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Townsend Harris

HARRIS, Townsend, merchant, born in Sandy Hill, Washington County, New York, 5 October, 1808; died in New York city, 25 February, 1878. At the age of fourteen he came to New York, entered a drug-store as clerk, and by perseverance and industry rose to be partner in a large importing and jobbing house. With slight opportunities of early education, he became a man of culture, with a warm interest in popular education. He was made school trustee of the 9th ward, and later a member and then president of the board of education. Despite long opposition, he succeeded in establishing the Free academy, now the College of the city of New York. He was also one of the founders of the Society for the prevention of cruelty to animals and of the Central park museum of natural history. In 1848 he planned and carried out a voyage in the South Pacific, meeting with many strange experiences among the islanders and cannibals. He was United States consul at Ningpo in 1854. In 1856 made a new treaty for the United States with Siam, and, oh the opening of Japan by Coin. Matthew C. Perry, was selected as a fit person to follow up the work that had been begun by American diplomacy. He lived nearly two years at Kakisaki, near Shimoda, and went to Yedo to press his claims. His interpreter, Mr. Heusken, was assassinated in the street in daylight, but, with imperturbable faith in the Japanese, Mr. Harris remained in Yedo when the other diplomatists had removed, and secured in 1858 the first treaty of trade and commerce, and on 1 January, 1859, the opening of three ports to foreign residents. He resigned his post on the change of administration, and resided in New York until his death.

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