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Léon Roches—Diplomat Extraordinary in the Bakumatsu Era: An Assessment of His Personality and Policy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 November 2008

Jean-Pierre Lehmann
University of Stirling


The majority of foreigners involved in the turbulent period marking Japan's early transformation to modernity have been relegated to the obscurity of archival research, only occasionally surfacing in specialist studies. One exception is Léon Roches, head of the French legation from 1864 to 1868; he enjoys a considerable degree of notoriety and controversy, with very few of even the most general works no modern Japanese history failing to mention him. The major reason no doubt is due to the policy Roches pursued and the role he is alleged to have played; although in fact the main line of his policy did not differ radically from that of his Western colleagues and his role had tended to be exaggerated.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1980

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1 The major Japanese works dealing with Roches are: Honjō, E., ‘Leon Roches to Bakumatsu no Shosei Kaikaku’, Bakumatsu no Shin Seisaku (Tokyo, 1935);Google ScholarIshii, T., Meiji Ishin no Kokusaiteki Kankyō (Tokyo, 1957);Google ScholarOtsuka, T., ‘Fukkoku Kōshi Leon Roches no Seisaku Kōdō ni Tsuite’, Shigaku Zasshi (Tokyo), no. 46, 1935.Google ScholarMedzini, M., French Policy in Japan During the Closing Years of the Tokugawa Régime (Cambridge, Mass., 1971) uncritically accepts the interpretation of Roches as an imperialist agent of Napoleon III in Japan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

2 In regard to policy, for example, Daniels, G., ‘The British Role in the Meiji Restoration: A Re-interpretive Note’, Modern Asian Studies, vol. 2, 1968, points out that, contrary to popular belief, the British Minister, Sir Harry Parkes, was not opposed to the Bakufu. As with Roches, the foreign heads of mission preferred the Bakufu to what they believed was the alternative.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

3 Redesdale, Lord (A. B. Mitford), for example, described Roches as a ‘handsome swashbuckler … far more a picturesque Spahi than a diplomatist’, for whom he admitted he had a ‘kind of sneaking regard’ and that he had a ‘fascinating personality’, in Lord, Redesdale, Memories (London, 1915), vol. I, p. 377.Google Scholar

4 Redesdale commented: ‘It is not too much to say that Parkes and Roches hated one another and were as jealous as a couple of women’, Memories, p. 377.Google Scholar

5 One of Roches's primary concerns while in Japan was to improve the silk trade with France, this being a matter of vital economic necessity for his country. The question of the silk trade between France and Japan will be the subject of a separate study. Otherwise, there have been a number of recent works dealing with various aspects of Roches' tenure in Japan. For his commercial activities, see Li, J-M, ‘Les Origines et les Premières Années du Commerce Franco-Japonais: 1859–1867’, Japon Economie (Paris), no. 104, 1977,Google Scholar and M. and Shibata, A., ‘Un Aspect des Relations Franco-Japonaises à la Fin de l'Epoque Tokugawa: Le Projet de Fondation de la Compagnie Française d'Exportation et d'Importation’, Revue d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine, vol. XVI, 1969;Google Scholar for the military mission, see Lehmann, J.-P., ‘The French Military Mission to Japan, 1866–1868, and Bakumatsu Politics’, Proceedings of the British Association for Japanese Studies, vol. I, 1976, part I, P. Lowe, ed., History and International Relations.Google Scholar

6 Roches' father, not unlike many early colons in Algeria, was ambitious but unsuccessful in his agricultural work and ended up as a bankrupt. Roches himself had no personal fortune and throughout his life was plagued with pecuniary problems.Google Scholar

7 The main source for Roches' Algerian period (1832–45) is taken from his own mémoires, Trente-Deux Ans à travers l'Islam, 2 vols (Paris, 1887).Google Scholar These were later abridged, edited and re-titled Dix Ans à travers l'Islam (Paris, 1904) by Carraby, E.: the change in the title is due to the fact that as Roches never completed his mémoires, the last two decades of his experiences in the Maghrib are not covered.Google Scholar Two hagiographical accounts of Roches are: Alpinus, , Quelques Pages Sur Léon Roches (Grenoble, 1898)Google Scholar and Gonnet, J., Deux Amis Grands Serviteurs de la France (Lyon, 1937).Google ScholarThe mémoires were written in 1884 and obviously embellish, perhaps at times distort, reality to a certain extent. Corroboration or otherwise will be provided from other sources. The point to remember, however, is that here one is not so much concerned with the authenticity of the accounts, as on the light which they shed on Roches' personality.Google Scholar

8 The story of Khadidja, as the young girl was called, takes up a substantial part of the first volume of Roches' mémoires. It is an extremely complex and passionate story, conjuring up dreams comparable to a reading of the Arabian Nights. Muslim women had to wear the veil, they were forbidden to be in the company of men who were not their husbands, relatives or servants and of course Islamic law condemned marriage, or any form of liaison, with infidels. Eventually Khadidja was married against her will, but Roches continued to meet her in secret. The husband discovered this and absconded with Khadidja to territory not under the control of France. Khadidja died in the oasis town of Ain Madhi at the time it was being besieged by Abd al-Qadir (June, 1838). Roches was responsible for the siege and the subjugation of the city, though it was only afterwards that he learned that Khadidja was there. When embarking on his first military expedition, Roches wrote that he was moved ‘by the desire to acquire new favours in the love of Khadidja, who, like all lettered muslim women, professes the greatest admiration for courageous men’, Dix Ans, p. 23.Google Scholar

9 Abd al-Qadir (1808–1883) has remained a great popular symbol and hero of Algerian resistance to French rule. On the eve of his death, the late President Houari Boumedienne asked to be buried beside Abd al-Qadir.Google Scholar

10 The use of the word ‘sensitivity’ may surprise; certainly Roches was an ‘imperialist’ and throughout his career he did not hesitate in resorting to the use of force (e.g. the Shimonoseki expedition of 1864). But he must be judged according to his times. Throughout his years in the Maghrib countries he displayed great interest and indeed erudition in Islamic customs, the Quran, indigenous poetry, etc. When in Japan, although he did not learn Japanese himself (he was fifty-five when he arrived), unlike this predecessor and successors he constantly urged the Quai d'Orsay to train Japanese language officers and also unlike his predecessor and successors he clearly developed affection for the country and its inhabitants; see Lehmann, J.-P., ‘France and Japan—An Assessment of French Influence and Diplomacy’, unpublished D.Phil. thesis, Oxford, 1975, chapters 2 and 4.Google Scholar

11 Dix Ans, p. 32. Roches became more and more eulogistic of Abd al-Qadir the more intimate the two became.Google Scholar

12 Roches repeatedly insists throughout his mémoires that he had only pretended to convert to Islam in order to fulfil his mission, but that he had never abjured Christianity. Some, however, have taken a different view. For example, the newspaper Le National (Paris), in an article on 18 01 1846 reporting a rumour that Roches was shortly to be named consul in Tangiers, violently opposed this appointment on the grounds that Roches had embraced Islam, and hence was a traitor to France.Google Scholar Following the persecution of the Urakami Christians in Japan and at the time of the visit of the Iwakura mission to Paris (1873), a missionary tract (Pagès, L., La Persécution des Chrétiens au Japon et l'Ambassade Japonaise, Paris, 1873) severely criticized the French diplomats for failing to support with sufficient ardour the Christian cause, but saved most of its virulence for Roches, insisting that he abjured Christianity for Islam.Google ScholarEmérit, M. (‘La Légende de Léon Roches’, Revue Africaine, vol. 91, 1947, pp. 81105) asks how it could be that Roches' Algerian wife (not Khadidja, but another woman offered to him by Abd al-Qadir) did not discover that he was only pretending—in order to become a Muslim for real, rather than pretence, he would have had to be circumcised.Google Scholar

13 In this respect the ‘Série Personnelle’ (Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris—hereafter ‘série personnelle’) contain most interesting documents. As the title of the series indicates, these are confidential files on individual employees of the Quai, where a hundred, as opposed to fifty, years' rule applies. Among the documents are letters written by individuals to the Ministry about Roches. These can easily be divided between the extremely eulogistic and the equally antagonistic; none fits the ‘in-between’ category.Google Scholar

14 Roches deserted Abd al-Qadir's camp in October 1839 after war was once again declared. The two men never saw each other again, but following the amir's eventual capitulation (1847) and until his death (1883) they remained in regular and friendly correspondence; samples of this correspondence can be found as an appendix to Roches' mémoires. Abd al-Qadir also visited Roches' (French) wife and daughter while he was posted to Japan.Google Scholar

15 Dix Ans, p. 72.Google Scholar

16 This in itself should not be seen as strange; during this period there were a number of Frenchmen (and other European nationalities), including army officers, who switched sides, changed names, embraced Islam and fought in the armies of Arab chieftains.Google Scholar

17 Regarding Roches' activities in Algeria and especially his association with Abd al-Qadir, apart from Roches' mémoires and the ‘séries personnelle’, the following works have been consulted, all of which corroborate to varying degrees the essence, if not the details, of Roches' own account: Azan, P., L'Émir Abd el Kader (Paris, 1925);Google ScholarFaucon, N., Le Livre d'Or de l'Algérie (Paris, 1889);Google Scholar and d'Ideville, H., ‘Trente-Deux Ans à travers l'Islam’, in Le Correspondant (Paris), 10 07 1883 (d'Ideville was Bugeaud's biographer);Google Scholar see also the Ph.D. thesis for Princeton University by Danziger, R., recently published as Abd al-Qadir and the Algerians: Resistance to the French and Internal Consolidation (New York, 1977).Google Scholar

18 This whole episode, however, must be treated with caution. Roche' account is very rich in detail, describing places and individuals, providing names and dates and relating numerous events; as with the rest of his mémoires stimulating and instructive reading is provided. D'Ideville, ‘Trente-Deux Ans à travers Islam’, authenticates the account. Emérit ‘La Légende de Léon Roches’, however, casts serious doubt on its veracity, pointing out, among other things, that no one has ever seen this fatwa and Bugeaud does not seem to have made any use of it. Documents which I consulted and should have thrown light on the affair include: Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, Mémoires et Documents, Algérie, vol. 16, 1830–1845, Mémoires et Documents, Maroc, vol. 9, 1690–1847, Mémoires et Documents, Tunisie, vol. 8, 1839–1865, Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale, Djeddah, vol. 1, 1839–1859, Ibid., Alexandrie, vol. 29, 1841–1842, Ibid., Malte, vol. 20, 1839–1842. These documents contain either the vaguest of references or nothing at all. More light remains to be thrown on the matter.

19 The battle of Isly (August, 1844) was a decisive victory for France over the Moroccans when the latter had intervened on the side of Abd al-Qadir. Roches is represented in the commemorative painting by Horace Vernet. Roches, having been made chevalier de la légion d'honneur in 1843, was promoted to officier following the battle of Isly(‘série personnelle’).Google Scholar

20 Bugeaud to Guizot, 9 July 1845, in ‘série personnelle’. Needless to say rivalry between the services existed in France as elsewhere. Indeed, when eventually Roches was fully integrated into the consular corps, it was stressed that this was ‘par une exception toute particulière’, ‘série personnelle’, personal file on Léon Roches.Google Scholar

21 Caillé, J., Une Mission de Léon Roches à Rabat en 1845 (Casablanca, 1947).Google Scholar

22 See Abun-Nasr, J.M., A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge, 1971), p. 288Google Scholar and Miège, J.-L., Le Maroc et l'Europe 1830–1894 (Paris, 1961).Google ScholarIt should be noted that the makhzen (the Moroccan king's government) like so many other non-European governments, notably the Bakufu, was far from open in entertaining relations with Europeans and the normal Western inter-state diplomatic protocol was conspicuous by its absence. Here again Roches received good training for his mission to Japan. Caillé, Une Mission de L´on Roches, p. 17, notes how Roches, with his ‘audacious character’, sought to cut corners and dispense with local protocol by going straight to the top.Google Scholar

23 Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, Correspondance Politique, Maroc, vols 13 to 20, 1845–1849 and Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale, Tanger, vol. 32, 1843–1848 refer. Upon leaving his post the Consul-General de Chasteau (whose daughter Roches married in 1852) recommended to the Quai that Roches be appointed as his successor (in two letters from de Chasteau to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, dated 9 March and 19 May 1849 in ‘série personnelle’) but the Quai refused, although Roches was promoted to Consul First Class.Google Scholar

24 Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale, Trieste, vol. 22, 1850 to june 1852 refers.Google Scholar

25 Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale, Tripoli de Barbarie, vol. 41, 1850 to August 1863. A major part of Roches' mission here consisted of trying to bring political pressure to bear in order to moderate and eventually bring to an end the lucrative slave trade between Tripoli and Turkey; see, for example, his dispatches of 15 January and 28 September 1853 and 25 July 1854.

26 The following Quai archives have been consulted, though by no means exhaustively: Mémoires et Documents, Tunisie, vol. 8, 1839–1856, Correspondance Politique, vols 15–21, 1855–1863, Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale, vols 56 to 58, 1852–1866. For an understanding of the background of Tunisian affairs, the following secondary sources have been made use of: Abun-Nasr, History of Maghrib;Google ScholarBrown, L.C., The Tunisia of Ahmad Bey, 1837–1855 (Princeton, NJ. 1974);Google ScholarArnoulet, F., Matrat, C. & Miège, J.-L., Etudes d'Historie Contemporaine Tunisienne: 1846–1871 (Aix, 1973);Google ScholarGrandchamp, P., Etudes d'Histoire Tunisienne, 17e-20e siècles (Paris, 1966);Google Scholar and Hourani, A., Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (Oxford, 1970). I should also like to record my gratitude to my colleague, Dr Robin Law, who enlightened me on various aspects of Islamic history, laws and traditions.Google Scholar

27 In 1830 Tunisia had been forced to sign a new treaty with France, which, among other things, made Tunisia accept the capitulation treaties between the European powers and the Ottoman Empire, thereby granting Western consuls extra-territorial jurisdiction over their nationals and protégés; these treaties served as the model for the ‘unequal treaties’ subsequently imposed on Japan and other countries in the Far East.Google Scholar

28 In essence the ‘Ahd al-Aman provided for the rights of all individuals to liberty and security before the law and the equality of Muslims and non-Muslims. Roches claimed to have had a preponderant influence in the drafting of the ‘Ahd al-Aman; this view is accepted by Abun -Nasr, History of Maghrib, p. 264.Google Scholar

29 ‘The experiment in constitutional government did not last long, but broke down a few years later because of financial crisis, unrest among the tribes, the pressure and rivalry of England and France, and the desire of the Bey to keep his unrestrained power’, Hourani, Arabic Thought, p. 65. Part of the difficulty was that by recognizing the equality of Muslims and non-Muslims, the Tunisian government insisted that this measure rendered extra-territoriality obsolete. Roches firmly resisted any weakening of consular jurisdiction and so his former allies in championing the cause of the constitution, the Tunisian reformists, became disillusioned.Google Scholar

30 The personal file on Roches (‘série personnelle’) states that ‘his role in Tunis was of fundamental importance and his prestige with the Arabs never ceased to grow’. The French chargé d'affaires ad interim, P. Moulin, commenting on Roches' visit to the Bey to take leave, wrote at length about the ‘exceptional relations’ Roches had entertained with the Bey and how genuinely sad the latter seemed to be to see Roches go; in ‘série personnelle’, Moulin to Drouyn d. Lhuys, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 24 January 1863.

31 Roches frequently complained of his rheumatic problems in his correspondence from Edo. These seem to have resulted from a serious accident he had during the battle of Isly when he was thrown from his horse. The pain was particularly acute in the shoulders and the legs, as a result of which he was at times unable to walk or even to stand. The full medical details of his rheumatism are given in a certificate written by the doctors of the French navy in the Far East, dated 21 January 1866 and to be found in ‘série personnelle’. Perhaps one more comment should be made. During Roches' stay both in Tunis and in Edo allegations were made in the press and in confidential reports to the ministry (a number of which are contained in ‘série personnelle’, others in Mémoires et Documents, Japon, vol. 1) regarding certain financial irregularities; these have not been dealt with here, nor will they be dealt with in the following section. Suffice it to say that Roches insisted that he was the victim of scurrilous calumny.Google Scholar

32 Nowhere in the Quai archives is it made clear why Roches was selected for the Edo post. In writing to him informing him of his appointment, Drouyn de Lhuys simply asks him to continue displaying his combination of prudence and firmness; in ‘série personnelle’, Drouyn d. Lhuys to Roches, 14 October 1863.Google Scholar

33 For the increasing bellicose attitude of de Bellecourt in Japan, see Lehmann, ‘French and Japan’, pp. 47–74.Google Scholar

34 Contrary to what has been asserted in a number of works—see those cited in note 1 and also, for example, Norman, E. H., Japan's Emergence as a Modern State (New York, 1940)—France harboured no colonial aims in Japan and Roches was not an imperialist agent of Napoléon III in the Far East.Google Scholar This interpretation has been disproved; see Sims, R., ‘French Policy Towards Japan’, unpublished Ph.D. thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1969, and Lehmann, ‘France and Japan’, chs 1 and 3.Google Scholar

35 Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, Correspondance Politique, Japon (hereafter CP), vol. XI, Roches to Drouyn de Lhuys, 15 May 1864.Google Scholar

36 Archives of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Quai d'Orsay, Paris, Correspondance Consulaire et Commerciale (hereafter CC), Yedo, vol. III, Roches to Drouyn de Lhuys, 15 May 1864.Google Scholar

37 The ‘Paris Convention’ committed the Bakufu to a strict enforcement of the treaties and a suppression of the hostile Chōshū han for which it would receive French support; for the text of the Convention, see Beasley, W. G., Select Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy 1853–1868 (London, 1967), pp. 273–4.Google ScholarCP vol. XI, Drouyn d. Lhuys to Roches, 21 June 1864, contains the minutes of the five sessions held between Drouyn d. Lhuys and Ikeda and in CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, Roches informs the Ministry of the Bakufu's refusal to ratify the Convention.Google Scholar

38 Drouyn de Lhuys' most virulent reaction to the news of Roches' participation in the Shimonoseki expedition is contained in his dispatch of 10 October 1864 (CP vol. XII), where he angrily took Roches to task for having acted in a manner which was ‘in manifest contradiction to the instructions outlined by the government of the Emperor’. The Minister of the Navy, Chasseloup-Laubat, had sent the French Admiral of the East Asian fleet, Jaurès, equally firm instructions not to get militarily involved in Japanese affairs; see Archives of the Historical Department of the Navy, Stations des Mers de l'Inde et de la Chine, National Archives, Paris (hereafter ‘Navy’), series BB-4/836, Chasseloup-Laubat to Jaurés, 7 August, 10 and 18 October 1864.Google Scholar

39 By 1865 trade had improved considerably. The Lyon silk industry had considerable vested economic interests in the Japanese silk trade; thus their organ, Le Moniteur des Soies, expressed grave apprehension at what the likely consequences would be were the Bakufu overthrown; see the issues of 8 December 1866, 16 March 1867 and even after the proclamation of the Meiji Restoration the pessimistic articles by Ulysse Pila (a magnate of the industry) of 2 January and 4 September 1869. It must also be remembered that the Western powers had only recently been witnesses to a prolonged and devastating civil war in China, where they had eventually felt forced to intervene on the side of the Ch'ing dynasty.Google Scholar

40 See, for example, Harry Parkes' alarmed reaction upon hearing rumours of Yoshinobu's resignation, in G. Daniels, ‘The British Role in the Meiji Restoration’, p. 307. Even Ernest Satow, who had actively schemed against the Bakufu, had to admit when Yoshinobu fell that he was witnessing ‘fallen greatness’, Satow, E., A Diplomat in Japan (OUP reprint, London, 1968), p. 299.Google Scholar

41 It was mentioned above (see note 5) that the question of France's silk trade with Japan will be treated in a separate study. As such, the economic motivations for Roches' policies in Japan will not figure in this article. There is no doubt, however, that these were important. Roches had visited the Lyon Chamber of Commerce prior to his departure, he was known to be in correspondence with a number of leading merchants in the silk industry, and throughout his stay in Japan he indefatigably sought to improve both the quantity and quality of the silk trade (see Lehmann, ‘French and Japan’, pp. 15–45). Roches also had other economic interests in the Bakufu, among others the creation of a trading company in which his own banker acted as agent in Paris (see M. and A. Shibata, ‘Un Aspect des Relations Franco-Japonaises’). In spite of these factors, the evidence does not indicate that economic considerations were the major reasons for Roches' support of the Bakufu, although they undoubtedly had some significance.Google Scholar

42 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn de Lhuys, 17 August 1864. Roches had been optimistic about the political and military consequences of the Shimonoseki expedition. This view was not shared by Jaurès to Chasseloup-Laubat, 26 June, 9 July 20 July and 25 July, 1864. Once Roches explained to him that the Bakufu had been informed and had given its approval, his fears were allayed as he felt confident that it would then be possible to localize the conflict; Jaurès to Chasseloup-Laubat, 11 and 18 August 1864.Google Scholar

43 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 30 August 1864. Until 1867 Roches relied on the missionary, Mermet de Cachon, as interpreter and messenger.Google Scholar

44 Copy contained in CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 23 September 1864.Google Scholar

45 Roches strongly advocated the need for the imperial ratification. Drouyn de Lhuys accepted this, but insisted nevertheless that under no circumstances should France get involved in any conflict, CP vol. XII, Drouyn d. Lhuys to Roches, 10 December 1864. Jaurès entirely concurred with Roches' policy on this matter, ‘Navy’ BB-4/838, Jaurès to Chasseloup-Laubat, 30 September, 9 October, 9 November and 23 November 1864; the Minister of the Navy for his part took the same view as the Foreign Minister on the matter, namely the use of force was not to be considered, ‘Navy’ BB-4/845, Chasseloup-Laubat to Admiral Roze (Jaurès' successor), 18 January 1865.Google Scholar

46 For the politics and negotiations leading up to the Imperial Ratification, see Beasley, Select Documents, pp. 77–90 and 290–305.Google Scholar

47 During this period Roches frequently mentioned the regular and intimate contact he had developed with Takemoto. A brief excerpt from the one dispatch is worth quoting: in CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 15 October 1864, Roches wrote that the rōjū ‘have given me ample evidence of special consideration and confidence which I believe it is useless to explain to the department’. Roches was secretive even so far as the Quai was concerned; both his political and commercial correspondence are conspicuous by their brevity.Google Scholar

48 The major contacts Roches established in the Bakufu were with the following: Hojō (Matsudaira) Munehide, Itakura Katsukiyo, Kurimoto Joun, Ogasawara Nagamichi, Oguri Tadamasa, Shibata Masanaka, and Takemoto Masao.Google Scholar

49 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 31 October 1864.Google Scholar

50 ‘Navy’ BB-4/838, Jaurès to Chasseloup-Laubat, 15 September 1864.Google Scholar

51 ‘Navy’ BB-4/838, Jaurès to Chasseloup-Laubat, 30 September 1864.Google Scholar

52 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d.Lhuys, 30 November 1864.Google Scholar

53 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 16 January 1865.Google Scholar

54 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 17 January 1865.Google Scholar

55 CP vol. XII, Roches to Drouyn d.Lhuys, 16 January 1865.Google Scholar

56 In the first year the school counted 23 pupils, see M & D vol. I, letter of Mermet de Cachon on the establishment of a school for the Japanese nobility, 18 February 1867. For further details on the school, see Cent Ans d'Etudes Françaises au Japon (Paris, 1973), edited by the Société Japonaise de Langue et Littérature Françaises in collaboration with the Maison Franco-Japonaise.Google Scholar

57 CC vol. IV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 4 April 1865.Google Scholar

58 Copy of a letter addressed by Roches to Fleury-Hérard, 21 March 1865, appended to CC vol. IV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 14 April 1865.Google Scholar

59 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 28 February 1865. Verny remained in charge of the Yokosuka shipyard until 1876 and management remained French for another two years before passing on to Japanese. For development of the Yokosuka shipyard, see Lehmann, ‘France and Japan’, ch. 8,Google Scholar and Raoulx, J., ‘Les Français au Japon: La Création de l'Arsenal de Yokosuka’, La Revue Maritime (Paris), 05, 1939.Google Scholar

60 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 16 January 1865.Google Scholar

61 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 10 June 1865, in which Roches acknowledges the arrival of a consignment of 16 rifled guns.Google Scholar

62 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 10 June 1865.Google Scholar

63 CP vol. XIII, Drouyn d. Lhuys to Roches, 26 September 1865. Drouyn makes it clear to Roches, however, that although he is prepared to facilitate the Bakufu's purchase of arms—this had obvious economic benefits for France—it was vital to have the Shōgun understand that ‘he would not be able to rely on a more direct and substantial support from us’, in CP vol. XIII, Drouyn d. Lhuys to Roches, 17 June 1865.Google Scholar

64 CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 17 June 1865.Google Scholar

65 Captain Chanoine commented shortly after his arrival that the Bakufu possessed a large quantity of war matériel which had been bought completely haphazardly and that most of it was to be found piled up higgledy-piggledy in warehouses, for although they had the matériel they did not know how to use it; Archives of the Historical Department of the Army, Vincennes, Catalogue Général des Manuscrits, no. 1672, Japon, 1856–1870 (hereafter ‘Army’), Chanoine to Minister of War, Randon, 10 June 1867.Google Scholar

66 For the military mission, see Chanoine, , Documents Pour Servir à l'Histoire des Relations Entre la France et le Japan (Paris, 1907);Google ScholarLehmann, ‘French Military Mission to Japan’; Presseissen, E. L., Before Aggression: Europeans Prepare the Japanese Army (Tucson, 1965);Google Scholar and Takahashi, K., O-Yatoi Gaikokujin-Gunji (Tokyo, 1969).Google Scholar

67 The oft-repeated claim that Japan's early programme of military development was in order to defend herself against the predatory Western imperialist powers is in fact not completely correct; the first priority of the Bakufu in its later years and the Meiji government in its early years was to obtain sufficient strength against real internal enemies, rather than potential external ones. See Kublin, H., ‘The Modern Army of Early Meiji Japan’, Journal of Asian Studies, vol. IX, 1949, pp. 2041.Google Scholar

68 ‘Army’, Chanoine to Randon, 16 March 1867.Google Scholar

69 ‘Army’, Chanoine to Colonel Colson, 19 March 1868. Chanoine and Roches were not on good terms, thus contrasting with the excellent relations Roches seems to have enjoyed with the three successive French admirals in Japan and other naval officers; nevertheless, Chanoine was prepared to admit that Roches ‘is an eloquent, active, able man, with an imperturbable nerve’, Chanoine to Colonel Colson, 15 February 1868.Google Scholar

70 For the Bakufur's difficulties with Satsuma at the Paris Universal Exposition, see Lehmann, ‘France and Japan’, ch. 5.Google Scholar

71 In Paris Akitake was under the supervision of an officer of the French army, Lt. Col. Villette; see ‘Army’, reports of Villette to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 19 November 1867, 25 March, 3 June, 6 July, 14 September and 22 October 1868.Google Scholar

72 Jones, H. J., ‘Bakumatsu Foreign Employees’, Monumenta Nipponica, vol. XXIX, 1975, pp. 312–13.Google Scholar

73 Ibid., p. 305. Most of Roches' successors showed a complete lack of initiative in responding to the Meiji government's requests for assistance; see Lehmann, ‘France and Japan’, ch. 4. After Roches' departure, the relative numbers of French and British employees changed significantly, with Britain retaining a paramount position throughout the Meiji period; see Umetani, N., O-Yatoi Gaikokujin—Gaisetsu (Tokyo, 1968), Pt II.Google Scholar

74 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 20 February 1865. Kurimoto, following intrigues in Edo, had been briefly exiled to Hakodate and there met Mermet de Cachon, who spoke highly of him to Roches. Kurimoto is very frequently mentioned in Roches' correspondence. Also Kurimoto used to come to see Roches when the latter was convalescing in Atami.Google Scholar

75 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 26 May 1865. At the same time Roches had written to Admiral Roze suggesting that the ships of the French navy when sailing between China and Japan should make a point of passing through the Inland Sea and thereby keep and eye out to make sure that Chōshū was not rearming its shore batteries. Roches stressed to Roze that all the while remaining strictly neutral, such a ‘naval demonstration would produce a moral effect from which the Taikun could profit to reaffirm his power’. A copy of Roches' letter to Roze, 14 May 1865, is contained in CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 26 May 1865. Unlike Jaurés, Roze spent very little of his time in Japan, but his request was passed on to Captain Conrad, in charge of the French fleet in Japan, who accepted it; see ‘Navy’ BB-4/852, Conrad to Minister of the Navy, 14 June 1865. Roze wrote to Paris in the most eulogistic terms regarding Roches' success in having won over the Bakufu and in having established such a close rapport with its officials; see ‘Navy’ BB-4/852, Roze to Minister of Navy, 26 July 1865.Google Scholar

76 CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 15 January 1866. Roches had already complained on a number of occasions about the unhealthy relationship Parkes seemed to be developing with the Shōgun's enemies. Roches' view was that Parkes was jealous of him and of the position he had established for France with the Bakufu; see, e.g., CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 30 November and 30 December 1865 and CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 15 January and 28 February 1866. The Shōgun's letter to Napoleon mainly sought to assure him of the government's pacific intentions towards the foreign powers; at the same time he thanked him for the assistance France had already given to Japan and he lavished great praise on Roches.Google Scholar

77 Conrad's report is appended to CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 28 February 1866. Admiral Roze wrote that Satsuma and Chōshū agents in Edo endeavoured to establish contact with Roches, but that he had responded in the most emphatic terms that the only sovereign power which he recognized and with which he would be prepared to deal was the government of the Shōgun; see ‘Navy’ BB-4/852, Roze to Minister of the Navy, 6 April 1866. Roches' correspondence contains no information on these overtures by Satsuma and Chōshū agents.Google Scholar

78 CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 10 July 1866. It was during the first five months of 1866 that Roches' state of health was at its worse, his doctors taking the view that he should be repatriated to France; see medical certificate contained in ‘série personnelle’ 1 April 1866.Google Scholar

79 Roze's account of this episode differs slightly from Roches's. Roze claimed that it was Roches who made the overtures and expressed the desire of meeting the daimyō. According to Roze, Roches was informed that the daimyō ‘would receive him with the greatest of pleasure, but that he would refuse to listen to any proposal of settlement, in view of the fact that he was determined to continue the war’; ‘Navy’ BB-4/852, Roze to Minister of the Navy, 6 October 1866.Google Scholar

80 CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 27 August 1866. Roches went back to the south of Japan about a year later, once again mainly in order to insist with the representatives of Satsuma and Chōshū that France would persist resolutely in recognizing the Shōgun as the only true sovereign of Japan, CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 25 June 1867.Google Scholar

81 CP vol. XIV, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 10 September 1866.Google Scholar

82 CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 17 October 1865, Roches simply mentions Yoshinobu and says that although he had formerly been hostile to the foreigners, he had now rallied the Bakufu's point of view. CP vol. XIII, Roches to Drouyn d. Lhuys, 30 November 1865, Roches writes about Iemochi's endeavours to secure the imperial ratification of the treaties, and adds that Yoshinobu, ‘until recently his rival, has now become his most powerful ally’.Google Scholar

83 CP vol. XIV, Roches to de la Valette (Minister of Foreign Affairs ad interim), 8 October 1866.Google Scholar

84 CP vol. XIV, Roches to de la Valette, 12 October 1866. Roches received a second confidential letter from the Shōgun a fortnight after the first one, appended to CP vol. XIV, Roches to de la Vallette, 31 October 1866.Google Scholar

85 CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 10 April 1867. Roze shared Roches' views regarding the person of Yoshinobu, who, Roze wrote, ‘is walking in the path of progress and civilization’; ‘Navy’ BB-4/869, Roze of Minister of the Navy, Rigault de Genouilly, 13 March 1867. Roches had Roze personally introduced to the Shōgun, who expressed great admiration for Napoleon III, and then proceeded to ask Roze a number of questions on French naval matters and whether Japanese naval cadets might serve on French ships as part of their training; this request was granted, ‘Navy’ BB-4/867, Rigault d. Genouilly to Ohier (Roze's successor), 13 June 1867.Google Scholar

86 Roches had announced the Emperor's death to the Quai, CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 1 March 1867, but passed no comment. Roze was of the opinion that the ‘death of this Sovereign, whose succession immediately devolved upon his son, will bring about no modification in the state of affairs’; ‘Navy’ BB-4/869, Roze to Rigault d. Genouilly, 13 February 1867.Google Scholar

87 CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 16 April and 8 May 1867.Google Scholar

88 CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 16 April 1867. Kurimoto later submitted a memorandum to the Quai, written in Japanese and translated by Mermet, entitled ‘Relations of Japan with Foreign Countries’, M&D vol. I (n.d.). He also presented a letter from the Shōgun to Napoleon III in which he sought to assure him that the present problems were nearing a solution and at the same time lavished great praise on Roches; letter appended to CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 12 July 1867. In August the Shōgun sent a second letter to Napoleon, asking him to look after his brother, Akitake, and to cherish him as his own son; once again he assured him that the situation was improving and once again he expressed great admiration for Roches; appended to CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 10 August 1867.Google Scholar

89 CP vol. XV, de Moustier to Roches, 18 May 1867. Roches' credibility had already been questioned for some time in the Quai. As the Quai was in reasonably close touch with the Foreign Office, Drouyn de Lhuys had been informed of Parkes' increasingly pessimistic views in regard to the military survival of the Bakufu. Drouyn wrote to Roches wondering how it could be that the two diplomats could differ so radically in their interpretation of events, CP vol. XIV, Drouyn d. Lhuys to Roches, 24 April 1866.Google Scholar

90 CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 13 July 1867.Google Scholar

91 CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 9 September 1867. ‘Navy’ BB-4/869, Roze to Rigault d. Genouilly, 10 September 1867; Roze almost outdid Roches in his enlogistic descriptions of Yoshinobu. Roze left the East on 27 August 1867 and was replaced by Admiral Ohier; for the Navy Ministry's instruction to Ohier, see ‘Navy’ BB-4/867, 13 June 1867, where once again Ohier is categorically told not to get involved in the dispute between the Shōgun and the daimyōs.Google Scholar

92 Roches' confidence and evaluation of the situation was being met with increasing scepticism in Paris; next to this passage a Quai official remarked in the margin, ‘that past is hardly a year old’.Google Scholar

93 Written in the margin next to the question mark is the comment ‘we do not need to choose’.Google Scholar

94 CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 28 November 1867. Shortly after this dispatch, Roches wrote, ‘I have faith in the future of this country which at last has found the able and firm hand to guide it’, CP vol. XV, Roches to de Moustier, 15 December 1867.Google Scholar

95 CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 10 January 1868. Ohier was far less sanguine than Roches regarding the future of the ex-Shōgun; copy of a report from Ohier to Rigault d. Genouilly, contained in M&D vol. I, dated 30 January 1868.Google Scholar

96 CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 30 January 1868.Google Scholar

97 Ohier wrote his report upon his return to Saigon on 1 April 1868, contained in M&D vol. I. The Minister of the Navy, although pleased that Ohier had made it clear that France would not intervene militarily on the Shōgun's side, regretted that Ohier had gone as far as pledging moral support; ‘Navy’ BB-4/885, Rigault d. Genouilly to Ohier, 24 April 1868. For his part, Ohier, in spite of having spent very little time in Japan, had perhaps the most perceptive remark of all Frenchmen on the nature of the Meiji Restoration: ‘The revolution which has occurred in Japan seems to me to have a more considerable bearing than would seem to be indicated by the mere overthrow of the Taikun, and indeed all the daimyōs could well end up losing both their power and their riches to the advantage of their inferior officers who have now become their masters’; ‘Navy’ BB-4/876, Ohier to Rigault d. Genouilly, 19 June 1868.Google Scholar

98 The xenophobic character of the new régime seemed to be confirmed by two incidents in which foreigners were attacked; the first in Hyōgo, CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 17 February 1868, the second in Sakai when fifteen French sailors were massacred by samurai from the Tosa fief, CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 11 and 15 March 1868. In regard to the feudal nature of the new régime, Roches' view was that the Emperor offered the shadow, but not the substance, of power. The overthrow of the Shōgun, he wrote, was simply the result of a temporary coalition of daimyōs, ‘and all coalitions are dissolved and transformed once they are successful’; CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 11 March 1868.Google Scholar

99 ‘Army’, Chanoine to Minister of War, Niel, 14 April 1868.Google Scholar

100 CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 24 February 1868.Google Scholar

101 CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 29 May 1868.Google Scholar

102 Five days prior to his departure, Roches wrote to Kurimoto, still in Paris with Akitake, that as soon as he returned he would get in touch with him and looked forward to a long chat; ‘In the meantime the Prince and you should stay put; I am transmitting to you for His Highness a letter from the new government which orders him to return to Japan. Do not pay any attention to it. Wait for new orders from the old government which still has hope in the future’, in ‘Army’, a copy of this letter being enclosed in a report of Villette to Niel, 6 July 1868. When Roches arrived in Paris, he told Akitake not to leave and ‘at the same time gave him the most encouraging reassurances on the outcome of the hostilities taking place in Japan’; ‘Army,’ Villette to Niel, 14 September 1868. Akitake, after having been wished godspeed by Napoleon III and the Empress Eugénie, left France for Japan on 19 October; ‘Army,’ Villette to Niel, 22 October 1868.Google Scholar

103 CP vol. XVI, Roches to de Moustier, 29 May 1868.Google Scholar

104 ‘Bakufu leaders like Oguri Tadamasa remained adamant in their insistence on the need for the further French help, and the trip to France by Tokugawa Akitake in the summer of 1867, followed by the mission of Kurimoto Joun, who arrived in Paris September 14, left little doubt of the reliance the shogunate placed on its French connection’, Jansen, M. B., Sakamoto Ryōma and the Meiji Restoration (Stanford, 1971), p. 318.Google Scholar Ernest Satow recorded in his diary on 21 February 1868, ‘the return of Roches to France will determine the Taikun to submission, as he will then have no one to rely on for material assistance’, The Satow Diaries, Reel 2 (Kraus-Thomson, Lichtenstein, 1974).Google Scholar

105 See Lehmann, , ‘France and Japan’, ch. 4.Google Scholar

106 ‘Army’, Chanoine to Colonel Colson, 19 March 1868. Chanoine, in spite of being a friend of Parkes, does not seem to have had very much respect for diplomats in general; thus on one occasion, he recalled how ‘a member of the government of Edo told me, without any prompting whatsoever on my part, that all the Heads of Legation had said all sorts of nonsense about Japan, with the exception of the Representative of America, and he never said anything at all’; ‘Army’, Chanoine to Colson, 12 April 1868.Google Scholar

107 While in Japan, Roches had the title, but not the rank, of Minister Plenipotentiary. He was promoted very shortly before his departure. It is not entirely clear why Roches was not offered another post. He believed that he was the victim of calumnies, directed by his enemies in the Quai, regarding alleged commercial irregularities: see ‘série personnelle’, Roches to de l. Valette, 14 June 1869, Roches to Comte Daru, 20 January 1870 and Roches to Duc d. Gramont, 1 June 1870; the Quai, however, denied this (de l. Valette to Roches, 16 June 1869 and Due d. Gramont to Roches, n.d.). On his personal file, however, it is written that Roches occasionally resorted to words and measures which were ‘not very diplomatic’. Of the veracity of that remark there can be little doubt.

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Léon Roches—Diplomat Extraordinary in the Bakumatsu Era: An Assessment of His Personality and Policy
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