Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The Prince and the Plenipotentiary

Anna Berkes, at "A Summary View," writes about the first high-level contact between the American and Vietnamese governments: a 1787 meeting in France between U.S. minister plenipotentiary Thomas Jefferson and Nguyen Phuc Canh, the 7-year-old heir to the royal throne of Vietnam. Prince Canh was in France to help secure a treaty of alliance, which the French Crown approved later that year (and under which France supplied Canh's father with arms, warships, and military advisors). Jefferson's goal in meeting the prince was more pacific: he sought samples of Cochin-Chinese upland rice, which he had read were the best in the world. Prince Canh said he would send the American minister these samples, but Jefferson apparently never got them.

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