VOX POPULI: Abraham Lincoln vs. Joseph Heco

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By J. KAWASAKI

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) was born the son of a lowly farmer. A provocative history comes alive with Daniel Day Lewis portraying lincoln as America’s 16th president centered on the Civil War (1861-1865). The rousing movie production notwithstanding, one recalls deferred recitals of the 1863 Gettysburg Address in school and Lincoln’s epitomized deliverance of the entire address in a theatrical mock-up at one side of the circular entrance compound of Disneyland.

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Lincoln never joined any church. On this revelation he explained: “When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership, the Savior’s condensed statement of the substance of both Law and Gospel, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all they mind and thy neighbor, as thyself,’ that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul.”

Early in life he had been something of a skeptic and freethinker. His reputation had been such that, as he once complained, the “church influence” was used against him in politics.

When running for Congress in 1846, he issued a handbill to deny hat he ever had “spoken with intentional disrespect of religion.” He went on to explain that he believed in the doctrine necessity — “that is that the human mind is impelled to action or held in rest by some power which the mind itself has no control.”

Burdened with the soul-troubling responsibilities of the Civil War, he lived with a full conviction, “The power confided in me will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property and places belonging to the government and to collect the duties and imports, but beyond what may be necessary for those objects, there will be no invasion — no using force against, or among the people anywhere. You can have no conflict, without being yourselves the aggressors.”

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It was in the midst of burdened with the Civl War, on March 12, 1862, Joseph Heco, a naval officer, was introduced to President Lincoln by Secretary of State William Seward. Lincoln, informed he was Hikozo Hamada (1837-1897), a Japanese who adopted an American name and became a U.S. naval officer, spurred an eager interest in him and Japan. In the course of time, Joseph Heco also met Presidents Fillmore and Buchanan.

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The ensuing scenario evolved two years prior to Commodore Matthew Perry’s arrival in Tokyo Bay (1853). At 15, Hikozo, out fishing from Kobe, shipwrecked and drifting, was rescued by an American clipper ship. Landing in San Francisco, curiosity led him across the continent to Baltimore and studying six years to become an officer in the Navy in 1858. Completing service at sea, he was assigned as a liaison officer with the U.S. Consulate at Kanagawa, Japan.

It is odd that in spite of an extraordinary legacy he is simply remembered in Japan as the “Father of American Journalism” and for devising the term “shinbone” for newspaper — translating English newsprint into Japanese. His grave in Japan is marked “Joseph Heco — December 12, 1897.” Defying odds, born a lowly fisherman in an insular culture, he emerged to attain a distinguished exemplary transformation.

Anjali.

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Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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