Sunday, February 24, 2013

299. Benjamin Franklin and Ginseng

On August 28, 1784, the Empress of China, the first United States commercial ship, in which the main goods were American Ginseng, reached Canton, China. We know that Benjamin Franklin was not among the founders who initiated the pioneering sail that started the direct connection between China and the United States.

However, Franklin made great contribution to make available Ginseng, the main goods, long time ago. 46 years before the great sail, Franklin had told the colonists in North America, “We have the Pleasure of acquainting the World, that the famous Chinese or Tartarian Plant, called Gin seng, is now discovered in this Province, near Sasquehannah: From whence several whole Plants with a Quantity of the Root, have been lately sent to Town, and it appears to agree most exactly with the Description given of it in Chambers’s Dictionary, and Pere du Halde’s Account of China. The Virtues ascrib’d to this Plant are wonderful.”

Knowing the Ginseng’s great value to the commercial value in the trade with China, Franklin worked to promote Ginseng in North America. From the letter to Josiah and Abiah Franklin, on September 1744, we can tell that Franklin successfully spread the information concerning Ginseng to Boston, “I will enquire after the Herb you mention: We have a botanist here, an intimate Friend of mine, who knows all the plants in the Country. He would be glad of a Correspondence with some Gentlemen of the same Taste with you; and has twice thro’ my Hands sent Specimens of the famous Chinese Ginseng, found here, to Persons who desired it in Boston neither of whom have had the Civility to write him a Word in Answer, even to acknowledge the Receipt of it; of which please to give a Hint to Br. John.”

Friday, February 15, 2013

298. Richard Henry Lee and US Trade with China

As soon as the Empress of China returned to New York, American founder Richard Henry Lee wrote to Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, and James Madison about the event. In his letter to Jefferson, Lee stated: The enterprise of America is well marked by a successful Voyage made by a ship from this City—A ship has gone to, and returned from Canton in fourteen months with a valuable Eastern cargo and met with the most friendly treatment from the Chinese—Other Vessels are gone and are expected back in the continuation.

Later, Lee informed Samuel Adams that the success of the sail was “a proof of American enterprise, and will probably mortify, as much as it will injure our old oppressor, the British.”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

297. Ginseng, Tea and the American Revolution

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.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

296. Benjamin Franklin, Confucian Moral Principle and Law

A very important principle of Confucian moral philosophy is to educate the leaders to rule according to the belief--governing according to morality and promotion according to talents. In 1778, two years after the colonists declared their independence; Franklin addressed the significance of the morality’s role. He pointed out the necessity of introducing the notion of governing with morals, especially for the leaders of the United States.

Franklin told his fellow Americans, laws were not enough for the new nation; What the political struggle I have been engag’d in for the good of my compatriots, inhabitants of this bush; or my philosophical studies for the benefits of our race in general! For in politics, what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemeras will in a course of minutes become corrupt like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched.