Charles de Montblanc (シャルル・ド・モンブラン)
Count Charles Ferdinand Camille Ghislain Descantons de Montblanc (May 11, 1833 - January 22, 1894), the Baron of Ingelmunster, was a French/Belgium peer, businessman, diplomat and oyatoi gaikokujin (a foreign advisor with specialized knowledge hired by the Japanese government at the end of the Edo period to the Meiji era to assist in the modernization of Japan). In Japan he was known as "Count Hakuzan" ("Hakuzan" means white mountain = mont blanc).
Brief Personal History
Background and travel to Japan
Montblanc was the first son of Charles Albéric Clement Descantons de Montblanc (1785 - 1861), and was born in Paris in 1833. Others believe however that he was born in Belgium in 1832. His mother was Virginie Louise Rocques de Montgaillard (1812 - 1889). The origin of the Montblanc family is not fully known, but they are believed to come from southern France. Montblanc's father, Charles Albéric, was given the feudal lands of Baron Ingelmunster in West-Vlaanderen Province, West-Vlaanderen region, Belgium, by a German feudal lord, Otto von Plotho, and became a baron in Belgium. In the French army under the Ancien Régime, the Von Plotho family was the main lineage of the Montblanc family and because the Von Plotho family had no successor the land was assigned to the Montblanc family. However, it is said that the Von Plotho family in Germany protested against the transfer. Although the details are not known, Charles Albéric also held the title of count in France. Therefore he was a baron in Belgium and also a count in France. As both of his parents were French, Montblanc was raised in France and his nationality was also French. However, Montblanc's younger brothers took the nationality of Belgium. In 1854, when the news broke that the fleet led by Matthew Perry of the United States of America had forced Japan to open the country, Montblanc became interested in Japan and eager to travel there.
In September 1858, Montblanc first came to Japan accompanying Baron Gros, who was dispatched to the Qing dynasty as French ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary. After the conclusion of the Franco-Japanese Treaty of Commerce, Montblanc separated from Baron Gros and travelled to the Philippines to conduct academic research at the request of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently Montblanc returned to France and was at his father's bedside when he died.
In 1862 Montblanc again visited Japan and stayed in Yokohama, where he got to know the minister Duchesne de Bellecour,
When he returned to France, Montblanc took Kenjiro SAITO as his private secretary and diligently studied Japanese language and culture. At the end of 1863, responding to a forceful request for the expulsion of foreigners by Emperor Komei, the Edo bakufu (feudal government headed by a shogun) dispatched a mission led by a Gaikoku bugyo (corresponding to a foreign minister), Nagaoki IKEDA, to France in order to close Yokohama Port. Montblanc actively contacted the mission and arranged for the mission to take a Paris observation tour and hold talks with key figures in the French government. Also Montblanc contacted another mission including a Gaikoku bugyo, Takenaka SHIBATA, who was dispatched to France again in 1865, and encouraged the conclusion of a treaty of commerce between Japan and Belgium. However, Montblanc did not win Shibata's trust very much, perhaps because of his patronizing attitude.
Contact with the Satsuma clan and the Paris Expo
At around the same time, students smuggled from the Satsuma clan were dispatched to London accompanied by Hisanobu NIIRO, Tomoatsu GODAI, Munenori TERASHIMA, and others. Montblanc was not successful in negotiating with the bakufu mission and moved to Britain with SAITO. Montblanc then contacted the Satsuma students' mission and volunteered to take care of them. In addition, he proposed the establishment of a trading company to NIIRO and GODAI. The Satsuma clan, working toward fukoku kyohei (fortifying the country and strengthening the military) and shokusan kogyo (increasing production and encouraging new industries), welcomed this proposal and immediately started preliminary negotiations. When GODAI and others travelled to the continent, they also visited Montblanc's residence and enjoyed hunting together. On October 15, 1865 in Brussels, Montblanc and NIIRO and GODAI exchanged the twelve-article contract to establish a trading company.
Immediately after that, Montblanc stated at the Geographic Society held in Paris, and in line with the Satsuma clan's opinion, "Japan is a union of lords having an Emperor as their chief and it was a mistake for countries to conclude a treaty with the bakufu"
In the following year a contract for imported goods was renewed and the lord of the Satsuma Domain, Tadayoshi SHIMAZU, sent a letter to Montblanc thanking him for making a private agreement to establish a trading company.
As a result of their association with Montblanc, the Satsuma clan joined the Paris Expo in 1867 and participated as a nominally different exhibitor from the bakufu with Montblanc as their representative. A chief retainer, Michihira IWASHITA, was dispatched to Paris as the ambassador plenipotentiary of the Satsuma Domain and Ryukyu Islands (which were in effect under the control of the Satsuma Domain) and prepared for the Expo together with Montblanc. However, the bakufu also sent a mission to Paris led by Akitake TOKUGAWA (who later became lord of the Mito Domain, and who was also the younger brother of seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians"), Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA). They were very surprised at the exhibition to see the Satsuma clan, and Kazutsugu MUKOYAMA (the Gaikoku bugyo) and Taichi TANABE (the Shihai kumigashira - a kind of department chief) protested especially strongly and requested the removal of both the name "Ryukyu" from the exhibitor list, and the flag with the mark of "a cross in a circle (the crest of the Shimazu family)," and they also requested the name "His Majesty of the Ryukyu Kingdom, Matsudaira Shuri no daibu (Master of the Office of Palace Repairs), MINAMOTO no Mochihisa" be amended to just "Matsudaira Shuri no daibu." Montblanc as a representative to the Satsuma clan and IWASHITA negotiated with them, insisting that they could not compromise about the name of "the government managed by the Satsuma governor-general." Finally negotiations reached an agreement that both of them could fly the Hinomaru, the national flag of Japan, one for the government led by Taikun (i.e. shogun) for the bakufu side, and one for the government led by the Satsuma governor-general for the Satsuma clan side. Furthermore, Montblanc convinced the influential Parisian papers such as "Le Figaro," "Le Journal des débats," and "Le Temps" to publish an article in line with the opinion he had already been announced at the Geographic Society; that Japan was not ruled by a TOKUGAWA shogun as an absolute monarch, but instead was a federation where many local feudal lords exist, like in Germany, and that even the TOKUGAWA family was just one of those feudal lords. Including this, Montblanc made preparations for advantageous negotiations. Montblanc visited Japan again, was offered a position as an advisor on military reform by the Satsuma clan, and stayed in Kagoshima cementing adherence to the Satsuma clan.
Before and after the Restoration
However, after the Anglo-Satsuma War, and following Hisamitsu SHIMAZU's (Mochihisa's father) intention, the Satsuma clan started to take a pro-British stance, adopting the British military system and interacting with the British envoy, Harry Parkes. Therefore it was seen as dangerous to offer too much support to Montblanc, who was a French/Belgian. Britain also showed a reluctance to appoint a French person as an advisor for the military system, and students studying abroad such as Kiyonari YOSHIDA, Naonobu SAMEJIMA and Arinori MORI submitted a petition in which they stated that they considered Montblanc dangerous to the domain government office.
During the same year, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA transferred power back to the Emperor (Taisei hokan). In response, the Imperial Court announced the Restoration of Imperial Rule (Osei fukko) and the return of the TOKUGAWA family's territory was decided in the Kogosho conference (the meeting held in the presence of the Emperor in the Kogosho Conference Room of Kyoto Imperial Palace) and generally the political situation remained uncertain. However Toshimichi OKUBO, acting with the authority of the Satsuma clan, got Montblanc and Hiroyasu MATSUKI (a.k.a Munenori TERASHIMA) to write a declaration from the new regime to foreign countries to gain the approval of the new regime and declare the continuation of diplomacy. In the following year, 1868, the Battle of Toba-Fushimi broke out and the new government defeated the army of the previous bakufu, gaining supremacy and increasing the number of clans following them. The new government began to be recognized as the new central administration of Japan. Meanwhile, there were incidents of foreigners being stabbed. In the Kobe incident (January 11) and the Sakai incident (February 15), Montblanc, with the rank of diplomacy advisor to the new government, supported Tomoatsu GODAI, an officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs, and also took charge of negotiating with Parks and Léon Roches (the French envoy) and helped the new government in diplomatic matters. These deals by Montblanc led to envoys from various countries having an audience with Emperor Meiji.
Appointment and dismissal as Japanese Consul General
Because of this outstanding achievement, Munenari DATE (lord of the Uwajima clan), the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new government, notified the French envoy Roches, who was stationed in Edo, that Montblanc was to be appointed Japanese Consul General in Paris. The Honorary Consul General, Frolli Harold, who had been appointed by the previous bakufu administration, was dismissed. Subsequently Montblanc planned to install a telegraph system between Osaka and Kobe and submitted a proposal to the new government. However, the new government already had a plan to introduce one for itself and had ordered the machinery from Britain, and therefore turned down Montblanc's proposal. In 1869 Montblanc had an audience with Tadayoshi (a.k.a Mochihisa) SHIMAZU in Kagoshima, moved to Tokyo and advised the new government about diplomatic issues, such as the territorial rights issue of Sakhalin, and religious matters (resulting from the criticism by foreign countries of the four crackdowns on Christians in Nagasaki - "Urakami Yoban Kuzure" in Japanese). However because the need to be in Europe for direct negotiations arose, at the end of the year Montblanc returned to France with students, Masana MAEDA and Kosuke OHORI (a.k.a Ichinoshin OTA).
After arriving in Paris Montblanc remarkably became Japanese Consul General with the approval of Napoleon III. Montblanc turned his private residence in 8 Tivoli, Paris, into the Japanese Consulate, served as the Consul and let MAEDA live there. Also, Montblanc defended the policy of cracking down on Christians in Japan, and tried to start direct diplomatic negotiations between Japan and Russia. However, because he was French, the French Government did not allow Montblanc to take up the post of ambassador with a right to represent Japanese diplomacy so he was not able to become involved. When Paris fell into disarray with the formation of the Paris Commune during the siege by the Prussian army due to the breakout of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), the Japanese government dismissed Montblanc and decided to dispatch Naonobu SAMEJIMA as the new commissioner. Montblanc was dismissed on October 28, 1870, and subsequently established the Society of Japanese Studies (Société des études japonaises) in Paris with like-minded people to promote the study of Japanese language and Japanese culture in France. Montblanc wrote books including "Japanese Circumstances" and the French translation of "Kyuo Dowa" (Kyuo's Edifying Talks) written by Kyuo SHIBATA. Montblanc still interacted with Japanese students including Kinmochi SAIONJI. In January 1894 Montblanc died in Paris still single. Montblanc had a craving for fame, was vain and often boastful, and was therefore often kept at arm's length or regarded as a charlatan. However, he played a unique role in Japanese diplomacy in the early modern times.
"Le Japon" (Japan) in 1865, Clay Books - a Japanese translation is included in "Montblanc's Record of Personal Experiences in Japan" mentioned above. "Considérations Générales sur l'Etat Actuel du Japon" (General Consideration on the Present State of Japan) in 1866, with the French version published by Martinee Books and the English version published by Brule Books - from the record of talks of the general meeting of the Geographic Society held on December 15, 1865. "Le Japon en 1866" (Japan in 1866) in 1866 (the excerpt from "Encyclopedic Annual") - keeping the original French text.
"Unvarnished Japan" in 1867, Arthur Pertlin Books
"Japan - Its Systems, Products, and Relationship with Europe" (1867, published in the fifty-seventh volume of "Contemporary Critique")
"Philippine Islands"(1877, published in the second volume of "Association for Japanese Studies Collection of Papers - Chinese, Tatars, and Indochinese")