CHAPTER XI. THE RELATIONS BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES AND JAPAN
THE well-known French historian Michelet, speaking of great geographical explorations and discoveries, ends one of his perorations with these words:
"Who opened to men the great distant navigation? Who revealed the great ocean and marked out its zones and its liquid highways? Who discovered the secrets of the globe?" And he answers: "The whale and the whaler. . . .It was the whale that emancipated the fishermen and led them afar. It led them onward and onward still, until they found it, after having almost unconsciously passed from one world to the other."
President Fillmore, in whose administration Commodore Perry was dispatched to Japan, confirms this rhetorical statement of Michelet's.
Let me briefly recapitulate the events that led up to the oft-repeated story of Perry's expedition. That whaling was a great industry during a substantial portion of the last two centuries, especially among the New England people, is well known. Then again, those who were unfortunate enough to be wrecked had no hospitable shores upon which to land.
To succour the whalers and to help and protect their industry, was the main motive of the United States Government in initiating an expedition to Japan. Before any official step was taken in this direction, some private American citizens had visited Japan in the service of the Dutch East India Company. The first suggestion of sending an official envoy emanated from Commodore Porter, but without tangible result. When, in 1846, Commodore Biddle was accredited by President Polk to the Shogunal Court at Yedo, to ascertain how far her ports were accessible,-the interest in Japan obviously marked an advace from talk among whalers to grave counsel in Washington. The acquisition of California, its sudden development upon the discovery of gold, and the constantly increasing trade with China, almost eclipsed the importance of increasing trade with China, almost eclipsed the importance of the whaling industry, but brought into prominence the need of opening up intercourse with our country.
Five years elapsed before any definite plan was formulated. In 1851, as we have seen, Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry was appointed to undertake the mission. He was the younger brother of the more celebrated Admiral Perry, the hero of the Lake War of 1812.
I have often wished and tried to find where "public opinion" stood when the United States Government decided to send forth Perry's expedition. A Washington correspondent writes in a Philadelphia paper: "There is no money in the treasury for the conquest [mark the term, if you please] of the Japanese Empire, and the administration will hardly be disposed to pursue such a romantic notion." Only two days before the expedition sailed, the Baltimore Sun correspondent wrote from Washington: "It will sail about the same time with Rufus Porter's aërial ship," and even after it had sailed, he advises "abandoning this humbug, for it has become a matter of ridicule abroad and at home."
Not less sarcastic are the English comments. The London Times doubts "whether the Emperor of Japan would receive Commodore Perry with or indignation or most contempt," and omniscient Punch that "Perry must open the Japanese ports, if he has to open his own." "For ourselves," says the London Sun, "we look forward to that result with some such interest as we might suppose would be awakened among the generality, were a balloon to soar off to one of the planets under the direction of some experienced aëronaut." Another London contemporary "cannot agree with an American journalist in thinking such a small force (two thousand men) will be sufficient to coerce a vain, ignorant, semi-barbarous, and sanguinary nation of thirty millions of people." In his queer and quaint Almanac for 1852, the so-called Prophet Zadkiel notes: "A total eclipse of the Sun, visible chiefly in the eastern and northern parts of Asia. The greatest eclipse at 3 h. 24 m. A.M., December 11th, Greenwich time. . . . It will produce great mortality among camels and horses in the East, also much fighting and warlike doings, and I judge that it will carry war into the peaceful vales of Japan, for there, too, do the men of the West follow the track of gain, seeking the bubble reputation, even in the cannon's mouth."
Looking through a number of newspapers and periodicals of the time, I am struck with the absence of public sympathy concerning an enterprise of which the United States can so nobly and so justly boast.
If history is philosophy teaching by example, certainly examples were not lacking to show that the newspaper fear of conquest or war did not materialise-and may we not compare Zadkiel's prophecy with a recent pamphlet by one Johndro of Rochester (which I mentioned in a former chapter) purporting to be an astrological evidence of war with Japan, and which commands our respect for its copious illustrations and diagrams, but above all for the profuse use of capital letters! For some of us, history has written more clearly than the stars that Perry's mission was conceived in peace and concluded in peace. When I say this, I mean peace between the two nations concerned. In another sense, peace there was none. When the treaty of peace was signed, there was great excitement throughout our country, followed by the assassination of those who took a responsible part in the negotiations, and, later on, by civil war.
On the part of America, Perry's treaty brought no satisfaction. Naval officers laughed at his haughty demeanour during the negotiations; commercial men complained that trade did not develop at once. And no wonder, when we read that, as early as 1852, a direct annual trade of two hundred million dollars was expected,-an amount which is six times the sum which America exports to Japan at present!
It must be admitted that the treaty made by Perry was not a commercial agreement. The main object at which he aimed was the establishment of a coaling station. The consummation of a commercial treaty was reserved for a man who was sent out to put into effect the articles proposed by Perry. This country is to be congratulated upon having sent the right men to Japan. Seldom have your representatives been good diplomats, if we confine the calling of diplomats to Wotton's definition of them as "honest men sent out to other countries to tell lies." They were greater as men than as diplomats, if Wotton's definition be accepted. Townsend Harris in particular was a man of whom this country may well be proud. A man of sterling qualities, of honesty of purpose, and withal of kindly disposition, he proved himself the best friend, adviser and teacher of Japan, in the early and stormy days of her foreign intercourse.
During the period immediately following the opening of the country to foreign trade, the rise in prices was tremendous. In two years, some things rose three hundred per cent. Gold, which used to be exchanged for four times its weight in silver, suddenly rose to eight, ten, sixteen times its former value. Naturally, only people greedy of sudden gain flocked to the ports; respectable houses even refused the request of the Government to deal with foreign merchants. Such a state of affairs did not tend to convince the Japanese nation of the blessings of Western civilisation- especially as many of the foreign representatives behaved in a way quite at variance with our ideas of justice or good-will. But, through all the vicissitudes of anti-foreign demonstration, Townsend Harris stood an unwavering friend to Japan.
At one time, when all his diplomatic colleagues left Tokyo (then Yedo), being warned by our authorities of plots of assassination and incendiarism, Townsend Harris alone remained, and without a single American guard at that, placing his reliance upon only a few Japanese sentinels. When his own secretary was killed on the street and he was requested not to go out of his house, he paced the wooden verandah where he took exercise until it was worn by his steps.
It was during this anti-foreign period (1862-64) that the feudal lord of Choshiu fired upon an American steamer that passed through the strait of Shimonoseki, which was within his province. Later on, a French and a Dutch man-of-war were similarly treated. Then naturally followed an alliance of these Powers to bombard the town. The Lord of Choshiu was badly beaten. All this ended in Japan's paying an indemnity of three million dollars. The share for the United States was nearly eight hundred thousand dollars. This sum was about forty times greater than the damages which she sustained, which really amounted to some twenty thousand dollars. One might think this transaction was a profitable bargain. So far the dealing does not seem fair; but there is a sequel to the story. A few years later, educators in this country began to agitate for the return of this sum to Japan. Men like Dr. Northrop of Yale Men like Secretary Seward warmly approved of it, and the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Representatives reported that the remittance of this indemnity would result in the establishment of more intimate relations between the two countries and would ultimately prove of great benefit.
If you ask me how this money was spent when it came back to us, I assure you that it was not all blown off in the form of gunpowder. "Cast thy bread upon the waters and thou shalt find it after many days." If you visit our country, the first port at which you anchor is the exposed harbour of Yokohama, and, as you begin to wonder how a ship can anchor there, you will notice a long stretch of breakwater, within which you will soon find a haven of safety. After long deliberation, it was decided by our people that the money you returned to us should be expended in some work that would perpetuate in lasting, useful, and visible form the good-will of this country, and to this end, the breakwater in the harbour of Yokohama testifies.
The spirit which actuated the United States to return the indemnity of Shimonoseki dictated all its dealings with Japan under successive presidencies. General Grant proved himself an unfailing friend; not only during his tenure of office, but even after he retired to private life, his friendship never flagged. When making his tour around the world in 1880, he made a long sojourn in Japan. In the repeated interviews he had with our Emperor, he won the absolute confidence of our Sovereign, and the advice Grant then gave has made a deep impression upon the Emperor's policy. A man of the camp and the battle-field, President Grant served the cause of peace when he mediated between China and Japan on the question of the Loo-Choo Islands.
To further illustrate this cordial relationship, take the cases of consular jurisdiction and of tariff autonomy-two questions which harassed our nation for a long time. Let me explain. When the treaty was first signed, Townsend Harris was averse to depriving Japan of the power of enforcing its own laws upon foreigners; but, as our laws were at the time crude in the extreme, he proposed extra-territorial rights for his countrymen. This example was naturally followed by all European Powers. As for the second question, the tariff-having had no foreign trade regulations prior to the Commercial Treaty with the United States, we were ignorant of the means of raising a revenue by tariff, much more of protecting native industries. Commerce with the Chinese and the Dutch had been conducted upon a basis of fair trade. Townsend Harris first taught us to impose customs duties. Instead of taking advantage of our ignorance, he carefully compiled a tariff-schedule, more with the interest of Japan in view than with that of America,-again showing a remarkable sense of equity. These tariff regulations were altered when the anti-foreign movement gave to the Treaty Powers an opportunity to further their claims for more advantages.
To recover her judicial autonomy by the summary abolition of foreign jurisdiction and to regain the power of fixing her own tariff-rates, were the fundamental objects of our treaty revision in the eighties of the last century. Without these powers, no country can be said to be on an equal footing with the rest of the world. Indeed, she can never aspire to belong to the "family of great nations" and will forever be treated as an inferior and a stranger.
Japan decided to frame all her laws on Western principles; so that the Treaty Powers might recognise the equity of her legislation. After every preparation had been made to claim legal and tariff autonomy, when we proposed to the Powers that the treaties should be revised, it was the United States that most readily acceded to our desires, and though the revised treaty was first signed with England, everybody concerned knew that the consent and the backing of the United States were a powerful factor. Mr. Cleveland, in 1884, expressed entire willingness to revise whatever was detrimental to the integrity and interests of Japan in the treaties then existing.
Nor was Japan always the passive recipient of American good-will. In Korea, in the last two decades of the past century, how often did American citizens have to take shelter under the roof of our Legation, for protection from mobs!
Such an act implies more than mere international courtesy, or at least it can be made a tie of more than rigid formality. So it was during the war between China and Japan. Japan asked the United States to look after our interests in China, and China asked the same of the United States in Japan.
More than once has the United States performed the good office of aiding us to solve intricate international problems. Of General Grant's service, I have spoken. Even before his time, in 1871, when a complication arose between China and Japan regarding Formosa, and we were obliged to send out an armed expedition to that island, General Le Gendre, the American Consul in Amoy, rendered valuable aid in making clear to the world, so to speak, our real intentions and attitude.
At the close of the Japan-China War, the presence of the Honorable John W. Foster, in the capacity of adviser to Li Hung-Chang, served the cause of Japan as much as that of China, in bringing about a satisfactory solution of the differences between the two nations.
As for the attitude of America in the Russo- Japanese War, the event is still so fresh in your memories that it is needless to review it. It was in 1905 that this great war ended and peace was concluded at Portsmouth through the good offices of President Roosevelt.
Only six years have passed since America crowned her traditional friendship of half a century towards Japan, with her unstinted sympathy during the Russo-Japanese War! Only six years! -a short period in a nation's history, even in these days of steam and electricity. If Rome was not built in a day, a Nero or a Vandal can destroy it in a day. Are there not Neros and Vandals in the twentieth century, who delight in working havoc among friendly nations? In the brief interval, mischief has been brewing in some quarters to bring about disruption of our historic relations. Some ominous prophecies have been uttered that a war between Japan and America is inevitable in a few years. "The best of prophets of the future is the past" (Byron), and looking back upon the past, who has cause to fear? Which of the parties has wronged the other? Those who know nothing of the past, strain their eyes to discover the slightest possible cause for trouble. They represent Japan as harbouring territorial ambition, of casting an evil eye upon Hawaii and the Philippines,-or nearer, upon Magdalena Bay!
We have a proverb, "Fear creates hobgoblins out of shadows." The most unsophisticated Japanese labourers, toiling in the sugar plantations of Hawaii or in the tobacco fields of Luzon, are elevated in the eyes of the doubting to the dignity of military spies. Not a single gunboat is built in Japan but is constructed as an evidence that preparations are in train for the bombardment of San Francisco or the seizure of Manila. If we buy rice from China-which we annually do-in quantities greater than the usual amount, because of floods in our interior, that, too, is distorted into an indication of victualing the navy. Certainly Japan is flattered beyond her deserts when the world thinks that she can lightly go into war with a foreign Power or take Hawaii and the Philippines, in spite of all that she has to carry on in Korea, Manchuria, and Saghalien! The American public has forgotten the agreement between this country and Japan, signed only four years ago, November 31, 1908, by which instrument each Government promises to respect the territorial possessions of the other on the Pacific.
This document fully implies community of purpose and practical co-operation in Far Eastern affairs. The agreement further pledges that the two Governments, in case anything should occur to menace the status quo of either, will communicate with each other, in order to arrive at a mutual understanding regarding the measures to be taken.
So much for the terror of Japan's territorial aggression upon American dominions!
What other possible cause is there for rupture between us?
The California question! Much ado was made about nothing. When facts are all carefully sifted, we shall be forcibly reminded of an old Latin proverb-Parturiunt montes; nascetur ridiculus mus. (The mountains are in labour; a ridiculous mouse will be brought forth.)
The so-called anti-Japanese crusade was started and organised by a certain Tveitmoe, who, when still in his country, Norway, served it by working in prison as a convict and who is at present serving his adopted country in the same capacity. His habit of spending much time in a penitentiary seems to have been contagious. Anyhow, it is a striking coincidence-let it be said in honour of the American judiciary!-that three or four other people who took prominent part in the anti-Japanese movement in 1906 and 1907 are all serving their term in jail-and this despite the fact that Japanese laws are not in force in California! Another agitator, one Fowler, who distinguished himself as Secretary of the Japanese- Korean Exclusive League, had not been long on the stage before he was adjudged insane by Judge Kellogg (who, it may also be remarked, is not a Japanese justice) and was committed to an asylum. These "martyrs" are not the only mice that were brought forth from the mountains of the Golden State, when they were in labour. With a fund supplied from some mischief-making source, they went about declaring impending danger to American civilisation from the incoming of the Japanese; but I wish to make it clear that their imprisonment has nothing to do with their attitude against our people. I must state in justice to the great fairness of mind shown by these men that they did not attribute to Japanese importation or machinations the San Francisco earthquake! Even now, anti-Japanese sentiment sometimes makes its appearance to adorn the platform of some office-seekers in times of local election, or when work is slack and propagandists are well paid. Otherwise all is quiet along the Pacific Coast, and the American orchardists and the farmers, as Mr. Mackenzie in his official capacity as Labor Commissioner of that State has reported, are regretting the decreasing supply of Japanese labour.
Viewed not only as a California problem but as a matter of national significance, the immigration question is certainly more serious; but its serious feature is largely of an abstract and not of a concrete character. Our labourers began to come to California in 1886, and their immigration steadily increased until they numbered thirty thousand in 1907. Thirty thousand is not in itself a small number, and might have given anxiety if the labourers had settled in one place; but we must remember that thirty thousand is no more than one four-hundredth part of about one million two- hundred thousand immigrants of all nationalities who came to the United States in that one year of 1907. In no year has Japanese immigration reached two per cent. of the total, whereas Austro- Hungarians, Italians, and Russians usually exceed twenty per cent. of it. If it is feared that our people confine themselves to the Pacific Coast, official returns should comfort you with the assurance that those who remain there are only about one-sixth or one-seventh of the number of the European immigrants who reach these Western shores. As to their character, the majority of them are farmers and farm-labourers, just what California orchards and farms are most in need of. Then there are a considerable number of professional men. As to financial competence, the official returns show that the average sum of money brought by each Japanese (the figure is for 1906, which was by no means an exceptional year) is thirty-one dollars,-smaller than the fifty-eight dollars of the English or the forty-one dollars of the Germans, but larger than the sum brought by the Russians, Italians, Irish, Scandinavians, Poles, and some others. As to our labourers becoming public charges, here again we turn to the official report of the Immigration Bureau and read with some surprise that in 1906 there was one Japanese received into the hospital for treatment, as against two thousand one hundred and twenty-two Italians, two thousand four hundred and ninety- five Hebrews, or one thousand Poles. If our people do not (cannot!) compete with members of other nationalities in the field of public relief, neither do they compete with American labourers in the field of employment. They are mostly engaged in work which American labourers shun- agriculture.
I have inflicted upon you some dry figures, hoping that they will reveal to unprejudiced minds how much alarm has been created for so little cause! Let it be far from me to make any attempt to show that our immigrants are better than those of other nationalities,-though a close study of the Immigration Commissioner's Reports and the Reports of the State Labour Commissioner of California may point that way. I am not here to advocate their cause. If I can only make it clear that they are not worse than European immigrants and that they are not a menace to American institutions-that is all I care to prove, or at least to intimate.
As to restrictions to be imposed on the free entrance of foreigners, Japan recognises that America or any other country has a right to frame its own laws concerning immigration into its own territory, and, recognising this, she offered to restrict on her side the departure of an undesirable element of her labouring population to this country. She has kept to the letter the terms of the so-called gentlemen's agreement on this matter. The most prejudiced opponent of Japanese immigration has no reason for complaint, for more of our people are leaving the Pacific Coast than are arriving there. Many an American has expressed the opinion that our Government is carrying out its word too rigorously and scrupulously. At any rate the immigration question is practically solved.
For want of a plausible cause for alienation between the two nations, ingenious minds have tried to find one in China and Manchuria. They claim American interests clash with those of Japan. I fail to see what American interests are meant. If they refer to trade, I only wish that America had trade there large enough to make it worth while for us to compete with. Our trade in Manchuria totals about twenty million dollars per annum, and that of all other countries put together (excepting the trade of China) amounts to only seven millions. If by interest is meant American capital, I should like to know how much of real American capital is invested there. When it is understood that the loan forced upon China by the Four Powers is in a precarious state, American capital will be glad to find investment elsewhere- nearer home in South America-where Germans are pushing on, the while Americans are talking of the Far East. If interests mean Americans resident in Manchuria, the whole American population there can be put in a couple of Pullman cars, fifty-two Americans as against forty thousand Japanese.
Reports have been current in newspapers and periodicals, to the effect that the commercial advance of Japanese in Manchuria was made under selfish discrimination and in flagrant violation of "Open Door" promises. It is a remarkable fact that those who make this charge against us never cite a concrete case, never give the exact date or data, to substantiate their accusation. It is always by deductive or rather seductive logic that they try to prove it. They state that Japanese merchants are making headway there, whereas the accusers themselves (all honourable men, of course) made a failure of their own enterprises- therefore the Japanese must have resorted to clandestine methods; the same argument that was used against Othello's success. Our answer must necessarily be very much like his. The truth is that our present advance-and we also expect reverses, according to the natural course of commerce-is so simple and plain that it may well serve for the school-room illustration of a principle in political economy. It is this: Manchuria produces an abundance of soy beans. Until a few years ago, they were not used in Europe or America, and Japan was almost the only purchaser of them. A good deal of the trade in the interior of Manchuria is transacted through barter, or, if with money, by the use of small silver coins, and, buying most, we sold most. There is in the whole transaction no further mystery than this, that in all exchange he who takes most, gives most. There might indeed be mystery if we should buy Manchuria's beans without selling anything in return. The Mitsui firm, who conduct the bean trade, naturally, and wisely too, as they imagined, tried to open a new market for it in Europe, and succeeded so well that the oil-seed crushers of England found the soy beans excellent for their purpose, as well as for cattle feed. As the demand for these beans increased year by year, British firms began to deal directly with Manchurian farmers after the manner of the Japanese-with the result that beans form a considerable portion of Hull imports, and that English trade is now making its way farther and farther into the interior of Manchuria, at the expense of ours. The door is wide open; there is no reason why American trade should not enter,-the more so, as flour and kerosene oil (just the articles we ourselves purchase from this country) are in great demand there. No, there is no infernal magic or underhand discrimination in our trade in Manchuria. Our methods are such as any other people can adopt, and when they adopt them and succeed, we shall perhaps appear less villainous. If evil reports regarding our advance in Man- churia should reach their ears, it will pay lovers of peace and of justice to take the trouble of tracing them to their sources; for I myself have heard them emanating from those who failed through their own incapacity or miscalculation. There is nothing so illuminating in historical research of any kind as to go straight to the Quellenl!
At present, at least, as far as commercial rivalry is concerned, one will seek in vain in Manchuria for a cause important enough to cause a rupture of friendship between the United States and Japan.
A rather childish belief prevails among some credulous people that simply because Japan has distinguished herself twice in two decades as a. military power, she may engage in war at any time upon the slightest provocation.
Why we went to war with China and why with Russia are matters of history so well established as to leave no doubt regarding the motive of Japan. But even in undertaking these wars, just and justifiable as they were, we did not act hastily. In the good old Book, it is written: "What king, as he goes to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?"
We believe we are sufficiently sane to count the cost of a war. What can we gain by mobilising our army or our navy, as some people delight in prophesying, against the United States?-send a whole fleet across the Pacific or concentrate our battle-ships in the Philippines, unmindful that we shall thereby expose our back naked, as it were, to China and Russia; unmindful of the most important trade we have-the trade with this country; unmindful of the enormous debt we already have and of the still greater financial strain which would accrue; unmindful of all the cordial relations of the past, even though these may be largely a matter of sentiment, but none the less a strong sentiment?
Our statesmen and our populace know better than to take such a rash step. They know full well that what they want is peace.
I cannot more fitly describe the sentiment of our nation or more appropriately close this chapter than by relating my last conversation with our leading statesman and recent Premier-Prince Katsura. A fortnight before I left Japan on the present mission, I spent some hours with him, and when I asked his opinion regarding the rumours of war with America, he answered by saying:
"You know, Mr. Nitobe, more or less of my career. In my teens, I fought in the war of the Restoration as a private, in the old feudal fashion. As I grew up, I studied military science and art in Germany, and in our war with China I led an army as a general. Then later on, in the Russo-Japanese War, I led the whole nation as Prime Minister. I say this not to brag, but to remind you that I am not a novice in the matter of wars. I know them well-too well. I know all the horrors of war and the worse horrors of its aftereffects. It is largely people who have never seen war who talk glibly of it I wonder if the newspaper men who write of it really know what it means, what it involves. As for myself, I cannot advocate it. As long as I am in office-and even after leaving office, as long as I have any influence in national affairs-I assure you, there shall be no war with America."