Japan and the U.S.
Notes from Japan, China and the Powers

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

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Japan's Relations with the U.S. and Europe before 1860

All [page numbers] reference China, Japan, and the Powers by Meribeth E. Cameron, Thomas H. D. Manhoney, and George E. McReynolds. The Ronald Press Company, New York. Copyright 1952

The British frigate Phaeton entered Nagasaki without permission in 1808. “The superiority of its firepower made it possible for the ship to secure the needed supplies and sail away unscathed.” A number of local officials committed suicide because of the disgrace. [182]

“American ships had served the Dutch in the trade at Deshima from 1798 until 1809.” The Dutch [Netherlands] outpost in Deshima [or Dejima] had been cut off during the Napoleonic Wars. The British had seized Java, and tried to put their own governor at Deshima, but the Dutch governor Doeff refused to budge until the Congress of Vienna returned Java (and Deshima) to the Dutch. [183]

Japan was also under siege by the Russians. They were rebuffed when they tried to trade, and in vengeance destroyed Japanese settlements on Sakhalin in 1806 and 1807. [185]

The Japanese learned of the United States of America almost as soon as the colonies rebelled from Britain. In 1777 they heard a rumor that Russian and Britain planned a combined attack on Japan. “As the Americans were then engaged in their War of Independence, their cause became popular among the Japanese. Knowledge of this war was gained from the Dutch who were, or course, quite well disposed toward the American cause and soon to enter the war against the British because of their trade with the American states. George Washington’s picture … was widely circulated.” [185-186]

The first known American ship to try to trade with Japan was the Lady Washington out of Boston under John Kendrick. [no date given. P 186].

It was common for whaling ships, including from the U.S., to sail near Japan by 1820. Quotes President John Quincy Adams: “it was the duty of Christian nations to open Japan, and that is was the duty of Japan to respond, on the ground that no nation had a right to withdraw its private contribution to the welfare of the whole human race.” [186]

“During the Jackson administration a Portsmouth sea captain, Edmund Roberts, made the first American treaties ever signed with Orientals… Sent on a second mission to seek the opening of trade relations with the Japanese, Roberts died in Macao,” before reaching Japan. [187]

The first American ship to reach Edo [Tokyo] Bay was the Morrison, which carried survivors of a Japanese shipwreck, but with the intent to open relations. The Morrison was fired on as it entered the bay in 1837 and was forced to flee. [187-189]

The Perry Mission is covered in detail on pages 192 to 199. See also Commodore Matthew C. Perry at Wikipedia

In the 1853 visit he had the Mississippi and the Susquehanna (his flagship) and 2 other ships. “There was no secret about the mission, even to the Japanese who were informed in advance by the Dutch.” [193] On his way he visited the Bonins, which were claimed by the British, and annexed to the U.S. by Perry in 1854, but never formally annexed by the U.S.  [193-194]

“Elaborate military preparations were begun to repulse the Americans when they returned” [195].

In the 1854 visit “he assembled a considerably stronger fleet consisting this time of three steam warships, three frigates, and three supply ships. In the Liu Chius, news was received from the Dutch that the Japanese had asked them to inform the Americans that no business could be conducted owing to the period of mourning for the late shogun. Perry elected to disregard this.” [195]

The detailed information available to the Japanese about the United States is outlined on pages 196 to 198.

One of Perry’s ships was the Powhatan. [198] [Per Wikipedia she was 254 ft long, 45 ft across, with a 18.5 ft draft. Steam powered with sidewheels. Carrying 289 personnel. Armed with an 11 inch Dahlgren smoothbore cannon, ten 11 inch Dahlgren smoothbore cannons, and five 12-pounders]

Treaty of Kanagawa signed March 31, 1854, with Shimoda and Hakodate designated for U.S. ships to take on provisions. [199]

American tourists arrived about 2 weeks after Perry’s departure. They were well received [199]

Townsend Harris became the first American consul in Japan in August 1856 (served until 1862). He negotiated the 1858 treaty of Edo. 4 treaty ports were established and the U.S. navy got permission for bases at Yokohama, Hakodate, and Nagasaki. To get the treaty signed “he stressed both the power of the United States and the danger to Japan from the designs of Britain and Russia.” [200]

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