Lighting Ancestral Lamps

Page 84

CHAPTER XII

The Commodores Perry
of Early Naval Fame

Related to Hazards Bunns

He was the father of the American steam navy. He not only assisted in planning the details of the first steam warship, but he also outlined the reorganization of the navy which was made necessary by this new motive power. He suggested the use of the steamship as a ram. He conquered scurvy, one of the greatest enemies of the sailor, and he successfully fought the deadly yellow fever.

The crowning experience of his life came when he was chosen to commend an expedition to Japan. The object of this expedition was to persuade the Emperor to open his ports to the trade of the world. In those days Japan was more truly a hermit nation than Tibet is today. Trade with foreigners was absolutely prohibited. Even the sale of necessary fuel and food stuffs to passing ships was punishable. Standard sailors and cast aways were promptly thrown into prisons. And Americans determined that these unfriendly conditions must be changed. For several years before his selection as a foreigner in western civilization in Japan, \Matthew Perry had been studying the problem of opening the country. He believed that to be successful the leader in the work must be kind, yet firm, tactful, patient, and careful and that the victory could be won without the shedding of blood.

By studying the history of other nations, he came to realize that the failure of their attempts to enter Japan was due to selfishness in seeking benefits for themselves alone. Realizing an over-bearing attitude of the Japanese and a misunderstanding of the nature of the people with whom they were dealing, he saw that Japan had to learn to be suspicious of the European nations. They had yet to learn of the Americans. If he ever had the chance , he would try to give a good impression of his countrymen, thought he. The chance came unsought. He was not only appointed commander to take charge of the expedition, but so great was the confidence of his superiors in him, he was told to write out his own instructions. Then with the promise of a fleet to follow him, he started on his mission, carrying with him a letter, which was enclosed in a gold box of exquisite workmanship, from President Filmore to the ruler of Japan.

After many weeks, the Commodore's vessels entered the Japanese harbor of Uraga. There was great excitement. This was described in a volume prepared from the Commodore's son notes. "The steamer, in spite of wind moved on with all, sails furled at the rate of eight or nine knots, much to the astonishment of the crews of Japanese fishing junks gathered along the shore or scattered over the surface of the mouth of the bay, who stood upon their junks and were evidently expressing the lively surprise at the first steamer ever seen in Japanese waters."

The vessels anchored. At once scores of boats put off from shore and attempted to tie to the steamers. The natives expected to be allowed to clamer on board as on previous rare visits of foreign vessels, but Commodore Perry had other plans. He would impress the Japanese who had always forbidden Americans to enter their land by refusing them access to his vessels. Thus, to their surprise they were kept at a distance. One of the boatmen brought to the flag ship,

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