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SPEECH AT RECEPTION OF CHINESE
EMERSON'S RESPONSE AT THE RECEPTION AND ENTER
TAINMENT OF THE CHINESE EMBASSY, BY THE CITY OF BOSTON TO THE TOAST, THE UNION OF THE FARTHEST EAST AND THE FARTHEST WEST,“ AUGUST 21, 1868
I SUPPOSE we are all of one opinion on this remarkable occasion of meeting the Embassy sent from the oldest Empire in the world to the youngest Republic. All share the surprise and pleasure when the venerable oriental dynasty, - hitherto a romantic legend to most of us, — suddenly steps into the fellowship of nations. This auspicious event, considered in connection with the late innovations in Japan, marks a new era, and is an irresistible result of the science which has given us the power of steam and the electric telegraph. It is the more welcome for the surprise. We had said of China, as the old prophet said of Egypt, “ Her strength is to sit still.” Her people had such elemental conservatism, that by some wonderful force of race and national manners, the wars and revolutions that occur in her annals have proved but momentary swells or surges on the Pacific Ocean of her history, leaving no trace. But in its immovability this race has claims. China is old not in time only, but in wisdom, which is gray hair to a nation, - or rather, truly seen, is eternal youth. As we know, China had the magnet centuries before Europe; and blockprinting or stereotype, and lithography and gun
powder, and vaccination, and canals; had anticipated Linnæus’s nomenclature of plants; had codes, journals, clubs, hackney coaches, and, thirty centuries before New York, had the custom of New-Year's calls of comity and reconciliation. I need not mention its useful arts, — its pottery indispensable to the world, the luxury of silks, and its tea, the cordial of nations. But I must remember that she has respectable remains of astronomic science, and historic records of forgotten time, that have supplied important gaps in the ancient history of the western nations. Then she has philosophers who cannot be spared. Confucius has not yet gathered all his fame. When Socrates heard that the oracle declared that he was the wisest of men, he said, it must mean that other men held that they were wise, but that he knew that he knew nothing. Confucius had already affirmed this of himself: and what we call the GOLDEN RULE of Jesus, Confucius had uttered in the same terms, five hundred years before. His morals, though addressed to a state of society utterly unlike ours, we read with profit to-day. His rare perception appears in his GOLDEN MEAN, his doctrine of Reciprocity, his unerring insight, - putting always the blame of our misfortunes on ourselves; as when to the governor who coixplained of thieves, he said, “ If you, sir, were not covetous, though you should reward them for it, they would not steal.” His ideal of greatness predicts Marcus Antoninus. At the same time, he abstained from paradox, and met the ingrained prudence of his nation by saying always, “ Bend one cubit to straighten eight.”
China interests us at this moment in a point of politics. I am sure that gentlemen around me bear in mind the bill which Hon. Mr. Jenckes, of Rhode Island, has twice attempted to carry through Con
gress, requiring that candidates for public offices shall first pass examination on their literary qualifications for the same. Well, China has preceded us, as well as England and France, in this essential correction of a reckless usage; and the like high esteem of education appears in China in social life, to whose distinctions it is made an indispensable passport.
It is gratifying to know that the advantages of the new intercourse between the two countries are daily manifest on the Pacific coast. The immigrants from Asia come in crowds. Their power of continuous labor, their versatility in adapting themselves to new conditions, their stoical economy, are unlooked-for virtues. They send back to their friends, in China, money, new products of art, new tools, machinery, new foods, etc., and are thus establishing a commerce without limit. I cannot help adding, after what I have heard to-night, that I have read in the journals a statement from an English source, that Sir Frederic Bruce attributed to Mr. Burlingame the merit of the happy reform in the relations of foreign governments to China. I am quite sure that I heard from Mr. Burlingame in New York, in his last visit to America, that the whole merit of it belonged to Sir Frederic Bruce. It appears that the ambassadors were emulous in their magnanimity. It is certainly the best guaranty for the interests of China and of humanity.
ADDRESS AT JAPANESE BANQUET,
AUG. 2, 1872
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN: -I feel honored by serving as the mouth-piece of this company for a moment. The great deserts of this occasion and the interest of this company might inspire a greater coward than myself.
I shall share with this company the respect with which they regard this embassy. It is full of romance to us.
Hitherward come a people with whom our history has been but little occupied, a people who have hidden themselves in their slow and private national growth. It is six hundred years, as I understand, since Marco Polo saw on the shores of the Yellow Sea one great island, and that island was one of the three islands of Japan - Niphon and Yesso and Kiovsoa. Columbus, it seems, took this book of Marco Polo in his hands, and when he arrived at Cuba he thought he had arrived at Japan. He had not come there, but he showed mankind the way from thence to Japan, and President Fillmore found it. Not, I think, until 1852 was Commodore Perry sent by President Fillmore to make a treaty with Japan, so slow was the progress of our acquaintance with the nation whose representatives we greet to-night.
There is something very interesting in the history of that nation. I remember that in my college days our professor in Greek used to tell us always in his record of history, “ All tends to the mysterious East; ” and so slow was the progress that only now are the threads gathered up of relation between the
farthest East and the farthest West. The nation has itself every claim on us. The singular selection that it showed in appealing to America for its guidance and assistance in western civilization, the brave and simple manner in which it has sent its pupils, its young men, to our schools and colleges and to learn our arts, is a great honor to their wisdom and their noble heart. There is humanity as well as there is ambition. I am very glad to be apprised by very competent critics in art that in certain arts there has been no such success in other nations as in Japan, that their bronzes, and not only so but the arts of design when applied to outline drawings, are more masterly than are to be found in Europe or America. And I have to say that I think the American government and American history owes great thanks to the enlightened policy of President Fillmore who, in 1852, sent Commodore Perry to that country and introduced a new thought into his embassy. Instead of sending to what he supposed a comparatively foreign and unrelated country, to say the least, to the civil nations - instead of sending to them beads and rum barrels, he sent the best of our civilization. He sent the very best instruments and inventions that the country could command. He sent the steamboat. He sent the telescope. He sent the telegraph. He sent all those instruments and machines which had lately attracted and strengthened western civilization. This gift was gratefully and nobly received, instantly understood and remade in that country. There is something besides art in Japan that is interesting - namely, a certain strength in the constitution and the character of the Japanese, which seems to have been revealed by many of these emigrant scholars who have honored our country; namely, a certain force of mind allied to religion which marks their fidelity to their chiefs. I under