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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Sir Rutherford Alcock

SIR RUTHERFORD ALCOCK (1809-1897), British consul and diplomatist, was the son of Dr Thomas Alcock, who practised at Ealing, near London, and himself followed the medical profession. In 1836 he became a surgeon in the marine brigade which took part in the Carlist war, and gaining distinction by his services was made deputy inspector-general of hospitals. He retired from this service in 1837, and seven years later was appointed consul at Fuchow in China, where, after a short official stay at Amoy, he performed the functions, as he himself expressed it, "of everything from a lord chancellor to a sheriff's officer." Fuchow was one of the ports opened to trade by the treaty of 1842, and Mr Alcock, as he then was, had to maintain an entirely new position with the Chinese authorities. In so doing he was eminently successful, and earned for himself promotion to the consulate at Shanghai. Thither he went in 1846 and made it an especial part of his duties to superintend the establishment and laying out of the British settlement, which has developed into such an important feature of British commercial life in China. In 1858 he was appointed consul-general in the newly opened empire of Japan, and in the following year was promoted to be minister plenipotentiary. In those days residence in Japan was surrounded with many dangers, and the people were intensely hostile to foreigners. In 1860 Mr Alcock's native interpreter was murdered at the gate of the legation, and in the following year the legation was stormed by a body of Ronins, whose attack was repulsed by Mr Alcock and his staff. Shortly after this event he returned to England on leave. Already he had been made a C.B. (1860); in 1862 he was made a K.C.B., and in 1863 hon. D.C.L. Oxon. In 1864 he returned to Japan, and after a year's further residence he was transferred to Pekin, where he represented the British government until 1871, when he retired. But though no longer in official life his leisure was fully occupied. He was for some years president of the Royal Geographical Society, and he served on many commissions. He was twice married, first in May 1841 to Henrietta Mary, daughter of Charles Bacon, who died in 1853, and secondly (July 8, 1862) to the widow of the Rev. John Lowder, who died on the 13th of March 1899. He was the author of several works, and was one of the first to awaken in England an interest in Japanese art; his best-known book is The Capital of the Tycoon, which appeared in 1863. He died in London on the 2nd of November 1897. (R. K. D.)

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Sir Rutherford Alcock'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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