Legacy of Matthew C. Perry
In1890 Alfred Thayer Mahan urged the United States to “look outward not inward. The production of the country demands it” (4). As senior enlisted leaders, it is of the upmost importance to keep the history, heritage, and traditions of all branches of service alive, because defining the past provides the model for the future of military service. This paper will outline the history of Matthew C. Perry’s exploits in Japan, and discuss the impact of those exploits.
Commodore Matthew C. Perry attained much renown and distinction throughout his 50 years of service to the United States Navy. He fought in multiple campaigns against the Barbary Pirates off the coast of Algeria, commanded squadrons in attempts to end the African slave trade, and during the Mexican War with Veracruz(8). He was the loudest voice and the driving force behind the Navy’s shift from vessels powered by wind to vessels powered by steam, earning him the nickname “the father of the steam Navy”(10). Throughout the fleet his reputation as a stern disciplinarian with a genuine concern for the welfare of all those under his command was well received. His greatest accomplishment, however, would not come from innovations in naval technology, from leading men and commanding ships, or from great battles won.
In 1635, Tokugawa edicts isolated Japan from the rest of the world fearing foreign influence would lead to foreign nation’s attempts to invade and conquer Japan (1). In the late 1800s, the United States attempted to secure diplomatic relations with Japan. All attempts miserably failed. In 1852, President Millard Fillmore recruited Perry to secure a diplomatic partnership with Japan, and gave him command of the East India Squadron. When asked how he hoped to accomplish this, he simply stated, “I will not take no for an answer”. Perry’s compliment of four ships pulled in to Edo (Tokyo) bay unannounced in 1853, boldly dropped anchor, and presented the Japanese emperor with The United States’ request for a treaty. Perry then left with a promise to return soon for the Japanese answer to the request. Perry waited seven months before returning, this time with a compliment of seven ships, armed to the teeth. He again pulled in to Edo Bay and landed 500 Marines and Sailors on the shores of Japan. His bold display of naval prowess coupled with his respectful demeanor led the Japanese to sign the Treaty of Kanagawa on 31 March 1854. The treaty resulted in the establishment of a U.S. Consul in Shimoda, Japan, access to the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate, and assistance for vessels in distress(9).
This treaty began a friendship between the United States and Japan. To this day, the cities of Newport, RI and Shimoda, Japan each celebrate the Black Ships Festival in remembrance of the treaty and the longstanding friendship between the two...