Week 1 Reflections
Week 1 introduces us to the intellectual world of colonial and revolutionary America. We want to understand, first, how early Americans—colonial British Americans and later citizens of the newly established United States—thought about, or “imagined” the world that lay beyond the familiar Atlantic community. And, we want to appreciate, second, the forces “critical era” that drove American merchants to search beyond the Atlantic for new markets and goods.
In preparation for Week 2, consider the report below that was published in the New Hampshire Gazette for 17 May 1785:
1. The unnamed source was, in fact, Samuel Shaw, supercargo (business agent) aboard the Empress of China. What were Shaw’s concerns? What message did he want to convey to his audience?
2. How do you interpret Shaw’s language? What does this suggest to us about the republican values of the new nation?
3. How did Shaw represent the experience of encounter in Canton?
4. What do you think a reader’s response might have been?
Fowle’s New Hampshire Gazette (27 May 1785)
NEW YORK, MAY 12
We have the satisfaction of announcing the arrival of the ship Empress of China, Captain Green, commander, from the East-Indies, at this port, yesterday, after a voyage of fourteen months and twenty-four days.
As the accounts of the reception which the ship Empress of China met with on her arrival in China, have been variously represented in the different newspapers of this country, a gentleman on board has furnished us with the following particular, selected from his Journal.
“On the 17th of July last, we made the island of Java and the following evening came to anchor in the Streights of Lunda [Sunda]: on this occasion our happiness was greatly augmented, by finding there two ships belonging to our good allies, the French. The Commodore, Mons. D'Ordelin, and his officers, welcomed us in the most affectionate manner; and as his own ship was immediately bound for Canton, gave us an invitation to go in company with him. This friendly offer we most cheerfully accepted, and the Commodore furnished us with his signal, by day and night, and added such instructions, for our passage
through the Chinese seas, as would have been exceedingly beneficial had any unfortunate incident occasioned our separation: but happily we pursued our rout together. On our arrival at the island of Macao, the 23rd of August, the French Consul for China, with some other gentlemen of his nation, came on board to congratulate and welcome us to that part of the world; and kindly undertook the introduction of the Americans to the Portuguese
Governour of that place. The little time that we were there was entirely taken up by the good offices of the Consul, the gentlemen of his nation, and those of the Swedes and Imperialists, who still remained at Macao; the other Europeans had repaired to Canton.—Three days afterwards we finished our outward bound voyage. Previous to coming to anchor, we saluted the shipping in the river with thirteen guns; which were answered by the several Commodores of the European nations, each of whom sent an officer to compliment
us on our arrival. These visits were returned by the Captain and Supercargoes in the afternoon who were again saluted by the respective ships, as they finished their visit. When the French sent their officers to congratulate us, they added to the obligations we were already under to them; by furnishing men, boats and anchors, to assist us in coming to safe and convenient moorings. Nor did their good offices stop here; they furnished us with part of their own banksall, and insisted further, that until we were settled we should take up our quarters with them at Canton.
“The day of our arrival at Canton, August the 30th, and the two following days, we were visited by the Chinese merchants, and the chiefs and gentlemen of the several European establishments, and treated by them, in all respects as citizens of a free and independent nation: as such, during our stay, we were universally considered. The Chinese themselves were very indulgent towards us, and happy in the contemplation of a new people,
opening to view a fresh source of commerce to their extensive empire.
“After remaining near four months at canton, and experiencing, from all hands, every possible attention, we set sail for America the 28th of December, and happily arrived in this port on the 11th instant.