The mission of Japan
to this country was regarded as one of the most singular events in history, and so indeed it was. The good that was to spring from it, was never very highly estimated by us, although we stood almost alone in our opinion.
Like all the rest of the world, however, we were lost in wonder at the mission, and could not for the life of us understand what it meant, or why a people proverbially cautious in their intercourse with strangers should so suddenly depart from a line of policy sanctioned by the practise of ages.
The truth seems to be leaking out as rapidly as could be desired.
There can be no doubt that the Japanese would still, as they have done heretofore, decline all intercourse with strangers if they possibly could.
Nor, with the examples of India
before their eyes, do we feel disposed to blame them.
They very well know, however, that it is impossible to maintain the policy of seclusion without far greater means of resistance than they possess.--That they yield only to what they regard as irresistible power, in forming treaties, is demonstrable from the fact that Prussia
has been seeking their friendship for years, and has never yet been able to form a treaty with them, while England
accomplished what Prussia
sought in vain with scarcely any difficulty at all. The Japanese
evidently know the strength of every European
nation and its means of compulsion.
They know that while Prussia
is a great military power, she has scarcely any navy at all, and therefore no means of forcing upon Japan
a treaty which she is anxious to decline.
They certainly regard every fresh treaty as an abandonment of a certain portion of their independence, extorted at the point of the sword.
They yield to superior strength what they would never yield to the suggestions of national comity or commercial policy.
That they are putting themselves, as fast as they can, into a position to resist all treaties in future, we deem it quite evident, and quite evident we also esteem it that the tour of their ambassadors in this country was a tour of inspection, directed principally, if not entirely, to this end.--Abundant evidence of this truth is to be found in all the correspondence we have seen from the country since the arrival there of the Niagara
The presents sent by the Government
to the Tycoon, consisting of a battery of Dahlgreen's field and boat guns, a gun-boat and machinery, a large quantity of small arms, thousands of pounds of fixed ammunition, &c., weighing in all about ninety tons, were carried in junks to a place about ten miles from Yedo
, a vast, swampy, open place, surrounded by high mud walls, along which were built immense rows of sheds, and there thrown in a heap, in a place not fit for a pig-stye, with as little reverence as though they had been so much lumber, in spite of the remonstrances of the American
officers who accompanied the expedition.
These latter, with extreme difficulty, obtained admittance to the sheds, and there they found seventeen of Dahlgreen
's twelve pounders mounted on excellent wooden carriages.
They had been copied from one given them by Commodore
, and except in some small improvements which had taken place since, they were equal to the best in our service, in every respect whatever.
To their dismay, the American
officer learned that they had, in the forts and arsenals of Yedo
and neighborhood, more than a thousand of exactly the same sort, all made since the expedition of Commodore Perry, and after the pattern of the one he gave them.--If it be true, as we learn it is, that there are not one-tenth part of that number of the same species of gun in the whole American Navy, the tremendous activity with these men, whom many of our countrymen believed to be little better than savages when their ambassadors were here, are preparing for some crisis which their rulers foresee, and which, apparently, they regard as not very far distant, must strike every one.
Their peculiar aptitude for the species of warfare implied in the management of great guns, may be inferred from a company of raw men having learned, in half an hour, under the instruction of an American officer, to work one of the guns sent among the presents, as well as the most experienced artillerymen in our service could have done it.
In the meantime, the Japanese everywhere are represented as bitterly hostile to foreigners, and as only restrained from laying violent hands on them by the fear of immediate punishment.
It is evident to us that the gates of Japanese seclusion can only be broken open effectually and forever by cannon, and when the time shall have come for the experiment, it will perhaps be a subject of regret that we have voluntarily placed in their hands the means of making a more formidable resistance.
We are among those who think they ought not to be compelled to make treaties unless they desire it. But since the nations seem determined that they shall make them, and will
compel them at whatever cost of blood, we regret to see any facility offered of rendering the bloodshed greater than it otherwise would be.