ICAS Historical Document

No. 1845-0215-USC

Extension of American Commerce -
Proposed Mission to Japan and Corea
28th Congress
February 15, 1845

Institute for Corean-American Studies, Inc.

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[Editor's note: We gratefully acknowledge this contribution to ICAS of this document from the United States Senate Library.

The 155 year-old document is hard to read when scanned into this electronic format. However, the flavor of the original does add to the immediacy -- as well as accuracy -- of the piece, and so is reprinted below in its entirety. Immediately below that is a transcription of the same text in standard font and format. sjk]

28th Congress
2d Session
Doc. No. 138. Ho. of Reps.



February 15, 1845.
Read and laid upon the table.

   Mr. Pratt submitted the following, in reference to proposed amendments which he intends to submit in a bill now before the House :

Proposed mission to Japan and Corea.

   Wheras it is important to the general interests of the United States that steady and persevering efforts should be made for the extension of American commerce, connected as that commerce is with the agriculture and manufactures of our country: be it therefore
   Resolved, That in furtherance of this object, it is hereby recommended that immediate measures be taken for effecting commercial arrangements with the empire of Japan and the kingdom of Corea, for the following among other reasons:

Memorandum concerning the proposed mission to Japan and Corea.

   The importance of intercourse with the Japanese empire has led to various attempts, by different nations, at sundry periods within the last three hundred years. Though all these attempts, excepting the Dutch, have proved abortive, that is not an adequate reason for our refraining from making a vigorous effort now.

   The Chinese empire, long barricaded against commercial intercourse or diplomatic relations with other countries, is now measurably thrown open for the enterprise of Americans, as among "the most favored nations;" and there is much reason for believing that a judicious embassy, characterized by the justice which should ever sway our government, will succeed in establishing intercourse with Japan and Corea that may be largely beneficial to the American people.

   Though Japan and Corea are much less extensive and populous than China, (with which we have just concluded an advantageous treaty,) both countries are well worthy of attention from the American people. Debarred from intercourse with Japan, the remainder of the world has paid less attention to that empire than its character may justly demand. With a population exceeding fifty millions, (about thrice as numerous as the whole population ot eht United States) the Japanese empire combines a degree of civilization and power that may well render it respectable and formidable among the nations of the earth. That civilization, even judging from our imperfect knowledge concerning it, places Japan in advance of several countries with which our government now maintains diplomatic and commercial relations. The industry of the Japanese is said to be comparable with that of the Chinese; and many of the leading arts of useful life are practised by them with a degree of success unsurpassed in some of the European nations with which we are on terms of political intercourse. Though nearly all foreign trade is forbidden, the internal commerce of Japan (the trade between its large cities and populous provinces) is very extensive; the intercourse between the great markets and all sections of the empire being facilated by numerous coasting vessels and well-conditioned roads.

   The power of the government may be estimated by the statement that the army ordinarily consists of about a hundred thousand infantry and twenty thousand cavalry, which force is increased in warfare to more than four hundred thousand men. As for agriculture, where is there in the world a country more industriously cultivated? The few travellers who have ever "penetrated the interior" concur in stating that the soil of Japan, though not naturally fertile, has been so much improved as to be rendered extremely productive; "and the face of the country, even on the mountain sides, (which are formed into terraces, as in some parts of Italy and Persia,) is so diligently cultivated, that it would be difficult to find in the country a single nook of untilled land, even to the dry summits of the mountains." Jeddo, the chief town of the empire, is reputed to be one of the largest cities of the world. Little as we know of Japan, in comparison with our knowledge of other countries, we know enough of it to render us desirous of a closer acquaintance.

   Corea also possesses a large population -- estimated at fifteen millions; and assimilates in character to the Chinese empire, with which it is slightly connected in political relations. The Coreans and Chinese, it may be added, are now nearly the only foreigners with whom the Japanese allow any business intercourse, however limited. Though we cannot expect anything like equal advantage from intercourse with Corea, it seems desirable to include that country along with Japan in the projected mission, as negotiations with both countries may be despatched with little additional expense by the same ambassador.

   With the successful issue of the late mission to the Chinese empire, we may well feel encouraged to attempt an extension of our commercial intercourse with other nations nearly similarly situated; and where can we now find a better field for enterprise than is furnished by the countries included in the proposed mission -- the empire of Japan and the kingdom of Corea, with their aggregate population of sixty or seventy millions:

   The mission should be placed on a liberal basis. "The day and the hour" have now arrived for turning the enterprise of our merchants and seamen into the harbors and markets of those long-secluded countries. Another year will not elapse before the American people will be able to rejoice in the knowledge that the "star-spangled banner" is recognized as an ample passport and protection for all who, of our enterprising countrymen, may be engaged in extending American commerce into the countries to which it is now proposed to despatch suitable diplomatic and commercial agents on behalf of our government.

Blair & Rives, print.

[ Scanned and transcribed from a photocopy of the original, by Jerry Boucher, July 30, 2000.]

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