James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin

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Lord Elgin, in a 1860 photograph by Felice Beato. Getty Museum Archives.

James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin, was British ambassador to China in the 1850s, and the chief British representative who signed the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1858.

Having served as the chief British representative in the signing of the Treaty of Tientsin with China a month earlier (July, or 1858/5 on the Japanese calendar), Elgin came to Japan seeking similar terms. He arrived before Yevfimy Vasilyevich Putyatin, but his meetings with the rôjû were delayed, and in the end, the Anglo-Japanese Treaty was signed on August 26 (7/18), two weeks after the Dutch- and Russo-Japanese Treaties of Amity and Commerce were completed. Elgin presented the Japanese with a steam-powered pleasure ship, called the Emperor (and later renamed Banryû), as a gift from Queen Victoria, but was generally not too warmly received. After discussions with Townsend Harris, Elgin opted to abandon the pursuit of a treaty similar to that of Tientsin, and instead agreed to a set of terms closely similar to those Harris had agreed to in the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan earlier that year.


  • Mitani Hiroshi, David Noble (trans.), Escape from Impasse, International House of Japan (2006), 283.