Thursday, August 30, 2012

277. Washington Loved Blue-and White China

Among Chinese porcelain ware, George Washington had a special fondness for blue-and-white porcelain. I have found at least nine recorded references to his purchase of blue-and-white Chinese porcelain in Washington's Papers. Samuel Fraunces (ca 1722-1795), realizing that Washington loved this, found an assortment of blue-and-white china for Washington.

As the War of Independence came to an end and the focus of American officers and troops turned toward their civilian futures, Washington began to search for a large set of chinaware for Mount Vernon. He wrote to Daniel Parker (a partner with William Duer and John Holker in a company formed to provision the Continental Army) in occupied New York and requested "a neat and complete sett of blue and white table China." With the help of Samuel Fraunces, Parker collected 205 pieces of blue-and-white porcelain before September. Edward Nicole, Jr. also provided some blue-and-white pieces for Washington.

Washington learned through an advertisement in the Maryland Gazette and Baltimore Advertiser on August 12, 1785, that the Pallas, which was coming directly back from China, would be selling its cargo, including blue-and-white Chinese porcelain. He wrote to Tench Tilghman, his former military aide, and asked him to inquire about the conditions of sale and price. Five days later Washington, at Mount Vernon, learned that "the Cargo is to be sold at public Venue, on the first of October," and wrote a letter to Tench Tilgman in which Washington asking him to buy “a set of large blue and White China Dishes with the badge of the Society of the Cincinnati" and the best Hyson Tea, one dozen small blue-and white porcelain bowls and best Nankeens.

In July 1790, when two ships had just arrived in New York from Canton, Tobias Lear asked Clement Biddle to purchase and send to Mount Vernon blue-and-white china tea and coffee services for twenty-four persons with three or four matching slop bowls for tea dregs. A week later Biddle sent to Mount Vernon a box marked GW containing 3 dozen china cups & saucers, 2 dozen coffee cups & saucers, & 4 slop bowls by the sloop Dolphin, Captain Carhart, on 6 August, 1790.

Friday, August 24, 2012

276. Benjamin Franklin Started to Culivate His Virtue in 1726

As early as in 1726 Franklin was determined to cultivate his virtue. Franklin stated: I have never fixed a regular design in life; by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that, henceforth, I may live in all respects like a rational creature." On October 11, 1726, after about three month’s life on the ocean, Franklin returned to Philadelphia. It was about this time he started his “bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection.

He stated that “I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into.” Shortly Franklin compiled a list of thirteen virtues he thought to be the most important elements that would contribute to the development of his virtue. The thirteen virtues constitute the main content in Franklin’s drive for moral faultlessness. According to Franklin himself, this system of behavior made him “not only successful but a better person.” It is worthy to examine the sources of the thirteen virtues. In addition to the above thirteen virtues, another virtue - charity, love of one’s fellow man, deserves to be mentioned here.

It has been regarded as the “great principle” of Franklin’s life. The fact that Franklin did not include this important virtue into his moral cultivating principles has induced scholars’ curiosity. One of the convincing answers to the question provided by Professor Morgan is widely accepted by Franklin scholars. According to him, Franklin’s omission was that Franklin wanted to “affirm[ing] to himself the superiority of a ‘moral perfection’ that has nothing to do with Christianity.” If you compare Franklin's fourteen virtues with Confucius moral codes, you will find out that eleven out of Franklin’s fourteen values are inspired by the Morals of Confucius.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

275. American Civilization and Chinese Civilization

It is well-known that "for much of their history, Americans defined their society in opposition to Europe." American civilization, it was argued, was a distinct civilization.” George Washington had believed that “the new nation would develop a unique American character.” Thomas Jefferson alleged that American civilization “was the part of a form of civilization higher than the polished societies of Europe. “US cultures have evolved and absorbed elements from other cultures in the historic process of the formation of American civilization.

American civilization drew positive elements from other major civilizations of the world, including Chinese civilization. In contemporary society, American political leaders have also clearly realized the influence of Chinese civilization on the development of American civilization. Bill Clinton pointed out that China as “a stronghold of creativity, knowledge and wealth” had an impact on American life long before the United States was even born. He told Americans that “From the printing China invented to the poetry it produced, from medicine and mathematics to the magnetic compass and humanistic philosophies, many of China’s earliest gifts still enrich our lives today.”

Sunday, August 12, 2012

274. US Founders Found Resources in China

The founding fathers regarded China as a place where they could find important resources to promoting agricultural and industrial development in North America. They made their exertion to transplant valuable plants from China to North America. Benjamin Franklin obtained rhubarb seeds and sent them to John Bartram in 1772. George Washington made his own experiments to plant Chinese flowers in his garden on Mountain Vernon. Thomas Jefferson made long time commitment to transplant the dry rice to southern United States. Samuel Bowen introduced soybeans from China into Savannah, Georgia in 1765.

Franklin also sent soybean seeds from London to John Bartram in Philadelphia in 1770. Franklin expressed his great interest in Chinese industrial technologies, such as heating house in the winter, ship building, paper making, candle and mill and other technologies. Gouverneur Morris (1752-1816) was influenced by the literature on the Grand Canal of China. The Chinese canal construction technologies had an impact on the New Yorkers, who wanted to build the Erie Canal, which could help in making New York one of the great cities in the United States.

Jefferson borrowed elements from Chinese architecture in his effort to create a new style of building. Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush also promoted the sericulture in North America. (Dave Wang, Benjamin Franklin’s Efforts to Promote Sericulture in North America, in Benjamin Franklin Gazette, Vol. 18, no. 2, Summer 2008. Benjamin Rush told his fellow colonists “Mulberry trees are so plenty among us that we might raise silkworms in a few years to supply us with all the silk we want, as oak leaves (when those of the mulberry are not to be had) have been found in China to afford a food to the worms.” )

Thursday, August 9, 2012

273. A Way to Cultivate Patriotism

The Americans wanted to diminish their reliance on taxed imports and ultimately their need for other goods controlled by England. Their pursuing self supply of Chinese porcelain ware became a powerful call for the patriotic support of American economical independence. Some colonists started attempts to establish a porcelain manufactory company in Philadelphia in 1769. They established the factory on Prime Street near the present day navy yard, intended to make china at a savings of 15,000 £. Benjamin Franklin, who was in London at the time, showed his happiness seeing the achievement made by his countrymen.

Franklin said, “I am pleased to find so good progress made in the China Manufactory. I wish it Success most heartily.” The American China Manufactory became noted for the porcelain ware it produced. More importantly, it succeeded in cultivating patriotic support. It set in motion “an intense competition between the young American factory and its English contemporaries.” Although the porcelain factory lasted to 1772, it challenged Britain’s monopoly of the Chinese products and ultimately contributed to the winning of American independence. Benjamin Rush stated clearly, “There is but one expedient left whereby we can save our sinking country, and that is by encouraging American manufactures. Unless we do this, we shall be undone forever.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

272. Benjamin Franklin and Philadelphia

It was in Philadelphia where Benjamin Franklin had the opportunity to access knowledge of Chinese civilization. Philadelphia was one of the centers of Chinese culture in North America. In the 18th century, “things Chinese, or in the Chinese style, then began a steady infiltration of the homes of the American city-dwelling merchant.”

The Philadelphian inhabitants “had access to more reliable knowledge concerning this aspect of Chinese life than readers anywhere else in the West”. For example, it was popular for the residents there to use Chinese wall paper to decorate their homes. Powel Room, located at 244 South Third Street in Philadelphia, was decorated with beautiful Chinese wall paper. Chinese products, including teas, silk, porcelain, and cloth “became part of the social milieu of colonial and post-Revolutionary Philadelphia.”