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Edward W. Kinsley Correspondence

An inventory of his correspondence at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Kinsley, Edward W. (Edward Wilkinson), b. 1829.
Title: Edward W. Kinsley Correspondence
Inclusive Dates: 1872-1881
Quantity: 15 items (SC)
Abstract: Papers of the Boston businessman and abolitionist. Incoming letters to Kinsley from Charles Wolcott Brooks, Arinori Mori, and Henry Ward Beecher. Letters from Brooks were written while he was travelling with Japanese diplomats in Europe, the Middle East, China, and Japan, 1872-1873.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Edward Wilkinson Kinsley (b. 1829) was an American businessman and abolitionist during the 19th century.

Kinsley was born in Nashua, New Hampshire on December 24, 1829 to abolitionist parents. His family moved to Springfield, Massachusetts when Kinsley was a young boy and by the age of 16 Kinsley had moved himself to Boston. Kinsley shared in his parent's cause, taking interest in salaries for Afro-American troops in the Union Army and promoting civilian assistance to freed slaves. He worked as an importer for the firm Horswell, Kinsley, and French in Boston, Massachusetts.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Edward W. Kinsley Correspondence is a group of 15 incoming letters written between 1872 and 1881 to a Boston businessman. The correspondence features a number of letters from Kinsley's nephew, American diplomat Charles Wolcott Brooks, and a complementary series of letters from Arinori Mori, a member of the Japanese Legation in Washington, D.C. The collection also includes an interesting letter from Henry Ward Beecher in reply to Kinsley's complaint regarding his subscription to the Christian Union.

The Brooks letters, originating from London, Paris, the Suez, Ceylon, and Japan, reflect the American diplomat's experiences as he accompanied a Japanese delegation of ambassadors on a European tour, the object of which was to assess the economic and social impact of Westernization on the geographically and culturally isolated countries of the Far East. Arriving in London following an Atlantic voyage aboard the "Olympus," Brooks writes of the "economical" treatment of ambassadors to England (31 Aug 1872):

Such a style is thoroughly English; they delight in obsequious bows, and senseless display of phlunkey-ism, which costs nothing but are always very chary of expending a single penny of ready money.
The Japanese continually are forced to draw very strong lines of contrast between their cold formal reception in England, where everything is apparently a stern-precise-duty, without heart in it - and the genial warmth of their truly hearty reception everywhere in America.
We shall undoubtedly receive far greater attention on the Continent than in England, where they seem to be doing us an everlasting favor to permit us to see their country, and allow us to come here at all.

Yet if the British character in general suffered under Brooks' assessment, individual Englishmen fared much better (13 Apr 1873):

Yesterday I called with Mr. Mori upon Professor Huxley whose learning is so widely renowned, and received from him a most warm reception. We found him as one might expect from his writings, clear and intelligent, filling his sentences in conversation with the rich knowledge of a well-stored and thoughtful mind.

Writing of the diplomatic party's visits to various British personages and the expectations of the Japanese delegation, Brooks explains:

We have been engaged in making enquiries of the leading minds and most profound scholars in scientific and political economy, regarding the effects likely to follow the rapid changes now developing in Japan and have solicited their views and advice in regard to a future policy for the Government on many points likely to arise.
Mr. Mori upon his return to Japan, may say to his Government that the opinions he advances, and the measures he urges for acceptance, have been submitted to, and approved by the leading scholars in European political economy, and their result for good, may fairly be expected in the East, for like results have in all past history, been reached through similar action.

An opinionated observer, Brooks writes from the Suez (27 July 1873):

Any civilization which could have existed here, must necessarily have been of what we call "a very low order." - Wherever it went from here, if it changed, it must have improved. The climate and sandy wastes do not possibly admit of any high development in physical or mental qualities...Hell can offer but few terrors to inhabitants of such a country, at this season.

And in a subsequent letter (09 Aug 1873), Brooks marvels about Arabia, wondering how such a place

...could have had anything good come out of it. If the human race started from that district, they had a mighty poor start, and I do not wonder, that as they grew wise they left it.

Contrasting the Middle East to the lushness of Ceylon, Brooks muses: "Here Buddha, the renowned prophet of Asia, found a lovely birthplace, and I can readily imagine how elevated ideas could be engendered here." In the same letter, with a sudden burst of ethnic pride, Brooks expounds:

...the more I see of the world, and I have seen it pretty thoroughly, the more I become attached to the glorious Anglo-Saxon race, who are ever in the front of true civilization founded on a permanent morality.

Further refining his enthusiasm with a nationalist outburst tempered by regional bias, Brooks declares:

Thank God I was born an American in good old New England. Who can receive a nobler birthright, or a greater blessing?

Arriving in Japan to a ceremonial welcome in Nagasaki, Brooks became a typical foreign tourist, despite being one of the first Westerners to view the landscape, customs, and architecture of that ancient culture. Of the Imperial Castle at Osaka, Brooks observes with awe (22 Sep 1873):

Ancient Japanese work was colossal. A nation who could erect such castles could accomplish any engineering work the world ever knew.

And of Japanese hospitality, Brooks notes: "...I have had dinner and lunch parties daily, and now I desire a little rest."

Responding to disturbing news concerning an American financial crisis, Brooks writes (02 Nov 1873): "I truly hope you have all escaped disaster by the terrible financial Crash among the stock gamblers of Wall St. Such things are bad for American reputation abroad, and the English repeat the reports sneeringly." In an enclosure to the same letter which he hoped would find its way into print, Brooks observes the pitfalls facing the newly-formed Japanese government:

A foreign war, would so weaken Japan at present, as to allow her to become an easy prey in the hands of England, who looking upon her as the key to the Orient on the Pacific, would hazard much to possess her. It is surmised, that England, would smile complacently at a foreign war, waged by Japan, to open Corea, and would stand ready to bag every chestnut as fast as Oriental cats' paws could snatch them from the flaming embers of such a war.
There are many British subjects here, who would gladly see Japan rush blindly ahead, and by thus weakening herself fall an early prey to their country's love of conquest.

Thus the Brooks letters offer not only a 19th century American traveller's view of Europe and the Far East, but also an insight into the political and economic prospects for Japan as it emerges from isolation to join the industrialized nations of the world.

Complementing the Brooks letters are five items from Japanese diplomat Arinori Mori, a frequent visitor to Kinsley's Boston home. Shortly before his departure for Japan, Mori writes (10 Oct 1872):

To leave this country is in itself sad and painful to one who regards it as his bosom friend. It is more so in my case for I have to go from light into darkness where I shall likely be found as a stranger until the human principles I hold shall better be known there.

On his way home via Europe, Mori expresses a more charitable view of the British character than that of his travelling companion Brooks (16 May 2533):

The pleasure I enjoy the highest among many of different characters is that of meeting some leading minds such as Huxley, Spencer, Max Muller, Carlyle and the like; and also that of breathing in the John Bull-atmosphere.

And expressing his optimism about his sojourn and the future of his country, Mori notes:

...the best kind of fortune I have found for myself by coming over to Europe on my way home is that of my being more strongly convinced of the importance of now preparing the way for Japan, so that she may readily learn how solidly and steadily to advance her steps in the path of progress.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection contains one series, Correspondence, which is arranged alphabetically by sender.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Subject Headings


Beecher, Henry Ward, 1813-1887.
Brooks, Charles Wolcott.
Kinsley, Edward W. (Edward Wilkinson), b. 1829.
Mori, Arinori.


Diplomatic and consular service, American.
Japan -- Civilization -- American influences.
Japan -- Civilization -- European influences.
Japan -- Description and travel -- 1801-1900.
Japan -- Economic conditions -- 1868-1918.
Japan -- Foreign relations -- 1868-1912.
Japan -- Foreign relations -- United States.
Japan -- History -- 1868-1912.
United States -- Diplomats -- 19th century.
United States -- Foreign relations -- Japan.

Genres and Forms


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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Edward W. Kinsley Correspondence
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Finding Aid Information

Created by: KM
Date: Dec 1988
Revision history: 21 Nov 2008 - converted to EAD (LDC)

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SC 70 Beecher, Henry Ward 1872 (1 letter)
SC 70 Brooks, Charles Wolcott 1872-1873 (7 letters; 1 enclosure)
SC 70 Drayton, J. Spencer 1878 (1 letter)
SC 70 Mori, Arinori 1872-1873, 1881 (5 letters)
SC 70 Tomita, T. 1875 (1 letter)

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