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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rapidity of fire the breech-loading Armstrongs.*
There appeared on the scene at this juncture
of events a Japanese, now, in our century, the
best known of all his countrymen in the world at
large. Mr. Brown wrote : " A week ago last
Sunday two Japanese arrived in the mail
steamer from London. They were dressed as
Europeans, with stove-pipe hats on, and came
on shore and stopped at the house of an English
merchant hwog. to the government. They
passed for Portuguese clerks in the house. I saw
them as they landed, and at once suspected them
to be Japanese in disguise. They brought a let-
ter of introduction to me, from the Rev. Mr.
Muirhead of Shanghai, which was sent to me,
but not handed to me by the bearers. I therefore
* " America in the East," chap. xxvi.

Life and Work at Yokohama 195

did not meet with them. A few days after they
started for the Inland Sea in H. M. S. Barossa
which, with the Cormorant, was sent there to
convey a letter from the British minister to the
Prince of Nagato (Choshiu) who has shut up the
straits of Shimonoseki. It turns out that these
two Japanese are retainers of that Prince."

Readers of Japanese history will see at once
that these two young men were none other than
he who was later called " Father of the Consti-
tution " (of 1889), the Present Premier Marquis
Ito, LL. D., and the other ** the white lily among
Japanese statesmen," Count Inouye.

These last days of the Tycoonal system Mr.
Brown called a very precarious situation. He
noted the " utter inability of the foreign minis-
ters to fathom the policy of the government,
characterized by deceit and concealment of all
the facts. It is impossible to believe them,
even when they tell the truth. The whole head
and heart of this nation is corrupt to the last de-
gree." With such a big fleet in harbor, fifteen
hundred men in camp on the blufif, and nine ves-
sels and more troops on their way here, a war
storm was brewing.

The storm broke at Shimqnoseki, when the
Choshiu batteries crumbled under the terrific
fire of seventeen ships and two hundred and
eight guns, and the cannon of the doughty
clansmen were carried away^as trophies and an
indemnity of three millions of dollars laid on the

196 A Maker of the New Orient

Yedo government. The air was cleared. The
first striking indication of improvement was in
the way the authorities handled the ruffianly and
cowardly assassin who waylaid two British offi-
cers near Kamakura and cut from behind, kill-
ing both of them. When arrested, instead of
being allowed to commit seppuku, or honorable
suicide, — which was in practice often the making
of a villain's posthumous reputation, — this mur-
derer was publicly beheaded at Yokohama in
presence of the British troops, in the place where
thieves and felons were put to death. Mr.
Brown was witness of the victim's ride to execu-
tion and of the vindication of justice.*

So long as drunken ronins, the product of
Bushido gone to seed, were freely allowed to
win posthumous glory by being assassins in
the name of patriotism, there would be no end
of murder. It was as in the story of Pliny's ass,
which loaded with salt and falling by chance in
the river, ever afterward plunged into the water
whenever it came near a stream. Thereupon its
owner packed the animal's panniers with sponge.
The added weight cured the beast of its tricks.
Japan's cowardly ruffians, though " gentlemen,"
became as jackasses loaded with sponge. Their
fun was spoiled when they were ordered to the
execution ground of the vulgar, there to feel the
weight of civilization's displeasure.

Before his death the late Mr. Fukuzawa con-
*See Adams' " History of Japan," Bk. III. chap. i.

Life and Work at Yokohama 197

demned the tendency of his countrymen to
glorify hara-kiri, or suicide, and to transfigure
murder for revenge. Indeed, not a few Japa-
nese of the twentieth century begin to see that as
long as the graves of the Forty-seven Ronins
are made shrines of worship and a perpetual
Decoration Day, so long will the self-justifying
murderer flourish. The time will come in en-
lightened Japan when the murderers' corner in
the cemetery of Sengakuji in Tokio will be
closed as a public nuisance and a school of

It was shortly after the ronin's decapitation in
1865 that one of his pupils came to ask Dr.
Brown what he thought of human nature,
whether it was good, neutral, or bad originally.
He had brooded much upon the subject, con-
cluding that originally human nature was

Should one add to these sketches of the moral
condition of Japan the actual picture of beggary,
outcast humanity (eta and hinin) defiling and
disfiguring disease everywhere visible, debased
Buddhism and the priesthood, the need of
Japan's moral renovation would be more mani-
fest. Had no other blessing come to Japan than
the renovation of Buddhism as a moral force, the
coming of the missionaries would be justified.

The Old Order Changing

The Old Order Changing

THE summer of 1865 passed away.
Added to the joy of the triumph of the
Union armies at home was the pleasing
news, made known in November, that the
Mikado had given formal sanction to the trea-
ties. The '* Old Dutch fashion " of speaking of
the '' spiritual " and '' temporal " emperor, and
the fiction of a dual supreme power in Japan,
was about over. Mr. Brown predicted that no
daimo, or other subject, would hereafter chal-
lenge the rights of foreigners in Japan. The
conceit of single Japanese clans in supposing
that they could oppose the foreigners had been
taken out of them. All signs as discerned by
the far-seeing pointed to the passing of the old
order of things and the coming of the new day
of unity and closer nationality.

The coming of the new British Minister to
Japan, Sir Harry Parkes, from Shanghai, June
2y, put a new face on diplomatic affairs. Mr.
Brown had known him in the early forties, as
a rosy-faced boy in China, and had even then a
very high opinion of his abilities. Now he gave
Sir Harry great credit for attempting to get the


202 A Maker of the New Orient

imperial assent to the treaties. This British
Minister set himself at once to find where the
source of authority in Japan lay; and he found
it. " It seems now as if we had entered on a
new phase of affairs in this country."

With his fellow-worker Verbeck, Mr. Brown
believed, and believing made no haste, except in
harder toil, that " When Japan is fairly opened,
there will be an amazing quick and large work
of grace all over the land."

At the opening of 1866, in a printed circular,
dated Yokohama, January 14, the missionaries
sent out an address to God's people through-
out the world, asking their prayers in a special
manner for Japan, and showing also the prog-
ress that had been made. One hundred young
men of the higher class were to be taught in
English, and the missionaries were to have
charge of the work. Dr. Hepburn's Japanese-
English dictionary of about forty thousand
words was nearly ready for the press. Groups
of from two to three, or six or seven young men
came to the missionaries' house to read the Eng-
lish Bible, preferring this to the study of school-
books. " These intelligent young men frequently
express their earnest desire that the day may
soon come when all their countrymen shall have
the Holy Scriptures and the free political institu-
tions of which they are the basis." The call was
to earnest prayer that the last obstacle to the
spread of the gospel might be removed.

The Old Order Changing 203

Hitherto every inhabitant must be registered at
some Buddhist or Shinto temple, or else be de-
nied a decent burial. " Thus every Japanese is
within the grasp of the iron hand of the govern-
ment," and under menace of death if suspected
of favoring the Christian religion.

No one can know a people until he has learned
their history — the mirror of their experience.
To qualify him more thoroughly for the work of
translating, Mr. Brown began a course of read-
ing in Japanese history. In the school he taught
physics and grammar. Two of his advanced
pupils were translating the Constitution of the
United States, one proposing to publish his
translation with comments. Indeed this is the
document which the Japanese studied first and
longest. He hoped God would spare his life
long enough to accomplish something that
should last and become to the Japanese people
what the English Bible is to the English-speak-
ing people. Teaching occupied half the working
hours of five days and the labor of writing ser-
mons all of Saturday. He longs to drop some
of these occupations, and give himself wholly to
translations, but he girds up his loins and spurs
into the work again, fearing that he is indulg-
ing in an indolent spirit. He wondered whether
the Church was prepared for a great opening in

Meanwhile it was whispered that Sir Harry
Parkes wanted the government to send forty

204 A Maker of the New Orient

young men to be educated in England. In June,
1866, it was notified from Yedo that Japanese
were allowed to go abroad. This was a positive
indication of advance, and partly the result of
the moral persuasion of the British Minister. A
dozen years ago death by decapitation was the
punishment of a native if he sought to go
abroad. The movement indicated also an
internal pressure from the people upon the gov-
ernment. It demonstrated also what had never
been conspicuous among the Chinese — a desire
to learn from, and a respect for, foreign nations.
All this was in accordance with the statement of
the lord of Echizen in his memorial a year or
two ago. Such a long stride Mr. Brown hoped
would stimulate prayer at home. God's hand
was to be seen in the movements in Japan.
" Opening, opening, and overturning " was the
law of the time.

Again he expressed his high ideal of a mis-
sionary: "You cannot too soon send us good,
sensible, educated, gentlemanly men, men who
will command the respect of foreigners and
natives, men who will make their mark at home.
Send no others. . . Let us have the right men
in this great field, with wives, if they have them,
who are helpmates for such as they, and you
will soon see the result. . . Again and again
have I heard of its being said by merchants in
foreign lands and travelers, that this and that
missionary came abroad because he could not

The Old Order Changing 205

get a living at home, and sometimes there has
been too near an approach to the truth."

In national politics the Tycoon was hesitating
to invade rebellious Choshiu, for the latter v^as
on his own ground and base of supplies. Sir
Harry Parkes, determined to solve the problem
of Mikadoism, thrust in the probe to know where
the real power in Japan lay. Making a visit to
Satsuma, he enjoyed a fine entertainment, fur-
nished by the daimio, and a hunting bout in
which seven deer and four wild boars were
bagged. The English marines drilled for the
Japanese and the Satsuma men drilled for the
British. The lord of Uwajima in Shikoku had
refused to send troops to fight Choshiu. Parkes
also visited this nobleman, and was treated with
great cordiality. Forty of the ladies of his
palace came out to meet Lady Parkes.

This was a grand stroke of policy on the part
of Sir Harry. He had explored the unknown
regions of " darkest Japan " and was now able
to see which was to be in time the winning side.
I heard him tell the story in detail, at his own
dinner table, in 1873.

The light of the long, bright day of Japan was
breaking. The lord of Satsuma took the hint
and sent three of his own young men, and two
others from a neighboring fief, to study in Eu-
rope. They went in disguise as foreigners.
Years afterwards I knew them as college mates
at Rutgers.

2o6 A Maker of the New Orient

Another lad, Mr. " Ashiwara," sailed from
Yokohama in an American bark August 27,
1866, to Monson, Mass., and Mr. Brown hoped
he would not receive too much attention, but
study hard and come back to be useful in Japan.
Inquiries were coming from other daimios as to
the cost of an education abroad. By the end
of the year 1867 there were six Japanese stu-
dents in Monson. Almost simultaneously, New
Brunswick, N. J., and Monson, Mass., became
centers for the education of the Japanese in
America. Those first sent by Satsuma came
afterwards to New Brunswick and entered Rut-
gers College.*

In the civil war which followed Choshiu
was victorious, and the prestige of the Yedo gov-
ernment was ruined. General Van Valkenburg,
the new American Minister to Japan, arrived in
the bark Swallow. Foreigners thought our
government short of men-of-war, in thus com-
pelling the ministers to charter merchant ships,
but in port lay the Hartford, Wachusett, and
Wyoming, and Admiral Bell — soon to lose his
life by drowning off the bar at Osaka — with his
ships and a large escort of marines inducted the
new envoy in the United States Legation in
Yedo. In that city the Americans noticed a
great relaxation in customs, the adoption of
foreign dress, trousers instead of skirts, gaiters
and boots instead of sandals, and the troops in
♦See " The Rutgers Graduates in Japan."

The Old Order Changing 207

semi-foreign dress. Many natives said, "Japan
will soon be opened." It began to look this
way. The old Mikado Komei died in January,
1867, and the present emperor, Mutsuhito, a boy
of fourteen, became emperor. It was during this
year, 1867, that the Rev. Samuel Beal, an Eng-
lish scholar, wrote a pamphlet proving that the
Mikado, and not the Shogun, was the real ruler
of Japan.

The new Taikun, Keiki, was studying Eng-
lish and his physician was a former pupil of Mr.
Brown. " It could be no easy task," he wrote,
" for the Taikun to change the social fabric
of a nation so numerous and so ancient as
this is."

A picture of Dr. Brown is thus given by the
Hon. Ando Taro of Tokio, formerly the Japa-
nese consul at Honolulu:

" From among the students of this school
many distinguished men have come out to serve
this new empire in the course of the development
of modern civilization, such as Baron Otori, a
celebrated general of the Restoration, known as
the Lee of Japan and afterwards minister to
China and Korea, etc.; but among them I am
happy to note there are many who have been
and still are serving the country for the still
more important work, the propagation of the
will of God, the gospel, and temperance. In
fact the memory of this worthy doctor [Brown]
will be long revered, not only by the students,

2o8 A Maker of the New Orient

but many others who had chances to associate
with him."

Mr. Ando further adds: "It was about the
year 1865 that I met Dr. S. R. Brown in a
school at Yokohama belonging to the Custom-
house, and though very poorly provided, it was
then the only English school in Japan in which
instruction was received directly from foreign
teachers. These were all Americans, consisting
of Drs. Brown and Hepburn, and Rev. J. H.
Ballagh and David Thompson. All the teachers
were kind and diligent, but Dr. Brown was par-
ticularly noted for his strict and skillful methods
of teaching pronunciation and grammar. The
sound th was very hard for Japanese to utter, and
the doctor trained them by showing the motion
of his mouth; or, he would come to the student
and hold the point of his tongue so as to place it
under the upper teeth. Having never been
trained to recitations, this was the most difficult
task for the student.

" The majority of students in this government
school at Yokohama were not boys, but grown
men, including customhouse officers and various
professionals. When the lazy or unprepared
found the doctor calling on the right of the line,
they generally placed themselves in the middle,
so that by counting paragraphs they could get
the one they wished to recite upon. One day
the smart teacher with his penetrating eyes,
which he often lifted up above his glasses, instead

The Old Order Changing 209

of pursuing- his long-adopted course, directed the
recitations to begin from the left. This caused
the students no small confusion, but it was worse
for them when he called on the one in the middle
to come next. Such careful methods brought
about very successful results, not only in their
intellectual, but in their moral training, for he
taught them to be diligent and honest."

This first English school in Japan was called
the Shubunkwan. The official head of the school
was Kawamura Kaizo. In the photograph
taken several years later, Kawamura sits at Dr.
Brown's side, and beside Miss Brown is the
governor of Kanagawa Ken, Oye Taku; and
among his pupils are President Ibuka, Mr. Maki
and Mr. Kumano, and a large number of those
who are now in high official position, including
Mr. Suzuki Keiroku. So writes Mr. Ogawa
Yoshiyasu, September 9, 1901.

In the United States Again

In the United States Again

IN May, 1867, the routine of Dr. Brown's life
was broken by fire. In a few minutes,
house, furniture, library, manuscripts, the
notes and jottings of years, disappeared in the
flames. Fortunately he had taken out insurance
on his property about five months before, but
being without a home or books for study, and
the time being propitious, he decided to visit
America. At this time his son Robert was in
Rutgers College, and he wished to put his
daughter Hattie in school also. He arrived
home as " Doctor " Brown, the University of
the City of New York having in June, 1867, con-
ferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor
of Divinity. This time he took his first ocean
voyage in a steamer, coming home by way of
the Pacific Ocean and the Isthmus of Panama.

How he looked on his arrival to Rev. Joseph
Twitchell, then the young and popular pastor of
the Asylum Hill Congregational Church at
Hartford, but three years in the ministry, is thus
told by him:


214 ^ Maker of the New Orient

" I remember that Dr. Brown was notably
well dressed, to his credit, and that he wore a
diamond on his shirt front (not at all to his dis-
credit). I remember that he urged me to go to
Japan with him, pleading that the opportunity
there opened of investing my life in Christian
service was quite unprecedented and incom-
parable. Returning subsequently to America,
he told me that he regretted it had not been in
his power to take me with him by force — so
thankful would I have been to him for doing so
when I got there and saw the chance to work."

Scarcely had the sunny missionary reached his
native soil than he received a call from his old
flock at Owasco Outlet to be their pastor. This
would give him an opportunity also to send his
daughter to Auburn High School. He had ex-
pected, however, to be summoned at once by the
Board to present the claims of missions to the
churches. Before accepting the call to a pastor-
ate and settling down to rural life and to crops
and books, he wrote to the Board of Foreign
Missions on January 28, 1868. He thought the
church machinery for benevolent purposes rather
rusty and out of gear. It was a mistake in
policy that kept returned missionaries from
work among the people, and from telling them
how the kingdom of Christ was coming. A live
man, fresh from heathenism, would awaken an
interest on the subject of missions among the
churches, being much more effective than the

In the United States Again 215

printed page, even as an earnest, living preacher
is better than a printed sermon.

From Lake View Parsonage January 18, 1869,
Dr. Brown wrote to the editor of the Northern
Christian Advocate concerning Japanese con-
verts. For eight years he had labored in Japan
doing pioneer's work, and had known of but one
native's acceptance of Christianity. In this let-
ter he showed that the first Japanese, Neesima,
who received baptism in the United States, was
admitted to the church of Christ at Andover,
Mass., in 1865-66, about the same time that Dr.
Brown's and Mr. Ballagh's former teacher, Mr.
Yano Riu, in October, 1864, was baptized, this
latter being the first public baptism of a Japanese
in his own land, in modern times; then at Na-
gasaki on May 20, 1866, Mr. Verbeck's converts
were baptized. By January 18, 1869, there were
seven Japanese Bible Christians in Japan, and
one in the United States. At New Brunswick,
N. J., Nagai, baptized by Dr. Tiffany in the
Methodist Church, and Sugiura, in the Reformed
Church under Dr. C. D. Hartranft, Kudo at
Monson, Mass., and lastly Ohara Reinoske,
made in all twelve or thirteen natives of Japan
who had made a Christian confession.* The
morning of hope was breaking on a long, bright
day of glory.

When the year 1869 opened^ Dr. Brown was

* See Verbeck's "History of Protestant Missions in
Japan,'* 1883.

2i6 A Maker of the New Orient

anxious to get back to his work in Japan. On
the 9th of January he wrote to the Board, hoping
to be sent next summer by the new Pacific rail-
way. He wanted to give all his time to the
translation of the Scriptures. In the years from
1859 to iS6yht had had too many things to do: a
church to care for, mission finances to attend to,
schools to teach, work of the Seamen's Friend
Society to carry on, while his own private affairs
consumed too much time. Now fifty-eight
years old, his children grown up, he was still a
good insurance risk, but he realized that not
many years of work were before him. He
wished to get the Bible into print as soon as pos-

Good tidings came in the mail from Japan of
June 15, 1869. His son-in-law, Mr. J. C. Low-
der, British consul at the newly opened port of
Niigata, on the west coast, wrote, stating that the
Japanese authorities, former pupils of Dr.
Brown, wanted a school opened, with their for-
mer teacher as principal, the salary to be three
thousand dollars a year. Passage and traveling
expenses would be paid. The first officer, a for-
mer governor of Kanagawa, wanted books and
apparatus for thirty pupils. The place was not
overrun with Europeans. On the i6th of April,
1869, the total foreign population in Niigata was
three, the consul, his constable, and a German.

These facts, as stated, so far from being deter-
rent, only acted as a spur to desire. Dr. Brown

In the United States Again 217

was only too glad to go where he would be free
from many foreigners, with the distractions and
obstructions to missionary work. He could
give much time to translation.

Happily the Board gave consent, and with his
wife and Miss Mary E. Kidder (now Mrs. E.
Rothesay Miller) he crossed the continent on the
new transcontinental railway, sailed on the Ore-
gonian August 4, and arrived at Yokohama Au-
gust 26, 1869.

They found Mr. Lowder in the British Con-
sulate at Yokohama, he having been there ten
days in place of Consul Fletcher, who had just
died. Great political changes had taken place,
the civil war was over and there was a New
Japan, though many were still discontented.
Greatest of all the visible changes was the
name and reality of the city on the Su-
mida, the largest in the empire. It was no
longer Yedo, the city of the camp, " the capital
of the Tycoon," but Tokio, city of the throne
and seat of the emperor. The new chronologi-
cal period beginning with 1868 was named Meiji,
or the Era of Enlightenment and Civilization.

Not a few of Dr. Brown's pupils were in office.
On the deck of the new ship of state he could
recognize at least a score. One came to get
him to be a professor in Tokio University, an-
other wanted him to open a school at Yoko-
hama. He determined to press on to Niigata,
taking the land route, over the mountains.

Overland to Niigata

Overland to Niigata

IN palanquins with bearers, interpreter, and
escorting officers, the journey from Tokio
across the main island from Yokohama to
Niigata over the Central Mountain region, and
through some of the most glorious scenery in
the world, was richly enjoyed by the whole

This overland journey via Takasaki, Annaka,
Nagano, and Naosetsu occupied sixteen days.
The route taken is now for the most part that
followed by the Kariuzawa-Naosetsu railway, the
most picturesque in Japan, but in 1870 railways
were unknown. The journey was through the
silk region, Neesima's birthplace, the glorious
high sanctuary of God's mighty mountains in
Shinano, past shrines famous in legend and local
lore, and amid scenes glorified by romance and
poetry, and this scholar, well read in the native
lore, lover of nature and of Heaven's beauty on
earth, was just the man to enjoy what he was to

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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 9 of 14)