Saturday, April 30, 2016

Perry Expedition and the Opening of Japan (Part 4): Perry Sailed East

President Millard FillmoreDue to allegation of misconduct, Commodore Matthew Calbrith Perry suddenly found himself the new commander of a squadron destined for Japan. Explore how Perry journeyed east to begin his mission to change country’s policy and history.

Perry: The New Commander of the Japan Expedition

In 1851, a mishap in the part of Commodore Aulick cost him the man who opened Japan. His replacement, Commodore Matthew C. Perry was a man known for his tough and disciplinarian attitude. Under his command, American warships sailed to Edo (Tokyo) Bay to accomplish what other expeditions before him did not.

In late 1851, when Aulick was in Hong Kong, Washington recalled him due to allegations of misconduct, including a quarrel with the captain of the steam frigate Susquehanna, allowing a relative to board the ship and travel for free, and paying the expense of the a travel of a Brazilian diplomat who he transported in his ship. The information of the issue remained bleak. Regardless, it meant Aulick was out and Washington choose a replacement for him - Matthew Calbrith Perry.

Matthew C. Perry

Matthew C. Perry began his navy career at the age of 15. He fought in many wars and conflicts of America. It included the War of 1812 and the Barbary Wars in the Mediterranean. In the late 1830’s and early 1840’s Perry advocated for the US Navy’s adoption of steam-powered vessels, which he believed would strengthen the United States defense and capability. This became one of his legacies before the his Japan expedition. In 1840, Perry received the position of Commodore and later served during the Mexican-American War, playing a key role during the capture of Veracruz.

Personally, Perry was known as a stern disciplinarian. He wanted to maintain order and discipline among his rank. Also, his actions during the expedition revealed his flair for the dramatics and sense of entitlement.

Perry was interested in the Far East following several expeditions sent to Japan. He read materials about the country and advocated the sending of a formidable force to reverse the country’s isolation and harsh policy towards seafarers. He even wanted to participate and lead the expedition but Commodore Aulick took the position and he then applied to be the Commander of the United States Fleet in the Mediterranean Sea. However, with accusations of misconduct of Aulick spread, Perry received an appointment from Washington to lead the expedition. Perry left the United States for the east on November 24, 1852 aboard the steam frigate USS Mississippi.

Perry’s Objective and the Presidential Letter

Washington set Perry’s objective to reverse Japan’s isolationist policy or at least secure the welfare of mariners and ships drifted unintentionally to the Islands. Perry served as the emissary of the President of the United States to deliver a letter, which contained America’s requests and demands to Japan. It gave him also the power to negotiate a treaty that would secure the friendship between the two countries.

President Fillmore was keen in opening Japan. In his State of the Union Address Speech in 1852, he presented to Congress the expedition’s aim to secure “some relaxation of the inhospitable and antisocial system which it has pursued for about two centuries" by Japan. Although the President’s message to Japan in Congress was aggressive, his letter to the Japanese Emperor had a milder tone.

Washington ordered Perry to deliver this letter of President Fillmore to the Japanese Emperor. The 1852 letter was similar to the 1851 Letter only longer. Written on November 13, 1852, President Millard Fillmore addressed the Emperor once again as his “Great and Good Friend.” The President then confirmed Perry’s authority as the United States’ special envoy to Japan and had the power to negotiate a treaty of friendship with the Japanese. He proposed that Japan and the United States to have “friendship and have commercial intercourse with each other.” Fillmore assured the Emperor America’s non-interference to its internal affairs and politics citing the US Constitution “forbid all interference with the religious or political concerns of other nations.”

Parallel to the previous letter, the President then jumped to boast America’s wealth and achievements stating territorial and technological progress. He spoke how America spanned from one ocean to another and how new technology connected the United States with Japan faster than before. He wrote, “Our steamships can go from California to Japan in 18 days.” President Fillmore then described the wealth of America’s new state – California – stating: “Our great State of California produces about sixty millions of dollars in gold every year, besides silver, quicksilver, precious stones, and many other valuable articles.” The description served as an attraction to the Emperor of possible wealth that they could gain by trading with the US. It also served as an intimidation by showing the wealth of the United States had.

Following Fillmore’s promotion of the United States’ achievement, he moved on to request the opening of Japan’s doors. He asked the Emperor of Japan to change their “ancient laws” to cope with the changing world. He then reminiscent the beginnings of the United States with its scant population and how it grew and prosper implying trade as its cause. He urged the Emperor that trade would be beneficial to both for the United States and Japan and to show and proved it he offered to provide five to ten year trial period, after which, they could decide whether to continue or to cease.

President Fillmore then shifted attention to other requests of the United States. He asked the Emperor for American mariners and ships drifted unintentionally to Japan to be “treated with kindness, and that their property should be protected…” Finally, he asked for the United States to be given permission to allow American ships to purchase supplies and fuel in Japan. The letter displayed America’s request, which also showed Perry’s objectives.

Perry Travels to East Asia

Perry set out on November 24, 1852 for his expedition to Japan from Norfolk, Virginia aboard his steam frigate USS Mississippi. Much of the squadron meant for the expedition were already in the East and another were to follow. Meanwhile, the Mississippi traveled eastward, passing two continents and two oceans. Since the Suez Canal did not yet exist, the ship had to cross the Cape of Good Hope.

Perry completed his crossing of the Atlantic and arrived in Madeira on December 11, 1852. Six days later he landed in the Canaries and sailed southward, arriving in St. Helena Island on January 10, 1853. Perry and the crew had the chance to visit the house where Napoleon died. They then proceeded and reached the Cape of Good Hope on January 24, 1853 seeing the famous Table Mountain.

The expedition then crossed the Indian Ocean. They landed on the island of Mauritius on February 18, 1853. On March 10, 1853, they arrived in the busy port of Point de Galle, Ceylon. They pressed on for Great Nicobar Island and crossed the Straits of Malacca from March 20 to March 25, 1853, when they finally arrived in the famous port of Singapore.

The Expedition then went Hong Kong and arrived there at April 7, 1853. It then sailed to Canton, Macao, and then Shanghai where it rendezvous with other ships assigned for Japan mission. It included the warship USS Saratoga and the USS Plymouth. Finally, they left Shanghai and went to Napha in Lew Chew/Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa). They arrived on May 26, 1853 and stayed for more than a month to negotiate trade. But the authorities needed the approval of their overlord – Japan. Besides talking to the local rulers, the expedition waited for the arrival of the last ship for the mission – the steam frigate USS Susquehanna. When the Susquehanna arrived in June, Perry moved his flagship there; and when July came, the American squadron sailed to the objective of their mission – Japan.

Explore also:
Beasley, W.G. The Modern History of Japan. New York, New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Publisher, 1963.

___________. The Meiji Restoration. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1972.

Bolitho, Harold. “Abe Masahiro and the New Japan.” In The Bakufu in Japanese History, edited by Jeffrey Mass and William Hauser. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1985.

Craig, Fairbank, and Edwin Reischauer. East Asia: The Modern Transformation. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1965.

Davis, Geo. Lynn-Lachlan. A Paper Upon the Origin of the Japan Expedition. Baltimore, Maryland: John Murphy & Co., 1860.

Franz, Edgar. Philipp Franz von Siebold and Russian Policy and Action on Opening Japan to the West in the Middle of the Nineteenth Century. Munich: IUDICIUM Verlag, 2005.

Fukuzawa Yukichi. The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa. Translated by Eiichi Kiyooka. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Hawks, Francis. Narrative of the Expedition of An American Squadron to The China Seas and Japan, Performed in the Years 1852, 1853, and 1854, under the Command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by Order of the Government of the United States, Volume I. Washington D.C.: A.O.P. Nicholson, Printer, 1856. 

Henshall, Kenneth. A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower. New York, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Jansen, Marius. The Cambridge History of Japan, Volume 5: The Nineteenth Century. New York, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Murray, David. Japan. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1896.

Nitobe Inazo. The Intercourse Between the United States and Japan: An Historical Sketch. Baltimore, Maryland: The John Hopkins Press, 1891.

Williams, S. Well. A Journal of the Perry Expedition to Japan (1853 – 1854) , Edited by F.W. Williams. n.p.: n.p., 1910.

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