US shows a copy of the Ryukyu-US Treaty and letters by Commodore Perry

US shows a copy of the Ryukyu-US Treaty and letters by Commodore Perry

The enclosed letter by Commodore Perry reporting the signing of the treaty to the United States.


March 21, 2015 Ryota Shimabukuro of Ryukyu Shimpo reports from Washington D.C.

On March 20, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration showed an original copy of the Ryukyu-U.S. Treaty of Amity signed by the Ryukyu Kingdom and the United States on July 11, 1854 to the Ryukyu Shimpo. The archive also disclosed a letter written by Commodore Matthew Perry reporting the signing of the Treaty to the States, enclosed together with the original copy. The letter says that Perry was honored to send one of three original copies of the treaty signed with the Ryukyu Kingdom. It seems that Commodore Perry considered the signing a great achievement. The original copy of the treaty, which verified “sovereignty” of the Ryukyu Kingdom, has been carefully stored away at the U.S. National Archives for 160 years after its signing. This highlights the historical value of the treaty.

The original copy of the treaty is stored together with a U.S. Senate ratification document and a proclamation by President Franklin Pierce which are both dated on March 9, 1855.

The letter by Perry was dated on September 5, 1854 and addressed to Navy Secretary James Dobbin.

In all three originals sent to the United States, the letters stated that Perry would bring back one to the states via Europe, and one would be sent with other documents to the states on the U.S. Ship Mississippi.

The original copy of the Ryukyu-U.S. Treaty of Amity kept by U.S. authorities.

The copy kept in the U.S. National Archive is the one that Perry enclosed with his letter. This copy was sent to Secretary of State William Marcy, then held by the State Department and transferred to the National Archives in March 1938. Currently, the treaty is kept in “The Collection of Treaties 194” and is withheld from the public. Meanwhile, the Archives has not confirmed the location of the other two copies. The disclosed copy is the only one from the United States side of which the location is known.

On the Ryukyu side, the Meiji Government confiscated the original copies of the treaty signed with the United States, and also treaties signed with France, in 1855, and the Netherlands, in 1974. Currently, they are in the possession of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These three original treaties were temporarily released for display at “the Okinawa Special Exhibition: the Ryukyu, the End of Edo, and the Meiji Restoration” at the Urasoe City Museum until March 29.

(English translation by T&CT and Megumi Chibana)

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