John Tyler: Letters to the Land of the Rising Sun

John Tyler suffered from the same view as Europe that the non European world was the white man's burden. In fairness to him, his ignorance of Asian and African cultures continued will into the 20th century in America, but we still have to shake our head at some of the things he said.

In a letter to the Emperor of China, which was at the time, one of the most powerful and richest countries in the world, Tyler sounds as though he's talking to some tribe of hunter gatherers that have no written language.

Here's a piece of his letter that was featured in Edward Crapol's biography:

"China is a great empire, extending over a great part of the world. You have millions and millions of subjects. The twenty-six United States are as large as China (?), though our people are not so numerous. The rising sun looks over the great mountains and great rivers of China. When he sets, he looks upon rivers and mountains equally large in the United States."

This sounds like Jackson's letter to the Seminole Indians explaining that they need to join their great brothers west of the Mississippi where the Great Creator wants them to live in peace and abundance.

Maybe any president around Tyler's time would have had the same stereotypes about the Chinese being little more than barbarians, but it's just striking that this letter was actually an official correspondence.

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