Commodore Matthew C. Perry Essay, Research Paper
Matthew C. Perry was born in Newport, Rhode Island on April 10, 1794, the younger brother of another United States naval officer, Oliver Hazard Perry.
Perry was an American naval officer who had seen action in the War of 1812 aboard the USS President, flagship of Stephen Decatur. He later helped found the country of Liberia in West Africa as a haven for free black Americans, and was given the task of “opening” Japan to diplomatic and commercial relations with the United States with the hope that U.S. sailors could receive better treatment in the process.
Perry believed that “our people must naturally be drawn into the contest for empire.” In 1852, he accepted command of the East India squadron in order to lead an expedition to Japan. The U.S. State Department directed him to negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce that would open Japan to relations in as full a range as possible.
Perry prepared steadily for the formidable task of inducing Japan to negotiate a document favorable to the United States. In 1846, Japan had humiliated and expelled an American emissary, leading Perry to conclude that a resolute show of force would prove essential to the “opening” of Japan. He, therefore, shaped a small but powerful armada of four ships, including the steam-driven paddle wheelers Susquehanna and Mississippi. On July 8, 1853, Perry stormed into Edo (Tokyo) Bay, the steamers belching black smoke and appearing as “floating volcanoes” to the alarmed Japanese. Six days later, with great pomp and ceremony, Perry went ashore to the accompaniment of a naval band playing Hail Columbia! The Japanese resisted Perry’s proposals and he temporarily withdrew from the country, promising to return to receive a reply to President Millard Fillmore’s request for a treaty.
On February 13, 1854, Perry returned with seven warships, three of them steam driven. He depearted on March 8th with even greater enthusiasm than the year before, this time accompanied by three armed naval bands playing The Star Spangled Banner. To impress the Japanese with American technological and military might, he exhibited a quarter-scale steam locomotive with tracks, a telegraph apparatus designed by Samuel Morse, a daguerreotype camera, and an illustrated history of the Mexican War, featuring the American naval bombardment of Veracruz. The Japanese yielded, and on March 31, 1854, they signed the Treaty of Kanagawa. These agreements promised safe repatriation of shipwrecked American seamen, opened ports as coal and supply stations, and established American consular privileges at these ports, and granted most-favored-nation trading status to the United States. Perry received the thanks of Congress and honors from the cities of Boston and New York for bringing Japan into diplomatic and commercial contact with the West.
After his accomplishments in Japan, he retired to New York City, and devoted his time to the editing of a narrative of his expedition. He publicly urged Americans to “extend their dominion and their power across the Atlantic.” He died in New York on March 4, 1858.