Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pacific Commercial Advertiser Reports: Departure of the Japanese Embassy from Hawaii

Source: Pacific Commercial Advertiser: March 22, 1860, second page col. 2:

The Powhatan steamed out of the harbor on Sunday afternoon about 3 o’clock, having been in port some two weeks. The departure of the ship was hastened on account of the uneasiness of the ambassadors, who had become very impatient and anxious to hasten on their journey, having bound themselves to be back at Yeddo within a limited period –nine months, we believe.

The ship left Japan Feb. 13, and supposing she is detained at San Francisco not more than two weeks, still three months will have expired from the time the embassy left Japan before it reaches Washington. It is very probable that the Japanese will leave Washington on their return during September, proceed to Panama, thence by a steam frigate (the Merrimac or Powhatan) to Honolulu and Yeddo. In that case, we shall probably see them again in November next. Should the embassy not get back to Japan within the time limited to it, it is not unlikely that, according to the Japanese customs, some of its members would have to pay the penalty of death.

The Admiral, as well as all the officers on board, expressed themselves in their departure as under many obligations to the King, his government, and the residents of Honolulu, (ladies as well as gentlemen,) for the marked and kind attentions shown to them during their stay here, are we were desired to state as much. Indeed, several of the officers assured us that in no port where the ship has been, during their cruise around the globe, had they met that cordial, fraternal feeling which had been exhibited in Honolulu; nor since leaving their own firesides had the parted with any friends with more regret than with our residents. We do not remember of any war vessel receiving so much attention or so cordial a reception here as did the Powhatan.

We may add to this remark that we have seldom met a company of naval officers whose gentlemanly bearing, urbanity and intelligence were so deserving of the treatment bestowed on them.

We are glad to notice that the chaplain, Mr. Wood, is endeavoring to impart to the Japanese a knowledge of the English language. He has a class of about a dozen, and the greatest eagerness is shown by some of his scholars to learn to read and speak. Some of the company will no doubt be able to talk English fluently before their return to Japan.

We cannot here omit to speak of Capt. Taylor, under whose charge the embassy is specially placed. His selection for that duty appears to be exceedingly appropriate. His manner towards them has been so courteous and kind that he has won the confidence of all; from the highest prince to the commonest soldier, and they now look up on him as their warmest friend. Possessing a soldier-like bearing, without affection, polite and dignified, he does not fail to leave the most favorable impression on every one he meets. He is in short one of Nature’s noblemen, and an honor to the American navy, in which we trust he will be promoted to some more deserving position.

The Japanese ambassadors gave evidence of being possessed of refined feelings. Their return to the vessel a week before her departure was caused by a fear lest their servants would become troublesome to the foreign residents, and themselves a burden to the hospitality of the King. In this, however, they were mistaken, and their visit might have been prolonged without any such result. This extreme sensitiveness, however, will probably be more felt by them in the United States, and tend to make their stay there shorter than if they had a smaller retinue.

On Sunday, when the Minister of Foreign Affairs conveyed to the Ambassadors on board the vessel the King’s final adieu to them, they were quite overcome with a sense of obligation for the treatment received from him, and the respect shown to them, and were unable to reply, except with much hesitation, and in such a way as betrayed their feelings. We trust that the reception that they receive throughout their tour will leave as favorable an impression on their minds as it has here at their first stopping place.

We are not aware that any one connected with the Powhatan is authorized to publish in a book form an official narrative of the events which have come under the observation of the officers, similar to that of Commodore Perry. Neither the Admiral nor Captain propose making any report other than that required to the Navy department; and only the person who has the material and data for a popular account is the Chaplain, who we trust will prepare and publish it. Such a work would be a valuable addition to literature. He visited Pekin with Mr. Ward’s Embassy, as well as all the ports in Japan where the Powhatan touched, and could no doubt present a lively and interesting sketch of Japan and Pekin.

The purpose of the British residents of Honolulu to make some public testimonial to Admiral Tatnall for his gallant and noble conduct at the Peiho engagement last summer, was honorable in them, and a spontaneous expression of the brotherly feeling towards Americans, which lies deep seated in the bosom of every true Englishman. “It was for fellowship’s sake,” said the gallant tars of the Powhatan, “that we giv’d them a help,” when they found their brothers short-handed at the bow-gun. It was “fellowship’s sake,” too, that prompted the gallant Admiral Tatnall to help his comrades in that terrible and deadly strife. The kind sentiments of the British residents here were none the less appreciated by him, because they had not the opportunity allowed them of making the testimonial which they had proposed.

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