Ranald MacDonald, Traveller

From Wikipedia (footnotes-vanished):

Ranald MacDonald (February 3, 1824 – August 24, 1894) was the first native English-speaker to teach the English language in Japan, including educating Einosuke Moriyama, one of the chief interpreters to handle the negotiations between Commodore Perry and the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Well, someone has to be the first to teach Anglic to <exotic alien species>!

MacDonald was born at Fort Astoria, in the Pacific Northwest of North America. The area was then known as the Columbia District or Oregon Country, disputed territory dominated by the British Hudson’s Bay Company and the American Pacific Fur Company.

Ah yes, “disputed territory.”

Corporate competition can get rather nasty, far out there, dozens of parsecs from the nearest Imperial Naval Base…

MacDonald’s father was Archibald McDonald, a Scottish Hudson’s Bay Company fur trader, and his mother was Raven (also known as Princess Sunday), a Chinook, daughter of Chief Comcomly, a leader of Chinook people from the Cascade Mountains and Cape Disappointment.

Also, not a pure-blooded Solomani.

Oh, wait….

Based on the popular historical fiction of Eva Emery Dye, it has been repeated that “as a child of eight in 1832 at Fort Vancouver, he met three shipwrecked Japanese sailors, including Otokichi“. In reality the three shipwrecked Japanese sailors were brought to Ft. Vancouver in the spring of 1834 [not 1832], arriving there about 6 weeks after 10-yr-old Ranald MacDonald had departed for Red River – so there never was the fabled meeting of east and west.

This can be rectified in your campaign. Perhaps the PCs as children were the first to meet a crash-landed Aslan scout vessel, and from that moment, they knew that they had to see the legendary Aslan Hierate for themselves.

In his autobiography MacDonald explained it in his own words: “My plan was to present myself as a castaway … and to rely on their humanity. My purpose was to learn of them; and, if occasion should offer, to instruct them of us.”

It might not be the best plan, relying on a ‘shared humanity’ to protect you in Charted Space…

A restless man, he soon quit his bank job and decided that he would visit Japan.

Some people are just not cut out for a quiet corporate life.

Despite knowing the strict isolationist Japanese policy of the time, which meant death or imprisonment for foreigners who set foot on Japanese soil, he signed on as a sailor on the whaling ship Plymouth in 1845.

A certain level of willful blindness is endemic for all Travellers: for Scouts, replace “willful blindness” with “howling insanity”.

In 1848, he convinced the captain of the Plymouth to set him to sea on a small boat off the coast of Hokkaid?.

“It’s your funeral, kid.” But I don’t think the captain asked for payment for that expensive ship’s boat on a one-way trip, so you can’t be too hard on him.

(Or maybe it was already long in the tooth, and would be more profitable as a “lost in storm” tax write-off….)

On July 1, he came ashore on Rishiri Island where he pretended he had been shipwrecked. He was caught by Ainu people, who remitted him to the Daimyo of Matsumae clan. He was then sent to Nagasaki, the only port allowed to conduct limited trade with the Dutch.

Since more and more American and British ships had been approaching Japanese waters, and nobody in Japan spoke English with any sort of fluency, fourteen men were sent to study English under him. These men were samurai, who had previously learned Dutch and had been attempting to learn English for some time from secondhand sources, such as Dutch merchants who spoke a little of the language. The brightest of these men, a sort of language genius, was Einosuke Moriyama.

There are English teachers… and there are English Teachers.

Upon his return to North America, MacDonald made a written declaration to the US Congress, explaining that the Japanese society was well policed, and the Japanese people well behaved and of the highest standard. He continued his career as a sailor.

The Japanese have been Japanese for a long time, now.

As for MacDonald himself, I find his nationality… well, uncertain. Born in British North America, he served both American and Canadian British interests, and died in Washington State.

The same uncertainty can afflict Travellers who have been on the move for a long time: they may well just list their homeworld as “Imperial”, and have a stronger attachment to a corporation or a branch of the Imperial Service than to their old homeworld, church, or clan.


About Alvin Plummer

I'm working to build a better world, a world that blesses Christ and is blessed by Him. I hope that you're doing the same!
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