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Maiden Voyage

The Senzaimaru and the Creation of Modern Sino-Japanese Relations

Joshua A. Fogel (Author)


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After centuries of virtual isolation, during which time international sea travel was forbidden outside of Japan’s immediate fishing shores, Japanese shogunal authorities in 1862 made the unprecedented decision to launch an official delegation to China by sea. Concerned by the fast-changing global environment, they had witnessed the ever-increasing number of incursions into Asia by European powers—not the least of which was Commodore Perry’s arrival in Japan in 1853–54 and the forced opening of a handful of Japanese ports at the end of the decade. The Japanese reasoned that it was only a matter of time before they too encountered the same unfortunate fate as China; their hope was to learn from the Chinese experience and to keep foreign powers at bay. They dispatched the Senzaimaru to Shanghai with the purpose of investigating contemporary conditions of trade and diplomacy in the international city. Japanese from varied domains, as well as shogunal officials, Nagasaki merchants, and an assortment of deck hands, made the voyage along with a British crew, spending a total of ten weeks observing and interacting with the Chinese and with a handful of Westerners. Roughly a dozen Japanese narratives of the voyage were produced at the time, recounting personal impressions and experiences in Shanghai. The Japanese emissaries had the distinct advantage of being able to communicate with their Chinese hosts by means of the “brush conversation” (written exchanges in literary Chinese). For their part, the Chinese authorities also created a paper trail of reports and memorials concerning the Japanese visitors, which worked its way up and down the bureaucratic chain of command.

This was the first official meeting of Chinese and Japanese in several centuries. Although the Chinese authorities agreed to few of the Japanese requests for trade relations and a consulate, nine years later China and Japan would sign the first bilateral treaty of amity in their history, a completely equal treaty. East Asia—and the diplomatic and trade relations between the region’s two major players in the modern era—would never be the same.
List of Illustrations
Introduction: Situating 1862 in History and Shanghai in 1862
1. The Armistice, Shanghai, and the Facilitator
2. Japanese Plans and the Scene in Nagasaki
3. Getting to Nagasaki, Loading Cargo, and the Voyage to Shanghai
4. Coming to Terms with the City of Shanghai and Its Inhabitants
5. Westerners in Shanghai: The Chinese Malaise
6. Opium, Christianity, and the Taipings
7. Dealings with the Chinese Authorities
8. Preparing for the Trip Home
9. Subsequent Missions to China in the Late Edo Period
10. The Senzaimaru in Fiction and Film
Conclusion: The Senzaimaru in History
Appendix: Japanese and Chinese Texts
Joshua A. Fogel is Canada Research Chair and Professor of History at York University. He is the author of many books, including Articulating the Sinosphere: Sino-Japanese Relations in Space and Time and Japanese Historiography and the Gold Seal of 57 CE: Relic, Text, Object, Fake. He is also the editor of The Nanjing Massacre in History and Historiography and the online journal Sino-Japanese Studies.
"Fogel’s masterful scholarship provides insight into the historian’s craft as he tracks evidence, openly interrogates documents, and asks questions that may not be directly answerable but can be puzzled out."—Catherine L. Phipps Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review
"Thoroughly researched and engagingly written."—Matthew D. Johnson H-Net
"This informative and incredibly well researched book is a pleasure to read."—Robert Hellyer American Historical Review
"Joshua Fogel is impressively thorough and meticulous in his use of nearly every conceivable Japanese-language source. The result is a fascinating snapshot that illuminates (and sometimes complicates) our understanding of mid-nineteenth-century Japanese-Chinese relations."—Kirk W. Larsen, Brigham Young University

"Although the story of Maiden Voyage is well known in Japan, it is hardly known elsewhere, even to those scholars who have some knowledge of the issues and the period. This volume is well written and informative, with underlying scholarship that is clearly superior."—Richard Rigby, Executive Director, Australian National University China Institute


The Armistice, Shanghai, and the Facilitator

Because of the Tokugawa shogunate's ban on sea travel on pain of execution for over two centuries, by the 1860s Japanese had little training available for building or sailing ocean-worthy vessels. Fishing boats along the coastal waters of the archipelago and along inland rivers were certainly present, but these boats could never sail far on the ocean and their size was restricted. Those that lost their mainsails or were for some other reason castaway from shore were lucky to be picked up at sea by foreign sailors; they, then, often found it difficult or, indeed, impossible to return to Japan because, through no fault of their own, they had violated the ban on sea travel.

When the large party of Japanese sailed aboard the Kanrinmaru to the United States to ratify the United States-Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1860, the accords that had been signed aboard the USS Powhatan in 1858, this was the first time that any Japanese-there were a total of ninety-six Japanese nationals in the shogunal party-had purposefully crossed an ocean. It would still be several years before they would actually navigate the vessel entirely by themselves.

Traveling to and from mainland Asia or to the islands in Southeast Asia was considerably less difficult, though certainly treacherous at times, and indeed Japanese had sailed for commercial, cultural, and religious reasons to China and Korea over the course of many centuries-though not always with navigational success-from at least the first century of the Common Era. They had also traveled to many places in the Philippines, Viêt Nam, Champa, and Cambodia. Those precocious seagoing efforts, however, came to an abrupt end in the middle of the seventeenth century, and by the middle of the nineteenth the Japanese had considerable catch-up to play in the field of navigation.

Although they took to it like gangbusters and had in fact been keen observers of foreign ships and navigational techniques in the years leading up to the opening of ports, when the Japanese government set out on its own in the early 1860s to establish commercial and diplomatic ties with China, they were still not quite ready to go it alone. Within two years' time, though, they would be. And, even when they eventually could sail a ship on the open seas, they remained a fair distance from being able to build one.

Thus, the Japanese government's decision to launch the first mission across a large body of water-cart before horse, one might say-preceded the ability to build or navigate a ship on such a voyage. The Western powers were forcing themselves on Japan, and the shogunate wanted at all cost to avoid the fate already visited on China. Even with limited access to information about the outside world, the principal lesson learned from China's resistance to Western pressure and subsequent losses in fighting and sovereignty was simple: join the club before the members brand you as one of those others. One of the leaders of the Liberal Party, Sugita Teiichi (1851-1929), put it most succinctly after an 1884 visit to China: "Westerners have come [to East Asia], fighting for their interests, each wanting to assert hegemony. We lie within the contested sphere and are wondering if we should be their main course or if we should move forward and join the guests at the table. It is certainly better to sit at the table than to be served as the entrée."a,

Prehistory of the Senzaimaru

Before the Senzaimaru existed as such, there was a British vessel named the Armistice. Lloyd's Register of British and Foreign Shipping for 1856 lists the Armistice for the first time: no. 875, owned by one J. Longton, "destined voyage: Sld. S. Amer." (in other words moving between Sunderland in Great Britain and South America). It had been constructed in 1855 in the shipyard of one R. Wilkinson in the major British shipbuilding center of Sunderland on the northeast coast of England. There is a slightly earlier record of the Armistice in the daily Lloyd's List (now extant solely in hundreds of pages in a handwritten edition on microfiche at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England), a daily accounting of all British ships sighted in ports around the globe. It puts the Armistice at the port of Deal on the English Channel about eighty miles east of London, arrived on July 30, 1855, and set to sail for Montevideo (capital of the then-young country of Uruguay); its master's name is given as "Peace" ("H. Peace" in subsequent editions of Lloyd's Register).

Over the next three years, this information remained fairly stable. It was listed as a barque (also spelled bark), a relatively small, oceangoing, square-rigged vessel with three masts. It weighed 358 tons-sometimes given as 374 tons, but this must represent additional material taken on board-was sheathed with yellow metal and marine metal, and measured 111 feet, 5 inches in length, 25 feet, 5 inches in breadth, and 16 feet in depth.

We glean from Lloyd's List over its first few years that the Armistice's circumstances were slowly beginning to change. As early as 1856 it was sailing not only between Deal and Gravesend (at the mouth of the Thames River east of London) and South America, but to Colombo, capital of Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka) off the coast of India, Table Bay (near Cape Town, South Africa), and the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean; in 1857 it added Cochin (along the west coast of India), and other ports as well. The ship's captain is occasionally given as "Pearse," though this may be a misprint.

From mid-December 1858, when it was at Gravesend, through early November 1859, when it was spotted at Deal and departing for San Francisco, the Armistice simply disappears from the records of Lloyd's List. It may have put in for repairs, or simply evaded notice, though the latter is less likely. In Lloyd's Register for 1859 it was listed as belonging to the port of Liverpool. The change of principal ports from which it operated may have had to do with a change in owners-now a "J. Sullivan." Its "destined voyage" was given as "Lon. C.G.H." (London-Cape of Good Hope), and its master as "H. Peace." For the first time, on November 2, 1859, Lloyd's List gives "Richardson" as the ship's captain, and we learn as well that the Armistice is sailing between Deal and Gravesend in Britain and various ports-San Francisco and Vancouver-on the west coast of North America. Then on November 9, 1859, it is listed in Gravesend as "put back for San Francisco (with damage)." Something significant, though for now lost to history, must have transpired in the commercial plans of the owner and captain of the Armistice, as from this point on, the ship made no further trips to Africa or the Indian subcontinent; through most of 1860, it sailed between London and ports along the west coast of North America: Puget Sound and Port Townsend in Washington state, San Francisco, California, and Victoria in British Columbia, and one trip to Valparaiso along the coast in central Chile.

Again, a major shift with consequences that could not have been foreseen at the time took place with the New Year, 1861. At the very end of 1860, December 15, Lloyd's List notes that the Armistice was in the port of Shanghai where it had been for over two months. This information was also reported in the North-China Herald; it is the first sighting of the ship calling at any East Asian port, but there it would remain for the rest of its life. The newspaper reported in early October that it was under the command of Captain Henry Richardson and was carrying a cargo of "Spars, &ampc.," meaning material made of wood or metal used to support the sails on the vessel, and in late October it gives "Harkort and Co." as its consignees. Lloyd's List makes no mention of it, but the North-China Herald notes that it arrived in Shanghai again on January 9, 1861, coming from Nagasaki (the first mention of a Japanese port, opened to the British in 1859), and that its consignee was now A. R. Tilby.

Throughout the year 1861, the Armistice sailed back and forth between Nagasaki and several Chinese ports: Wusong (five times), Shanghai (six times), and Xiamen (twice). On one of its trips from Nagasaki, arriving in Shanghai on March 8, 1861, the ship's cargo is given as "sundries," as it would be on a number of occasions later in the year. Early in 1862 it arrived again from Nagasaki with a cargo listed as "General," though how this differs from "sundries" is not easily discernible.

The Armistice was not the first vessel in East Asian waters transporting goods between Shanghai and Nagasaki; the North-China Herald lists a number of ships doing it from January 1859 (the very month Japanese ports opened to Western trade), such as the Thetis, the Tung Yu, and the Eastern Star. It was not the first British ship to do so on a regular basis, that honor falling to the 700-ton steamship Azof (occasionally reported as Azoff) of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, which commenced this service on August 31, 1859, and required but a four-day journey each way. Soon thereafter two other P&ampO steamships began the same service: the 812-ton Aden (boasting it could make the trip in three days) and the 816-ton Cadiz.

Captain Richardson sailed the Armistice into this mix of British and other foreign vessels, in addition to the numerous Chinese ships in mainland harbors, in late 1860. The next year, he would sail back and forth countless times, moving quantities of goods from one port to another, and the Armistice continued this hectic pace into early 1862, adding Shantou (Swatow) and Hong Kong to its numerous Chinese ports of call. After its first trip to Shanghai and Nagasaki, and even following its sale to the Japanese, the Armistice never left East Asia.

By 1862, Lloyd's Register gave Henry Richardson as the owner as well as the captain of the Armistice. There were several more sightings of this ship given in Lloyd's List, but these must be mistaken, as the ship would be sold to the Japanese government before midyear. Further inaccuracies emerge in Lloyd's Register, which continues to list the Armistice in all of its editions through 1870. Richardson and his crew surely had little idea how seminal his sale would be historically. Undoubtedly, their primary concern was with how they would get home from Nagasaki once the Armistice was transferred into Japanese hands. The names of the fifteen crew members have disappeared from history-at least, for now-and of Henry Richardson only his name is known, nothing as yet having come to light of his city of birth or residence back in Great Britain. If he had a less common name, his traces might be more easily tracked. He (and his crew) would ultimately make the trip to Shanghai together with his wife aboard the Senzaimaru, as the Armistice was soon renamed, and then promptly vanish into the recesses of time. Even the usually reliable North-China Herald makes no mention of his leaving the city of Shanghai. As noted earlier, in 1862 the Japanese now had a ship but they still lacked anyone with the requisite knowledge or ability to sail an oceangoing vessel; as we shall soon see, they would thus hire Richardson and his crew back to get their party to Shanghai.

Shanghai and the Transformation from Sail to Steam

While all of the above was underway, the nature of regional and interregional commercial shipping was undergoing a fundamental transformation. For centuries ships had sailed largely by wind power, but from the 1850s more and more shipbuilders were switching to steam. Steam required coal, and the longer the voyage over water, the more coal would have to be transported with its other cargo as well as passengers and crew-or acquired en route. For this reason, the transition from wind to steam took place over a protracted period of time, culminating by roughly 1890. Despite the great distance involved, Britain, which dominated transoceanic trade, found its steamship trade with China, after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, greatly enhanced by virtue of the expensive products-tea being the most highly valued of all-that it brought back to the home country. All of this notwithstanding, sail ships continued to exercise extraordinary staying power even after mid-century and the cutting of the Suez Canal.

Thus, despite decades of the presence of the steamship and the greater ease of sailing such a vessel, sail ships remained in full force through the end of the century. The Armistice was not only a pioneer in inter-Asian, Sino-Japanese trade, but it was at the top of its class, even though steamships were gradually becoming ubiquitous everywhere. It was in the middle of this overlapping of technologies (wind and steam) that the Japanese acquired their first oceangoing vessel.

Logic would seem to suggest that even the most up-to-date Japanese in the early 1860s understood little of the intricacies of such navigational matters, and there are no surviving records that the Japanese government officials sought to purchase a steamship but ultimately settled for a sail ship. Expense was, indeed, a priority, but technology does not seem to have played a role. Logic, however, is not a precise science and does not always lead to scientifically accurate conclusions. Charles Alexander Gordon (1820-1899), a surgeon attached to the British military, visited Japan in 1861 during a period of service in China. While in Nagasaki, he reported on the following trip:

Before proceeding to the town, I visited the steam factory on the opposite side of the harbour. Having landed at a well-built pier close to it, from a native boat, I walked, unmolested or uninterrupted by any person, direct into the building. There steam machinery, such as we see in our dock-yards at home, but on a less considerable scale, was in full operation. Japanese workmen, under the superintendence of Dutch overseers, were busily engaged in manufacturing various pieces of mechanism suited to steam-engines and ship architecture. A small steamer, still on the stocks, was under the process of having steam-engines placed in her; and these, I was informed had been all manufactured on the spot. Great, however, as was my surprise at this, it was considerably increased, when I learnt that among the steam-vessels in harbour was one, named the 'Scotland,' if I mistake not, that was manned and worked by Japanese alone.

Among other articles that were being made were axles, cranks, toothed wheels; and as I walked through the factory escorted by one of the overseers, who, by the way, was most civil, he pointed out to me an object which he informed me was the model of a steam boiler which they had begun to forge for a large-sized vessel.

Thus, the Dutch were clearly mentoring the Japanese-who were obviously quick learners-in the construction of the next generation of sea vessels, and such a person would surely have understood the relative priorities of steam and sail for transporting goods across oceans as well as the ins and outs of commercial trade in a place like Shanghai. Shanghai was not only by far the biggest port in the region; it also was home to the greatest volume of trade. Already by 1760 it was the single most valuable port for trade through the Qing dynasty, and was engaging in foreign trade prior to the advent of the nineteenth century. As that century proceeded and ever more Westerners, especially after the Opium War (1839-1842) and resultant Treaty of Nanjing, settled in the city, Shanghai became a magnet for commercial interests domestic and foreign. When the Taipings ravaged nearby cultural centers over the course of the 1850s, many thousands of Chinese fled to the city for the security provided by the foreign powers.

Central to China's long Pacific coastline, Shanghai was thus pivotal in both China's opening outward and Japan's opening to export trade. It was also China's closest port to Japan. Although boasting a long history, the Shanghai garrison (zhen) having been established in 1267 under the Southern Song dynasty, Shanghai county was first created in 1553 by the Ming, and in the mid- to late Ming it was attacked several times by marauding "Japanese" pirates. Trade between Ming-era China and Muromachi-period Japan was active and mutually profitable. It was largely carried aboard Japanese vessels operated by a series of Zen monks, beginning in the early fifteenth century. In time Shanghai became the center of a thriving handicraft industry and trade. In 1685 the new Qing dynasty founded a Customs Office there to collect revenues, and by the early nineteenth century the office of Susong daotai (circuit intendant of Susong) was in place in Shanghai; this official was informally known as the Shanghai daotai. On the eve of our encounter, the population of Shanghai was estimated to be 200,000.

Westerners had also long recognized the rising prominence of Shanghai as a port of trade. The adventurous missionary Karl Gützlaff (1803-1851) made a series of trips to China in the early 1830s, and already by that time, prior to the Opium War and the destruction of the Canton System which had limited all foreign trade to that port city, was profoundly impressed: "It will not be amiss here to remark that Shang-hae ranks after Canton in importance," as many ships could be seen going there. And, shortly after the conclusion of the Treaty of Nanjing ending the Opium War, Robert Fortune (1813-1880) reported that "Shanghae is by far the most important station for foreign trade on the coast of China, and is consequently attracting a large share of public attention . . . . [T]here can be no doubt that in a few years it will not only rival Canton, but become a place of far greater importance."

The famous Russian novelist Ivan Aleksandrovich Goncharov (1812-1891) traveled aboard the Pallada as secretary to Admiral Yevfimii Vasil'evich Putyatin (1803-1883) on his fateful trip in 1853 to Japan. On the way back to Russia, the Pallada stopped over in Shanghai that November, and after some hesitation, Goncharov describes a vibrant scene:

As we came nearer to Shanghai, the river became more lively. Constantly we met junks with their red-brown sails made of wood fiber . . . . Three miles before Shanghai we saw a whole fleet of three-masted merchant ships crowding both shores of the Soosung River. I counted twenty rows of ships, each with nine or ten boats. In various places there stood at anchor American ships, so-called "clipper ships." . . . Over there was Shanghai. Ships and junks, magnificent European buildings, gilded temples, Protestant churches, gardens, all this was crowded together in a hazy mass, without any perspective . . . . Shanghai unquestionably occupies first place in the China trade. The rise in importance of Shanghai stems from its geographical situation.

In short, if the Japanese were to move out into the world, rather than wait for it to come pouring into the home islands, it would have to investigate that outside realm and could not overly rely on foreigners of any stripe. Nonetheless, given all the disadvantages from which they began, they needed whatever advance information they could get their hands on. Someone with political and commercial knowledge and someone also with contacts in Japan was clearly the way to start.

Nagasaki and Shanghai

Relations between Japan and China before the period in question were rarely carried out between Nagasaki and Shanghai. Japanese vessels often left from a port in Kyushu, but they more often sailed to Ningbo or Zhapu. Shanghai was a relative latecomer to receiving ships from Japan, in large part because Shanghai, for all its size and importance domestically, was likewise a relative latecomer to international trade.

The earliest records we have linking Nagasaki with Shanghai are of Japanese castaways. The Treatise on Japan in the Song shi (History of the Song dynasty) mentions seventy-three Japanese who, unlucky victims of a storm at sea, washed up in 1183 (Chunxi 2) in Huating County, Xiuzhou (part of greater Shanghai). They were provided with food and money; then, in 1193 (Shaoxi 4) more Japanese of an unspecified number were blown by untoward winds and were lucky to reach both Taizhou and Huating again. It is unclear from this source, but one may assume that they were returned to Nagasaki.

There were many such incidents over the centuries. Okita Hajime recounts one from 1761 of a group of fourteen Japanese sailors from the Sendai area in north-central Honshū who were shipwrecked in the Pacific and drifted ashore at the mouth of the Yangzi River. They were escorted to Suzhou for investigation. A man in Suzhou by the name of Chen Xiuwen had made the trip to Nagasaki any number of times, understood Japanese, and thus served as the group's interpreter. They were then taken to Shanghai and held for a number of weeks where they became objects of intense curiosity among the local Chinese population. They were surrounded at every turn whenever they went out, making it became impossible for them to walk freely about the city; they left no accounts of their time in Shanghai. After what ultimately amounted to a total of roughly six months, they were repatriated to Nagasaki aboard a Chinese vessel.

Records of castaways or shipwreck victims are more numerous for the nineteenth century, and none of these stories is more famous than that of Otokichi (1818-1867). His peregrinations beginning in 1831 have been detailed elsewhere and need not be repeated here. He and a similarly shipwrecked sibling lived at different times in Shanghai and helped subsequent castaways from Japan. In the late Tokugawa years of the 1850s and 1860s, Chinese businessmen from Shanghai were living in the Hirobaba section of Nagasaki, some for business and some to escape the Taiping Rebellion. The three Nagasaki Commercial Hall merchants, introduced below, who accompanied the Senzaimaru mission consulted with these Chinese on many matters prior to their departure for Shanghai, and several are mentioned by name in the lone account we have from one of these merchants, Matsudaya Hankichi (1832-1880).

With this increasingly proximate prehistory, the Shanghai-Nagasaki bond was solidified by the voyage of the Senzaimaru. Nagasaki had long been the one open port in Japan, and Shanghai was the most desired port in China. Even before there was movement of Japanese to Shanghai, from 1859 British and perhaps American vessels were transporting Japanese goods from Nagasaki to Shanghai, providing a niche market of sorts that was just awaiting Japanese to enter the fray. The linkage would continue into the 1870s with the slow establishment of the first Japanese expatriate community, consulate, and schools abroad. As steamships entered the travel and transport business in the region and ferocious competition for routes ensued, the temporal distance between the two cities continued to shorten.

The Elusive Dutchman

One of the great difficulties in tracing the history of the Senzaimaru is attempting to learn about the man who smoothed the way for the Japanese when they entered the port of Shanghai unannounced (and possibly illegally), but certainly without any of the necessary work prepared in advance. They had found a ready ally in a Dutch businessman and vice-consul in Shanghai by the name of Theodorus Kroes (1822-1889), who had extensive contacts with the Dutch community of Nagasaki. Although the details of his interactions with the Japanese prior to their arrival in Shanghai aboard the Senzaimaru in June 1862 remain largely unknown-no paper trail has as yet been discovered-we do know that he traveled between Nagasaki and Shanghai on a number of occasions prior to the ship's inaugural voyage for the Japanese, and he had extensive contacts and undoubtedly an equally extensive correspondence with colleagues in Nagasaki.

While we will analyze his intermediary role between the Japanese and the Shanghai daotai in a subsequent chapter, let us just say here that he personally vouched for the integrity and honesty of the Japanese in the first meeting with the daotai, although he had only just met them in person shortly before, and we know from recently unearthed documents that he also stood to make a significant amount of money for his services. As he told the Chinese officials: "For over two hundred years, our country has traded with Japan, and the friendship between us has grown profound. On this occasion, I could not prevent the officials here from coming to Shanghai on the merchant vessel of the pertinent country [putatively a Dutch ship] together with the merchants and their produce. They have gone through all the Customs procedures, and as soon as they sell all their goods, I guarantee that they will return home immediately without buying any Chinese goods."b, Who then is this guy Kroes, who emerges virtually out of nowhere in 1862, confirms to the Chinese authorities the Japanese half-truth (at best) that the ship on which they had sailed belonged to the Netherlands, and then plays such a fundamental role in facilitating the first face-to-face official meeting between Chinese and Japanese officials in centuries, leading ultimately to diplomatic relations less than a decade later?

Apparently someone who actively sought to avoid the limelight, Kroes has not made it easy for historians to paint his image in any sort of nuanced way. Efforts to learn of him through the Nationaal Archief (National Archives) in Amsterdam and the Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (Netherlands Trading Company) in The Hague proved completely unproductive. An archivist at the Ministerie van Buitenlanse Zaken (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) confirmed that Kroes did, indeed, serve in the Dutch consulate in Shanghai from 1860 through 1873, but she added: "We can assure you however that we have no archives on [what] you are looking for."

Perhaps all history, like all politics, as we are told, is local. Local archivists in the city of his birth (Dordrecht in the province of Zuid-Holland) and of his death (Echt in the province of Limburg) were able to supply a bit of information but basically only to confirm matters of his birth and death. An archivist from Dordrecht added one tidbit of miscellaneous but interesting information-that Kroes came from a Catholic family- but he remarked further on the dearth of data about our man: "Obviously he hasn't made a big impression on his hometown as there is no other information about him to be found."

Despite these dead ends, the genealogical route proved more promising as a starting point, and the Centraal Bureau voor Genealogie (Central Genealogical Bureau) as well as the Kroes family genealogist, Wil Furrer-Kroes, were extremely helpful. Thus, one can now safely say that Theodorus Kroes was born in Dordrecht on May 17, 1822, to Hermanus (1795-1877) and Joanna Barbara Kroes (née Kicken or Kieken, 1801-1837). Hermanus was a baker by profession (as had been his own father, Dirk or Dirck, 1757-1827, before him) and later a distiller of alcohol. Joanna Barbara died in her mid-thirties, quite young even for the time, and Hermanus never remarried.

No information has as yet been brought to light about Kroes's youth or education. Although he served for some years as the Dutch vice-consul in Shanghai, what brought him to Shanghai does not appear to have been the diplomatic corps. It was frequently the case in the nineteenth century with distant consular postings that the men who served in such posts from Europe and North America were often businessmen living in a given area who functioned as diplomats on the side. Embassies and consulates to this day work overtime to support the commercial interests of their countrymen in the lands in which they reside abroad. In the nineteenth century, it was the same person who often wore two or more hats. Kroes was one such person, able to serve his homeland and himself with no apparent or, at least, perceived conflict of interest.

As the archivist from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported, Kroes served as vice-consul for the Netherlands in Shanghai from 1860 through 1873. Some sources list him as consul, but the fact that his name is missing from a 1998 commemorative volume marking the bicentennial of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs would seem to indicate a position of lesser importance. Shanghai was the base of operation for his own "T. Kroes &amp Co." In Chinese it was known as "Dianqu yanghang," apparently meaning "T. Kroes Company." He was, however, first and foremost the Shanghai representative of the Netherlands Trading Company, serving the ministry in an ancillary capacity. One might well wonder what tasks the consulate would have to perform in Shanghai at a time when the entire Dutch population in the city in the 1860s numbered, at most, two or three dozen (in a still tiny foreign population of 569, among them 295 British citizens [not including twenty-nine "Parsees" and thirty "Mohammedans," both presumably part of the British empire] and 125 Americans, in December 1859), and there were as well a few other state commercial enterprises comparable to the Netherlands Trading Company. Timing was critical for Dutch-East Asian relations. The very year that the Senzaimaru made its historic voyage-in fact, on July 23, 1862, while the Japanese were in Shanghai-witnessed the transfer of responsibility from the Dutch Ministry of Colonies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for relations between the Netherlands and Japan, China, and Siam. Like the Chinese and the Japan, the Dutch, too, were undergoing institutional modernization in international relations at this time, and that seemed to require the presence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, irrespective the miniscule size of its citizens' numbers in Shanghai.

Kroes never gained anything remotely like prominence within the foreign community of Shanghai, in part because he never served on the Shanghai Municipal Council despite his lengthy stay in the city and undoubtedly in part due to his preference, as noted above, for the shadows over the limelight. Before taking up residence in the city, he seems to have made something on the order of a reconnaissance trip to East Asia in 1859. The North-China Herald carried several tiny notices to the effect that he had arrived on March 9 in Shanghai aboard the Formosa, a British steamship, that he arrived once again in Shanghai (from Nagasaki) aboard the Yang-tsze, a US steamer, on May 8, and that he departed Shanghai, again aboard the Formosa, on June 15 headed for Hong Kong and presumably on his way back to Europe.

The nature of this first mission remains unknown-inasmuch he would not start his government work for roughly another year, it may have been both personal and official. Corroborating evidence for the reports in the North-China Herald comes from unpublished letters from Albertus Johannes Bauduin (1829-1890), agent of the Netherlands Trading Company in Nagasaki and, as was to be the case with Kroes in Shanghai, simultaneously soon (from 1863) to become Dutch consul in Nagasaki; most of these letters were addressed to Bauduin's sister in Utrecht. In one such letter, dated April 6, 1859, soon after Bauduin had himself arrived in Nagasaki, he wrote: "Kroes plans to visit me in Japan and he will have to make a shift. He will not get truffles to eat and Burgundy to drink. Water is cheap here, that is something! Bread is quite good, there are chickens, potatoes are rare . . . . I am told that vegetables are available; the time for fruits seems to be over. I met Medical Officer [J. L. C.] Pompe van Meerdervoort [1829-1908], who is here in the service of the Japanese government and he will stay on for a few years."In a letter three weeks later (April 17, 1859), he added: "Our friend Kroes came from Shanghai and returns there."

We have no knowledge of precisely when in 1860 Kroes settled in Shanghai, but from March 9, 1861, two years to the day after he first arrived there, and running every week for thirteen weeks, the North-China Herald ran the following notice on its front page (see also figure 2):



I have this day established myself at Shanghai as

Merchant and General Commission Agent under the style and Firm of

T. KROES &amp CO.


Shanghai, 1st February 1861


Over the course of his thirteen years in Shanghai, Kroes had occasion to post similar announcements in the North-China Herald, and they offer us a small window into his otherwise highly subdued life on the Asian continent. For example, for some six months from December 13, 1862 through May 9, 1863, every issue of the North-China Herald ran the following advertisement:



The Undersigned having been appointed

Agents for the above-named Society,

are prepared to grant INSURANCE on ORDINARY

MARINE RISKS at the usual rates of the Local


T. KROES &amp CO.

Agents in Shanghai

Shanghai, 1st February, 1862

The above notification would appear to indicate that, at least for a brief period of time, Kroes was trying his hand at the insurance business, while continuing his service in the Dutch diplomatic corps and as shipping agent for the Netherlands Trading Company. A similar notice, initially dated April 19, 1862, and running weekly through July 26, announced that, as Dutch vice-consul, Kroes was handling all the affairs concerning the estate of the late H. A. Kramer, undoubtedly a Dutch national, who had passed away with debts outstanding. He was thus wearing at least three hats at the time.

Regardless of what he had done prior to leaving for Asia in 1859, Kroes proved to be a successful businessman, largely as a shipping agent and consignee for a number of Dutch and foreign vessels calling at the port of Shanghai. He appears as well to have made regular trips to Nagasaki with its established Dutch community, though numbering now only some fifty or sixty members in the early 1860s, and he may have kept an office of T. Kroes and Co. there. He was also a bachelor-until early 1863 when, at age forty, he married Adeline Johanna Maria Carolina Heukensveld-Slaghek (1827-1876), five years his junior, in Macao. No hint is forthcoming from the family genealogy as to what a mid-thirties bachelorette was doing in the Portuguese colony outside Hong Kong, though epistolary evidence clarifies this part of the story. There is some suggestion, though inconclusive thus far, that Kroes converted to Protestantism in China, and perhaps this change had something to do with his new wife. She may have been connected to European missionary activity in the area, though this is little more than educated conjecture.

The year before their marriage, A. J. Bauduin wrote his sister (July 10, 1862):

Probably you will know that Miss Adeline Slaghek has married "with the glove" to Mr. N. C. Sieburgh, employed by the company of de Coningh Carst &amp Lels in Nagasaki, and she is probably at this moment close to Shanghai. This lady will receive a very unpleasant message: Mr. Sieburgh died on June 27 of nervous fever. He had asked me to take care of his estate which I have accepted, and it kept me quite busy these days. Yesterday I auctioned his furniture, etc., and the last thing I can do for him is to put a stone on his grave. The poor boy was not yet 35 years old. His wife will come to Kroes, and he shall have an unpleasant task to fulfill.

The expression "married 'with the glove'" is Dutch argot (in use during the pre-World War II era) denoting a proxy wedding, but it remains unclear why, in the wake of her intended's death, she would perforce approach Kroes. Perhaps, because she was apparently to learn of his death upon arrival in Shanghai, Kroes, as vice-consul, would be the one responsible for informing her of the sad news. Be that as it may, they appear to have hit it off rather well, despite the ill tidings conveyed, and this would explain how they would have met. Sieburgh, incidentally, was originally a Dutch naval officer, and his grave-whose stone Bauduin vowed to erect-can still be found in the old cemetery of the international settlement in Nagasaki (as can those of the Bauduin brothers).

From the letters of A. J. Bauduin and his brother, Dr. Antonius Franciscus Bauduin (1829-1885), director of the Nagasaki Hospital and professor of medicine at what would later become Nagasaki University Medical College, we come to learn much more straightforward and harshly frank evidence about this marriage. One letter (dated November 15, 1862) from Albertus Johannes, author of the majority of these unpublished (and unedited) letters, again to his sister back home, reports directly on Kroes's impending nuptials:

Kroes is planning to get married and can you guess to whom? The lady who came East for the late Mr. Sieburgh. According to Toon [their nickname for brother Antonius], she is not at all beautiful and of advanced age; our niece Nans Penn knows her well. Financially she is making a good swap, for Sieburgh did not have much money and our friend Kroes is keeping a carriage, not bad! I imagine this will cost quite a lot of money per month in that terribly expensive Shanghae. I am still walking and Toon keeps a horse.

The marriage lasted just shy of thirteen years, and from the small amount of extant evidence, it appears to have been a happy one. Mrs. Kroes's brother actually went to work for T. Kroes and Co., although that was a less successful endeavor. We have a letter sent from Nagasaki by the Dutch scientist, naval officer, and photographer, Dr. Koenraad Wolter Gratama (1821-1888), dated April 18, 1866, reporting on a visit he made to Shanghai: "I was . . . quartered with Dutch Vice-Consul Kroes, where I stayed until the 12th. Kroes and his wife are likable, warm-hearted people . . . . Although I had never met these people before, I stayed with them for a full week."

The foreign community of Shanghai in these years rarely depicted their experiences in lustrous tones. At best Shanghai was harsh, and at worst-in the blunt words of Lord Oliphant (1829-1888) writing in 1859-it was seen as "the most unhealthy [port] to which are ships are sent, the sickness and mortality being greater here than even on the west coast of Africa." Kroes confided to A. J. Bauduin in a letter of early 1864 that he was planning to leave soon for a trip home to see his aging father, who would not in any event die until 1877; in a letter (dated March 20, 1864), Bauduin reported, amid other local news: "Without a doubt Mrs. Kroes will accompany him to Europe, but if Mr. Kroes will get her back to China so easily is something else. Probably she will be more comfortable in Europe than in China, and Kroes is good enough to yield and leave her behind. I have not had the honor of getting to know Mrs. Kroes, only by reputation." This may tell us more about Bauduin than either Mr. or Mrs. Kroes.

A year later, Albertus Johannes wrote (June 10, 1865) to his sister from Nagasaki that Mrs. Kroes had given birth to a daughter and "her husband is delighted." Her name was Dorine Herminie Eugenie Marie Kroes (d. 1932), born in Shanghai on June 4, less than a week before Bauduin's letter. This would of course indicate that Mrs. Kroes had indeed returned with her husband to China when their visit to the Netherlands was completed. But, as if incapable of sustaining a positive sentiment for more than two sentences, Bauduin, who, like his brother, never married, went on to note: "Ladies from Shanghai are coming regularly to Nagasaki, but I hope that Mrs. Kroes will stay in Shanghai. I cannot lodge ladies with crying children." This is the sort of harsh but brutally honest emotion for which personal letters are an exceptional source. Writing a year later (July 5, 1866), this time while he was visiting China himself, Bauduin noted: "As you will see, I traveled from Yokohama to Shanghai, and since yesterday I have been staying with the Kroes family . . . . Kroes's child is charming, blond with blue eyes, a real Dutch product. Mrs. Kroes and Boss Kroes are doing very well. The brother of the Mrs. is employed by Kroes." In the heat later that summer and just as he had feared the previous year, Bauduin wrote (September 23, 1866) his sister that Mrs. Kroes, together with her fifteen-month-old daughter and an Italian nanny, had been staying with him for eight weeks: "One of these days she will leave. The heat and unhealthy days of Shanghai will soon be over, so everyone is moving back to his own hearth. Kroes's daughter resembles her father in every way, very blond and very light blue eyes."

A letter dated October 19, 1867, relayed a decidedly negative turn of events. Only age forty at the time, Mrs. Kroes's health had taken a sharp turn for the worse after the birth of her second child, and the entire Kroes clan-parents, toddler, infant, and servants-was coming to Nagasaki; one can only imagine Albertus's dismay at the news. After reporting this news to his sister, he added: "Kroes will probably return at once to Shanghai, but how long the wife and children will stay, I do not know. Probably 14 days, as it is gradually getting colder and she will long for Shanghai. I hope she will recover completely." Were his best wishes on behalf of Mrs. Kroes's health motivated by concerns for her well-being or his own selfish comforts? Impossible to say.

Kroes officially remained resident in Shanghai until 1873, the last year for which the Staatsalmanak voor het Koningrijk der Nederlanden (State almanac for the Kingdom of the Netherlands) makes mention of him in the city. He seems, however, to have left Shanghai late the previous year. Bauduin mentioned in a letter sent from Yokohama (December 9, 1872) that "W. M. Van der Tak [agent of the Netherlands Trading Company in Yokohama] received a letter from Kroes from his residence near Lucca in Italy. He will have installed himself there, and I do not believe he will return" to Shanghai. This time, Bauduin was right, and from this time forward Kroes appears to have been living in Segromigno in the Lucca district of Italy. His wife's deteriorating health was clearly the reason for the move, and she passed away on January 24, 1876, in Viareggio in the Lucca region near the west coast of Italy. The last letter that we have from A. J. Bauduin to his sister that mentions the Kroes family, dated March 20, 1874, gives the impression of warmth and sadness:

The brother-in-law of Kroes, E. Slaghek, did not do very well at Shanghai. He could not stop drinking, and he was dismissed from the business . . . , and he has left for Europe, I suppose for Italy. He does not own anything and is too old to start something new or to recover from his drinking. He is a lost man and a problem for his family. Kroes does not seem to be doing very well on his property in Italy. I am sorry for them, for he always worked very hard and he deserved a quiet old age.

Kroes returned to Holland after his wife's death, and on June 2, 1880, he remarried, this time to one Johanna Maria Josephina Mulder (1838-1916) in Venlo, Limburg province. He was fifty-seven at the time, she sixteen years his junior. They lived out their lives there. He died in nearby Echt on May 28, 1889, shortly after his sixty-seventh birthday. The second Mrs. Kroes also passed away in Echt on January 13, 1916.

The Arrival of the Senzaimaru into the Port of Shanghai

All the players outside Japan have now been accounted for. The Armistice is sailing regularly between Nagasaki and Shanghai, the very route our Japanese party of 1862 will be taking. The city of Shanghai is clearly the place to visit if one wants to get a glimpse of the Western world without going all the way to Europe or North America-all the important nations were represented in microcosm-and more specifically to see up close what the world of international trade and diplomacy looked like. And, certain details of the background of the Dutchman who would facilitate the Japanese entry into port (and profit from it nicely) have now been unearthed.

The arrival of the Senzaimaru was something of a surprise for the residents of Shanghai, but the press and public must have gotten wind of it quickly, as the dock was teeming with curious Chinese and the press was ready to cover this extraordinary story immediately-in fact, one reporter sailed out to meet the Senzaimaru and get a scoop. We shall address all of these issues later. Here, we reprint the story carried in the North-China Herald that announced their arrival.

The North-China Herald



Japan at the present time exhibits an interesting spectacle to the commercial world, quite in accordance with this age of progress. The arrival at the port of Shanghai, during the past few days, of a British-built vessel sailing under the Japanese flag is in itself an event worthy of notice. When we learn further that this ship has not only been purchased by the native government, but that she is laden with the produce and manufactures of the country for trading purposes abroad, it throws an entirely new light upon the exclusive national policy of that peculiar people. Hitherto we have been led to understand that the Tycoon and his Yaconins and the Damios who rule with despotic sway over the subjects of the empire, were not only averse to the encouragement of foreign commerce, but held in contempt those who pursued the vocations of merchants and ship-traders. So much was this understood to be the case that the representatives of the Treaty Powers assumed it as a fact which influenced them in drawing up local regulations for the guidance of foreign subjects in their intercourse with government officials. To this day it is a standing charge against Mr. Alcock, late British Minister at Yedo, that he endorsed this opinion-so offensive to upright British merchants-and thereby damaged our commercial status in Japan, by drawing a broad line of demarcation between the enterprising trader and the members of H. M. Legation.

Like many other foregone conclusions, based upon superficial knowledge of superficial institutions by diplomatists and travellers, this is one of the most erroneous, if we may judge a government by its acts. While foreign powers have been exhausting all their diplomatic skill to open up the external trade of the Japanese isles-each nation vieing [sic] with the other for the possession of exclusive privileges-the astute members of the present administration, with the sanction of the Tycoon, have resolved on securing for the government the principal share of the benefits to be obtained by foreign commerce. They have observed the many advantages possessed by foreigners over themselves in trading freely with all parts of the world, in the manufactures and products of their country; and with the keen eyes of money-making people see their way to realizing larger profits on their wares than they now obtain.

Imbued with this cosmopolitan spirit of free trade, the Japanese Government has made a first venture in purchasing and loading on their own account, the ship in question. She is a first-class British-built barque of 358 tons register, known on Lloyd's list as the Armistice, and was the property of her late commander, Captain Richardson. Her timbers and spars are of the best material, and the cabin, fittings, and general appointments are unusually neat and uncommon for her size, while a better selection could not have been made for trading purposes, as she carries double her registered tonnage. For nearly two years this vessel has been trading between Nagasaki and Shanghai with marked success; and as Captain Richardson has made considerable acquaintance among the Japanese officials he had many visits from time to time, when they always expressed admiration of his ship. For nearly the last twelve months, overtures have been made and questions asked as to the sale of the vessel; and they have calculated the profits she made by referring to their Customs books after each voyage. Having made up their minds to purchase, they proceeded in the most cautious and business-like manner to ascertain the price. Then the governor of Nagasaki came on board, and after due consideration agreed to buy her in the name of the Japanese government for $34,000. This was agreed to before her last trip under British colours, and she was delivered over and paid for on her return voyage. When the transaction was concluded, the foreign residents at Nagasaki were all on the qui vive to know what the government were going to do with the ship. They were not kept long in suspense, for the authorities commenced loading her immediately with coals and the usual produce of the country, such as seaweed, isinglass, Japan ware, and a variety of commodities suitable for the Chinese market-about 600 tons in all. During this time several high officers of the government came down from Yedo to visit the ship and report to the Tycoon. One official of high rank was appointed to superintend the experiment, and proceed with eight others of lesser rank in the vessel to Shanghai. She was then named the Sen-zai-maroo, signifying "To last a thousand years," and the Japanese colours were hoisted at her peak where the British ensign had previously fluttered in the breeze. On the 27th May she set sail, with fifty other Japanese passengers, consisting of inferior officials, followers and servants; also some native seamen and a naval officer to make nautical observations and receive instructions as to the management of the ship. When the governor of Nagasaki purchased the vessel from Captain Richardson he made it a sine qua non that he should remain in command for the first trip, and with his own crew conduct their first trading expedition to China; so that experienced ship-master was the first British subject commanding a Japanese ship and sailing under that flag. After a good passage of four days she arrived safely at the port of Shanghai where her presence, and that of her freight and passengers, has created much interest.

Mr. Medhurst, H. B. M. Consul, paid an official visit to these "strangers from a strange land," on board the Sen-zai-maroo, when they received him with every mark of respect. The interview was long, and the conversation which took place was most interesting. The Japanese made numerous enquiries concerning the trade of Shanghai, based upon statistical information. They asked concerning the Customs revenue of the port, and why it was that foreigners were employed in collecting the same; also the value of land in the Settlement, and wished to know if they could purchase any-to all of which Mr. Medhurst gave them the fullest information, and invited them to wait on him if they wished to make further inquiries for similar purposes. In return, he informed them that as he would have to report their arrival in Shanghai and his visit to them to the British Minister-plenipotentiary at Pekin, he wished to know whether they came with a view to ascertain the effects of a trading speculation or for political objects. They assured him that it was solely with commercial views that they had come, and it was probable that some of them might remain in Shanghai, and send the vessel back for a second cargo.

Such are the chief points that have as yet reached us concerning this spontaneous mercantile venture of the Japanese government, which is so opposed to our former knowledge of that exclusive despotism and their traditional policy that the whole matter would seem a piece of romance but for the reality before us. To trace out the effects of this unexpected movement is a matter for grave consideration, and we shall return to the subject as we observe any fresh feature in the development of this new tree of commerce from Japan, which has just been planted by the Sen-zai-maroo.

Having devoted this chapter primarily to the Chinese side of the East China Sea, we now turn our attention toward Japan.

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