Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Japan, 1855-1906

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Retrieve imperfect matches to accommodate spelling variations or approximate spellings sometimes found in historical documents.


Despatches from U.S. Ministers to Japan, 1855–1906

This collection comprises eighty-three volumes, consisting for the most part of despatches addressed to the State Department by United States diplomatic representatives to Japan between March 17, 1855, and August 9, 1906. The initial part of the collection consists of selected pages from a number of State Department registers, which, taken as a unit, comprise a register of these despatches during this period.

Most of the communications are original despatches, usually accompanied by enclosures. Some of the enclosures are original notes to American representatives from officials of the Japanese foreign ministry. Other enclosures were written by American consuls in Japan and, occasionally, by American private citizens. A considerable number of enclosures are copies of communications sent by U.S. representatives to Japanese officials. Pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and other printed matter are sometimes enclosed.

Apart from numbered despatches and enclosures, these volumes contain many unnumbered letters, some of which are marked “Private” or “Confidential.” Unnumbered or private letters, more informal than despatches, may report official matters requiring secrecy or not fully covered in the despatches, or they may convey personal news, acknowledgments of appointment or recall, announcements of arrival or departure, and statements of official expenses. The volumes also contain telegrams and cables, which were not numbered.

The despatches reply to diplomatic instructions and report on economic, political, and social conditions in Japan; piracy; the protection of missionaries; prohibition of the opium trade; floods, famines, and other natural calamities; treaties and arrangements; and activities of American private citizens.

Collection Facts

Date Range:
82 manuscripts; 8,627 items; 59,079 pages
Source Institution:
National Archives (United States)
The Meiji Emperor of Japan and the imperial family, 1900. The opening of its ports to Western powers was a key factor in Japan’s return to imperial rule (the Meiji Restoration) in 1868; print by Torajiro Kasai.
The Library of Congress