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Alcmene

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The Alcmene was a French ship which called at Naha harbor in 1844, seeking trade negotiations and to establish missionary activity in the islands.

Captained by Benigne Eugene Fornier-Duplan and part of the French Oriental Fleet, the Alcmene arrived at Naha on 28 April, 1844. Captain Fornier-Duplan extended an official request for the establishment of formal diplomatic and trade relations, but was ultimately rejected.

As with other Western ships which called at Ryûkyû in this period, the crew were provided with food, water, and other provisions, but Ryûkyû officials, with Makishi Chôchû as lead interpreter, rejected the notion of trade negotiations, arguing that their kingdom was small, poor, and reliant upon both China and Japan, and therefore in no position to expand its overseas trade. The French were, for some reason, permitted to drop off a missionary, Theodore Augustin Forcade, and his Chinese interpreter Augustine Ho, and left promising to return to press the issue further. They may have intended that Forcade or Ho could learn enough of the local language to help facilitate negotiations by the time the next French ship arrived.

Forcade remained in the islands for two years, residing at the Buddhist temple Seigen-ji. He had originally represented himself as merely an interpreter, and when his missionary proclivities became evident, it stirred up considerable difficulties and concerns for the royal government. Forcade eventually departed the kingdom aboard the Sabine in 1846.

References

  • Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 152.
  • Marco Tinello, "The termination of the Ryukyuan embassies to Edo : an investigation of the bakumatsu period through the lens of a tripartite power relationship and its world," PhD thesis, Università Ca' Foscari Venezia (2014), 127-128.
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