Commodore Perry Notes

for The U.S. War Against Asia
by William P. Meyers

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Notes from

Commodore Perry and the Opening of  Japan
Narrative of the Expedition  of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, 1852-1854

Compiled by Francis L. Hawks

Nonsuch Publishing Limited, Gloucestershire
First published in 1856
This edition 2005

In 1844 the Dutch [Netherlands] had recommended to the Emperor that the restrictions on foreign commerce be eased. They pointed out the danger to Japan presented by steam navigation. In 1845 the Emperor replied that “Japan had no wish to alter her ancient laws with respect to foreigners." In 1852 the Dutch informed the Japanese that an expedition under Commodore Perry was being sent to Japan. The Dutch also tried to negotiate a treaty (reproduced on page 75) that opened up trade to friendly nations, all trading to take place at Nagasaki. The U.S. government informed the government of the Netherlands of the expedition in order that Perry might get help at Nagasaki if necessary. [74-76]

The author believes that the Dutch in fact told the Japanese that the American visit was dangerous. [78-79]

The final impetus for the expedition to Japan was the need for coal for steam ships. Trade between the West Coast of the U.S. was the goal; steamships the means; and coaling stations in Japan a necessity.

Japan had already had mostly negative experiences with the Portuguese, English, Russians and the Netherlands. Perry had studied the history of Japan’s foreign relations. [86]

The intended ships for the original expedition were the USS Mississippi, which Perry had commanded in the U.S. War Against Mexico; Princeton; Alleghany; Vermont; Susquehanna (all 4 steam ships); and the “sloops-of-war” Vandalia, Saratoga, Plymouth and Macedonia, plus “armed storeships” Supply, Lexington, and Southampton. [87]

“The liveliest interest in the undertaking was manifested by the President, (Mr. Fillmore,) by Mr. Webster … by the Secretary of the Navy, (Mr. Kennedy,) and indeed by all the members of the Cabinet. The most liberal equipment was authorized, and the commander of the expedition was invested with extraordinary powers, diplomatic as well as naval.” [87][outside note: Millard Fillmore was replaced in March 1853 by Franklin Pierce. Fillmore had assumed office when Zachary Taylor died in 1850]

“The great objects of the expedition were to procure friendly admission to Japan for purposes of trade, and to establish, at proper points, permanent depots of coal for our steamers crossing the Pacific.” [87]

The Princeton “was found, on trial to be utterly inefficient for the intended service, owing to the imperfection of her boilers. Some new, and in this country untried, plan had been adopted in their construction.” So the Powhatan was substituted, and the expedition delayed a year. [87]

“The Commodore, tired of delays, was not disposed to wait any longer for a consort, and, accordingly, on the 24th of November, 1852, the Mississippi alone took her departure from Norfolk, on the mission to Japan.” [89]

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