And so made significant . . .

around the world, and through the centuries

23 July

Benjamin Franklin,

‘This day we weighed anchor and fell down with the tide, there being little or no wind. In the afternoon we had a fresh gale, that brought us down to Margate, where we shall lie at anchor this night. Most of the passengers are very sick. Saw several porpoises, &c.’

Founding Father Franklin


Robert Lester,

‘This Morning, at 7 o’clock, Antonio came to me, and told me, that the King would give me Audience, at the same time he told me, that on going into the King’s Apartment in his Barge, I must leave my Sword and Shoe behind, and on approaching near the King, to the Place appointed for me, I must kneel; I used all the Arguments I could, and told him as an Officer in the Honourable Company’s Service, I could not consent to the above, he then, as likewise other Great Men with him, told me, that no Person, let him be of the highest Rank, could have Audience given them by the Great King of Ava, Pegu, &c. &c. (Allaum Praw, next to GOD) if they did not conform to the above, and that all Ambassadors, from the Negrais before, had done it.

As I hope it will be a means of getting the Treaty of Alliance, with the above King and The Honourable Company, settled, I agreed, and went with Antonio to the King’s Barge, and after congratulating him, on his late conquest of so potent a Kingdom, with other Compliments on the Occasion I delivered him my Credentials. [. . .]

I then desired the Interpreters to inform the King, [. . .] that the English were strongly attached to His Interest; and if His Majesty would now be pleased to consent to the fixing His Chop [seal] to the above, it would be a means of uniting the two Nations together for ages to come. The King then said, that he had sent a Sloop some Months ago to Madrass, with Goods to purchase Powder, &c, and he was informed by the Captain of another Sloop, now arrived at Dagon from the Coast, that the Governor of Madrass had detained his Sloop there, I answered that we had received no Letters, or News of any kind, from Madrass, but I was positive if the Sloop was detained, that the Governor of Madrass did not know that she belonged to His Majesty.

As I had not room to stretch my legs out, and I was somewhat uneasy, I saw a small Stool behind me, which I took, and sat on, this caused a laughter among the Great Men about me, the King asked the reason, and was informed, on which he rose up and came close to me, and laughed very heartily, and asked me what was the reason that Englishman could not kneel? I told him we were not accustomed to it; on which he pointed to the Yard of the Boat, which was close by, and told me I might set there, I told His Majesty I was not insensible of the Honour he did me, he then pointed to the Prince of Persaim, and told me he had given him a new Name (Mungee Narataw) on account of his good behaviour, the King then asked me several Questions, through the above Interpreters, viz. Does your King go to the Wars and expose his Person as I do? Do you understand the use of Ordnance, &c? Could you point a Gun to kill a Man at a great distance? Is there as much Rain in your Country as in this? What is the reason you wear that at your Shoulder, (my Shoulder Knot)? How much Money does The Company pay you [per] Month? Why don’t you black your Bodies and Thighs as we do (at the same time rising up, and shewing me his Thigh)? Let me feel your Hand, feeling my Fingers and Wrist, and said we were like Women, because we did not black as above. Is there Ice in your Country as in mine, small Creeks froze over?

I answered to all the above Questions, which seemed to please them, and to the last Question I told him that I had seen a River, as broad as this His Majesty is now in (meaning London River) frozen over, and an Ox roasted whole, upon the Ice; to which the King, as likewise all the Great Men about him, laughed heartily; the King asked me, what was the reason we did not leave the Negrais, and come all to Persaim, and settle there? I told him that the Negrais was a Key to that River, if we lost it entirely, that the French, who I believe we were now at War with, would likely come there, but that we should come with a firm resolution to settle at Persaim, if His Majesty would indulge us in settling the Treaty, and leave a small Force at the Negrais; The King then said if all the Powers in The World was to come, he could drive them out of His Country; he then asked me, if we were afraid of the French; I told him that the English and French had no great liking for each other but there never was that Englishman born, that was afraid of a Frenchman; the King then told me, that he had taken great quantities of Guns, Bombs, &c. with all kind of Warlike Stores at Pegu, and that he was now going up triumphant (with the former King of Pegu, and his Daughter, the Uppa Rajah, and other Great Men, Peguers, prisoners) to his great Cities, Prone, Ava, &c. and that he would put his Chop, to our Treaty of Alliance, and give us Liberty to trade in any part of his Kingdom; he then ordered me to follow him to the Mouth of the River, which leads to Ava, where there is a House, as above-mentioned, for the King’s reception, and I am informed, he intends to stay two or three days, and he would send me Provisions and settle the above; I desired the Interpreter to return His Majesty my hearty thanks for the Honour done me, and as His Barge was getting in readiness to proceed, I was desired to take my Leave, which I did and came away.

I have made Presents to the Prince of Persaim, King’s Brother, Prime Minister, and other six Great Men, about the King’s Person, of the following things, viz. Scarlet Cloth 30 Yards, 2 Pieces Seersuckers, 1 Piece Pullicat Handkerchiefs, 1 Kittysall, 1 Bottle Lavender Water, 1 Ring, Bristol Stone, with a Brilliant Spark on each side, 1 Black Feather, from my Hat, 1 Piece of Silk Handkerchiefs; this I have done, hoping it may be a means of getting my business done, on The Company’s Account, the sooner; the remainder part of this day we have been following the King to the Place above mentioned, the Fresh in this River is excessive rapid, and we could not come to the Place where the King was, at Night, I believe, at a moderate computation, there’s in Boats, on this River, on this Occasion, One hundred thousand Men, Women, and Children.’

An audience with Alaungpaya


Francis Turner Palgrave,
civil servant and poet

‘Cis and I took the two eldest children to ‘Hamlet.’ I had not seen any serious acting for years, and went expecting to find my greatest pleasure in the dear children’s; but I returned very deeply impressed with the frequent admirable renderings of Irving as ‘Hamlet’ and Miss Terry as ‘Ophelia.’ . . . Above all, the amazing difficulty of the art impressed me; as with painting, I doubt how far the spectator can pretend to point out the way in which parts might be improved, though he may lawfully feel not satisfied. What was good also, both in these and in the other actors, is to me so much clearly gained. Also if ‘Hamlet’ acted unequally, how unequally, a vrai dire, is ‘Hamlet’ written!’

Professor of poetry


Thomas Cobden-Sanderson,

‘On Monday, Morris and the Hyndmans came to lunch with us, and I afterwards went with them to Hyde Park to take the opportunity of the Liberal demonstration to spread socialistic literature and to hold an open-air meeting. This last was a fiasco, being brought to an ignominious close by an ugly rush of the crowd.’

Innumerable ripples; countless diamonds


Robert Charles Benchley,
writer and actor

‘Then Lucy, Miss Jean, Jessie, Miss Ida and I went on the river in the moonlight in the two canoes. Sang and drifted. Took my mandolin. Slick.’

I hope not a ‘what it was’


Earl Silas Tupper,

‘Gosh this standing around with nothing to do, is driving me crazy. I’m going to start making tops if nothing else.’

Tupper the tinkerer


Marielle Bennett,

‘Then we went to see ‘Blythe Spirit’ which is one of the best productions I have ever seen. Margaret Rutherford as the medium was superb. I do not know when I have seen a more amusing and yet realistic characterisation. I could go over and over again and not get bored with that show. My friend saw a man come into one of the boxes towards the end of the play and look around at the audience intently and then make a great show of lighting a cigarette. She said it must have been Noel Coward as no one else would do it quite like that but I was too interested in the play to worry about the author! After that we went to get tea at The Prompt Corner only to find it closed. I was not surprised at that as all the places I hope to find seem closed. Eventually we got some at a nasty little cafe in Charing Cross.’

The cost of stockings


Henry L. Stimson,

‘At ten o’clock Secretary Byrnes called me up asking me as to the timing of the S-1 program. I told him the effect of the two cables [from Harrison] and that I would try to get further definite news. I dictated a cable to Harrison asking him to let us know immediately when the time [for the use of the a-bomb on Japan] was fixed.”

‘At ten-fifteen Ambassador [to Moscow W. Averell] Harriman arrived and he and [Assistant Sec. of War John] McCloy, Bundy, and I had a talk over the situation [relations with Russia], Harriman giving us the information of yesterday afternoon’s meetings. He commented on the increasing cheerfulness evidently caused by the news from us [about the atomic bomb], and confirmed the expanding demands being made by the Russians. They are throwing aside all their previous restraint as to being only a Continental power and not interested in any further acquisitions, and are now apparently seeking to branch in all directions.’

‘At eleven o’clock I went down to the ‘Little White House’ to try to see the President or Byrnes. I am finding myself crippled by not knowing what happens in the meetings [between Truman, Churchill, and Stalin] in the late afternoon and evening. This is particularly so now that the program for S-1 is tying in [with] what we are doing in all fields. When I got there I found Byrnes out, and I asked for the President who saw me at once. I told him that it would be much more convenient for me to form my program on the military side if I could drop in early every morning and talk with him or Byrnes of the events of the preceding day. He told me at once to come; that he would be glad to see me every morning and talk over these matters with me. I then told him of matters that came up in the conference with Mr. Harriman this morning which I just referred to, and told him that I had sent for further more definite information as to the time of operation [when the a-bomb would be ready for Japan] from Harrison. He told me that he had the warning message which we prepared on his desk [The Potsdam Proclamation surrender demand for Japan; see the July 2, 1945 Diary Entry in Stimson Diary, Part 6], and had accepted our most recent change in it, and that he proposed to shoot it out as soon as he heard the definite day of the operation [when the a-bomb would be ready for Japan]. We had a brief discussion about Stalin’s recent expansions and he confirmed what I have heard. But he told me that the United States was standing firm and he was apparently relying greatly upon the information as to S-1. He evidently thinks a good deal of the new claims of the Russians are bluff, and told me what he thought the real claims were confined to.’

‘After lunch and a short rest I received Generals Marshall and Arnold, and had in McCloy and Bundy at the conference. The President had told me at a meeting in the morning that he was very anxious to know whether Marshall felt that we needed the Russians in the war or whether we could get along without them, and that was one of the subjects we talked over. [Until now Truman had said getting Russia into the war against Japan was what he came to Potsdam for; see Truman’s July 18, 20, and 22 letters to his wife Bess in The Truman Diary]. Of course Marshall could not answer directly or explicitly. We had desired the Russians to come into the war originally for the sake of holding up in Manchuria the Japanese Manchurian Army [so that Japan could not move them to the Japanese mainland to fight U.S. troops in an invasion]. That now was being accomplished as the Russians have amassed their forces on that border, Marshall said, and were poised, and the Japanese were moving up positions in their Army. But he pointed out that even if we went ahead in the war without the Russians, and compelled the Japanese to surrender to our terms, that would not prevent the Russians from marching into Manchuria anyhow and striking, thus permitting them to get virtually what they wanted in the surrender terms. Marshall told us during our conference that he thought thus far in the military conference they had handled only the British problems and that these are practically all settled now and probably would be tied up and finished tomorrow. He suggested that it might be a good thing, something which would call the Russians to a decision one way or the other, if the President would say to Stalin tomorrow that ‘inasmuch as the British have finished and are going home, I suppose I might as well let the American Chiefs of Staff go away also’ that might bring the Russians to make known what their position was and what they were going to do, and of course that indicated that Marshall felt as I felt sure he would that now with our new weapon we would not need the assistance of the Russians to conquer Japan.’

‘There was further talk about the war in the Pacific in the conference. Apparently they have been finding it very hard to get along with [Commanding General of the U.S. Army Forces in the Pacific Douglas] MacArthur, and Marshall has been spending most of his time in conferences in smoothing down the Navy.’

‘I talked to Marshall about the preparation of S-1 and he gave us a bad picture of the rainy season weather in Japan at this time and said that one thing that might militate against our attack was the low ceiling and heavy clouds, although there were breaks and good days in between.’

‘In the evening I received a telegram from Harrison giving me the exact dates as far as possible when they expected to have S-1 ready, and I answered it with a further question as to further future dates of the possibility of accumulation of supplies.” [Harrison’s telegram informed Stimson that regarding use of the a-bomb on Japan, there was “some chance August 1 to 3, good chance August 4 to 5 and barring unexpected relapse almost certain before August 10.’ (U.S. Dept. of State, “Foreign Relations of the U.S., The Conference of Berlin (Potsdam) 1945”, vol. 2, pg. 1374.)].

Chief atom bomb adviser


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