After the conclusion of the War of 1812 and prior to the Civil War, the United States Navy entered into a peacetime role. Initially, this role was to protect commerce trading in both inland and international waterways. However, that role was soon expanded upon with Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry’s journey to Japan. The journey had its immediate impact, including the signing of a comprehensive treaty that established trade relations with Japan and provided protection for sailors and their ships.1 Perry’s expedition also had the impact of serving as a precursor for the change in what the Navy’s responsibilities encompassed, which even carry on to the present day Navy.
Commodore Perry left for Japan with the objectives of opening up Japanese ports to trade and ensuring American presence and protection in East Asia. These terms were outlined in “detailed instructions from the Secretary of the Navy John P. Kennedy, diplomatic instructions from the State Department, and a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan”2 that Perry carried with him on his voyage. From beginning to end Perry’s voyage spanned nine months and was filled with trials and tribulations. The Japanese were initially turned off to the idea of Americans entering their country, and would not even let them step on land. Only twice did Perry and his squadron come ashore in the nine months prior to the signing of the official treaty. Most of the negotiations took place upon various ships in Perry’s control and the meetings were often difficult to coordinate. Based on notes from Perry’s personal journal, these complications often lead to frustration and Perry was constantly considering employing “whole force” that he was granted to use if he deemed it necessary to achieve his goals.3 However, this was ultimately unnecessary, and Perry did well to remind himself that his voyage was diplomatic and pacific in nature. The negotiations were an arduous process and Perry even left Japan...
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