b. Newport or South Kingstown, RI, April 10, 1794.
d. New York City, NY, March 4, 1858.
U.S. naval officer; headed expedition in 1853-1854 that opened Japan to trade and diplomatic relations with West after more than two centuries of isolation.
Birthplace in question, boyhood home still stands at #31 Walnut Street, Newport.
Confusion concerning final burial location. Some place body in the Slidell family vault (married Jane Slidell) in churchyard of St. Mark’s-in-the-Bowerie (NYC), others in the Belmont Circle at Island Cemetery. On south wall of Trinity Church is a memorial to Matthew. Baptized there in 1795.
His daughter Caroline married August Belmont, the senior. A statue to Perry’s memory was erected in 1868 in Touro Park by Mr. and Mrs. Belmont.
In commemoration of Perry’s accomplishment with relations between Japan and United States, the Black Ships Festival is held every summer in Newport.
Younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, he began naval career in his mid-teens. He headed an incredible number of missions spanning the globe for U.S. government.
One of the most important missions of his career was the opening of Japan. Japan, at the time, was under self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. U.S. r Navy, citing a need in that part of the world for a safe haven for whaling vessels and coal for use in steamships, made a valid case to "open up" Japan.
In March of 1852, received command for Japanese expedition. After preparing at Okinawa, the Perry squadron arrived at what is now known as Tokyo Bay on July 8, 1853. Japanese were quite taken aback as this was the first time they had seen these so-called "Black Ships." The American ships had no sails and were dispersing thick black smoke into the air.
Perry promised sufficient time for the Japanese to consider the proposal and planned to return the next spring for their answer. In November, Perry learned the Russians and French were planning their own treaties with Japan. Believing this might jeopardize American opportunities, he planned to sail for Japan early.
In February of 1854, Perry returned to Tokyo Bay and anchored off Yokohama. On March 8, commissioners from the Emperor arrived to meet with Perry. After 23 days of intense negotiations, a treaty was signed. It contained provisions for the harbors of Shimoda and Hakodate to be opened for supplies and coal; shipwrecked sailors to be assisted and returned; and the free movement of American citizens within treaty ports.
The Treaty of Kanagawa was ratified by the Senate on July 15, and signed by President Franklin Pierce on August 7, 1854. First treaty of peace, amity, and commerce between the United States and Japan.
During his career, Perry successfully advocated for steam warships in the Navy, developed a naval apprentice system, organized the first Naval Engineer Corps , and established the first course of instruction at the Naval Academy.
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Researcher/Writer: Brian Stinson
Project Editors: Lynda Bronaugh, Jennifer K. Caswell, Christian-Albrecht Gollub, Brian Stinson
Funded by the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities
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