Author: Samuel Shaw


Samuel Shaw (1754–1794) was the first US Consul to China, appointed by President George Washington. Prior to this historic appointment, Shaw was commissioned a lieutenant of artillery in the Continental Army in 1776. During the American Revolution, he served from Dorchester Heights to Yorktown, ultimately reaching the rank of major. He served as an aide-de-camp to General Henry Knox, who later made Shaw his first secretary of the War Department. In 1784, Shaw was the business agent aboard the American merchant ship, Empress of China, when it reached the port of Canton on the first-ever American trade effort to the “Middle Kingdom.” Shaw recommended to then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Jay, that the nascent United States should have a diplomatic presence in China. His appointment as consul followed.

Letter to His Parents

Samuel Shaw

In this letter to his parents, Francis and Mary Shaw, dated June 28, 1779, Samuel Shaw (1754–94), a soldier in the Continental Army, reflects on the state of the army and the difficulties of its soldiers.