- 史學雜誌 (ISSN:00182478)
- vol.114, no.9, pp.一四九七-一五二八, 2005-09-20
This article focuses on the letter sent by Willem II, king of the Netherlands, to the Japanese shogun in August 1844, in order to reconsider if its aim was really "to recommend the opening of Japan", as conventionally thought. The author examines the decision-making process within the Dutch government before sending the king's letter and concludes that the main inducement for sending the letter was to gauge the issuance of a new decree in 1842. They wanted to find out if the Bakufu intended to abandon its seclusion policy totally or to make only minor concessions. The second purpose was to make a breakthrough in traditional Japanese-Dutch relations through the authorities in Nagasaki. The Dutch government knew that information could be lost or censored before it reached the highest levels in Edo, because of many intermediaries between the Dutch chief factor in Nagasaki and the Bakufu. At that time, the Netherland was facing a fiscal crisis resulting primarily from the loss of revenue that followed Belgian independence in 1830. Thus the Dutch government resigned itself to dispatch of a special envoy to Japan on fisial grounds, and ordered the chief factor instead to do the mission. The author argues that the main points of the king's letter were to confirm if Bakufu officials understood the changing circumstances in East Asia, and to discern whether the Bakufu intended to open Japan to international trade. On the second point, the Dutch government clearly received a very distinct answer to its inquiry, which showed the sending of letter was successful for the Dutch government. The author is doubtful that the Dutch government expected the letter to help expand trade with Japan. It is because she found no mention of their urge to open Japan in the Dutch governmental documents and because they did not provide any actual process for opening the country, for example a draft of a commercial treaty, in the king's letter itself. Apparently, the letter carried advice to open Japan, but it was only as an expedient to avoid armed conflict supposedly with Great Britain, which seemed to attempt commercial relationship with Japan next China after the Opium War. The Dutch government in fact did not want such new relations between Japan and Western powers, and valued the Bakufu's answer as a new permit for monopolizing the Japanese trade. Their attempt at direct communications beyond Nagasaki was not successful. The direct road to Edo was closed by the answer from the Bakufu councilors for the king's letter.