Tuesday, October 6, 2015

412. Why Confucius, not Socrates in American Moral Revolution

Dr. Dave Wang's article, Confucius in American Founding, examines the efforts of the founders who used Confucian moral philosophy to help created a new virtue for the fledgling new nation. One question is that why Socrates virtue was not adopted by the founding fathers. In the following readers will find why Confucius moral principles, not Socrates were chosen in the moral reconstruction during the founding era. For the founders, Socrates's real moral principles were corrupted by Plato, Thomas Jefferson pointed out that "So again, the superlative wisdom of Socrates is testified by all antiquity, and placed on ground not to be questioned. When, therefore, Plato puts into his mouth such paralogisms, such quibbles on words, and sophisms, as a school boy would be ashamed of, we conclude they were the whimsies of Plato's own foggy brain, and acquit Socrates of puerilities so unlike his character." ( Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to William Short from Monticello August 4,1820.)

In one of his federal papers, James Madison, told his fellow Americans, "Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob." (The Total Number of the House of Representatives, Independent Journal, Wednesday, February 13, 1788)

Finally, in the eyes of  John Adams, Confucius comes in the first place in terms of virtue. Adams declares, “Confucius, Zoroaster, Socrates, Mahomet, not to mention authorities really sacred, have agreed in this” goal of happiness through virtue. ( John Adams - “Thoughts on Government”April 1776) 

Confucian moral philosophy made available in the eighteenth century to wider and deeper strata of the colonists. For example, Benjamin Franklin worked hard to spread Confucius moral teachings in North America as early as 1737. Confucius moral teachings had been studied and discussed in the colonies about half century before the founding of the United States.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

411. Chinese President Xi, Secretary of State John Kerry, Benjamin Franklin and Confucius

I am sure that my readers and the readers of Dr. Dave Wang's research on Benjamin Franklin and Confucian moral philosophy have noticed the following remarks from the Secretary and the President on September 25, 2015;

John Kerry;
"Dr. Franklin – the reason I mention this is because Dr. Franklin was absolutely fascinated by the great scholar Confucius and by China generally, which he way back then called the wisest of nations.  As a scholar himself, Franklinlearned all he could about Chinese silkworm, cultivation, about ship design,candle-making, and home heating.  And one of his inventions, the Franklinstove, was actually based on Chinese ideas, which emphasizes that intellectual property was a hot issue way back then.  (Laughter.) 

President Xi; 
 "And Secretary Kerry just announced to us that this room is named after Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States.  And Mr. Franklin had a close connection with China.  He has such great respect for Confucius – a Chinese philosopher, thinker, and founder of Confucianism – that he personally promoted Confucius moral philosophy among the American people. " 

Ben Franklin RoomWashingtonDC
September 25, 2015

Saturday, September 12, 2015

410. Dr. Eric Schwitzgebel, Confucius-A Part of American Past

Dr. Eric Schwitzgebel, professor of philosophy at UC Riverside, wrote an excellent Op-Ed article for Los Angeles Times, titled “What's missingin college philosophy classes? Chinese philosophers,” He pointed out correctly, “Our neglect of ancient Chinese philosophers in U.S. philosophy departments is partly a remnant of our European colonial past.” However, “the remnant of our European colonial past” is only a part of American history, a main part if you want to say. Clearly, we need to study other parts and piece them together to construct the whole history of the United States. There is no right history until we get all parts and put them in right place in American past.

The tradition-to learn from Confucius moral philosophy, started by the principal founders of this country, was longer than United States history. Actually, the main founders were good students of Confucius moral philosophy. They not only studied but also promoted Confucius moral philosophy in North America tirelessly. As early as 1738 Benjamin Franklin published some chapters of Confucius moral principles in his widely read newspaper, Pennsylvania Gazette. Thomas Jefferson even regarded a moral model set up by Confucius as his own moral example.   

Dr. Schwitzgebel has found that, “Considered globally, moreover, Confucius, Laozi and, to a lesser extent, the other major ancient Chinese philosophers have been enormously influential.” He has also found surprisingly the fact that in the United States, “among the general population, Confucius and Laozi are better known and more broadly discussed than any but a handful of European philosophers.” 

Why this? We have to go back to the founding fathers' wisdom and efforts to borrow from Confucius ethics. It was not Confucius walked with his teachings into American history but the founders applied his moral teachings in the founding of this country. As for how the founders used Confucius moral principles to help them in the founding of the United States, please read Dr. DaveWang’s article" Confucius in American Founding", in Virginia Review of AsianStudies, vol. 16, 2014. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

409. Samuel Shaw Showed John Jay the Prospect of American Trade With China

Some of me readers might be surprised by the news that Chinese factory are selling their manufactures to the United States.  Even more, China's rail manufacturing company  is setting its sights on the United States, breaking ground on Thursday for a $60 million plant in Springfield, Mass., that will assemble new cars for Boston's subway system. 

Actually, the prospect that the United States is a big market for China's products was predicted by Major Samuel Shaw , (1754-1794) the first American Counsel to China appointed by George Washington 230 years ago. In his letter to John Jay  (1745-1829) dated May 10, 1785, Samuel reported below:

The Day of our arrival at Canton, August 30, and the following days, we were visited by the Chinese merchants and the chiefs and gentlemen of the several European establishments. The Chinese were very indulgent towards us. They styled us that New People; and when by the map we conveyed to them an idea of the extent of our country, with its present and increasing population, they were highly pleased at the prospect of so considerable a market for the products of theirs. As for more on starting of the China Trade, read Dr. Dave Wang's paper, With China We Trade. 

Saturday, August 29, 2015

408. Gouverneur Morris, Woronzow and Macartney's Mission to China

On April 8, 1792, five months before the Macartney's mission started its journey to China. Morris had a conversation with Count Woronzow, Russian ambassador at London. Morris recorded in his diary, "that the British Government have spread all over Europe the most unfavorable impressions respecting America. ...He says the object of Lord Macartney's mission to China is to get some exclusive right to the trade, and that money well employed at Pekin will insure success, the Chinese being the most corrupt, as well as the most cowardly wretches in existence. He says that a leading character in the administration of India affairs was heard to say, in the time when they expected to learn every hour of the fall of Seringapatam, that now was the time to turn their arms against China. "

It is very interesting. The diary shows two important things, the British government planned to bribe the Chinese officials and had prepared for a war against China if the strategy didn't work.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

407. Dr. Dave Wang's Lecture Poster: St. Johns University

One of my readers found the St. Johns University poster that promotes Dr. Dave Wang's lecture on Benjamin Franklin and Confucius Moral Philosophy in 2007. This poster reminds me of the history that Dr. Dave Wang's examination of the US founder's connection with Chinese civilization. 2006 marked the 300th-year anniversary of Benjamin Franklin's birth (1706-2006) and also marked the national celebration honoring the life and enduring legacy of one of our most remarkable founding fathers. Dr. Dave Wang's Paper Benjamin Franklin and China---A Survey of BenjaminFranklin’s Efforts at Drawing Positive Elements from Chinese Civilization during theFormative Age of the United States was published by the office website of the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary.
In 2009,  Tom Kuntz, the writer of 30 years for the New York Times, wrote "We think of Benjamin Franklin as sage transmitter of the Western European tradition to the early American way of life. But, a Chinese-American academic writes, his correspondence and papers suggest lifelong influences from Chinese culture, “from Confucius philosophy to industrial technologies.” [ResetDoc]

Saturday, August 8, 2015

406. The Dry Rice and Jefferson's Efforts to Improve Slave's Life

In his paper, Asian Dry Rice and the Slave's Living Environment: Thomas Jefferson's Efforts to Transplant the Rice to the United States, Dr. Dave Wang examined the efforts that Thomas Jefferson made aiming to improve slave's working and living condition.
While summarizing what he considered to be his greatest contribution to the world, Thomas Jefferson ranked his effort to introduce dry rice from East Asia into South Carolina in as high regard as his drafting of the Declaration of Independence. One author pointed out that Thomas Jefferson‘s interests in introducing Asian plants ―tied up with the agricultural and horticultural needs of the United States.  This is partially true because the author failed in realizing or ignored the more important reasons of Thomas Jefferson‘s efforts to bring Asian dry rice into North America. Indeed, Jefferson was an agriculturalist. However, Dr. Dave Wang’s recent research on Jefferson and Asian plants has revealed the fact that the introduction of dry rice reflected an important message: Jefferson had social value in his mind when he made his commitment to introduce the Asian plants into the United States.

Jefferson‘s efforts to transplant the dry rice revealed his determination to have it succeeded in the new nation, similar to how the other founding fathers, worked tirelessly to draw nourishments from Chinese civilization. However, Dr. Dave Wang’s examination of Jefferson‘s efforts to introduce Asian dry rice to the United States had led to his  finding of new reasons why the founding father worked hard to borrow from Asian cultures. There was an important agenda in Jefferson‘s mind to uplift the life quality of slaves. He had stated that one of his intentions of obtaining dry rice was ―for the purpose of improving the living conditions of the slaves and saving them from the ravages of disease that swept the Low Countries.

Jefferson‘s long term effort was driven by his following thinking: if the wet rice was replaced by dry rice, ―it would be a great happiness, as it would enable us to get rid of those ponds of stagnant water, so fatal to human health and life. In the meantime, Jefferson‘s connecting the transplanting Asian plants with his effort for bettering slaves working condition reveals another function of Asian civilization in the United States--help improve slave's life quality.