Episode 012: Dane Morrison, True Yankees: The South Seas & the Discovery of American Identity

True Yankees

Did you know that Americans undertook their first trade mission to China in February 1784?

A mercantile partnership led by Robert Morris sent the Empress of China, a 360-ton ship to Canton, China one month and eight days after the Congress of the United States ratified the Treaty of Paris, 1783.

Why did these merchants look so far east to secure a profitable trade?

And why did they attempt such a venture not long after the United States secured its independence from Great Britain?

Dane Morrison, Professor of History at Salem State University and author of True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity helps us discover the answers to these questions and more as he leads us on an exploration of the early American trade with China.


About the Show

Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.

It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.

Each episode features a conversation with an historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.

Episode Summary

MorrisonIn this episode, Dane Morrison, professor of history at Salem State University and author of True Yankees: The South Seas and the Discovery of American Identity takes us on an adventure to the South Seas.

Dane helps us explore the early American trade with China.

He reveals why early American merchants tried to secure a profitable trade at so great a distance from the United States, the logistics involved to undertake a 6-month, one-way voyage from the United States to China, and how the Hong merchants of China received the early American traders who entered their ports.

Dane also shares the how the legacy of this early trade continues to impact the present-day trade between China and the United States.


What You’ll Discover

  • How Dane developed his interest in early American voyages to China
  • An overview of the early history of Salem, Massachusetts
  • Why Robert Morris and his partners chose to fund a voyage to China in 1784, less than 6 months after the definitive peace with Great Britain
  • More about the pamphlet that prompted Great Britain to take a retributive stance against the United States and its trade after the War for Independence
  • Who John Ledyard was and how he influenced Americans to seek a trade with East Asia
  • The logistics for a late 18th-century sea voyage to China
  • What types of trade goods early Americans brought to China for exchange
  • The ports of call for early American voyagers to the Far East
  • The length of a sea voyage from the United States to China
  • What happened when the Americans arrived in Macao in 1784
  • How the population of late 18th-century China compared with the urban centers of the early United States
  • How the Hong merchants of Canton received American merchants
  • How Chinese and American merchants overcame their language barrier
  • Early American goals for the China trade
  • How early Americans used the China trade to learn more about themselves as Americans
  • What elements of the “Old China” trade persist and carry over into the present-day United States-China trade
  • The contributions of the first generation of American traders with China


Links to People, Places, and Publications


Time Warp Question

  • What might have happened if Robert Morris had not found the funding to send the Empress of China to Asia in 1784?
  • Would the United States have still forged the distant trade relationships with China in the late 1700s?
  • Would the later founding of the trade have effected the development of American identity and if so, how?


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