Historical New Hampshire, Volume 70, No. 1, Spring 2017


In the issue's first article, entitled "Encounter at Vung Lam: New Hampshire Businessman Edmund Roberts and America's First Diplomatic Negotiation with an Asian Country," Toby Finnegan explores the career of Portsmouth's Edmund Roberts, the first American diplomat sent to Vietnam. Finnegan's previous Historical New Hampshire article, published in the Summer 2012 issue, was about the 1806 capture of Roberts's ship Victory by the French. This time Finnegan writes about Roberts's life in Portsmouth, South America, and London, and his ground-breaking American diplomatic mission to Asia in 1833. Roberts, upon the advice of Secretary of the Navy Levi Woodbury, was sent by President Andrew Jackson to Cochinchina (Vietnam), Siam (Thailand), and Muscat (Oman) to establish commercial treaties intended to protect American shippers and sailors trading there. Traveling incognito as the "captain's clerk" on the Peacock, lest America's commercial competitors gain an advantage, Roberts departed Boston in 1832. In Vietnam, he met with a strictly hierarchical government structure that bogged down his mission in navigating diplomatic niceties rather than the trade agreements he came to discuss. When challenged by Vietnamese officials to produce a suitably impressive array of titles to bolster his authority to represent America, Roberts reiterated his strong ties to New Hampshire with a list of "titles" that is sure to bring a smile to every Granite Stater's face. He met with a less frustrating and more fruitful experience in Siam and Muscat, opening a path for American merchants in southeast Asia.

By contrast, the second article takes place entirely in New Hampshire and details a contribution of arguably the greatest philanthropist in American history, Andrew Carnegie. In "'A Plain, Dignified Building': Negotiating for an Academic Carnegie Library in Durham," Susan J. Siggelakis, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, outlines the delicate negotiations involved in the construction of the college's Hamilton Smith Library. William Gibbs, president of what was at the time called the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts in Durham, assembled an unusual coalition to ensure the library got built with practically no college funds, combining Carnegie's benevolence with two Durham library organizations to construct a new library building on campus that served both the college and the town. Such a feat required perseverance, tact, and creativity.

Editor: Robert W. Bermudes Jr.
Managing Editor: Elizabeth Dubrulle
Illustrations Coordinator: Joan E. Desmarais

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