Impact of Perry

On July 8, 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy, commanding a squadron of two steamers and two sailing vessels, sailed into Tokyo harbor, carrying the message to the Japanese authorities : Agree to trade in peace, or suffer the consequences in war.(Andrew Gordon, Modern History of Japan, p49). His mission signified American interest in Japan trade. After taking over California from Mexico in the 1848, Americans wanted to become a commercial power in the Pacific. Also, with the whaling supplies exhausted in the Atlantic, Americans and British whalers had ventured into the Pacific waters and facing the competition of the British, the American wanted Japanese to sell coal to their naval fleet and allow resupply stops for the whalers in Japanese ports and to open Japan as a new market for their manufactured goods.
Japan at this time was ruled by the shogun from the Tokugawa family and during this period, Japanese contacts with outsiders were severely limited, primarily due to the fear of the shogun and the other samurai that outside contacts presented a potential threat to their power. In response to this incident, the shogun ordered defence to be strengthened along the coastline and rumours of impending war sparked off panic in Japan. Also, the shogun did something "unprecedented" and "unusual", he actually requested the various daimyos submit their advice on how to best deal with the Americans in hope of rallying a consensus for his choice to make some concessions and avoid war(Gordan, Modern History of Japan, p49).
In early 1854, he returned with a fleet of 9 ships and the Japanese tried to intimidate the Americans but to no avail, and faced with the firmness of Perry and aware of their military strength relative to the Americans, the shogun signed the Treaty of Kanagawa which opened 2 ports(Shimoda and Hakodate) to the Americans. This event was followed by similar treaties with other Western p…


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