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King Edward's Letter

In the year 1533 an organization in England known as a "Company of Merchant Adventurers" sent out a small fleet of 3 ships to explore the area north of Scandinavia and attempt to reach "Cathay", or China, by finding a "Northeast Passage". The idea was not conquest, but to establish trade. The Captain General of this expedition was Sir Hugh Willoughby. Richard Chancellor was his second in command. Willoughby's ship was destined to be separated from the other and tossed by a storm into a bay on Nokujeff Island where he and his entire crew died of starvation and then froze to death over the winter.

Meanwhile Chancellor, aboard the Bonaventure, crawled his way around Scandinavia and found the mouth of the Dvina River on August 24 of 1553. This was Russian land. The English knew little or nothing of Russia and were amazed by the place. They were taken over 1000 miles inland to meet with Tsar Ivan IV. It was here that they delivered a remarkable letter from Edward VI, probably written by one of his ministers, that was addressed to any potentate that the expedition should run across. The letter read in part:

The God of heaven and earth greatly providing for mankinde, would not that all things should be found in one region, to the ende that one should have neede of another, that by this meanes friendship might be established among all men, and every one seeke to gratifie all."1

The concept was remarkable at the time, because it expressed a modern consciousness of ideas about free trade and economics. Yet it also tied them to a God guiding purpose. Modern policy-makers in Washington have speculated that trade among nations creates peaceful relations by making it the best interest of people of various nations to trade with one another. The theory goes that once trade is established both trading partners will be more likely to maintain peaceful relations with one another. This idea was voiced and implemented by the Clinton Administration during the 1990s especially with regard to China. The idea being that this rising power would join in a brotherhood of nations bound together by free trade.2

As new as this idea seemed in the 1990s it had been voice hundreds of years before. The result of the trade mission by Chancellor with Ivan IV (the Terrible) was that free, and mutually beneficial trade was established. England and Russia became friends for a long time thereafter. As to how well American dealings with China will work out, only time will tell...


  1. Fearful Majesty, by Benson Bobrick, 1987, G.P. Putnam's Sons
  2. Clinton Foreign Policy Accomplishments


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