Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Royal Reception for the Japanese Ambassadors and Officers of the U.S. Steamer Powhatan

In Honolulu a first-of-its-kind reception was held at the old royal palace (pictured). A Court Reception was held in which the ambassadors from Japan by Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma. Various members of the Hawaiian royal government were in attendance. In addtion, Admiral Tatnall and the officers of the U.S. Steamer Powhatan were also received.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser reported on this occasion in its March 15, 1860 edition. This is my transcript of the article appearing on the second page:

Audience at the Palace

A very interesting ceremony took place on Friday last, being the reception at Court of their Excellencies, the Ambassadors from the Emperor of Japan to His Excellency the President of the United States, which, we believe, is the first time that persons holding the rank of Ambassadors have visited this kingdom. Besides the King’s Ministers and the prinicpal officers of the government, a number of foreigners were present on the occasion. The audience was granted in response to the request of his Excellency the Commissioner of the United States to present the Japanese Embassy, Admiral Tatnall and the officers of the Powhatan.

The Honolulu Rifles, under the command of Capt. Brown, turned out on the occasion, and arrived at the Palace at 1 ¼ , forming in line on each side of the palace steps. A company of Hawaiian infantry was also on duty, and was stationed at the gateway. His Majesty, accompanied by His Ministers and nobles in full uniform, entered the hall about half past one o’clock, and soon after, seven carriages arrived with officers of the Powhatan. In the first carriage, we noticed Admiral Tatnall, His Ex. J.W. Borden, Capt. Pearson, and Dr. G.P. Judd. As they alighted, the band of the steamer, which was stationed on the Portico, struck up the soul-enlivening national air of America, and the guests were conducted by His Ex. Mr. Whyllie and the chamberlain into the awaiting room, from which they were ushered into the reception room, and presented to the King individually by Mr. Borden.

At 2 o’clock, the carriages, two of which were the King’s, returned, bringing the Japanese Ambassadors and officers, accompanied by the aids of His Majesty and of Prince Lot, as guard of honor, on horseback. With the Embassy were Capt. Taylor and several officers of the Powhatan. Admiral Tattnall, Mr. Borden and Mr. Wyllie, to show the highest honor to them, received the Ambassadors from the carriages and led them into the awaiting room.

From this room, the first Ambassador, Sime-Bujen-no-kami, walked with Mr. Borden, and Muragake-Awage-no-kami, with the Admiral arm in arm, into the presence of the King, where they were presented to him. We noticed that not only the Ambassadors, but also each of the other Japanese, as they entered the throne room, bowed three times very low, according to their own custom on such occasions. His Majesty addressed them in substance as follows:

“I feel very much pleased to welcome you to my kingdom, and it affords me great pleasure that circumstances have favored me, through the kind permission of the United States Commissioner and the gentlemen in whose charge you as present are, to receive you as Ambassadors of the great Emperor of Japan, while on your way to the friendly government of the United States of America, a nation to which my people are so much indebted. I shall feel much gratified if your visit to these islands is agreeable to you, and hope that when you return to Japan you will express to your Sovereign the friendly meeting which I have had the honor of having with you, and the high esteem I entertain for His Majesty and His People.”

His Excellency, Sime, first Ambassador, replied, his words being translated into Dutch by Namura, and then into English by Mr. Banning:

“I am greatly obliged for the friendly reception with which your Majesty has honored us, and I beg to express my thanks for them. We have been pleased to take on our behalf and shall not forget the kindness with which we have been received in this city, not only by your Majesty, but by the inhabitants of your capital.”

At the conclusion of the addresses the Censor, Vice-Governor, and others in the Embassy, were presented, and after them a number of the officers of the Embassy. Each of them recorded in name in the autograph book of the Palace, which already contains those of many dignitaries of foreign countries; few, however, of them will be examined with more curiosity than these.

His Majesty, having retired, the Queen soon after appeared, accompanied by the Princess Victoria and some ten or twelve foreign ladies. The Ambassadors, as well as the Admiral and officers of the Powhatan, were presented individually to Her Majesty, and we must say that her bearing on the occasion was graceful, and left but one impression on all that she nobly filled the high place she occupies. Queen Victoria never entertained a royal embassy with more grace and suavity than did Queen Emma on this occasion. His Majesty also appeared to be in the best spirits and certainly received his royal visitors, the Japanese, in a style which must have given them favorable ideas. The special attention and kindness which he has shown them during their stay will not pass unnoticed. It was a spontaneous impulse of the generous heart of our Sovereign and can only be construed as a mark of respect not only to the President of the United States, but to the Emperor of Japan.

After viewing the apartments a short time, the Japanese Ambassadors and officers were conducted to the carriages with the same respect as on their arrival, and escorted back to their apartments by the guard of honor as before.

The whole ceremony was conducted with credit to all concerned. When the Ambassadors reached the Royal standard, the band struck up in honor of the Emperor of Japan, ‘God save the King.’ During the proceedings it also played the national airs. The Rifles never appeared in better trim. There were some thirty-five turned out, and they fully sustained the reputation so long enjoyed of being the star corps of the Pacific.

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