AUGUST 24, 1894


Born on February 3, 1824, in Fort Astoria, Oregon, of Chinook and Scottish parents, Ranald wanted to see Japan, but, in the 1840s, the penalty for foreigners intentionally going there was death. Yet, in 1848, serving on a whaling ship, he departed onto Rishiri Island claiming to have been shipwrecked. Not executed, he was sent to Nagasaki (Dutch were allowed to do business there) where he taught samurai, including one, Einosuke Moriyama, to speak English. In 1849, U.S. Navy Commander James Glynn became the 1ST American to successfully negotiate with Japan, obtaining release of 15 stranded sailors—one was MacDonald. Resuming life as a sailor, Ranald wrote Congress describing Japanese society as “well policed,” and the Japanese people “well behaved . . . .”  Glynn, on return, advised that America could negotiate with Japan. Fittingly, when Commodore Perry arrived in Edo Bay in 1853, Japan sent Moriyama to negotiate. Ranald died in Washington State. His travel notes were published in 1923.

Source:  Dan Lewis, “Japan’s First English Teacher,” Now I Know, 7/7/2015.  Retrieved 6/6/2019,
Photo:  Fg2, 4/29/2007.  Ranald MacDonald Plaque in Nagasaki, Japan.  Public Domain. 

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