Commodore Matthew C. Perry and Japan

Authored by: John H. Schroeder

The Routledge Handbook of American Military and Diplomatic History

Print publication date:  August  2014
Online publication date:  September  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415533805
eBook ISBN: 9781315817347
Adobe ISBN: 9781317813354


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The Expedition of Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan (1853–1854) represents an outstanding pre-Civil War example of the peacetime use of United States military power to achieve diplomatic objectives with a reluctant nation. In this case, Perry, a distinguished naval commander and resourceful diplomat, employed a powerful U.S. naval squadron to establish formal diplomatic relations with Japan, a nation which had been closed to the outside world for more than two centuries. The U.S. had long used its navy in peacetime to “show the American flag” abroad and to further the nation’s diplomatic and commercial interests. U.S. warships had often transported American diplomats to remote designations in the Pacific and Asia and remained present during negotiations to demonstrate the power of the American republic. The Perry Expedition stands out for two reasons. First, a formidable American squadron (not just one or two ships) was employed in peacetime diplomacy with an empire determined to remain isolated. Second, a senior U.S. naval officer, not a civilian American diplomat, led the negotiations. 1

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