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A Trivia Question For You

Here is a trivia question for you.  Who wrote the following letter, dated July 7, 1853, from which I quote selected excerpts?

To His Imperial Majesty,
The Emperor of Japan.
The undersigned commander-in-chief of all the naval forces of the United States of North America, stationed in the East India, China, and Japan Seas, has been sent by his government to this country on a friendly mission with ample powers to negotiate with the government of Japan …”

“The undersigned has been commanded to state that the President entertains the most friendly feelings toward Japan, but has been surprised and grieved to learn that when any of the people of the United States go of their own accord, or are thrown by the perils of the sea within the dominions of your imperial majesty they are treated as if they were your worst enemies.”

“With the most profound respect for your imperial majesty, and entertaining a sincere hope that you may long live to enjoy health and happiness, the undersigned subscribes himself …”

If you knew it was Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry (1794 – 1858), then give yourself a gold star!  If you guessed incorrectly, then brush up on your knowledge of this noteworthy American with our fascinating book, The Japan Expedition 1852 – 1854:  The Personal Journal of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. 

This is not a dry history book packed with emotionless facts and meager illustrations.  As the editor wrote in the preface when it was published in 1968, “This work is meant to be read and enjoyed.” And enjoy it you will!  As you flip through the pages you will find delightful full-page watercolors of the local flora, fauna, inhabitants and landscapes of the many ports Commodore Perry visited during his mission to the Far East, many of which were drawn on the spot by his colleagues on board ship.  When you read the florid prose, you will learn not only of official duties, but also of his often times strong and objectionable opinions about what he encountered, which were censored out of biographical texts of the man.  For example, he wrote in his personal journal:  “Of all races they (the Chinese in Canton) are probably the most knavish; from the highest mandarin to the lowest boatman the art of deception and trickery is practiced with consummate skill and audacity.  To cheat and rob those whom they call barbarians might well be expected, considering the light in which they hold us, but they are equally prone to rob each other, both on the land and water.”

Peruse the pages and decide for yourself if he was more brash than brave, diplomatic or dogmatic.  Look for the book on display for the week in the adult collection room.  After that, it will be returned to its spot on the shelf in the nonfiction area, filed by its call number 973.64 PER.

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