Letter send from a young petty officer assuring his brother that he was going not going to renege on his commitment to work for the Purser of Commodore Perry’s flagship, the USS Mississippi, on its voyage to Japan to force the Shogunate to open the country to foreign trade and allow the resupply of American whaling vessels. B. Roberts to J. Edwin Roberts.
Letter send from a young petty officer assuring his brother that he was going not going to renege on his commitment to work for the Purser of Commodore Perry’s flagship, the USS Mississippi, on its voyage to Japan to force the Shogunate to open the country to foreign trade and allow the resupply of American whaling vessels
Letter send from a young petty officer assuring his brother that he was going not going to renege on his commitment to work for the Purser of Commodore Perry’s flagship, the USS Mississippi, on its voyage to Japan to force the Shogunate to open the country to foreign trade and allow the resupply of American whaling vessels

Letter send from a young petty officer assuring his brother that he was going not going to renege on his commitment to work for the Purser of Commodore Perry’s flagship, the USS Mississippi, on its voyage to Japan to force the Shogunate to open the country to foreign trade and allow the resupply of American whaling vessels

New York Navy Yard to Church Hill, Maryland: 1852. Envelope or Cover. This stampless letter is dated “Navy Yard . New York / May 10. 1852”, franked with a strip of three 1-cent Franklin stamps (Scott #7, Type II - no balls on the bottom scrolls), and cancelled with New York postmarks dated May 11.

In this response to a query from his brother that undoubtedly questioned the wisdom of going on a potentially dangerous voyage, Roberts answered:

“I am well satisfied with your good intentions but I have made up my mind to make this cruise any how. . ..I have been doing business for two months for Purser William Speiden, and I find him to be a gentleman and a man who knows his business, and a man who understands his business is a man that pleases me. The Mississippi will go into Commission tomorrow, but it is not known yet when she will proceed on her cruise. . .. When this cruise shall end, if I live, I will endeavor to remain on shore.”. Very good. Item #009579

There was a reason for Robert’s melodramatic “if I live” statement. During the Bakumatsu (the final days of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate was dying), it was dangerous for foreign vessels to enter Japanese harbors. Foreign ships were routinely refused entrance and in some instances—as in the case of the an unarmed American merchant vessel—attacked for coming close, and Perry’s expedition was specifically charged by Secretary of State Daniel Webster to use force if necessary to open Japanese harbors to commercial trade, even if only for the resupply of coal for American ships cruising in the Pacific.

The day this letter was mailed, the Mississippi was sent to Boston to tow the disabled USS Princeton to Baltimore for repair. Then before she could embark on her voyage to Japan, Commodore Perry was first ordered to investigate reports of British harassment of American fishing vessels in the North Atlantic. Upon her return, the Mississippi anchored off the Annapolis, Maryland until, with Perry on board—she led the eight-ship task force around the Cape of Good Hope and onto Japan.

William Speiden was considered to be one of the best pursers in the Navy, and for this voyage, he managed to get his son, William Speiden Jr., assigned to the ship as his primary assistant. This nespotic appoint was historically fortunate, as William Jr. maintained one of the most complete, detailed, and well-illustrated log of any maritime voyage. His original two-volume journal is maintained at the Library of Congress, and abridged versions are still in print today.

An important letter expressing the concerned confidence of a young seaman about to embark as a crewmember on one of the world’s most famous voyages. Made all the more interesting by the use of strip of three scarce stamps for postage.

Price: $750.00