Townsend Harris

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Born on October 3, 1804, in Sandy Hill, New York, Townsend Harris was the first U.S. envoy to reside in Japan, and open commercial relations between Japan and the United States.

Early Life

Townsend was educated in a local school. Harris read and studied widely and became proficient in French, Spanish, and Italian. When his mother died in 1847, Harris left for California. After purchasing a ship, Harris began trading with ports in China and the British and Dutch East Indies. Harris applied for a consular position in Hong Kong or Canton in 1853 but was appointed instead to Ningpo (modern Ningbo) in eastern China. After rejecting the offer, Harris went to Washington to apply to Secretary of State William Marcy for a position as consul to Japan. Japan had just recently established treaty relations with the United States. Harris traveled by way of Siam (Thailand), after being named consul general in 1855. He negotiated a new commercial treaty there, and arrived at his post, a small seaport near Yokohama, in August 1856.

Life in Japan

Harris traveled by way of Siam (Thailand), after being named consul general in 1855. He negotiated a new commercial treaty there, and arrived at his post, a small seaport near Yokohama, in August 1856. He concluded the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United States and Japan on 29 July, 1858.

Harris advised the Japanese in their conflicts with other countries when he was named minister resident. After submitting his resignation in 1861, he retired to New York City and continued his involvement in the temperance movement and church, civic, and foreign affairs until his death.

See also

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