Aaron Haight Palmer's Memorial, 1855
A Request for Compensation

Palmer, Aaron Haight:
Memorial of Aaron Haight Palmer Praying Compensation for services, in collecting valuable information and statistics in relation to the geography, productive resources, trade commerce &c., of the independent oriental nations, January 18, 1855, ordered to be printed Feb 1, 1855. Senate, Mis. Doc. No. 10, 33d Congress, 2d Session, large 12mo (5 3/4 x 9 in), pages 1-23, 23 pp.

This is Aaron Haight Palmer's formal petition to the Senate for compensation for his efforts in expanding US trade and commerce in the "oriental nations" between 1846 and the Perry Expedition. In this request for compensation, Palmer references the many occasions he proposed plans for the opening of Japan or conducted activities towards that goal. These included:

1. Between February 24, 1842 and September 12, 1853, "...addressed a series of letters and communications on the subject of US/Japanese commerce to the governor of Nagasaki and certain high functionaries at the court of Yedo." (p 5)

2. "Early 1847" completed a series of paper containing geographical descriptions of many countries. One paper dealt with "Empire of Japan proper, colonial dependencies, the Lew Chew group, Meiacosimas, Kurile islands and American intercourse with Japan. The papers were published in the National Intelligencer in April of 1847 at the direction of the Secretary of State, John M. Clayton. Palmer notes that he had 1500 copies of these papers printed and distributed in pamphlet form.

3. Letter of January 10, 1848 to President Polk. This letter gave geographical, political and commercial information on several countries including the Russian and Japanese Kuriles. In this letter Palmer also advocated a ship canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

4. "Plan for Opening Japan," September 17, 1849, submitted to Secretary Clayton. Extracts of this letter are provided (Appendix A) in this document. In the letter Palmer noted the success of the Glynn mission to Japan. He urged a commissioner be dispatched to Japan, with the whole US squadron in the China Seas, and submit an "ultimatum" demanding, proper treatment of shipwrecked seaman and reparations for past mistreatment, proper treatment of American vessels "compelled by stress" to put into Japanese ports, establishing US consuls and commercial representatives in certain (not named) ports for American commerce, the right to establish American coaling stations in Japan and all these be incorporated in a treaty or convention. In the event the Japanese did not submit to the "ultimatum," Palmer urged a strict blockade of bay of Yedo. It is interesting to note that Palmer does not mention his earlier letter (April 14, 1849) to Secretary Palmer where he dealt with opening Japan to US commerce. Information on that document is posted here.

5. Between 1849 and 1852, Commodore Perry had several interviews with Palmer regarding the Japan Expedition.

Showing little modesty, Palmer viewed the importance of his contribution in these terms:

....It is conclusively shown by the before mentioned several documents that the expedition and mission were projected and completed in conformity with the leading views, suggestions and recommendations submitted by your memorialist in said documents to our government. (p 4)

Appendices to this document:

Appendix A. Plan for opening Japan, submitted to the government of the United States by Aaron Haight Palmer, Counsellor, Supreme Court of the United States, in a letter to Hon. John M. Clayton. Secretary of State, Washington, September 17, 1849. (pages 6-18)

Appendix B. Extracts from a letter of Mr. Palmer to President Fillmore, soliciting his attention to the plan submitted by him to Secretary Clayton, for opening American commerce with Japan. Original endorsed "Referred to Secretary of State. M.F. January 6, 1851." Washington, January 6, 1851. (pages 18-20)

Appendix C. Treaty between the Unites States of American and the empire of Japan, done at Kanagawa, the thirty first day of March, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ eighteen hundred and fifty-four, and of Kayei the seventh year, third month and third day. (pages 22-3)

Appendix D. In Senate of United States, Thursday, April 25, 1860. A letter from the Secretary of state dated April 23, 1850 concerning the imprisonment and mistreatment in Japan of the shipwrecked American sailors. This letter also transmitted to congress reports prepared by Palmer. (pages 20-21)


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