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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Nagasaki was chosen as suitable


law was not enforced with any undue haste; ample time was given for compliance with its provisions. Possibly misled by this procrastination, the Portuguese at Macao continued to strive for the re-establishment of commercial relations until 1640, when a very sad event put an end finally to all intercourse. Four aged men, selected from among the most respected citizens of Macao, were sent to Nagasaki as ambassadors. Their ships carried rich presents and an earnest petition for the renewal of commercial intercourse. They were at once imprisoned, and having declined to save their lives by abjuring the Christian faith, the four old men and fifty-seven of their companions were decapitated, thirteen only being left alive for the purpose of conveying the facts to Macao. To these thirteen there was handed at their departure a document setting forth that, "So long as the sun warms the earth, any Christian bold enough to come to Japan, even if he be King Philip himself or the God of the Christians, shall pay for it with his head." One more effort to restore the old intimacy was made by the Portuguese in 1647, but it failed signally, and would certainly have entailed sanguinary results had not the two Portuguese vessels beat a timely retreat.


In 1609, the Dutch made their appearance in Japan, and received an excellent welcome. Ieyasu gave them a written promise that "no man should do them any wrong

and that they should be maintained and defended as his own vassals." He also granted them a charter that wherever their ships entered, they should be shown "all manner of help, favour, and assistance." Left free to choose their own trading port, they made the mistake of selecting Hirado, which was eminently unsuited to be a permanent emporium of interstate commerce. Nevertheless, owing partly to their shrewdness, partly to their exclusive possession of the Spice Islands, and partly to their belligerent co-operation with the English against the Spaniards, they succeeded in faring prosperously for a time.

The day came, however, when, being deprived of freedom of trade and limited to dealings with a guild of Nagasaki and Osaka merchants, they found their gains seriously affected. Other vicissitudes overtook them, and finally the Japanese concluded that the safest course was to confine the Dutch to some position where, in a moment of emergency, they could easily be brought under Japanese control. Nagasaki was chosen as suitable, and there a Dutch factory was established which, for a time, flourished satisfactorily. From seven to ten Dutch vessels used to enter the port annually--their cargoes valued at some eighty thousand pounds (avdp.) of silver, and the chief staples of import being silk and piece-goods. Customs duties amounting to five per cent, were levied; 495 pounds of silver had to be paid annually as a rent for the little island of Deshima, and every year a mission had to proceed to Yedo from the factory, carrying presents for the chief Bakufu officials, which presents are said to have aggregated some 550 pounds of silver on each occasion. The Dutch traders, nevertheless, found their business profitable owing to purchases of gold and copper, which metals could be procured in Japan at much lower rates than they commanded in Europe. Thus, the now familiar question of an outflow of specie was forced upon Japanese attention at that early date, and, by way of remedy, the Government adopted, in 1790, the policy of restricting to one vessel annually the Dutch ships entering Nagasaki, and forbidding that vessel to carry away more than 350 tons of copper.

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