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This Day in Military History, Feb. 13, 1854 – Admiral Perry anchors off Yokosuka, Japan to receive Emperor’s reply to treaty proposal. Commodore Perry first arrived on the shores of Japan in 1853. The Japanese had a strict isolationist policy in effect and had beheaded a boatload of wayward Portuguese to prove it. But Perry had four warships behind him - the Japanese called them black ships because of their black navy paint. Perry dropped off a passive-aggressive letter from the President of the United States politely demanding trade with Japan and safe harbor for American ships. This caused all kinds of consternation within the aging, heavy and archaic samurai society and shogun governments of Japan. But Perry was back within a year and on Feb. 13, 1854 he landed at Yokohama seeking a good reception from the Japanese. Perry, though now supported by eight black ships, still showed considerable temerity by landing in what should of been a very hostile land. In the result, the Japanese were gently but firmly intimidated into opening up to foreign ships in their harbor. This agreement, forced on the Tokugawa shogunate by Commodore Perry ended over two centuries of virtual exclusion (the exception being the Dutch) of foreign traders from the coast of Japan. The intrusion of the U.S. in the first place derived from the ill-treatment accorded American whaling crews when shipwrecked off the coast or landing for provisions or repairs. The treaty fully satisfied the U.S. government’s concerns in this regard but left to the future the equally important matter of opening the country to foreign trade; concluded in 1858 with the signing of the Harris treaty. Perry’s great achievement was widely recognized at the time. Perhaps there is no better praise for this naval veteran of 45 years’ service than the collective memorial sent by the American merchants at Canton to the Commodore in Sept. 1854 on his return trip to the U.S.: “You have conquered the obstinate will of man and, by overturning the cherished policy of an empire, have brought an estranged but cultured people into the family of nations. You have done this without violence, and the world has looked on with admiration to see the barriers of prejudice fall before the flag of our country without the firing of a shot.”
by Museum of Military H... via Facebook


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