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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Dutch. It was addressed to Mrs. Brown, begging
her acceptance of the inclosed paper, which was
offered to her family as a small token of regard,
and of the esteem in which the valuable services

Wars and Rumors of War 1 75

of Mr. Brown were held. The document read as
follows : " The friends of Rev. S. R Brown
having learned that he will be required to give
up his premises at Kanagawa and remove to the
foreign settlement at Yokohama, and that no
funds are provided to build him a suitable resi-
dence, have in consideration of the high esteem
they entertain toward Mr. Brown and his family,
and in consideration of the valuable services ren-
dered by them since two years passed, resolved
to present Mrs. Brown with a house and lot,
toward which we subscribe the sum set opposite
our respective names."

This New Year's present, amounting to $1450,
apart from personal gratification, relieved the
Board from the immediate necessity of building
a house for Mr. Brown. The services referred
to were preaching since 1859, and the work of
drawing the plans and specifications and contract
for the British Consular Chapel, about to be
erected, all of which Mr. Brown did without the
remotest expectation of any earthly reward. He
was only happy to do what was possible to help
his fellow-men around him.

Without this contribution, it is even possible
that the Reformed Church in America might have
been obliged to recall her missionaries at Yoko-
hama. The amount allowed by the Board for
the year was $2646, but the extra expenses of
the new missionary and loss by exchange caused
this amount to be overrun. How the veteran

176 A Maker of the New Orient

looked to others about this time is told by Mr.
Frank Hall in a letter of 1902:

" He was loved and respected by the resident
foreign community and easily won his way to the
attention and regard of the native people. His
attachment and loyalty to his native land were
very great, and he was always ready to join with
his compatriots to promote social and political
advancement. His home in those early days
was ever the center of generous and attractive
hospitalities. His traits were of the amiable
rather than the aggressive sort. His life was
that of the full placid stream rather than of the
boisterous river."

Mr. Ballagh in 1901 thus writes his impres-
sions :

"Arriving in Yokohama November 11, 1861,
myself and wife were met in the early evening
by a Mr. Richards and Mrs. Brown and con-
veyed in the mission house-boat to Kanagawa,
where we were comfortably located with Dr. J.
C. Hepburn, in the same ' compound ' with the
Browns. . . Those were happy days in our old
Jobutsuji temple home. Dr. Brown's daughters
and younger children, the calls of diplomatists,
student interpreters, merchants, and visitors,
made the Kanagawa compound an important
social center. Here also on Sunday and week
nights religious meetings were held. The Sab-
bath A. M. services were held at Yokohama in
various places, at the time of my arrival in the

Wars and Rumors of War 177

parlor of H. B. M.'s Legation, Sir Rutherford
Alcock, H. B. M's Minister, being often present.
Dr. Brown conducted these services. Not only
Sco:tch, English, and American attended, but also
Jews and Gentiles alike."

For such a heterogeneous company, differing
in many things, " but one in their common
humanity and spiritual needs, the sunny mis-
sionary was just the man. " Dr. Brown's early
training as a Congregationalist, his theological
education in a Presbyterian Seminary in South
Carolina, a teacher in the Robert Morrison
school in China, associated with the English
Church services in Hong Kong and Macao, a
Reformed Church minister and missionary, he
was pre-eminently catholic, liberal, and toler-

Nevertheless, as we have seen, it happened that
after all Dr. Brown's catholic labors, looking to
the erection of a church, by the strange anomaly
of ecclesiasticism — man's affair, rather than
God's — he was never asked or allowed to preach
in the edifice he had planned.

It was because of this that the American com-
munity and a few British " Dissenters " insisted
on the continuance of the union service, even
after the coming of a parson from England and
the establishment of the English ritual service.
" Dr. Brown being an accomplished musician,
an Asaph in sacred song, an earnest evangelical
preacher with agreeable voice and manner, was

178 A Maker of the New Orient

a most acceptable pastor long before he was
called officially to that position on the organiza-
tion of the Yokohama Union Church in 1872."

From the first, Robbins Brown had that gift of
insight — so necessary to the success of a mis-
sionary — in which the Master was pre-eminent.
He noted the ideal side of life. He discerned
the nobler nature of the people among whom he
was a guest. Writing from Kanagawa, February
18, 1862, he said: ''Our Japanese neighbors show
the same kindly disposition toward us which
they did from the first, and with some of them
such relations of friendship have grown up that
it would be a grief to them to have us removed.
Such persons say that, if we go from this place
to Yokohama, they will follow us. No doubt
something of this feeling arises from the fact
that these persons derive some pecuniary benefit
from the supply of our table. But there are
feelings of friendship on other grounds that
make them speak thus. The remembrance of
deeds of kindness done them in the time of sick-
ness makes them feel that they have found true
friends in the missionary families. If the Japa-
nese are revengeful, they are also susceptible to
kindness in no less degree."

So, to the end of his life, almost to his dying
breath, talked this optimist. " Had I a hundred
lives to live over again, I would give them all
for Japan," he said repeatedly. To him it was
a privilege, a delight to work for Japan.

Wars and Rumors of War 1 79

The bread which he had long ago cast upon
the waters was now coming back. Two former
Chinese pupils sent Mr. Brown seventy-four dol-
lars each, to educate his son, John Morrison
Brown, in Rutgers College. The Bishop of Vic-
toria, who had for weeks been his guest, sent him
one hundred dollars for his domestic comfort.

One feature of Dr. Brown's activity was his
constant and acceptable contributions to the
public press at home, especially to the Spring-
field Repiihlican, concerning current political and
religious events in Japan. He was a keen inter-
preter and brilliant commentator, possessing
truth and accuracy, and the writer's sixth sense,
of being interesting.

While the Civil War at home was raging and
the missionaries in Japan were left without
money at the ends of the earth, with the currency
frightfully disturbed on account of the fluctua-
tions in the value of silver, Mr. Brown occupied
some of his leisure and sunny hours in mastering
the fascinating art of photography. He was thus
one of the very first to photograph Japanese cos-
tumes, works of art, and varied human charac-
ters. One result was the instruction of Renjio
Shimooka, still living at the age of over four
score years, the first native of Japan to learn the
fascinating art of photography, in which so many
of his countrymen now excel. It is no wonder
that this artistic craft has so flourished in the
island empire, for few countries on earth, both as

i8o A Maker of the New Orient

to landscapes and seashore, have scenery more
beautiful. Nearly every famous place has its
list of lovely features or phenomena. On
the 5th of October, 1862, Mr. Brown sent
forty-three large photographs of Japanese scenes,
with proper notes and explanations, to be
delivered to the Reformed Churches at Owasco
Outlet, Utica, Syracuse, Geneva, Farmer, and
Ithaca, the people of which had contributed to
purchase apparatus and chemicals for his use.
He had promised these when in America, expect-
ing that Dr. Simmons would make them.

The Americans at Kanagawa, the missionaries
and the consul, amid the smoking volcanoes and
rumbling earthquakes of Japanese politics, were
entirely without protection from their own
government. If protection were needed, it must
come from the Japanese. The Confederate
cruisers had swept American commerce from the
seas, while, under pressure of the fanatics, the
Mikado had issued orders to sweep the aliens out
of the country and close the ports. In this alarm-
ing crisis Mr. Pruyn sent word to Captain
McDougal of the U. S. S. S. Wyoming at Hong
Kong, then on the lookout for the Alabama, to
bring his ship to Yokohama, and " be ready to
use her guns for the protection of the Legation
and American residents in Japan." Her arrival
brought joy to all who loved the starry flag, as
the emblem of home and proof that they yet had
a country.

Wars and Rumors of War i8i

As for the British fleet then in Japanese
waters, it was sufficient to injure and provoke the
Japanese, but was not large enough to conquer
or hold anything. Kanagawa people were carry-
ing their goods into the country, but a Japanese
friend, who brought Mr. Brown a new native
work designed to teach English, said that his
neighbors would not be alarmed until they saw
him start to move. " He asked me if foreign
nations would not think the Japanese government
crazy, were they for a similar cause to send men-
of-war to London and threaten to fire upon it,
if their demands were not complied with in
twenty days. I replied that I thought they
would." As matter of fact, the proceedings of
the British representatives in Japan were most
severely condemned in Parliament.

Matters approached a crisis. On the last day
of May Mr. Brown crossed the bay to Yokohama
to preach. After a conference with all the
foreign consuls, the Japanese governor said he
was personally responsible for foreigners, and
as there were bad men about, ready for deeds of
violence, in order to bring the Taikun's govern-
ment into trouble with the treaty powers, he
wanted them all to dwell in Yokohama and he
offered to pay expenses of removal. Thereupon
the American consul decided to leave Kanagawa,
and that night put the female portion of his
family on board the U. S. S. S. Wyoming. Cap-
tain McDougal offered to take Mrs. Brown, Mrs.

i82 A Maker of the New Orient

Ballagh, and the children on board, but Mr.
Brown decHned moving until next day. Then
Mr. Pruyn came down from Yedo, his house
having been burned eight days before, but
whether by accident or design was then unknown.
Mr. Pruyn would not leave Yedo, and told the
authorities it would take more than one fire to
burn him out of the city.

So on June 20, 1863, on the boats of the sloop
of war Wyoming, the Browns crossed the bay to
Yokohama, entering a hastily hired house, with
but a little furniture. The books and much house-
hold stuff were left behind. The Ballaghs were
oflfered two rooms at the American consulate,
which they gladly occupied.

Three days afterward, at Yokohama, while the
four hundred and forty thousand dollars in sil-
ver paid by the Satsuma people to the British as
indemnity after the bombardment, was being put
in the holds of H. B. M. ships-of-war Euryakis,
Encounter, and Pearl, the imperial order for the
closing of the ports and due notice to foreigners
to leave the country was duly received. It was a
case of Mrs. Partington in Kioto, where hermits
with the mind of the funny old lady imagined
they had triumphed, and the ocean would be
washed back.

Life and Work at Yokohama

Life and Work at Yokohama

THE sloop of war Wyoming missed the
Confederate commerce-destroyer, but at
Shimonoseki, July i6, 1863, Captain
McDougal wrote his name large in American
naval history.*

Firing fifty-five rounds in 1 10 minutes, he en-
gaged five batteries and three war ships, clear-
ing out one of the former and sinking two of the
latter. It was the most brilliant action of a
single commander in a single ship in all the
annals of the American navy.

War, " the flash of the sword in the darkness,"
because phenomenal, startles more than every-
day sunshine and commonplace rain, but these
give food and make the world. So even more
important than military and naval operations for
the new life of Japan was the leaven of education,
which the missionaries were hiding in the meal
of a noble nation. On August 25, 1863, Mr.
Brown wrote of his class of interpreters in the
government school, which he, with his brethren
in the Presbyterian and Reformed missions, was

*See " America in the East," chap, xxv,


1 86 A Maker of the New Orient

teaching; the class had increased to fifteen,
one of whom was a physician: *' I am happy to
have an opportunity to deal with some of the
better class of men. I am at liberty to teach
what and how I please. It is as easy to illus-
trate the principles of English grammar, you
know, by means of quotations from the Bible as
by any other. Hence I have not refrained from
such quotations and put them on the blackboard
as often as they would serve my convenience."
Ten copies of " English Grammar," by Principal
Spencer of Utica, N. Y., were sent for.

Mr. Brown had a long conversation with a
Japanese, who of his own accord came to talk
on religion. For this earnest inquirer neither
Buddhism nor the doctrines of Shinto shed any
light upon the dark and unknown future. He
believed Christianity would meet his needs. He
thought there was a difference between the
Americans' Christianity and that of the French
priest, and he wished to understand more about
the subject.

" We took up Genesis in the Chinese version
and read the account of the creation. When we
came to the creation of man, the last and noblest
work of God, he exclaimed:

" * How is this? Man is better than trees and
animals or earth, etc. The Japanese say that he
was created first.*

" I told him that was a preposterous state-
ment, for man must have a place of habitation,

Life and Work at Yokohama 187

and food and light and air and water and all the
other things on which his natural life depended,
or he could not live. The argument seemed to
be convincing at once to him and he said, * True,
true; the Bible is right and the Buddhist or
Shinto works are wrong.' "

This inquirer came often to see Dr. Brown.
He had little faith in Japanese veracity, whether
as respects words spoken or written. He knew
that the most vital need of his people, then as
now, was truth in the inward parts. Looking
over the American's collection of Japanese his-
torical works, he pointed to one which purported
to give an account of the conquest of Yezo by
Yoshitsune,* which he said was chiefly fable.
This visit revealed the receptive condition of
many minds of men in Japan, glad of the true
light, and Mr. Brown began again with fresh zeal
his study of the Japanese intellect, as photo-
graphed in literature and revealed in the living
student. . t^

His work among the sailors, begun on his ar-
rival in Japan, was continuous and often toilful.
Many of them attended his Bible readings or held
meetings for prayer at his house. " Drink is
the pest of these men. Unless we can keep that
from them little good can be done." He re-
ceived one hundred pledges of total abstinence,

* Probably also exploiting the idea that Yoshitsune,
or Gengi Ke, was Genghis Khan. See " The Mikado's
Empire," p. 144.

1 88 A Maker of the New Orient

but many of them broke their pledge. He made
a proposition to open a reading- room and place
of prayer for sailors. There could be no re-
straint to the temptations besetting sailors unless
Christians were strong to aid them. He sent
home for one hundred hymn books. He had
very large congregations, among whom were
diplomatists and naval officers. There were
resident in port, in 1863, 108 British and 85
Americans. The Dutch were numerous and the
French increasing. Some Prussians and Portu-
guese made up the total, of which two-thirds
were English-speaking. A year later when the
allied fleet was in the harbor, he wrote: "Con-
tinued good work among the sailors proceeds,
with three new communicants, now numbering
thirty in all. We have a reading room and tem-
perance refreshment house in Mr. Pruyn's old
house. Yet drunkenness is fearfully prevalent.
Officers are sent home for having delirium
tremens, invalided to save them from expul-
sion from the navy, and every case for court
martial is caused by liquor. . . They seem to
wonder why Americans should take so much
interest in British sailors, while no British sub-
jects seem to care for their welfare and salva-

On January 4, 1864, the governor of Yoko-
hama made a grant of land, lot 200 x 114 feet,
on the public square, near the site of Com-
modore Perry's treaty ground, in place of the

Life and Work at Yokohama 189

long-promised lot on the bluff. On this site the
Union Church still stands.

Although at home the Union armies were
steadily marching to victory, yet at the ends of
the earth the outlook was less assuring. The
Confederate Shenandoah had cleared the Pacific
of the American whalers, and the commerce-
destroyer Alabama had almost swept the
American flag off the seas. At times the Ameri-
cans in Japan felt as if they had no country.
Everything was shipped home with the proviso
" if it reach you at all." By the American ship
Contest Mr. Brown had sent home photographs,
books, etc., worth not less than five hundred dol-
lars, " but the Alabama sent them all to the bot-
tom of the sea."

When the government school for interpreters
was first opened, professional spies, or govern-
ment inspectors, were always in the schoolroom,
but after 1864 they came no more, the Yedo
government failing to find either treason, strata-
gems or spoils in the teaching of the men of the
West. Probably these servants of government
were there, less on account of the alien teachers,
than of the students, who were politically di-
vided into two parties, the Jo-i, foreigner-
haters and port-closers, prototypes of the
" Boxers " in China, and the Progressives, who
were in favor of intercourse with foreigners.
The pupils were males of all ages and there
was or could be little school discipline of the

IQO A Maker of the New Orient

strict sort, though the pupils were polite
enough. All wore two swords and pulled out
their tiny pipes for a whiff or two of tobacco
smoke at any time and at all hours. Dutch,
which had hitherto been the one European lan-
guage of culture and communication, was now
giving way to English, the world-language.
Two Japanese gentlemen from the Dutch college
in Yedo came and sat through an hour and a
half of Mr. Brown's teaching. Afterwards, call-
ing on the American, they were amazed to find
in his private library so large a collection of
books, thinking it equal to a government library,
and still further surprised at the number of ver-
sions of Scripture in so many languages. They
had themselves read some portions of the Dutch
Scriptures, under the guidance of '' Tommy,"
then a member of Dr. Brown's arithmetic class.
In August Mr. Brown wrote, " We are so pro-
foundly ignorant of the internal affairs of the
government that none knows how matters stand
between the Taikun and Choshiu." Far-sighted
men like the retired baron of Echizen,* Matsu-
daira Shungaku, former premier in Yedo, were
seeing clearly the need of political reconstruc-
tion. When Mr. Brown read this nobleman's
memorial to the Shogun, finding it to be a very
noble document, he was so much impressed by
its spirit that he translated it in full. It is the

*See "The Mikado's Empire" and "Verbeck of
Japan," passim.

Life and Work at Yokohama 191

masterly manifesto of a far-seeing statesman,
many years ahead of his time, and worthy of the
baron who first introduced foreign teachers in
his domain. The opening passage in this docu-
ment is worth copying: " Western foreigners of
the present day differ widely from those of for-
mer times. They are much more enlightened
and liberal. But while other nations are united
in the bonds of friendly intercourse, Japan,
standing apart in her solitude, has not known the
changes of Heaven's course and has lost the
friendship of the world."

By June 30, 1864, the Browns were in a new
house built especially for them. For thirteen
months they had moved from place to place, to
the grief of the scholar who coveted every mo-
ment of his fleeting time, which in Japanese
poetry, along with fading flowers and running
streams " waits not for man."

Mr. Brown wrote: " If you feel the need of the
trial of your patience just come to Japan and
build one house, and I am sure you will be satis-
fied. There is no such thing as hurrying the
workmen. They will work as fast, or rather as
slowly, and as infrequently, as they please.
Fretting does not go. You will only be laughed
at for your fretting, for a Japanese will laugh at
any and every thing under the sun. I think I
have seen them and heard them tell of the death
even of a child with apparent glee. The beggar
will laugh while he solicits your charity. The

192 A Maker of the New Orient

idolater laughs at the shrine of his god. The
mourner laughs at the funeral of his friend or
relative. So you must not expect to meet with
any sympathy in your experiment at house-
building, but must be prepared to be laughed at
in your greatest worry and difficulty."

For further readings on this point, see Rud-
yard Kipling's poem on " Hustling the East,"
and Lafcadio Hearn's masterly psychological
prose study, *' The Japanese Smile." An Ameri-
can verse-maker has called Japan " The Land of
Approximate Time."


** Here's to the Land of Approximate Time!
Where nerves are a factor unknown;
Where acting as balm are manners calm,
And seeds of sweet patience are sown.

** Where it is very ill-bred to go straight to the point,
Where one bargains at leisure all day,
Where with method unique ' at once ' means a week,
In the cool, easy, Japanese way.

*' Where every clock runs as it happens to please,
And they never agree on their strikes;
Where even the sun often joins in the fun.
And rises whenever he likes.

"Then here's to the Land of Approximate Time,
The Land of the Leisurely Bow;
Where the overcharged West may learn how to rest.
The Land of Inconsequent Now!"

Japan^s political volcano was still rumbling
and smoking. Satsuma had settled down, but


I— t




Life and Work at Yokohama 193

the Choshiu men, with their batteries on the
heights of Shimonoseki, were determined to keep
the straits closed. Mr. Brown watched the
gathering of the allied fleet, British, French, and
Dutch, with the American sloop-of-war James-
town, a sailing vessel. He did not foresee the
failure of negotiations which was to issue in the
autumn war storm of September 5, 1864.

On the Fourth of July the Jamestown led ofif in
the salute, probably the largest ever fired up to
that date in the East, in honor of the American
flag — now triumphant at home and abroad.
Peace — honorable to Confederate and Federal
alike — seemed about to dawn, and the " indis-
soluble Union of indestructible states " was
safe. Mr. Edward A. Freeman's " History of
Federal Government ... to the Fall of the
United States of America'' was never com-
pleted. At the gayly decorated American Con-
sulate, in which the wife of the consul, a Vir-
ginian, " was dressed with a waist of blue be-
decked with white stars, covered with a light
gauze and a skirt of red and white stripes per-
pendicular and a coronet of blue encircled with
white stars, representatives of the eight nations
having treaties with Japan, United States, Great
Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, Holland, Port-
ugal, and Switzerland did honor to the day and
gathered for a pleasant time."

As the Japanese government could not guard
the American Legation, or rather the Shogun's

194 A Maker of the New Orient

government wanted all the legations out of
Yedo, General Pruyn was going back to the
capital with the Jamestown, and a guard of sixty
or one hundred men, to insist on treaty rights.
The American Minister carried out his plan, but
thirty of the Jamestown's men, under Lieutenant
Pearson, with a 30-pounder Parrott gun, in the
little propeller Ta Kiang, saw more exciting
service at the bombardment of Shimonoseki by
the allied squadrons. Side by side with the
British, French, and Dutch, amid their heavy
battering ships, like a barking terrier among
mastiffs, Ta Kiang lay, while the Yankee lads,
with their one muzzle-loader, actually beat in

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Online LibraryWilliam Elliot GriffisA maker of the new Orient : Samuel Robbins Brown, pioneer educator in China, America, and Japan : the story of his life and work → online text (page 8 of 14)