R. W. Kenney, CMDR, USNR
9 May 1948
George Washington was defeated for the presidency today by an overwhelming margin. Out of forty-eight votes cast, George was only able to garner five of them and thus lost out in a landslide vote to Clark Gonzales who became the second president of the Chichi Jima Municipal Council. However, Richard Washington, a cousin, was elected a councilman for this little band of Forgotten Americans; and and Willie Savory, a direct descendant of Nathaniel Savory of Bradford Massachusetts, also obtained a council seat.
Back in 1830, a party consisting of two Americans, one Genoese who as probably a British subject, one Englishman, one Dane and several dozen Hawaiians first started a settlement on Chichi which was then called Peel Island. They were little concerned with the question of sovereignty, particularly the Americans, and looked upon the colony as a purely independent venture. However, from the very first the most respected and most influential colonist was the Massachussets-born Nathanial Savory. Under his leadership, the settlers cleared the forests and established a flourishing and nearly self-sufficient agricultural and fishing colony. Almost immediately they began provisioning whalers, assisting ships in the coolie trade during the California gold rush, and repaired ships who dared not risk stopping at Japanese ports.
Then Commodore Matthew Calbreath Perry, USN, with his warships, Susquehanna and Saratoga, stopped at Chichi June 14-18, 1853 enroute from the Ryuku Islands on their historic mission to Japan. The visit was not accidental as Perry was looking for coaling stations to support his policy of extending American 'Friendship and Protection' to certain far eastern states.
Perry consulted with Nathaniel Savory and while there is no record of their conversations, he undoubtedly led Savory to believe that the United States proposed to take more active interest in the islands. For payment of $50, he secured title to a piece of land with a 1,000 yards of frontage on the bay, and he appointed Savory as his agent to manage the property. He encouraged the settlers to organize a definite local government and it is likely that he was largely responsible for the actual wording of the simple constitution for the 'Colony of Peel Island' which resulted. In accordance with the terms of this charter, Nathaniel Savory was elected Chief Magistrate; James Motley and Thomas Webb were elected councilmen.
Four months after his departure from the Islands, Perry ordered Captain Kelly of the Plymouth to proceed to the Bonins to take possession of the southern group for the United States. Captain Kelly performed this duty October 30, 1853, renaming the group the Coffin Islands in honor of the American Captain who had discovered and claimed them.
The following year Perry reasserted American claim to the Islands when the British entered a claim of prior rights. Perry declared at that time that British sovereignty had never been clearly established and that both on the basis of original discovery and the preponderant number and influence of American settlers, the Islands were rightfully American possessions. The next year Perry ordered Captain Joel Abbot , USN to call at Chichi while enroute to Manilla. The Captain brought gifts of seeds and agricultural implements to the settlers and at their request, gave them an American flag to raise when vessels entered the harbor.
Perry was not the only American Naval Officer to call at the Bonins during this time. An American surveying brig, the Dolphin, had stopped at the Islands several years prior to Perry's visit, and the American warships, the Vincennes and the Tuscarora, call in 1855 and 1874 respectively.
In 1861, a newly awakened Japan began to realize the importance of the Bonins and after sending a few colonists, formally notified Townsend Harris, out Minister, that it intended to occupy the Bonins. Secretary of State Seward allowed the matter to pass without comment probably because we were then too busily engaged with internal difficulties.(Civil War)
The Japanese settlers soon discovered that the land was not suited to rice cultivation so that spelled the failure of the venture. Within fifteen months practically of the the Japanese colonists returned to Japan. Nathaniel Savory and his little group had seen enough of the Japanese and became very alarmed. They appealed to Washington but got no satisfaction.
In 1870, Tokyo dispatched an official and several other Japanese,--on an American vessel, to explore the Islands. In 1873, the United States Minister at Tokyo, acting on a request by American residents on Peel Island, asked for a statement from Washington on the official attitude toward the colony. Hamilton Fish, then Secretary of State, ruled that inasmuch as the possession of the Islands had never been expressly sanctioned by the American government and the colonists had received no promise expressed or implied, of American protection, the Americans on the island were to be regarded as having expatriated themselves. After Fish's ruling, the Japanese were not slow to see their advantage. In 1875, they returned to stay.
Old Nathaniel Savory must have died of a broken heart. His descendants became Forgotten Americans and were forced to suffer intolerably under Japanese rule. Even as early as 1876, four American residents of Chichi complained to John A. Bingham, American Minister to Japan, that their property had been confiscated. Bingham made appropriate representations to the Japanese Foreign Office but did not pursue the matter further. The Japanese sat tight and the Americans in the Bonins were consequently left without recourse to any foreign power.
What is going to happen to this lonely, hardworking group of Forgotten Americans, who have always followed in the footsteps of their ancestors and derived their means of livlihood from the sea? They fervently hope and pray that the United States will not continue to desert them and permit the Japanese to over run their Yankeetown once again. They can't understand why we ignore people with American blood in their veins, and yet make such noble gestures to thousands of displaced strangers throughout the world. The Japanese treated them very badly and forced them to leave Chichi and live in Yokohama and Tokyo during the war. There they fared worse. They were looked upon as spies, put on a starvation diet, forbidden to speak English, and worst of all, forced to live in the cities that took a good share of our American bombs.
Haven't these people suffered enough? At long last aren't they, as American descendants, entitled to something better than Military Government rule? Hasn't it been our policy to help the oppressed people of the world to gain their freedom? How about offering some of that freedom and security to this small band of American descendants at Yankeetown on Chichi Island? Why not return to these forgotten souls the American citizenship and protection that Hamilton Fish took away from their ancestors in 1873 when he arbitrarily ruled that they had expatriated themselves merely because they had received no protection from us.
Expatriation usually requires some overt act on the part of a person toward a foreign state. All they did was to live in a place they called Yankeetown at a time when the United States, England, and Japan all had claims to ownership of the Bonin Islands.
Expatriated for what? For living abroad? Then why were not all Americans expatriated for living abroad at that time? When old Nat Savory hoisted a US flag in front of his house at Yankeetown and dared the then British authorities to pull it down, he committed a very favorable overt act which ought to be worthy of some consideration. He also thought so much of America and Commodore Perry that a son born two days after Perry's visit in 1853 was given the name of Horace Perry Savory.
Old Nat Savory was a fighter with the American pioneer spirit, living to the ripe old age of eighty. Neither Hamilton Fish nor anybody else would have dared to tell old Nat to his face that he was not an American. Young Nathaniel Savory, a great-grandson, is living on Chichi today and has that same spirit of Americanism--but we say that he is a Japanese subject. A Japanese subject with a down east twang who could pass anywhere for a Gloucester fisherman! A Japanese subject whose ancestors met secretly on each 4'th of July to celebrate that eventful day, and to hold to their faith that they were Americans at heart. But for what?
Like young Nat Savory, many of these Forgotten Americans had no alternative over the years but to marry Japanese or have spouses with a mixture of American, English or Japanese blood. All of them speak English and at least some Japanese, but if you ask 64 year old Dan Savory, son of Horace Perry Savory, and others where their allegiance lies, they will tell you in no uncertain terms that it is with the United States of America.
Since the return of these Forgotten Americans from Japan in December, 1946, their Military Government has been handled as an additional duty of officers of the Saipan District of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Bi-monthly field trips are made to Chichi when the Islands of the Northern Marianas are serviced.
The present population of Chichi Jima is 133 men, women and children. Their are either a Savory, a Washington, a Webb, a Gilley, or a Gonzales or are related thereto. Before the war, the Bonins were populated by 1350 families with a total of 7,360 men, women, and children, but they were overcrowded Following the peace treaty probably the same number of Japanese will crowd back into the Bonins again.
What is the future of these Forgotten Americans and what as fellow Americans have we to offer them in the way of freedom and security? Perhaps the United Nations would grant a request to add the Bonins to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. It is the least we can do for them!
Perhaps too we could make arrangements whereby a few thousand hungry and homeless displaced persons from Europe could find new opportunity in the Bonins. They could become economically self-sufficient in a very short time.
In any event, let's not give these Islands back to the Japanese. They cost too many American lives during World War II and besides, we owe a debt to those Forgotten Americans now living there.
R. W. Kenney,
P.S. Thought you might be interested in this article
about a Bradford man. I just returned from a Field Inspection trip
Bonins and Northern Marianas. Very interesting.
Thanks to Bill and Mary Wilcox for supplying me with this article.
They served with the US Navy at NAVFAC CHICHI JIMA.
Keep in mind the date it was written.