Wednesday, November 24, 2010

1859: California Governor Weller and the Opening of Japan and China

The February 5, 1859 edition of Honolulu’s Polynesian newspaper (Page 1, col. 4) featured some revealing comments by Governor Weller of California. The subject of his comments was the opening of China and Japan to foreigners. His comments were delivered to the California State Legislature:

“The recent treaties made between the U. States and the Chinese and Japanese Empires, must have a powerful influence in sending the blessings of civilization into immense regions where for centuries Paganism and superstition have held undisputed sway. The opening of some of the principle ports of a country swarming with a population of four hundred millions, must increase our commerce and add immensely to the trade of the Pacific.

“Give us a railroad across the continent, a line of steamers from our shores to Asia, and ere the present century closes there will be more commerce floating upon the Pacific Ocean than upon the Atlantic. California will then stand among the richest and most powerful States of the Union, and America will command the commerce of the world.

“We have cause to rejoice that an immense Empire is at last subjected to the jurisdiction of the law of nations, and we cannot doubt that the great maritime powers with whom these treaties have been made, will see that they are observed. With Western Europe and America on one side, and Russia on the other, each striving for the control of Asiatic commerce, it is quite probable that the car of civilization may travel more rapidly than the poor, benighted Chinese and Japanese can bear, and millions may be crushed in its onward course. It may require ages to civilize and Christianize the debased Asiatics, but, in the Providence of God, it will be accomplished, and the field where the Fisherman of Galilee labored, will again be filled with the teachers of the holy religion of our Saviour.”

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