True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity (The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science)
Dane A. Morrison
With American independence came the freedom to sail anywhere in the world under a new flag. During the years between the Treaty of Paris and the Treaty of Wangxi, Americans first voyaged past the Cape of Good Hope, reaching the ports of Algiers and the bazaars of Arabia, the markets of India and the beaches of Sumatra, the villages of Cochin, China, and the factories of Canton. Their South Seas voyages of commerce and discovery introduced the infant nation to the world and the world to what the Chinese, Turks, and others dubbed the "new people."
Drawing on private journals, letters, ships’ logs, memoirs, and newspaper accounts, True Yankees traces America’s earliest encounters on a global stage through the exhilarating experiences of five Yankee seafarers. Merchant Samuel Shaw spent a decade scouring the marts of China and India for goods that would captivate the imaginations of his countrymen. Mariner Amasa Delano toured much of the Pacific hunting seals. Explorer Edmund Fanning circumnavigated the globe, touching at various Pacific and Indian Ocean ports of call. In 1829, twenty-year-old Harriett Low reluctantly accompanied her merchant uncle and ailing aunt to Macao, where she recorded trenchant observations of expatriate life. And sea captain Robert Bennet Forbes’s last sojourn in Canton coincided with the eruption of the First Opium War.
How did these bold voyagers approach and do business with the people in the region, whose physical appearance, practices, and culture seemed so strange? And how did native men and women—not to mention the European traders who were in direct competition with the Americans—regard these upstarts who had fought off British rule? The accounts of these adventurous travelers reveal how they and hundreds of other mariners and expatriates influenced the ways in which Americans defined themselves, thereby creating a genuinely brash national character—the "true Yankee." Readers who love history and stories of exploration on the high seas will devour this gripping tale.
New England Quarterly 76, no. 2 (June 2003): 249–251. 10. Lee, Philadelphians and the China Trade, 12. 11. Salem Gazette, 4 March 1784; Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, 11 March 1784. 12. This may have been the same Thomas Randall who in June 1774 sent the ship Amiable Louise under Captain Malaharde from New York to New Orleans. Aboard as first mate was the future Philadelphia tycoon, Stephen Girard. Shaw, Journals, 133, 149; Virginia Journal and Alexandria Advertiser, 11 March
registered no complaints about the compensation, although his journal entries suggest some discomfort with the aristocratic structure of Marquesan politics. Despite the repeated demonstrations of amity shown by the Polynesians, the captain took occasion to demonstrate Western power whenever the opportunity presented itself. He made sure to bring along his fowling musket to his parley with the king. After one Marquesan pilfered an azimuth compass from his cabin and fled by leaping into the bay,
shorter than Americans, their teeth blackened from chewing betel nut, and, most offensive to her idea of modesty, naked. Although she concurred with Bishop Heber “in thinking their color serves as a covering,” all in all, she wrote to Mary Ann, “they seem like a different race of beings.”12 Two days later, they reached Java Head and passed though the Sunda Strait. Despite Harriett’s assertion that “we all enjoyed the sail,” it is unlikely that Captain Charles Roundy and the crew shared her
thing.” Low’s revulsion at such exhibitions of false faith further confirmed her commitment both to Protestantism and to her republican homeland. Consigned to her journal, Low’s impressions of a retrograde East, corrupted by indigenous rulers and despotic colonizers, contributed to the hardening of the national consciousness. Those who read and those who heard the hundreds of journals, diaries, and ships’ logs that issued from voyages of commerce and discovery or from Americans’ sojourns in the
on the contrary, affable, polite, and pleasant.”40 Even so, Low continued to find the English a useful foil for the Americans. On Christmas Day, she was invited to dine at the British East India Company’s lodgings in Macao, where the “time passed very pleasantly, and there was nothing stiff about it.” Still, she was used to a simpler and less secular celebration, and when the group was invited to join in the English custom of snapdragon, in which the table was set with blue lights and guests