an extra supply when undertaking a journey. Many of these pack-horses were encountered in the streets of Yedo. Various descriptions of the norimon were also seen, those used by the lower orders being an extremely uncomfortable basket-shaped affair, in which the occupant sits with his knees doubled up to his chin, to enjoy the aristocratic luxury of being carried by two men who have the good fortune not to aspire to any style of locomotion beyond that which Nature supplies them.
Leaving the bustling thoroughfares of trade, we were led into a wide street, where the dignified quiet which reigned, and the superior style of building, at once proclaimed the presence of aristocracy and opulence. The word "Damio," spoken in an under tone by the attendant Centaurs, sufficiently intimated that we were in the precinct occupied by the hereditary Princes of the Empire, and, of course, we directed our republican gaze with more than ordinary interest and satisfaction toward the long rows of neat and strongly constructed houses, lining both sides of the street, each one of which, with the ground attached, seemed to occupy about the same space as one of the largest squares in our cities. They have a smooth stone foundation, upon which a wall of rough diamond-shaped stones is raised, the interstices being filled with white mortar projecting beyond the surface and smoothly laid, producing the effect of lattice-work; above this, again, a plain white wall, about ten feet high, surmounted by a roof of slate-colored tiles, projecting slightly beyond, completes the structure. There are usually two rows of windows, one above the other, which have wooden bars placed vertically across them, and paper sashes. The doors have a massive appearance, being made of heavy material, with large protuberances dotted over their surface, representing immense bolt-heads, but which on examination proved to be made of thin copper. The whole is beautifully polished with colored lacquer, and the entrance is wide enough to admit two carriages abreast. Towering over the roofs of the houses may be seen the huge limbs of magnificent plane and other trees, affording shade and grandeur to the grounds within, which are usually handsomely and tastefully arranged with smooth walks and artificial lakes; flowers and shrubs in great variety, adding grace, beauty, and fragrance to the manorial demesne.
After riding about a miles through this street of princely habitations, which, after all, had more the external appearance of a series of comfortable and substantial stables than aristocratic buildings, we came upon a wide stream of water, the banks of which were lined with masonry, and on the side opposite to us a wall of thirty feet high enclosed the grounds around the Imperial Citadel, which was visible at the distance of a few hundred yards. Several fine bridges could be seen crossing the stream, and it was literally filled with boats of all sizes and conditions. The lateness of the hour precluded any further explorations on this occasion; and although the rain continued to fall with undiminished drops, we turned reluctantly from the interesting scene before and around us, to speed our way back to the Minister's residence, where we arrived sound in limb and muscle, but decidedly damp and saddle-weary; the wretched contrivances which the Japanese call saddles being more like instruments of torture than comfortable seats. After partaking of a sumptuous dinner, at Mr. Harris' hospitable table, the party retired early to bed, and left after breakfast in the morning to return to the ship.
From the brief observations I was enabled to make in the city during this and a subsequent visit, in the month of February of this year, together with the information obtained from those who had much better opportunities of acquiring it than myself, I am satisfied that the population of Yedo, including its suburbs, does not vary much from three millions of people, many of whom are only transient residents, belonging to the retinues of the Damios, which frequently consist of seven or eight thousand men. The limits of the city are said to contain twenty-four square miles, and the topography of the country in and around it is admirably diversified with hills and plains, affording beautiful building-sites for the opulent, and convenient locations for the industrious artisan, or the busy tradesman. The people have exhibited their good taste by preserving the natural formation of the ground, and making their streets and buildings conform to its irregularities, instead of reducing all to the dead level of a monotonous plain.
The system of municipal government is as near perfection as any that could be devised by merely human judgement and sagacity. There is a Governor of the city corresponding with our office of Mayor, whose emissaries are distributed over the city, and between them and the people there is a lower class of officials, who act as an intermediary channel of communication with the Governor. Each street has its magistrate besides, and he again is assisted in his multifarious duties by numerous spies, who furnish him with the minutest details of the public and private events occurring within his jurisdiction. He is responsible to the Governor for all disturbances of the peace, and for the good conduct generally of those living on his street, by whom he is elected to office, and from among whom he, in turn, selects a certain number of deputies, to guard the street during the day, a patrol of two or three of the inhabitants lending their assistance at night to preserve order and quiet; the only sound breaking the death-like stillness of the streets being an occasional jingle of the iron rings at the head of a long rod carried by the watchmen, and which they strike upon the ground at every step. In all our walks through the streets of the city, one or two of these faithful guardians accompanied the party, to give protection and guidance.
We remained at anchor off the Yedo forts from the 5th to the 10th of October, on which day the Flag-officer returned on board with the intelligence that the Japanese Embassy would certainly be ready to embark for the United States on the 1st of February, 1860. The object of our visit being thus accomplished, the ship returned to Kanagawa, the Hon. Mr. Ward remaining on shore to be presented, by Mr. Harris, to the Prime Minister of the Empire. He rejoined the ship on the following day, having made the land journey of 16 miles between the two cities on horseback, attended by an escort of native officials.
After taking on board all the crew of the wrecked schooner Fenimore Cooper, whose services were not required by Lieutenant Commanding Brooke, together with such articles from her equipments as it was found inexpedient to sell at auction with the vessel, we sailed for Shanghai on the morning of the 12th, and after a pleasant passage, took up our old anchorage off Woosung on the 17th; no incident worthy of remark having occurred while at sea, save our meeting with the American schooner Wanderer, in Van Dieman's Strait. This little vessel belonged to the house of Heard & Co., and was the first employed as a regular trader between Shanghai and Kanagawa, and there is no doubt her owners were handsomely rewarded for their sagacious enterprise.
The Flag-officer was induced to leave Japan earlier than he desired, by the necessity of returning the Minister to China to his post previous to a certain date, as that functionary had a diplomatic engagement to fulfil which would admit of no delay; consequently, our stay at Woosung was limited to the few days required to replenish our supply of coals, and make such minor preparations as convenience or expediency suggested -- all of which being completed by the evening of the 24th, we were under way again at 9 o'clock the next morning on our return to Kanagawa.
The trade between Shanghai and Kanagawa had become so important and flourishing, during the three months that the latter port had been opened to foreign commerce, that merchants were hastening thither with the means of purchasing cargoes of the produce of the country, consisting of raw silk, rape-seed oil, pearl shells, sea-weed, etc.; and, also, to avail of the profits afforded by exchanging Mexican dollars for the gold currency of the country, amounting in the aggregate to about seventy per centum; the Japanese gold Obani being purchased at the rate of $52.50/100 each at Kanagawa, and sold in China for $71.50/100 ; the Cobang, which was bought at an average of $2.50, brought $3.95, and the gold itzibus sold in the same proportion. The Obani is a coin of oval form, nearly six inches in length, and three and a half inches in width, the thickness being about that of a Mexican dollar; the Cobang is also of oval form, two and a half inches long, by one and a half wide, and about the thickness of a dime, valued in Japan, originally, at $1.33. The gold itzibu had about the same value in Japan as the silver coin of the same denomination, but was intrinsically worth about 80 cents. The Obani was not in general circulation, and but few of them could be procured.
With a view of forwarding the interests of American merchants, Flag-officer Tattnall consented to afford a passage to Kanagawa to several of those who desired to invest their capital in the commercial products of that vicinity; and having embarked a large sum in Mexican dollars on board the Powhatan, with this object, during our stay at Woosung, it was conveyed to Kanagawa with the owners, having reached the anchorage in the bay of Yokuhama on the 31st of October.
On our arrival we found the Americana bank Onward at anchor in the bay, whither she had come as the pioneer vessel from San Francisco, to which port she returned after procuring a cargo of rape-seed oil, purchased at 23 cents per gallon, and sold at 90 cents, as we were subsequently informed. This vessel is still employed as a regular trader between the two ports, although the prices of Japanese produce have been greatly augmented by the increased demand. There were, also, two English and one Dutch merchant-vessel at anchor in the port, all of which seemed to be busily employed.
The Governor of Kanagawa paid a visit to the Powhatan, on the 9th of November, attended by a large retinue, and was received with appropriate ceremonies. As soon as he left the ship, we got under way and steamed up to Yedo, where we learned, through an official communication from Minister Harris, that the number of which the Embassy would be composed included seventy-one persons of the various grades, nineteen having the rank of officers, and fifty-two that of attendants. On the 11th we returned to Kanagawa, and shortly after we had anchored in the bay, the American ship Canvass-back arrived from Shanghai with 600 tons of coal, which had been shipped from that port for the purpose of replenishing our bunkers before sailing for San Francisco with the Embassy on board. This very necessary precaution had been taken by the Flag-officer during our visit to Shanghai, in the months of September preceding, and the coal was deposited temporarily on board the Japanese hulk, of which mention has been made as lying off Yedo, the native officials having brought her down to Yokuhama for this special purpose.
On the morning of the 12th, we left for Hong Kong, to make the final preparations necessary for receiving the Embassy on board. Arriving on the 20th, we anchored near the U.S. steam sloop Hartford, sent out to relieve the Powhatan as the Flag-ship of the squadron, her appearance exciting strong symptoms of homesickness in many of those who had been anxiously looking forward to this agreeable meeting for several months; never doubting that the immediate result would be "all hands up anchor for home!" on board the Powhatan. The command of the squadron was immediately transferred to Flag-officer Stribling, who sailed for Whampoa on the Hartford a few days afterwards.
The work of building houses on our quarter-deck for accommodating the Japanese was now commenced by the carpenters of the ship, and carried forward with all possible dispatch; while the repairs rendered necessary by the constant employment of the ship during the preceding year, occupied a large number of Chinese caulkers and carpenters, whose incessant hammering and jabbering for the space of two weeks, made such a lasting impression on our minds of the horrors of such celestial associations.
The sloop-of-war Germantown arrived from Shanghai on the 21st, with Minister Ward and suite on board, who took up their quarters on shore, under the hospitable roof of John Heard, Esq. The Germantown having completed her cruise on the station, was ordered to return to the United States, and sailed for Norfolk, Va., on the 17th of the following month.
The duties devolving upon all the officers of the Powhatan during the unusually long stay of the ship at Hong Kong on this occasion, together with the individual preparations incident to our anticipated departure from the station, kept every one constantly occupied. The disappointment caused by the unexpected protraction of the cruise appeared to be forgotten, even by those who were the most disposed to complain of the hard fate which consigned them to a passage round Cape Horn, after awaiting so long the convenience of the Japanese Embassy. Setting aside private interests and feelings, an entirely different view of our circumstances was taken by a large portion of the officers, who regarded the service upon which the ship was to be employed as pregnant with national importance and professional advantage, not only to those who were immediately engaged in it, but to the navy at large; the honor of transporting to our country in one of the finest war-steamers in the world, the first diplomatic Embassy ever sent from the magnificent empire of Japan, did much to reconcile us to the prolonged detention from our firesides, and with cheerful alacrity we pushed forward the work in hand, satisfied with the prospective reward of being designated masters of the ceremonies to introduce to the great republic of the west the long-secluded people of Japan.
We were met with the most cordial hospitality by our old acquaintances on board the Chesapeake; a deputation of officers from the ward-room mess waiting upon us on our arrival, with files of the latest papers and an invitation to dinner, evincing a kind remembrance of our intercourse in the Gulf of Pecheelee, and a delicacy of attention which no people on earth know better how to display that the English, when they choose. Nor was the friendly feeling manifested toward us confined to the officers of the Chesapeake, as a large number of her crew who were "on liberty" chanced to meet Captain Pearson on shore, and as soon as he was recognized, word was passed through the crowd, consisting of about fifty men, who immediately drew up in line, raising their hats at the same moment, and gave three hearty cheers for "the Captain of the U.S. Steamer Powhatan," -- the value of the compliment consisting partly in the fact that the men were all perfectly sober.
Our excellent friends of the popular and flourishing house of Olyphant & Co., were untiring in their generous and truly home-like hospitalities to our mess, and I am confident that they will always be remembered with feelings of warm and grateful regard by each member of our happy little fraternity. The cordial welcome with which we were always greeted, and the genuine sympathy with our national and professional peculiarities, which was manifested by every one attached to the house, rendered the cosy and elegant little dinner-parties, which were of almost daily occurrence there, decidedly the most agreeable entertainments we had enjoyed during the cruise, and caused us to experience a feeling of sadness and regret on leaving Hong Kong, which on our arrival there we should have deemed impossible. The preparations for our departure were pushed forward so vigorously, that, toward the close of December, we began to pay farewell visits to our numerous friends, and to "settle up" the various little matters of pidgin, demanding our attention previous to leaving the station and venturing into the cold weather we anticipated in Japan at that season, to prepare for which a considerable addition to our wardrobes became necessary. Care had to be taken, also, to furnish our store-room with a more liberal supply of hams than I found on hand during our day of trial in the Gulf of Pecheelee.
Writing the name of this odious and unhallowed Gulf, calls to mind one or two gratifying incidents which took place during our stay at Hong Kong, growing out of the occurrences at that point in the month of June previous, and with which the Powhatan was conspicuously connected. The British Minister to China having communicated to his government, and Admiral Hope to the British Board of Admiralty, the conduct of Minister Ward and Flag-officer Tattnall at the battle of Taku, instructions were immediately sent to Lord Lyons, the British Minister at Washington, to express to the President, and through him to those distinguished officers, the high appreciation entertained by his Government of their gallant and valuable assistance. The correspondence relative to this subject, together with the letters addressed to the Flag-officer by Admiral Hope and Colonel Lemon, commanding the Marine force, written a few days after the battle, will be found in the appendix.
In addition to the grateful assurance that his conduct had merited the thanks of the British Government, the Flag-officer had the greater satisfaction of learning, about the same time, that it had received the hearty approval of the President and the Secretary of the Navy. And Admiral Hope having heard incidentally that the Flag-officer's health was so precarious as to justify the apprehension that he might be compelled to return from Yedo to Nagasaki, or, perhaps, to Shanghai, after completing the arrangements for the embarkation of the Embassy, paid him the distinguished compliment of sending an order, directed to the "Commander of any British man-of-war at Yedo," requiring him to place his vessel at the disposal of the American Flag-officer, to convey him and his suite to either of the points designated, should he conclude to leave his own ship.
On the 30th of December, the Flag-officer entertained at dinner on board, all the principal American merchants of the city, accompanied by General Keenan, U.S. Consul, and the occasion was marked with the most cordial and heartfelt expressions of reciprocal respect.
The next morning we got under way, and making a graceful turn outside of the shipping at anchor in the bay, passed to the eastward between the English frigates Chesapeake and Cambrian, near which were anchored several smaller vessels of the squadron under Admiral Hope's command. At the moment that our ship was abreast of the two frigates, the crews of these vessels rushed aloft simultaneously and gave three hearty cheers as a parting salutation -- a compliment which I doubt whether any American man-of-war ever received before from a foreign squadron. The cheers were answered immediately, and as we passed ahead of the Admiral's ship, we fired a salute of thirteen guns with the English flag at the fore, in return for the courtesy extended by his orders. The Chesapeake answered the salute, and we steamed gallantly out to sea through the Lymoon passage, bidding a final farewell to Hong Kong and to China.
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