American Footprints in Tamil Eelam.

By: AppuArchie.

I was able to gather some information on the contribution of American visitors to Tamil Eelam since Capt. Benjamin Crowinshield anchored his merchant ship in 1789.

It is significant that most visitors to Tamil Eelam were American Missionaries, starting with Samuel Newell, a clergyman from New England, in 1813. Their mission was not only to preach the words of Christ but also bring some practical benefits to the people. The Rev. Edward Warren took special interest in educating the people in both English and Tamil in 1816. Americans of the time paid great importance to education as an important factor in the development of the United States, and naturally founded several schools to bring about social reforms, elimination of poverty and overall improvement in the lives of the people in Tamil Eelam.

Feudalism in the form of ‘Kudi Makkal’ or families of workers attached to individual farmers -- ‘Velalas’ or clans -- was common at that time. Naturally, the living standard of the dependant families relied on the wealth of the ‘master,’ and education was more or less the privilege of a few Land Lords. Colonialists allowed the system to continue as it served their purpose to ‘divide and rule.’ Unlike in Africa, where the foreigners had to do almost everything, India and Ceylon had a ready made social system that made it possible for the British to issue orders to these local ‘lords’, and the job was done. However, with the opening of the first American missionary school in Tellipalai in 1816, through 1848 when 105 Tamil schools and 16 English schools were founded, education became not the privilege of only a few.

Opportunities for women were not neglected. Even though Women had no voting rights in the USA at that time, it was easier for people like Mrs. Harriet Winslow, the great-great-grandmother of the late Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, to establish the Uduvil Girl’s High School in 1824 in Tamil Eelam. Mention must be made that Uduvil Girls was the first Boarding school for girls in Asia.

The first printing press was started in the north in 1820, and in 1841 the island’s second oldest newspaper, the Morning Star -- ‘Uthaya Taraky’ was started. Later, Mr. C. K. Yesuthasan, probably the first Ceylonese to be sent to America for advanced industrial training at the Institute of Technology at Worcester Massachusetts. The first Printing Press was imported in 1850 and Mr. Yesuthasan on his return to Tamil Eelam in 1888 served for 50 years.

Rev. Miron Winslow, in 1862 published the first Comprehensive Tamil English Dictionary.

The Green Memorial Hospital at Manipay functions (hopefully) to this day as a fitting tribute to Dr. Samuel Fisk Green, who translated more than 4000 pages of medical texts into Tamil and practiced medicine for over 30 years and trained Tamils in Western medicine since 1850.

Dr. John Scudder’s dispensary at Pandateruppu was founded in 1820.

The McLeod Hospital for women founded in 1897 at Inuvil.

American Missionaries established the famous secondary school Jaffna College at Vaddukkoddai in 1873.

Its predecessor institution, the Batticotta Seminary, was established on July 22, 1823. The Mission closed the seminary in 1855. The first Student Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Asia was founded at Jaffna College in April 1884. Rev. Dr. Daniel Poor was the first Principal of the Batticotta Seminary.

April 6, 1998.

In an increasingly interdependent world, what affects one nation affects all others.... ’ W. Howard Wriggins American Ambassador, as reported in "TWO CENTURIES OF SRI LANKA-AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP" July 1978, is the source for most details in this article.

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