Hugh Fraser (diplomat)

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For other people named Hugh Fraser, see Hugh Fraser (disambiguation).

Hugh Fraser (22 February 1837 – 4 June 1894) was a British diplomat.[1]

Fraser headed the British Legation in Tokyo as Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary.[2] He headed the British delegation in the final stages of the negotiations which led to the signing on 16 July 1894 of the revised treaty (called the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation) between the United Kingdom and the Empire of Japan. This replaced the "unequal treaty" signed by James Bruce, 8th Earl of Elgin in 1858 and led to the abolition of extraterritoriality in Japan in 1899. Thus was Japan freed from the commercial and political burdens imposed by the unequal treaties signed with foreign countries.

Life and career[edit]

Fraser came from the Balnain (Inverness) branch of Clan Fraser, Scotland. He was born on 22 February 1837, and attended Eton College from 1849 to 1854.

Just out of Eton and not quite eighteen, Fraser was appointed, as an unpaid attaché at The Hague in January 1855, and was sent to Dresden the following month. He moved to Copenhagen in November 1857 and passed an examination in August 1859 to become a paid attaché. He was appointed to the British legation in Central America in September 1862 and subsequently served in Stockholm, and Rome.

In 1874, he met and married Mary Crawford in Italy. As Mrs. Hugh Fraser, the author of several memoirs and numerous works of fiction, she eventually became better known than her husband.

After a brief engagement of six weeks, Fraser and wife set out for Peking where Hugh Fraser served as Secretary of the Legation. For two years he served as Chargé d'Affaires while British Minister Sir Thomas Wade was on leave.

He was transferred to Vienna in 1879, to Rome in 1882, and was then appointed Minister at Santiago, Chile in 1885.

His appointment to Tokyo was announced in April 1888 and commenced on 1 May 1889.

Death in Japan[edit]

The grave of Hugh Fraser at Aoyama, Tokyo with the notice of removal and reburial

Fraser died aged 57 in his post at Tokyo and was buried on 6 June 1894 in the foreigners' section of the municipal cemetery at Aoyama in central Tokyo. The coffin was carried out of the British Legation at 3.00 pm, and reached St. Andrew's Church, Shiba Koen at 4.00 pm. Many mourners passed the coffin, including Japanese government ministers and all the Foreign Representatives.

The ceremony was arranged by Josiah Conder, the British architect. Obituaries were published in The Japan Weekly Mail and the Nichi Nichi Shinbun, a semi-official Japanese newspaper. The latter stated: "The singularly just and impartial views taken by him on all occasions were erroneously supposed...to be unwarrantably friendly to Japan....In private life, he was kind, modest, and reserved, winning the respect and love of everybody, both Japanese and foreign, that came into close contact with him. A man of firm resolution, he was never moved from the path of duty by the clamours of his nationals in the settlements."

Gravesite[edit]

Many of the graves at the Aoyama cemetery, including Fraser's, were under threat of removal and reburial elsewhere in 2005, for non-payment of maintenance fees. The deadline was the end of September 2005. Other famous persons buried in the foreign section include Captain Francis Brinkley, Guido Verbeck, Henry Spencer Palmer, Edoardo Chiossone, Joseph Heco and Edwin Dun.

The Foreign Section Trust has recently been formed to campaign to preserve the foreign part of the cemetery.[3] Reports from the Asahi Shimbun, 20 October 2005 appear to indicate that the graves are no longer under threat.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Ian Nish. (2004). British Envoys in Japan 1859-1972, pp. 63-71.
  2. ^ The first British Ambassador to Japan was appointed in 1905. Before 1905, the senior British diplomat had different titles: (a) Consul-General and Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary, which is a rank just below Ambassador.
  3. ^ Aoyama Cemetery, Foreign Section Trust

References[edit]

External links[edit]