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Japanese Diplomacy Amid Civil War

Papers of Abraham Lincoln receives images of Lincoln letters to Japan

March 26, 2015

SPRINGFIELD—The Papers of Abraham Lincoln has added three more documents to its collection by obtaining images of letters Lincoln wrote to the Shogun of Japan in 1861.

Many historic documents were destroyed by fire in the bombing of Tokyo during World War II, but these letters survived. They are held in the Diplomatic Archives of Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ms. Takako Day, a native of Japan who lives in DeKalb, Ill., contacted the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum regarding her research on Lincoln’s 1862 meeting with Joseph Heco, the only Japanese person Lincoln ever met. Day agreed to help obtain copies of the diplomatic documents, and she personally obtained the digital images on a recent visit to Japan.

The letters concern America’s ambassadors to Japan. In one, Lincoln assures Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi that Townsend Harris would represent the views of the Lincoln administration. The second and third letters announce Harris’s resignation and the appointment of Robert H. Pruyn as the new Minister Resident to the Japanese government.


“These letters demonstrate the breadth of Lincoln’s concerns during his administration, as well as the worldwide dispersion of documents he wrote or signed,” said Daniel W. Stowell, director of the Papers of Abraham Lincoln. “Lincoln’s documents survive in many types of repositories and private collections across the United States and around the world. The virtual archive that the Papers of Abraham Lincoln is creating will help preserve them and make them available to researchers everywhere.”

The project especially wishes to thank Ms. Takako Day for her kind efforts to locate and to obtain images of these documents.

Shogun letter 1Shogun letter 2

Abraham Lincoln to Tokugawa Iemuchi, Shogun of Japan, 2 August 1861
(Images courtesy of Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan)

The Papers of Abraham Lincoln is a long-term documentary editing project dedicated to identifying, imaging, transcribing, annotating and publishing all documents written by or to Abraham Lincoln during his lifetime (1809-1865). It has collected 100,000 documents so far.

The project is sponsored by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency through the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, and is cosponsored by the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield and by the Abraham Lincoln Association.