Fellows Forum - The China Trade of the Early American Republic Reconsidered
Event At A Glance
"Those Golden Regions to Explore
Where George Forbade to Sail Before."
In 1784, the very first year of the formal independence of the United States, America sent a vessel to Canton, opening the China Trade of the early American republic. The trade is not a mere business adventure, and needs to be reconsidered by historians from a perspective beyond business history. Hongze argues that the China trade of the early American republic is the continuation of the Western European nations’ efforts to break through empires since the late 15th the final realization of the British colonists’ dream of establishing a direct relation with China. The opening of the trade led to a great sensation. It arrested the intense attention of the founding elites, released the passion of normal people, reaffirmed the meaning of the Revolution, and exerted great impacts on the global community: a truly significant event in the history of the ear and the Articles of Confederation.
Thomas Jefferson will be very important to the narrative of this story. Jefferson had been very interested in the Chinese culture before the Revolution. After the opening of the China trade, he sent the Foreign Minister of France a letter to express the thankfulness of the United States for the French help to the Empress of China. Later, as soon as he became President, Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore the west, partly in order to continue to find the water path towards China.
Sun Hongzhe (1991- ), B.A. in Foreign Histories of Nankai University, Tianjin, China (2012) is now an M.Phil. student in Peking University (2012-2015), majoring in American History. He translated Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War into Chinese when he was an undergraduate student, which became a memorable experience that led to the field of American history.