During the 1980s, an interlocking complex of U.S. non-governmental organizations (the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Asia Society, and the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations) gradually built up contacts with Chinese elites. By mid-decade, the National Committee and the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs began a series of “U.S.-China Dialogues” in which influential figures from both sides met alternately in Beijing and the United States, supposedly informally, to discuss the state of Sino-American relations. Though the outcome of the protests at Tiananmen in June 1989 shocked them, American China-watchers consciously decided that contacts and efforts at communication and understanding must continue. At the Fourth U.S.-China Dialogue meeting in Beijing in early 1990, the American and Chinese participants assumed radically different positions, with the Chinese complaining bitterly about U.S. interference in China’s internal affairs. However, as the meeting ended, both sides agreed that, while there had been little agreement, such contacts and dialogues were valuable and must continue.
This article explores the diplomatic negotiations that U.S. Navy Commander Richard W. Meade conducted in Samoa in 1872. The resulting agreement that came to be known as “the Meade Treaty” was the first the United States negotiated with Samoa, but scholars usually have not explored the details of it and the process that produced it because the U.S. Senate rejected the treaty. Meade’s motivations and actions in Samoa provide a case study in how the interactions of naval officers, business leaders, islanders, and diplomats converged to produce early U.S. diplomacy in the Pacific. The article sketches the situation in Samoa in 1872 when Commander Meade and his ship, the ussNarragansett, arrived. The role of the United States in the Pacific was changing in the last third of the 19th Century, and Commander Meade’s motivations, influences, and actions illustrate the new wave of U.S. Pacific expansion during the years after the American Civil War.