Tuesday, May 10, 2011

“My Dear Uncle Zake” from “Your affectionate nefew, Jonathan Slick.”

I found this article, transcribed and post here in its entirety without alterations. By 21st century standards the text does contain words and phrases that are considered offensive and racist -so do be warned. Should its inclusion be taken as an endorsement of the letter’s sentiments? 

Or, as I suspect, it is a satirical, sarcastic work not aimed at the Japanese but at Southerners on the eve of America’s civil war? Most of Honolulu’s American community were from the North, especially its Congregational missionaries and their families.

The piece is in the form of a letter address to “My Dear Uncle Zake” from “Your affectionate nefew, Jonathan Slick.” It is longer than the article I posted in sections on the Japanese Embassy visit to Washington, DC featured six months later in the same newspaper. This piece is unique in its use of regional slang, misspellings -which for authenticity’s sake I’ve not altered.

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser was published weekly by Henry M. Whitney in Honolulu. This item was published in its March 29, 1860 edition.

Under the headline ‘Highly Interesting Correspondence’ this text appears in brackets:
[We found the following somewhat humorous production on our table a day or two since, which purports to be a copy of a letter forwarded by the Yankee. The Japanese, to whom, it refers, have already taken up much of our space, but this account will prove about as readable as any of them. Brother Jonathan thinks that his story ought to appear in print as well as the others.]

Here is the rest of the text:
OWHYHEE, March 26th, 1860

MY DEAR UNCLE ZAKE: -I have been intendin ever since I arrived at these islands to let you know how I got here safe and sound. Some how a rather every time a mail-boat has left for your parts, I could’nt scare up pluck to write you, but this time the “regular” boat has been a waiting and a waiting so tarnally long, that I reckon that perhaps she was a holdin on to take one more letter, and so I starts off for the beach to find the Captin, and sez I “Captin, if you’ll jist hold on till to-morrow I’ll write a long pistle to my uncle Zale, who lives out west there in Tennessee, and tell him all about what’s goin on of late here in these diggings. I know the folks out there’s a cussin and snarlin because I don’t write, but that can’t be helped nohow.” The Captin laughed right out and being a good natured feller, sez he’ll wait one day and take my letter, as ‘twill add two cents to his freight list.
I tell you what ‘tis, uncle Zake, we’ve been a havin a grand time here of late in looking at them are Japanese, what they call an Embassy, who have been stoppin’ here, and are now on their way to Uncle Sam’s farm, via Frisco and Darien. They came here in one of his big pleasure boats, with the Admiral aboard. It seems kinder hard to take away these feller creeting from their homes in Japan, where they’ve been penned up all their lives like so many niggers, and not allowed to see nor hear anything of outside barbarians, as they call us civilized people. I didn’t know nothing at all about them bein here till I hear’d the papers making such a tarnal fuss about them, that you could’nt see or hear anything else but the Japanese. So I concluded I’d come into town and take a look at them. And you’d a laughed right strait out to have seen them are fellers as I did, all dressed in wimen’s fixins, and their hair all tied and stuck up with a sort o’ varnish, and skivered up jist like a pig’s tail, only it was cut square off. And everybody was a starin at them, and they was a starin at everybody else, as if they were half frightened, jist like so many skeered grisleys. And I reckon it was so, for the very next day they all cut sticks for the ship, and you could’nt find a soul on ‘em anywhere about the town, and all you could hear about ‘em was what the papers had to say.

I found everybody was a goin off to the big ship which they called the Powhatan (after old John Smith’s Indian gal, I spose) and so thinks I, I’ll go too, for I’m a rael Yankee, and have got as good a right to see Uncle Sam’s visitors as any od ‘em. I warn’t ‘specting to go till some day after Sunday, but when I heard that they was a goin to sail right straight off on that day, I detarmined I’d put on my best coat, with brass buttons, which they told me officials required, and start off for the boat instead of goin to meetin; for, sez
I, if Uncle Sam allows his boats to go to sea a Sundays, he can’t blame me if I make my official visits on a Sunday too, not by a long chalk.

So off I starts in one of them shore-boats, called “Hail Columbia,” and steered the craft right up alongside ther big ship Powhatan, which was surrounded by a host of boats, enough to have taken possession on her, if they’d jist been a mind to. It wasonly when I came alongside on her that I seed what a mighty big craft old Uncle Sam had been a sending out to get these ere Japanese. I jumped right straight up the gangway stairs, and jist as I was stepping over, a feller in eppalets and a sword met me, and, sez he, “Your name sur?” “My name sur! It’s Jonathan Slick, as everybody knows in these diggings; and I want to see the Admiral and them are Japanese that they’re makin such a tarnal fuss about here.” The feller grinned, and sez he, “This way sir.” Everything aboard there looked mighty war-like, and made me feel rael pesky, but there was no getting round it, and I had to face the music, like brother Jotham on trainin days. The deek was covered with men all dressed like so many militia men, carrying swords and guns, and all that sort of thing that I dreamed of seein on board of Uncle Sam’s boats. There were some mighty big guns that they call peacemakers, large enough to crawl into, and some fellers standin by them and a watchin them as if they’d been so many tigers. I felt kinder skeered at furst, but when the Captain met me on the deck, sez he, “How do you do, Mr. Slick,” and seemed so all-fired glad to see me, that I began to feel all-rightish again, I tell you. Well the Captain, he asked me right into the back cabin where the Admiral and big Ambassadors were a sittin with some other fellers around them, a talking about all sorts of things. I shook hands with the Ambassadors, and they seemed mighty glad to see me. I asked them all about their country and their religion, for I had heern folks say they were only a set of darned heathen after all, as they can’t convert anyhow. I had’nt more nor got fairly to talking about their gods and temples, when I heerd a tremendous rumpus and a scrapin outside on the deck as if the whole crew was a risin up in arms and a goin to slaughter us right out. And who should come along but the honorable Minister of Foreign Relatives, with the queerest old bundle of papers under his arm, all tied up with red tape and lots of big red seals. As soon as he came in, we all stopped a talking, and stood back, for we thought the King himself was a comin too. But as soon as they all got through their everlasting long bows, and got fairly seated agin, the Minister, he got up and commenced a hemmin and hawin, and a kickin up the darndest hocus pocus you ever saw, and begun a talking about some big names which nobody on arth ever heard on, and all about His Lord and Master and the Portergeese, which the Japanese couldn’t tell nothing about. They sot there as patient as old Job, till he got through his thunderin long yarns, and then they riz up and said, “Thank you” like so many gentlemen, and sot down again. That pesky lying paper printed here by the Ministers, sez they cried right out, but that’s a darned lie, for they were only laughin in their sleeves all the time he was a deliverin his dumbungeous speech. He made the most almighty fuss over it, you ever heer’d on, and you’d a laughed right out to have seen him.

Well, after he’d got through a telling about himself and a lot of other big folks he said he’d represented, then he begun to read a lot of Span-yard stuff, which he called a passport, and asked the Japanese if they would’nt like to take it along, just as if they were goin to visit the darned Spanyards. I tell you what ‘tis, Uncle Zake, he only wanted to show them that he was varsed in the dead languages, and wanted to git them to take his autograph, and show it to the Emperor. I sot right behind on the transum cushion a lookin on all the time, while he was a fussin and opening his bundle, and gettin out such a thunderin lot of old papers for them to take away. Between you and me, if they know’d as much about our political fusses as I do, they’d throw the whole lot of his darned stuff overboard, and his passport, too. One of the big Japanese then asked him if he would’nt take a drink. So they brought in a lot of liquors, some of the Japanese and some of civilied make, and they drank all standin, the health of all the Kings and Queens on arth, including Uncle Sam’s. After he got through all his talking, the Miniter took his hat and commenced a bowin and scrapin jist as when he came aboard, and so went out on the deck.

The Japanese, they grinned and looked at each other as if they thought he was a funny man, until at last they haw-haw-hawed right out, and yoa’d a thought they’d bust their sides a larfin; and they asked me if he wasn’t the Ziogoon, for he’d been a talking about Ziogoons all the time he’d been there. I answered them, he wasn’t; not by a long chalk; that the King was our Mikado and Ziogoon, and noboady else. Then I begun telling them all about our great country and my Uncle Zale, away down in Tennessee, and asked them if they would’nt like a passport to him too. They looked at one another and said something, and then they whispered to the interpreter to tell me that they would’nt care if I gave them a passport, too. So I hollered out for some paper and ink, which the Captain’s clark brought in, and I sot right down to make a passport; and to show them that the Yankees had some larnin as well as the King’s Ministers, I writ the following right straight off in Latin, and handled it to them. One of the interpreters could read Dutch and Latin, and so he read it to them. They were mighty tickled and bowed, and said they would be sure to visit you while they was goin through the country. I send you a copy of it, so that you may see it forehand:

Per navem belll permagnum “Powhatan.”
Hee scripto est permissum regio SIMMI-BOOKEN legatori primo suae majestatis terrarum Japanarum Imperatoris et bono magnoque MOORAGAKI-AWAGE, legatori secundo suae majestastis, terrarum Japanum Imperatoris, cum principe OGOOLI-BUNGO atque omnibus ilscum natis in terries Japanis; maximo optimoque avunculo mihi Sam domi in urbe Washingtonia visitato, proficisci ad mihi partum domum agrosque in Tennesseo, et avunculum mibi Zake Slick salutare. Atque omnes, quibus est auctoritas, num amici an inimici hoc instrumento obedire es parere imperantur.
Datum mea manu sigilloque in nave Selli permagna “Powhatan,” hoc solis die, quinto decimo calendas martias, Anno Domini milessimo, octingen sexagesimo.

Findin the Ambassadors so mighty pleased with my passport, and thinking I’d show off my larnin a little more, I asked them if they wouldn’t like another in Kanaka, to which they said yes, and I sot down and writ the following in our vernacular, which I told them would let them pass free among the injuns anywhere in North America:

Palapala Ae Holo
Ma luna o ka mokuahi manuwa “Powhatan” o Amerika Huipuia.
Ua ae ka mea liekie SIMMI BOOZEN, luna kiekie o ka Moi Aupuni Lehulehu o Nipoa, a me ka mea hanohano Muragake, luna kua of ka Moi Aupuni Lehuleau o Nipoa, ai me ke 18 opio o Ogooli-Bungo, a me ko lakopu poe a ‘pau, he poa kamaaina o Nipoa, mahope nae o ko lakou hele ana e ike I ka mea hanohano “Uncle Sam,” ma kona hale maloko o ke kulana kauhale o Wasinaetona, e holo lakou I kahi mahiai o ko’u makua ma Tenesi, a e mahalo I ko’u makuakane o Samuela, a ke kauohala aku nein a luna o na aina Iauna a me na aina lokoino mai, ehoolohe I kaia olelo ae holo ohana.
Kauia ko’u inoa a me ke aiia maluna o ka mokuahi “Powhatan” I kela Ia, 18 o Malaki, 1860.

So I got through with my official visit, and I took my hat to go, and told the Ambassadors to be sure and call on you, for you’d be ready to see them. And I tell you, Uncle Zake, when you do see them, you’ll be proud of the day that I gave them passports to you. 

You’ll see that they are feller creeters, though some sez they aint, and that they are nothing but heathens. Well, jist as I got out on the deck all the soldiers were mustered in injun file, and makin the most infarnal noises with their muskets. “What on arth’s the matter?” sez I. “You aint makin all this ere fuss for me, are you? You might have saved that fuss jist as well as not, and a tarnal sight better, for there’s no use of musterin the soldiers on a Sunday for nothin.” Jist then, the Captain comes up, and sez he, “Mr. Slick, don’t be in haste, wait a minit till the Minister is gone, for we’re a showin off to him.” That quieted my feelins, and then I walked with the Captin all around the deck and he showed me the rooms where the Japanese servants slept, and all their curious fixins. I was raely surprised at the injernuity of these fellers, for they had all sorts of the curiosest fixins that ever I see, and you never seed the like anywhere. The Captin through as I did, that they were genuine feller creeters, and that we ought to treat ‘em as such.

After they’d got through a driilin, I bid the Captin good bye, and jumped up agin over the gangway, when that feller with eppalets touched me on the shoulder, and sez he, “Mr. Slick, we shall be happy to see you on board agin.” “Yes sir,” sez I, as I stepped down the stairs into the boat, mighty glad to get rid of the pesky smell of powder and tar, for I began to feel a leetle rily about the stomach, and was glad enough to get ashore agin.
Write me soon, and tell me all about the visit of this ere Embassy to Uncle Sam’s residence in Washington, and what he thinks of the fellers.

Your affectionate nefew,

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