William Elliot Griffis.

A maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work online

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see. The six knights, or armed guards who
acted as escorts, did everything to make the
journey agreeable. Each norimonOy or palan-


222 A Maker of the New Orient

quin, was borne by from four to six men, accord-
ing to the difficulty of the roads. Only two
foreigners, Mr. Lowder and Dr. Willis, had ever
before crossed the country on the line of their
route. The bearers in the baggage train num-
bered about fifty. Honda, a young samurai of
Uwajima, the prince in charge of Yedo, tired of
fighting in the civil war, wanted to study and
went with the party, always going ahead to make
provision. As in the England of the Tudor and
Pilgrim Father era, there were no post offices or
well-made roads as in modern days, but there
were posts or relay stations — tateba — at which
travelers, and especially persons on government
business, could secure pack horses or bearers,
which were always in readiness. At the en-
trance of every town and village the cortege was
met at the entrance by officers, who preceded
the train into the main street, crying out to the
crowds of curious people to sit down on their
hams and heels.

Dr. Brown's journal in pencil, written at An-
naka, October 13, reads as follows:

" Resting at the Honjin. Received a photo-
graph of Neesima and Amherst College, by the
hand of someone. Recognized both at once and
was told that Neesima's younger brother, father,
and grandfather resided in Annaka. The first
came in at my request, an unexpected meeting
truly. As we passed on, went by the grand-
father's house and he came out to meet us. A

Overland to Niigata 223

fine old gentleman, eighty-four years old. He
presented me with a small box containing a
small teacup. He seemed greatly pleased and
overcome at meeting me. Neesima's father fol-
lowed us and overtook us at the next tateha.
He too was much pleased to see us, and shed
tears on the occasion. I told him about his son's
welfare, and that I had no doubt when he came
back, his father would be delighted at his im-
provement by education. I sent the grandfather
a twenty-five-cent piece and gave the father a
ten-cent piece as a little memento, that being all
that I had to give them. This meeting of
Neesima's friends was a very unlooked for occa-
sion, and one that seemed very providential.
Shall write to Neesima of all this."

At Sakamoto they began the ascent of the
famous and often restless Asamayama, then
smoking and emitting steam also. The road lay
over fields of pumice. Dr. Brown with his
barometer measured the altitudes. The capitals
of the daimios, or feudal barons, with their
strongholds, moats, walls, and towers at Ko-
mora, Uyeda, and other places were most inter-
esting, and of several seen in the sunlight, he
could say in Tennyson's phrase, ** The splendor
falls on castle walls." Now in 1902 most of these
relics of feudalism have disappeared, having
been turned into public gardens, or into private
grounds or railway property. In one place a pri-
vate gentleman, eager for the inventions of the

2 24 A Maker of the New Orient

West, railways and telegraphs, entertained them
elegantly in his own home. At Nagano he saw
and was shown over the great temple of Zenkoji,
famed all over the empire, and recalling Asakusa
in Tokio, by the high priest in his robes. Pur-
chasing a little mirror in one of the shops for a
souvenir, he found, when in his inn after supper,
that the tradesman had sent back an isshiu (half
dime) because he had overcharged by mistake.
The domine returned it again, in appreciation of
the shopman's honesty.

In many of the inns the cards, autographs, or
compliments of visitors, written on board or
paper, are hung up in pride by the innkeeper.
At one place he wrote on paper for framing:

From Yedo to Furuma
Japan is all beautiful,
Its people are hospitable
And very polite. S. R. B.

Down a steep, rugged, and zig-zag mountain
path they now descended to the seacoast.
Takata was a very large castle town with covered
sidewalks. Occasionally a man in black broad-
cloth suit, or with a red blanket on, was seen.
All were polite. The only one insolent fel-
low seen was drunk. By the seaside they could
look over at Sado island, in the blue distance.
Two or three villages, the scenes of bloody bat-
tles and which were burnt during the late civil
war, were in process of rebuilding. This sea-

Overland to Nilgata 225

beach road was full of fascinating scenery. On
October 24 they arrived at Niigata. The
British consular agent, calling on them, handed
them a letter brought by the steamer Ocean
Queen, then in the offing. The little journal con-

** Praised be the Lord for all the pleasures and
the prosperity attending our sixteen days' jour-
ney across Japan. May our coming be a bless-
ing to this people in every possible way."

The American missionary's travel as a govern-
ment official, in comfortable style, was com-
mented on in America at the time as something
in contrast with his Master or even Francis
Xavier, but there was no ground for just criti-
cism. It was exactly what was appropriate,
without being extravagant.

After three days in a native ina they entered
the house prepared for them. It was on the out-
side of the town, sheltered from the strong sea
winds by three parallel ranges of sand hills be-
tween house and beach. It was therefore well
sheltered from fires, iwhich usually sweep a whole
town. There were thirty-six Buddhist temples
in Niigata, one entire street being lined with
them, and one, a quarter-mile from the house,
had been selected as a temporary school build-
ing. In another was the reputed relic of a bam-
boo staff which the founder of the Shin sect,
Shinran, had stuck in the ground. In proof of
the truth of his doctrines the staff grew leaves

2 26 A Maker of the New Orient

and branches, exactly as in the case of a similar
miracle at the temple of Zempukuji in Tokio, oc-
cupied by the United States legation, notwith-
standing, 'as their own Japanese proverb declares,
** Good doctrine needs no miracle."

A lad fourteen years old, son of a former
officer of Niigata, had walked all the way from
Yokohama, 284 miles, to live with Dr. Brown,
and seemed perfectly happy. In the govern-
ment offices the master found two or three inter-
preters who had been his former pupils, and who
were delighted to see their honored teacher. The
head interpreter was teaching ten or fifteen lads,
who were now to be turned over to Dr. Brown.
Promptly his furniture, books, and provisions
arrived safely from New York. While he was
surprised to find the Japanese could live in such
cold weather in their open and draughty houses,
they, on the other hand, were amazed that for-
eigners should have so much furniture in their
houses. As box after box was opened, their ex-
clamations were very amusing. A cooking
stove was a great curiosity and had many visi-
tors. The library seemed to be an extraordi-
narily large one, and remarks were made that
the Westerners had got the start of Japan by
over eight hundred years, but they hoped
Japan would by and by overtake them. As
usual the government kept its contract perfectly,
paying promptly and in full all his traveling ex-
penses from home, amounting to $1054.

Overland to Niigata 227

Seventeen foreigners were living at Niigata,
but the bar at the entrance to the harbor was a
continual menace to life and a cemetery was one
of the first requisites. On account of this the
place had no future as a port of foreign com-
merce. On November 6, 1869, Dr. Brown was
called on to bury one Englishman and three Ma-
lays. With four others — a Japanese, a Swede
and two Malays, eight persons in all — these un-
fortunates, in attempting to cross the bar in the
night after dark, were drowned in the breakers.
A bark from Choshiu had also stranded and was
liable soon to break up.

Although Dr. Brown received an imposing
document containing the certificate of Hamilton
Fish, Secretary of State, and dated Washington,
March 31, 1870, appointing him to be the con-
sular agent of the United States in Niigata, he
never had occasion to use it, since there were no
Americans outside of his own family in the
place. The possession of the document was an
honor, and intended by his friends for his own
protection as well as for that of any stray Ameri-
cans in Niigata.

This western coast city, situated on a narrow
strip of land between the Shinano and the sea,
covers over a square mile or more and consists
chiefly of five parallel streets, crossed at right
angles by smaller thoroughfares, which are
watered by canals fed from the river. There is
no sea view except from the top of the land

228 A Maker of the New Orient

ridges. Rain falling soon sank in the sandy
soil. The Browns soon learned the function of
the overhanging roofs, which they noticed were
prolonged far out over the sidewalks. In win-
ter when the snow fell sometimes six and ten
feet deep, one had to walk under these eaves.
The summers were cool, the thermometer rarely
rising above 92°. It was a place of little manu-
facturing, except of a coarse kind of lacquer
ware and porcelain. The ** sea-weed " lacquer
of Aidzu, a city in the highlands and famous in
the civil war, was also sold there. The petro-
leum wells were worth visiting. In winter deli-
cious salmon were taken, and the general table
fare was good. The officers were very polite
and appreciative, and the thirty pupils intelli-
gent and well behaved. Although much of his
life had been spent in pioneering. Dr. Brown
had never before been so shut out from all the
world as here, but he was very happy in the
work. All were in good health and spirits.

Let us here insert a picture from memory,
painted in the words of Mrs. E. R. Miller, then
Miss Kidder:

" Dr. Brown was very fond of reading, and
when absorbed in a new book took no account
of time. He would often stay in his library till
the small hours of night. When he had leisure,
he dearly loved to read aloud. I remember his
walking slowly back and forth across the room
and reading nearly the whole of ' Aurora

Overland to Niigata 229

Leigh ' to Mrs. Brown and myself, at one sit-
ting. Du Chaillu's * Explorations in Africa/ and
Dr. Kane's ' Arctic Expedition/ he read aloud to
us. On Sunday mornings during the months
we were at Niigata we would frequently read
some whole book of the Bible aloud, and sing
many hymns. He enjoyed society, but was not
at all devoted to it, much preferring reading and
study in his quiet library. He liked a joke and
was good at telling stories. He was genial and
good-natured, with a heart as tender as a
woman's and lying very near the surface, so that
he was easily imposed upon and several indigent
hangers on were usually attached to the
premises. He rarely inquired into these mat-

The winter passed in steady and continuous
work and study. In the springtime gardens
were sown with the seeds of flowers and vege-
tables from home, and these in summer brought
daily delight to their eyes and pleasure to their

Nevertheless, such isolation at their time of
life, even though variety was not lacking, and
part of the time their oldest son was with them,
proved to be harder for Dr. and Mrs. Brown
than they had supposed. Even more — and this
was the supreme motive urging removal to the
old field — did Dr. Brown desire to be near his
fellow-translator, Dr. Hepburn, and the books
and conferences necessary for making a stand-

230 A Maker of the New Orient

ard version of the New Testament. When,
therefore, in the early summer of 1870, the au-
thorities at Yokohama sent word to their for-
mer principal that he was wanted to take charge
of their new school, he decided to accept the in-

The journey overland from Niigata was made
by a new route through superb scenery, and on
July 16, after ten days, he was again domiciled
in Japan*s greatest seaport. Six of his Japanese
pupils followed him from Niigata and twenty
more came later.

This new school was opened September 11,
with thirty-two pupils, and the number was in-
creasing daily. He taught from 8.45 a. m. to
2 p. M. His contract with the government was
for three years. He had bought a place on *' the
bluff," and was now comfortably settled in his
own house. It was very pleasant to have mails
regularly. Among his first callers were Mr.
and Mrs. Verbeck from Tokio.

It was in this school edifice of 1870, and before
his class, that the biographer first met the sunny
missionary. After a hearty greeting that was
almost boyish in its warmth, and a chat about
things at home, there followed a request for a
sermon on the following Sunday, for as soon as
he had arrived in Yokohoma again, the pas-
torate of the Union Church was saddled upon
this useful beast of burden, ever ready ready to
serve his fellow-men. " I have no sermon," he

Overland to Niigata 231

said, " and do not feel like writing one and " —
here he lowered his forehead and looked over his
spectacles, as his eyes twinkled — ** I would rather
take a dose of ipecac than preach an old one.
Oh, say * yes/ " And the "tenderfoot" in
Japan said " yes."

Miss Kidder began, September 23, teaching a
school in Dr. Hepburn's dispensary, taking Mrs.
Hepburn's pupils, both boys and girls, but hop-
ing to make it exclusively a girls' school, when
the number was sufficient. This, except Miss
Adrian's episode, was probably the beginning of
the Christian education of women in Japan, and
is interesting to consider in view of the Woman's
University in Tokio organized by Mr. Naruse in
1901. The first recognition by the government
of the education of woman was in its school in
Tokio, taught by Mrs. P. V. Veeder and Miss
M. C. Griffs, which afterwards became the Fe-
male Normal School.

The Era of Enlightened CiviHzation


The Era of Enlightened Civilization

AS the year 1870 waned, Japan was still
the Land of Approximate Time; clocks
^ and watches, though numerous, were still
toys and curiosities, rather than serious regu-
lators of habit. Dr. Brown wrote December
21: '' With all their gettings, the Japanese have
never learned the value of time. In many re-
spects they are like children, but fortunately
they have a child's docility and it is pleasant to
teach them." Pupils were coming to him from
all parts of Japan, and among them Buddhist
priests. Webster's Spelling Book was now in
great demand. Two months before a member
of the imperial family, with three companions,
had gone to visit America. Another Miya, or
prince of the blood, was about to start for Eng-
land. Ito (now marquis and premier) was leav-
ing for the United States on financial business,
as were also four merchants of Yedo by consent
of government. " The schoolmaster is abroad,
and the people of the fossilized nation of a few
years back have rubbed open their eyes and be-
gun to read the spelling book."

About this time he received a letter from a


236 A Maker of the New Orient

former Chinese pupil, who had been at Monson
for two years. Now a pillar in the church at
Hong Kong, he had had his son educated in
England four years, at the cost of one thousand
dollars a year. He wished to go to the Unite4
States with his family, but was grieved at the
hostility of Congress and of the people in Cali-
fornia. Dr. Brown was indignant at this un-
christian anti-Chinese feeling in America.
'* Sift the matter to the bottom and I believe you
will find that it is not Americans born in the
land who have started this crusade against the
Chinese. American politicians here and there
have taken up the Irishman's cause, but it is for
the Irishman's vote, not for any valid reason in
the nature of things." Earnestly he protested
against the shame and disgrace to our country
involved in the senseless hatred of the Chinese
by aliens with the dog-in-the-manger spirit.

With equal hatred of Japanese bigotry, he
spoke and wrote freely against the persecution
of the Roman Catholic Christians in Japan by
the Tokio government, which was still intensely
benighted and pagan. They were not pro-
Buddhist as had been the Tokugawas, but pro-
Shinto, and were still persecutors of men who
suffered for conscience' sake.

Of the new American envoy, Hon. Charles E.
Belong, of Nevada, he wrote: ** Our minister
here is showing himself to be a live man and
equal in diplomacy to the best of his col-

Era of Enlightened Civilization 237

leagues. . . He lately by a very clever and bold
stroke of diplomacy compelled the imperial gov-
ernment to include or rather not to exclude the
island of Amakusa from the treaty limits of Na-
gasaki. They had given notice that no foreigner
must go to that island henceforth; and why?
Because, though they never hinted it, they were
going to make the island a penal colony for the
persecuted Christians. Pray and agitate for the
subject of religious liberty."

Late in August, 1871, Dr. Brown, with two
naval officers, made the ascent of Japan's lordly
mountain Fujisan, being rewarded after the
fatiguing ascent with a cloudless morning view
of the ocean coast and country and a colossal
reproduction through the vaporous air of the
Pacific Mail Steamer Alaska, then sailing for
California. Instead of traveling in the old kago,
or basket palanquin, carried by two men and
requiring the traveler to make a bowknot of his
legs, the jin-riki-sha was everywhere in use on
the level roads. The hiki, or puller, of this two-
wheeled man-power carriage, still wore a dress
that suggested only a necktie and pair of spurs.
Travelers in the East soon get used to the sight
of scant clothing. " Our human horses no
doubt consider the profuse tattooing of their
persons as an elegant covering."

Was Dr. Brown the first foreigner to notice,
as he did on his visit to Hakone Lake, that strik-
ing piece of mediaeval native engineering by

238 A Maker of the New Orient

which the rice fields of seventeen villages were
irrigated? It is a long tunnel^ nine feet square
and many hundred feet long, cut through the
heart of the mountain.

Returning to the routine of toil, Dr. Brown
amid multifarious labors devoted his energies to
the growth and consolidation of the Union
Church. As the Rev. J. H. Ballagh wrote in
1901: " Dr. Brown's influence was paramount in
the formation of the Union Church at Yoko-
hama, which was so influential in inducing like
religious organizations in Tokio and Kobe, with
a distinctly powerful influence on the native
church and its union organization.

" It was largely through Dr. Brown's efforts
and those of his colleagues that a house of wor-
ship was provided for the foreign community, at
a nominal cost, on the eligible lot of land a part
of Commodore Perry's treaty ground near the
Hatoba, as it is now called. The previous erec-
tion of two imposing buildings, four stories high
with basement, rising on the ground, alongside
of an extremely modest little chapel for mission-
ary purposes, gave rise to a most extraordinary
series of slanders, falsehoods, and misrepresen-
tations, both verbal, written, printed, and photo-
graphic, which traveled round the world on
seven-leagued boots. Echoes and allusions to
this form of fiction, which among the haters of
Christ's religion still passes for truth, are even
yet heard. The whole authentic story, however,


Era of Enlightened Civilization 239

has been told again and again — the acquisition
of the land, the erection of the buildings, and the
provision of means for church erection, without
financial help from the Board of Missions. It
was a perfectly honorable transaction and was
possible because of peculiar circumstances."

The terrible falsehood and slander referred to
was long in dying. One of the many times the
biographer saw it in print was in the Boston
Herald, about 1890. By the courtesy of the
editor he helped to nail the lie then and there,
in a full explanation and recital of the facts.

Even the photograph was brought into requi-
sition and made to lie. Copies of the pictures
thus made were sent over the United States.
Yet the truth came again to resurrection in a
most unexpected form, at the thirtieth anniver-
sary of the organization of the first church of
Reformed Christianity, held on the loth of
March, 1902, at " No. 167," Yokohama. Then
the venerable first elder of 1872, Ogawa, besides
the president of the Lower House of the Im-
perial Diet, two presidents of Christian colleges
in Tokio, and ex-pastors and Japanese famous
in every line of life were present, the galleries
being filled with pupils of the girls' schools in
the city. After sermon, prayer, reminiscences,
and greetings, as told in the Japan Evan-
gelist for April, 1902: "A very unexpected, but
interesting incident occurred at the lunch tables
in the lecture room. An early Yokohama

240 A Maker of the New Orient

Christian, now over eighty years old, and living
at Asakusa, Tokio, named Shimooka Renjio, to
whom belongs the honor of being the first Japa-
nese photographer [having been taught by Dr.
Brown], being present, and having heard Rev.
Ogawa's recital of the difficulties connected with
the erection of the Church buildings on these
premises, arose and said he wished to testify to
something he had never before given utterance
to. It was that early in the ' sixties,' before the
church next door was built, but while the large
house adjoining, and this little chapel had been
built, a high official, he took him to be, of the
United States, came to him, wishing him to take
a photograph of the house and chapel, and he
wanted an inscription, that was supplied, to be
also taken with it, or reproduced on it, stating
what it purported to be, viz., that ' Mr.
B./ a well-known missionary, * had used
the church funds for building his house, and
only a small part for building a chapel,' and
that his object in having the picture taken was
to spread it abroad in America, and expose him.
To this Renjio said, ' I told him it was false; it
was not so. The money was in bank, or in
America, and could not be gotten. And I re-
fused to take the picture with such an inscrip-
tion.' * Well, then,' the official repHed, ' take it
without,' and, being a photographer and that his
business, he had done so. This was a surpris-
ing statement, throwing a strong light on the

Era of Enlightened Civilization 241

fact that those photographs were extensively
circulated with an inscription in an U. S. offi-
cial's well-known hand-writing over the dwell-
ing home — ' For Mr. B.'s residence four thou-
sand dollars,' and over the little chapel, or
* Sacred Dog Kennel,' ' Of the few remaining
bricks for the Lord, six hundred dollars.'

" The reprehensible part of this story, aside
from the fact that it was a worn-out falsehood
first asserted at Singapore, then of Bishop
Boone's chapel, Shanghai, and now again in
Japan, was the fact that the purchase of the
house, built by other parties and bought in at a
sacrifice to them, cost the Church property two
thousand dollars, and was never built by a mis-
sionary at all. While the chapel, built for six
hundred dolars, of stones saved from a fire,
was erected to prevent said U. S. official's prede-
cessor from taking illegal possession of the prop-
erty. It was a surprise that a matter distinctly
referred to the Grand Assize of the Last Day
should spring, as it were, from the grave on such
an occasion as this! "

Dr. Brown's facile pen was often called into
requisition to frame resolutions of a general char-
acter bearing on Christian liberty or unity. On
September 28, 1872, a convention of Protestant
missionaries in Japan, forty-three persons in all,
met at Yokohama. Of one important episode
Dr. Henry Stout writes in 1901: "Again Dr.
Brown's pen and heart and brain were called

242 A Maker of the New Orient

into requisition to form a resolution expressive
of our desire for one church of Christ in Japan.
This was at the time of the first missionary con-
ference held in Japan, at Yokohama, in the au-
tumn of 1872. It was a conference for the trans-
lation of the Scripture and the union of the
church of Christ in Japan. Although the repre-
sentatives of the Episcopalians in Japan de-
clined to come, this great body of Christians
was represented by the Rev. E. W. Syle, Eng-
lish chaplain in Yokohama, and an American
Episcopal clergyman from Shanghai. Mr. Syle
was very friendly to the proposed union. Dr.
Brown was heart and soul for the resolution.

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