Matthew Calbraight Perry was a Commodore in the United States Navy, a member of the illustrious Perry naval dynasty, and a diplomatic hero who was responsible for opening Japan to the world.
Matthew C. Perry Facts
1. Perry is the “Father of Steam Navy”
Matthew C. Perry is popularly known as the “Father of the Steam Navy”. He heavily advocated the use of steam powered ships when he was a Commodore in the United States Navy. In 1837, he was hands-on in supervising the building of USS Fulton, the second naval steamship. While the first few steamships were flawed, they were able to create successful frigates that were commissioned during the 19th century.
2. He belonged to a U.S. Naval Dynasty.
All his life, Perry was surrounded by naval commanders and aviators. He was born in April 10, 1794 in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. His father, Christopher Raymond Perry, was a Navy Captain and his mother was Sarah Alexander Wallace, a descendant of Scotland’s legendary hero William Wallace. An interesting fact about Matthew Perry is that his four brothers also served as officers in the U.S. Navy. The eldest brother Captain Oliver Hazard Perry was the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie. The other two were Lieutenants and the youngest was a Purser.
3. Matthew C. Perry successfully negotiated the very first Treaty with Japan in 1854
A couple of naval commanders had tried initiating a trade agreement with Japan before him but failed. In 1853, he traveled to the Far East with four ships carrying hundreds of armed marines. The Commodore was tasked to deliver a letter to the Emperor of Japan from the United States President Millard Fillmore. Japan refused even just to receive the letter. However, he told them that if they continued to refuse, he would forcibly deliver the letter. The Japanese, having no efficient naval forces during that time to back them up, eventually relented. Perry gave them a year to think about it. In January of 1854, he returned with a larger squadron and was able to get the Treaty signed. The United States was able to use the ports in Japan, thereby making it easier for their ships to refuel as well as facilitate economic trades.
4. He ended Japan’s 220-year old policy of seclusion
Perry’s expedition to Tokyo Bay ended Japan’s strictly enforced rule of never trading with foreign countries, an interesting fact about Matthew Perry. For about two centuries, Japan had strictly enforced its seclusion policy. The Japanese would normally throw to the sea any foreign shipwrecked survivors seeking entry to their land. Only the Dutch were able to send a merchant ship yearly but with humiliating conditions. After the treaty was signed, France, Spain, Russia, and England initiated their own trading agreements.
5. Commodore Perry helped modernized the U.S. Navy
After being promoted to Captain in 1837, the Commodore initiated several programs that would upgrade facilities in the U.S. Navy. Aside from promoting heavily on the use of stream powered ships, he also advocated in continuing education for the Navy personnel. He helped the Navy establish an apprentice system for new recruits as well as create a better curriculum for students in the United States Naval Academy. He was credited for organizing the first Navy gunnery school and the first corps of Naval Engineers.
6. He was rewarded with $20,000 after securing a Treaty with Japan
Upon his return to the United States in 1855, he received a staggering amount of $20,000 from the government after the U.S. Congress voted on it. This was his reward for being able to establish a trading agreement with Japan called Convention of Kaganawa, otherwise known as Kaganawa Treaty.
7. Naval Commander Matthew C. Perry assisted in bringing an end to the Mexican-American War
An interesting fact about Matthew Perry is that after making repairs on the USS Mississippi in 1847, he went to meet with Major General Winfield Scott to help with the Battle of Veracruz. With the six guns his ship had, he helped in the amphibious assault on Veracruz, a seaport in Mexico City. After a 20-day battle, Mexico surrendered and the United States troops entered the city.
8. He commanded the African Squadron to stop illegal slave trade
Two years after getting promoted to Commodore and Chief of the Philadelphia Navy Yard, he commanded the African Squadron. One of his main duties was to give support to the interception of illegal slave runners under the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. This mission lasted for about a year.
9. A U.S. Navy Cargo Ship was named after Commodore Matthew C. Perry
To honor his many naval achievements, most especially Perry’s historic establishment of the first Japan-America Treaty, a dry cargo U.S. Navy Ship was named USNS Matthew Perry. The cargo ship was launched back in 2008 and was sponsored by the Commodore’s great, great, granddaughter Hester Evans. It was fitting that during Japan’s 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami tragedy in 2011, his namesake, the USNS Matthew Perry helped in the disaster relief operations. The Navy cargo ship was able to transport millions of gallons of fuel as well as deliver relief goods to the battered city of Miyagi Prefecture.
10. He claimed the Florida Keys as United States territory
Perry was directed by his superiors to put a United States flag to the island of Key West to establish ownership. In 1822, with him commanding the USS Shark, he sailed to Florida and successfully claimed this island as U.S. property, an interesting Matthew Perry fact.
11. A High School in Japan was named in honor of Matthew C. Perry
With his role in opening Japan to the rest of the world during the early 19th century, it is of no surprise that a high school in one of the cities in Japan was named after him. The school was established in 1955 by the United States Army with the name American Dependents School but when the United States Navy created a Naval Station, they changed the school’s name to M.C. Perry High School in honor of the Commodore’s legacy.
The United States Navy would always be grateful to Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s persistence in getting the Japanese to agree to open its ports to them. It made things easier for the Americans in navigating the Asia-Pacific region. The rest of the world also benefited from this by initiating its own treaties with Japan. However, by modernizing Japan, historians and analysts also said that it paved the way for the once-secluded nation to do their own conquering by using brutal military force in Asia.
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