Mathew Perry & The Opening of Japan

Researched by C. Veit  
(Note: I cannot lay claim to anything original here; all that I have done is gather information from sources in print and online and woven them together to provide an overview of this important historical event. S.E. Morrison's "Old Bruin" remains the final word on Perry, but does not go into detail about the efforts of the Russian  Admiral Putiatin or make more than passing reference to  Sampachi, the Japanese national who sailed with the Yankee fleet. There simply was not all that much online about the expedition; hopefully this article will help fill that void. Readers are encouraged to follow the links under "Sources" for the original articles. Links to photos and drawings are highlighted throughout the text, while a page of thumbnail images from which larger pictures may be accessed is directly available here).

Occurring only seven years before the start of the Civil War, many of the men involved in the Perry Expedition were still in the service in 1861 – even if on opposite sides. The experiences of the voyage to Japan figured large in the minds of the men and officers of the U.S. fleet. Here is the story of the Japan Expedition – of Mathew “Old Bruin” Perry (so called because his deep voice could be heard in the fiercest gale), Russian Admiral Efimii Vasil'evich Putiatin (who came within weeks of beating Perry), Eliphalet Brown (one of the first daguerreotypists), William Heine (German immigrant and official artist), and Sam Patch (Sampachi) – a shipwrecked Japanese fisherman who became an American citizen and returned to his homeland as an enlisted U.S. sailor.


In the middle of the harbor of Nagasaki in the far west of Japan sits the manmade island of Dejima. Since the 1600s, the island had been the home of the Dutch trade mission in Japan. No Europeans were allowed into Japan except the Dutch -- and they were allowed to land only one ship every year. The Dutch had enough political pull to make sure that no foreign nations except themselves were allowed to trade with Japan. The last director of Dejima, Donker Curtius, arrived in Nagasaki in 1852 and submitted to the Nagasaki Magistrate an official letter from the governor of the Dutch East Indies. The letter predicted the arrival of the Americans and requested that Japan sign a trade pact with the Netherlands before that event. The Japanese government ignored the letter. In August of the following year, Russian Admiral Evfimii Putiatin, under orders to open Japan, entered Nagasaki harbor. Putiatin was familiar with the Japanese: in 1842-43 he had negotiated with them towards the same end, but was rebuffed. Now the government in St. Petersburg felt the time was right to make the attempt again. Unfortunately for the Russian admiral, the Americans had sailed into Edo [Tokyo] Bay a scant two weeks before – just as the Dutch had warned.

The "China Market" was always a significant lure for American merchants. Following the conclusion of the First Opium War in 1842, Britain forced China to grant it special privileges, including exclusive British use of coastal ports. Not wanting to miss out on similar opportunities, President John Tyler asked Caleb Cushing of Massachusetts to undertake a mission to open Chinese ports to American trade. In 1844 Cushing negotiated the Treaty of Wangxia. This agreement granted to American merchants the same rights as Britain based upon the "most-favored nation" principle. The next obvious move was a similar treaty with Japan – which proved much more difficult, as the experiences of four different European powers showed.

Japan had been effectively sealed against foreign contacts for more than two centuries. Although previously well-disposed towards foreign trade and Christian missionaries, Shogun Ieyasu of the House of Tokagawa in 1603 began to expel all foreigners and suppress the alien religion. Ieyasu feared lest native Christians set up a fifth column for Spanish or Portuguese invaders. Japan was a feudal state at this time, and Ieyasu’s paranoia undoubtedly stemmed from this. While the House of Tokugawa became dominant, receiving the title of Shogun from the politically powerless emperor, Ieyasu did not establish a completely centralized state. Instead, he replaced opposing feudal lords with relatives and allies, who were free to rule within their domains with only a few restrictions. The Tokugawa Shoguns prevented alliances against them by forbidding marriages among the other feudal lords' family members and forcing them to spend every other year under the Shogun's eye in Edo (now Tokyo), the Shogunal capital, in a kind of organized hostage system. In 1638 under the third Shogun, Tokugawa Iemitsu, came the absolute prohibition of any contact with the outside world. Iemitsu believed that influences from abroad would shift the balance that existed between the Shogun and the feudal lords. Japanese nationals were not permitted to leave the country – even accidentally: sailors who drifted across the Pacific, carried away from Japanese shores by typhoons, were not allowed to return on pain of death.

The severity of this self-isolation did not diminish with the passage of time. An influential argument was made in 1825 by the scholar Aizawa Seishisai in his book “New Proposals” (Shinron). His work had been triggered by a Shogunate decree that again banned foreign ships. Aizawa warned that Japanese weakness “for novel gadgets" could "lure ignorant people" to the spell of "treacherous foreigners." The result would be the internal corruption and the decay of Japanese society or outright foreign conquest. In 1839 one group of intellectuals was so active in learning from the Dutch and spreading the information that several committed suicide fearing that their activities embarrassed their daimyo master in the eyes of the Shogun. The tension illustrated by these suicides--the tension created between the seeking of outside news to protect Japan and the fear that spreading of such foreign influence could create disorder or even civil war--shaped the background that foreigners never understood. For 250 years the Tokugawa Shogunate maintained that internal order and Japan's very survival required cutting off the inherently disorderly and usually uncontrollable affairs of the outside world. Westerners were not welcome, and almost no one in Europe or America had ever met a Japanese. Foreign sailors who were shipwrecked in Japanese waters were badly treated. They were captured and sent directly to the port of Nagasaki to be shipped home. Nagasaki was the only place that Europeans, mostly Dutch, were allowed to live; here they existed in primitive conditions on the small island of Dejima in Nagasaki harbor. Except for a few Chinese, who also traded at Nagasaki, and some Koreans, who came on official diplomatic missions, Japan was largely cut off from the outside world.

For Americans – who saw the Pacific as an extension of the “Manifest Destiny” that had carried them across their own continent – relations with Japan would provide a critical link in the chain of ports they had recently forged across the Pacific. It was hoped these bases would allow them to beat the aggressive British and capture the whole of the Oriental trade. In 1842, President John Tyler announced that Hawaii was to be treated as a special U.S. reserve – warning off other powers that might seek control of the island chain. In 1844 the Treaty of Wangxia opened Chinese ports to U.S. vessels. The 1846-48 Mexican War conquest of California gave America ports along the Pacific rim, saving thousands of miles over the existing routes around Africa or South America. Japan became increasingly important as a way station along the path from California to Shanghai. The opportunity was noted by Secretary of the Treasury Robert Walker in 1848: "By our recent acquisitions in the Pacific, Asia has suddenly become our neighbor, with a placid intervening ocean inviting our steamships upon the track of a commerce greater than that of all Europe combined.” Moreover the American Church, which possessed its own "mission" ideals of "civilizing and Christianizing Asia," saw Japan as a particularly important target for its activities. Missionary societies therefore joined in lobbying Congress for an expedition to Japan.

D Previous Contact with Japan D

The United States’ relationship with Japan at the end of the 1840s was one of extreme caution; very little, in fact, was known about Japan. Between 1790 and 1853 at least twenty-seven U.S. ships (including three warships) visited Japan, only to be turned away. In 1832, as part of his navigation of the Pacific, Edmund Roberts received orders from the Jackson administration to make a treaty with Japan, but he died before reaching the islands. Five years later, the Morrison, owned by Americans in Canton, tried to enter Japan with the excuse that it was returning shipwrecked Japanese sailors. The crew, however, hoped to Christianize Japanese as well as "trade a little." When shore cannon opened fire, the Morrison beat it back to China. However, in 1845, the whaleship Manhattan was allowed to land 22 Japanese castaways at Uraga and obtain provisions. This seemed a good augury and President Polk instructed Commodore James Biddle to have a try at opening Japan.

On July 20, 1846 Biddle anchored Columbus and Vincennes off Uraga at the entrance to Edo Bay – where they were immediately surround by hundreds of armed guard boats. In an attempt to appear friendly, Biddle allowed Japanese sightseers to swarm freely over the ships, accepted gifts, and entrusted the President’s letter to a minor official. The Shogun refused to accept the letter and ordered the ships away, adding that they must never return. The officer of the guard boat that brought this reply ordered Commodore Biddle to come aboard and get it in person. At first Biddle refused, then made the mistake of complying. As he was about to step onto the vessel, one of the Japanese soldiers gave him a blow that sent him toppling back into his cutter. The Japanese authorities expressed their regret, but since Biddle had orders “not to do anything to excite a hostile feeling or distrust of the United States,” he simply departed in peace on July 29. This action was interpreted by the Japanese as weakness and the whole episode considered a “victory” over “the American big ships.”

Captain James Glynn of the Preble was the next American to deal with the Japanese. On April 17, 1849, the Preble dropped anchor off Nagasaki on a mission to rescue American sailors from the whalers Lagoda and Lawrence which had gone down off the coast of Japan. The men had been cruelly treated, and their lives spared only by the pleas of the Dutch at Dejima. Sailing orders to Captain Glynn addressed the issue of international relations:

In your correspondence with the Japanese, your conduct will be conciliatory but firm. You will be careful not to violate the laws or customs of the country, or by any means prejudice the success of any pacific policy our government may be inclined to pursue. Nevertheless you may be placed in situations which cannot be foreseen. In all such cases, every confidence is reposed in your discretion and ability to guard the interests as well as the honor of your country.

At the arrival of the Preble in Nagasaki, the Japanese again attempted to surround the ship with the numerous guard boats that had stopped Biddle. Glynn would have none of this, instead forcing his way through the cordon and anchoring within easy cannon shot of the city. Small boats were sent out from which notes attached to bamboo sticks were thrown on board the Preble’s deck. Captain Glynn immediately threw them overboard insisting on being afforded the respect of speaking with a representative in person. Over the next three days, several officials and interpreters came aboard to negotiate with Captain Glynn. The Captain, under frequent questioning about his rank and the disposition of the United States naval forces, stood his ground and continually argued to speak with higher-ranking officials. Glynn delivered an ultimatum on April 22, saying that unless the prisoners were delivered to him within two days, he would open fire on the city. The next day the American prisoners were released to Dutch traders on shore and conveyed to the Preble. Captain Glynn did not converse with any officials after that and the Preble reported back to the East India Squadron in Hong Kong with the rescued passengers. Glynn reported to Washington that conditions were favorable for another attempt to open Japan, but that a strong naval force should be sent to do it.

In May 1851, Secretary of State Webster heard from Captain John H. Aulick, who was to take command of the East Asia squadron, that the return of seventeen shipwrecked Japanese then in San Francisco might provide the opportunity for "opening commercial relations with Japan." The Secretary of State put Aulick in charge of the mission. Captain Glynn gave President Millard Fillmore and Aulick good advice: do not treat Japanese "as being less civilized than ourselves," do not get into arguments over treatment of U.S. sailors, and do focus only on obtaining a trade treaty. Moreover, Glynn shrewdly added, do not ask for exclusive U.S. privileges, but for access to Japan for all nations. Thus the powerful British will have reason to support, rather than oppose, the American demands.

On May 10, 1851, Webster drafted a letter from President Fillmore to the Japanese Emperor. Assuring the Emperor that Aulick was on no religious enterprise, the letter asked for "friendship and commerce," as well as help (especially coal) for ships that used the northern route to China. Of special interest, Webster's draft of the note emphasized recent U.S. triumphs on land and in technology:

You know [Fillmore told the Emperor] that the United States of America now extend from sea to sea; that the great countries of Oregon & California are parts of the United States; and that from these countries, which are rich in gold & silver & precious stones, our steamers can reach the shores of your happy land in less than twenty days....

[These ships] must pass along the coast of your Empire; storms & winds may cause them to be wrecked on your shores, and we ask & expect from your kindness & your greatness, kindness for our men.... We wish that our people may be permitted to trade with your people, but we shall not authorize them to break any laws of your Empire....

Your Empire has a great abundance of coal; this is an article which our Steamships, in going from California to China, must use.

Japan, as Webster nicely phrased it to a friend, was the key because God had placed coal "in the depths of the Japanese islands for the benefit of the human family." Aulick, however, fumbled his chance to become famous. Charged with mistreating a Brazilian diplomat, he was replaced by Fillmore with Commodore Matthew C. Perry. The commodore initially protested he preferred commanding the U.S. Mediterranean squadron instead of trying to make yet another attempt to open Japan. But Perry had more diplomatic experience than any other American officer, and his dignified, if pompous, manner would serve him well in his negotiations with the Japanese. Born in Rhode Island in 1794, Perry had served in the War of 1812 under his famous brother, Oliver Hazard Perry. By 1837 Matthew had risen through the ranks and commanded one of the first U.S. steam warships. He was an ardent Navy man and advocate of the transition to steam power. Perry it would be – but on Perry’s terms.

D The Japan Fleet D

After overcoming his reluctance to accept command of the expedition, Perry prepared thoroughly. He carried on extensive talks with business figures interested in Asian trade. The commodore also demanded greater latitude in his orders from Webster, a demand the Secretary of State granted just before his death in October 1852. Perry sailed for Japan with "full and discretionary powers," in Webster's words, but the commodore was to "be held to a strict responsibility" for his actions. The "discretionary powers" included possible use of force if the Japanese tried to treat him as they had the unfortunate Commodore Biddle. Perry refused to allow any diplomats to accompany him.

Commodore Aulick had insisted that the Japan fleet have at least three first class steamships and a sloop of war. Aulick wanted the steamers for two reasons. The first was that he thought a ship without sails would scare the Japanese and the second reason was for their speed. He also asked that the ships be equipped with heavy caliber guns, explosive shells, rockets, etc. to scare the Japanese or destroy them if necessary. Perry wanted an even larger fleet of ships for the expedition. He made the Secretary of the Navy, William Graham, promise to increase the size of the fleet if he was to take command. The squadron’s size was expanded to include the steamers Mississippi, Susquehanna, Powhatan, and the Allegheny. The sloops Plymouth and Saratoga were also promised, as was the ship-of-the-line Vermont and the Macedonian.

Perry quickly realized that this would be a historic mission. He studied as much as possible about Japan and gathered experts to join him on his mission. He asked recently arrived German painter William Heine to become the expedition's official artist. Interested in the new and experimental field of photography, he convinced Eliphalet M. Brown, Jr., an able young daguerreotypist, to join the expedition as its official photographer. The State Department provided him with the agricultural specialist and botanist, Dr. James Morrow. Convinced that he needed an Asia expert, he hired the China scholar, S. Wells Williams, who had been to Japan with the Morrison in 1837, as official interpreter. Perry also recruited several Japanese castaways as unofficial interpreters.

Perry chose his officers from among those who has served him in the Mexican War. Three close friends, Commanders Franklin Buchanan, Sidney S. Lee, and Joel Abbot were appointed commanding officers of the Susquehanna, Mississippi, and Macedonian, respectively. Commander Henry A. Adams became the Commodore’s chief of staff with the title Captain of the Fleet. Lieutenant Silas Bent (who had been to Nagasaki with Glynn in the Preble) became flag lieutenant. Major Jacob Zeilin (future seventh commandant of the Marine Corps) was the ranking Marine aboard the Mississippi. Two of Perry’s most successful selections were a seagoing French chief and an Italian bandmaster to train and conduct his flag musicians. Perry observed that naval enlisted cooks were incapable of tickling foreign palates. And he valued music not only to entertain the natives, but to maintain shipboard morale.

Because the practice of flogging had only recently been abolished in the Navy, Perry advised his captains to recruit mostly landsmen and boys who would “in a very short time become more effective men in a steamer than middle-aged men of questionable constitution.” He feared lest “old salts” prove difficult to handle without the threat of flogging. “We shall now learn how the philanthropic principle of moral suasion answers,” he wrote to Commander Buchanan.

Perry wrote to the Secretary of the Navy on March 27, 1852 for permission to take government stores as gifts. He requested small arms no longer of practical use, but highly valuable as presents for foreign dignitaries. Although the Secretary agreed, and Perry requisitioned stores from the New York Navy Yard, it appears that he did not take them, but instead took ordnance stores provided by the Army. Loaded aboard the Mississippi in April 1852 from the Army arsenals at New York, Watervliet, Frankford, and Washington were 40 Hall rifles (with 4,000 cartridges), 20 percussion pistols (with 2,000 cartridges), 20 artillery swords, 20 muskets with Maynard percussion locks, 40 light cavalry sabers, and 60 strips of Maynard primers. In June, Commodore Charles Morris, Chief of Ordnance and Hydrography, contracted Samuel Colt for 100 of his revolvers for Perry’s trip; these were received aboard the Mississippi by July 10.

D Sam Patch D

Enroute to Japan, Perry would add a final unique member to his crew – from whom great things were hoped for. This was a Japanese castaway who went by the Americanized name Sam Patch. Documentary evidence shows that Japanese castaways were being encountered in the Pacific as early as 1617. As the whaling grounds off the coast of Japan and the North Pacific were increasingly exploited from the 1840s and American trading vessels began to make more regular visits to the Far Eastern waters, the frequency of these encounters increased. Sources in Tokyo show that in the 1850s, there were at least four instances of American vessels rescuing Japanese castaways. In most cases, they were taken to Hawaii and never visited the United States. There was one instance, however, of the entire crew of a shipwrecked Japanese vessel being brought to San Francisco in 1851. The 18-man crew of the Eiriki-Maru were brought to San Francisco on February 3, 1851, only 45 days after they were found in the Pacific, and stayed there for over a year.

The wreck of the Eiriki-Maru, the rescue of her crew, and their stay in San Francisco are recounted in Narrative of a Japanese by Joseph Heco (Hikotaro) – the thirteen-year old cabin boy aboard the fishing vessel. When the crew reached San Francisco, they were transferred to the U.S.S. Polk, a vessel belonging to the United States Revenue Service. They remained aboard the Polk until they left San Francisco for Hong Kong on board the U.S.S. St. Mary on 13 March 1852. During that time, they were photographed by Harvey R. Marks, a daguerreotypist from Baltimore. Comparisons of later photographs and wood block prints in Tokyo recently confirm that the picture included in this article is of Simpachi, the cook of the Eiriki-Maru  – the first Japanese national to be photographed.

Perry was aware of the Japanese castaways in Hong Kong. The United States government hoped to use the return of these men as a lever in opening Japan to foreign trade, and awaiting them at Hong Kong to take them back to Japan was the U.S.S. Susquehanna, one of the vessels in Perry’s squadron. The Japanese, however, were fearful that they would be suspected of having abetted the Americans, and several left the group to try and find their own way back to Japan, while others, including Hikotaro, went back to California. When the Susquehanna eventually set sail for Japan, only one member of the original group, Simpachi, remained on board, having learnt enough English to enlist in the United States Navy as a third-class seaman. Commodore Perry took a personal interest in ‘Sam Patch’, as he was nicknamed, and wrote later that by the time the expedition reached Uraga, ‘Sam had taken his place as one of the crew, and had won the good will of his shipmates by his good nature’.

While not an official interpreter, it was hoped that Sam would play a key role as a go-between. Perry was happy to entrust Sam to the care of Jonathan Goble, a devout Christian in the Marine contingent; he wrote in his report of the expedition that:

It is not unreasonable to hope that Sam, with the education of his faithful American friend, may be an instrument, in the event of his return to Japan, under a further development of our relations with that empire, of aiding in the introduction of a higher and better civilization into his own country. All honor be to the American Christian Marine for his benevolence.

D The Fleet Sails D

Perry's fleet set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, on November 24, 1852. He had been given specific instructions to expand America's trade relations in the Asian region and to acquire rights to establish coaling stations in ports along the Japanese coast or in the uninhabited islands around Japan. Perry thoroughly studied Japan and its relations with the surrounding areas. In one report sent to the American Naval Commander in 1852, Perry noted that if Japan were not to respond favorably to his calls for an end to the sakoku (isolation) policy, he would anchor his ships nearby in intimidatory fashion. He proposed that the Ryukyus would be best-suited. In his view, the Ryukyus were under the direct control of one of Japan's most powerful daimyo, Shimazu, but that the people of the Ryukyus (who were inveterate pacifists) suffered nothing but oppression under his regime. In his own words, "liberating the islanders from this regime and occupying the region would be the most appropriate and morally correct course of action. As far as I'm concerned, it would greatly improve the lives of the [Ryukyu] islanders. Without doubt, the Ryukyuans would welcome America." The Commodore had a shrewd appreciation of the strategic value of Okinawa as the keystone of the Pacific: the British, by establishing bases at Singapore, North Borneo, and Hong Kong, already controlled every approach to China from the westward. An American base at Okinawa would enable the United States Navy to control access to these same waters from across the pacific and thereby balance British power in the Far East. Perry's "Ryukyu Proposal" was given the go-ahead by the American President, though he was instructed to procure goods from the islanders at fair prices and to make sure that his crew behaved impeccably whilst there. Military force was sanctioned only in such circumstances that Perry or his crew came under attack.

Perry, aboard the Mississippi, took the long traditional route along the Atlantic, around the Cape of Good Hope, through the Indian Ocean, then to Singapore, Hong Kong (where he picked up the sloops Plymouth and Saratoga), Shanghai (adding the sidewheeler Susquehanna), and the Loochoo Islands before approaching Japan. Perry's fleet arrived at Naha Port in the Ryukyus in May of 1853. Contrary to instructions, he threatened, and applied, force readily, telling the Ryukyu government that if he were not allowed access or lease to required facilities and areas for a coaling station and for trading purposes, he would send 200 troops to occupy Shuri castle. The Ryukyu government surrendered unconditionally. In the month that followed, Perry drilled his men at small arms and the ship’s guns, landing the Marines ashore for hours of drill, and distributing the cache of weapons brought from home aboard the Mississippi. On July 2, 1853, sailed for Edo (Tokyo) Bay, arriving at 5a.m. on July 8, 1853.

The four ships steamed in column between the Izu Peninsula and volcanic island of O Shima, entering Sagami Bay as thousands of Japanese on shore watched the “burning ships” in amazement. On signal from Susquehanna, decks were cleared for action, cannon loaded, small arms made ready, and men took their battle stations. The smooth sea was dotted with fishing boats and lumbering junks. Upon seeing Perry's fleet sailing into their harbor, the Japanese called them the "black ships (korofune) of evil mien." At 5p.m. Perry’s squadron anchored in line of battle in Tokyo Bay, within thirty miles of the capitol. As anchor chains rattled out of hawsepipes, a fort ashore fired two guns – a signal to the bakufu (government) at Edo, which sent out a general alarm and mobilization of defense forces numbering over 20,000 men. The American ships were almost immediately surrounded by Japanese guard boats, each carrying a score of soldiers. Fastening lines to the ships, these soldiers attempted to climb aboard over the chains or the bobstays. Commodore Biddle had allowed that, but Perry was determined to prevent it. By his orders, sailors cast overboard or cut the lines and repelled would-be boarders with pikes and cutlasses. No foreign ship had ever dared to do that. The boats’ officers roared angrily and one approached with a large sign in French (supplied by the Dutch): “Depart immediately and dare not anchor!” A Dutch interpreter with the Japanese explained that a high personage was on board and wished to be received.

Although the Dutch had warned the Shogun's government, the bakufu, that Americans were coming, the Japanese were nevertheless surprised that Perry appeared so soon. Their surprise mounted when the commodore ignored low-level officials and insisted--pointedly as he stood beneath the cannons of his warship--on dealing only with bugyo (someone given specific powers directly by the Shogun). Their surprise changed into near horror when they further learned that President Fillmore's letter was addressed to the Emperor as if Emperor Komei were a mere equal. Because Perry refused to deal with anyone of less than imperial rank, second in command Captain Henry A. Adams served as preliminary negotiator. The stunned bakufu decided to play for time, using their women to appease and distract the powerful while they built up their forces. One U.S. officer recorded that "the inhabitants ... by the most unmistakable signs invited our intercourse with their women." As one historian explained, "The Americans had guns, the Japanese lifted their skirts." Nor was Sam Patch able to prove to be as useful as Perry had hoped. On the two occasions he met with the Japanese representatives, ‘Sam’ acted as any low-born Japanese at that time would in his situation, and immediately prostrated himself before them. He had to be ordered to rise by the ship’s officers, who were embarrassed that "such obsequiousness should be shown on the deck of an American man-of-war, and under the flag of the United States, to anything wearing the human form".

The shore was a scene of bustling activity as the mobilization decreed by the bakufu began. The daimyo responsible for the defense of Edo Bay sent contingents of cavalry, long-swordsmen, archers with eight-foot bows, musketeers carrying ancient smoothbores, spearmen with ten-foot pikes – a brave and beautiful spectacle that did little to faze the watching Americans. Despite the great numbers of men and the existence of some twenty forts – as well as earthworks being thrown up behind canvas screens so that Perry’s officers called them “dungaree forts” – the tars ascertained that the Japanese had no weapons which they need fear.

Unbeknownst to Perry, all of this was mere show: the bakufu had no real means to rid itself of the Americans. The Japanese had no modern weapons with which to defend Edo or even to prevent a blockade of the capitol – the provisions for which all came by sea. Despite ordering that no one discuss the foreign ships, word spread through the country and every day they remained the bakufu lost face with the Japanese people. While eager to do almost anything to be rid of the Americans, officials were aware that one wrong move might give them cause to remain. Strict orders were issued to withhold all gunfire, for fear that, if given such an excuse, the Perry would act as the British had in China, occupying the port and setting up an American Hong Kong. Nomatter how “insolent” the “outer barbarians” grew, an incident must be avoided. So the government decided to accept Perry’s letter, but to delay as long as possible in hopes that another kamikaze (divine wind) would blow up and destroy the black ships. If that did not happen, they would make as few concessions as possible to get rid of the Americans.

In the meantime, the Americans sent out sounding parties. On the 11th of July a cutter from the Mississippi under Lieutenant Silas Bent was confronted by forty Japanese guard boats filled with soldiers and bristling with spears and matchlocks. Bent altered course to avoid them and sent a boat back to the flagship to ask Captain Lee to move the ship closer. On the steamer’s approach the guard boats retired. Perry named the nearest point of land Point Rubicon because no foreign ship had crossed it in three hundred years. Perry’s purpose in sounding the channel to Edo was so that, in case no proper person was sent to receive the President’s letter, he could land close to the Shogunal capitol and deliver it himself under cover of the ships’ guns. A Japanese official sent aboard Mississippi to protest these forays was told that the Americans were charting the bay in order to fight their way into the Edo in the event the bakufu procrastinated too long. The threat and the candor with which it was delivered impressed the Japanese, for the next day, July 12, bakufu officials arrived to arrange a meeting between Perry and Prince Izu, one of the emperor’s counselors. The meeting would take place a Kurihama in two days time.

At break of day on Thursday, July 14, the two steamers weighed anchor, proceeded the short distance to Kurihama, and anchored with springs on their cables so as to be able to bring a full broadside to bear in the event of treachery. The shore was lined with thousands of Japanese troops, so Perry ordered his men heavily armed: sailors carried musket, pistol, and cutlass, and every other man was armed with a boarding pike. With the full panoply of his rank, Perry went ashore at 9a.m. on July 14 for the ceremony of handing over the president’s letter. The 250 sailors and Marines that accompanied him in fifteen ships’ boats under Commander Buchanan were outnumbered by the Japanese twenty to one. Recognizing the importance of pageantry and “face” in dealing with the Japanese, “Beriri” (as the Japanese called him) arranged for a thirteen gun salute to be fired from Susquehanna as he stepped into his boat – just as Buchanan jumped ashore. When the Commodore landed, Major Zeilin’s Marines presented arms and the bands struck up “Hail Columbia!” Zeilin’s Marines (wearing plumed shakos) led the way, followed by a contingent of sailors and the one of the bands. Two ship’s boys came next, bearing President Fillmore’s letter and the Commodore’s letter of credence. After them came Perry, flanked by two huge Negro seamen serving as bodyguards, bearing the American ensign1 and the blue pennant; these were the first blacks the Japanese had ever seen. More bluejackets followed and the second band closed the formation. The sailors were all dressed in white frocks and blue trousers and the newly-issued blue flat hat – which Perry had caused to be decorated with a hatband of red, white and blue horizontal stripes with thirteen blue stars on the white stripe. The American formation and maneuvers, “conducted just as if they were marching into enemy territory,” impressed the Japanese. Perry marched the short distance from the beach at Kurihama to a pavilion hastily constructed for the meeting.

It was a tense moment, but not a one of the 5,000-man Japanese force raised a hand to oppose the landing. Excellent discipline on both sides prevented an explosion that might have resulted in war instead of a treaty. The Americans never realized what a close thing it was. Just as the fleet swung at anchor with guns loaded and run out, so too were the Japanese ready for any treachery. Years afterwards, Kashigawi Shigefusa, a samurai, recorded that he and nine other two-sworded warriors were concealed under the floor of the reception hall with orders to rush out and slay the Commodore should the visitors attempt any violence.

Awaiting Perry and his officers inside the pavilion were Princes Toda Izu and Ido Iwami. They rose from their camp stools and bowed silently as Perry and his officers were seated on priests’ thrones borrowed from local Buddhist temples. An awkward silence was broken by the Japanese interpreter’s announcement that the Princes were ready to receive the Americans’ documents. Perry beckoned to the two small ship’s boys, who advanced along with the two Negro seamen to a large central dais. Taking the boxes from the boys, the sailors unlocked them, displayed the contents with their official seals, and placed the letters in a scarlet Imperial dispatch case upon the table. This flaunting of the documents had no visible effect upon the Japanese, who were mesmerized by the sight of the huge black sailors. In return, two Japanese aides received from the hand of Prince Ido a scroll which they delivered to Perry; it grudgingly acknowledged receipt of the letters and told the Americans that, since it had been delivered, they could depart. Another awkward silence followed until the Commodore announced that he would be leaving in two or three days, but would return for their reply in the spring. The interpreter asked, “With all four vessels?” Perry replied “Probably more.” Everyone was back aboard by 11:30 in the morning. The squadron weighed anchor on Sunday morning of July 17 to winter over on the China coast and the Ryukyus.

The next move was up to Abe Masahiro, leader of the Shogun's council. A daimyo known and trusted by most of the powerful lords of the more than one hundred fiefdoms of Japan, Abe was a gentle, well-liked man so shrewd that he had entered the council at age twenty-four in 1843. A politician who sometimes bent too easily and quickly to prevailing political winds, he carefully sounded out the daimyo about the proper response to Perry. These men were divided. Some knew nothing of the dangerous international situation in the western Pacific, but all seemed to agree that under no circumstances could Japan open its empire to foreign traders; their goods would upset the nation's internal order. But how to inform Perry of this when he returned with his warships? Some of the more powerful daimyo advised stalling while the bakufu built a modern military to deal with the commodore on Japanese terms. A number, indeed, were willing to go to war with the United States -- after proper preparations.

These daimyo demonstrated a fascinating confidence that Japan could quickly match the West's military technology, as well as perhaps profit from that technology in international trade. ("We have reason to believe that the Americans and Russians have recently learned the art of navigation," a typically confident daimyo told Abe; "in what way would the keen and wise men of our empire appear inferior to the Westerners if they got into training from today?") Abe knew that the West, most immediately Perry, would not give Japan the needed time. Any doubt of that disappeared when Russian Admiral Efimii Vasil'evich Putiatin again led his four Russian ships into Nagasaki harbor just after Perry left Edo.

D The Russians D

The American expedition to Japan did not occur in a vacuum; rather, it was played out against the background of international politics and affected the balance of power in the Western Pacific. Although the trading rights sought by Perry were aimed more at the countering the British, it was the Russians who were the primary competitors for the opening of Japan. Beginning in the eighteenth century, Russian expansion into the Amur River region and over to Alaska created friction with Japan. The Kurile Islands and Sakhalin were contested by both countries, and clashes over fishing rights were common. In 1804 the Russian-American Company asked officials at Nagasaki for permission to trade with Japan so the company could supply the expanding Russian settlements to the north. The Japanese flatly rejected the request. The Russians decided during 1806-07 to teach the Tokugawa a lesson by raiding villages in the northern islands. The Japanese did not back down. Instead, they captured a Russian official in 1811 and held him for two years until the czar's officials finally apologized for the raids. Japanese officials began to warn that Russia posed the major threat to their country's security. In the 1840s this feeling intensified as Japan watched the Europeans exploit China as a result of the First Opium War..

In 1850 war broke out again in China with the Taipeng Rebellion, which gathered pace to become a serious threat to the ruling Manchu dynasty. The progress of the rebellion alarmed the Western powers, who saw their growing influence potentially undermined by events. British armies were “invited” by the Chinese to help in the suppression of the rebels. At the same time the Russian court learnt of American plas to force the opening of Japanese ports. Muraviev, Governor General of Siberia, warned the Czar Nicholas I that Britain and America threatened Russia's position in the Far East. In 1852, Admiral Efimii Vasil'evich Putiatin – veteran of a failed 1843 attempt to force the opening of Japan – was again dispatched with instructions to establish greater ties with Japan as well as with China. In 1853 Putiatin entered Nagasaki with his flagship Pallada, the Diana, and three other vessels, bearing official letters from the czar and seeking the formation of a trade pact between Russia and Japan. Local officials used the same tactics of delay on the Russian admiral as their counterparts at Edo Bay attempted with the Americans – but more successfully. With England and France taking the side of Russia's Turkish enemies in the looming Crimean War, Putiatin could not remain still for fear of attack by British or French ships. He sailed in and out of Nagasaki three times from July 1853 to March 1854. While Putiatin was not party to the negotiations that took place on Edo Bay, his repeated presence at Nagasaki helped to convince the Shogunate that the policy of “national seclusion” had to come to an end.

D The Second Visit to Japan D

Although having told the Japanese that he would return in the spring of 1854, Perry was aware that Putiatin was still in the area. Fearing that the Russian admiral might force the Japanese to sign a treaty while the Americans were still wintering on the China coast, Perry departed for Japan in January. (His suspicions were correct, for Putiatin had departed Nagasaki less than three weeks earlier after a second, month-long visit.) Perry’s early sailing date was also motivated by a joint British / French promise to “accompany him up to Japan next spring.” Perry gave them the slip and came with ten ships (four sailing ships, three steamers, and three supply ships -- a quarter of the U.S. Navy) and 1600 men and dropped anchor 26 miles from Edo on February 13, 1854.  

The bakufu was neither surprised nor embarrassed by the early reappearance of the Americans, because it had already decided its policy over the winter months. While some progressive daimyo and ministers advocated open trade, and other more provincial lords argued for open warfare, the government settled on a middle course. Japan would promise kind treatment for castaways; would open the remote port of Shimoda for trade and as a coaling station (but not for three years); and would agree to provision American visitors at fair prices. Nonetheless, the Japanese negotiators procrastinated for weeks, haggling with Perry over the site of the negotiations. Perry was set on Edo; this the Japanese utterly refused, repeatedly suggesting various ports which the Commodore found equally impossible due to their lack of shelter. “Old Bruin’s” patience finally wore thin and he lost his temper, saying “if his proposals were rejected, he was prepared to make war at once; that in the event of war he would have fifty ships in nearby waters at once and fifty more in California, and that if he sent word he could summon a command of one hundred warships within twenty days.” Of course, this far exceeded the actual size of the American Navy at that time, but the Japanese could not know this. Toward the end of February Perry moved his ships up the bay until Edo could be seen from the mastheads; he meant this as a hint to the Japanese that he could go to Edo if he wished. Finally both sides compromised on the tiny village of Yokohama, where a treaty hall was quickly built.

Perry landed for peace and trade talks on March 8th, 1854. Three naval bands played the Star Spangled Banner as twenty-seven boats landed 500 sailors and Marines. The ensuing procession demonstrated the commodore’s philosophy that “with people of forms it is necessary either to set all ceremonies aside or to out-Herod Herod in assumed personal consequence and ostentation.” The Americans disembarked, formed two lines, and presented arms. Through this aisle again marched the two colossal black sailors bearing the ensign and broad pennant. Perry, in full dress coat and gold-striped trousers, accompanied by a column of officers two abreast, followed them into the treaty house. Chief Commissioner Hayashi awaited him there.

With the emperor’s approval, the Japanese had already agreed to yield to Perry’s demands, but as masters at the arts of evasion and procrastination, they delayed as long as they could in coming to terms. But in Perry they met their match in diplomatic skill and steadfastness. On the last day of March 1854, after intense negotiations, Perry and the Japanese signed the “Treaty of Peace and Amity between the United States and Japan” – better known as the Treaty of Kanagawa. The treaty guaranteed that the Japanese would save and care for shipwrecked Americans, and that they would provide food, coal, water, and other provisions for the American ships that docked in Nagasaki. In five years the same supplies could be procured at Shimoda and Hakodate. It also granted the United States permission to build a consulate in Shimoda (Townsend Harris, the first United States ambassador to Japan, would arrive in August). The Japanese agreed to all of these things but wouldn’t sign for trade; that would wait until 1857. This ended Japan’s two-hundred year isolation policy. Afterward, the emperor would claim that he had not been told all that was contained in the treaty.

After the official negotiations were completed there was much celebration. The Americans presented the Japanese with a variety of gifts that included a miniature steam locomotive, a telegraph apparatus with lines, modern fire-fighting equipment, various agricultural tools, arms (including Colt six shooters and Hall's twenty-four-shot rifles), one hundred gallons of whiskey, clocks, stoves, and many books about the United States. As the banquets aboard Perry's flagship showed, the Japanese needed no lessons in merriment. Both Americans and Japanese liked to dance and drink. The Japanese responded with entertainment and gifts of their own: gold-lacquered furniture and boxes, bronze ornaments, porcelain goblets, and – to indulge the commodore’s personal hobby – a collection of seashells. Among the entertainment they provided for the Americans was a Sumo wrestling match; the Americans countered with a "Japanese minstrel show."

Perry had originally pushed for American access to five Japanese ports, including Naha in the Ryukyus. Japan refused, designating only Shimoda and Hakodate. In the case of Naha, Japanese negotiators stated that since Ryukyu was a distant country, neither the Emperor or Japanese Government had any rights to confer access to its ports. This statement was a confirmation of Perry's own impression that the Ryukyu Kingdom was an independent entity. Upon returning to Naha, therefore, he swiftly organized a treaty specifically related to American interests in that region. A “Compact between the United States and the Ryukyu Kingdom” was drafted in both English and Chinese and formally signed on 11th July, 1854. It was ratified by the U.S. Senate the following year.

D Perry at Shimoda D

While Perry's second in command, Captain Henry Adams, sped home with the signed treaty aboard the Saratoga (which made the fastest trip yet between Japan and America), Perry took the remainder of his squadron to Shimoda to survey the harbor, study its shore, and record the site where the future American consulate would be located. It was during this phase of the expedition that Japanese artists made the Black Ship Scroll paintings. Shimoda was located about 130 miles from the city of Edo, at the southern end of the rugged Izu Peninsula. The Japanese did not want "foreign barbarians" close to Edo, and so selected an out-of-the-way port as the site where Westerners would be allowed to reside. Heine, the German-American artist on the Expedition, said of Shimoda, "the harbor of Shimoda consists of a spacious inlet surrounded by rolling countryside rising to hills of several hundred feet. Even our large ships could anchor within rifle shot of land, so abruptly does the shore slant to depth… There at the mouth of a small but vigorous river the town of Shimoda numbers about a thousand buildings."

Once Perry and his men came ashore in Shimoda, they had much work to do. Shimoda was to become the chief port in Japan for Westerners. To prepare the way for the arrival of future Americans, Perry had his squadron carefully survey the port. Heine wrote, "we undertook a scrupulous coastal survey of the harbor, the shoreline and contiguous areas, and especially the isolated rocks and a series of reefs." Heine seems to have made topographical drawings that went with the surveys.

One of the new technologies that Perry brought to demonstrate to the Japanese was the early camera, the daguerreotype. The making of an early photograph took place in Shimoda on May 7, 1854. Eliphalet M. Brown, Jr., a member of Perry's team, was the official daguerreotypist. At Commodore Perry's request, the governor of Shimoda selected several Japanese ladies to be daguerreotyped. About a hundred people gathered to witness this "experiment with that miraculous box." William Heine, the artist who accompanied Perry, wrote in his journal: "On one occasion I saw six or eight young women tricked out in their most elegant. All were attractive, and some would have been called lovely in different cultures and other lands." The caption on the scroll tells us that the seated lady is a "courtesan" who is having her picture taken so that it can be sent to the "the American king" to show him what "a Japanese beauty looked like." Rumors circulated not long thereafter that anyone who had been photographed would "die within three years." This was just an idle rumor, and the new technology was soon embraced.

D The News Reaches Home D

The New York Times bragged that the United States had opened Japan to the West, and upstaged the Europeans as well, by using "peaceful diplomacy, to overcome obstacles hitherto considered insurmountable," despite "the sneers, the ridicule, and the contempt of shortsighted European and American newspapers.

The Times, however, was also puzzled. The Japanese "seemed remarkably conversant with the affairs of the United States -- knew all about the Mexican War, its occasion and results." Quite true. Even when Perry felt, in the words of a later historian, "like a combination Santa Claus and conjurer" as he demonstrated the toy railroad, the Japanese actually knew all about railways from the Illustrated London News, to which the Shogun himself regularly subscribed.

More important, the Japanese had kept up with American affairs since 1797 when officials discovered that the Dutch, short of their own ships, were sneaking U.S. vessels into Nagasaki under the Dutch flag. The Shogunate demanded information about these Americans. The Dutch responded with history lessons that featured the revolt against the British in 1776 (because, the Dutch emphasized, of cruel treatment by the British), the 1787 Constitution, the great George Washington ("a very capable general" whose name has been given to "a new city"), and Thomas Jefferson. The Dutch had supported the new nation in the 1770s, so the Shogun heard a pro-American version of the history. By the 1840s, Japanese used the Dutch to acquire good world geographies, as well as histories, and exploited their contacts with China, where U.S. missionaries were publishing material, to obtain fresh information. Then, too, a few Japanese who had lived in the United States were permitted to return home and, as one reported in 1851, announced that Americans were "lewd by nature, but otherwise well-behaved." Japan might have chosen isolation, but its people, including peasants, were about as well educated as the British (and more so than the general French population), and in reality they were not isolated.

D Effects of the Treaty of Kanagawa on Japan D

Perry's small squadron itself was not enough to force the massive changes that then took place in Japan, but the Japanese knew that his ships were just the beginning of Western interest in their islands.  Following Perry’s example, Britain used its fleet in 1854 to force a treaty similar to the Kanagawa document on the Japanese; arrangements with the Netherlands, France, and Russia followed. They did not just threaten Japan -- they used their navies in combination on several occasions to defeat and disarm any of the Japanese feudal domains that defied them.  For Japan, these treaties had a wide variety of effects. The trade brought much foreign currency into Japan, disrupting the Japanese monetary system. The ruling Shogun seemed unable to do anything about the problems brought by the foreign trade and some samurai leaders began to demand a change in leadership.  It is unlikely that any foreign power could have bullied the bakufu into agreeing to these treaties were it not for the weakened state of the central government and the general inadequacy of its internal defenses. Furthermore, the years of isolation meant that the bakufu had only minimal knowledge about contemporary international diplomacy. The bakufu was barely able to control the its own regional daimyo or to prevent civil unrest amongst ordinary peasants and farmers, let alone foreign intruders with advanced military know-how. A sense of desperation was illustrated by the bakufu's sudden desire to seek the assistance of that long-forgotten institution: the Imperial Family.

The bakufu hardly received the support it was looking for since the Imperial Court denounced the treaties. Thereafter, Japan became divided into two main factions: those supporting Sonno-Joi (“revere the Emperor and expel the barbarians”), or Kaikoku (“open the country”). Satsuma and Choshu, two of Japan's most powerful domains, had initially supported the Sonno-Joi cause, but shifted to the opposing camp after they received a harsh lesson in the destructive capability of naval artillery. They decided instead to emulate the foreigners and learn from them; mainly because both daimyo wanted to obtain the artillery. Once Satsuma and Choshu had aligned with Tosa and Hizen samurai, the end of the bakufu was near. The resulting civil war was brief. Finally, in 1867, the last Shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, surrendered all powers of government to the Emperor. Some Tokugawa stragglers attempted to resist the inevitable by escaping to Hokkaido and settling up an Ezo Republic with an administrative capital at Goryokaku, but this was crushed in May of 1869. Belatedly, in September 1869, the new Japanese era was designated as Meiji, meaning “enlightenment.” Starting with the restoration of the emperor and filtering down even to the local level, Japanese bureaucracy, society, military, and economy was revamped to emulate the more modern and advanced West. Feudal Tokugawa practices were to be discarded as obsolete and attention focused instead on the acquisition of knowledge and technology from "the world". Scholars were sent to Europe to learn of Western technology, systematic reforms were implemented to improve education, the army was now comprised of conscripted peasants, and a new financial banking system was established. In short, Japan was to become more outward-looking.

D Afterward D

The significance of Mathew Perry’s achievement was recognized at the time: his American interpreter, Wells Williams, recorded in his diary that a “key was put into the lock and a beginning made to do away with the long seclusion of this nation, “ and the Japanese court physician Dr. Ito called it “good medicine,” which made “the bakufu for the first time realize how formidable a foreign nation might be.” Plaudits were showered upon Perry when he returned home, but no one summed up his accomplishments better than Washington Irving. “You have gained yourself a lasting name, and have won it without shedding a drop of blood or inflicting misery on a human being,” he wrote the commodore. “What naval commander has ever won laurels at such a rate?”

For others on the expedition, fate would not be so kind. The expedition’s official agriculturalist, Dr. James Morrow, made many drawings of Japanese plants and flowers, including species of plants yet unknown to Americans. When the expedition was completed, Morrow refused to give his drawings to Perry to have them published with the official record of the journey. He reasoned that because he had been sent to Japan by the Secretary of State, not Perry, the State Department should publish his drawings and journal as a separate volume. Unfortunately his proposed volume of drawings was never published and his materials have disappeared.

A similar fate was visited upon the 200-odd daguerreotypes made by Eliphalet Brown. While a number of them were reproduced as lithographs in the official report of Perry’s expedition, the bulk were subsequently lost in a fire at the Philadelphia works where the lithographic plates were being prepared. Only five daguerreotypes by Brown are known to have survived. Although his work was lost, the Committee on Naval Affairs recognized his efforts and recommended him in 1858 for additional compensation.

At the conclusion of the expedition, Sam Patch was invited to remain in Japan. However, as it was a crime for Japanese to return to Japan, he was fearful of what would happen to him if he stayed. Sam returned to the United States on the Mississippi. His decision to return to America may have been motivated by his conversion to Christianity. While Sam went by many names (Sentaro, Sampachi, Kurazo, Kurakichi, etc.), curiously, the Black Ships Scrolls refers to him as “Matou.” One possibility is that under his friend Jonathan Goble's Christian "instruction" he had converted to Christianity and that the Marine had given him the Christian name "Mathew." This may explain why Sam was so reluctant to stay in Japan where Christianity was strictly outlawed. In the U.S. Sam and his friend Jonathan Goble enrolled at Madison University in New York State in 1855; neither graduated -- the former being found wanting in brains and the latter being expelled after marrying a local girl. Nonetheless, Sam was a baptised Christian, and on the strength of this fact, Goble secured a post in the Baptist mission to Japan. On April Fools’ Day, 1860, after four years in America, Sentaro finally returned to Japan, but, rather than fulfilling Perry’s dream as the representative of a ‘higher and better civilization’, he was now reduced to the role of cook and servant in the Goble household. For the rest of his life, Sentaro worked in the same capacity for several American missionaries resident in Japan. After repeated physical abuse at the hands of the short-tempered and impecunious Goble, we find Sentaro a few years later employed in the more congenial Yokohama household of another missionary, Dr. James Ballagh. In 1868, he was able to visit the United States for a third time when he accompanied Mrs. Ballagh and her children on their journey home. In 1874, while still in his early forties, he died after contracting beri-beri, and was given a Christian burial by his employer. The final word on Sentaro comes from one of his former employers, who concluded that “Sam had great opportunities in the world, but he didn’t have any brains to start on.” Whatever his intellectual limitations, however, he earned a small place in history as the only Japanese to accompany Perry on his mission to Japan, and, as the first Japanese subject to be photographed.

Finally, although the opening of Japan must be credited to the Americans, it was the Russians who first provided the technical know-how that would allow the island country to expand onto the world stage. The Russian aid was as inadvertent as it was later damaging. Having been rebuffed again and again, Putiatin visited Shimoda in October 1854 in hopes of at last forcing a trade treaty upon the Japanese. The convenient death of the Shogun gave Abe Masahiro an excuse to put off Putiatin's demands for a treaty. At the same time, however, Abe removed a two-century rule against building large ships and named an admiral of the new Shogun's navy. While off Shimoda, Putiatin’s flagship, Diana, was caught in a great earthquake and tidal wave; the ship was destroyed and Putiatin and his crew were marooned on Honshu. While continuing negotiations with the Japanese, Putiatin asked permission for his men to build a vessel to take them home. Because Abe had lifted the restriction against building large ships, the Russian admiral’s request was granted. The Japanese watched intently and soon afterwards built an exact copy. The bold claim that the Japanese could quickly catch up technologically with the West was realized and demonstrated to devastating effect only fifty years later in the Straits of Tsushima, where virtually every ship of the Russian fleet was sunk or captured by Admiral Togo.  

For the year following his return from Japan, Mathew Perry was assigned the task of writing an official narrative of the voyage and negotiations. On December 28, 1857, he announced that the final volume was complete. Only two months later, in February of 1858, Perry, now 63, caught a severe cold. His rheumatism returned, leading to an attack of the arthritis that had kept him from at first negotiating in Tokyo Bay. The rheumatism mounted to his heart and he died in the early hours of March 4, 1858. He lies in the Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island – just across the bay from where he was born.

Text of the Treaty of Kanagawa

Text of Perry's Letter to the Emperor

Photos & Paintings from the Perry Expedition


D Sources D

While all of these books or sites provided important information for this collation about the Perry Expedition, several are worthy of a special recommendation for additional reading. As mentioned above, Morrison's biography "Old Bruin -- Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry" is the very best source for any information on the Perry. Sampachi (or Sentaro or Matou or Sam Patch) crops up peripherally in a number of places, but the most detailed treatment of his part in history came, surprisingly, from the site of some British photographers researching the photograph! See "The Sentaro Daguerreotype" in the list below. Admiral Putiatin appears in a number of very informative web sites about the Crimean War; obviously, the one with his name on it (below) is the best. For a fuller treatment of the Shimoda artwork, visit the "Black Ships Scrolls" via the listed link.

U.S.S. Aulick webpage at, 16 April 2001.

“Black Ships Scrolls” at, 17 April 2001; also source for assorted images.

The Clash: A History of U.S.-Japan Relations, Walter LaFeber, W. W. Norton & Co. Inc. 1997.

"Chronology of Japanese History" at, 28 March 2001.

Civil War Small Arms of the U.S. Navy & Marine Corps, J. D. McAulay, Andrew Mowbray Publishers, Lincoln, 1999.

"Commodore Perry's Expedition to Japan" at, 27 March 2001.

“The Crimean War in the Far East” at, 27 April 2001.

The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships -- Vincennes at, 17 April 2001.

Dictionary of Westward Expansion  at, 30 March 2001.

History of the Kuril Islands on 16 April 2001.

The Kimball Files, SAC 1855-1903 at, 27 April 2001.

The Lagoda Affair, in T he U.S.S. Preble, Sloop of War 1838-1863, by Robin Moore,
at, 17 April 2001.

Nagasaki city website, Dejima Museum,, 16 April 2001.

NARA, Committee On Naval Affairs, 1822-1946 at, 19 April 2001.

"Okinawa's History from the Sanzan Era to the Pacific War” at, 28 March 2001.

“Old Bruin” – Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, S. E. Morison, Little Brown & Co., Boston, 1967.

“The Opening of Japan To The West” at, 27 April 2001.

“Perry Opens Japan” at Pacific Book Auction,, 27 April 2001.

Putiatin” at, 27 April 2001.

The Sentaro Daguerreotype online at, 19 April 2001.

The Tattoos of Michinaga Ei And Nicholas II, Brian Burke-Gaffney at on 27 April 2001

Treaty of Kanagawa text from the web page of Dr. Joseph V. O’Brien, Dept. of History, John Jay College of Criminal Justice at, 28 March 2001

The U.S. Navy: An Illustrated History, Nathan Miller, American Heritage Publishing Co., New York, 1977.


1Perry brought the ensign home, where it is now displayed in the Naval Academy Museum at Annapolis. At the end of World War Two, General MacArthur had it placed on the quarterdeck of the U.S.S. Missouri during the surrender ceremony in Tokyo Bay on September 2, 1945.

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