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The William Elliot Griffis Collection

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011


The William Elliot Griffis Collection in the Rutgers University Library, New Brunswick, New Jersey, embraces material on Japan, Korea, and China. It is contained in twenty-nine legal-size manuscript file cases: twenty relate to Japan; four to Korea; three to China; and one contains miscellaneous data. The collection is now in shelf order and the following is a summary of the arrangement of the Griffis papers.

Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1960

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1 Also of interest, in the Special Collections Department of the Rutgers University Library, are the folders on the Class of 1869 containing biographical data on Griffis; and, in Rutgersensia, a rather complete set of works published by Griffis.

2 Hereinafter location of materials is listed by roman numeral (indicating the file box) and Arabic numeral (indicating the folder), both in the card index and in the shelf arrangement of the Griffis Collection. Mr. Frederick Weldon, by means of a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies, made the first reconnaissance of the collection before World War II. The authors of this note owe him and the Council a debt of gratitude.

3 This essay deals with the Japanese hīstorīan Rai Sanyo (1780–1832).

4 Dr. Griffis always believed that President Fillmore was instrumental in opening Japan and helping start the modernization process. “To Millard Fillmore belongs equal honors with Matthew Perry, for the success of the Japanese Expedition. The President was really responsible for Perry's success.” Millard Fillmore and His Part in the Opening of Japan, a 33-page reprint of an address before the Buffalo Historical Society, 1905 (VIII–3).

5 Once again the interested scholar must be cautioned to watch out for overlapping categories of data. Among the papers of E. Warren Clark, for example, is a photograph album in which appear pictures of Clark's home and the mission school in Shidzuoka (Shizuoka) in 1871; in this same album are several fine photographs of the lay-out of the castle in Shizuoka at that time.

6 Later William Elliot Griffis published Verbeck of Japan; A Citizen of No Country, New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1900; for his work on Hepburn, see note 7.Google Scholar

7 Dr. James Hepburn, author of the now-famous system of romanization, sent word through a third party that he would “not have his letters, referred to in our recent correspondence, placed at your disposal.” In this particular case Griffis eventually won out by virtue of longevity. When Hepburn died, his son permitted the use of his father's materials and consequently Griffis wrote Hepburn of Japan and His Wife and Helpmates, A Life Story of Toil for Christ, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1913. Here are an additional half dozen samples which will illustrate the quality of the material on yatoi: (1) a 37-page hand-written booklet describing the life of Eugene Van Reed in Japan from 1859 to 1873; (2) M. M. Scott's reply claiming that he had set up the model normal school, after which all subsequent normal schools in the Empire were patterned (he was in Japan from 1871 to 1881); (3) the Rev. John Higgins claimed, in an autobiographical letter, that he was the first Protestant missionary to arrive and begin work in Japan; (4) John A. Waddell's reply describing his activity as an engineer and teacher of engineering in Tokyo in 1882; (5) J. Morris' account of his work in Japan from 1871 on, in the construction of telegraph lines and making Japan independent in the manufacturing of telegraph equipment; (6) the Rev. Edward Comb's translated contract, in which working conditions and salary were spelled out (1870).

8 The Brunton manuscript was used and cited by Borton, Hugh, Japan's Modern Century, New York: Ronald Press, 1955, p. 91, n. 6.Google Scholar

9 “The Rutgers Graduates in Japan; An Address Delivered in Kirkpatrick Chapel, Rutgers College, June 16, 1885, By William Elliot Griffis,” revised and republished at the 150th Anniversary of the College, New Brunswick: 1916, 29, 32 pp. (VIII–I).

10 At first dedicated to the side of the Japanese Government in the issue over treaty revision, Griffis wrote numerous articles praising the quality of justice in Japan and denouncing the limitations of the unequal treaties. Suddenly, in late 1887, the notorious Peace Preservation Laws began to harass some of the liberals who had been in contact with American missionaries. Whereupon, the outraged Dr. Griffis vigorously (and anonymously) began to denounce the Japanese Government for its quality of justice. Members of America's first “Japan Lobby” eventually began to suspect who had written these attacks, but some never did find out the author. Burks, Ardath W., “‘Coercion in Japan’: A Historical Footnote,” The Journal of the Rutgers University Library, Vol. XV, No. 2 (June 1952).Google Scholar

11 In this note we have chosen to annotate only this one aspect of the materials. For a fuller treatment of the Korean holdings, see Ardath W. Burks and Jerome Cooperman, “Dr. William Elliot Griffis (1843–1928) and ‘The Hermit Nation’,” soon to be published in The Journal of Asiatic Studies, Seoul: Korean University, Asiatic Research Center.

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