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Treaty of Amity (Ryukyu-US)

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  • Date: 1854/6/17 (July 11)
  • Japanese: 琉米修好条約 (Ryuu-Bei shuukou jouyaku)

The Treaty of Amity signed between the Ryûkyû Kingdom and the United States on 1854/6/17 (or July 11 on the Western calendar) was the first of several such treaties the kingdom signed with Western powers.

It came at the end of a series of negotiations between Ryukyuan officials and Commodore Matthew Perry. On the Ryukyuan side, the document was signed by the sôrikan Kin aji (Shô Kôkun) and fuseikan Tanabaru ueekata (Ba Ryôsai).[1]

Articles of the Treaty

The official English-language text of the Treaty was as follows:[2]

  1. Hereafter, whenever citizens of the United States come to Lew Chew, they shall be treated with great courtesy and friendship. Whatever articles these people ask for, whether from the officers or people, which the country can furnish, shall be sold to them; nor shall the authorities interpose any prohibitory regulations to the people selling; and whatever either party may wish to buy shall be exchanged at reasonable prices.
  2. Whenever ships of the United States shall come into any harbor in Lew Chew they shall be supplied with wood and water at reasonable prices; but if they wish to get other articles, they shall be purchasable only at Napa.
  3. If ships of the United States are wrecked on Great Lew Chew, or on islands under the jurisdiction of the royal government of Lew Chew, the local authorities shall dispatch persons to assist in saving life and property, and preserve what can be brought ashore till the ships of that nation shall come to take away all that may have been saved; and the expenses incurred in rescuing these unfortunate persons shall be refunded by the nation they belong to.
  4. Whenever persons from ships of the United States come ashore in Lew Chew, they shall be at liberty to ramble where they please without hindrance or having officials sent to follow them, or to spy what they do; but if they violently go into houses, or trifle with women, or force people to sell them things, or do other such like illegal acts, they shall be arrested by the local officers, but not maltreated, and shall be reported to the captain of the ship to which they belong for punishment by him.
  5. At Tumai is a burial-ground for the citizens of the United States, where their graves and tombs shall not be molested.
  6. The government of Lew Chew shall appoint skillful pilots, who shall be on the lookout for ships appearing off the island, and if one is seen coming towards Napa, they shall go out in good boats beyond the reefs to conduct her in to a secure anchorage, for which service the captain shall pay the pilot five dollars, and the same for going out of the harbor beyond the reefs.
  7. Whenever ships anchor at Napa, the officers shall furnish them with wood at the rate of three thousand six hundred copper cash per thousand catties; and with water at the rate of 600 copper cash (43 cents) for one thousand catties, or six barrels full, each containing 80 American gallons.

Signed in the English and Chinese languages, by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, commander-in-chief of the United States naval forces in the East India, China, and Japan seas, and special envoy to Japan for the United States; and by Sho Fu fing, superintendent of affairs (Tsu-likwan) in Lew Chew; and Ba Rio-si, treasurer of Lew Chew, at Shui, for the government of Lew Chew, and copies exchanged this 11th day of July, 1854, or the reign Hien fung, 4th year, 6th moon, 17th day, at the Town Hall of Napa.

Significance

Many of these articles can be tied directly to previous policies of the Ryukyuan government, or to incidents which had occurred in recent years. The stipulations regarding supplying and otherwise aiding foreign ships were standard policy already.

The stipulation that Americans be free to engage in commerce stems from the Ryukyuan policy of restricting, as much as possible, any contact between foreigners and commoners, for the purposes of preventing foreigners from spreading Christianity or other dangerous cultural, political, or ideological ideas; preventing foreigners from learning too much about Ryûkyû's relationship with Satsuma han; and enforcing maritime prohibitions on foreign trade. Stipulations in Article 3 regarding foreigners being followed or spied upon stemmed from the same policy; it had been standard in Ryûkyû since 1844 (when a Frenchman first became resident on Okinawa) for foreigners to be followed, in order to enforce this separation. As for violently breaking into houses and forcing people to sell them things, these were offenses regularly committed by the British missionary Bernard Bettelheim, who finally departed the islands after the signing of this treaty, aboard one of Perry's ships. And the stipulation against "trifling" with women presumably comes as a Ryukyuan response to the sexual assault of an Okinawan woman by William Board, a member of Perry's crew, earlier that same year.

References

  • George Minot (ed.), The Statutes at Large and Treaties of the United States of America from December 1, 1851, to March 3, 1855, Arranged in Chronological Order; With References to the Matter of Each Act and to the Subsequent Acts on the Same Subject, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. (1855), 1101-1102.
  1. Tinello, 199.; 琉米修好条約, Wikisource (Japanese).
  2. The Classical Chinese version of the text can be found at Wikisource.
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