Sunday, May 1, 2016

Documents in History: 1851 Letter of President Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan

President Millard Fillmore
In 1851, Secretary of State and President Fillmore approved an expedition to be led by Commodore John Aulick. He was furnished with a letter to be given to the Japanese government. However, Aulick, due to controversy, never led the expedition to Japan. Explore bellow the 1851 letter of President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan. 


GREAT AND GOOD FRIEND: I send you this letter by an envoy of my own appointment, an officer of high rank in his country, who is no missionary of religion. He goes, by my command, to bear to you my greeting and good wishes, and to promote friendship and commerce between the two countries.

You know that the United States of America now extend from sea to sea; that the great countries of Oregon and California are parts of the United States; and that from these countries, which are rich in gold and silver and precious stones, our steamers can reach the shore of your happy land in less than twenty days.

Many of our ships will now pass in every year, and some perhaps in every week, between California and China; these ships must pass along the coast of your Empire; storms and winds may cause them to be wrecked on your shores, and we ask and expect, from your friendship and your greatness, kindness for our men, and protection for our property. We wish that our people may be permitted to trade with your people; but we shall not authorize them to break any laws of your Empire. Our object is friendly commercial intercourse, and nothing more. You have many productions which we should be glad to buy; and we have productions which might suit your people.

Your Empire has a great abundance of coal; this is an article which our steamships, in going from California to China, must use. They would be glad that a harbor in your Empire should be appointed to which coal might be brought, and where they might always be able to purchase it.

In many other respects, commerce between your Empire and our country would be useful to both. Let us consider well what new interests arise from the recent events which have brought our two countries so near together, and what purposes of friendship, amity and intercourse they ought to inspire into the breasts of those who govern both countries. Farewell.

Given under my hand and seal, at the City of Washington, the 10th day of May, 1851, and of the Independence of the United States the seventy-fifth (?).

Millard Fillmore 

By the President: Daniel Webster, Sec’y of State

Davis, Geo. Lynn-Lachlan. A Paper Upon the Origin of the Japan Expedition. Baltimore, Maryland: John Murphy & Co., 1860.

Explore also:
Perry Expedition and the Opening of Japan (Part 3): Attempts and Plans

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