- Historic Sites
The Man Who Discovered America
The story of Manjiro, the shipwrecked waif; of the kindly captain from Fairhaven; and of how Japan, hidden away from the world, learned strange news of other lands
December 1956 | Volume 8, Issue 1
When the exercises in New Bedford were over, the Ambassador and his party were met by a committee from Fairhaven and proceeded to Riverside Cemetery, accompanied by members of the Whitfield family. Ambassador Ishii placed a wreath on the grave of Captain Whitfield, while a simple but impressive ceremony took place. Then the party called at the home of Mrs. Akin, who was then eighty years old, where Manjiro had spent his first two weeks in Fairhaven.
Fifteen years later the late President Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote to Dr. Nakahama, the eldest son of Manjiro:
THE WHITE HOUSE WASHINGTON
June 8, 1933
My dear Dr. Nakahama:—
When Viscount Ishii was here in Washington he told me that you are living in Tokyo and we talked about your distinguished father.
You may not know that I am the grandson of Mr. Warren Delano of Fairhaven, who was part owner of the ship of Captain Whitfield which brought your father to Fairhaven. Your father lived, as I remembered it, at the house of Mr. Trippe, which was directly across the street from my grandfather’s house, and when I was a boy, I well remember my grandfather telling me all about the little Japanese boy who went to school in Fairhaven and who went to church from time to time with the Delano family. I myself used to visit Fairhaven, and my mother’s family still own the old house.
The name of Nakahama will always be remembered by my family, and I hope that if you or any of your family come to the United States that you will come to see us.
Believe me, my dear Dr. Nakahama,
Very sincerely yours, Franklin Roosevelt
More than a century has passed since Manjiro Nakahama lived his life of extraordinary adventure and worked for the rebirth of his country. The spirit of learning which he upheld so courageously, the virtues of kindness and gratitude and humility which were so naturally a part of him, and the international good will he embodied in his whole career, have survived the turbulent passage of time.
Manjiro and Captain Whitfield came from opposite ends of the earth, spoke different languages, professed different religions but sailed the same seas, thrilled at the same stars, and shared many deep things.
From a wilderness, Manjiro raised a voice that will echo and re-echo down the years.