Street in Macao (Aomen), China, watercolor by George R. West, 1844
Macao, a peninsula in southern China near Hong Kong, was settled by Portugal in the 1500s. For centuries, China restricted Western commerce to this area. Commissioner Caleb Cushing arrived in Macao in February 1844 to negotiate for American trade rights. The artist George R. West accompanied Cushing and painted many scenes of China.
Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
The First Treaty with China
After Britain’s Opium War with China opened Chinese ports to British commerce in 1842, U.S. merchants petitioned Congress to obtain equal trade rights. In 1844 Representative Caleb Cushing of Massachusetts resigned to become America’s first commissioner to China and negotiated a trade treaty with the Ta Tsing (Qing) Empire. The Treaty of Wangxia, named for the village where it was signed, was the first treaty between the U.S. and China.