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Friday, February 12, 2016

Ulysses S. Grant Visits Japan in 1879

So… American Ulysses S. Grant (April 27, 1822 – July 23, 1885) visited Japan in 1879.

The former General of the Northern armies in America's civil war had, at that time, only recently completed his second term as the 18th president of the United States of America (1869–77).

Although his second-term in office can be widely-criticized for having dropped the U.S. into an industrial depression with high unemployment, low prices, low profits and a plethora of bankruptcies, he was and is still celebrated enough as a General to garner his place upon the country's $50 bill.

I find it odd, that he's on the money, when his ineffectual policies led to the depression.

As well, in 1856, he voted for Democrat James Buchanan over the first Republican candidate John C. Frémont, because he thought that Frémont's anti-slavery position would cause the southern states to secede the Union.

While he couldn't vote in Illinois, he is known to have preferred Democrat Stephen A. Douglas over Abraham Lincoln. So - you can't win'em all.

Lincoln, of course, as president helped free the slaves. And, after the South's Confederate Army attacked Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861, President Lincoln asked Grant to lead the U.S. efforts against the rebels. No hard feelings, apparently, on Abe's part.

As a further aside, Grant acquired a slave from his father-in-law back in 1857. In 1859, and after two years of The Panic of 1857 that hit American farmers hard - including Grant - he freed the Black man who was worth $1,500, rather than selling him for much needed money.

But, like I said, he's probably being celebrated for his battle acumen rather than the decisions he made. Even honorable ones.

After his second-term as president of 'merca (America), Grant and family went on a two-year-long world tour, from England, France, Italy. Spain Germany, India, Burma, Siam (Thailand), Singapore and Cochinchina (Vietnam), Hong Kong, and then China.

While there in China, he sought an audience with Emperor Guangxu (who was seven-years-old at the time), but was politely rebuffed and instead spoke with Prince Gong (head of government) and leading general Li Hongzhang.

They discussed the Ryukyu Islands, and China's feud with Japan over ownership of it.

Grant then agreed to visit Japan to help the two countries avoid going to war over the islands that are worthless in the grand scheme of things for resources, but are valuable only to stop the other country from being able to put a military base closer to the respective main country.

In the article below, culled from the wonderful archives of the Readex "America's Historical Newspapers" database.

Click HERE for more information on the privately-owned facility that is attempting to have at least one copy of every single newspaper ever published in the country. Contact them if you think you might have something old and magical that they can have and share.

The article below from the San Francisco Bulletin (published as the Daily Evening Bulletin), is from San Francisco, California, June 28, 1879.

In the article, it mentions Lew Chew Islands… that's is better known as Loo-Choo, Lu-Tchu, or Lieu-Kieu, and is indeed the group of 36 islands that make up the Ryukyu Islands that are even now currently under argument between Japan, China, Korea and god knows who else.

I am re-typing the article as presented, completed with archaic spellings (but will put modern spellings in brackets, where applicable).

U.S. Grant meets Japan's Royal family in 1879.
Read on:

Revision of Treaties with Western Powers—About General Grant—Election in Southern Provinces.

Tokio (Tokyo), Japan, June 9, 1879.
There is at present an air of bustle and gayety about this city quite unusual for an oriental capital. The general revision of the existing treaties between Japan and the Western Powers, which is now in progress, and the expected arrival of so many distinguished personages during the summer, has given this metropolis a singular momentary impulse. His Imperial Highness Prince Heinrich of Prussia arrived about ten days ago, and is the guest of the Mikado. Pretty much everything which the wit of man can devise has been done by the Japanese to amuse the young Prince. The same remark is also true in respect of the preparations which are being made for the reception of General Grant. In fact, the preparations for the reception and amusement of General Grant exceed anything of the kind ever before attempted by the Japanese Government.

Among other things, arrangements are being made to afford the General an easy ascent of Fujiyama (Mount Fuji - the revered iconic mountainous symbol of Japan near Tokyo), from the lofty summit of which, if has been suggested, he may "look down upon more than forty centuries," and thereby eclipse the grandeur of the Sphynx as it "looked down upon the soldiers of France under Napoleon."
Speaking of General Grant, it may be of interest to learn that private letters from China state that he does not intend returning directly to the United States after visiting Japan. After spending a few weeks here, it appears to be his intention to sail for Australia via Singapore. After visiting Australia, he will go to the Sandwich Islands (there are many islands called the Sandwich Islands, but it appears as though Grant visited what is now the Hawaiian Islands), where he has been specially invited by the King of that country; from thence he goes to San Francisco. If this program is followed out, of which there is not much doubt, General Grant will hardly reach California before April, 1880.

The reappearance of cholera, or something closely resembling it, in several of the southern provinces of Japan, is exciting some apprehension of another cholera visitation here. It is too soon yet to predict anything with certainty about it. I am very doubtful whether there is any real; Asiatic cholera at present in Japan.
The fact is, that in both China and Japan there appears to be almost every summer, an endemic—and sometimes it becomes epidemic—disease which so nearly simulates, Asiatic cholera, that only the ablest physicians can tell whether it is the genuine article or not. Nervous people are sure to get a "cholera scare" every year of their lives in China and Japan Even if the doctors disagree about it and quarrel over it.
It will be well, at all times, during summer, for the quarantine officers of San Francisco to keep good watch over vessels arriving from the Orient.

His Ex-Majesty Sho-Tai, late King of the Low Chew Islands, arrived here to-day.
The Low Chew Han, or kingdom, was abolished some two months ago by imperial decree, and the Islands are now governed by a Japanese official appointed by the Mikado.
This sweeps away the last vestige of the feudal system of Old Japan.


Splendor of the Procession of General Grant from America (Beikoku Guranto-shi go tsūkō no han'ei) - by ukiyo-e artist Kunichika Toyohara
Interesting eh? I just like the last subject about the Ryukyu/Low Chew Islands.

So the guy who arrived in Japan was the ex-Majesty, but late King of the islands? Being the late anything means you are dead. Since ex-Majesty implies he is no longer king, could the writer simply not have said "Ex-King of the Low Chew Islands?

For the record, after talking with Japan, General Grant told the Chinese to accept the current deal with Japan in order to avoid war… a war he was sure Japan would win.

Now… 137 years later, I wonder if Grant would try harder to convince Japan to acquiesce to the demands of China to avoid a war it not only can't win - certainly not without the aid of the United States of America.

The Grant family spent about three months seeing Japan.

Grant wrote about Japan thusly:
“My visit to Japan has been the most pleasant of all my travels. The country is beautifully cultivated, the scenery is grand, and the people, from the highest to the lowest, the most kindly & the most cleanly in the world. My reception and entertainment has been the most extravagant I have ever known, or even read, of.”

Thanks to Vinny for sending me a link to this newspaper article. Vinny is the guy who finds all my grammatical and typing errors so that I don't look like a complete moron, instead allowing me to appear as a partial one from time-to-time.  

I enjoyed this article because it allowed me to use some of that American history I learned back in the days when Ontario, Canada had a Grade 13. I'll tell you one thing… being 19 or so when entering university, I was far more mature than when I would have been if I entered as an 18-year-old. Which isn't saying much.

So… including Grade 13, and doing Grade 12 twice to finally be with kids my own age (not to mention flunking out on a lot of stuff), combined with five years of university and two more of college, I essentially spent nine more years in school following my first go-round in Grade 12. Shouldn't I have achieved a doctorate or something? A PhD in perseverance or something?

I hated school… and then managed to parlay all of that schooling and edumacating into three more years as a teacher in Japan. Like Grant, sometimes things work out despite yourself... except I probably owe someone $50.

Andrew Joseph
Image at very top is an ukoyo-e woodblock print by Yoshu Shuen, showing a scene from a reception given by the Meiji Emperor and Empress of Japan for Ulysses S. Grant and his wife, Julia.

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