Saturday, September 29, 2012
1784 was the year when Benjamin Franklin was seen to start his endeavor to advocate the use of Confucian moral philosophy to cultivate individual virtue. It was in this year that he revealed his readers of his personal experience in cultivating his own virtue. He wrote in this year a pamphlet of advice, entitled “To Those Who Would Remove to America.”
Franklin advised to the Europeans who wanted to move to North America that one could obtain success in the United States, if one had good virtue. He said to them that “the only encouragements we hold out to strangers are a good climate, fertile soil, good pay for labour, kind neighbors, good laws, liberty and a hearty welcome. The rest depends on a man’s own industry and virtue.” The message Franklin conveyed is very clear. If one wanted to be a successful person, he must possess good virtue. With it you would achieve success anywhere in the world. If you don’t have good virtue, you wouldn’t be a successful person even in a place as plentiful as the United States-- the recently independent country, full of opportunities and good conditions.
In 1790, largely confined to bed, Franklin, who had finished his last will, struggled to add to his autobiography another seven and half pages. In these last pages Franklin still encouraged people to cultivate their virtues.
Saturday, September 22, 2012
Certain Chinese products, such as tea, had become deeply involved in the colonies and became an indispensable element of colonists’ daily life. The British control of tea and the colonists’ struggle against this control changed the historical course of the colonies. The tax on tea and the resentment with the tea monopoly by the East Indian Company was one of the factors that led the colonists to rebel. Immediately before the successful 1784 sailing of the Empress of China, the first American commercial ship to reach China, the President of Yale College told George Washington: Navigation will carry the America flag around the globe itself, and display the thirteen stripes and new constellation, at Bengal and Canton, on the Indus and Ganges, on the Whang-ho and the Yang-ti-king; and with commerce will import the wisdom and literature of the East.
However, the Americans had difficulty in finding goods that would sell in the Chinese market. Interestingly enough, the plant Ginseng, was found to grow in North American mountains, and helped the fledgling United States to trade with China and enter the international commerce. Chinese porcelain greatly enriched American life. In order to establish the silk industry in North America, Benjamin Franklin made great efforts to introduce Chinese silk technology, revealing the founding fathers’ drive to use Chinese civilization to facilitate the development of the colonies.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Confucius “dominated early American perspectives Chinese worship." In colonial bibliophile James Logan's collection works of Confucius were found. In 1733, Logan "acquired for his personal library a copy of the first European printing of Confucius philosophy. In May 1788, an article carried in the Columbia Magazine introduced its readers to Confucius’s filial piety.
John Bartram, the well-known American scientist, showed his interest in the personality of Confucius." Another influential magazine in New England, the New Hampshire Magazine in its September 1793 issue published "an outstanding tribute to Confucius and Chinese religion." A writer using Confucius Disciple as a pen name wrote "a concise History of Confucius, a famous Chinese philosopher," in which he demonstrated his belief that Confucius was "a Character so truly virtuous."
In 1796 Jedidiah Morse, the author of American Universal Geography cited Daxue (Great Learning), the new French translation, and Zhongyong (the Doctrine of the Mean) two of the four classics of Confucius philosophy. Morse praised the two works as "the most excellent precepts of wisdom and virtue, expressed with the greatest eloquence, elegance and precision." In his word, Confucius "is very striking, and which far exceeds, in clearness, the prophecy of Socrates."
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
There was a great deal of uncertainty in the newly founded country. After the war for independence was over, the nation's fiscal system was on the brink of chaos. Many small farmers, the broad base of the new nation, were being thrown into jail for debt and many others were forced to lose their farms. The Congress, established under the Articles of Confederation, was attempting to bring order out of the turmoil. In Massachusetts, an agrarian revolt spread quickly.
In the meantime, Britain, which lost the war militarily, was seeking to defeat the Americans economically. It strengthened its economic pressure on individual states to compel them, one by one, to return to "Mother England". Britain closed all traditional trade partners to the new nation, and American merchants could no longer trade with Spain, Africa and West Indies. In the aftermath of the victory of the American revolutionary war, France, Holland and other European countries were willing to use the US as their market, but not anxious to take American wares in exchange.
Given the situation, commerce became "the lifeblood of America's recovery from its economic slump". New trade partners had to be discovered, new trade routes had to be opened and new connections had to be established. Otherwise, political independence wouldn't last long. It was in this critical situation that the first American voyage to China started.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
One of the most obvious direct economical and political influences of the Chinese culture upon social development in North America was the tea from China that helped trigger the American Revolution. On December 17, 1773, a week away from Christmas Eve, some colonial patriots, disguised as Indians, secretly entered Boston Harbor under the cover of night. They boarded three British ships in the harbor and dumped some 350 chests of Chinese tea into the water. Their action was a protestation of taxation without representation and the monopoly granted the East India Company (among other complaints against the British regime).
The importance of tea had developed into such a degree that it impacted the historical course of the world. Tea had become a basic element in North American colonial society so that in the 18th century, drinking tea in the morning at home and socially in the afternoon or early evening became an "established custom". A contemporary estimated that one third of the population drank tea twice a day. Some visitors left us vivid records about tea drinking in Pennsylvania and New York. “The favorite drink, especially after dinner, is tea.”
A Swedish traveler found that there was “hardly a farmer’s wife or a poor woman, who does not drink tea in the morning.” In Philadelphia the women would rather go without their dinners than without “a dish of tea.” The tea ceremony, with tea drinking, became the core of family life.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Ginseng drive also helped popularize the tea drinking from upper class to the rest of the society. Tea drinking in the colonies had been very popular before the huge amount of teas shipped directly by the citizens of the United States. The British carried the habit from England to North America, and the colonists quickly adopted their tastes for tea. Tea houses following London models became powerful social catalysts, providing an excellent forum for the exchange of ideas and the distribution of news.
Indeed, the taxes that the British imposed on the colonists’ tea spurred their demands for independence in the American Revolution. However, before 1784, tea was mainly a luxury reserved for affluent colonists due to its high price. However, large amounts of tea carried over oceans from China to North America by the Empress of China and other American ships after 1784 popularized the drink by making more affordable to ordinary Americans.