Harris, Townsend (1804–1878), a United States merchant and diplomat. Harris was the first United States envoy to Japan, serving as consul general, 1855–59, and minister, 1859–61. In 1858 he concluded a commercial treaty with Japan without demanding the territorial concessions that European powers were receiving in China. Other nations accepted Harris's treaty as a model and asked only for equal commercial opportunities in Japan.
Harris was born in Sandy Hill (later Hudson Falls), New York. He became a chinaware merchant in New York City. Largely through his efforts while president of the Board of Education, 1846–47, the city founded the New York Free Academy, a college without tuition fees. It later became City College.