Treaty of Amity and Commerce

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The Treaty of Amity and Commerce (日米修好通商条約 Nichibei Shūkō Tsūshō Jōyaku), also known as the "Harris Treaty", was a treaty signed between the United States and Japan on 29 July 1858.

It was a follow-up the Treaty of Kanagawa, with which Commodore Matthew Perry had secured fuel and provisions for U.S. ships and protection for shipwrecked sailors. However, the issue of negotiating trading rights was left to another U.S. envoy, Townsend Harris, who arrived in Japan in 1856. However, it took him two years to break down Japanese resistance to the deal, but with the threat of British demands for similar privileges, the Tokugawa Shogunate gave in and signed the "unequal treaty".

Ironically, it was this treaty, as well as the other treaties signed with Britain, France, Russia and the Netherlands that gave rise to the Meiji Restoration and the rapid modernization of Japan, which made the country not only the dominant Asian power by the end of the century, but a burgeoning super-power following victory in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.

Articles of the Treaty [1]

The main articles of the treaty were the following:


There shall henceforth be perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and His Majesty the Shogun of Japan and his successors.

In addition to the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate, the following ports and towns shall be opened on the dates respectively appended to them, that is to say: Kanagawa, on the 4th of July, 1859, Nagasaki, on the 4th of July, 1859; Niigata, on the 1st of January, 1860; Hyogo, on the lst of January, 1863.

Six months after the opening of Kanagawa, the port of Shimoda shall be closed as a place of residence and trade for American citizens. In all the foregoing ports and towns American citizens may permanently reside; they shall have the right to lease ground, and purchase the buildings thereon, and may erect dwellings and warehouses.

No wall, fence, or gate shall be erected by the Japanese around the place of residence of the Americans, or anything done which may prevent a free egress and ingress to the same.

From the lst of January, 1862, Americans shall be allowed to reside in the City of Edo; and from the 1st of January, 1863, in the City of Osaka, for the purposes of trade only. In each of these two cities a suitable place within which they may hire houses, and the distance they may go, shall be arranged by the American Diplomatic Agent and the Government of Japan.

The Japanese Government will cause this clause to be made public in every part of the Empire as soon as the ratifications of this Treaty shall be exchanged. Munitions of war shall only be sold to the Japanese Government and foreigners.

Duties shall be paid to the Government of Japan on all goods landed in the country, and on all articles of Japanese production that are exported as cargo, according to the tariff hereunto appended.

(The regulation was attached to the treaty, determining the tariffs to be paid on U.S. imports. A low rate of 5% on the value of good imported by the U.S., which was unfavorable for Japan, was set for machinery and shipping materials of all kinds, as well as raw materials such as lead, tin and zinc.)

The importation of opium is prohibited; and, any American vessel coming to Japan for the purposes of trade having more than four pounds weight of opium on board, such surplus quantity shall be seized and destroyed by the Japanese authorities. All goods imported into Japan and which have paid the duty fixed by this Treaty, may be transported by the Japanese into any part of the empire without the payment of any tax, excise, or transit duty whatever.

No higher duties shall be paid by Americans on goods imported into Japan than are fixed by this Treaty, nor shall any higher duties be paid by Americans than are levied on the same description of goods if imported in Japanese vessels, or the vessels of any other nation.

Americans committing offenses against Japanese shall be tried in American Consular courts, and, when guilty, shall be punished according to American law. Japanese committing offenses against Americans shall be tried by the Japanese authorities and punished according to Japanese law. The Consular courts shall be open to Japanese creditors, to enable them to recover their just claims against American citizens; and the Japanese courts shall in like manner be open to American citizens for the recovery of their just claims against Japanese.

Americans in Japan shall be allowed the free exercise of their religion, and for this purpose shall have the right to erect suitable places of worship. No injury shall be done to such buildings, nor any insult be offered to the religious worship of the Americans. American citizens shall not injure any Japanese temple or shrine, or offer any insult or injury to Japanese religious ceremonies, or to the objects of their worship.

The Americans and Japanese shall not do anything that may be calculated to excite religious animosity. The Government of Japan has already abolished the practice of trampling on religious emblems.

The Japanese Government may purchase or construct in the United States ships- of-war, steamers, merchant ships, whale ships, cannon, munitions of war, and arms of all kinds, and any other things it may require. It shall have the right to engage in the United States scientific, naval and military men, artisans of all kind, and mariners to enter into its service.

After the 4th of July, 1872, upon the desire of either the American or Japanese Governments, and on one year's notice given by either party, this Treaty, and such portions of the Treaty of Kanagawa as remain unrevoked by this Treaty, together with the regulations of trade hereunto annexed, or those that may be hereafter introduced, shall be subject to revision by Commissioners appointed on both sides for this purpose, who will be empowered to decide and insert therein, such amendments as experience shall prove to be desirable.

This Treaty shall go into effect on the 4th of July, 1859. This Treaty is executed in quadruplicate, each copy being written in English, Japanese, and Dutch languages, all the versions having the same meaning and intention, but the Dutch version shall be considered as being the original.


The Treaty was ratified through the visit of the first Japanese Ambassador to the United States in 1860.

See also