The March 17, 1860 edition of the Polynesian published, “by authority, the official correspondences previous to the reception, on the 9th instant, by their Majesties the King and Queen, of their Excellencies the Princes Ambassadors of the Emperor of Japan, sent by his Imperial Majesty, with credentials to his Excellency the President of the United States.” Details of the reception by Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma were also published on the first page.
“This being quite an event in the history of this Kingdom,” continued the article, “the public will read with interest the extracts which we subjoin, showing the formalities with which ambassadors coming accredited to the sovereign, are received at the highest of imperial and monarchical courts, and showing what treatment they are entitled to while only passing through the dominions of a friendly sovereign.” This was the first time an ambassadorial delegation of such significance from any country had visited the Hawaiian Islands.
What followed was a translation by Hawaiian Minister of Foreign Affairs R.C. Wyllie from the Baron de Marten’s Diplomatic Guide. These excerpts outline the rules and protocols of 19th century diplomacy. Then, the article features exchanges between Wyllie and James W. Borden, the American Commissioner at the United States Legation in Honolulu.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES
Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands,
8th March, 1860.
To His Excellency R.C. Wyllie, Minister of Foreign Relations,
&c., &c., &c.
SIR- I have the honor to inform your Excellency that, on Monday, the 5th instant, the United States steamer Powhatan arrived at this port.
This frigate is commanded by the Honorable Josiah Tatnall, U.S. Navy, who is conducting an Embassy sent by His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan to the President of the United States.
Admiral Tattnall has signified to me that, accompanied by Capt. Pearson, the officers of the Powhatan, and the Embassadors with their suite, he would be pleased to have an opportunity, with them, of paying his respects to His Majesty the King.
I have, therefore, respectfully to ask you to make known this request to His Majesty, and to assure him that an audience as such time as will suit his convenience will be the occasion of sincere gratification to the officer of the Powhatan, to the Japanese Ambassadors as well as to
Most obedient servant.
JAMES W. BORDEN
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
City of Honolulu, 8th March, 1860
SIR- I have had the honor to submit to the King your official note of the same date, announcing the arrival of Admiral Tatnall in the United States steamer Powhatan, conveying to Washington Ambassadors from the Emperor of Japan to the President of the United States, and requesting an audience of His Majesty for the Ambassadors, for Admiral Tatnall and Captain Pearson, with the officers of that ship.
The King has commanded me to reply that he will be pleased, if it suit you and the Admiral, to receive you and him, Captain Pearson and the officers of the Powhatan, in the Palace, to-morrow, at half-past one o’clock, and that, at 2 P.M., in your presence, and in that of the Admiral and of his suite, His Majesty will receive their Excellencies the Ambassadors with their suite.
The King commands me further to say that it is His Majesty’s wish to receive the Ambassadors with as much respect as if they were accredited to his own Court, and that, therefore, He will send His own carriages to their residence, escorted by a guard of honor to convey them to the Palace. His Majesty regrets not having carriages enough for their full suite, but he hopes that you, as the representative of the President, will be able to arrange for their proper conveyance, as is usual, in the reception of Ambassadors.
Although the Ambassadors are not accredited to His own Court, the King, viewing them as virtually illustrious guests of the President, believes that He cannot show a higher honor, both to Him and to His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan, than by receiving them and treating them, while passing through this Kingdom, with as much respect as if they had come with the Emperor’s credentials to Himself.
I hope that you and the Admiral will duly understand the desire of my Sovereign.
I have it further in command from the King to make known to you the pleasure of Her Majesty the Queen to receive the Ambassadors, yourself and the Admiral, immediately after the audience of His Majesty has terminated.
I am happy to have this occasion to repeat to you the assurance of the high respect and consideration with which I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your most obedient, humble servant,
Hon. JAMES W. BORDEN, Commissioner of the United States, &c., &c., &c.
LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES
Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands, 9th March, 1860.
To his Excellency, R.C. WYLLIE, H. H. M. Minister of Foreign Relations, &c.
SIR: -I have the honor to send herewith one piece of crape and two boxes of lacquer, which their Excellencies the Ambassadors of his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Japan, to the United States, have requested to be presented through this Legation, in their name, to his Hawaiian Majesty.
These articles are presented, not so much for their value, but are designed, according to the usage of their country, to be received by his Majesty as a memento of the highly interesting ceremony at the audience which their Majesties the King and Queen did them the honor to grant on this day.
I avail myself to this occasion to renew the assurances of the high respect and distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be,
Sir, your most obedient servant,
JAMES W. BORDEN
DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
City of Honolulu, 9th March, 1860.
SIR: -I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of this date, which you had the great courtesy to deliver, in person, along with the presents for his Majesty the King, from their Excellencies the Princes Ambassadors of his Majesty the Emperor of Japan, to which your note refers.
It became my agreeable duty to send those presents and your note immediately to the palace, along with the explanation which you requested me to make to my Sovereign, on behalf of their Excellencies; -namely, that the presents were not of the value that their Emperor would have ordered them to offer to the King if his Imperial Majesty had foreseen that his Ambassadors would appear at the Hawaiian Court.
You can assure their Excellencies that King Kamehameha IV, while he thanks them for their presents, requires no such valuable considerations to enhance his respectful appreciation of their high character, as Ambassadors of his Imperial Majesty of Japan, accredited to his great and good friend, the President of the United States, and, even while in this city, the illustrious guests of his Excellency.
I am happy to have this opportunity of again assuring you of the very high respect and very distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be,
Sir, your most obedient and humble servant,
Hon. JAMES W. BORDEN, Commissioner
Of the United States, &c., &c.
The undersigned, Minister of Foreign Affairs of his Majesty King Kamehameha IV, has the honor to state to their Excellencies the Ambassadors of his Majesty the Emperor of Japan, that the King, much pleased with their arrival at his Court, and animated by sentiments of high regard for his Imperial Majesty, and by a desire that the most kind and friendly relations should ever subsist between his dominion and those of his Imperial Majesty, for the mutual advantage of the two nations, which are so near to each other, has empowered the undersigned to negotiate with their Excellencies a solemn treaty of perpetual friendship, commerce and navigation, precisely similar to that which it has pleased his Majesty the Emperor of Japan to grant to the United States.
The undersigned is commanded to state that his Majesty the King is well aware that their Excellencies can have no special powers from the Emperor to make a treaty with this kingdom; but the Sovereign of the undersigned intrusts in him to say that their Excellencies the Ambassadors, if they so pleased, might agree to such a treaty as is proposed, it being well understood on both sides that the agreement is to be binding or not, according as it may be ratified or not by his Majesty the Emperor; or if their Excellencies, in their discretion, should so prefer, they might ask powers from their Emperor to negotiate such a treaty as is herein proposed, to be sent to them at Washington, and the treaty to be concluded with the King’s Charge d’Affairs and Consul General for the United States.
The King further orders the undersigned to offer to their Excellencies to forward to Japan, through his Majesty’s Charge d’Affairs and Consul General for the Empire of China, residing in Canton, any dispatches or letters which their Excellencies may leave to be forwarded to the Government of their Emperor.
Lastly, the undersigned is commanded to state to their Excellencies by his Sovereign, that the President of the United States being one of his greatest and best friends, cannot fail to be pleased with the extension to this friendly kingdom of the treaty between the United States and the Empire of Japan.
The undersigned has the honor to offer to their Excellencies the Ambassadors of his Majesty the Emperor of Japan, the homage of his highest respect and consideration.
R. C. WYLLIE
To his Excellency the Prince SIMMI-BUZEN-NO-KAMI,
First Ambassador, and his Excellency the Prince MURAGAKI-AWAKI-NO-KAMI, Second Ambassador, of his Majesty the Emperor of Japan.
Department of Foreign Affairs,
Honolulu, March 18, 1860.
The following copy of the English translation of the reply, in Japanese, of the Ambassadors, is printed precisely in the form presented by their Excellencies:
To His Excellency R. C. WYLLIE Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sandwich Islands, &c., &c.
We have received and well understand your letter, dated 18th March of your country; For the mutual advantage of your and my countries desiring to conclude the same Treaty of Amity, as the United States, you are appointed to negotiate with us, but as you written, we are proper not commanded to conclude the Treaty with your country, and because the concluding the Treaty shall be the firm and lasting foundation of the friendship between both countries, it is now impossible to answer to it, without the offering to His Majesty the Tycoon after our return at Japan, and therefore also we cannot send our dispatches through the Consul General of your country for China, thus we will answer thereinto after our return to Japan. For the answering into your letter we express the abovementioned.
With respect and consideration, the 25th day of second month of the seventh year of Ansey.
SIMMI BOZKENNO CAMI
MOORAGAKI AWAGENO CAMI
OGOOLI BUNGONO CAMI