Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Kanagawa, Japan, 1861-1897

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Despatches from U.S. Consuls in Kanagawa, Japan, 1861–1897

This collection consists chiefly of despatches addressed to the State Department by U.S. consular officials in Kanagawa, Japan, between December 26, 1861, and September 1, 1897. These despatches reply to consular instructions and report on a wide range of subjects dealing with economic, political, and social conditions in Japan in addition to routine matters.

In 1854 Commodore Matthew Perry signed the Convention of Kanagawa to force the opening of Japanese ports to the United States. Five years later Yokohama, with its deepwater harbor in Tokyo Bay, was opened to foreign traders and eventually became Japan's busiest trading port. The consulate was therefore located at Yokohama, which was designated by the Japanese government as a place of residence for foreigners having treaties with Japan. In late 1897 the name of the consulate and consular jurisdiction was changed to Yokohama.

Interspersed throughout the collection are such documents as occasional memoranda prepared by other State Department officials, letters from officials of other departments of the U.S. government and officials of the Japanese government, communications from American private citizens, and English-language news clippings.

Subjects to which the despatches relate include the Kanagawa Convention, the Treaty of Amity and Commerce (aka the Harris Treaty), and other Ansei Treaties with Great Britain, Russia, Netherlands and France; trade and market information; U.S. extraterritoriality and criminal proceedings; tariffs and duties; anti-foreign activities; activities of American missionaries; commentary on the cultivation and production of rice, silk, cotton, and sugar; customs facilities; labor and wages in the port; Japanese emigration; cases before the consular court; and cholera and smallpox epidemics.

Some despatches are covering letters for enclosures of a routine nature forwarded by consular officials to the State Department, such as reports on consular fees received and trade. In accordance with departmental policy adopted in 1870, most statistical enclosures were removed from their covering letters and distributed among other records of the State Department or sent to other departments of the U.S. government.

Collection Facts

Source Institution:
National Archives (United States)
Date Range:
22 manuscripts; 2,763 items; 15,343 pages
Print by Sadahide Utagawa of an American ship being loaded in the harbor at Yokohama, Japan, 1861. The Kanagawa consulate was located in the foreign settlement area of nearby Yokohama, the major center for trade.
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