Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry was born in Newport, Rhode Island in 1794 as the third son of a navy man. His father was a captain and one of his elder brothers also rose to the rank of a commander. In the atmosphere of this navyoriented family, Perry joined the service as a midshipman at the age of 14.

Distinction in the navy
  In the navy, Perry distinguished himself through action during the War of 1812, the suppression of piracy, and service in convoys. He also had a lot of technical knowledge and was involved in the improvement of arms and construction of the country's first steampowered warship. Even after his promotion to captain in 1837, he continued to take a hand in the improvement of officer education and other efforts to modernize the navy. During his tenure as commander of the Gulf Squadron after commanding the African Squadron, he contributed to the American victory in the Mexican War, which began in 1846. In 1852, he was appointed commander of the East Indies Squadron, and was ordered by Millard Fillmore, the 13th president, to lead the expedition to Japan in accordance with a congressional resolution. (It should be noted that, from 1775 to 1857, captain was the highest rank in the U.S. navy, and captains and commanders who headed fleets were addressed as "commodore.")

The situation in East Asia and the Edo shogunate
  After its defeat at the hands of the British in the Opium War, China opened up five ports and ceded Hong Kong to Great Britain based on the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. Thereafter, France and other European powers began to establish a presence in China, and the United States also endeavored to acquire rights and interests there.
  In spite of its policy of national seclusion, the Tokugawa shogunate learned of developments in the region through the "fusetsugaki" reports on the world situation which the incoming captain of the Dutch factory at Dejima was obliged to submit to the authorities upon his arrival from the Netherlands, more detailed "betsudan fusetsugaki" reports of the same nature which became required in 1842, and the analogous "karafune fusetsugaki" reports submitted by ships from China. In 1844, it received an envoy carrying a letter from the king of the Netherlands urging the shogunate to end the policy of isolation in light of what was going on in the rest of the world.

U.S. expeditions to Japan before Perry
  Toward the end of the Edo period, many foreign ships began to appear in the waters around Japan. The USS Morrison, which attempted to sail into Edo Bay in 1837, was repulsed in line with the shogunate's order to turn back foreign ships. Also in 1846, Commodore James Biddle, then commander of the East Indies Squadron, led two warships (the Vincennes and the Columbia) into Uraga Strait to seek the opening of ports, but his overture was rejected.
  In addition, Japanese shores were also reached by wrecks and ships from other countries, but the shogunate took the same kind of measures against all of them.

Purpose of the expedition
  Perry was therefore the second U.S. envoy to be sent to Japan. By the time of his expedition, however, advances in steamships had considerably reduced the time required to reach East Asia as compared to Biddle's days; from California, the voyage to Japan could be made in only about 18 days, and that to China, about 20 days. Furthermore, the development of trade with China and growth of whaling helped to increase the number of ships sailing Pacific routes. There were consequently mounting desires in industry as well to make use of ports in Japan for resupply of fuel and stores. Under these circumstances, the United States posted the objective of concluding a treaty of friendship and trade in the interests of both its military and industry.

Arrival at Uraga
  With a view to executing his mission, Perry made meticulous plans based on an abundance of information gathered from books about Japan that had been published in Europe. In November 1852, he set out from Norfolk, Virginia, in a single steamship (the Mississippi) on a voyage to Japan via Capetown, South Africa. The Mississippi was joined by other vessels along the way, until a squadron of four "black ships" was formed, consisting of the two steamships Susquehanna (Perry's flagship) and Mississippi and the sailing ships Saratoga and Plymouth. On July 8, 1853, the squadron appeared off Uraga, at the mouth of Edo Bay on the very doorstep of Tokugawa Japan.

Shogunate measures
  Backed by the forces defending Edo Bay, which consisted of elite detachments of Aizu, Hikone, and Kawagoe samurai, the shogunate demanded that Perry sail to Nagasaki, the place it designated as the venue for talks with representatives of other countries. However, it was unable to break the firm stance taken by Perry and his staff, who insisted on delivering the letter from President Fillmore in the area of Edo, the shogun's capital. Eventually, it agreed to accept the letter upon the decision of Abe Masahiro, the head of the shogun's Council of Elders and lord of Ise province. A structure (termed the "treaty hall" by the Americans) was consequently built in Kurihama, close to Uraga. It was on July 14 that the lords Toda Ujiyoshi and Ido Hiromichi of Izu and Iwami domains, respectively, received the letter, to which Dutch and Chinese translations had been appended, as well as other related documents.

Notice of return and the shogunate's anguish
  The Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan compiled under Perry's supervision after his return relates his announcement at the treaty hall that he would be off to the Ryukyu Islands and Canton within the next few days but would be coming back next spring, in April or May. Noting that the present squadron was only a part of the ships under his command, he also warned that he would be leading an even bigger one the next time. Perry sailed out of Uraga Strait on July 17.
  After his departure, the shogunate attempted to unite the country in opposition to the foreign offensive, and its cabinet was strengthened with Abe's appointment of Tokugawa Nariaki, the leader of the Mito Clan who was pushing for the exclusion of foreigners, as the councilor in charge of coastal defenses. It sought the opinions of the lords throughout the country on the subject, but was not able to obtain any practicable countermeasures from them, and so was at a loss about what to do until Perry's next visit.

Return with a larger squadron
  Contrary to what he had warned, Perry came back earlier on February 13, 1854, sailing past Uraga and anchoring off Koshiba in the province of Musashi. This time, his squadron was composed of seven ships: the three steamships Powhattan (his flagship), Susquehanna, and Mississippi, and the four sailing ships Macedonian, Vandalia, Lexington, and Southampton. They were joined a few days later by two more sailing ships, the Supply and the Saratoga.
  In reaction, the shogunate ordered its lords throughout the country to mobilize a total of about 470,000 samurais and erected a line of defense along the entire coast of Edo Bay, stretching from the province of Izu to that of Awa (the present-day Shizuoka and Chiba prefectures, respectively)

Conclusion of the Treaty of Kanagawa
  While Perry pressed for negotiations at Edo, the shogunate proposed the vicinity of Kamakura or Uraga as the site. By way of compromise, both sides agreed to meet in Yokohama. In the talks, which began on March 8, Perry brought up issues such as the shogunate's inhumane treatment of castaways and engaged in debate with the shogunate's representatives headed by Hayashi Fukusai, the head of the university. On March 31, the negotiations culminated in the signature of the Treaty of Kanagawa, which, among other matters, provided for the opening of the two ports of Shimoda and Hakodate. This ended the roughly 215 years of Japan's selfimposed seclusion. Based on the impressions he gained in the course of the talks, Perry decided to leave an agreement on trade to future negotiators.
  In the same year, the shogunate later signed similar treaties of friendship with Great Britain and Russia, which had closely watched Perry's negotiations, and these opened the door to Japan even wider.

Return to the United States and preparation of the "Narrative"
  After the conclusion of the Treaty of Kanagawa and the subsequent addition of 13 supplementary provisions in Shimoda, Perry sailed north for the purpose of survey and observation. From there, he went back to the Ryukyu, where he concluded the Treaty of Naha, and then sailed to Hong Kong, where he left the squadron to make an overland journey to Europe via India. He finally returned to the United States on a British ship on January 11, 1855.  
  By the time of his return, Franklin Pierce had succeeded Millard Fillmore to become the 14th president, and the populace was far more concerned about the domestic problems that would trigger the Civil War within a few years than developments overseas. It was in this atmosphere that the Reverend Francis Hawks was asked by the Congress to compile and edit an official report on the expedition. Entitled "Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan," the report was prepared under Perry's supervision. On March 4, 1858, shortly after the publication of The Americans in Japan, another report about the expedition edited by Robert Tomes, Perry died of a heart attack at age 63.

Perry's prediction
  In his "Narrative," Perry makes a shrewd prediction about the future of Japan and its people. After touching on the customs, habits, and ways of life he observed in Hakodate, he states his belief that, once they come into possession of the past and present know-how of the "civilized world," the Japanese would become formidable rivals in the future competition surrounding the build-up of machine industries.

Japan-U.S. relations after Perry
  It was 1858, the year in which Perry died, that also saw the conclusion of a trade agreement (the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Amity and Commerce) as the outcome of negotiations between the shogunate and Townsend Harris, the first U.S. consul to Japan. There ensued some turmoil in Japan, as exemplified by the arrest and execution of numerous opponents of the shogunate under the regent Ii Naosuke over the years 1859-1860 and his assassination before the Sakurada gate of Edo Castle in 1860. In the same year, however, the shogunate sent a mission led by Niimi Masaoki, lord of the Buzen province, to the United States for the ratification of the trade agreement. Arriving on the Powhattan, which had also carried Perry and was escorted by the Kanrin-maru, the shogunate's steampowered warship, the mission was welcomed by James Buchanan, the 15th president, and the American public. As a result of the visit, Perry's achievement came to be properly appreciated by the people of the United States, who have associated his name with relations between the two countries ever since.

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