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Title: Matthew Calbraith Perry: A Typical American Naval Officer

Author: William Elliot Griffis

Release date: May 9, 2016 [eBook #52026]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Larry Harrison, Cindy Beyer, and the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team ( from page images generously made available by Internet Archive (



E-text prepared by Larry Harrison, Cindy Beyer,
and the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team
from page images generously made available by
Internet Archive


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See









A  Typical











Author of “The Mikado’s Empire”, “Corea the Hermit Nation”

and “Japanese Fairy World”





94  Boylston  Street


Copyright, 1887,

By Cupples and Hurd.

All Rights Reserved



The Hyde Park Press.















at the ends of the earth












I.The Child Calbraith.—A Real Boy1
II.Boyhood’s Environment.—Under the Flag of Fifteen Stars10
III.A Midshipman’s Training Under Commodore Rodgers19
IV.Men, Ships, and Guns in 181228
V.Service in the War of 1812.—The Flag kept flying on all Seas38
VI.First Voyage to the Dark Continent.—Lieutenant Perry goes to Guinea50
VII.Perry locates the Site of Monrovia.—The African Slave Trade58
VIII.Fighting Pirates in the Spanish Main65
IX.The American Line-of-Battle Ship.—Among Turks and Greeks72
X.The Concord in the Seas of Russia and Egypt.—Czar and Khedive81
XI.A Diplomatic Voyage in the Frigate Brandywine.—Andrew Jackson’s stalwart policy.—Perry rehearses for Japan.—Naples pays up91
XII.The Founder of the Brooklyn Naval Lyceum.—Master-Commandant Perry99
XIII.The Father of the American Steam Navy.—The Engineer’s status fixed.—The Line and the Staff110
XIV.Perry discovers the Ram.—The Trireme’s prow restored.—The “Line-of-Battle” changed to “Bows on”120
XV.Lighthouse Illumination.—Lenses or Reflectors?129
XVI.Revolutions in Naval Architecture.—The new middle term between Courage and Cannon.—Caloric138
XVII.The School of Gun Practice at Sandy Hook.—Bomb-guns and the coming Shells146
XVIII.The Twin Steamers Missouri and Mississippi.—Iron-clads and Armor156
XIX.The Broad Pennant.—Our only Foreign Colony.—Powder and Ball at Berribee167
XX.Science and Religion.—A War of Ink Bottles.—Perry as a Missionary and Civilizer183
XXI.The Mexican War197
XXII.Commodore Perry commands the Squadron216
XXIII.The Naval Battery breaches the walls of Vera Cruz226
XXIV.The Naval Brigade.—Capture of Tabasco241
XXV.Fighting the Yellow Fever.—Peace251
XXVI.Results of the War.—Gold and the Pacific Coast261
XXVII.American attempts to open trade270
XXVIII.Origin of the American Expedition to Japan281
XXIX.Preparations for Japan.—An International Episode294
XXX.The Fire-Vessels of the Western Barbarians314
XXXI.Panic in Yedo.—Reception of the President’s Letter329
XXXII.Japanese preparations for Treaty-Making343
XXXIII.The Professor and the Sailor make a Treaty359
XXXIV.Last Labors375
XXXV.Matthew Perry as a Man395
XXXVI.Works that follow409
II.Origin of the Perry Name and Family429
III.The Name Calbraith430
IV.The Family of M. C. Perry431
V.Official Detail of M. C. Perry433
VI.The Naval Apprenticeship System435
VIII.Memorials in Art of M. C. Perry443


Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry
The United States Steam Frigate “Mississippi”
Perry at the age of fifty-four
Conveyance at Funchal
Commodore Perry entering the Treaty-House
Signatures and Pen-Seals of the Japanese Treaty Commissioners
Silver Salver in possession of Commodore Perry’s Daughter, Mrs. August Belmont
Medal Presented by the Merchants of Boston
Commodore Perry’s Autograph


Among the earliest memories of a childhood spent near the now vanished Philadelphia Navy Yard, are the return home of the marines and sailors from the Mexican war, the launch of the noble steam frigate Susquehanna, the salutes from the storeship Princeton, and the exhibit of the art treasures brought home by the United States Expedition to Japan—all associated with the life of Commodore M. C. Perry. Years afterwards, on the shores of that bay made historic by his diplomacy, I heard the name of Perry spoken with reverence and enthusiasm. The younger men of Japan, with faces flushed with new ideas of the Meiji era, called him the moral liberator of their nation. Many and eager were the questions asked concerning his career, and especially his personal history.

Yet little could be told, for in American literature and popular imagination, the name of the hero of Lake Erie seemed to overshadow the fame of the younger, and, as I think, greater brother. The dramatic incidents of war impress the popular mind far more profoundly than do the victories of peace. Even American writers confound the two brothers, treating them as the same person, making one the son of the other, or otherwise doing fantastic violence to history. Numerous biographies have been written, and memorials in art, of marble, bronze and canvas, on coin and currency, of Oliver Hazard Perry, have been multiplied. No biography of Matthew Calbraith Perry has, until this writing, appeared. In Japan, popular curiosity fed itself on flamboyant broadside chromo-pictures, “blood-pit” novels, and travesties of history, in which Perry was represented either as a murderous swash-buckler or a consumptive-looking and over-decorated European general. It was to satisfy an earnest desire of the Japanese to know more of the man, who so profoundly influenced their national history, that this biography was at first undertaken.

I began the work by a study of the scenes of Perry’s triumphs in Japan, and of his early life in Rhode Island; by interviews in navy yard, hospital and receiving-ship, with the old sailors who had served under him in various crusades; by correspondence and conversation with his children, personal friends, fellow-officers, critics, enemies, and eye-witnesses of his labors and works. I followed up this out-door peripatetic study by long and patient research in the archives of the United States Navy Department in Washington, with collateral reading of American, European, Mexican and Japanese books, manuscripts and translations bearing on the subject; and, most valued of all, documents from the Mikado’s Department of State in Tōkiō.

As the career and character of my subject unfolded, I discovered that Matthew Perry was no creature of routine, but a typical American naval officer whose final triumph crowned a long and brilliant career. He had won success in Japanese waters not by a series of happy accidents, but because all his previous life had been a preparation to win it.

In this narrative, much condensed from the original draft, no attempt has been made to do either justice or injustice to Perry’s fellow-officers, or to write a history of his times, or of the United States Navy. Many worthy names have been necessarily omitted. For the important facts recorded, reliance has been placed on the written word of documentary evidence. Fortunately, Perry was a master of the pen and of his native language. As he wrote almost all of his own letters and official reports, his papers, both public and private, are not only voluminous and valuable but bear witness to his scrupulous regard for personal mastery of details, as well as for style and grammar, fact and truth.

Unable to thank all who have so kindly aided me, I must especially mention with gratitude the Hon. Wm. E. Chandler and W. C. Whitney, Secretaries of the United States Navy Department, Prof. J. R. Soley, chief clerk T. W. Hogg and clerk J. Cassin, for facilities in consulting the rich archives of the United States Navy; Admiral D. D. Porter and Rear-Admirals John Almy, D. Ammen, C. R. P. Rodgers, T. A. Jenkins, J. H. Upshur, and Captain Arthur Yates; the retired officers, pay director J. G. Harris, Lieut. T. S. Bassett and Lieut. Silas Bent formerly of the United States Navy, for light on many points and for reminiscences; Messrs. P. S. P. Conner, John H. Redfield, Joseph Jenks, R. B. Forbes, Chas. H. Haswell, Joshua Follansbee, and the Hon. John A. Bingham, for special information; the daughters of Captains H. C. Adams, and Franklin Buchanan, for the use of letters and for personalia; Rev. E. Warren Clark, Miss Orpah Rose, Miss E. B. Carpenter and others in Rhode Island, for anecdotes of Perry’s early life; the Hon. Gideon Nye of Canton; the Rev G. F. Verbeck of Tōkiō; many Japanese friends, especially Mr. Inazo Ota, for documents and notes; and last, but not least, the daughters of Commodore M. C. Perry, Mrs. August Belmont, Mrs. R. S. Rodgers, and especially Mrs. George Tiffany, who loaned letters and scrap-books, and, with Mrs. Elizabeth R. Smith of Hartford, furnished much important personal information. Among the vanished hands and the voices that are now still, that have aided me, are those of Rear-Admirals Joshua R. Sands, George H. Preble, and J. B. F. Sands, Dr. S. Wells Williams, Gen. Horace Capron, and others. A list of Japanese books consulted, and of Perry’s autograph writings and publications, will be found in the Appendix; references are in footnotes.

The work now committed to type was written at Schenectady, N. Y., in the interstices of duties imperative to a laborious profession; and with it are linked many pleasant memories of the kindly neighbors and fellow Christians there; as well as of hospitality in Washington. In its completion and publication in Boston, new friends have taken a gratifying interest, among whom I gratefully name Mr. S. T. Snow, and M. F. Dickinson, Esq.

In setting in the framework of true history this figure of a fellow-American great in war and in peace, the intention has been not to glorify the profession of arms, to commend war, to show any lack of respect to my English ancestors or their descendants, to criticise any sect or nation, to ventilate any private theories; but, to tell a true story that deserves the telling, to show the attractiveness of manly worth and noble traits wherever found, and to cement the ties of friendship between Japan and the United States. One may help to build up character by pointing to a good model. To the lads of my own country, but especially to Japanese young men, I commend the study of Matthew Perry’s career. The principles, in which he was trained at home by his mother and father, of the religion which anchored him by faith in the eternal realties, and of the Book which he believed and read constantly, lie at the root of what is best in the progress of a nation. No Japanese will make a mistake who follows Perry as he followed the guidance of these principles; while the United States will be Japan’s best exemplar and faithful friend only so far as she illustrates them in her national policy.

W. E. G.

Shawmut Church Parsonage,

Boston, July 1st, 1887.


When in the year 1854, all Christendom was thrilled by the news of the opening of Japan to intercourse with the world, the name of Commodore Matthew Perry was on the lips of nations. In Europe it was acknowledged that the triumph had been achieved by no ordinary naval officer. Consummate mastery of details combined with marked diplomatic talents stamped Matthew Calbraith Perry as a man whose previous history was worth knowing. That history we propose to outline.

The life of our subject is interesting for the following among many excellent reasons:—


1. While yet a lad, he was active as a naval officer in the war of 1812.

2. He chose the location of the first free black settlement in Liberia.

3. He was, to the end of his life, one of the leading educators of the United States Navy.

4. He was the father of our steam navy.

5. He first demonstrated the efficiency of the ram as a weapon of offense in naval warfare.

6. He founded the naval-apprenticeship system.

7. He was an active instrument in assisting to extirpate the foreign slave-trade on the west coast of Africa.

8. His methods helped to remove duelling, the grog ration and flogging out of the American navy.

9. He commanded, in 1847, the largest squadron which, up to that date, had ever assembled under the American flag, in the Gulf of Mexico. The naval battery manned by his pupils in gunnery decided the fate of Vera Cruz, and his fleet’s presence enabled Scott’s army to reach the Capital.

10. His final triumph was the opening of Japan to the world,—one of the three single events in American History,—the Declaration of Independence, and the Arbitration of the Alabama claims being the other two,—which have had the greatest influence upon the world at large.


Sturdy ancestry, parental and especially a mother’s training, good education, long experience, and persistent self-culture enabled Matthew Perry to earn that “brain-victory” over the Japanese of which none are more proud than themselves.

Let us look at his antecedents.[1] Three at least among the early immigrants to Massachusetts bore the name of Perry. Englishmen of England’s heroic age, they were of Puritan and Quaker stock. Their descendants have spread over various parts of the United States.

He, with whom our narrative concerns itself, Edmund or Edward Perry, the ancestor, in the sixth degree both of the “Japan,” and the “Lake Erie” Perry, was born in Devonshire in 1630. He was a Friend of decidedly militant turn of mind. He preached the doctrines of peace, with the spirit of war, to the Protector’s troops. Oliver, not wishing this, made it convenient to Edmund Perry to leave England.

By settling at Sandwich in 1653, then the headquarters of the Friends in America, he took early and vigorous part in “the Quaker invasion of Massachusetts.” On first day of first month, 1676, he wrote a Railing against the Court of Plymouth, for which he was heavily fined. He married Mary the daughter of Edmund Freeman, the vice-governor of the colony. His son Samuel, born in 1654, emigrated to Rhode Island, and bought the Perry farm, near South Kingston, which still remains in possession of the family. The later Perrys married in the Raymond and Hazard families.

Christopher Raymond Perry, the fifth descendant in the male line of Edward Perry, and the son of Freeman Perry, was born December 4th, 1761. His mother was Mercy Hazard, the daughter of Oliver Hazard and Elizabeth Raymond. He became the father of five American naval officers, of whom Oliver Hazard and Matthew Calbraith are best known. The war of the Revolution broke out when he was but in his 15th year. The militant traits of his ancestor were stronger in him than the pacific tenets of his sect. He enlisted in the Kingston Reds. The service not being exciting, he volunteered in Captain Reed’s Yankee privateer. His second cruise was made in the Mifflin, Captain G. W. Babcock.

Like the other ships of the colonies in the Revolution, the Mifflin was a one-decked, uncoppered “bunch of pine boards,” in which patriotism and valor could ill compete with British frigates of seasoned oak. Captured by the cruisers of King George, the crew was sent to the prison ship Jersey. This hulk lay moored where the afternoon shadows of the great bridge-cables are now cast upon the East River. For three months, the boy endured the horrors of imprisonment in this floating coffin. It was with not much besides bones, however, that he escaped.

As soon as health permitted, he enlisted on board the U. S. man-of-war Trumbull, commanded by Captain James Nicholson, armed with thirty guns and manned by two-hundred men. On the 2d of June 1780, she fell in with the British letter-of-marque Watt, a ship heavier and larger and with more men and guns than the Trumbull. The conflict was the severest naval duel of the war. It was in the old days of unscientific cannonading; before carronades had revealed their power to smash at short range, or shell-guns to tear ships to pieces, or rifles to penetrate armor. With smooth-bores of twelve and six pound calibre, a battle might last hours or even days, before either ship was sunk, fired or surrendered. The prolonged mutilation of human flesh had little to do with the settlement of the question. The Trumbull and the Watt lay broadside with each other and but one hundred yards apart, exchanging continual volleys. The Trumbull was crippled, but her antagonist withdrew, not attempting capture.

By the accidents of war and the overwhelming force of the enemy, our little navy was nearly annihilated by the year 1780. Slight as may seem the value of its services, its presence on the seas helped mightily to finally secure victory. The regular cruisers and the privateers captured British vessels laden with supplies and ammunition of war. Washington’s army owed much of its efficiency to this source, for no fewer than eight-hundred British prizes were brought to port. So keenly did Great Britain feel the privateers’ sting that about the year 1780, she struck a blow designed to annihilate them. Her agents were instructed not to exchange prisoners taken on privateers. This order influenced C. R. Perry’s career. He had enlisted for the third time, daring now to beard the lion in his den. Cruising in the Irish sea, he was captured and carried as a prisoner to Newry, County Down, Ireland.

Here, though there was no prospect of release till the war was over, he received very different treatment from that on the Jersey. Allowed to go out on parole, he met a lad named Baillie Wallace, and his cousin, Sarah Alexander. Of her we shall hear later.

After eighteen months imprisonment, Perry made his escape. As seaman on a British vessel, he reached St. Thomas in the West Indies. Thence sailing to Charleston, he found the war over and peace declared.

Remembering the pretty face which had lighted up his captivity, Perry, the next year, made a voyage as mate of a merchant vessel to Ireland. Providence favored his wishes, for on the return voyage Mr. Calbraith, an old friend of the Alexanders and Wallaces, embarked as a passenger to Philadelphia. With him, to Perry’s delight, went Miss Sarah Alexander on a visit to her uncle, a friend of Dr. Benjamin Rush. Matthew Calbraith, a little boy and the especial pet of Miss Alexander, came also.

An ocean voyage a century ago was not measured by days—a sail in a hotel between morning worship at Queenstown and a sermon in New York on the following Sunday night—but consumed weeks. The lovers had ample time. Perry had the suitor’s three elements of success,—propinquity, opportunity and importunity. Before they arrived in this country, they were betrothed.

On landing in Philadelphia, the first news received by Miss Alexander at the mouth of Dr. Benjamin Rush was of the death of both uncle and aunt. Her relatives had committed her to the care of Dr. Rush and at his house the young couple were married in October 1784.

The bride, though but sixteen years, was rich in beauty, character and spirit. The groom was twenty-three, “A warm-hearted high-spirited man, very handsome, with dashing manners, and very polite. He treated people with distinction but would be quick to resent an insult.” The young couple for their wedding journey traveled to South Kingston, R. I. There they enjoyed an enthusiastic reception.

The race-traits of the sturdy British yeomanry and of the Scotch-Irish people were now to blend in forming the parentage of Oliver and Matthew Perry, names known to all Americans.

Away from her childhood’s home in a strange land, the message from the 45th Psalm—the Song of Loves—now came home to the young wife with a force that soon conquered homesickness, and with a meaning that deepened with passing years.

“Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear, forget also thine own people and thy father’s house.”

“Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth.”

Captain C. R. Perry entered the commercial marine and for thirteen years made voyages as mate, master or supercargo to Europe, South America and the East Indies. Even then, our flag floated in all seas. It had been raised in China, and seen at Nagasaki in Japan. In 1789 and ’90, the U. S. S. Columbus and Washington circumnavigated the globe, the first American war vessels to do so. The cities of Providence and Newport secured a large portion of the trade with Cathay.

The future hero of Lake Erie was ten years old, and two other children, a son and a daughter, played in the sea-captain’s home at Newport, when America’s greatest sailor-diplomat was born on the 10th day of April 1794. After her former young friend, at this time a promising young merchant in Philadelphia, the mother named her third son Matthew Calbraith Perry. The boy was destined to outlive his parents and all his brothers.

Matthew Perry was an eager, active, and robust child full of life and energy. His early youth was spent in Newport, at courtly Tower Hill, and on the farm at South Kingston. From the first, his mother and his kin called him “Calbraith.” This was his name in the family even to adult life. Few anecdotes of his boyhood are remembered, but one is characteristic.

When only three years old, the ruddy-faced child was in Kingston. Like a Japanese, he could not say l, as in “lash.” He walked about with a whip in his hand which he called his “rass.” There was a tan yard near by and the bark was ground by a superannuated horse. One of his older brothers called him an “old bark horse.” This displeased the child. He reddened with anger, and his temper exploded in one of those naughty words, which in a baby’s mouth often surprise parents. They wonder where the uncanny things have been picked up; but our baby-boy added, “If I knew more, I would say it.” For this outburst of energy, he suffered maternal arrest. Placed in irons, or apron strings, he was tied up until repentant.

That was Matthew Perry—never doing less than his best. Action was limited only by ability—“If I knew more, I would say it.” The Japanese proverb says “The heart of a child of three years remains until he is sixty.” The western poet writes it, “The child is father of the man.” If he had known more, even in Yedo bay in 1854, he would have done even better than his own best; which, like the boast of the Arctic hero, was that he “beat the record.”

See Appendix.—Origin of the Perry Name and Family.


In the year 1797, war between France and the United States seemed inevitable, and “Hail Columbia” was sung all over the land. The Navy Department of the United States was created May 21, 1798. Captain Perry, having offered his services to the government, was appointed by President Adams, a post-captain in the navy June 9, 1798, and ordered to build and command the frigate General Greene at Warren, R. I. The keels of six sloops and six seventy-four gun ships were also laid. In May, 1799, the General Greene was ready for sea.

With his son Oliver as midshipman, Captain Perry sailed for the West Indies to convoy American merchantmen. He left his wife and family at Tower Hill, a courtly village with a history and fine society. Matthew was five years old. He had been taught to read by his mother, and now attended the school-house, an edifice, which, now a century old, has degenerated to a corn-crib.

Mrs. Perry lived in “the court end” of the town, and, after school, would tell her little sons of their father and brothers at sea. This element was ever in sight with its ships, its mystery, and its beckoning distances. From Tower Hill may be seen Newport, Conanticut Island, Block Island, Point Judith, and a stretch of inland country diversified by lakes, and what the Coreans call “Ten thousand flashings of blue waves.”

After two brilliant cruises in the Spanish Main, and a visit to Louisiana, where the American flag was first displayed by a national ship, Captain Perry returned to Newport in May, 1800. Negotiations with France terminated peacefully, and the first act of President Jefferson was to cut down the navy to a merely nominal existence. Out of forty-two captains only nine were retained in service, and Captain Perry again found himself in private life.

The first and logical result of reducing the nation’s police force on the seas, was the outbreak of piracy. Our expanding commerce found itself unprotected, and the Algerian corsairs captured our vessels and threw their crews into slavery. In the war with the Barbary powers, our navy gained its first reputation abroad in the classic waters of the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile at Newport the boy, Matthew Calbraith, continued his education under school-teachers, and his still more valuable training in character under his mother. The family lived near “the Point,” and during the long voyages of the father, the training of the sons and daughters fell almost wholly on the mother.

It was a good gift of Providence to our nation, this orphan Irish bride so amply fitted to be the mother of heroes. Of a long line of officers in the navy of the United States, most of those bearing the name of Perry, and several of the name of Rodgers, call Sarah Alexander their ancestress. One of the forefathers of the bride, who was of the Craigie-Wallace family, was Sir Richard Wallace of Riccarton, Scotland. He was the elder brother of Malcom Wallace of Ellerslie, the father of Sir William Wallace. Her grandfather was James Wallace, an officer in the Scottish army, who signed the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, but resigned his commission some years later. With other gentlemen from Ayrshire, he took refuge from religious persecution in North Ireland. Though earnest Protestants, they became involved in the Irish rebellion in Cromwell’s time and were driven to resistance of the English invaders.

As a young girl Sarah Alexander had not only listened to oft-repeated accounts of the battles and valor of her ancestors but was familiar with the historic sites in the neighborhood of her childhood’s home. She believed her own people the bravest in the world. Well educated, and surrounded with the atmosphere of liberal culture, of high ideas, of the sacredness of duty and the beauty of religion, she had been morally well equipped for the responsibilities of motherhood and mature life. Add to this, the self-reliance naturally inbred by dwelling as an orphan girl among five young men, her cousins; and last and most important, the priceless advantage of a superb physique, and one sees beforehand to what inheritance her sons were to come. One old lady, who remembers her well, enthusiastically declared that “she was wonderfully calculated to form the manners of children.” Another who knew her in later life writes of her as “a Spartan mother,” “a grand old lady.” Another says “Intelligent, lady-like, well educated;” another that “she was all that is said of her in Mackenzie’s Life of O. H. Perry.” Those nearest to her remember her handsome brown eyes, dark hair, rich complexion, fine white teeth, and stately figure.

The deeds of the Perry men are matters of history. The province of the women was at home, but it was the mothers, of the Hazard and the Alexander blood who prepared the men for their careers by moulding in them the principles from which noble actions spring.

Discipline, sweetened with love, was the system of the mother of the Perry boys, and the foundation of their education. First of all, they must obey. The principles of Christianity, of honor, and of chivalry were instilled in their minds from birth. Noblesse oblige was their motto. It was at home, under their mother’s eye that Oliver learned how to win victory at Lake Erie, and Matthew a treaty with Japan. She fired the minds of her boys with the ineradicable passion of patriotism, the love of duty, and the conquest of self. At the same time, she trained them to the severest virtue, purest motives, faithfulness in details, a love for literature, and a reverence for sacred things. The habit which Matthew C. Perry had of reading his Bible through once during every cruise, his scrupulous regard for the Lord’s day, the American Sunday, his taste for literature, and his love for the English classics were formed at his mother’s knee.

The vigor of her mind and force of her character were illustrated in other ways. While personally attractive with womanly graces, gentle and persuasive in her manners, she believed that self-preservation is the first law of nature. Training her sons to kindness and consideration of others, and warning them to avoid quarrels, she yet demanded of them that they should neither provoke nor receive an insult, nor ever act the coward. How well her methods were understood by her neighbors, is shown by an incident which occurred shortly after news of the victory at Lake Erie reached Rhode Island. An old farmer stoutly insisted that it was Mrs. Perry who had “licked the British.”

There was much in the social atmosphere and historical associations of Newport at the opening of this century to nourish the ambition and fire the imagination of impressible lads like the Perry boys. Here still lived the French veteran, Count Rochambeau of revolutionary fame. Out in the bay, fringed with fortifications of Indian, Dutch, Colonial and British origin and replete with memories of stirring deeds, lay the hulk of the famous ship in which Captain Cook had observed the transit of Venus and circumnavigated the globe. Here, possibly, the Norsemen had come to dwell centuries before, and fascinating though uncertain tradition pointed to the then naked masonry of the round tower as evidence of it. The African slave-trade was very active at this time, and brought much wealth to Newport and the old manors served by black slaves fresh from heathenism. Among other noted negroes was Phillis Wheatly the famous poetess, then in her renown, who had been brought to Boston in 1781 in a slave-ship. What was afterwards left to Portuguese cut-throats and Soudan Arabs was, until within the memory of old men now living, prosecuted by Yankee merchants and New England deacons whose ship’s cargoes consisted chiefly of rum and manacles. At this iniquity, Matthew Perry was one day to deal a stunning blow.

Here, too, had tarried Berkeley, not then a bishop, however, whose prophecy, “Westward the star of empire takes its way” was to be fulfilled by Matthew Perry across new oceans, even to Japan. Once a year the gaily decked packet-boat set out from Newport to Providence to carry the governor from one capital to the other. This was a red-letter day to little Calbraith, in whose memory it remained bright and clear to the day of his death. When he was about ten years old, Mr. Matthew Calbraith now thirty years old and a successful merchant, came from Philadelphia to visit the Perrys. He was delighted with his little namesake, and prophesied that he would make the name of Perry more honorable yet.

The affair of the Leopard and Chesapeake in June 1807 thrilled every member of the family. Matthew begged that he might, at once, enter the navy. This, however, was not yet possible to the boy of twelve years, so he remained at school.

What Providence meant to teach, when an American man-of-war with her decks littered up and otherwise unfit for action was surprised by a hostile ship, was not lost upon our navy. The humiliating but salutary lesson was learned for all time. Neatness, vigilance and constant preparation for the possibilities of action are now the characteristics of our naval households. So far as we know, no other ship of our country has since been “leopardized.”

Even out of their bitter experience, the American sailors took encouragement. The heavy broadsides of a fifty-gun frigate against a silent ship had done surprisingly little damage. British traditions suffered worse than the timbers of the Chesapeake, or the hearts of her sailors. The moral effect was against the offenders, and in favor of the Americans. The mists of rumor and exaggeration were blown away, and henceforth our captains and crews awaited with stern joy their first onset with insolent oppressors. If ever the species bully had developed an abominable variety, it was the average British navy captain of the first decade of this century.

Providence was severing the strings which bound the infant nation to her European nurse. If the mere crossing of the Atlantic by the Anglo Saxon or Germanic race has been equivalent to five hundred years of progress, we may, at this day, be thankful for the treacherous broadsides of the Leopard.

Having a well-grounded faith in the future of his country, and in the speedy renown of her navy, Captain Perry wished all his sons to be naval officers. He had confidence in American ships and cannon, and believed that, handled by native Americans, they were a match for any in the world. His sons Oliver and Raymond already wore the uniform. Early in 1808, he wrote to the Department concerning an appointment for Matthew. His patience was not long tried. Under date of April 23, 1808, he received word from the secretary, Paul Smith, that nothing stood in the way. The receipt of the warrant as midshipman was eagerly awaited by the lad. On the 18th of January 1809, the paper arrived. He was ordered March 16th to the naval station at New York, where he performed for several weeks such routine duty as a lad of his age could do. He then went aboard the schooner Revenge, his first home afloat.

In those days, there being no naval academy, the young midshipmen entered as mere boys, learning the rudiments of seamanship by actual practice on ships at sea. Thus began our typical American naval officer’s long and brilliant career of nearly half a century.

Matthew Perry was born when our flag bearing the stars and stripes was so new on the seas as to be regarded with curiosity. It had then but fifteen stars in its cluster. Civilized states disregarded its neutrality, and uncivilized people insulted it with impunity. The Tripolitan war first compelled barbarians to respect the emblem. France, one of the most powerful and unscrupulous of belligerents, had not yet learned to honor its right of neutrality. Great Britain, to the insults of spoliation, added the robbery of impressment. Matthew Perry entered the United States navy with a burning desire to make this flag respected in every sea. He lived to command the largest fleet which, in his lifetime ever gathered under its folds, and to bear it to the uttermost parts of the earth in the first steam frigate of the United States which ever circumnavigated the globe.


The schooner Revenge, commanded by his brother Oliver, to which Matthew Perry was ordered for his first cruise, had been purchased in 1807. She mounted twelve guns, had a crew of ninety men, and was attached to the squadron under Commodore John Rodgers, which numbered four frigates, five sloops, and some smaller vessels. His duty was to guard our coasts from the Chesapeake to Passamaquoddy Bay, to prevent impressment of American sailors by British cruisers. The Revenge was to cruise between Montauk Point and Nantucket Shoals.

Boy as he was, Matthew Perry seems not to have relished the idea of serving in a coasting schooner. Having an opportunity to make a voyage to the East Indies, the idea of visiting Asia fascinated his imagination. It seemed to offer a fine field for obtaining nautical knowledge. Bombay was at this time the seat of British naval excellence in ship building, and an eighty-gun vessel, built of teak or India oak, was launched every three years. A petition for furlough was not, however, granted and the voyage to Asia was postponed nearly half a century.

Under such a commander, and with his brother Oliver, the boy Matthew was initiated into active service. The Revenge kept look-out during summer and winter, and in April went southward to Washington and the Carolinas.

As there was as yet nothing to do but to be vigilant and to prepare for the war which was—unless Great Britain changed her impressment policy—sure to come, daily attention was given to drill. The sailors were especially taught to keep cool and bide their time to fire. All the Perrys, father and sons, were diligent students of ordnance and gunnery. They were masters of both theory and practice. Among the list of subscribers to Toussard’s Artillerist, written at the request of Washington, and published in 1809, is the name of Oliver H. Perry.

On the 12th of October, 1810, Midshipman M. C. Perry was ordered from the Revenge (which was wrecked off Watch Hill, R. I., January 8, 1811) to the frigate President. This brought him on the flag-ship, the finest of the heavy frigates of 1797, and directly under the eye of Commodore Rodgers. On the 16th of October she went on a short cruise of ten days and returned to her port for the winter, where Raymond Perry joined him. News of the whereabouts of the British ships Shannon and Guerriere was regularly received, and the crew kept alert and ready for work with the press-gang. This was the beginning of three years service by the two Perry brothers on this famous ship.

From March 19, 1811, until July 25, 1813, Matthew kept a diary in which he made observations relating chiefly to the weather and matters of technical interest, with occasional items of historical value. The boyish ambition for ample proportions in the book is offset by the accuracy studied in the entries, and the excessive modesty of all statements relating to himself, even to his wound received by the bursting of a gun. It contains frequent reference to personages whose congenial home was the quarter-deck, the lustre of whose names still glitters in history like the fresh sand which they sprinkled on their letters—now entombed in the naval archives at Washington.

From the first, the bluff disciplinarian, Commodore Rodgers, took a kindly interest in his midshipman. He was especially exacting of his juniors whom he liked, or in whom he saw promise. His dignity, discipline and spirit, were models constantly imitated by his pupils.

One day, while on duty on that part of the deck which roofed the commodore’s cabin, Matthew Perry paced up and down his beat with, what seemed to the occupant below, an unnecessarily noisy stride. Irate at being disturbed while writing, the commodore rushed out on deck, demanded the spy glass and bade Perry to put himself in his superior’s place in the cabin, and sit there to learn how the iniquity of his heels sounded. Then with ponderous tread, exaggerated stride, and mock dignity, the commodore of the whole fleet gave a dramatic object-lesson. It profited the lad no less than it amused the spectators.

Soon after this, Perry was made commodore’s aide.

The diary shows that constant exercise at the “great guns and small arms” was practiced. Rodgers knew that his men were to meet the heroes of Trafalgar, and he believed that American gunnery would quickly settle questions over which diplomacy had become impotent.

The President, leaving New London for New York, set sail April 22 for Annapolis, casting anchor opposite Fort Severn, May 2. Here the vessel lay for ten days. As everything was quiet along the coast, Commodore Rodgers went to his home at Havre de Grace, seventy miles distant, to visit his family. The purser and chaplain took a trip to Washington, and on board all was as quiet as a city church aisle in summer.

Late at night, May 6, there came dispatches from the Navy Department. Two men had been taken from the merchant brig, Spitfire, within eighteen miles of New York. One of the young men impressed, John Deguys, was known to the captain to be a native of Maine. The Guerriere, Captain Dacres, was, as usual, suspected.

The news created great excitement, for the constant search of American ships and the impressment of such men, as the arrogant English captains chose to call British “subjects,” had roused our sailors’ ire. They burned to change this disgraceful state of things and to avenge the Chesapeake affair. The officers of the Guerriere, painting the name of their frigate on her topsails, in large white letters, had been conspicuous for their bravado in insulting American merchant captains.

This was the age of British boasting on the sea, of huge canvas and enormous flags. For during nigh two score years, the British sailors, “lords of the main,” had ruled the waves, rarely losing a ship, and never a squadron, in their numerous battles. Uninterrupted success had bred many bullies. The trade of New York had been injured by these annoying searches and delays. The orders to Commodore Rodgers were to proceed at once to stop the outrageous proceedings. The vexed question of impressment had, since 1790, caused an incredible amount of negotiation. It was now to pass out of the hands of secretaries into the control of our naval captains, with power to solve the problem.

To get the dispatches to the commodore was the duty in hand. Neither steamer nor telegraph could then help to perform it; but hearts and hands were true, and Matthew Perry was ready to show the stuff of which he was made. Captain Ludlow at once entrusted the delicate matter to the commodore’s aide.

Matthew Perry set out before daylight in the commodore’s gig. The pull of seventy miles was made against a head wind. Taking his seat at the helm, he cheered on his men, but it was a long and hard day’s work. It was nearly dark when the lights of the village danced in the distance. At this moment one of the men dropped his oar, and sank back with the blood gushing from his mouth and nostrils. In his over-strain he had burst a blood vessel.

Rodgers at once took the boat, and with the wind in his favor hoisted sail. At 3 p. m., May 7, as Captain Ludlow was dining on the sloop Argus, near the President, the gig was descried five miles distant bearing the broad pennant. Perry, in his journal, modestly omits, as is customary with him, all reference to this exploit of bringing back the commodore. But under the entry of May 10, he writes: “At 10 hoisted out the launch, carried out a kedge and warped the ship out of the roads.”

The President put to sea with her name boldly blazoned on her three topsails like the Guerriere’s. All on board were ready and eager for an opportunity to wipe out this last disgrace. Perry writes, on the 13th: “At 3 spoke the brig . . . . from Trinidad—informed us that the day before she was boarded by an English sloop-of-war.” “At 7 the Argus hove to alongside of us. Captain Lawrence came on board—at 8 Captain L. left the ship.” Next day “at 3 exercised great guns”; “at half-past 8 passed New Point Comfort. At 10 opened the magazine and took out thirty-two twenty-four pound and twenty-four forty-two pound cartridges.”

At 1 o’clock in the afternoon of the 17th, a strange sail was noticed—the ensign and pennant were raised, the ship was cleared for action and the crew beat to quarters. The signals of the strange ship were not answered. The two ships were at this time but a few leagues south of Sandy Hook.

The stranger ship was none other than the British sloop-of-war Little Belt, carrying twenty-two guns. As what took place really precipitated the war of 1812, we give the record from Perry’s diary without alteration.

“At 7 p. m. the chase took in her studding-sails, distant about eight miles. At ten or twelve minutes past 7 she rounded to on the starboard-tack. At half-past 7 shortened sail. At half-past 8 rounded to on her weather beam, within half a cable’s length of her; hailed and asked ‘what ship is that’? to which she replied, ‘what ship is that’? and on the commodore’s asking the second time ‘what ship is that’? received a shot from her which was immediately returned from our gun-deck, but was scarcely fired before she fired three other guns accompanied with musquetry. We then commenced a general fire which lasted about fifteen minutes, when the order was given to cease firing, our adversary being silent and apparently in much distress. At 9 hauled on a wind on the starboard-tack, the strange ship having dropped astern so far that the commodore did not choose to follow, supposing that he had sufficiently chastised her for her insolence in firing into an American frigate. Kept our battle-lanthorns burning. After having examined the damage, found that the ship had her foremast and mainmast wounded and some rigging shot away—one boy only wounded—before daylight the masts were fished, moulded and painted, and everything taut.

“At 5 a. m. discovered the strange sail and bore down for her. At 8 came alongside and sent a boat aboard her. She was lying in a very shattered situation; no sail bent except her maintopsail; her rigging all shot away; three or four shots through her masts; several between wind and water; her gaft shot away, etc. At 9 the boat returned; she proved to be the British ship-of-war Little Belt, Captain Bingham; permitted her to proceed on her course, hoisted the boat up and hauled by the wind on the larboard tack; ends clear and pleasant.”

In this battle the young midshipman first heard a hostile shot and received his initial “baptism of fire.” The accounts of this affair given by the two commanders, Rodgers and Bingham, cannot be reconciled. Captain Bingham, acquitted of blame, was promoted February 7, 1812, to post-rank in the British navy. The event widened the breach between the two nations, and was the foreshadowing of coming events not long to be postponed. Probably Rodgers’ chief regret was that the punished vessel had not been the Guerriere.

The rest of the year, 1811, was spent by our sailors in constant readiness and unremitting discipline in order to secure the highest state of naval efficiency. Exercise at the carronades and long guns was a daily task. The coming war on the ocean was to be a contest in gunnery, and to be won by tactical skill, long guns, and superiority in artillery practice. Nothing was left to chance on the American ships. Congress had neglected the navy since the Tripolitan war, and with embargoes, non-intercourse acts, and a puerile gun-boat system, practically attempted to paralyze this arm of defence. Commodore Rodgers’ squadron was an exception to the general system, and his was the sole squadron serviceable when the declaration of hostilities came.

Rodgers hoped by speedy victories to demonstrate the power of the American heavy frigate to blow to atoms “the gun-boat system,” and change British insolence into respect. Lack of opportunity caused him personal disappointment; but his faith and creed were fully justified by the naval campaign of 1812.


Commodore John Rodgers was a man of the time, a typical naval officer of the period. He was minutely careful about the food and habits of his men, and made the President as homelike as a ship could be. He was not precisely a man of science, as was the case with his son in the monitor Weehawken, for this was the pre-scientific age of naval warfare. Indeed, it can scarcely be said with truth that he had either patience with or appreciation of Robert Fulton, the Pennsylvanian whose inventions were destined to revolutionize the methods of naval warfare. This mechanical genius who anticipated steam frigates, iron armor, torpedoes and rams, rather amused than interested Rodgers. To the commodore, who expected no miracles, he seemed to possess “Continuity but not ingenuity.” Fulton had not yet perfected his apparatus, though he had in 1804 blown up a Danish frigate off Copenhagen, and in 1810 had published in New York his “Torpedo War and Submarine Explosion.” This book is full of illustrations so clear, that to look at them now provokes the wonder that his schemes found so little encouragement. Five thousand dollars were appropriated by Congress March 30, 1810, for submarine torpedo experiments. Discouragement evidently followed: for our government in 1811, following the example of France and England rejected his plans for a submarine torpedo boat.

“The Battle of the Kegs” was too often referred to in connection with Fulton’s projects. This threw a humorous but not luminous glow over the whole matter. It gave to a serious scientific subject very much the same air as that which Irving has succeeded in casting over the early history of New York.

Having glanced at the typical American commander, let us now see what kind of sailors handled the ships and guns of 1812. In an old order book of Commodore Rodgers’, we find one to midshipman M. C. Perry, dated “President off Sandy Hook 26th May 1813,” directing him to proceed to New York and enter for the ship six petty officers and fifty seamen and boys. From this we may guess the quality of the crews of American men-of-war.

“You are desired to be particular in entering none but American citizens, and indeed, native-born citizens in preference.” He is especially directed to ship good healthy men able to perform duty, active and robust, while only those of good character and appearance are to be accepted for the warrant and petty officers. As Matthew Perry was but seventeen years of age, the order shows the confidence his commander placed in his judgement. In Perry’s diary the simple entry under May 28 is “At 12 p. m. the pilot boat left the ship with Mr. Hunt and Midp. M. C. Perry as a recruiting officer for the ship.”

It is the favorite idea of Englishmen who have formed their opinions from James the popular historian of the British navy, that the victories of American ships over their own in 1812 were owing to the British deserters among the Yankees. James, with amazing credulity, believes that there were two hundred Englishmen on the Constitution, that two-thirds of the sailors in the navy of the United States were bred on the soil and educated in the ships of Great Britain, and to these our navy owed at least one half of its effectiveness.

It is much nearer the truth to state that nine-tenths of the American crews were native-born, and but about one-twentieth of British nationality, the rest being a mixture. Three-fourths of the natives were from the northern states; half of the remaining quarter from Virginia, and nearly all of respectable parentage.

Of the officers, the midshipmen were lads of from eleven to fifteen years of age. There were in commission during the war about 500 naval officers, 34,960 sailors and petty officers, and 2,725 marines. The government possessed six navy yards.

In addition to the officer’s knowledge of the scientific principle of gunnery, and the thorough familiarity of the gun-crews with their duties, each ship’s company when away from its cannon was a disciplined battalion. The manual of small arms comprehended every possible stroke of offence and defence. Pikes, cutlasses and axes were the weapons relied on, though a few rifles, in the hands of sharp shooters perched in the crows-nests and in the tops, and a brace of pistols at each man’s belt had their places. The Yankee cutlass had already crossed with the Moorish scimiter at Tripoli, in more than one victory, and “our sailors felt a just confidence in its merits.”[2] The pike was the boarding weapon, the sailor’s bayonet, with which he charged the enemy on his own decks, or repelled his attacks, and was not the least of small arms. The war of 1812, with men speaking the same language, was practically a civil war in which the sword was again to be taken up against equals in every respect. Hence the need of constant practice in handling tools. The uninterrupted drill bore its fruit in due season.

One potent secret of American excellence of naval service, which raised our standard of war ships and guns even higher than the highest in Europe, was the rule of promotion for merit. This nerved every sailor and petty officer to do nothing less than his best at all times. In this respect, the navy of the western world contrasted effectively with that of Great Britain, where commissions were bought and sold in open market.

The Yankee captain taught his men to take pride in their guns as if they were human. Of many an American sailor in 1812 it could be said:

“His conscience and his gun, he thought

His duty lay between.”

The American men-of-war went to sea with sights on their guns that enabled a cannonneer to fire with nearly the accuracy of a rifle. In their occasional use of sheet-lead cartridges, which required less sponging and worming after firing than those of flannel and of paper, they anticipated the copper shells of recent American invention.

The broadsides of that day may seem to us ridiculous in weight, as compared to those of our time. A projectile from an iron-clad now exceeds the entire mass of metal thrown by the largest of the old line-of-battle ships. The heaviest broadside in the United States in 1812—that thrown by the United States carrying fifty-four guns—was but 846 pounds. Nevertheless the American ships had usually heavier and better guns and of longer range than the British. The power of a line-of-battle ship had been condensed into the space of a frigate. This was the American idea, to increase the weight of metal thrown in broadside without altering the ship’s rating.

With their guns every man and boy on board was constantly familiar by daily practice, and the name and purpose of each rope, crook, pulley, and cleet on the carriages were fully known to all. It must be remembered that horizontal shell-firing was unknown sixty years ago. Bombs could be thrown only from mortars as in a land siege, but never from cannon in naval duels, though short howitzers were occasionally employed in Europe to fire bombs. “Bomb-guns, firing hollow shot,” on ships, were not invented until 1824. The seeming advantage to the old time sailor, in his exemption from exploding shells, was in reality and from a humane point of view, a disadvantage; since in navals annals short sharp engagements were less common. A vast waste of ammunition causing “prolonged mutilation and slaughter” was rather the rule. It was the coolness of the American cannonneer, his economy in firing his gun only when he was reasonably sure of hitting, his ability to hold the linstock from the touch-hole till the word was given to fire, that made the duels of 1812 short and decisive.

As a feeble substitute for bomb-shells, the Americans were driven to the use of all sorts of hardware and blacksmith’s scraps as projectiles. This kind of shot was called “langrel” or “langrage,” and the metal magazine of a cruiser in 1812 would be sure to cause merriment if looked into in our decade. In old and in recent times, each combatant aimed to destroy the propelling power of the other. As the main design now is to strike the boiler and disable the machinery, so then the first object was to cut up the sails and rigging, so as to reduce the ship to a hulk. For the purpose, our blacksmiths and inventors were called on to furnish all sorts of ripping and tearing missiles and every species of dismantling shot. Their anvils turned off “star shot,” “chain shot,” “sausages,” “double headers,” “porcupines” and “hedge-hogs.” The “star shot” made of four wrought iron bolts hammered to a ring folded like a frame of umbrella rods. On firing, this camp stool arrangement expanded its rays to the detriment of the enemy’s cordage and canvas. The “sausage” consisted of four or six links, each twelve inches long and when rammed home resemble a disjointed fishing pole or artist’s sketching chair packed up. When belched forth it was converted into a swinging line of iron six feet long which made havoc among the ropes. The “double header” resemble a dumb bell. The “chain shot,” “porcupine” and “hedge-hog” explain themselves by their names. Such projectiles, with a small blacksmith’s shop of bolts and spikes, were to the weight of half a ton, taken out of the side of the Shannon after her fight with the Chesapeake and sold at auction in Halifax where most of them were converted into horse-shoes and other innocent articles. In preparing for the battle of Lake Erie, all the scraps of iron saved at the forges were sewn in leather bags. This flying cutlery helped largely to disable the enemy and bring about the victory. In battle, the carronades charged with this “langrage” were tilted high and pointed at the rigging, while the solid shot of the regular broadsides hulled the enemy with decisive effect. This kind of projectile, though it had been in use in Europe since 1720, was denounced by the British as inhuman and uncivilized. As the history of war again and again proves, what is first denounced as barbarous is finally adopted as fair against an enemy.

The British neglected artillery practice and knew little of nice gunnery. Their carronades and long deck guns were less securely fastened, and were often over charged. By their recoil they were often kicked over and rendered useless during a fight. A terrible picture in words is given by Victor Hugo in his “93” of a carronade let loose in a storm on the deck of a French ship. British discipline too, had fallen behind the standard of Nelson’s day. A nearly uninterrupted series of victories had so spoiled with conceit the average English naval man that he felt it unnecessary if not impossible to learn from an enemy. In the autobiography of Henry Taylor, the author of “Philip Van Artevelde,” who in his youth was midshipman on a British frigate in 1812, he tells us that during a whole year he was not once in the rigging. Very little attention was paid to scientific gunnery, and target practice was rare. In some ships, not a ball was shot from a gun in three years. Dependence was placed on the number of cannon rather than on their quality, equipment or service. They counted rather than weighed their shot. Most of the British frigates were over-gunned.

The carronade, invented in 1779, had become immediately popular, and by 1781 four hundred and twenty-nine British war vessels were equipped with from six to ten carronades. These were above their regular complement and not included in the rate or enumeration. Hence a “thirty-eight,” a “forty-two,” or a “seventy-four” gun-ship might have many more muzzles than her professed complement. The fearful effect of short range upon the timber of ships enabled the British to convert their enemy’s walls into missiles, and make splinters their ally in the work of death and mutilation. Farragut’s “splinter nettings” were then unknown nor dreamed of. Hence the terrific proverbial force of the British broadsides in the Nile and at Trafalgar. After such demonstration of power, such manifest superiority over foemen worthy of their steel, it seemed absurd in British eyes to make special preparation, or abandon old routine in order to meet the Yankees in their “pine board” and “fir built” frigates. What they had done with the French they expected to with the Americans, and more easily. They did not know the virtues of the American long guns nor the rapidity, coolness, and unerring accuracy of the American artillerists. They were now to learn new lessons in the art of war. They were to fight with sailors who took aim.

At the outbreak of hostilities our naval force in ships consisted of one hundred and seventy gun-boats afloat, three second class frigates under repair, three old brigs rotten and worthless, with five brigs and sloops, three first-class and two second-class frigates which were seaworthy. After the embargo of April 14th most of the fast sailers in the American merchant service were converted into privateers.

The British naval force all told consisted of over a thousand sail and her sailors were flushed with the remembrances of Aboukir and Trafalgar. Before hostilities and at the date of the declaration of war, there were off our coast the Africa, one sixty-four gun-ship; the Shannon, Guerriere, Belvidera, and Eolus, second class frigates; besides several smaller vessels.

The war with Great Britain, our “second war for independence” was declared when the treasury was empty and the cabinet divided. Some pamphleteers stigmatized it as “Mr. Madison’s war.” So great was the cowardly fear of British invincibility on the seas, and so shameful and unjust were the suspicions against our navy that many counsellors at Washington urged that the national vessels should keep within tide-water and act only as harbor batteries. To the earnest personal remonstrance of Captains Bainbridge and Stewart we owe it that our vessels got to sea to win a glory imperishable.

Borrowing a point from the English who, in older days, usually chose their time to declare war when the richly-laden Dutch galleons were on their homeward voyage from the Indies, President Madison and Congress, hoping to fill the depleted treasury, passed the act declarative of war about the time the Jamaica plate fleet of eighty-five vessels was to arrive off our coast. This sailed from Negril Bay on the 20th of May and war against Great Britain was declared on the 12th of June, at least one week too late.

Roosevelt’s “Naval History of the War of 1812.”


In these days of submarine cables, the European armies in South Africa or Cochin China receive orders from London or Paris on the day of their issue. To us, the tardiness of transmission in Perry’s youth, seems incredible. Although war was declared on the 12th of June, official information did not reach the army officers until June 20th, and the naval commanders until the 21st. In Perry’s diary of June 20th 1812, this entry is made: “At 10 a. m. news arrived that war would be declared the following day against G. B. Made the signal for all officers and boats. Unmoored ship and fired a salute.”

At 3.30 p. m. next day, within sixty minutes of the arrival of the news, the squadron, consisting of the President, United States, Congress, Argus, and Hornet, about one-third of the whole sea-worthy naval force of the nation, moved out into the ocean.

The British man-of-war, Belvidera, was cruising off Nantucket shore awaiting the French privateer, Marengo, hourly expected from New London. Captain Byron had heard of the likelihood of war from a New York pilot, and his crew was ready for emergencies. At eight o’clock next morning, the look-out on the President when off Nantucket Shoal, caught sight of a strange frigate. Every stitch of canvas was put on the masts and stays, and a race, which was kept up all day, was begun. The President, being just out, was heavily loaded, and, until afternoon, the Belvidera by lightening ship kept well ahead. When it became evident to Captain Byron, the British commander, that he must fight, he ordered the deck cleared, ran out four stern guns, two of which were eighteen pounders and on the main deck. He hoisted his colors at half past twelve. His cartridges were picked, but his fusing was not laid on. This was to avoid a President and Little Belt experience. By half past four, the President’s bow-chaser, or “Long Tom,” was within six hundred yards distance, and the time for firing the first gun of the war had come. The long years of patient waiting and self-control, under insults, were over. The question of the freedom of the seas was to be settled by artillery.

Commodore Rodgers desiring the personal honor of firing the first hostile shot afloat, took his station at the starboard forecastle gun. Perry, a boy of seventeen, stood beside ready, eager, and cool. Waiting till the right moment, the commodore applied the match. The ball struck the Belvidera in the stern coat and passed through, lodging in the ward-room. The corresponding gun on the main deck was then discharged, and the ball was seen to strike the muzzle of one of the enemy’s stern-chasers. The third shot killed two men and wounded five on the Belvidera. With such superb gunnery, the war of 1812 opened. A few more such shots, and the prize would have been in hand.

It was not so to be. Nothing is more certain than the unexpected. A slip came between sight and taste, changing the whole situation.

Commodore Rodgers with his younger officers stood on the forecastle deck with glasses leveled to see the effect of the shot from the next gun on the deck beneath them. It was in charge of Lieutenant Gamble. On the match being applied, it burst. The Commodore was thrown into the air and his leg broken by the fall. Matthew Perry was wounded, several of the sailors were killed, and the forecastle deck was damaged badly. Sixteen men were injured by this accident. The firing on the American ship ceased for some minutes, until the ruins were cleared away, and the dead and wounded were removed. Meanwhile the stern guns of the Belvidera were playing vigorously, and, during the whole action, this busy end of the British vessel was alive with smoke and flame. No fewer than three hundred shot were fired, killing or wounding six of the President’s crew though hurting the ship but slightly, notwithstanding that, for two and a half hours, she lay in a position favorable for raking. Having no pivot guns, but hoping to cripple his enemy by a full broadside, Commodore Rodgers, when the President had forged ahead, veered ship and gave the enemy his full starboard fire. Failing of this purpose, he delivered another broadside at five o’clock, which was as useless as the other. He then ordered the sails set and continued the chase. To offset this advantage in his enemy, the British captain, equal to the situation, ordered the pumps to be manned, stores, anchors and boats to be heaved overboard to rid the ship of every superfluous pound of matter. Fourteen tons of water were started and, lightened of much metal and wood, the British ship gained visibly on her opponent. This continued until six, when the wind, being very light, Rodgers, in the hope of disabling his antagonist, “yawed” again and fired two broadsides. These, to the chagrin of the gallant commodore, fell short or took slight effect. At seven o’clock, the Belvidera was beyond range and, near midnight, the chase was given up.

The escaping vessel got safely to Halifax carrying thither the news that war had been declared and the Yankee cruisers were loose on the main. Instead of the electric cable which flashes the news in seconds, the schooner Mackerel took dispatches, arriving at Portsmouth July 25th.

Following the trail left in the “pathless ocean” by the crumbs that fell from the British table,—fruit rinds, orange skins and cocoa-nut shells, the American frigate followed the game until within twenty-four hours of the British channel. It was now time to be off. The West India prize was lost.

Turning prow to Maderia, Funchal was passed July 27th. Sail was then made for the Azores. Few ships were seen, but fogs were frequent. Baffled in his desire to meet an enemy having teeth to bite, Rodgers would have still kept his course, but for a fire in the rear. An enemy, feared more than British guns, had captured the ship.

It was the scurvy. It broke out so alarmingly that he was obliged to hurry home at full speed. Passing Nantasket roads August 31st decks were cleared for action. A strange ship was in sight. It was the Constitution which a few days before had met and sunk their old enemy the Guerriere, two of whose prizes the President had recaptured.

In this, his first foreign cruise in a man-of-war, full as it was of exciting incidents, Perry had taken part in one battle, and the capture of seven British Merchant vessels. Driven home ingloriously by the chronic enemy of the naval household, he learned well a new lesson. He gained an experience, by which not only himself but all his crew down to the humblest sailor under his command, profited during the half century of his service. In those ante-canning days, more lives were lost in the navy by this one disease than by all other causes, sickness, battle, tempest or shipwreck. “From scurvy” might well have been a prayer of deliverance in the nautical litany.

Perry was one of the first among American officers to search into the underlying causes of the malady. He was ever a rigid disciplinarian in diet, albeit a generous provider. To the ignorant he seemed almost fanatical in his “anti-scorbutic” notions, though he was rather pleased than otherwise at the nick-name savoring of the green-grocer’s stall which Jack Tar with grateful facetiousness lavished on him.

Across sea, the American frigates were described by the English newspapers as “disguised seventy-fours;” and, forthwith, English writers on naval warfare began explaining how the incredible thing happened that British frigates had lowered their flag to apparent equals. These explanations have been diligently kept up and copied for the past seventy-five years. As late as the international rifle match of 1877 the words of the naval writer, James, learned by heart by Britons in their youth, came to the front in the staple of English editorials written to clear up the mystery of American excellence with the rifle,—“The young peasant or back-woodsman carries a rifle barrel from the moment he can lift one to his shoulder.”

On the eighteenth of October, Rodgers left Boston with the President, Constitution, United States and Argus. Perry, unable to be idle, while the ships lay in Boston harbor, had opened a recruiting office in the city enlisting sailors for the President. Each vessel of the squadron was in perfect order. On the 10th, without knowing it, they passed near five British men-of-war. They chased a thirty-eight gun ship but lost her, but, on the 18th off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland captured the British packet Swallow, having on board eighty-one boxes of gold and silver to the value of $200,000. On the 30th they chased the Galatea and lost her. During the whole of November, they met with few vessels.

Nine prizes of little value were taken. They cruised eastward to Longitude 22 degrees west and southward to 17 degrees north latitude. They re-entered Boston on the last month of the year, 1812. It is no fault of Rodgers that he did not meet an armed ship at sea, and win glory like that gained by Hull, Bainbridge and Decatur. For Perry, fortune was yet reserving her favor and Providence a noble work.

Leaving Boston, April 30, the President crossed the Atlantic to the Azores, and thence moved up toward North Cape. In these icy seas, Rodgers hoped to intercept a fleet of thirty merchant vessels sailing from Archangel, July 15. Escaping after being chased eighty-four hours by a British frigate and a seventy-four, Rodgers returned from his Arctic adventures, and after a five months’ cruise cast anchor at Newport, September 27. Twelve vessels, with two hundred and seventy-one prisoners, had been taken; and the ships he disposed of by cartel, ransom, sinking, or despatch to France or the United States as prizes. No less than twenty British men-of-war, sailing in couples for safety, scoured the seas for half a year, searching in vain for the saucy Yankee.

Three years of service, under his own eye, had so impressed Commodore Rodgers with his midshipman, that, on the 3d of February, 1813, he wrote to the Department asking that Perry be promoted. This was granted February 27, and, at eighteen, Matthew Perry became an acting lieutenant. “Heroes are made early.”

Four of the Perry brothers served their country in the navy in 1813; two in the Lawrence on Lake Erie, and two on the President at sea. An item of news that concerned them all, and brought them to her bedside, was their mother’s illness. This, fortunately, was not of long duration. At home, Matthew Perry found his commission as lieutenant, dated July 24. Of the forty-four promotions, made on that date, he ranked number fourteen. Requesting a change to another ship, he was ordered to the United States, under Commodore Decatur. Chased into the harbor of New London, by a British squadron, this frigate, with the Wasp and Macedonian, was kept in the Thames until the end of the war. Perry’s five months’ service on board of her was one of galling inaction. Left inactive in the affairs of war, the young lieutenant improved his time in affairs of the heart; and on Christmas eve, 1814, was married to Miss Jane Slidell, then but seventeen years of age. The Reverend, afterwards Bishop, Nathaniel Bowen, united the pair according to the ritual of the Episcopal church, at the house of the bride’s father, a wealthy New York merchant. Perry’s brothers-in-law, John Slidell, Alexander Slidell (MacKenzie), and their neighbor and playmate, Charles Wilkes, as well as himself, were afterwards heard from.

Soon after his marriage, Lieutenant Perry was invited by Commodore Decatur to join him on the President. In this ship, nearly rebuilt, with a crew of over four hundred picked sailors, most of them tall and robust native Americans, the “Bayard of the seas” expected to make a voyage to the East Indies. Unfortunately, seized with a severe fit of sickness, Perry was obliged to leave the ship, and in eager anticipation of speedy departure, Decatur appointed another lieutenant in his place. The bitter pill of disappointment proved, for Perry, good medicine. Owing to the vigor of the blockade, the President did not get away until January 15, 1815, and then only to be captured by superior force. In answer to an application for service, Matthew Perry was ordered to Warren, R. I., to recruit for the brig Chippewa.

Meanwhile, negotiations for ending the war had begun, starting from offers of mediation by Russia. With the allies occupying Paris, and Napoleon exiled to Elba, there was little chance of “peace with honor” for the United States. The war party in England were even inquiring for some Elba in which to banish Madison. “The British government was free to settle accounts with the upstart people whose ships had won more flags from her navy, in two years, than all her European rivals had done in a century.” One of the first moves was to dispatch Packenham, with Wellington’s veterans, to lay siege to New Orleans, with the idea of gaining nine points of the law. From Patterson and Jackson, they received what they least expected.

Before Perry’s work at Warren fairly began, the British ship Favorite, bearing the olive branch, arrived at New York, February 11, 1815. It was too late to save the bloody battle of New Orleans, or the capture of the Cyane and Levant. The treaty of Ghent had been signed December 3, 1813; but neither steam nor electricity were then at hand to forefend ninety days of war.

The navy, from the year 1815, was kept up on a war footing; and, for three years, the sum of two millions of dollars was appropriated to this arm of the service. Commodore Porter, eager to improve and expand our commerce, conceived the project of a voyage of exploration around the world. The plan embraced an extended visit to the islands of the Pacific, the north-west coast of America, Japan and China. The expedition was to consist of several vessels of war. The project of this first American expeditionary voyage fell stillborn, and was left to slumber until Matthew Perry and John Rodgers accomplished more than its purpose.

The seas now being safe to American commerce, our merchants at once took advantage of their opportunity. Mr. Slidell offered his son-in-law, then but twenty years of age, the command of a merchant vessel loaded for Holland. He applied for furlough. As war with Algiers threatened, permission was not granted, and Matthew and James Alexander Perry began service on board the Chippewa. This was the finest of three brigs in the flying squadron, which had been built to ravage British commerce in the Mediterranean. Serving, inactively, on the brig Chippewa, until December 20, 1815, Perry procured furlough, and in command of a merchant vessel, owned by his father, made a voyage to Holland. He was engaged in the commercial marine until 1817, when he re-entered the navy.

The Virginian Horatio, son of the freed slave, who to-day ploughs up the skull of some Yorick, Confederate or Federal, turns to his paternal Hamlet, of frosty pow, to ask: “What was dey fightin’ about?” A similar question asks the British Peterkin and the American lad, of this generation, concerning a phase of our history early in this century.

Besides being “our second war for national independence,” the struggle of 1812 was emphatically for “sailors’ rights.” At the beginning of hostilities there were on record in the State Department, at Washington, 6,527 cases of impressed American seamen. This was, doubtless, but a small part of the whole number, which probably reached 20,000; or enough to man our navy five times over. In 1811, 2,548 impressed American seamen were in British prisons, refusing to serve against their country, as the British Admirality reported to the House of Commons, February 1, 1815. In January, 1811, according to Lord Castlereagh’s speech of February 8, 1813, 3,300 men, claiming to be Americans, were serving in the British navy.[3] The war settled some questions, but left the main one of the right of search, claimed by Great Britain, still open, and not to be removed from the field of dispute, until Mr. Seward’s diplomacy in the Trent affair compelled its relinquishment forever. Three years struggle with a powerful enemy, had done wonders in developing the resources of the United States and in consolidating the Federal union. The American nation, by this war, wholly severed the leading strings which bound her to the “mother country” and to Europe, and shook off the colonial spirit for all time.

Among the significant appropriations made by Congress during the war, was one for $500 to be spent in collecting, transmitting, preserving, and displaying the flags and standards captured from the enemy.

On the 4th of July, 1818, the flag of the United States of America, which, during the war of 1812, bore fifteen stripes and fifteen stars in its cluster, returned to its old form. The number of stripes, representing the original thirteen states, remained as the standard, not to be added to or subtracted from. In the blue field the stars could increase with the growth of the nation. In the American flag are happily blended the symbols of the old and the new, of history and prophecy, of conservatism and progress, of the stability of the unchanging past with the promise and potency of the future.

Roosevelt’s “Naval History of the War of 1812.”


An act of Congress passed March 3, 1819, favored the schemes of the American Colonization Society. A man-of-war was ordered to convoy the first company of black colonists to Africa, in the ship Elizabeth, to display the American flag on the African coast, and to assist in sweeping the seas of slavers. The vessel chosen was the Cyane, an English-built vessel, named after the nymph who amused Proserpine when carried off by Pluto. One of the pair captured by Captain Stewart of the U. S. S. Constitution, in his memorable moonlight battle of February 20, 1815, the Cyane mounted thirty-four guns, and carried one hundred and eighty-five men. Rebuilt for the American navy, her complement was two hundred sailors and twenty-five marines. Captain Edward Trenchard, who commanded her, was a veteran of the Tripolitan and second British war. From the Mahometan pirates, when a mere lad, he had assisted to capture the great bronze gun that now adorns the interior gateway of the Washington Navy Yard.

Athirst for enterprise and adventure, Perry applied for sea service and appointment on the Cyane. It was not so much the idea of seeing the “Dark Continent,” as of seeing “Guinea” which charmed him. “Africa” then was a less definite conception than to us of this age of Livingstone, Stanley, and the free Congo State. “Guinea” was more local, while yet fascinating. From it had come, and after it was named, England’s largest gold coin, which had given way but a year or two before to the legal “sovereign,” though sentimentally remaining in use. British ships were once very active in the Guinea traffic in human flesh, some of them having been transferred to the German slave-trade to carry the Hessian mercenaries to America. Curiosities from the land of the speckled champions of our poultry yards, were in Perry’s youth as popular as are those from Japan in our day. On the other hand, the dreaded “Guinea worm,” or miniature fiery serpent, and the deadly miasma, made the coast so feared, that the phrase “Go to Guinea,” became a popular malediction. All these lent their fascination to a young officer who loved to overcome difficulties, and “the danger’s self, to lure alone.” He was assigned to the Cyane as first lieutenant. As executive officer he was busy during the whole autumn in getting her ready, and most of the letters from aboard the Cyane, to the Department, are in his handwriting, though signed by the commanding officer.

For the initial experiment in colonization, the ship Elizabeth, of three hundred tons, was selected. Thirty families, numbering eighty-nine persons, were to go as passengers and colonists. A farewell meeting, with religious exercises, was held in New York, and the party was secretly taken on board January 3. This was done to avoid the tremendous crowd that would have gathered to see people willing to “go to Guinea.”

The time of year was not favorable for an auspicious start, for no sooner were the colored people aboard, than the river froze and the vessel was ice-bound. As fast locked as if in Polar seas, the Elizabeth remained till February 6, when she was cut out by contract and floated off. In the heavy weather, convoy and consort lost sight of each other. Cased in ice, the Cyane pulled her anchor-chains three days, then spent from the 10th to the 15th in searching for the Elizabeth, which meanwhile had spread sail and was well on toward the promised land. All this was greatly to the wrath of Captain Trenchard.

The Cape de Verdes came into view March 9, after a squally passage, and on the 27th, anchor was cast in Sierra Leone roads. The Elizabeth having arrived two days before had gone on to Sherbro.

A cordial reception was given the American war vessel by the British naval officers and the governor. Memories of the Revolution were recalled by the Americans. It may be suspected that they cheerfully hung their colors at half-mast on account of the death of George III. His reign of sixty years was over.

To assist the colony, a part of the crew of the Cyane, most of them practical mechanics, with tools and four months provisions, under Lieutenant John S. Townsend, was despatched to Sherbro. Immediate work was found for the Cyane in helping to repress a mutiny on an American merchant vessel. This done, a coasting cruise for slavers followed in which four prizes were made. The floating slave-pens were sent home, and their officers held for trial. Other sails were seen and chased, and life on the new station promised to be tolerable. Except when getting fresh water the ship was almost constantly at sea, and all were well and in good spirits.

Perry enjoyed richly the wonders both of the sea and the land flowing with milk of the cocoa-nut. Branches of coffee-berries were brought on ship, the forerunner of that great crop of Liberian coffee which has since won world-wide fame. The delicious flavor of the camwood blossoms permeated the cabin.

Among the natives on shore each tribe seemed to have a designating mark on the face or breast—cut, burned or dyed—by which the lineage of individuals was easily recognized. The visits of the kings, or chiefs, to the ships, were either for trade or beggary. In the former case, the dusky trader was usually accompanied by the scroff or “gold-taker,” who carefully counted and appraised the “cut-money” or coins. When cautioned to tell the truth, or confirm a covenant, their oath was made with the “salt-fingers” raised to heaven, some of this table mineral being at the same time mixed with earth and eaten, salt being considered sacred.

The dark and mysterious history of Africa, for centuries, has been that of blood and war. The battle-field was the “bed of honor,” and frequently the cannibals went forth to conflict with their kettles in hand ready to cook their enemies at once when slain. Women at the tribal assemblies counselled war or peace, and were heard with respect by the warriors. Almost all laws were enforced by the power of opinion, this taking the place of statutes.

The climate and the unscientific methods of hygiene, in the crowded ship, soon began to tell upon the constitutions of the men on the Cyane. Tornados, heavy rain, with intense heat, par-boiled the unacclimated white seamen, and many fell ill. The amphibious Kroomen relieved the sailors of much exposure; but the alternations of chill and heat, with constant moisture, and foul air under the battened hatches, kept the sick bay full. Worst of all, the dreaded scurvy broke out. They were then obliged to go north for fresh meat and vegetables. A pleasant incident on the way was their meeting with the U. S. S. Hornet, twenty-seven days from New York. At Teneriffe, in the Canary Islands, during July, the Cyane, though in quarantine, received many enjoyable courtesies from the officers of a French seventy-four-gun-ship in the harbor.

When quarantine was over, and the Cyane admitted to Pratique, Lieutenant Perry went gratefully ashore to tender a salute to the Portuguese governor. In an interview, Perry informed his worship of the object of the American ship’s visit, and stated that the Cyane would be happy to tender the customary salute if returned gun for gun. The governor replied that it would give him great pleasure to return the salute—but with one gun less; as it was not customary for Portugal to return an equal number of guns to republican governments, but only to those of acknowledged sovereigns. This from Portuguese!

Perry replied, in very plain terms, that no salute would be given, as the government of the United States acknowledged no nation as entitled to greater respect than itself.

The only greeting of the Cyane as she showed her stern to the governor and the port, was that of contemptuous silence. By September 20, the John Adams was off the coast, the three vessels making up the American squadron.

The first news received from the colonists was of disaster. On their arrival at Sherbro they landed with religious exercises, and met some of Paul Cuffee’s settlers sent out some years before. The civilized negroes from the Elizabeth were shocked beyond measure at the heathenish display of cuticle around them. They had hardly expected to find their aboriginal brethren in so low an estate. They could not for a moment think of fraternizing with them. Owing to the lateness of the season, they were unable to build houses to shelter themselves from the rains. All had taken the African fever, and among the first victims was their leader, the Rev. Mr. Bacon. From the Rev. Daniel Cokes, the acting agent of the colonization society, the whole miserable story was learned. The freed slaves who, even while well fed and housed on ship, had shown occasional symptoms of disobedience, broke out into utter insubordination when “the sweets of freedom in Africa” were translated into prosy work. After Bacon’s death there was total disorder; no authority was acknowledged, theft became alarmingly common, and the agent’s life was threatened.

The native blacks, noticing the state of things, took advantage of the feuds and ignorance of the settlers and refused to help them. Sickness carried off the doctor and all of the Cyane’s boat crew. Yet the fever, while fatal to whites, was only dangerous to the negro colonists. Twenty-three out of the eighty-nine had died, and of these but nineteen by fever. The rest, demoralized and discouraged, gave way to their worst natures.

The colony which had been partly projected to receive slaves captured by United States vessels, for the present, at least, proving a failure, Captain Trenchard requested the governor of Sierra Leone to receive such slaves as should hereafter be liberated by Americans. The governor acceded, and the Cyane turned her prow homeward October 4, and after a fifty-seven days’ experience of constant squalls and calms, until December 1, arrived at New York on Christmas day. Emerging from tropical Africa, even the intermediate ocean voyage did not prepare the men for the severe weather of our latitude, and catarrhs and fevers broke out. The ship, too, was full of cases of chronic sickness. Between disease and the elements, the condition of the crew was deplorable.

In this, his first African cruise, Perry, as usual, profited richly by experience. He had made a systematic study of the climate, coast, and ship-hygiene. He believed, and expressed his conviction, that for much of the preventible sickness some one was responsible. Though, thereby, he lost the good will of certain persons, Lieutenant Perry rendered unquestionable benefits to later ships on the African station. During the next year, the U. S. S. Nautilus, with two agents of the government, and two of the colonization societies, sailed with a fresh lot of colonists for Africa. Thus the slow work of building up the first and only American colony recognized by the United States went on.

There were some far-seeing spirits on both sides of Mason and Dixon’s line, who had begun to see that the only real cure for the African slave-trade, on the west coast of Africa, was its abolition in America. The right way for the present, however, was to carry the war into Africa by planting free colonies.


On the 5th of July 1821, Perry was doubly happy, in his first sole command of a man-of-war, and in her being bound upon a worthy mission. The Shark was to convey Dr. Eli Ayres to Africa as agent of the United States in Liberia. He was especially glad that he could now enforce his ideas of ship hygiene. His ambition was to make the cruise without one case of fever or scurvy.

The Shark sped directly through the Canaries. Here, the human falcons resorted before swooping on their human prey. At Cape de Verde, he found the villianous slave-trade carried on under the mask of religion. Thousands of negroes decoyed or kidnapped from Africa, were lodged at the trading station for one year, and then baptized by the wholesale in the established Roman faith. They were then shipped to Brazil as Portuguese “subjects.” It was first aspersion, and then dispersion.

At Sierra Leone, Dr. Ayers was landed. Three out of every four whites in the colony died with promptness and regularity. The British cruisers suffered frightfully in the loss of officers, and the Thistle, spoken October 21st, had only the commander and surgeon left of her staff.

Perry performed one act during this cruise which powerfully effected for good the future of the American negro in Africa, and the destiny of the future republic of Liberia. The first site chosen for the settlement of the blacks sent out by the American Colonization Society was Sherbro Island situated in the wide estuary of the Sherbro river which now divides Sierra Leone from Liberia. In this low lying malarious district, white men were sure to die speedily, and the blacks must go through the fever in order to live. On Perry’s arrival, he found that the missionary teachers, Mr. and Mrs. Winn, and the Reverend Mr. Andrews were already in the cemetery from fever. Some of the new colonists were sick and six of them had died.

Perry saw at once that the foundations of the settlement must be made on higher ground. He selected, therefore, the promontory of Mont Serrado, called Cape Mesurado. This place, easily accessible, had no superior on the coast. It lay at the mouth of the Mesurado river which flowed from a source three hundred miles in the interior.[4]

Having no authority to make any changes, the matter rested until December 12, 1832 when Captain Stockton, Doctor Ayres, and seven immigrants visited the location chosen by Matthew Perry. “That is the spot that we ought to have,” said Captain Stockton, “that should be the site of our colony. No finer spot on the coast.” Three days later a contract to cede the desired land to the United States was signed by six native “Kings.” Seventeen of the dusky sovereigns and thirty-four dignitaries enjoying semi-royal honors, had assented, and on the twenty-fifth of April 1832 the American flag was hoisted over Cape Mesurado. Shortly afterwards, Monrovia, the future capital, named after President Monroe, began its existence. To this form of the Monroe doctrine, European nations have fully acceded. Liberia is the only colony founded by the United States.

The Shark ran, like a ferret in rat-holes, into all the rivers, nooks and harbors, but though French, Dutch and Spanish vessels were chased and overhauled, no American ships were caught. Perry wrote “The severe laws of Congress had the desired effect of preventing American citizens from employing their time and capital in this iniquitous traffic.” Yet this species of commerce was very actively pursued by vessels wearing the French, Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch flags. The French and Portuguese were the most persistent man-stealers. So great was the demand for slaves, that villages only a few miles apart were in constant war so as to get prisoners to be disposed of to the captains of slave-vessels. Perry wrote:

“In this predatory warfare the most flagitious acts of cruelty are committed. The ties of nature are entirely cut asunder for it is not infrequent that parents dispose of their own children.”

The cargoes which the slavers carried to use in barter for human flesh consisted of New England rum, Virginia tobacco, with European gunpowder, paint, muskets, caps, hats, umbrellas and hardware. Most of the wearing apparel was the unsalable or damaged stock of European shops. The Guinea coast was the Elysium of old clothes men and makers of slop work. Long out of fashion at home, these garments sufficed to deck gorgeously the naked body of a black slave-peddler, while the rum corroded his interior organs. The Caroline, a French ship overhauled by Perry, had made ten voyages to Africa. The vessel, cargo and outfit cost $8,000, the value of the cargo of one hundred and fifty-three slaves at $250 each, was $38,250, a profit of nearly $30,000 for a single voyage. The sixty men, ten women, and sixty-three children stowed in the hold were each fed daily with one bottle of water and one pound of rice. The ships found off Old Calabar and Cape Mount—now seats of active Christian and civilizing labors—having no one on board who could speak English, were completely fitted for carrying slaves. Those sailing below the equator, and under their national flags, could not be molested. No Congress of nations had yet outlawed slave-trading on all the seas as piracy. The commander of the British squadron reported: “No Americans are engaged in the [slave] trade. They would have no inducement to conceal their real character from the officers of a British cruiser, for these have no authority to molest them. All slaves are now under foreign flags.”

In this villainous work, the Portuguese from first to last have held undisputed pre-eminence. Perry, after his three African cruises, was confirmed in his opinion formed at first, and which all students of Africa so unanimously hold. Mr. Robert Grant Watson, who has minutely studied the national disgrace in many parts of the world thus formulates this judgment.

“There seems indeed something peculiarly ingrained in the Portuguese race, which makes them take to slave-dealing and slave-hunting, as naturally as greyhounds take to chasing hares; and this observation applies not to one section of the race alone, but to Portuguese wherever they are to be found beyond the reach of European law. No modern race can be as slave-hunters within measurable distance of the Portuguese. Their exploits in this respect are written in the annals not only of the whole coast of Brazil, from Para, Uruguay, and along the Missiones of Paraguay, not only on the coast of Angola but throughout the interior of Africa. You may take up the journals of one traveller after another, of Burton, Livingstone, of Stanley, or of Cameron, and in what ever respects their accounts and opinions may differ, one point they are one and all entirely agreed on, namely, as to the pestilent and remorseless activity of the ubiquitous Portuguese slave-catcher.”

“Having examined the northern part of the coast from the Bessagoes shoals to Cape Mount,” writes Perry. “I took my departure for West Indies following the track of Homeward Bound Guinea-men.”

A run across the Atlantic brought the Shark to the West Indies. There diligent search was begun for Picaroons or pirates. American merchant vessels were convoyed beyond the coast of Cuba. The run northward brought the Shark to New York, January 17, 1822. In the violent change from the equator to our rugged climate, many of the Shark’s crew suffered from frost-bites.

A short but very active cruise in African waters had been finished. Despite the long calms, occasional tempests and the deadly land miasma, not a single man had died on the Shark. This unusual exemption from the disease was imputed by Perry under Providence, to the many precautions observed by him and to the skilful attentions of Dr. Wiley.

Matthew Perry was among the first to discover the underlying cause of the sailor’s malady—sea-scurvy. He believed it to be primarily due to mal-nutrition. He found the soil in which the disease grew was a compost of bad water, alcoholism, exposure, too exclusively salt diet, lack of vegetables, of ventilation, and of cleanliness on ship. The canning epoch inaugurated later by Americans, who, it is said, got their notions from air-tight fruit jars dug up from Pompeii, had not yet dawned, but Perry already put faith in succulents and the entire class of crucifiers, seeing in them the cross of health in his crusade against the scorbutic taint. Though not yet familiar with the marvelous power of the onion, and the juice of limes, he endeavored at all times to secure supplies of sauer-kraut, cabbages, radishes, and fruits rich in acids and sub-acids. He was emulous of the success of captains Cook and Parry who had succeeded so well in their voyages. He knew that in war, more men perished by disease than in battle. He lived to see the day when a ship was made a more healthy dwelling place than the average house, and when, through perfected dietic knowledge, and the skill of the preserver and hermetic sealer, sea-scurvy became so rare that a naval surgeon might pass a lifetime without meeting a case save in a hospital.

See the Maryland Colonization Journal, vol. 2, p. 328 and the December number of the Liberia Herald 1845, for Perry’s Journal when Lieutenant of the Cyane.


James, the Spaniard’s patron saint, has been compelled to lend his name as “Iago” to innumerable towns, cities and villages. From Mexico to Patagonia in Spanish America, “Santiago,” “San Diego,” “Iago” and “Diego” are such frequently recurring vocables that the Yankee sailor calls natives of these countries “Dago men,” or “Diegos.” It is his slang name for foreigners of the Latin race. It is a relic of the old days when he knew them chiefly as pirates.

Perry’s next duty was to lend a hand against the “Diego” ship robbers of the Gulf, who had become an intolerable nuisance. The unsettled condition of the Central and South American colonies had set afloat thousands of starving and ragged patriots. Their prime object was the destruction of Spanish commerce, but tempted by the rich prizes of other nations, and speedily developing communistic ideas, they became truly catholic in their treatment of other peoples’ property, while the names which these cut-throats gave their craft were borrowed from holy writ and the calendar of the saints. Under the black flag, they degenerated into murderous pirates. Their own name was “Brethren of the coast.”

Emboldened by success, they formed organized companies of buccaneers and extended their depredations over the whole north Atlantic. Our southern commerce was particularly exposed. The accounts of piracy continually reaching our cities on the Atlantic coast, were accompanied with details of wanton cruelties inflicted on American seamen. The pirate craft were swift sailing schooners of from fifty to ninety tons burthen manned by crews of from twenty-five to one hundred men who knew every cove, crevice, nook and sinuous passage in the West India Archipelago. Watching like hawks for their prey, they would swoop down on the helpless quarry—British and American merchantmen—and rob, beat, burn and kill.

The squadron fitted out to exterminate these heroes of our yellow-covered novels consisted of the frigates, Macedonian and Congress, the sloops Adams and Peacock, with five brigs, the steam galliot Sea-gull, and several schooners; among which was Lieutenant Perry’s twelve-gun vessel the Shark. The whole was under the command of Commodore David Porter, the father of the present illustrious Admiral of the American navy.

The duty of ferreting out these pests was a laborious one in a trying climate. The commodore divided the whole West Indian coast into sections, each of which was thoroughly scoured by the cruisers and barges. The boat service was continuous, relieved by occasional hand-to-hand fights. Often the tasks were perplexing. Though belted and decorated with the universal knife, the quiet farmers in the fields, or salt makers on the coast, seemed innocent enough. As soon as inquiries were answered, and the visiting boat’s crew out of sight, they hied to a secluded cove. On the deck of a swift sailing light-draft barque or even open boat, these same men would stand transformed into blood-thirsty pirates, under black flags inscribed with the symbols of skull and bones, axe and hour glass.

To the dangers of intricate navigation in unsurveyed and rarely visited channels, for even the Florida Keys were then unknown land, and their water ways unexplored labyrinths, and the fatigue of constant service at the oars, was added keen jealousy of the United States, felt by the Cubans, and shown by the Spanish authorities in many annoying ways.

The acquisition of Cuba had even then been hinted at by Southern fire-eaters bent on keeping the area of African slavery intact, and even of extending it in order to balance the increasing area of freedom. This feeling, then confined to a section of a sectional party, and not yet shaped, as it afterwards was, into a settled policy and determination, roused the defiant jealousy of the Spaniards in authority, even though they might be personally anxious to see piracy exterminated. The Mexican war, waged in slavery’s behalf in the next generation, showed how well-grounded this jealousy was.

The smaller craft sent to cope with the pirates of the Spanish Main were so different in bulk and appearance from the heavy frigates and ships of the line that they were dubbed, “The Mosquito Fleet.” The swift barges were named in accordance with this idea, after such tropical vermin as Mosquito, Midge, Sand-fly, Gnat and Gallinipper. The Sea-gull, an altered Brooklyn ferry-boat from the East river, and but half the size of those now in use, was equipped with masts. Under steam and sail she did good service.

The Shark got off in the spring, and by May 4, 1822, she was at Vera Cruz. Perry had an opportunity to see the castle of Juan d’Ulloa and the Rich City of the Real Cross, which were afterwards to become so familiar to him.

The pirates were soon in the clutch of men resolutely bent on their destruction. When, in June, Commodore Biddle obtained permission of the Captain General of Cuba to land boat’s crews on Spanish soil to pursue the pirates to the death, the end of the system was not far off. Still the ports of the Spanish Main were crowded with American ships waiting for convoy by our men-of-war, their crews fearing the cut-throats as they would Pawnees.

In June, Perry with the Shark, in company with the Grampus, captured a notorious ship sailing under the black flag—the Bandara D’Sangare, and another of lesser fame. Meeting Commodore Biddle in the flag-ship, at sea, July 24, he put his prisoners, all of whom had Spanish names, on board the Congress. They were sent to Norfolk for trial. The sad news of the death of Lieutenant William Howard Allen of the Alligator, who had been killed by pirates, was also learned. The friend of Fitz-Greene Halleck, his memory has been embalmed in verse.

By order of the commodore, Perry turned his prow again toward Africa. His visit, however, was of short duration, for on the 12th of December 1822, we find him in Norfolk, Virginia, finishing a cruise in which he had been two hundred and thirty-six days under sail, during which time he had boarded one hundred and sixty-six vessels, convoyed thirty, given relief to five in actual distress, and captured five pirates.

Although the pirates no longer called for a whole squadron to police the Spanish Main, yet our commerce in the Gulf was now in danger from a new source. In 1822, Mexico entered upon another of her long series of revolutions. The native Mexican, Iturbide, abandoning the rôle of pliant military captain of the Spanish despot, assumed that of an American usurper.

Suddenly exalted, May 18, 1822, from the barrack-room to the throne, he set the native battalions in motion against the Spanish garrisons then holding only the castle of San Juan d’Ulloa and a few minor fortresses. Santa Anna was then governor of Vera Cruz. Hostilities between the royalists and the citizens having already begun, our commerce was in danger of embarrassment.

Perry with his old ship and crew left New York for Mexico. Before he arrived, the Spanish yoke had been totally overthrown and the National Representative Assembly proclaimed. Iturbide abdicated in March, 1823, and danger to our commerce was removed. Perry, relieved of further duty returned to New York, July 9, 1823, and enjoyed a whole summer quietly with his family.

Perceiving the advantage of a knowledge of Spanish, Perry began to study the tongue of Cervantes. Though not a born linguist, he mastered the language so as to be during all his later life conversant with the standard literature, and fluent in the reading of its modern forms in speech, script and print. This knowledge was afterward, in the Mediterranean, in Africa, and in Mexico, of great value to him.

Commodore Porter’s work in suppressing the West Indian free-booters was so well done, that piracy, on the Atlantic coast, has ever since been but a memory. Unknown to current history, it has become the theme only of the cheap novelist and now has, even in fiction, the flavor of antiquity.

The Shark, the first war-ship under Perry’s sole command, mounted twelve guns, measured one hundred and seventy-seven tons, cost $23,267, and had a complement of one hundred men. Her term of life was twenty-five years. She began her honorable record under Lieutenant Perry, was the first United States vessel of war to pass through the Straits of Magellan, from east to west, and was lost in the Columbia river in 1846.


The line-of-battle ship, which figured so largely in the navies of a half century or more ago, was a man-of-war carrying seventy-four or more guns. It was the class of ships in which the British took especial pride, and the American colonists, imitating the mother country, began the construction of one, as early as the Revolution. Built at Portsmouth, this first American “ship-of-the-line” was, when finished, presented to France. Humpreys, our great naval contractor in 1797 carried out the true national idea, by condensing the line-of-battle ship into a frigate, and “line ships” proper were not built until after 1820. One of the first of these was the North Carolina, commanded by the veteran John Rodgers.

The first visit of an American line-of-battle ship to Europe, in 1825, under Commodore Rodgers, was, in its effect, like that of the iron-clad Monitor Miantonomah under Farragut in 1865. It showed that the United States led the world in ships and guns. The North Carolina was then the largest, the most efficient and most formidable vessel that ever crossed the Atlantic.

Rodgers was justly proud of his flag-ship and fleet, for this was the golden era of American ship-building, and no finer craft ever floated than those launched from our shipyards.

The old hulk of the North Carolina now laid up at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and used as a magazine, receiving-ship, barracks, prison, and guard-house, gives little idea of the vision of life and beauty which the “seventy-four” of our fathers was.

The great ship, which then stirred the hearts of the nation moved under a mighty cloud of canvas, and mounted in three tiers one-hundred and two guns, which threw a mass of iron outweighing that fired by any vessel then afloat. Her battery exceeded by three hundred and four pounds that of the Lord Nelson—the heaviest British ship afloat and in commission. The weight of broadside shot thrown by the one larger craft before her—that of the Spanish Admiral St. Astraella Trinidad,[5] which Nelson sunk at Trafalgar,—fell short of that of the North Carolina. Our “wooden walls” were then high, and the stately vessel under her mass of snowy canvas was a sight that filled a true sailor with profound emotion. Mackenzie in his “Year in Spain” has fitly described his feelings as that sight burst upon him.

So perfect were the proportions, that her size was under-valued until men noticed carefully the great mass moving with the facility of a schooner. At the magic of the boatswain’s whistle, the anchor was cast and the great sails were folded up and hidden from view as a bird folding her wings.

It was highly beneficial to our commerce and American reputation abroad to send so magnificent a fleet into European waters as that commanded by Rodgers. In many ports of the Mediterranean Sea, the American flag, then bearing twenty-four stars, had never been seen. The right man and the right ships were now to represent us.

Perry joined the North Carolina July 26, 1824. She sailed in April, and arrived at Malaga, May 19, 1825. During three days she was inspected by the authorities and crowds of people, who were deeply impressed by the perfect discipline observed on the finest ship ever seen in those waters.

Gibraltar on June 7th, and Tangier, June 14th, were then visited, and by the 17th, the whole squadron, among which was the Cyane, assembled in the offing before the historic fortress near the pillars of Hercules, prior to a visit to the Greek Archipelago.

This too, was an epoch of vast ceremony and display on board ship. War and discipline of to-day, if less romantic and chivalrous are more business-like, more effective, but less spectacular. Mackenzie with a pen equal to that of his friend, N. P. Willis, has left us a graphic sketch of the receptions and departures of the Commodore. As we read his fascinating pages:

“The herculean form and martial figure of the veteran,” who as monarch reigned over “the hallowed region of the quarterdeck,” the “band of music in Moorish garb,” the “groups of noble looking young officers,” come again before us.

A “thousand eyes are fixed” on “the master spirit,” hats are raised, soldiers present arms, the “side boys” detailed at gangways to attend dignitaries,—eight to an admiral, four to a captain,—are in their places, and the blare of brazen tubes is heard as the commodore disembarks.

Perry, as executive officer, held the position which a writer with experience has declared to be the most onerous, difficult, and thankless of all. His duties comprised pretty much everything that needed to be done on deck. Whether in gold lace or epaulettes by day, or in oil-skin jacket with trumpet at night or in storm, Perry was regent of the ship and crew. Charles W. Morgan, afterwards commodore, was captain.

The business of the squadron, consisting of the North Carolina, Constitution, Erie, Ontario, and Cyane was to protect American commerce. The ships were to sail from end to end of the Mediterranean, touching at Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli, which “Barbary” powers were now very friendly to Americans. Other classic sites were to be visited, and although the young officers anticipated the voyage with delight, yet the cruise was not to be a mere summer picnic. American commerce was in danger at the Moslem end of the Mediterranean, for much the same political causes previously operating in the West Indies. The cause lay in the revolt of a tribute nation against its suzerain, or rather in the assertion of her liberty against despotism. That struggle for Hellenic Independence, which becomes to us far-away Americans more of an entity, through the poetry of Byron and Fitz-Greene Halleck, than through history, had begun. It seems, in history, a dream; in poetry, a fact. While the Greek patriots won a measure of success, they kept their hands off from other people’s property and regarded the relation of mine and thine; but when hard pressed by the Turks, patriotism degenerated into communism. They were apt to forage among our richly-laden vessels. Greek defeat meant piracy, and at this time the cause of the patriots, though a noble one, was desperate indeed. Five years of fighting had passed, yet recognition by European nations was withheld. The first fruits of the necessity, which knows no law, was plunder.

On the 29th of May, an American merchantman from Boston was robbed by a Greek privateer, and this act became a precedent for similar outrages.

While at Patras, the chief commercial town of Greece, Perry had the scripture prophecy of “seven women taking hold of one man” fulfilled before his eyes. The Biblical number of Turkish widows, whose husbands had been killed at Corinth, were brought on board the North Carolina and exposed for sale by Greeks, who were anxious to make a bargain. The officers paid their ransom, and giving them liberty sent them to Smyrna under charge of Perry.

While there, an event occurred which had a disastrous physical influence upon Matthew Perry all his life, and which remotely caused his death. A great fire broke out on shore which threatened to wrap the whole city in conflagration. The efficient executive of the flag-ship, ordered a large detail to land in the boats and act as firemen. The men, eager for excitement on land, worked with alacrity; but among the most zealous and hard working of all was their lieutenant. In danger and exposure, alternately heated and drenched, Perry was almost exhausted when he regained the ship. The result was an attack of rheumatism, from the recurring assaults of which he was never afterwards entirely free. Hitherto this species of internal torture had been to him an abstraction; henceforth, it was personal and concrete. Shut up like a fire in his bones, its occasional eruptions were the cause of that seeming irritableness which was foreign to his nature.

Among other visitors at Smyrna, were some Turkish ladies, who, veiled and guarded by eunuchs, came on board “ships of the new world.” No such privilege had ever been accorded them before, and these exiles of the harem, looked with eager curiosity at every-thing and everybody on the ship, though they spoke not a word. Nothing of themselves was visible except their eyes, and these—to the old commodore—“not very distinctly,” though possibly to the young officers they shone as brightly as meteors. This visit of our squadron had a stimulating effect on American commerce, though our men-of-war convoyed vessels of various Christian nations.

The Greek pirates extending the field of their operations, had now begun their depredations in open boats. Dissensions among the patriots were already doing as much harm to the sinking cause as Turkish arms.

Captain Nicholson of our navy, visiting Athens and Corinth, found the Acropolis in the hands of a faction, and the country poor and uncultivated. Corinth was but a mere name. Its streets were overgrown, its houses were roofless and empty, and the skeletons of its brave defenders lay white and unburied. The Greek fleet of one-hundred sail was unable to do much against the Turkish vessels, numbering fifteen more and usually heavier. The best successes of the patriots were by the use of fire-ships.

In spite of the low state of the Hellenic cause, Americans manifested strict neutrality, and the Greek authorities in the ports entered were duly saluted, an example which the French admiral and Austrian commodore followed.

The fleet cruised westwardly, arriving at Gibraltar, October 12, where Perry found awaiting him his appointment to the grade of acting Master Commandant.

The opening of the year 1827, found the cause of the Greeks sunk to the lowest ebb of hopelessness. Even the crews of the men-of-war, unable to get wage or food, put to sea for plunder. Friend and foe, American, as well as Turk, suffered alike.

While war and misery reigned in the eastern part of the Mediterranean, commerce with the north African nations was rapidly obliterating the memories of piracy and reprisal, which had once made Berber scimeter and Yankee cutlass cross. Peace and friendship were assiduously cultivated, and our officers were received with marked kindness and attention.

Our three little wars with the Moslems of the Mediterranean, from 1794 to 1797, from 1801 to 1804, and in 1815, seem at this day incredible and dream-like. In view of the Bey of Tunis, on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln sending a special envoy to express sympathy, and presenting his portrait to the State Department, and at the Centennial Exposition joining with us; and of Algeria being now the play ground of travelers, one must acknowledge that a mighty change has passed over the spirit of the Berbers since this century opened.

Sickness broke out on the big ship North Carolina, and at one time four lieutenants and one-hundred and twenty-five men were down with small-pox and catarrh. The wretchedness of the weather at first allowed little abatement of the trouble, but under acting Master Commandant Perry’s vigorous and persistent hygienic measures, including abundant fumigation, the scourge was checked. His methods were very obnoxious to some of the officers and crew, but were indispensable to secure a clean bill of health. The commodore wrote from Malta, February 14th, 1827, that the condition of the ship’s people had greatly improved.

The balmy spring breezes brought recuperation. The ship, clean and in splendid condition, was ready to sail homewards. The boatswain’s call, so welcome and always heard with a thrill of delight—“All hands up anchor for home,”—was sounded on the 31st of May. The North Carolina, leaving behind her classic waters, moved towards “the free hearts’ hope and home.”

The old weather-beaten hulk that now lies in the Wallabout is the same old North Carolina. What a change from glory to dry rot! It came to pass that the American line-of-battle ships, while the most showy, were also the most unsatisfactory class of ships in our navy. They all ended their days as store ships or as firewood. “The naval mind of the United States could not work well in old world harness.”

See description in the novel Trafalgar, New York, 1885.


The stormy administration of Andrew Jackson, which began in 1829, and the vigorous foreign policy which he inaugurated, or which devolved upon him to follow up, promised activity if not glory for the navy. The boundary question with England, and the long-standing claims for French spoliations prior to 1801, also pressed for solution.

The pacific name of at least one of the vessels selected to bear our flag, and our envoy, John Randolph of Roanoke, into Russian waters, suggested the olive branch, rather than the arrows, held in the talons of the American eagle. The Concord, which was to be put under Perry’s command, was named after the capital of the state in which she was built. She was of seven hundred tons burthen and carried eighteen guns. She was splendidly equipped, costing $115,325; and was destined, before shipwreck on the east coast of Africa in 1843, to the average life of fifteen years, and thirteen of active service.

Perry was offered sea-duty April 1. Accepting at once, he received orders, April 21, to command the Concord. By May 15, he had settled his accounts at the recruiting station, and was on the Concord’s deck. He wrote asking the Department for officers. He was especially anxious to secure a good school-master and chaplain. In those days, before naval academies on land existed, the school was afloat in the ship itself, and daily study was the rule on board. Mathematics, French and Spanish were taught, and Perry took a personal interest in the pupils. In this respect he was the superior even of his brother Oliver, whose honorable fame as a naval educator equals that as a victor.

Leaving Norfolk, late in June, a run of forty-three days, including stops for visits to London and Elsineur, brought the Concord under the guns of Cronstadt, August 9. Mr. Randolph spent ten days in Russia, and then made his quarters in London.

The honors of this first visit on an American ship-of-war, in Russian waters, were not monopolized by the minister. While at Cronstadt, the Czar Nicholas came on board and inspected the Concord, with unconcealed pleasure. In return, Perry and a few of his officers received imperial audience at the palace in St. Petersburg, and were shown the sights of the city—the “window looking out into Europe”—which Peter the Great built. Being invited to come again, with only his interpreter and private secretary, Chaplain Jenks, Perry acceded, and this time the interview was prolonged and informal. The Autocrat of all the Russias, and this representative officer of the young republic, talked as friend to friend. At this time, Alexander, who in 1880 was blown to pieces by the glass dynamite bombs of the Nihilists, was a boy twelve years old. Nicholas complimented Perry very highly on his naval knowledge; remarked that the United States was highly favored in having such an officer, and definitely intimated that he would like to have Perry in the Russian service. The chaplain-interpreter gives a pen sketch of the scene. Both Captain Perry and the Czar were tall and large; both were stern; Captain Perry was abrupt, so was the Czar. They all stood in the great hall of the palace (the same which was afterwards dynamited by the Nihilists). The Czar asked a great many questions about the American navy, and Captain Perry answered them. Professor Jenks translated for both, using his own phrases; and, to quote his own description, “sweetening up the conversation greatly.”

These interviews made a deep impression upon the young chaplain. As he said: “The Czar had very remarkable eyes, and he had such a very covetous look when he fixed them on Captain Perry and myself, that I was very anxious to get out of his kingdom.” The young linguist felt in the presence of the destroyer of Poland, very much as the “tender-foot” traveller feels when invited to dine with the border gentleman who has “killed his man.” The professor politely declined the Czar’s invitation to become his superintendent of education, as did Perry the proposition to enter the Russian naval service.

Nicholas I., one of the best of despots, was the grandson of Catharine II. By this famous Russian queen, had been laid the foundation of that abiding friendship between Russia and the United States. To this foundation, Nicholas added a new tier of the superstructure. King George III. of Great Britain had, in 1775, attempted to hire mercenaries in Russia to fight against his American subjects. Queen Catharine refused the proposition with scorn, replying that she had no soldiers to sell. While this act compelled the gratitude of Americans to Russia, it forced King George to seek among the shambles of petty princes in Germany. Another friendly act which touched the heart of our young republic was the liberal treaty of 1824, the first made with the United States. This instrument declared the navigation and fisheries of the Pacific free to the people of both nations. Indirectly, this was the cause of so many American sailors being wrecked in Japan, and of our national interest in the empire which Perry opened to the world.

The warm sympathy existing between Europe’s first despotism and the democratic republic in America, is a subject profoundly mysterious to the average Englishman. He wonders where Americans, who are antipodal to Russians in political thought, find points of agreement. In Catharine’s refusal to help Great Britain in oppressing her colonies, in liberal diplomacy, in the emancipation of her bondmen, and the abolition of slavery and serfdom, in the sympathy which covered national wounds, and in mutual sorrow from assassination and condolence in grief, the relation is clearly discerned. The cord of friendship has many strands.

These interviews, and the honors shown the captain of the Concord, by the personal presence of the Czar on his ship, did not serve in allaying the invalid envoy’s jealous temper. The mainmast of the vessel needed repairs, and she lay at anchor six days—long enough for Randolph to indite despatches homeward, one of which was a spiteful letter to the President, blaming Captain Perry. These were brought by Lieutenant Williamson on Sunday night, and at 4 a. m. sail was made for Copenhagen. After much heavy weather, and a boisterous passage, Copenhagen was reached September 6.

We may dismiss in a paragraph this whole matter of Randolph’s connection with the Concord. After his return home he lapsed into his speech-making habits. He indulged in slanders and falsehoods, asserting that the condition of the sailors was worse than that of his own slaves, and the discipline, especially flogging, severer than on the plantation. Perry and his officers heard of this, and on February 16, 1832, sent an exact report of the correction administered, proving that Randolph’s assertions were unfounded. Supported by his own officers, who voluntarily made flat contradiction of Mr. Randolph’s assertions, Perry convicted the erring Virginian of downright falsehood. Perry was careful to set this matter in its proper light, and two sets of his papers are now in the naval archives. No censure was passed upon him. His conduct was approved, for Randolph in addition to his disagreeable behavior, had exceeded his authority. It would be idle to deny, what it is an honor to Perry to declare, that the discipline on the Concord was very strict.

Flogging for certain offences was the rule of the service, not made by Perry but a custom fixed long before he was born. As a loyal officer, Captain Perry had no choice in the matter. Whenever possible, by persuasion, by the substitution of a reprimand for the cat, he avoided the, then, universal method of correction. At all the floggings, every one who could be spared from duty was obliged to be present. The logs of the Concord and of all the vessels commanded by Perry show that under his discipline less, and not more, than the average of stripes were administered. Perry went to the roots of the matter and was more anxious to apply ounces of prevention than pounds of cure. The cause of the offences which brought the cat to the sailors’ back was ardent spirits. He, therefore, used his professional influence to have this ration abolished to minors, and by his persistence finally succeeded. By the law of August 29, 1842, the spirit ration was forbidden to all under twenty-one years old—money being paid instead of grog. As a man, he personally persuaded the sailors to give up liquor and live by temperance principles. In this noble work he was remarkably successful, and the Concord led the squadron in the number of her crew who voluntarily abandoned the use of grog. Hence, fewer floggings and better discipline.

From Copenhagen the run was made to Cowes, Isle of Wight, September 22, and thence to the Mediterranean. At Port Mahon the Concord joined the squadron. The autumn and early winter were spent in active cruising, and in February we find Perry at Syracuse. Ever mindful of an opportunity to add stores of science, he made a collection of the plants of Sicily and forwarded it to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society. A box of other specimens was sent to the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Leaving Syracuse, February 27, for Malta, and touching at this island, Captain Perry sailed, March 13, for Alexandria, having on board the Reverend and Mrs. Kirkland and Lady Franklin and her servants. Her husband, Sir John Franklin, afterwards world-renowned as an Arctic explorer, was at this time taking an active part in the Greek war of liberation. Perry’s acquaintance with the noble lady deepened into a friendship that lasted throughout his life. It was, most probably, through her admiration of the discipline and ability of the American officers and crews, that she, in after years, appealed to them as well as to Englishmen to rescue her husband. Nevertheless, as Chaplain Jenks noticed, the rose had its thorn. “Captain Perry had a trial of his patience with Lady Franklin, whom he took on board when he went to the Mediterranean. Lady Franklin was full of her husband; and, of course, at each meal the whole company had to hear theories and successes and memories repeated on the one theme. Captain Perry bore it all with great gentleness.”

Arriving at Alexandria, March 26, the Concord remained until April 23. The officers of the ship were invited to dine with Mehemet, the Viceroy of Egypt, afterwards the famous exterminator of the Mamelukes and of the feudal system which they represented and upheld. He had conquered Soudan, built Khartoum, and founded the Khedival dynasty. The officers were splendidly entertained by this latest master of the “Old House of Bondage.” The thirteen swords, presented to the party, were afterwards sent to Washington and placed in the Department of State. These weapons, still to be seen in the section devoted to curiosities, are of exquisite workmanship. The “Mameluke grip” was afterwards adopted on the regulation navy swords.

The Concord, raising anchor, April 3, sailed for Milo, where the famous statue of Venus had been found a few weeks before, and passed Candia, going thence to Napoli, the capital of Greece, saluting the British, French and Russian fleets, and the Greek forts. On his way to Smyrna, a rich American vessel received convoy. Another was met which had been robbed the night before by a party of fifty pirates in a boat.

In hopes of catching the thieves, and naturally enjoying a grim joke, Perry put a number of sailors and marines in hiding on the richly-laden merchantman, hoping to lure the pirates to another attack. The vessel, however, got safely to Paros without special incident of any kind. He then visited a number of the robbers’ haunts and scoured the coasts with boat parties, but without securing any prizes. The Concord then went to Athens to bring away the Rev. Mr. Robertson, an American missionary there, together with the property of the American Episcopal Mission, which had been broken up by the war.

In accordance with the excellent naval policy of President Jackson, our flag was shown in every Greek and Turkish port. Wool, opium and drugs were the staples of export carried in American vessels, and most of those met with were armed with small cannon and muskets. Arriving at Port Mahon, the home of our military marine, June 25, 1832, Perry reported a list of the vessels convoyed. It was found that in the eighty-two days from Alexandria, the Concord had visited twelve islands, anchored in ten ports, and that the ship had lain in port only sixteen days, being at sea sixty-four days. As strict sanitary regulations had been enforced, the health of the crew was unusually good.

At the transfer of the few invalids and of those whose terms of service had expired, the bugler struck up the then new, but now old, strain of “Home, Sweet Home,” which brought tears to many of the sailors’ eyes. The sight, so unusual, of a crying sailor, suggested to a visitor on board that these tears were of sorrow for leaving the Concord, than of joy for returning home. The surrounding cliffs sent back the notes in prolonged and saddened echoes. The heart-melting Sicilian air, without whose consecrating melody, the stanzas of John Howard Payne might long since have sunk into the ooze of oblivion, seemed then, as now, the immortal soul of a perishable body.


In his next cruise which we are now to describe, Perry was to take a hand directly in diplomacy, and rehearse for the more brilliant drama of Japan twenty years later.

It was part of the foreign policy of Jackson’s administration to compel the payment of the long standing claims for spoliations on American commerce by the great European belligerents. During the years from 1809 to 1812, the Neapolitan government under Joseph Bonaparte and Murat, kings of Naples, had confiscated numerous American ships and cargoes. The claims filed in the State Department at Washington amounted to $1,734,993.88. They were held by various Boston and Philadelphia insurance companies and by citizens of Baltimore. The Hon. John Nelson of Frederic, Md. was appointed Minister to Naples, and ordered to collect these claims. Even before the outbreak of the war in 1812, contrary to the general opinion, the amount of direct spoliations upon American commerce inflicted by France and the nations then under her influence exceeded that experienced from Great Britain. The demands from our government, upon France, Naples, Spain and Portugal had been again and again refused. Jackson, in giving the debtors of the United States an invitation to pay, backed it by visible arguments of persuasion. He selected to co-operate with Mr. Nelson and to command the Mediterranean squadron, Commodore Daniel Patterson who had aided him in the defense of New Orleans in 1815. This veteran of the Tripolitan campaigns, who in the second war with Great Britain had defended New Orleans, and aided Jackson in driving back Packenham, was now 61 years old. He was familiar with the western Mediterranean from his service as a Midshipman of over a quarter of a century before. At Port Mahon, August 25th, 1832, he received the command from Commodore Biddle. The squadron there consisted of the Brandywine, Concord and Boston.

This was “the Cholera year” in New York, and pratique, or permission to enter, was refused to the American ships at some of the ports. For this reason, an early demonstration at Naples was decided upon. Patterson’s plan was that one American ship should appear at first in the harbour of Naples, and then another and another in succession, until the whole squadron of floating fortresses should be present to second Mr. Nelson’s demands. The entire force at his command was three fifty-gun frigates and three twenty-gun corvettes. This sufficed, according to the programme, for a naval drama in six acts. Commodore Biddle was to proceed first with the United States, then the Boston and John Adams with Commodore Patterson were to follow.

This plan for effective negotiation succeeded admirably, though great energy was needed to carry it out. To take part in it, Perry was obliged to sacrifice not only personal convenience, but also to make drafts upon his purse for which his salary of $1200 per annum poorly prepared him. Returning from convoying our merchant vessels and chasing pirates in the Levant, he had to endure the annoyance of a quarantine at Port Mahon during thirty days; and this, notwithstanding all on board the Concord were in good health. Such was the effect of the fear of cholera from New York. Despite the urgency of the business, and the preciousness of time, the Concord, was moored fast for a month of galling idleness by Portuguese red tape.

Even upon quarantine—one of the growths and fruits of science—fasten the parasites of superstition. Besides the annoyance and loss of moral stamina, which such unusual confinement produces, it may be fairly questioned whether quarantine as usually enforced does not do, if not as much as harm as good, a vast amount of injury. Cut off from regular habits, and immured in unhygienic surroundings, the seeds of disease are often sown in hardy constitutions.

After thirty days of imprisonment on board, the officers of the Concord were ready to hail a washerwoman as an angel of light. They were all looking forward to such an interview with lively expectation, but such a privilege was to be enjoyed by all but the Captain.

At the last hour, Commodore Biddle fell ill. Unable to proceed, as ordered by the Department, to Naples, Perry was directed by order of Commodore Patterson to assume command of the flag-ship Brandywine, a frigate of forty-four guns. This ship, which recalls the name of a revolutionary battle-field, was named in honor of Lafayette, even as the Alliance had long before signalized, by her name, the aid and friendship of France in revolutionary days. She had been launched at Washington during his late visit to America, after the Marquis had visited the scenes of the battle in which he had acted as Washington’s aid.

To the trying duty of taking a new ship and forcing her with all speed night and day to the place needed, Perry was called before he could even get his clothes washed. Yet within an hour after his release, on a new quarterdeck, he ordered all sails set for Naples. For several days, until the goal was in sight, with characteristic vigor and determination to succeed, he was on deck night and day enduring the fatigue and anxiety with invincible resolution.

Mr. Nelson’s demands were at first refused by Count Cassaro, the Secretary of State. Why should the insolent petty government of the Bourbon prince Ferdinand II. notorious for its infamous misgovernment at home, pay any attention to an almost unknown republic across the ocean? No! The Yankee envoy, coming in one ship, was refused. King Bomba laughed.

The Brandywine cast anchor, and the baffled envoy waited patiently for a few days, when another American flag and floating fortress sailed into the harbor. It was the frigate United States. The demands were reiterated, and again refused.

Four days slipped away, and another stately vessel floating the stars and stripes appeared in the bay. It was the Concord. The Bourbon government, now thoroughly alarmed, repaired forts, drilled troops and mounted more cannon on the castle. Still withholding payment, the Neapolitans began to collect the cash and think of yielding.

Two days later still another war-ship came in. It was the John Adams.

When the fifth ship sailed gallantly in, the Neapolitans were almost at the point of honesty, but three days later Mr. Nelson wrote home his inability to collect the bill.

Just as the blue waters of the bay mirrored the image of the sixth sail, king and government yielded.[6]

The demands were fully acceded to, and interest was guaranteed on instalments. Mr. Nelson frankly acknowledged that the success of his mission was due to the naval demonstration. Admiral Patterson wrote, “I have remained here with the squadron as its presence gave weight to the pending negotiations.” The line of six frigates and corvettes, manned by resolute men under perfect discipline, and under a veteran’s command, carried the best artillery in the world. Ranged opposite the lava-paved streets of the most densely peopled city of Europe, and in front of the royal castle, they formed an irresistible tableau. Neither the castle d’Oro, nor the castle St. Elmo, nor the forts could have availed against the guns of the Yankee fleet.

The entire squadron remained in the Bay of Naples from August 28, to September 15. As the ships separated, the Brandywine went to Marseilles, and the John Adams to Havre. The Concord was left behind to take home the successful envoy. This compelled Perry’s residence in Naples, at considerable personal expense. The welcome piping of the boatswain’s orders to lift anchor for the home run was heard October 15. The ocean crossed, Cape Cod was sighted December 3, and anchor cast at Portsmouth December 5. Mr. Nelson departed in haste to Washington to deck the re-elected President’s cap with a new diplomatic feather, which greatly consoled him amid his nullification annoyances.

Writing on the twenty-first of December, Perry stated that the Concord was dismantled. On the next day he applied for the command of the recruiting station at New York, as his family now made its home in that city.

This cruise of thirty months was fruitful of experience of nature, man, war, diplomacy, and travel. He had visited the dominions of nine European monarchs besides Greece, had anchored in and communicated with forty different ports, had been three hundred and forty-five days at sea, and had sailed twenty-eight thousand miles. No officer had appeared as prisoner or witness at a court-martial, and on no other vessel had a larger proportion of men given up liquor. Ship and crew had been worthy of the name.

During all the cruise, Perry showed himself to be what rear-admiral Ammen fitly styled him, “one of the principal educators of our navy.” He directed the studies of the young midshipmen, advised them what books to read, what historical sites to visit, and what was most worth seeing in the famous cities. He gave them sound hints on how to live as gentlemen on small salaries. He infused into many of them his own peculiar horror of debt. He sought constantly to elevate the ideal of navy men. The dogma that he insisted upon was: that an officer in the American Navy should be a man of high culture, abreast of the ideas of the age, and not a creature of professional routine. He heartily seconded the zeal of his scholarly chaplain, Professor Jenks, who was the confidential secretary of Commodore Perry, and so became very intimate with him during the cruise of several years. He was the interpreter to Captain Perry, and conducted the interviews with the various crowned heads.

Rear-Admiral Almy says of his commander Matthew Perry at this time that: “He was a fine looking officer in uniform, somewhat resembling the portraits of his brother the hero of Lake Erie, but not so handsome, and had a sterner expression and was generally stern in his manner.”

For the expenses incurred during this cruise in entertaining the Khedive Mehemet Ali, in performing duties far above his grade, his extra services on the Brandywine, and shore residence in Naples, Perry was reimbursed to the amount of $1,500, by a special Act of Congress passed March 3, 1835.

The Navy in Time of Peace, by Rear-Admiral John Almy.—Washington Republican March 13, 1884.


An English writer[7] in the Naval College at Greenwich thus compares the life on shore of British and American officers.

“The officers of the United States navy have one great advantage which is wanting to our own; when on shore they are not necessarily parted from the service, but are employed in their several ranks, in the different dockyards, thus escaping not only the private grievance and pecuniary difficulties of a very narrow half-pay, but also, what from a public point of view is much more important, the loss of professional aptitude, and that skill which comes from increasing practice.”

When on the 7th of January 1833, Captain Perry received orders to report to Commodore Charles Ridgley at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, his longest term, ten years, of shore duty began. Being now settled down with his family, and expecting henceforth to rear his children in New York, he gave notice April 24, to the Navy Department that his name should go on record as a citizen of the Empire State. He at once began the study and mastery of the steam engine, with a view of solving the problem of the use of steam as a motor for war vessels.

That Perry was “an educator of the Navy,” and that he left his mark in whatever field of work he occupied was again signally shown. He organized the Brooklyn Naval Lyceum. This institution which still lives in honorable usefulness is a monument of his enterprise.

The New York Naval Station in the Wallabout, or Boght of the Walloons, which to-day lies under the shadow of the great Suspension Bridge, is easily accessible by horse-cars, elevated railways, and various steam vehicles on land and water. In those days, it was isolated, and ferry-boats were inferior and infrequent. Hence officers were compelled to be longer at the Yard, and had much leisure on their hands. Desirous of professional improvement for himself and his fellow-officers, Perry was alert when the golden opportunity arrived. Finding this at hand, he first took immediate steps to form a library at the Yard. He then set about the organization of the Lyceum, whose beginnings were humble enough. About this time, money had been appropriated to construct a new building for the officers of the commandant and his assistants. It was originally intended to be only two stories in height. Perry suggested that the walls be run up another story for extra rooms. He wrote to the Department. He personally pressed the matter. Permission was granted. A third floor was added. It was to be used for Naval courts-martial, Naval Boards, and the Museum, Library, and Reading Room.

The Lyceum organized in 1833, had now a home. It was incorporated in 1835, and allowed to hold $25,000 worth of property. The articles of union declared the Lyceum formed “In order to promote the diffusion of useful knowledge, to foster a spirit of harmony and a community of interests in the service, and to cement the links which unite us as professional brethren.”

The blazon selected was a naval trophy decorated with dolphins, Neptune, marine and war emblems, eagle and flag, with the motto, “Tam Minerva quam Marte,” (as well for Minerva, as for Mars.) A free translation of this would be, “For culture as well as for war.”

Commodore C. G. Ridgley was chosen President, as was befitting his rank. Perry assumed an humbler office, though he was the moving spirit of this, the first permanent American naval literary institution. He presided at its initial meeting. He was made the first curator of the museum, in 1836 its Vice President; and later, its President. Officers and citizens employed by, or connected with the navy came forward in goodly numbers as members. Soon a snug little revenue enabled the Lyceum to purchase the proper furniture and cases for the specimens which began to accumulate, as the new enterprise and its needs began to be known. Publishers and merchants made grants of books, pictures and engravings. Other accessions to the library were secured by purchase. From the beginning, and for years afterwards, the Lyceum grew and prospered. “Although other officers rendered valuable service in the organization, yet the master spirit was Captain Matthew C. Perry, United States Navy. From that day to this, the Naval Lyceum has been a fertile source of professional instruction and improvement.” Among the honorary members were four captains in the British navy, three of whose names, Parry, Ross and Franklin, are imperishably associated with the annals of Arctic discoveries.

Out of the Lyceum grew the Naval Magazine, an excellent bi-monthly, full of interest to officers. Of this Perry was an active promoter, and to it he contributed abundantly, though few or none of the articles bear his signature. Always full of ideas, and able to express them tersely, the editor could depend on him for copy, and he did. The Naval Magazine was edited by the Rev. Charles Stewart. The Advisory Committee consisted of Commodore C. G. Ridgley, Master Commandant M. C. Perry, C. O. Handy, Esq., Purser W. Swift, Esq., Lieutenant Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, Professor E. C. Ward, and passed Midshipman B. I. Moller. Its subscription price was three dollars per annum. Among the contributors were J. Fenimore Cooper, William C. Redfield, Esq., Chaplain Walter C. Colton and Dr. Usher Parsons. In looking over the bound volumes of this magazine—one of the mighty number of the dead in the catacombs of American periodical literature—we find some articles of sterling value and perennial interest. It was fully abreast of the science of the age, and urged persistently the creation of a Naval Academy.

The magazine died, but the Lyceum lived on to do a good work for many years, notably during our great civil war. It is still flourishing and is visited by tens of thousands of persons from all parts of our country.

Perry had already made his reputation as a scientific student. His motto was “semper paratus.” He was ever in readiness for work. The British Admiralty and the United States government were desirous of fuller information about the tides and currents of the Atlantic ocean, especially those off Rhode Island and in the Sound. Chosen for the work, Perry received orders, June 1st, to spend a lunar month on Gardiner’s Island. The congenial task afforded a pleasant break in the monotony of life in the navy yard, and revived memories of the war of 1812. The careful observations which he made during the month of June, embodied in a report, were adopted into the United States and British Admiralty charts. He returned home June 29.

Though Commodore Ridgley was officer-in-chief in the yard, upon Perry fell most of the active clerical and superintending work. The frigate, United States, was fitting out for service in the Mediterranean, and one of the young midshipmen ordered to report to her was the gentleman who afterwards became Rear-Admiral George H. Preble, a gallant soldier, fighter of Chinese pirates, and author of the History of the American Flag and of Steam Navigation.

He reported to the Navy Yard, May 1, 1836, in trembling anxiety as to his reception by his superiors. The commandant was absent at the horse-races on the Long Island course, so young Preble returned to New York, to his hotel, and again reported May 3.

His first impressions of Master Commandant Perry are shown in the following doggerel, written in a letter to his sister:

“Charley again was at the race,

But I was minded that the place

Should own me as a Mid.

And since the Com. was making merry,

Reported to big-whiskered Perry

The Captain of the Yard.

“ ‘Mat’ looked at me from stem to stern,

His gaze I thought he ne’er would turn,

No doubt he thought me green.

For I had on a citizen’s coat

Instead of a uniform as I ought,

When going to report.

“At last he said that I could go,

There was no duty I could do,

Until the next day morning.

So I whisked o’er and moved my traps,

And made acquaintance with the chaps

Who were to live with me.”

Perry at this time wore whiskers, and for some years afterwards cultivated sides in front of the ear. In later life he shaved his face clean. The fashion in the navy was to wear only sides, as portraits of all the heroes of 1812 show. The younger officers were just beginning to sport moustaches. These modern fashions and “such fripperies” were denounced by the older men, who clung to their antique prejudices. Hawthorne, in his American Note Book, August 27, 1837, gives an amusing instance of this, couched in the language with which he was able to make the commonest subject fascinating.

That the regulations should prescribe the exact amount of hair to be worn on the face of both officers and men seems strange, but it is true, and illustrates the rigidity of naval discipline. Evidently inheriting the modern British (not the ancient Brittanic) hatred of French and continental customs, the Americans, in high office, forbade moustaches as savoring of disloyalty. Wellington had issued an order forbidding moustaches, except for cavalry. It was not until the year of grace, 1853, that the American naval visage was emancipated from slavery to the razor. Secretary Dobbin then approved of the cautious regulation: “The beard to be worn at the pleasure of the individual, but when worn to be kept short and neatly trimmed.” What a shame it must have seemed to feminine admirers, and to the possessors of luxuriant beards of attractive color! Both the hairy and hairless were, perforce, placed in the same democracy of homeliness. The ancient orders, in the interest of ships’ barbers, and once made to compensate for the wearing of perukes, were crowned by the famous proclamation of Secretary Graham, dated May 8, 1852, which at this date furnishes, amusing reading:

“The hair of all persons belonging to the Navy, when in actual service, is to be kept short. No part of the beard is to be worn long, and the whiskers shall not descend more than two inches below the ear, except at sea, in high latitudes, when this regulation may, for the time, be dispensed with by order of the commander of a squadron, or of a vessel acting under separate orders. Neither moustaches nor imperials are to be worn by officers or men on any pretence whatever.

Our illustrious Admiral Porter shaved only once or twice in his life. During the Mexican War he found it difficult to get Commodore Conner to give him service on account of his full whiskers. The British army wore their beards and now fashionable moustaches in the trenches of Sebastopol, when it was difficult, if not impossible to get shaved, and thus won a hairy victory, the results of which were felt even across the Atlantic.

Another high honor offered to Perry, was the command of the famous U. S. Exploring Expedition to Antarctic lands and seas. This enterprise was the evolution of an attempt to obtain from Congress an appropriation to find “Symmes Hole.” The originator of the “Theory of Concentric Spheres” was John Cleves Symmes, born in 1780, and an officer in the United States army during the war of 1812, who died in 1829. In lectures at Union College, Schenectady, and in other places, he expounded his belief that the earth is hollow and capable of habitation, and that there is an opening at each of the poles, leading to the various spheres inside of the greater hollow sphere, the earth itself. He petitioned Congress to fit out an expedition to test this theory, which had been set forth in his lectures and in a book published at Cincinnati in 1826.

Despite the ridicule heaped upon Symmes and his theories, scientific men believed that the Antarctic region should be explored. Congress voted that a corps of scientific men, in six vessels, should be sent out for four years in the interests of observation and research. This was one of the first of those “peace expeditions,” no less renowned than those in war, of which the American nation and navy may well be proud.

By this time, however, Perry had become interested in the idea of creating a steam navy. He declined the honor, but took a keen interest in the expedition. An ardent believer in Polar research, he was heartily glad to see the boundaries of knowledge extended. He had read carefully the record of the five years’ voyage of the British sloop-of-war Beagle. In this vessel, Mr. Darwin began those profound speculations on the origin and maintenance of animal life, which have opened a new outlook upon the universe and created a fertile era of thought.

The Secretary of the Navy applied to the Naval Lyceum for advice as to the formation of a scientific corps, for recommendation of names of members of said corps, for a series of inquiries for research, and details of the correct equipment of such an expedition. To thus recognise the dignity and status of the Lyceum was highly gratifying to its founder and appreciated by the society. A committee consisting of three officers, C. G. Ridgley, M. C. Perry and C. O. Handy, was appointed to make the report. This, when printed, filled eleven pages of the magazine. It was mainly the work of M. C. Perry. The practical nature of the programme was recognized at once. It was incorporated into the official instructions for the conduct of the expedition. The command was most worthily bestowed on Lieutenant Charles Wilkes.

The success of this, the first American exploring expedition of magnitude is known to all, through the publication entitled The Wilkes Exploring Expedition, as well as by the additions to our herbariums and gardens of strange plants, and the goodly spoils of science now in the Smithsonian Institute.

J. K. Laughton, Encyclopædia Brittanica, vol. ix., article “Farragut.”


Matthew Perry was now to be called to a new and untried duty. This was no less than to be pioneer of the steam navy of the United States. When a boy under Commodore Rodgers, he had often seen the inventor, Fulton, busy with his schemes. He had heard the badinage of good-natured doubters and the jeers of the unbelieving, but he had also seen the Demologos, or Fulton 1st, moving under steam. This formidable vessel was to have been armed, in addition to her deck batteries, with submarine cannon. She was thus the prototype of Ericsson’s Destroyer. Fulton died February 24th, 1815, but the trial trip was made June 1st, 1815, and was successful.

Congress on the 30th of June, 1834, had appropriated five thousand dollars to test the question of the safety of boilers in vessels. The next step was to order the building of a “steam battery” at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1836. Perry applied for command of this vessel July 28th. His orders arrived August 31st, 1837.

The second Fulton, the pioneer of our American steam navy, was designed as a floating battery for the defense of New York harbor. Her hull was of the best live oak, with heavy bulwarks five feet thick, beveled on the outside so as to cause an enemy’s shot to glance off. She had three masts and was 180 feet long. She had four immense chimneys, which greatly impeded her progress in a head wind. Her boilers were of copper. Like most of those then in use, these, where they connected with iron pipes were apt to create a galvanic action which caused leaks. Thrice was the vessel disabled on this account. The paddle-wheels, with enormous buckets were 22 feet 10 inches in diameter. Her armament consisted of eight forty-two pounders, and one twenty-four pounder. Her total cost was $299,650. She carried in her lockers, coal for two days, and drew 10 feet 6 inches of water.

Perry took command of the Fulton October 4th, 1837, when the smoke-pipes were up, and the engines ready for an early trial. His work was more than to hasten forward the completion of the new steam battery. He was practically to organize an entirely new branch of naval economy. There were in the marine war service of the United States absolutely no precedents to guide him.

Again he had to be “an educator of the navy.” To show how far the work was left to him, and was his own creation, we may state that no authority had been given and no steps taken to secure firemen, assistant-engineers, or coal heavers. The details, duties, qualifications, wages, and status in the navy of the whole engineer corps fell upon Perry to settle. He wrote for authority to appoint first and second class engineers. He proposed that $25 to $30 a month, and one ration, should be given as pay to firemen, and that they should be good mechanics familiar with machinery, the use of stops, cocks, gauges, and the paraphernalia of iron and brass so novel on a man-of-war.

Knowing that failure in the initiative of the experimental steam service might prejudice the public, and especially the incredulous and sneering old salts who had no faith in the new fangled ideas, he requested that midshipmen for the Fulton should be first trained in seamanship prior to their steamer life. He was also especially particular about the moral and personal character of the “line” officers who were first to live in contact with a new and strange kind of “staff.” It is difficult in this age of war steamers, when a sailing man-of-war or even a paddle-wheel steamer is a curiosity, to realize the jealousy felt by sailors of the old school towards the un-naval men of gauges and stop-cocks. They foresaw only too clearly that steam was to steal away the poetry of the sea, turn the sailor into a coal-heaver, and the ship into a machine.

Perry demanded in his line officers breadth of view sufficient to grasp the new order of things. They must see in the men of screws and levers equality of courage as well as of utility. They must be of the co-operative cast of mind and disposition. From the very first, he foresaw that jealousy amounting almost to animosity would spring up between the line and staff officers, between the deck and the hold, and he determined to reduce it to a minimum. The new middle term between courage and cannon was caloric. He would provide precedents to act as anti-friction buffers so as to secure a maximum of harmony.

“The officers of a steamer should be those of established discretion, not only that great vigilance will be required of them, but because much tact and forbearance must necessarily be exercised in their intercourse with the engineers and firemen who, coming from a class of respectable mechanics and unused to the restraints and discipline of a vessel of war, may be made discontented and unhappy by injudicious treatment; and, as passed midshipmen are supposed to be more staid and discreet I should prefer most of that class.”

“In this organization of the officers of this first American steamer of war, I am solicitous of establishing the service on a footing so popular and respectable, as to be desired by those of the navy who may be emulous of acquiring information in a new and interesting field of professional employment, and I am sure that the Department will co-operate so far as it may be proper in the attainment of the object.”

That was Matthew Perry—ever magnifying his office and profession. He believed that responsibility helped vastly to make the man. He suggested that engineers take the oath, and from first to last be held to those sanctions and to that discipline, which would create among them the esprit so excellent in the line officers.

Out of many applicants for engineer’s posts on the Fulton, Perry, to November 16th, had selected only one, as he was determined to get the best. He believed in the outward symbols of honor and authority. “In order to give them a respectable position, and to encourage pride of character in their intercourse with citizens, and to make them emulous to conduct themselves with propriety, I would respectfully suggest that a uniform be assigned to them.” He proposed the usual suit of plain blue coat with rolling collar, blue trousers, and plain blue cap. The distinction between first and second engineers should be visible, only in the number and arrangement of the buttons; the first assistant to wear seven, and the second assistant six in front, both having one on each collar, and slight variation on the skirts. Later on, the paddle-wheel wrought in gold bullion was added as part of the uniform. “The olive branch and paddle-wheel on the collars of the engineers designated their special vocation, and spoke of the peaceful progress of art and science.”

The sailors, who as a class are too apt to be children of superstition, were somewhat backward about enlisting on a war-ship with a boiler inside ready to turn into an enemy if struck by a shot; but at last after many and unforeseen delays, the Fulton got out into the harbor early in December. Steam was raised in thirty minutes from cold water. Many of the leading engineers and practical mechanics were on board. With ten inches of steam marked on the gauge, and twenty revolutions a minute, she made ten knots an hour, justifying the hope that she would increase her speed to twelve or even thirteen knots. The first assistant-engineers of this pioneer war steamer were Messrs. John Farron, Nelson Burt, and Hiram Sanford.

The Chief Engineer was Mr. Charles H. Haswell, now the veteran city surveyor of New York.

Perry wrote December 17, 1837, “I have established neat and economical uniforms for the different grades.” He also arranged their accommodations on the vessel, and their routine of life was soon established. A trial trip to go outside the bay and in the ocean was arranged for December 28, but the old-fashioned condensing apparatus worked badly. The machinery of the Fulton, though perhaps the best for the time, was of rude pattern as compared with the superb work turned out to-day in American foundries. Even this clumsy mechanical equipment had not been obtained without great anxiety, patience, and delay, and by taxing all the resources of the New York machine shops.

Of her value as a moving fortress, Perry wrote: “The Fulton will never answer as a sea-vessel, but the facility of moving from port to port, places at the service of the Department, a force particularly available for the immediate action at any point.” With the lively remembrance of the efficiency of the British blockade of New York and New London in the war of 1812, he adds, “In less than an hour, after orders are received, the Fulton can be moving in any direction at the rate of ten miles an hour, with power of enforcing the instructions of the government.”

On the 15th of January 1838, Captain Perry received orders to carry out the Act of Congress, and cruise along the coast. Perry wrote pointing out, (1) that the heavy and clumsy Fulton, a veritable floating fortress being unlike ocean steamers, was not likely to prove seaworthy, (2) she was adapted only to bays and harbors, (3) she could carry fuel only for seventy hours consumption; (4), that no deposits of coal were yet made along the coast; (5), that her wheel guards being only twenty inches clear, the boat would be extremely wet and dangerous at sea. Nevertheless he promised to take this floating battery out into the ocean back to the coaling depot, and thence through the Long Island Sound.

Accordingly January 18, the Fulton steamed down to Sandy Hook and anchoring at night, ran out as the wintry weather permitted during the day. In a wind the vessel labored hard. She lay so low in the water, that several of her wheel buckets were lost or injured, and the previous opinion of naval men was confirmed. Nevertheless, Perry was astonished at her power, and her facility of management demonstrated a new thing on board a vessel of war. Having asked for the written opinion of his officers, several interesting replies were elicited. The Acting Master C. W. Pickering noted that the Fulton carried six forty-four pounders, and being a steamer could have choice of position and distance. Two or three of such vessels could cripple a whole enemy’s squadron or destroy it. In case of a calm, she could fight a squadron all day, and not receive a shot. In case of chase, or light winds, she could destroy a squadron one by one, or tow them separately out of sight as was desired. The trial in the Sound proved her one of the fastest boats known. From New London with 9½ inches steam she made twenty-eight miles in one hour and fifty-seven minutes, or one hundred and eighteen miles in little less than nine hours.

Her utility on a blockade was manifest, and her advantage in every point over sailing vessels demonstrated. She would in a fight be equal to any “seventy-four” and in fact to any number of vessels not propelled by steam. Her strength and power were unrivalled in the world.

Lieut. Wm. F. Lynch, afterwards the Dead Sea explorer and later the Confederate Commodore, suggested a better arrangement of her battery. Taking a hint from Jackson’s cotton-bale breastworks of 1815, he pointed out how the Fulton might be made cotton-clad and shot-proof. He carried out his idea in later years, and some of the confederate steamers in the civil war were so armed and made formidable. It is interesting to read now what he wrote in 1838. “The machinery can easily be protected by cotton bales, or other light elastic material between it and the ship’s side.” The idea of protecting armor to war ships was first conceived by Americans.

In fact, all the opinions as to the Fulton’s capacity for the offense or defense were favorable. A glow of enthusiasm pervades the reports of those on board the maiden trip of this the first American war steamer. Perry himself saw her defects, and how they could be remedied. Her machinery and horizontal engines took up too much room. Yet even as she was, her annual expenses would be less than a first-class vessel of war under sail with proportionate crew, provisions, and canvass.

By prophetic insight, Perry saw that the revolution in naval education, tactics and warfare had already dawned. Writing from Montauk Point, February 6, 1838, he suggested that a training school for naval engineers should be established by the government, that firemen apprentices should be enlisted and trained, stating that these had better be sons of engineers and firemen. The Secretary immediately approved of his suggestion in a letter dated February 13, 1838. He directed Commodore Ridgely to place on the Fulton five apprentices to be exclusively attached to the engineer’s department.[8] What was first suggested by Perry, is now magnificently realized in the Annapolis Naval Academy, with its six years course in engineering, graduating yearly a corps of cadet engineers among the best in the world.

In a further report, written from Gardiner’s Island February 17, 1838, Perry uttered his faith that sea-going war steamers of 1400 or 1500 tons could be built to cruise at sea even for twenty days, and yet be efficient and as safe from disaster as the finest frigates afloat, while the expense would be considerably less. This was a brave utterance at a time when the number of believers in the possibility of the financial success of ocean steam-navigation, or of the practicability of large war vessels propelled by steam, was very few indeed. Perry’s letter was read and re-read by the Naval Commissioners.

In May, he took the Fulton to Washington, where President Jackson and his cabinet enjoyed the sight of a war-ship independent of wind and tide. It was intimated to Perry that he should be sent to Europe to study the latest results in steam, ordnance, and lighthouse illumination.

The year 1837 was a memorable one for Matthew Perry, marking his promotion to a Captaincy in the United States Navy. The emblazoned parchment bearing President Andrew Jackson’s signature is dated February 9, 1837. He ranked number forty-four in the list of the fifty naval captains allowed by law. By the Act of Congress of March 8, 1835, the pay of a captain off duty was $2,500, on duty, $3,500, and in command of a foreign squadron, $4,000.

See Appendix.—The Naval Apprenticeship System.


An accident which happened to the Fulton belongs to the history of modern warfare. It revealed to Perry’s alert mind a valuable principle destined to work a revolution in the tactics of naval battles. Like the mountaineer of Potosi who when his bush failed as a support, found something better in the silver beneath, so Perry discovered at the roots of a chance accident a new element of power in war.

The Fulton was rather a massive floating battery than a sea-steamer. Once started, her speed for those days was respectable, but to turn her was no easy matter. To stop her quickly was an impossibility.

On the 28th of August, the Fulton, while making her way to Sandy Hook amid the dense crowd of sloops, schooners, ships and ferry-boats of the East river, came into partial collision with the Montevideo. The brig lay at anchor, and Lieutenant Lynch in charge of the Fulton, wished to pass her stern, and ahead of her starboard quarter. When nearly up with the brig, the flood tide running strongly caused her to sheer suddenly to the full length of her cable and thus brought her directly in line of the contemplated route. Lynch, to save life, was obliged to destroy property and strike the brig.

The steamer’s cutter and gig were stove in and her bulwarks, in paint and nails, somewhat injured. With the brig the case was different. Though only a glancing stroke, the smitten vessel was all but sunk.

Captain Perry was not on board the Fulton, having remained on shore owing to indisposition. On hearing the story of Lieutenant Lynch, there was at once revealed to him the addition that steam had made to the number and variety of implements of destruction. The old trireme’s beak was to reappear on the modern steam war vessel and create a double revolution in naval warfare. The boiler, paddle and screw had more than replaced the war galley’s banks of oars, by furnishing a motive power that hereafter should not only sink the enemy by ramming, but should change the naval order of battle. The broadside to broadside lines of evolution must give way to fighting “prow on.” In a word, he saw the ram.

Perry required written reports of the affair from his lieutenants, and wrote a letter to the Secretary of the Navy suggesting the possibilities of the rostral prow.

To think of the new weapon was to wish to demonstrate its power. He proposed to try the Fulton again, purposely, upon a hulk, to satisfy himself as to the sinking power of the steamer. He arranged to do this by special staying of the boiler pipes and chimneys, so that no damage from the shock would result. He was also prepared, by exact mathematical computation of mass, velocity and friction, with careful observations of wind and tide, to express the results with scientific accuracy.

The report duly was received at Washington and, instead of being acted upon, was pigeon-holed. Perry was unable, at private expense, to follow up the idea, but thought much of it at the time, and the subject, though not officially noticed, remained in his mind.

After the Mexican War, having leisure, he wrote the following letter:—

Washington, D. C., Nov. 11, 1850.

Sir,—Since the introduction of steamers of war into the navies of the world, I have frequently thought that a most effectual mode of attack might be brought into operation by using a steamer as a striking body, and precipitating her with all her power of motion and weight upon some weak point of a vessel of the enemy moved only by sails, and, seizing upon a moment of calm, or when the sail vessel is motionless or moving slowly through the water.

I had always determined to try this experiment, should opportunity afford, and actually made preparations for securing the boilers and steam pipes of the Fulton at New York, when I thought it probable I might be sent in her to our eastern border ports at the time of the expected rupture with Great Britain upon the North Eastern Boundary question.

Experience has shown that a vessel moving rapidly through the water, and striking with her stem another motionless, or passing in a transverse direction, invariably destroys or seriously injures the vessel stricken without material damage to the assailant. Imagine for example the steamer Mississippi under full steam and moving at the moderate rate of 12 statute miles per hour, her weight considered as a projectile being estimated as 2,500 tons, the minimum calculation, and multiplying this weight by her velocity, say 17½ feet per second, the power and weight of momentum would be a little short of 44,000 tons, and the effect of collision upon the vessel attacked, whatever may be her size, inevitably overwhelming.

It may be urged that the momentum estimated by the above figures may not be as effective as the rule indicates, yet it cannot be maintained that there would not be sufficient force for all the purposes desired.

I have looked well into the practicability of this mode of attack, and am fully satisfied that if managed with decision and coolness, it will unquestionably succeed and without immediate injury to the attacking vessel. Much would of course depend on the determination and skill of the commander, and the self-possession of the engineers at the starting bars, in reversing the motion of the engines at the moment of collision; but coolness under dangers of accident from the engines or boilers, is considered, by well trained engineers, a point of honor, and I feel well assured there would be no want of conduct or bearing in either those or the other officers of the ship.

The preparations for guarding the attacking steamer against material damage would be to secure the boilers more firmly in their beds, to prepare the steam pipes and connections so as to prevent the separation of their joints, to render firm the smoke-stack by additional guys and braces, to strip off the lower masts and to remove the bowsprit. All these arrangements could be made in little time and without much inconvenience.

It would be desirable that the bowsprit should be so fitted as to be easily reefed or removed, but in times of emergency, this spar should not for a moment be considered as interposing an obstacle to the contemplated collision.

It will be said, and I am free to admit, that much risk would be encountered by the steamer from the guns of the vessel assailed, say of a line-of-battle ship or frigate, but considering the short time she would be under fire, her facilities for advance and retreat, of choice of position and of the effect of her own heavy guns upon the least defensible point of the enemy’s ship on which she would of course advance, the disparity of armaments should not be taken into view.

I claim no credit for the originality of this suggestion, well knowing that the ancients in their sea fights dashed their sea-galleys with great force one upon the other, nor am I ignorant of the plan of a steam prow suggested some years ago by Commodore Barron.[9] My proposition is simply the renewal of an ancient practice by the application of the power unknown in early times, and, as many believe, in the beginning of its usefulness.

With great respect, I have the honor to be,

Your most obedient servant,


The Hon. Wm. A. Graham,

Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

Twenty years later in the river of her own name, the war steamer Mississippi became a formidable ram, though before this time in 1859, the French iron-clad, La Gloire had been launched. It had been said of the British Admiral, Sir George Sartorius, that “He was one of the first to form, in 1855, the revolution in naval warfare, by the renewal of the ancient mode of striking an adversary with the prow.” It will be seen that Perry anticipated the Europeans and taught the Americans.

Other points in this letter of Perry’s are of interest at this time. First, last, and always, Perry honored the engineer and believed in his equal possession, with the line officers, of all the soldierly virtues, notwithstanding that the man at the lever, out of sight of the enemy, must needs lack the thrilling excitement of the officers on deck. He felt that courage in the engine-room had even a finer moral strain than the more physically exciting passions of the deck.

We may here note that Perry really had part in the naval victories of our civil war. The method of ramming action, as used by Farragut in his brilliant victories of wooden steamers over Confederate iron-clads, was that out-lined by Perry years before.

Perry also made a thorough study, so far as it was then possible, of the problems of resistance and penetration, of rifled cannon and of iron-clad armor.

He was for years on the board of officers appointed to report upon the Stevens floating battery at Hoboken. Until his death, he was familiar with the whole question, and believed in the early adoption of both rifles and armor on ships. Prior to the Mexican War he thought the right course was to develop to the highest stage of efficiency the ram and the smooth-bore shell-gun. It turned out that in the war for the Union in 1861, most of the naval officers associated with him and who shared his ideas were on the Confederate side. Hence the Southerners were in a much better state of advanced naval science than the Northerners. Even the Monitor was the fruit of a private inventor, and not of a naval officer. The first appearance of an iron coat on an American war vessel, and the first ram effectively used in war were upon the Confederate steamer Virginia (the old Merrimac) which was the idea and application of T. ap. Catesby Jones; while the Tennessee in Mobile Bay was wholly the creation of Franklin Buchanan. Both of these gentlemen were life-long friends, and subordinate officers, who were also familiar with the problem of ramming, and enjoyed Perry’s confidence and ideas. For the methods of the Merrimac in her devastation of the Federal fleet at Hampton Roads, the epistle of Perry might seem almost a letter of instruction.

Had good machinists and founderies existed in the South, in number proportionate to that of Confederate naval officers, the story of Mobile Bay and the Mississippi river might have been different. With no lack of courage or skill in the northern sailors and their leaders, their greatest ally lay in the poor machinery of the Confederate iron-clads. These were true testudos in armor, but fortunately for the Union cause they were tortoises in speed also. Or, to change the metaphor, though meant to act as swordfish, they behaved as sluggishly as whales. They fell a prey even to wooden vessels able to obey their helms but moving rapidly with sinking force.

With the old system of tactics under sail, no ramming was possible, as the vessel under propulsion would expose herself to a raking fire while slowly working up to position. Gunpowder rendered obsolete the trireme ram. Steam, by its gigantic propelling force, had now in turn overcome gunpowder.

The model of the machine-ram, made by Captain Samuel Barron in 1827, and referred to by Captain Perry is now at Annapolis Naval Academy. So far as we can gather, Perry had not seen this at the time of his first writing of the ram in 1839. His valuable paper was duly read, laid aside and bound up with other “Captain’s Letters” in 1839 and forgotten. When in 1861, the Merrimac, steaming out from Norfolk, by one thrust of her iron snout turned the grand old wooden frigate, Cumberland, into a sunken hulk, she revealed the powers of the ram to the whole world. The curtain then fell on the age of wood and ushered in the age of iron.

Commodore James Barron’s model of his “prow-ship” was exhibited in the rotunda of the capitol in Washington in 1836. As described by him in the Patent Office reports, it was a mere mass of logs, white pine, poplar, or gum-tree wood. Perry meant to use a real ship always available for ramming.


The water-ways leading to New York are such as to make Manhattan Island unique in its advantages for commerce. Already the metropolis of the continent, it is yet to be the commercial centre of the world. Until 1837 these highways of sea, river, and bay were greatly neglected, and on all except moonlight nights, vessels had great difficulty in approaching the city. Raritan and Newark bays were so destitute of buoys and beacons, that pilots charged double rates for navigating ships in them, rocks littered their channels, and the benighted New Jersey coast was jeeringly said to be “outside of the United States.” During the summer of 1837, Captains Kearney, Sloat, and Perry made a study of the water approaches to New York, the latter concerning himself with the Jersey side. His report, written at Perth Amboy, December 9, 1837, was made such good use of in Congress by Senator G. D. Wall, that a bill for the creation of lighthouses was passed, and Captain Perry was ordered to Europe for further study.

Embarking on the steamer Great Western on her second round trip, June 27, 1838, Perry crossed the ocean when such a voyage was a novelty. The passage occupied twelve and a half days, during which a constant study of the engines and their behavior, and of wages and fuel satisfied him that steam could be applied to war vessels with safety and economy. This was in 1838, yet even as late as 1861, there were American naval officers more afraid of the boilers under their feet, than of the enemy’s guns; and many old sea-dogs still believed in the general efficiency of sailing frigates over steamers.

Arriving at Bristol his first business was to visit the lighthouses of the United Kingdom, after which he returned to London. In the foundries and shipyards he acquainted himself with engineers and manufacturers. He found a ferment of ideas. A real revolution in naval science was in progress. The British government was ambitious to have the largest steamer force in the world ready for sudden hostilities so as to possess an over-whelming advantage. So much encouragement was given by the admiralty, that nearly every mechanic in the kingdom, as it seemed, was eager to invent, improve or discover new steps to perfection. Especial attention was given to the problem of the economy of fuel. Vessels wholly built of iron were beginning to be common. These, as Perry predicted, were ultimately to have the preference for peaceful purposes, but their fitness as war vessels was still uncertain. Two were then building for the Emperor of Russia. The first paddle-wheel steamers, Penelope, Terrible, and Valorous, were afloat or building. The era of steam appliances as a substitute for manual labor aboard ships was being ushered in.

It is now seen that the immediate fruit of this possession, by the British government, of steam both as a motor and a substitute for manual labor on shipboard, was the growth of an imperial policy of extensive colonial dependencies and possessions for which the Victorian era will ever be conspicuous in history. The British Empire could never have become the mighty agglomeration which it now is, except through the agency of steam. The new force was not an olive branch, nor calculated to keep the battle flags furled; for already, the first of the twenty-five wars which the Victorian era has thus far seen had begun.

At the time of Perry’s visit, however, Britain’s exclusive domain seemed threatened by France. The spirit of invention and improvement, encouraged by Louis Philippe, was abroad in “la belle France.” Already nine war steamers afloat, with more planned on paper, the beginning of a respectable sea-force, were within two hours of England. A vigorous naval policy was in popular favor and the Prince de Joinville, in command of a corvette, the Creole, was beginning to express views which alarmed the Admiralty. The brilliant successes of the French in Mexican waters, the capture of the castle of St. Juan d’Ulloa after six hours bombardment, in which the terrific power of shells had been demonstrated, encouraged them to believe that their rivalry with England on the ocean was again possible. The undisputed supremacy of the British on the seas since Trafalgar, had, except from 1812 to 1815, remained unbroken because the only large navy left in Europe was British. France, now recovering from the long impoverishment inflicted upon her by the wars of Napoleon, was investing her money largely in steam war vessels of the finest type. Fortunately for her, the revival of her financial fortunes co-incided with the era of steam, and every franc applied to naval uses was expended on first-class vessels equal to any on the seas. On the contrary, many of the British fleet were sailing vessels. Furthermore, the science of artillery was undergoing a revolution, and France led the way in ordnance as well as in ships. Such an unexpected development of energy and wisdom in her rival startled the English naval mind as it afterward aroused the British public.

The carronades or “smashers” of the sailors, had had their day and their glory was already passing away. The Paixhans gun, or chambered ordnance capable of horizontal shell-firing, was now to supersede them. Fully alive to the needs of the times, the British government had three war steamers equipped, five were in course of construction, and the keels of six others were soon to be laid. These were to be of from eight hundred to twelve hundred tons and to mount heavy shell-guns at each end and in broadside. Even then, they had but fourteen against the nineteen steamers of France and hence the feverish desire for more.

Perry’s visit to Europe was exceedingly well-timed to secure the largest results, for a revolution in optical science and applied methods of illumination, as well as in ships and guns, was at hand. Science and invention were to do much for the saving of human life as well as for its destruction. The balances of Providence were to settle to a new equilibrium.

Crossing the channel, he visited Cherbourg and Brest, there finding the same courtesy and cordial reply to his questions. In Paris he came in contact with a number of distinguished scientific men. He was especially well assisted by the United States Agent, Mr. Eugene A. Vail. The illustrious Augustin Fresnel who had said in a letter to a friend, December 14, 1814, that he did not know what the phrase “the polarization of light meant,” was in 1819 crowned by the French Academy of Science as the first authority in optics. He had demonstrated to his countrymen the error of the old theory of the transmission of light by the emission of material particles. This he had achieved by the study of polarization. The practical application of his researches to the apparatus of lighthouses struck a death-blow to the old system of coast illumination.

Among other pleasant experiences in the French capital, was a second visit to King Louis Philippe. Invited by His Majesty to an informal supper, at which the royal family were present, Captain Perry took his seat at their table as a guest feeling more honored by this private confidence than if at a state dinner. At the table sat the King’s wife and children, tea being poured by the Queen herself. At this time, the Duc d’Orleans, son of the King, was rejoicing over the recent birth of a son. His name was Louis Albert Philippe d’Orleans, Comte de Paris. He afterwards served in the Union armies during our civil war of 1861–65, and is the accomplished author of the best general history of that series of events yet published, Historie de la Guerre Civile en Amérique. At this time, November 1838, the infant boy was not quite three months old, and the talk and thoughts of the royal family were centered on him.

Leaving Portsmouth December 10, by sailing packet, Perry arrived in New York, January 14, 1839. After a few days spent at home he went to Washington to deliver up his rich spoil of contemporaneous science, and his own elaborate reports, criticisms, and suggestions. His face was flushed with the irresistible enthusiasm of new ideas. And his thought was in the direction of the future. The wires of a magnetic telegraph had been strung across the campus of Princeton college, four years before this, by Professor Joseph Henry. Out of the discoveries of Faraday and Henry, brilliant results had sprung, of which application to the arts of war and peace was already being made. Both as a naval officer and as a lover of science, Perry rejoiced to see

“Undreamed-of sciences from year to year

Upon dim shores of unexplored Night

Their steady beacons kindle.”

He now bent his energies to bring before Congress the condition and needs of our lighthouse system. He wrote a vigorous and detailed letter exposing the abuses and the schemes of the ignorant set of plunderers who were opposing improvement. He proved that often important lighthouses were left for days in charge of wholly incompetent persons. Hence there was waste, robbery, and inefficiency, while a powerful combination held the system in its coils. “The Lighthouse Ring” was then as strong as that of “The Indian Ring” of later years. Further, the battle was one of science and new ideas against ignorance and ultra-conservative old fogyism. The lenses were struggling against the reflectors. The latter were the outcome of the emission theory of the propagation of light. The Lenticular method was based on the undulatory theory. Ignorance and avarice long held the field, but under the hammer-like facts and arguments of Perry, and those who thought with him, both were routed, and the present grand system is the final result. Our lighthouse establishment is not a creation, it is a growth.

At the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia in 1876, the exhibit made by the government of the United States was under the charge of Rear-Admiral Thornton A. Jenkins, one of Perry’s pupils and friends. The triumphs of a half century in the illuminating art were manifest. Progress had at first crept by slow steps, from rude beacons of wood or coal fires on headlands, to oil lamps with flat wicks and spherical reflectors, to paraboloid mirrors and argand burners, to eclipse revolving or flashing lights. The katoptric system of Teulère, based on the reflection of light by metallic surfaces was introduced about 1790, and soon came in vogue among most civilized nations. It was costly and expensive, since half the rays of light were lost by absorption in the mirror even when new and perfectly polished; while the loss was far more when the mirror was old, unclean, or in constant use. Yet despite its many defects, it was the best of its kind known until Fresnel’s brilliant discoveries based on the principle of a burning-glass or convex lens refraction. After a struggle, the dioptric conquered the katoptric, and lenses rule the coast.

It was to introduce the dioptric system that Perry now earnestly labored. The influence of his arguments in Congress was powerful, and from this time the lenticular method prevailed, and the system of lighthouses on all our coasts was extended. From the first lighthouse built by the general government in 1791 at Cape Henry, the number had increased to seven in 1800. In 1838 there were but sixteen. The number now is not far from 250.

No less an authority than Rear-Admiral Thornton A. Jenkins, who, besides being the Naval Secretary of the Light-House Board from 1869 to 1871, framed the organic law under which the present efficient Light-House Board was established in 1852, says that “Through Perry’s influence the first real step was taken towards the present good system.” The light on the Neversink Highlands which the voyager to Europe sees, as the last sign of native land as it sinks below the horizon is one of the first, as it was the direct, fruits of Perry’s mission.

In an excellent article on this subject in the American Whig Review, March 1845, the same which contained Poe’s “Raven,” the writer, after commending Perry’s work and expatiating on the excellence of the Fresnel light, pleads for the union of science and experience, and more administrative method for this branch on the efficacy and perfection of which depend, not only the wealth with which our ships are freighted, but the lives of thousands who follow the sea.

When, in 1852, Perry lived to see his efforts crowned with success, and Congress finally organized the Light-House Board, Jenkins wished Perry to take the presidency of the Board; but other matters were pressing, Japan was looming up, and he declined.


On his return from Europe, in 1839, Captain Perry purchased a plot of land near Tarrytown, New York. He built a stone cottage, to which he gave the appropriate name of “The Moorings.” The farm comprised about 120 acres; and, needing much improvement, he set about utilizing his few leisure hours with a view to its transformation. Revelling in the exercise of tireless energy, he set out trees and planted a garden.

To get time for his beloved tasks he rose early in the morning, and long before breakfast had accomplished yeoman’s toil. If no nobler work presented itself, this man of steam and ordnance weeded strawberry beds. In due time this Jason sowing his pecks, not of dragon’s teeth, but of approved peas and beans, rejoiced in a golden fleece and real horn of plenty in the darling garden which produced twelve manner of vegetables.

At “Moorings” Perry was surrounded by most pleasant neighbors and a literary atmosphere which stimulated his own pen to activity during the winter, when long evenings allured to fireside enjoyments or studious labor.

About this time, Lieutenant Alexander Slidell MacKenzie, impelled by a request of the dead hero’s son, and irritated at the criticisms of J. Fenimore Cooper, began his life of Oliver Hazard Perry. In this he was assisted somewhat by Captain Perry, who corresponded with General Harrison and other eye-witnesses of the Lake Erie campaign of 1814. Among Perry’s papers, are several autograph letters in the cramped handwriting of the hero of Tippecanoe. Although admiring Harrison as a military man, and highly amused at the popularity and oddities of his hard cider and log cabin campaign, Perry voted, as was his wont, the Democratic ticket.

Another neighbor was Washington Irving, the great caricaturist of the Hollanders in America, who dwelt in the many gabled and weather-vaned Woolfert’s Roost. This quaint old domicile which Woolfert the Dutchman built to find lust in rust (pleasure in rest), crowned a hill over-looking the Tappan Zee, in the south of Tarrytown, while the “Moorings” was in the northern part towards Sing Sing. Perry maintained with Irving a warm friendship to the last. He was an ardent admirer of the genial bachelor author of Sunnyside, and like him was a devoted reader of Addison. A humbler but highly appreciated neighbor was Captain Jacob Storm, who owned the sloop William A. Hart, on which both Irving and Perry often sailed up from New York. Storm was a genial and unique character, famous until his death in 1883, alike for his mother-wit and devotional spirit.

James Watson Webb, then the Hotspur, and afterwards the Nestor, of the press was a genial neighbor and life-long friend.

The changes in naval construction required by the necessities of war, have been many. The history of ship building is literally one of ups and downs. Three great revolutions, of the oar, the sail, and the boiler, have compelled the changes. The ancient sea-boats grew into high decked triremes with many banks of oars, and these again to the low galleys of the Vikings and Berbers. The sides of these, in turn, were elevated until cumbersome vessels with lofty prow, many-storied and tower-like stern, and enormous top-hamper sailed the seas. Again, the ship of the Tudor era was only, by slow processes, cut down to the trim hulls of Nelson’s line-of-battle ships.

In the clean lines of the American frigate, the naval men of our century saw, as they believed, the acme of perfection. They considered that no revolution in the science of war could seriously affect their shape. Down to 1862, this was the unshakable creed of the average sailor. Naval orthodoxy is as tough in its conservatism, as is that of ecclesiastical or legal strain.

Yet both Redfield and Perry as early as 1835, clearly foresaw that the old models were doomed; the many-banked ships must be razed, and the target surface be reduced. Steam and shells had wrought a revolution that was to bring the upper deck not far from the water, and ultimately rob the war-ship of sails and prow. The next problem, between resistance and penetration, was to make the top and bottom of ships much alike, and to put the greater portion of a war vessel under water. It is scarcely probable, however, that either of them believed that the reduction of steam battery should proceed so near the vanishing point, as in the Monitor, to be described as “a cheese-box on a raft” or “a tomato-can on a shingle.”

The first idea concerning “steam batteries” as they were called, was that they were not to have an individuality of their own as battle ships, but were to be subordinate to the stately old sailing frigates. They were expected to be tenders to tow the heavy battering ships into action, or to act as despatch boats and light cruisers. They were conceived to be the cavalry of the navy; ships mounted, as it were. Redfield and Perry, on the other hand, laid claim for them to the higher characteristics of cavalry and artillery united in a single arm of the service.

The first English steamers were exceedingly cumbrous and unnecessarily heavy. It was, with their ships, as with their wagons, or axe-handles. The British, ignorant of the virtues of American hickory, knew not how to combine lightness with strength. Redfield proposed to apply the Yankee jack-knife and whittle away all superfluous timber. Denying that the British type was the fastest or the best, he pled earnestly that our naval men should discard transatlantic models, and create an American type. Regretting that our government and naval men held aloof from the use of steam as a motor in war, he yet demonstrated that even a clumsy steamer, like the Nemesis, had proved herself equal to two line-of-battle ships. He prophesied the speedy disappearance from the seas of the old double and trebled-banked vessels then so proudly floating their pennants. Redfield writing to Perry as a man of liberal ideas, said “Opinions will be received with that spirit of candor and kindness which has so uniformly been manifested in your personal intercourse with your fellow-citizens.” The confidence of this eminent man of science and practical skill in the naval officer was fully justified.

One thing which occupied Perry’s thoughts for a number of years was the question of defending our Atlantic harbors from sudden attacks of a foreign enemy. Steam had altered the old time relations of belligerents. He saw the modern system of carrying on war was to make it sudden, sharp and decisive, and then compel the beaten party to pay the expenses. A few hostile steamers from England could devastate our ports almost before we knew of a declaration of war. While England was always in readiness to do this, there was not one American sea-going war steamer with heavy ordnance ready to meet her swift and heavily armed cruisers, while river boats would be useless before the heavy shell of the enemy. He did not share the ideas of security possessed by the average fresh-water congressman. The spirit of 1812 was not dead, in him, but he knew that the brilliant naval duels of Hull and Decatur’s time decided rather the spirit of our sailors than the naval ability of the United States.

He proposed a method for extemporizing steam batteries by mounting heavy guns on hulks of dismantled merchant vessels. These were to be moved by a steamer in the center of the gang, holding by chains, and able to make ten knots an hour. If one hulk were disabled, it could be easily separated from the others. Such a battery could be made ready in ten days and fought without sailors. The engines could be covered with bales of cotton or hay made fire-proof with soap-stone paint.

With the aid of his friend W. C. Redfield, he collected statistics of all the privately-owned steamers in the United States with their cost, dimensions and consumption of fuel, showing their possible power of conversion for war purposes. Encouraged by Perry, Mr. Redfield treated the whole question of naval offence and defence in a series of letters on “The Means of National Defence.” These were printed in the New York Journal of Commerce during the summer of 1841, and afterwards reprinted in the Journal of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. His note-books with illustrations, diagrams and pen-sketches show that his coming ideal war-ship was like the Lackawanna of our civil war days which, while but five feet narrower, is sixty-two feet longer than “Old Ironsides,” the Constitution of 1812. His favorite type was a long narrow and comparatively low vessel like the Kearsarge which is twenty-two feet less in breadth than an old “seventy-four.” Like Perry, he looked forward to the day when one eleven-inch shell gun would be able to discharge the metal once hurled by a twenty-gun broadside of the old President.

During July 1840, Perry conducted a series of experiments on the Fulton, to determine the effect on the ship’s timbers of the firing of heavy ordnance across the deck of a vessel. The introduction of pivot guns on board men-of-war, rendered these experiments of great value. The bowsprit and bulwarks removed, and the eight-inch Paixhans placed in the middle part of the forward cross bulwarks, thirty feet of the Fulton’s deck was exposed to concussion. Thirty-four rounds fired at a target on shore, showed that every discharge produced an upheaval of the deck. Empty buckets reversed and placed at various distance and positions on the deck approaching the gun, were upset, kicked into the air, destroyed, or shaken overboard. The ease with which men could be killed by the windage of the balls, was demonstrated. A stout cask twelve feet forward of the gun but out of line of fire was knocked overboard. A glass phial which was hung three feet above the cannon’s muzzle withstood the shock, but three feet forward at the same elevation was shattered. Tarpaulin of two thicknesses fastened over a scuttle was rent, and pine boards securely nailed withstood only two or three firings.

Perry at once gave the natural explanation that the expansion, pressure, and sudden contraction of the gases generated by the gunpowder, caused the air of the hold to rush up to fill the vacuum, and thus pressed upon the planking of the deck. The heavily built Fulton could resist, where a weaker vessel would start her planks, just as a fish brought up in a trawl from deep-sea beds, bursts when coming to the air. He suggested that any slightly built vessel could be rendered safe, simply by flooding the decks with three inches of water. This he demonstrated after many curious and interesting experiments, thus adding to the sum of knowledge which every naval officer, in the changed conditions of warfare, ought to obtain.

Perhaps no finer illustration of the value and power of pivot guns was ever given than upon the Kearsarge when sinking the Alabama. Yet of that very ship, the British newspapers had said, “Her decks cannot withstand the concussion and recoil of her heavy guns.” They were evidently unaware of the knowledge obtained by Perry on the Fulton, and applied by American builders of our men-of-war.


The French Navy was at this time leading the British in improved ordnance. A French man-of-war of twenty-six guns was armed entirely with cannon able to fire “detonating shot.” She was reckoned equal to two old line-of-battle ships. Her visit to American ports created great interest among our naval officers, and the Navy Department awoke to the necessity of improving our ordnance.

On the 4th of May, 1839, Perry received orders which he was glad to carry out. He was directed to give his attention to experiments with hollow shot. These were round projectiles, non-explosive, but in that line of the American idea of low velocity, with smashing power. With less weight, they were of greater calibre, and required less powder in firing. They were invented by W. Cochrane, known as the father of heating by steam, and other useful appliances.

Perry selected a site near Sandy Hook and erected platforms, targets, sheds, and offices for ammunition and fuses. From this first trial and scientific study in the United States, of bombs and bomb-guns, down to the last experiments with dynamite shells, the waste space at Sandy Hook—the American Sheerness—has been utilized in the interest of progress in artillery. Perry set up butts at 800, 880, 1,000 and 1,200 yards distance from the guns, and erected one target for firing at from the ship. He devoted himself to the experiments with the best methods and instruments of precision, then at command, during the months of June and July, returning to the navy yard once or twice a week for letters, provisions and fuses. The experiments in shell practice were interesting, instructive and sufficiently conclusive. Those with hollow shot were not so satisfactory.

The faith of Perry in the shell-gun was fixed. Thenceforth he believed that bombs could be fired with very nearly as much precision and safety from accident as solid shot. He saw, however, that much practice, even to the point of familiarity, was needed. His report, at the end of the season, in which he recommended a continuance of the experiments, gives us a picture of the state of knowledge in our navy at that time, concerning shell-shot. Not one of those under his direction had ever seen a bomb-gun discharged; nor had had his attention specially called to a shell-gun when in the navy, which had so long suffered from the dry rot of unmeaning routine. He complains of the lamentable want of knowledge in this important branch of the naval profession, when already so many of the French and British ships were armed with shell-guns. However, the officers trained at Sandy Hook, were now capable of teaching others in the use of explosive projectiles aboard the ship. Men and boys had all made progress in expertness. He suggested that the winter months be employed in teaching boys on the Fulton a knowledge of pyrotechny, and that fifteen or twenty boys from the North Carolina should be associated with them, and a class of gunners be thus trained.

His plan was approved by the Department. A course of study and drill in gunnery, pyrotechny and the knowledge of the steam engine, was organized and carried out during the winter. The graduates of this school afterwards gave good account of themselves in the Mexican and our Civil War. We see in this school, the beginning of the present admirable training of our sailors in the science of explosives.

Perry, meanwhile, kept himself abreast of the latest developments and discoveries in every branch of the naval art. We find him forwarding to the War and Navy Departments the most recent European publications on these subjects. He made himself familiar with the applications of electricity to daily use. Neither the science nor the art of ordnance had made great progress in America, since Mr. Samuel Wheeler cast, in 1776, what was probably the first iron three-pounder gun made in the United States, and which the British captured at Brandywine and took to the Tower of London. The war of 1812 showed, however, that in handling their guns, the Yankees were superior in theory and practice to their British foes.

In 1812, Colonel Bomford, of the United States Ordnance Department, invented the sea-coast howitzer, or cannon for firing shells at long range, by direct fire, which he improved in 1814 and called a “Columbiad.” By this gun a shell was fired at an English vessel, near New York, in 1815, which exploded with effect. It was this invention which the French General Paixhans, introduced into Europe in 1824.[10] The Frenchman was another Amerigo, and Bomford, being another Columbus, was forgotten, for the name “Paixhans” clung to the canons obusiers or improved columbiad. The making or the use of bomb-cannons, in America, was not continued after the war of 1812, and when first employed by Perry, at Sandy Hook, were novelties to both the lay and professional men of the navy on this side of the Atlantic. When four shell-guns were, in 1842, put upon the ship-of-the-line, Columbus, according to Captain Parker, shells were still unfamiliar curiosities. He writes in his Recollections, p. 21:—

“The shells were a great bother to us, as they were kept in the shell room and no one was allowed even to look at them. It seemed to be a question with the division officers whether the fuse went in first, or the sabot, or whether the fuse should be ignited before putting the shell in the gun or not. However, we used to fire them off, though I cannot say I ever saw them hit anything.” As the jolly captain elsewhere says: “It took so long to get ready for the great event (of target practice) that we seemed to require a resting spell of six months before we tried it again.” About this time also pivot guns came into general use on our national vessels, all cannon having previously been so mounted that they could only fire straight ahead.

The Mexican War was a school of artillery practice and marked a distinct era of progress. The flying artillery of Ringgold, in the field, and Perry’s siege guns, in the naval battery at Vera Cruz, were revelations to Europe of the great advance made by Americans in this branch of the science of destruction. In the Civil War, on land and water, the stride of centuries was taken in four years, when Dahlgren introduced that “new era of gun manufacture which now interests all martial nations.” Since then, the enormous guns of Woolwich and Krupp have come into existence, but perfection in heavy ordnance is yet far from attainment. Much has been done in improving details, but the original principle of gun architecture is still in vogue. The loss of pressure between breach and muzzle is not yet remedied. To build a gun in which velocity and pressure will be even “at the cannon’s mouth” is the problem of our age. When a ball can leave the muzzle with all the initial pressure behind it we may look for the golden age of peace: such a piece of ordnance may well be named “Peace-maker.” This problem in dynamics greatly interested Perry; but foiled him, as it has thus far foiled many others.

The School of Gun Practice was opened again in the spring of 1840. He was now experimenting with an eight-inch Paixhans gun, and comparing with it a forty-two pounder, which had a bore reamed up to an eight-inch calibre. Not possessing the present delicate methods of measuring the velocity of shot, such as the Boulanger chronograph, invented in 1875, and now in use at the United States ordnance grounds at Sandy Hook, he obtained his measurements by means of hurdles or buoys. After their positions had been verified by triangulation, these were ranged at intervals of 440 yards apart along a distance of 3¼ miles. Observers placed at four intermediate points noted time, wind, barometer, etc. The extreme range of a Paixhans shot was found to be 4067 yards, or about 2-1/3 miles. In transmitting eight tables, with his report he stated that “These experiments have furnished singular and important information.” After a summary of unusual, interesting and valuable work, the school was closed November 23, 1840, the weather being too severe for out-door work.

It may be surmised that all articles of the new naval creed in which Perry so promptly uttered his faith, were very disagreeable to many of the old school. The belief in the three-decker line-of-battle ship and sailing wooden frigate approached, in many minds, the sacredness of an article of religion. The new appliances and discoveries which upset the old traditions savoured of rank heresy. Those who held to the old articles, and to wooden walls were perforce obliged, as ecclesiastics are, when driven to the wall, to strengthen their position by damnatory clauses. Anathemas, as numerous as those of the Council of Trent, were hurled at the new reformation from the side which considered that there was no need for reform. It was in vain that the employment of explosive shells was denounced as inhuman. History follows logic. If “all is fair in war,” then inventions first branded as too horrible for use by human beings, will be finally adopted. The law of military history moves toward perfection in the killing machine.

Laymen and landsmen, outside the navy, who look upon naval improvement and innovation as necessities, in order that our soldiers of the sea may be abreast of other nations in the art of war, consider radical changes a matter of course: not so the old salts who have hardened into a half century of routine, until their manner of professional thinking is simple Chinese. They saw that horizontal shell firing was likely to turn floating castles into fire-wood. In the good old days ships were rarely sunk in battle, whether in squadron line or in naval duels. Though hammered at for hours, and reduced to hulks and charnel houses, they still floated; but with the new weapon, sinking an enemy was comparatively easy work. British oak or Indian teak was nothing against bombs that would tear out the sides. The vastness of the target surface, on frigate or liner, was now a source of weakness, for shells produced splinters of a size unknown before. A little ship could condense a volcano, and carry a sapping and mining train in a bucket. The old three-deckers must go, and the frigates become lower and narrower with fewer and heavier guns.

A brave British officer is said to have cried out, “For God’s sake, keep out the shells.” New means of defence must be provided. The mollusk-like wooden ships must become crustacean in iron coats. The demonstrated efficiency of shells and shell-guns, and the increased accuracy of fire of the Paixhan smooth-bore cannon—cultivated to high pitch even before the introduction of rifles—had made impossible the old naval duel and line-of-battle.

During the whole of this extended series of experiments on the Fulton, and at Sandy Hook, with new apparatus and projectiles, with assistants often ignorant and unfamiliar with the new engines of war, until trained, no lives were lost, nor was a man injured by anything that could be foreseen. The bursting of a gun cannot always be guarded against, and what befell Perry, in his boyhood, happened again in 1841, though this time without injury to himself. The forty-four pounder on the Fulton burst, killing two men. Their funeral October 8, 1841, was, by the Commodore’s orders, made very impressive. The flags of all ships on the station were flown at half-mast. All the officers who could be spared, and two hundred seamen and marines, formed the cortege in ten boats, the rowers pulling minute strokes. The flotilla moved in solemn procession round the Fulton, the band playing a dirge. Perry, himself, brought up the rear—a sincere mourner. At the grave, Chaplain Harris made remarks befitting the sad occasion.

Jackson’s administration being over, and with it much of the corruption which the spoils system introduced into the government service, it was now possible to reform even the navy yards. An honor all the more welcome and enjoyable, because a complete surprise, was Perry’s appointment to the command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and New York Naval Station. On the 24th of June, 1840, the Secretary of the Navy wrote to Perry, stating his dislike of the bad business conduct of the yard, and the undue use of political influence. With full confidence in Captain Perry’s character and abilities—stating, also, that Perry had never sought the office either directly or indirectly—he tendered him the appointment. The Secretary desired that “no person in the yard be the better or the worse off on account of his political opinions, and that no agent of the government should be allowed to electioneer.” The letter was an earnest plea for civil service reform.

Henceforth, Matthew Perry’s symbol of office was “the broad pennant,” and his rank that of “commodore.” Yet despite added responsibilities and honors, he was but a captain in the navy. Until the year 1862, there was no higher office in the United States Navy than that of captain, and all of Perry’s later illustrious services under the red, the white, or the blue broad pennant, in Africa, Mexico and Japan, added nothing to his pay, permanent rank, or government reward. Not until four years after his death was the title of commodore significant of grade, or salary, higher than that of captain.

See P. V. Hagner, U. S. A., Johnson’s Encyclopædia, article Columbiad.


The activity of American inventors kept equal pace at this period in the two directions of artillery and steam appliances. In 1841 the sum of fifty thousand dollars was appropriated by Congress for experiments in ordnance, and a possible one million dollars for the “shot-and-shell proof” iron-clad “Stevens Battery” then building at Hoboken, N. Y.

Perry was frequently called upon to pronounce upon the various methods of harnessing, improving, and economizing the new motor. We find him in April, 1842, testing three new appliances for cutting off steam, and, on May 17, 1842, praying that the Fulton may be kept in commission for the numerous experiments which he was ordered to make. The Secretary of the Navy gladly referred the numerous petitioners for governmental approval to Captain Perry. In November the question is upon a ventilator; again, it is on the comparative merits of Liverpool, Pennsylvania, or Cumberland coal; anon, a score or so of minor inventions claimed to be improvements. Perry sometimes tried the temper of inventors who lived in the clouds and fed on azure, yet he strove to give to all, however visionary, a fair chance, for he believed in progress. He foresaw the necessity of rifled ordnance and armor, and of steamers of the maximum power for swiftness and battery: perfection in these, he knew could be obtained only by prolonged study and slow steps of attainment.

The collaborator of Washington Irving in Salmagundi, James K. Paulding, was at this time Secretary of the Navy. The position offered to Irving and declined, was given, at Irving’s suggestion to his partner. He was known more as a literary expert than as a statesman or man for the naval portfolio, although as far back as 1814, he had been appointed by President Madison one of a Board of Naval Commissioners. He was not a warm friend to the new fashions which threatened to overthrow naval traditions, denude the sea of its romance, and the sailing ships of their glory. The ferment of ideas and the explosion of innovations around him were little to his taste. To his mind, the engineers who were beginning to invade the sacred precincts of the Department seemed little better than iconoclasts. In the Literary Life of J. K. Paulding are some amusing references to his horror of the new fire-breathing monsters; and the entries in his journal show how intensely bored he was by the new ideas, and the persistency with which the advanced naval officers held them. He wrote that he “never would consent to see our grand old ships supplanted by these new and ugly sea-monsters.” He cries out in his diary, “I am steamed to death.”

For this metaphorical parboiling of “the literary Dutchman in Van Buren’s cabinet,” Perry was largely responsible. Steam had come to stay, and with it the engineer, despite the Rip Van Winkles in and out of the service. Officers call Perry “the father of the steam navy.” An old engineer says, “He certainly was, if any man may be entitled to be so called.” Another writes “It was largely through his influence and representations, that the Mississippi and Missouri, then the most splendid vessels of their class, were built.”

A beginning of two steam war vessels had been practically determined on, soon after Perry’s return from Europe. He was summoned to Washington in May 1839 to preside at the Board of Navy Commissioners to consult concerning machinery for them. The sessions from 9 a. m. to 3.30 p. m. were held from May 23d to 28th.

The practical wisdom of Captain Perry’s decision in regard to the engines most suitable for our first steamers—the superb Missouri and the grand old Mississippi—is seen in the fact that when ready for service, the Mississippi had no superior on the sea for beauty, speed and durability. Probably out of no vessel in the navy of the United States, was so much genuinely good work obtained as out of the Mississippi, during her twenty years of constant service in all the waters. Had she not been burned off Port Hudson in the river whose name she bore, in 1862, she might have lived a ship’s generation longer. Her praises are generously sung in the writings of all who lived on board her. Captain Parker speaks of “The good old steamship Mississippi, a ship that did more hard work in her time than any steamer in the navy has done since and she was built as far back as 1841.” What the Constitution was among the old heavy sailing frigates, the Mississippi was to our steam Navy. On the outside of Commodore Foxhall Parker’s book on Naval Tactics Under Steam is fitly stamped in gold a representation of the Mississippi.[11]

To speak precisely, she was begun in 1839, and launched in 1841, at Philadelphia. She was of 1692 tons burthen, and 225 feet long. She carried two ten-inch, and eight eight-inch guns, and a crew of 525 men. Her cost was $567,408. The cost of the iron-clad “Steven’s Battery,” as limited by Congress, was not to exceed that of the twin wooden steamers. Hence, its construction languished, while the Mississippi and Missouri were soon built. Perry, from the first, strenuously urged that the greatest care should be used, the best materials selected, and the most trustworthy contractors be chosen. “In the first ocean steamers to be put forth by the government, no cost should be spared to make them perfect in all respects.” As there was then no lack of harmony and union among the bureaus, there was no danger of constructing different parts of the ship on incompatible plans, with the consequent peril of failure of the whole. The various constructive departments wrought in unison. These two steam war vessels were built before naval architecture and the sea alike were robbed of their poetry. The Missouri beside her machinery, carried 19,000 square feet of canvass, and the Mississippi about as much, so that they looked beautiful to the eye as well as excelled in power.

On her trip of March 5, starting at eight pounds pressure and rising to sixteen, the Missouri made twelve and a half statute miles per hour. Her motion was quiet and graceful, the tremor slight, while at her bow, above the cutwater, rose a boa of water five feet high. A trial at sea with her heavy spars was made on the 24th of March. In pointing out her merits and the defects, Perry emphasized the necessity of having in the persons, in charge of the equipment of war steamers, a combined knowledge of engineering and seamanship. In the men who presided over the machinery, this was noticeably lacking. Most engine-builders and engineers in 1841 had never been at sea; hence a knowledge of all the details necessary for safety and efficiency was not common.


During the month of October, the twin vessels were made ready, and on the 9th of November, proceeded to Washington. On her return, the Mississippi made the time from the Potomac Navy Yard to the Wallabout in fifty-one hours.

Commander A. S. Mackenzie having applied December 16th for the second in command, the Naval Commissioners asked Perry in regard to the number and arrangements of the crew of the Missouri. He recommended that there should be on each of the large steamers a captain, and a commander; so that, after some experience, the latter could take command of the medium or smaller steamers to be hereafter built. From the first Perry urged that all our naval officers should learn engineering as well as seamanship, so as not to be at the mercy of their engineers. In the beginning, from the habits, education, and manners of engineers taken from land or the merchant service, one must not look for those official proprieties derivable only from a long course of education and discipline in the navy. Hence there would be a natural disposition to exercise more authority than belonged to them, and to be chary of communicating the little knowledge they possessed. A purely naval officer in such condition would be like a lieutenant at the mercy of the boatswain. The captain must not carry sail without reference to the engines, and so the steam power must not be exerted when mast, spars or sails would be strained. Harmony between quarter-deck and engine-room was absolutely necessary.

The British Government encouraged officers to take charge of private steamers so as to acquire experience, and no man unused to the nature of machinery could command a British war steamer. In our navy no one should be appointed to command in sea steamers unless he had a decided inclination to acquire the experience.

Even while the Missouri was building, Perry wrote a letter concerning her complement, and after speaking a good word for the coal heavers and firemen, and praying that their number might be increased, he again proposed a scheme for the supply of naval apprentices for steamers. He suggested also that a class of Third Assistant Engineer should be formed. This would create emulation and an esprit du corps highly favorable for high professional character and abilities among the engineers. The grade would be good as a probationary position, besides reducing to a minimum, jeopardy to the ship and crew.

In a word, Perry foresaw that, if the splendid new steam frigate Missouri were left to incompetent hands, she would fall a prey by fire or wreck, to carelessness and ignorance.

“He was proud of these two vessels, and no one had a better right to be proud of them than he. He imagined them and created them, while others did the details and claimed most of the credit of their superiority over men-of-war of that day of other nations;” for down to 1850, our policy was to build better vessels than were built in any part of the world. Thus our navy was small but very effective.

“Perry’s two vessels were without question not only successes, but far beyond the most sanguine hopes and expectations of friendly critics of the time. It is a remarkable fact that the Susquehanna (and some others of smaller size) built after the Mississippi and the Missouri had proved themselves successes, were not successes. With these latter, Commodore Perry had nothing to do, as to plans, designs or construction.”

No sketch of the early history of the steam navy of the United States could be justly made without honorable mention of Captain Robert F. Stockton. Nor was the paddle-wheel of the Mississippi to remain the emblem upon the engineer’s shoulder-strap. The propeller screw was soon to supersede the paddle-wheel as motor of the ship and emblem of the engineer’s profession. The screw is one of the many discoveries located, by uncritical readers, in China. The French claim its invention, and have erected at Boulogne a monument to Frederick Sauvage its reputed inventor. Ericsson demonstrated its value in 1836, by towing the Admiralty up the Thames at the rate of ten miles an hour; yet the British naval officers reported against its possibility of use on ships of war. Eight years afterward, the man-of-war, Rattler, was built as a propeller, and a successful one it was. Ericsson, after constructing the engines of the propeller steamer, Robert F. Stockton, was invited to Philadelphia, where he built the first screw steamer of the United States Navy, and of the world, planned as such. After the name of his native town, it was called by the Commodore, the Princeton.

At the end of ten years of shore service, devoted to the mastery of the science and art of war as illustrated in the applications of steam, chambered and rifled ordnance, hollow shot and explosive shells, iron armor and rams, the building and handling of new types of ships, Perry was beginning to see clearly, in outline at least, the typical American wooden man-of-war of the future. Such a ship, we may perhaps declare the Kearsarge to have been. In her build, motor and battery, she epitomized all the points of American naval architecture and ordnance, to which Perry’s faith and works led. Yet these very features were severely criticized by the English press, in the days before the British-built Alabama was sunk. These were, in construction, stoutness of frame, narrowness of beam, heaviness of scantling, all possible protection of machinery, lightness of draught, and a model calculated for a maximum of speed; in battery, the heaviest shell-guns mounted as pivots and firing the largest shells, accuracy of aim combined with rapidity of fire; in movement, the utmost skill with sail, steam and rudder, and celerity in obtaining the raking position. In such a ship and with such guns, were the right executive officer, and commander, when the first great naval duel fought with steam and shells took place on Sunday June 19, 1864, at sea, outside of Cherbourg. Historic and poetic justice to the memory of Matthew Perry was then done with glorious results, that will ever live in history. When the Alabama sank from the sight of the sun with her wandering stars and the bars of slavery after her into the ocean’s grave, the guns that sent her down were directed by James S. Thornton,[12] the efficient executive officer of the Kearsarge, and by his own boast and testimony, the favorite pupil of Commodore Matthew C. Perry.

The Mississippi made six long cruises, two in the Gulf of Mexico, one in the Mediterranean, two to Japan, and one in the Gulf and Mississippi under Farragut. She twice circumnavigated the globe. Thoroughly repaired, she left Boston, May 23, 1861, for service in the Civil War. In passing Forts Jackson and Philip, April 24, 1862, and in the capture of New Orleans which gave the Confederacy its first blow in the vitals, the Mississippi took foremost part under command of Captain Melancthon Smith. Her guns sunk two steamers, and her prow sunk the ram Manassas. Passing safely the fire rafts, and the Challmette batteries, she was the first vessel to display the stars and stripes before the city. In the attack on Port Hudson, March 14, 1863, this old side-wheeler formed the rear guard of Farragut’s line. In the dark night and dense smoke, the pilot lost his way. The Mississippi grounded, and was for forty minutes under steady fire of the rifled cannon of the batteries, and was burned to prevent her use by the Confederates.

See his portrait, p. 926, Century Magazine, 1885.


The work to which Matthew Perry was assigned during the next three years grew out of the famous treaty made by Daniel Webster and Lord Ashburton. Of this treaty we, in 1883 and 1884, on account of the transfer of so much of our financial talent across the Canadian border, heard nearly as much as our fathers before us in 1842. In addition to the rectification of the long-disputed boundary question, the eighth and ninth articles contained provisions for extirpating the African slave-trade. By the tenth article, the two governments agreed to the mutual extradition of suspected criminals. Out of the interpretation of this last, grew the famous “Underground Railway” of slavery days, besides the residence in Canada of men fleeing from conscription during the civil war, and of defaulting bank officers in later years. To the crimes making offenders liable to extradition, in the supplementary treaty made under President Cleveland’s administration, four others are added, including larceny to the amount of fifty dollars, and malicious destruction of property endangering life.

It is very probable that war was averted by the sound diplomacy of the Webster-Ashburton treaty. The two nations instead of crossing swords were enabled through creative statesmanship, to join hands for wholesome moral work, and especially to improve off the face of the ocean, “the sum of all villainies.” The discovery of America had given a vast impulse to this ancient and horrible traffic, and about forty millions of negroes had been seized for the markets of the western continent. About seventy thousand of these victims were brought to our country prior to the year 1808, and many thousands have been surreptitiously introduced since that epoch.

The United States was to send an eighty-gun squadron to Africa to suppress piracy and the slave-trade. The preparation for this real service to humanity and the world’s commerce was curiously interpreted in South America, as a menace to the states of that continent. In their first thrills of independence, these republics were naturally suspicious of their nearest strong neighbor.

The work of the American men-of-war in overhauling slavers, involved the question of the right of search. Notwithstanding that the war of 1812 had been fought to settle the question, it was not yet decided. It required secession and the so-called Southern Confederacy to arise, with the aid of Captain Wilkes and Mr. Seward, to force the British government to disown her ancient claim.

Orders to command the African squadron, and to protect the settlements of the blacks established by the American Colonization Society, were received February 20, 1843. The spring was consumed in preparations, and on the 5th of June, the Commodore hoisted his broad pennant on the Saratoga.[13] In the flag-ship of a squadron, Matthew Perry sped to southern oceans, a helper in the progress of Africa. Arriving at Monrovia, in due time, his first duty was to mete out justice to the natives of Sinoe and Berribee for the murders of American seamen. He found awaiting him one of the head men of Berribee with authority to arrange a palaver of all the chiefs with the American commander. To understand the problem before the Commodore, let us glance at the situation.

The question of war or peace among the natives on or near the coast is a financial one of monopoly and privilege. The tribes occupying the coast or sea “beach” have the advantage of all the tribes behind them in the interior, inasmuch as they hold the monopoly of foreign trade and barter with passing ships. The coast men sell the coveted foreign goods, rum, tobacco, powder and notions to the next tribe inland at a handsome profit. These, in turn, sell to the next tribe within, and these to the next, and so the filtering process goes on. The prices, to the last purchaser and consumer, one or two hundred miles from the sea, after passing through all these middle-men, are enormous. The position then next the ships was a coveted one, and those in sight of blue water had to keep it by arms as champions. Only the most warlike tribes get and hold this place.

To gain this supreme advantage of trade at first hand, the Crack-Os, a tribe two days distant inland, had fought their way seaward and captured from the Bassa Cove and Berribee people, about ten miles of coast on which they had built five towns. Giving free rein to their predatory propensities, they seized all canoes passing their front, and plundered or murdered their crews. Growing bolder, they overwhelmed by their numbers even foreign vessels after enticing these to visit them, and their crews to land. The captain and crew of the American schooner, Mary Carver, were first tortured and then murdered. For three hours, Captain Carver suffered unspeakable horrors. He was bound and delivered to the tender mercies of the savage women and children who amused themselves by sticking thorns in his flesh. In another instance, Captain Burke, mate and cook, of the Edward Barley, were cruelly murdered. In consequence of these atrocities, traders avoided this villainous coast, and commerce came to a stand-still.

The mere destruction of any of the beach towns would be of no avail, if the black rascals were allowed to rebuild. With their rice and cassava or yam plantations a few miles back, to which they removed the women, children, and other valuables, they would laugh at the white man’s pains. The only lasting check on their villainy would be permanent exclusion from the beach.

There was enough of another side to the story to remove indiscriminate vengeance far from the Commodore’s purposes. Our government heard many complaints against the blacks, while their voice was unheard. The native towns and fishing boats were frequently fired into, their towns cannonaded and burnt, and the blacks cruelly maltreated, or sold to warlike tribes, in pure wantonness by white foreigners. As all white men were the same to the negroes, they were apt to take the first opportunity for vengeance that offered itself. In this way, innocent men suffered.

An imposing force, more than sufficient for mere punishment, was determined upon. The Commodore had to move with caution, and both justice and victory must be sure, as a failure to awe would make matters worse. His first care was to obtain hostages from the Berribees. In doing this he was able to prove their guilt. He sent Lieutenant Stellwagen in the brig Porpoise, disguised as a merchantman, to their coast. Only five or six men, and these in red shirts, showed themselves on deck. The Berribee boats at once rushed out in a shoal to capture the harmless looking vessel. As only a sample of the thieving humanity was needed, the Lieutenant, satisfied with a good joke, refrained from opening his guns on the canoes. After witnessing the seizure of those first climbing over the ship’s sides, and the sudden resurrection from the hatches of his armed crew, the other blacks scattered for the shore.

The squadron, consisting of the Saratoga, Macedonian, Decatur and Porpoise sailing from Mesurado on the 22d of November, cast anchor on the 29th at Sinoe. This settlement, nominally under the care of the Mississippi Colonization Society had been greatly neglected. The negroes from the United States were there, but were little looked after. “Colonization,” in their case meant simply good riddance.

Landing with seventy-five sailors and marines, the procession moved to the Methodist Church edifice in which the palaver was to be held. Before the President of Liberia, Mr. Roberts, and the Commodore, with their respective staffs on the one side, and twenty “kings” or head men on the other, the murder of Captain Burke’s mate and cook was discussed. It appeared that the white man was the first aggressor, and the Fishmen and not the Sinoe people were the culprits. After listening patiently to the black orators, the Commodore ordered the Fishmen’s town to be burned, keeping three of them as hostages to be sent to Monrovia. He advised the settlers to build a stockade and block-house, assess the expense in town meeting, and endeavor to enforce the methods of self-government and protection so well established in the United States. Only in this way could civilization hold its own against the savages of the bush.

The next point of landing was Settra Kroo, in King Freeman’s dominions. At this place, the force from the boats stepped on shore at 9 a. m. Before the palaver began, the Commodore heard a piece of news that caused him to hasten in person to the scene of the incident. Humanity was the first duty. The pace of the burly Commodore was quickened to a run as he heard of the imminent danger of an innocent victim. A wealthy man of one of the Settra villages had been accused of having caused the death of a neighbor by foul arts of necromancy. To prove innocence in such a case, the accused was compelled to drink largely of sassy-wood which made a red liquid. In this case the elect victim was a hard-featured fellow of about fifty years of age. His wealth had excited envy, and avarice was doubtless his only crime. His two wives with their satin-skinned babies, were in agony and tears for the fate of the husband and father.

The natives, seeing the Americans approach, and suspecting their design of rescue, seized their victim and paddled him in a canoe across the lake. Perry, being told of this circumstance, on coming to a group of men grasped the chief, ordering the officers to seize others and hold them as hostages for the ordeal man. The territory belonged to the Maryland Colonization Society, and the rites of savagery were not to be done in view of an American squadron. This novel order of habeas corpus was obeyed. After some delay and palaver, the negroes restored the victim, and, under the emetics and remedies of Dr. McGill, the man was delivered from the power of sassy and of believers in its virtue. The squadron had arrived just in time.

Returning from this lively episode with sharp appetites, the Commodore and party of officers were just about to sit down to dinner, when an alarm gun, fired from Mount Tulman, startled them. Almost immediately afterwards a messenger, running in hot haste, announced that the wild natives from the bush beyond were about to force their way to the settlement and attack the colonists. They had mistaken the salute to the Commodore, and thought that hostilities had already begun with King Freeman. They had come to support the native party and be in at the division of the spoils.

At once the Commodore accompanied by the Governor and his force marched through the blazing sun four miles to the scene of hostilities. On the Mount Tulman, named after a philanthropic Baltimorean, they found a picketed level space to which the civilized colonists, men, women and children, had fled for refuge. They were defended by fifteen or sixteen men then on the watch. The savage natives had been repulsed and some of them killed.

As there was nothing to do, the party enjoyed, for a few minutes, the superb scenery. The village beneath, and the white buildings of the Mount Vaughan Episcopal mission glittered in the sun, and the beach and ocean view was grand. The descent of the hill with their belated dinner in view, was an easy and grateful task.

At Cape Palmas, or “Maryland in Africa,” the naval force landed Dec. 9th, for a palaver with twenty-three “kings” and head men. The Commodore and Governor, at the usual table, were face to face with the sable orators, whose talking powers were prodigious. His Majesty, King Freeman, was a prepossessing negro, who, in features, recalled to the narrator Horatio Bridge,[14] Henry Clay. The interpreter was Yellow Will, a voluble and amazing creature in scarlet and Mazarin-yellow lace.

The substance of the palaver was the request that King Freeman should, for the good of the American colonists, remove his capital. The meeting was adjourned to re-assemble in the royal kraal or city two days later. On December 11, twelve armed boats were sent ashore from three ships. The feat of landing in the surf was accomplished after several ridiculous tumbles and considerable wetting from the spray.

On shore there were about fifty natives in waiting, as an escort to the palaver house. These braves were armed with various weapons, muskets guiltless of polish, iron war spears, huge wooden fish-harpoons, and broad knives.

The royal capital was a palisaded village in the centre of which was the palaver house. Most of the male warriors were out of sight, evidently in ambush while the women and piccaninnies were in “the bush.” Some delay occurred in the silent town, while arrangements were perfected by his Majesty. By orders of the wary Commodore, marines were posted at the gates as sentinels, while the military forces of either side were marched to opposite ends of the town. The parties to the controversy being seated, Governor Roberts spoke concerning the murder of Captain Carver. The towns along the beach governed by King Crack-O were implicated. They shared in the plunder, the cargo of the ship being worth twelve thousand dollars. The evil results were great, inasmuch as all tribes on the coast wanted to “catch” foreign vessels.

His Majesty, King Crack-O, was a monstrous fellow of sinister expression. He wore a gorgeous robe and a short curved sword resembling the cleaver used by Chicago pork-packers. The blade of this weapon was six inches wide. He made a rather defiant reply to President Robert’s charges, denying all participation in the matter. Touching his ears and tongue symbolically to his sword, he signified his willingness to attend the great Palaver at Berribee.

At the Commodore’s suggestion, he was invited on board the flag-ship with the object of impressing him with the force at command of the whites.

During the embarkation, several funny scenes occurred. All the villagers, men, women and children, came to see the canoes set off, many of which were repeatedly upset, and the passengers tossed into the water and soused. There was little dignity, but no end of fun, in getting from shore to ship.

The next meeting was appointed at Little Berribee, because the great palaver for the division of the spoil of the Mary Carver, had been held at this place. It was hoped some exact information would be gained. The line of boats leaving the flag-ship December 13, moved to the shore, and the march was begun to the village. The palaver house was about fifty yards from the town gate inside the palisades, and King Ben Crack-O’s long iron spear, with a blade like a trowel, was, with other weapons, laid aside before the palaver began; but arrayed in his gorgeous robes, the strapping warrior, evidently spoiling for a fight, took his seat, having well “coached” his interpreter.

After the Governor spoke, the native interpreter began. He quickly impressed the American officers and the Liberian Governor as a voluminous but unskillful liar, and himself as one of the most guilty of the thieves. His tergiversations soon became impudent and manifest, and his lies seemed to fall with a thump. The Governor, had repeatedly warned him in vain. At last, the Commodore, losing patience, rose up and hastily stepping toward the villain sternly warned him to lie no more.

Instantly the interpreter, losing courage, bolted out of the house and started on a run for the woods. Perry quickly noticing that King Crack-O was meditating treachery, moved towards him. The black king’s courage was equal to his power of lying and treachery. He seized the burly form of the Commodore, and attempted to drag him off where stood, on its butt, his iron spear. It was already notched with twelve indentations—in token of the number of men killed with it.

His black majesty had caught a Tartar! The burly Commodore was not easy to handle. Perry hurled him away from the direction of the stacked arms, and before he had more than got out of the house, a sergeant of the marines shot the king, while the sergeant’s comrades bayonetted him.

In the struggle, the king had caught his foot in the skirts of his own robe and he was speedily left naked. Spite of the ball and two bayonet wounds he fought like a tiger, and the two or three men who attempted to hold his writhing form needed all their strength to make him a prisoner. His muscular power was prodigious, but their gigantic prize was finally secured, bound, and carried to the beach. The interpreter was shot dead while running, the ball entering his neck.

The palaver, thus broken up, suddenly changed into a melee in which the marines and blue-jackets began irregular firing on the natives, in spite of the Commodore’s orders to refrain. The two-hundred or more blacks scattered to the woods, along the beach and even into the sea, some escaping by canoes.

As the real culprits had mostly escaped, the Commodore ordered the town to be fired. Our sailors forced the palisades or crept between the gates. Meeting in the centre of the town, they gave three cheers and then applied the torch. In fifteen minutes the whole capital, built of wattles and mud was on fire, and in little over a half hour a level waste.

The blacks, from the edge of the woods, opened fire on the Americans. With incredibly bad aim, they shot at the blue-jackets with rusty muskets loaded with copper slugs made out of the bolts of the Mary Carver. From one pile of camwood, the fire of the rascals was so near, that Captain Mayo’s face was burned with their powder, so that he carried the marks to his grave. Little harm was done by the copper shower. Our men charged into the bush, and presently the ships opened fire on the woods, and the little war with the heathen ended for the day.

Among the trophies recovered in the town, was a United States flag, articles from the Mary Carver, and several war canoes. The king’s spear, made of a central shaft of wood with iron butt and top and the blade heart-shaped, was kept by the Commodore, and now adorns the collection of his son-in-law.

Embarkation was then made to the ships, where King Crack-O died next morning at eight o’clock.

On the 15th, as the boats moved off at 7 p. m., to a point twelve or fifteen miles below Berribee, they were fired on by the natives when near the shore. The boat’s crew and three marines dashed ashore, and charged the enemy. The landing was then made in good order, the line formed and the march begun to the town. The palisades were at once cut through, and the houses set on fire. While this was being done, the blacks in the woods were sounding war-horns, bells and gongs, which the buzzards, at least, understood, for they soon appeared flying in expectation of a feast.

A further march up the beach of a mile and a half brought the force to a line of palisades behind which were thirty or forty natives. The boat-keepers rowing along the line of march, were enabled to see that these were armed and ready to fire. Halting at forty yards distance, the marines and blue-jackets charged on a run, giving the blacks only time to fire a few shots and then break for cover. This they could easily do, as the woods reached nearly to the water’s edge. After searching for articles from the Mary Carver, this third town was burned, and then the men sat down to dinner. Another town three miles further up the beach was likewise visited and left in ashes. All day long the men were hard at work and in constant danger from the whistling copper, but the only bodily members in danger seemed to be their ears, for the blacks were utterly unable either to aim straight or to fire low. The men enjoyed the excitement hugely, and only two of them were wounded. The eight or ten cattle captured and the relics of the Mary Carver, were taken on board.

On the 16th at daylight, the ships raised anchor and proceeded to Great Berribee. White flags were hoisted in token of amity. The king came on board the flag-ship, and a “treaty” in which protection to American seamen was guaranteed was made. Gifts were exchanged, and the five Berribee prisoners released.

The effect of this powder and ball policy so necessary, and so judiciously administered, was soon apparent along a thousand miles of coast. By fleet runners carrying the news, it was known at Cape Palmas when the squadron arrived there on the 20th. The degree of retribution inflicted by no means exceeded what the original outrage demanded. According to the well-understood African law, the whole of the guilty tribe must suffer when the murderers have not been delivered up. The example, a peremptory necessity at the moment, was, for a long time, salutary; the American vessels not only experienced the good effect, but the event had a powerful influence in the native palavers.

A year or so later, the king and headmen of Berribee, visited Lieutenant Craven in the Porpoise. The people had begun to make farms, and cultivate the soil. They were very anxious to see Commodore Perry, “to talk one big palaver, pay plenty bullock, no more fight white man, and to get permission to build their town again on the beach.” The Lieutenant reported the effect on all tribes as highly salutary, even as far as fifteen or twenty miles in the interior. The Missionaries, the Reverend and Mrs. Payne whose lives had been threatened, and their schools broken up by the wild blacks, were now enjoying friendly intercourse with the natives and suffered no more annoyance. He also received the warm approval of the other missionaries on the coast, both Roman Catholic as well as Protestant, as well as of Governor Russworm, of the Maryland Colony. The Reverend James Kelly, of the Catholic Mission, in a letter, said of Perry, “His services were tendered in a way decidedly American—without ostentation—yet carrying effect in every quarter.”

This systematic punishment, after examination, and the certainty that the stripes were laid on the right back was a new thing to the blacks. The Berribee affair is remembered to this day. During the forty years now gone, anything like the Mary Carver affair has never been repeated. The coast was made safe, and commerce increased.

On the 25th, the Commodore arrived at Monrovia, and on the 28th, sailed for Porto Praya, and later for Funchal, where he found the inhabitants bitterly complaining that the American taste for other wines had greatly injured the trade in Madeira.

Used as a training-ship now, May, 1887.

Journal of an African Cruiser, edited by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


Perry, in his report written Jan. 21, 1844, on the settlements established by the Colonization Society expresses the feelings that came over him as he gazed on Cape Mesurado (Montserrado) after a lapse of nearly a quarter of a century. When, as first Lieutenant on the Cyane, he first looked upon the site of Monrovia, the beautiful promontory was covered with dense forests, of which the wild beasts were the only occupants. On this, his third visit, he found a thriving town full of happy people. Churches, school-houses, missionary establishments, a court-house, printing-presses and ware-houses, vessels at anchor in the harbor, made a scene to delight the eyes. Though there were farms and clearings, the people, he noticed, preferred trade to agriculture. While many were poor, many also were rich, and all were comfortable. He considered that upon the whole the experiment of colonization of the free blacks of the United States was a success. More settlements, a line of them on the coast, were however needed to enable the colonist to assist in suppressing the slave-trade, to encourage the civilized natives, and to increase commerce.

Monrovia, so named in honor of President James Monroe, at this time contained five hundred houses with five churches and several schools. The Sunday-schools were conducted like those in New England.

The flag of Liberia contained stripes and a cross, emblems of the United States and Christian philanthropy. The flag of the Liberian Confederation is now a single white star on a square blue field with stripes. Its twelve thousand square miles of territory contain twenty thousand colored people from the United States, five thousand “Congos” or recaptured slaves, and eight hundred thousand aborigines.

At that time, the various settlements under the care of the American Colonization Society were separate petty colonies or governments and not, as now, united into one republic of Liberia. Perry was, at first, puzzled to know his exact relations to the governors of Monrovia and Cape Palmas, who styled themselves “Agents of the United States.” While eager to assist them in every way, he yet knew it his duty to refrain from anything calculated to give them a wrong impression.

There was to be no deviation from the settled policy of the United States not to hold colonies abroad. The political connection between the United States and Liberia, the only colonial enterprise ever undertaken by our country, was but a silken thread. The aim of our government seemed to be to honor the rising negro republic, to protect American trade and missionaries, and to overawe the elements of violence among the savages, so as to give the nascent civilization on the coast a fair chance of life. In this spirit, Perry performed faithfully his delicate duties.

It was noted by the naval officers that the freedmen from America looked down upon the natives as savages, and were horrified at their heathenism and nudity. The unblushing display of epidermis all around them shocked their feelings. Each African lady was a literal Flora McFlimsey “with nothing to wear.” In building their houses, the settlers followed rather the model of domestic architecture below Mason and Dixon’s line than that above it. The excellent feature of having the kitchen separate from the dwelling was transported to “Maryland in Africa,” as in “the old Kentucky home.”

The colored missionaries were having encouraging success. The pastor at Millsburg, a town named after the Rev. Mr. Mills, one of the first missionaries from the United States, was a fine, manly looking person. One of the settlers was an Indian negro, formerly a steward on Commodore McDonough’s ship and present at the battle of Lake Champlain. He afterwards removed to Sierra Leone to afford his daughters, who were dressmakers, better opportunities.

Edina and Bassa Cove were settlements under the patronage of the Colonization Societies of New York and Pennsylvania. The Maryland colony was at Cape Palmas, that of Mississippi at Sinoe, while another settlement was named New Georgia. The freed slaves, remembering the labors in the cotton fields under the American overseer, could not easily rid themselves of their old associations with mother earth. Labor spent in tilling the soil seemed to be personal degradation. To earn their bread by the sweat of their brow and the toil of their back in the new land of freedom was, to them, so nearly the same as slavery that they utterly forsook it, and resorted to small trade with the men of the beach or deck. In the bush, imitating the Yankees, whom they had been taught to abhor, they peddled English slave-goods manufactured at Birmingham for ivory and oil. In dress they followed out the customs of their masters at home, copying or parodying the latest fashion plates from New York, Philadelphia or London. In church, many silk dresses would be both seen and heard among the women.

Serious drawbacks to successful colonization existed. Among the freed slaves the women were in the proportion to men three and a half to one. Even the adult males were like children, having been just released from slavery, with little power of foresight or self reliance. The jealousy felt by the black rulers toward the white missionaries was great, while heathenism was bold, defiant and, aggressive.

American black men could be easily acclimated, while the whites were sure to die if they persisted in a residence. The strain on the constitution of a white man during one year on the African station equalled that of five or six years on any other. Most of the British officers made it a rule of “kill or cure,” and, on first coming out on the station, slept on shore to decide quickly the question. It was almost certain death for a white person unacclimated to sleep a night exposed to the baleful influence of the land miasma. Perry as a lieutenant, when without instruction, did the best he could to save the men from exposure. He avoided the sickly localities and took great precautions. Hence there was no death on the Shark in two years, though, besides visiting Africa, all the sickly ports in the West Indies, the Spanish Main and Mexico were entered. Now a Commodore, while cruising off “the white man’s grave,” Perry made the health of his men his first consideration. When on the Fulton in New York, he had been called upon by the Department to express his views at length upon the best methods of preserving life and health on the Africa station. Possessing the pen of a ready writer, amid the press of his other duties, he wrote out an exhaustive and readable report of twelve pages in clear English and in his best style.

This epitome of naval life is full and minute in directions. The methods followed in the Shark, with improvements suggested by experience, were now vigorously enforced on all the ships of the squadron. The men were brought up on deck and well soused, carefully wiped, dried, warmed and, willy-nilly, swathed in woolens. Stoves were lighted amidships, and the anthracite glowed in the hold, throwing a dry, anti-mouldy heat which was most grateful amid the torrid rains and tropical steam baths. Fans, pumps, and bellows, plied in every corner, drove out the foul air that lurked like demons in dark places. All infection was quickly banished by the smudges, villainous in smell but wholesome in effect, that smoked out all vermin and miasma.

The sailors at first growled fiercely, though some from the outset laughed at what seemed to them blank and blanked nonsense, but their maledictions availed with the Commodore no more than a tinker’s. Gradually they began to like scrub and broom drill, and finally they enjoyed the game, becoming as hilarious as Dutch housemaids on cleaning day. Spite of the nightly rains, the ships in their interiors were never mouldy, but ever fresh, dry, and clean. Health on board was nearly perfect.

In his own way, the vigilant Commodore fought and drove off the scorbutic wolf with broadsides of onions and potatoes, and kept his men in superb physical condition and his staff unbroken, while British officers died by the score, and left their bones in the white man’s grave. After the dinner parties and entertainments on shore, the American officers left promptly at eight o’clock so as to avoid night exposure.

Long immunity from sickness at length began to breed carelessness in some of the ships, when away from the eye of the Commodore. In one instance the results were heart-rending. The wild blacks in 1843 made an attack upon Bissas, a Portuguese settlement on the coast south of the Gambia river, incurring the loss of much American property. The Commodore dispatched Lieutenant Freelon in the Preble to help the garrison and prevent a further attack from the hostile natives.

The Preble went up the river on which the settlement was situated, and anchored there for thirteen days. Out of her crew of one hundred and forty-four men, ninety were attacked by fever. The ship, from being first a floating hospital, became a coffin, from which nineteen bodies were consigned to the deep. The plague-stricken vessel with her depleted crew arrived at Porto Praya, and, to the grief of the Commodore, there was an added cause of regret.

The ship’s commander and the surgeon had quarreled as to the causes of the outbreak of the pestilence. The lieutenant stoutly maintained that the outbreak was owing to “the pestilential character of the African coast, and the Providence of God.” The surgeon, taking a less pseudo-pious, more prosaic but truer view, laid it to nearer and easily visible causes. The acrid correspondence between cabin and sick bay was laid before Perry. He read, with much pain, of the “insults,” “lies,” and other crimes of tongue or pen mutually shed out of the ink bottles of the respective literary belligerents. Kellogg, the surgeon, asked the Commodore for an investigation. As Perry did not think it wise at that time either to withdraw the officers from survey duty, or to endanger the convalescents by keeping the Preble near shore, he ordered the infected vessel out to sea.

One can easily imagine with whose opinions Perry sympathized, as he read the documents in the case. Perry never even suspected that religion and science needed any reconciliation, both being to him forms of the same duty of man. In narrating the actual occurrences at Bissas, the surgeon showed that most of Perry’s hygienic rules had been systematically broken. The Preble, for thirteen days, was anchored within a quarter of a mile of the shore, exposed to the exhalations of a bank of mud left bare by the ebb-tide and exposed to the rays of a vertical sun. At night, the men were allowed to sleep out on deck with the miasma-laden breezes from the swamps blowing over them. While painting the ship, the crew were exposed to the sun’s glare. They were sent day and night to assist the garrison of Bissas, and, in two cases, returned from sporting excursions fatigued and wet. The first case of fever began on the 5th, and the disease was fully developed in fourteen days. The sad results of the visit of the Preble up the miasmatic river were soon manifest in scores of dead. Perry’s grief at the loss of so many valuable lives was as keen as his vexation was great, because it was unnecessary and inexcusable.

In two other instances also the energy and promptness of the Commodore proved the saving of many lives. One of our ships put into Porto Praya, with African fever on board and short of water. The water of Porto Praya, being unfit for sick persons, Perry at once supplied her tanks from the flag-ship. Then quickly sailing to Porto Grande, he returned promptly with fresh relief for the stricken men. Another vessel being short of medicines, the Commodore proceeded with the flag-ship to the French settlement of Goree, immediately returning with quinine. His celerity at once checked the death list and multiplied convalescents.

Within the cruising ground prescribed for the African squadron, it was found that there was not a suitably enclosed burial place for the officers and sailors who might die. Men-of-war and merchant sailors had been thrown overboard or buried in different spots here, there, and everywhere, on beaches just above high water mark, on arid plains and on barren bluffs. So prevalent was the refusal, by Portuguese, of the rites of burial to Protestant sailors, that it was their custom to have a cross tattooed on their arms so that when dead they might get sepulture.

The reason for this sporadic burial of our men must be laid at the doors of bigotry. In some parts of Christendom, even among enlightened nations, where political churches are established, there lingers a heathenish relic of superstitious sectarianism under the garb of the Christian religion, in what is called “consecrated ground.” By this pretext of holiness, the sectaries logically carry into the grave the feuds and hatreds born of the very wickedness from which by their creeds and ritual they expect to be saved. This feeling is in southern Europe and the papal colonies, so intensified that it is next to impossible for a man denying the Roman faith to obtain burial in a cemetery governed by adherents of the Pope. Even the semi-civilized Portuguese refused to give interment to American officers in what they denominate “consecrated ground.”

This gave Perry an opportunity to establish a burial place for the American dead of every creed. In the words of the bluff sailor, after referring to the fact that “Catholics” do not like “Protestants” in their grounds, he says, “With us the same spirit of intolerance shall not prevail, and in our United States Cemetery the remains of Jew and Gentile, Catholic and Protestant will be laid in peace together.”

Accordingly, the cemetery for the dead of the Preble was prepared at Porto Grande. A plot of land having been purchased, was given in fee by the authorities. It was duly graded, and a stone wall seven feet high erected to enclose it, and thus protect it from the wash of rains and the trespasses of vagrant animals. Timber for headboards was furnished from the ship, and the amount of two hundred dollars for expenses incurred was subscribed by the officers and men.

The governor of the island of Santa Iago was ordered by the general government to give a legal title to a cemetery for “persons not Catholics.” The burial ground plotted out by the Commodore adjoined the other village cemetery at the same place called “The Cocoanuts.” The three new walls enclosing it were respectively one hundred by one hundred by ninety-four feet. The width of the wall masonry was three “palms” or twenty-seven inches, and the foundation was to be three-fourths of a yard deep. In this true God’s acre, more truly consecrated by the christening of Christian charity than the bigot’s benison, Perry was glad to permit also the burial of some British sailors. In a letter of thanks from Commodore W. Jones, of her Britannic Majesty’s squadron, the latter writes of the cemetery at Porto Grande, “In which you kindly permitted the interment of such British seamen as would have had their remains excluded from the (Roman) Catholic cemeteries at those places.”

“It seems hard that Englishmen should thus be indebted to the charity of strangers for a little Portuguese earth to cover them. It is a consolation that, in countries where superstition so far cancels gratitude and Christian feeling, that the noblest grave of a seaman, and in my opinion far the most preferable, is always at hand.”

Relieved by Commodore Skinner, Perry arrived in the Macedonian, off Sandy Hook, April 28, 1845.

During his service on this station, Perry exhibited his usual energy and patriotism in being ever sensitive to the honor of the flag, the navy and his country. In the exercise of his duty, he was frequently drawn into situations which evoked sharp controversies with the magistrates and officials of different nationalities in regard to restrictions in their ports, certain ceremonies, salutes, and minutiæ of etiquette. With practiced pen, this American sailor, a loving reader of Addison, showed himself a master in diplomacy and the art of expression. Uniting to the bluff ingenuousness of a sailor, something of the polish of a courtier, he almost invariably gained the advantage, and came off the best man. His conduct in delicate matters evoked the praise of both the American and English governments.

The American commanders on the African coast were too much handicapped by their instructions to be equally successful with the British cruisers against the slavers. Claiming the right of visitation and search, the Englishmen boarded all suspicious vessels except the American, and broke up the slave depots. The American men-of-war, in the actual work of destroying the slave traffic, formed rather a sentimental squadron, “chasing shadows in a deadly climate.”

The insatiable demand of Cuba for slaves made man-stealing and selling profitable, even if the speculators in human flesh lost four cargoes out of every five. Most of the masters of barracoons were Spaniards, and some were college-bred men, with harems and splendid mansions. The price of a slave on the coast was $30, while in Cuba it was $300. Blanco White, who had a fleet of one hundred vessels, barracoons as large as Chicago stock-yards, and a trade of eight thousand human carcasses a year, lost in one year by capture, eight vessels. As he recovered insurance on all of them, his loss was slight. The business of slave export, like that of the Nassau blockade-runners during our civil war, had in it plenty of gain, some lively excitement, but little or no danger. Decoys were commonly used. While a gun-boat was giving chase to some old tub of a vessel, with fifty diseased or worn-out slaves on board, a clipper-ship with several hundred in her hold, with loaded cannon to sweep the decks in case of mutiny, and with manacles for the refractory, would dash out of her hiding-place among the mangroves and scud across the open sea to Cuba or Brazil.

During Perry’s stay on the African coast, the French had a squadron of eleven vessels, and the British a fleet of thirty, eleven of which were steamers. The other Powers were willing to save their cash, and allowed the British to spend their money and do the work. The French capturing not one prize, turned their attention to seizing territory. Their policy in Africa, as in Asia, was an attempt to make new nations by means of priests and soldiers. It began with brandy, progressed with bombardment, and wound up with military occupation. The beginning of their African possessions was the seizure of Gaboon, where in 1842, five American missionaries had begun labor. By limitation of his orders, Perry was unable to do anything in the case, though notifying the Department of the facts and the danger.

A French critic writing in 1884, of French “expansion,” “prestige,” and “civilization,” in their so-called possessions, mostly in the torrid zone, speaks of this system of “artificial hatching, which was to produce a swarming brood of little Frenchmen.” “We see,” says he, “the broken eggs, but find neither omelette nor chicks.”

At present, in 1887, the west coast of Africa, valuable as affording gateways into the interior, is owned as follows: by England, 1300 miles; by Portugal, 800 miles; by Liberia, 350 miles; by Germany, 750 miles; by natives, 900 miles. Missionary stations now occupy many of the old slave-marts. By faith and knowledge, prayer and quinine, the white man is making the dark continent light. Ethiopia is lifting up her gift-laden hands to God.


The long agitation, in behalf of the establishment of a Naval Academy, by leading American naval officers, prominent among whom was Captain Perry, bore fruit in the year 1845. Mr. George Bancroft, another of the eminent literary men who have acted as Secretaries of the Navy, convened a board of officers at Philadelphia, June 24, and directed them to make suggestions in regard to a naval school. In this board were Commodores George C. Read, T. ap. Catesby Jones, M. C. Perry, Captains E. A. F. Lavallette and Isaac Mayo. Full of enthusiasm for the proposed enterprise, they wrote a report outlining its leading features. Secretary Bancroft’s energy secured the execution of the plan, and the United States Naval Academy was begun on the grounds of Fort Severn, near Annapolis. Many friends warmly urged Perry’s name as principal, but he was not an applicant for the post. Captain Franklin Buchanan was most worthily chosen, and the sessions began October 10, 1845. Under successive superintendents, the Naval Academy has become one of the first professional schools in the world, having thus far graduated over twelve hundred naval officers, equipped either for seamanship or engineering.

Service afloat, in the Gulf of Mexico, was preparing. His first application for service, in case of war, was made on the 16th of August. Meanwhile, he called the attention of Secretary Bancroft to the defective state of our signals, and forwarded the code of Admiral Rohde, of the Danish navy, as the basis of a new compilation; and, according to orders, engaged in the examination of merchant steamers, with a view to harbor and coast defence, and for use in war. On the 4th of February, 1846, he received information from Mexico which satisfied him that war was inevitable, and that he would soon be in the land of the cactus, the eagle, and the serpent. Further, the frigate Cumberland, when in the act of starting for the Mediterranean, was ordered to Vera Cruz.

In answer to repeated offers of service, Perry received orders dated August 20, 1846, to command the two new steamers, Vixen and Spitfire, which were fitting out at New York. When these were ready, he was to go out to relieve Captain Fitzhugh of the Mississippi. The younger officers, graduates of the Sandy Hook School of Gunnery, were eager to serve under their former instructor, especially when they saw that he, himself, gladly accepted an inferior command in order to serve his country well. He arrived at Vera Cruz on the 24th of September. He was subordinate to Commodore Conner, whose date of commission preceded his own; but practically, though not officially, the Gulf or Home squadron was divided. Conner had charge of the sail, and Perry of the steam vessels. Owing to lack of ships of light draught, Conner had been able to accomplish little. The splendid opportunities of the first year were lost, and naval expeditions, even when attempted, proved failures. The most notorious of these was the second unsuccessful demonstration at Alvarado, October 16, which shook the faith of the strongest believers in the abilities and resolution of Commodore Conner.[15] Because of the grounding of the schooner McLane, on the bar, the enterprise was given up for the day. On the morrow, when all was ready for a second attempt, and the men eager for the fray—their last will and testament having been left numerously with the chaplain—the flag-ship’s signals were read with amazement and wrath: “Return to the anchorage off Vera Cruz.” Whether the pilots feared a “norther,” or Conner doubted the military qualities of his seamen on land, or believed his craft unsuited to the task, is not certainly known.

The main squadron lay off Sacrificios Island, safely out of range of the forts. Many glasses were pointed anxiously night and day toward the flag-ship for signals, which were not made. There were some French vessels in the harbor. With characteristic diligence, the officers, impatient to see hostilities begin, yet athirst for archæological honors, began excavations for Aztec ruins, and found a number of relics. The Americans chafed. Even the sight of the snow-capped mountains in the distance, once burning and still beautiful, and the Southern Cross at night, palled on the eye. The sailors wearied of polishing their small arms and furbishing their weapons, and longed to use them. The big guns were made lustrous with the fragrant sea-pitch, or “black amber,” from off the sea-bottom, until their coats shone like Japanese lacquer. This substance had a perfume like guava jelly, but the sailors longed rather to sniff the air of battle. Like Job’s war-horse, they had thus far been able to do so only from afar. Out of the north came news of successes continually, while the sailors still scraped and scrubbed.[16]

The senior commodore acted generously to Perry, who, being allowed to do something on his own account, and happy enough to do it, planned the capture of Tabasco. It was in Tabasco that Cortez fought his first battle on Mexican soil. This town, on the river of the same name, had about five hundred inhabitants garrisoned by state troops. These were commanded by General Bravo, who had sent several challenges inviting attack. The Mexicans reckoned that the natural sandbar at the river’s mouth was a better defence than guns or forts, and the grounding of the McLane at Alvarado, doubtless lulled them into this delusion. The object of the expedition was to capture the fleet of small craft moored in fancied security in the river. This consisted of two steamers, a brig, a sloop, five schooners and numerous boats and lighters—just what was needed for the uses of our squadron, then so deficient in light draft vessels.

The attacking force consisted of the Mississippi, the Vixen, Bonita, Reefer, Nonita, McLane and Forward, with an extra force of two hundred marines from the Raritan and Cumberland. Leaving Anton Lizardo, October 16, they arrived at Frontera on the 23d. Without losing a moment of time, Perry made a dash across the bar almost before the Mexicans knew of his arrival, and captured the town. Two river steamers, which plied between the city and port, Tabasco and Frontera, were lying at the wharf under the guns of the battery. One had steam up and the supper-table spread. After these had been captured by cutting out parties, the captors enjoyed the hot supper.

The next two days, the 24th and 25th, were consumed in accomplishing the seventy-two miles of river navigation, in the face of a heavy, strong current. The Petrita and Vixen did most of the towing. Reaching the famous “Devil’s Turn,” at 2 p. m., and finding a battery in view, Perry ordered a landing party ashore, which speedily entered the deserted fort and spiked the four twenty-four pound cannon found there. The city was reached at 3 p. m. Anchoring the vessels in line ahead, at a distance of one hundred and fifty yards, so as to command the principal streets, Perry summoned the city to surrender, threatening to open fire in case of refusal. The governor declining with defiance, returned answer, “Fire as soon as you please.”

To give a mild taste of what bombardment might mean, Perry ordered Commander Sands to let the Vixen’s guns be trained on the flag-staff of the fort. So accurate was the fire, that, of the three shots, one cut the pole and the flag fell. This was taken by the fleet as the sign of surrender. A Mexican officer soon after came off, begging that the hospitals might be spared. Perry at once granted the prayer. By this time, it was nearly five o’clock and possibly time to take the fort. As Perry believed in using the men while their war-blood was hot, he ordered Captain Forrest, a brave but deliberate man, to land his two hundred marines and take the fort, the main body of the military having left the town. While the men were forming, impatiently awaiting the order to advance, they had to stand under an irregular fire of musketry from the chapparal. Seeing that it was late, and the risk too great for the prize, Perry, ordering the men on board again, saved his marines for the morrow.

At daylight of the 26th, some Mexicans, who had sneaked as near the flotilla as possible, opened a sharp fire on our men. The cannon were at once trained and kept busy in brushing away these “ground-spiders,” as the Japanese would call such ambuscaders. “Pomegranate shot,” to use a term from the same language, for shrapnel, were freely used.

The display of a white flag from the city shore stopped the firing, and the Commodore received a petition from the foreign consuls and inhabitants that the town should be spared. He granted the petition, adding that his only desire was to fight soldiers and not non-combatants.

Out of pure feelings of humanity, Perry spared the city though there was much to irritate him. The Mexican regulars and armed peasants were still in or near the city, posted in military works or strong buildings of brick or stone, and reached only by the artillery of the flotilla. Yet the governor, while allowing war on our vessels, would not permit the people to leave the municipal limits; and so the women and children, crouched in the cellars, while the sneaking soldiers kept up their fusillade. Probably most of those who had been killed or wounded were peaceable inhabitants.

The Commodore now made preparations to return, and ordered the prizes to be got together. While this was going on, even though the white flag was conspicuously waving above the town, a party of eighty Mexicans attacked Lieutenant W. A. Parker and his party of eighteen men. Seeing this, Perry sent forward Lieutenant C. W. Morris, son of Commodore C. G. Morris, with orders and re-inforcement.

The young officer passed the gauntlet of the heavy fire which now opened along the banks. A musket ball struck him in the neck inflicting a mortal wound, but he stood up in the boat and cheered his men most gallantly as they bent to their oars, until he fell back in the arms of midshipman Cheever who was with him. The loss of this accomplished young officer and the treachery of the Mexicans made forbearance no longer a virtue. Perry at once ordered the guns of the fleet to open on the city and sweep the streets as a punishment to treachery. He spared as far as possible the houses of the consuls and those of peaceful citizens.

The Vixen, Bonita, Nonita and Forward kept up the cannonade for half an hour, by which some of the houses were demolished.

Having no force to hold the place, no field artillery, and a limited supply of muskets and equipments, Perry, after reducing the town, and neighborhood to silence, ordered the flotilla and prizes to move down the river. Having the current with them, they reached Frontera at midnight. One of the prizes, the Alvarado, having grounded on a shoal at the Devil’s Turn, was blown up and left. Lieutenant Walsh and his command had kept all quiet at Frontera. The McLane, with her usual luck, having struck on the bar, could not get up to take part in front of the city.

The Tabasco affair, notwithstanding that the city was not occupied, infused new spirit into the navy and was the stimulus to fresh exploits. The name of Perry again became the rallying cry. The moral influence on the whole squadron of the capture of Tabasco was good, and all were inspirited for fresh enterprises. Even if no other effect had been produced, the expedition broke the monotony of blockade duty and made life more endurable. Still the men thirsted for more glory, and yearned to satisfy the home press and people who were so eager for a “big butcher’s bill.”

The squadron returned to Anton Lizardo, where, on the 1st, Lieutenant Morris died on board the Cumberland. With the honors of war he was buried on Salmadina Island, where already a cemetery had begun. The prize Petrita distinguished herself by capturing an American vessel violating the blockade at Alvarado.

One of the steamers captured at Tabasco was formerly a fast river boat plying between Richmond and Norfolk, well named the Champion. Under Lieutenant Lockwood, she became a most valuable dispatch boat and of great use to the squadron.

The town of Tampico, 210 miles north of Vera Cruz, offered so tempting an opportunity of easy capture that Commodore Conner resolved to make the attempt.

The city was five miles from the mouth of the river Panuco, and had already sent a crack battalion to Santa Anna’s army. This perfidious leader was using all his craft to raise an army, hoping to recruit largely from American deserters. He supposed that all of General Taylor’s Irish Roman Catholic soldiers would desert, because seventy or eighty of them had done so. A battalion had been formed, and named Santa Patricio.

In this, the Mexican was keenly mistaken, the Irishmen holding loyally to their colors, and giving not the first, nor the last, illustration of their valor under the American flag. They here foreshadowed their later career during the civil war which produced a new character—the Irish-American soldier.

As Conner had been formally and repeatedly urged by General Bravo to visit and attack Tabasco, so also was he invited to come to Tampico. This time, however, it was by a lady, the wife of the American consul. She sent him the invitation stating that the city would yield without resistance. This proved to be true, as Santa Anna’s policy was to weaken the American forces by their necessity of a garrison to hold the place if taken, while the Tampico troops could be employed against General Taylor. In accordance with his orders, the place was evacuated by the military, who took along with them their stores and artillery. Prudence prevailing over valor, the Mexicans fell back to San Luis Potosi.

The squadron with the two Commodores, Conner and Perry arrived on Saturday, the 14th of November off the dangerous bar, the play-ground of numerous sharks. The eight vessels were easily got into the river Panuco. While this was going on, and the forward vessels were ascending the river, the stars and stripes were seen to rise over the city. This pretty act was that of the wife of the American consul who bravely remained after her husband had been banished.

A force of one-hundred and fifty marines and sailors was landed to occupy the town. This was done silently, and not a hostile shot was fired. Thus the second really successful operation of our navy in the Gulf was achieved by a woman’s help. Captain Tatnall was sent up the river eight miles, and captured the town of Panuco.

Tampico was seen to be a place of military importance, and troops were necessary to hold it, yet there was not then, an American soldier in this part of Mexico. All were in the north with General Taylor. So important did Conner feel this to be that, within a half hour after entering the town, he dispatched Perry to Matamoros for troops. The ever ready Commodore in his ever ready steamer, Mississippi, left at once for the north. At the mouth of the Brazos on the Texan coast, Perry informed General Patterson of the fall of Tampico, and notified him that a re-inforcement would be needed from the troops at Point Isabel. He then proceeded, of his own accord and most judiciously, as Conner wrote, to New Orleans, anchoring the Mississippi off the southwest pass of the river from which the steamer took her name, and in which, sixteen years later, she was to end her life.

Perry resolved to go up to New Orleans to stir up the authorities to greater energy and dispatch. He succeeded in obtaining fifty soldiers, some provisions, and from the governor of Louisiana, a fully equipped field train of six six-pounders and two howitzers, with two hundred rounds of shot and shell to each gun. This battery belonged to the State. He also received a large supply of entrenching tools and wheel-barrows.

All these were secured in one day, and, arriving back at Tampico after a week’s absence, November 21, he delighted and surprised the naval officers by what was considered, for the times, a great feat of transportation. Other steamers and military, arrived November 30, so that Tampico soon had a garrison of eight hundred men. Conner remained until December 13, organizing a government for the city, while Perry returned at once to Anton Lizardo.

Though life on shipboard was made more tolerable by these little excitements, it was dull enough. Fresh food supplies were low. The coming event of scurvy was beginning to cast shadows before in symptoms that betokened a near visitation. Perry, with his rooted anti-scorbutic principles, selected as the next point of attack a place that could supply the necessary luxuries of fresh beef and vegetables. Such a place was Laguna del Carmen, near Yucatan, at the extreme southeast of Mexico. It was in a healthy and well watered country rich in forests of logwood. Receiving permission of Commodore Conner, he made his preparations.

The ever trusty Mississippi, towing the Vixen and two schooners the Bonita and Petrel, moved out from the anchorage, like a hen with a brood of chickens, December 17, arriving off the bar on the 20th. Perry dashed in at once, and the place was easily taken.

Under a liberal policy, Laguna flourished and commerce increased. The American officers, worthy representatives of our institutions, were very popular not only with the dark-eyed senoritas, but also with the solid male citizens and men of business. Social life throve, and balls were frequent. The fleet was well and cheaply supplied with wholesome food. The Lagunas were delighted with an object lesson in American civilization, and during eighteen months so prosperous was their city, that, even after the treaty of peace, the people petitioned Commodore Perry not to withdraw his forces until Mexico was fully able to protect them.

General Taylor’s battles were bloody, but not decisive. His campaigns had little or no influence upon Paredes, and the government at the capital, because fought in the sparsely populated northern provinces. The war thus far had been magnificent, but not scientific. The country at large, scarcely knew of the existence of a victorious enemy on the soil. At the distance of five hundred miles from the capital, there was no pressure upon the leaders or people. The political nerves of Mexico, like China, were not as sensitive then, as in our days, when wires and batteries give the dullest nation a new nervous system.

Perry made a study of the whole field of war. He saw that the vitals of the country were vulnerable at Vera Cruz, that the city and castle once occupied, the navy, by sealing the ports, could enable the army to reach the capital where alone peace could be dictated.

The administration at last understood the situation and ordered a change of base. Recalling General Scott, who had been set aside on account of a difference of opinion with the War Department, and the ultra-economical administration, preparations were made for the advance, by sea and land, to the city of Mexico, where peace was to be dictated. The full and minute data which had been forwarded by Commodore Conner enabled the general to map out fully his brilliant campaign.

While Scott was perfecting details in the United States, the early winter in the Gulf passed away in steady blockade duty. The Mississippi which was the constant admiration of the squadron for her size, power, sea-worthiness, and incessant activity, now needing serious repairs and overhauling, was ordered back to the United States. Perry, in command of her, leaving Vera Cruz early in January, made the run safely to Norfolk, Va., and went up to Washington to hasten operations.

An examination was duly made by the board of survey. Their report declared that it would require six weeks to get the Mississippi ready for service.

This, to Perry, was disheartening news. It cast a fearful damper upon his spirits, but, as usual, he never knew when he was beaten. To remain away from the seat of war when affairs were ready to culminate at Vera Cruz, by the army and navy acting in generous rivalry, was not to be thought of. In this strait, he turned to his old and tried friend, Charles Haswell, his first engineer, and had him sent for and brought to Norfolk.

His confidence was well founded. Haswell declared that, by working night and day, the ship could be made ready in two weeks. So thorough was his knowledge and ability, and so akin to Perry’s was his energy, that in a fortnight the Commodore’s broad pennant was apeak, and the cornet, the American equivalent for “Blue Peter,” was flying on the mizzen truck. It was the signal for all officers to be aboard and admitted of no delay.

Mr. Haswell adds, in a note to the writer, “When I took leave of the Commodore on the morning of sailing, he thanked me in a manner indicative of a generous heart.”

We may safely add that, by his energies, and abilities in getting the Mississippi ready at this time, Mr. Haswell saved the government many thousands of dollars and contributed largely to the triumphs of a quick war which brought early peace.

While in Washington, Perry was in frequent consultation with the authorities, furnishing valuable information and suggestions. While the Mississippi was refitting, Perry was ordered to take the general oversight of the light draft vessels fitting out at New York and Boston for service in the gulf. This order read,—“You can communicate to heads of Bureaux, to hasten them and give to their commanders any necessary order.” The squadron in preparation consisted of the Scourge, Lieutenant C. G. Hunter; Scorpion, Commander, A. Bigelow; Vesuvius, Commander G. A. Magruder; Hecla, Lieutenant A. B. Fairfax; Electra, Lieutenant T. A. Hunt; Aetna, Commander W. S. Walker; Stromboli, Commander J. G. Van Brunt; Decatur, Commander R. S. Pinckney.

On the 25th of February, 1847, Perry received the following order, “You will proceed to the United States Steam Ship Mississippi, to the Gulf of Mexico, and, on your arrival, you will report to Commodore Conner, who will be instructed to transfer to you the command of the United States naval forces upon that station.”

In a letter dated March the 27th, 1847, the Secretary wrote, “The naval forces under your command . . . form the largest squadron it is believed, which has ever been assembled under the American flag . . . steamers, bomb ketches and sailing vessels of different classes.” Much was expected of this fleet, and much was to be accomplished.

Yet despite Perry’s command and mighty responsibilities—equal to those of an admiral—he was but a captain with a pennant. So economical was our mighty government.

In the matter of the war with Mexico—the war of a slave-holding against a free republic—Matthew Perry acted as a servant of the government. He was a naval officer whose business it was to carry out the orders of his superiors. With the moral question of invading Mexico, he had nothing to do. The responsibility lay upon the government of the United States, and especially upon the President, his cabinet and supporters.[17] Perry did not like the idea of invasion, and believed that redress could be obtained with little bloodshed, and hostilities be made the means of education to a sister republic. He therefore submitted to the government, a detailed plan for prosecuting the war:

1st. To occupy and colonize California, and annex it to the territory of the United States.

2nd. To withdraw all United States troops from the interior of Mexico proper.

3rd. To establish a military cordon along its northern frontiers.

4th. To occupy by naval detachments and military garrisons, all its principal ports in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

5th. To establish these ports temporarily, and during the continuance of the war, as American ports of entry with a tariff of specific duties.

6th. To throw these ports open for the admission under any friendly flag of all articles, foreign or domestic not contraband of war.

7th. To encourage the admission and sale of American manufactured goods and the staples of the country, “particularly that of tobacco, which is a present monopoly of Mexico, and yields to the government a large revenue.”

We should thus get a revenue to pay for the expenses of the war.

The advantages of Perry’s plan, stated in his own words, were that, “Instead of our waging a war of invasion, it would become one of occupation and necessary expediency, and consequently a contest more congenial to the institutions and professions of the American people.”

“The cost of the war would be reduced three-fourths, the results would be positive, and there would be an immense saving of human life. Commerce and kindness would remove false ideas of Mexicans concerning North American people, ideas so actively fomented by the Mexican clergy. As an argument in favor of humanity, the Mexican people would be led to pursue agriculture and mining, so that it would be hard to rouse sufficient military spirit in them to dislodge forces holding their ports.” The “baleful influence of the clergy would be lessened,” and the despotic power of the military be almost annihilated, so that the people would sue for peace. In short, this plan, if carried out, would be a great educational measure.

The Mississippi in those days was among ordinary war vessels, what the racers of the Atlantic to-day are among common steamers,—“an ocean greyhound.” Fleetly the gallant vessel moved south, passing exultingly the Bahamas, where many of our transports were waiting for a change of wind. Many of these were “ocean tramps”—hulks of such age and rottenness, that a norther would surely strand them. The Mississippi stopping at Havana, March 15, 1847, was after two days then pointed for Vera Cruz, arriving on the evening of the 20th.

See Parker’s Recollections of a Naval Officer, with reply of P. S. P. Conner, Army and Navy Journal, February 2, and April 19, 1884, and Magazine of American History, July, 1885.

Chaplain Fitch W. Taylor, The Broad Pennant.

See, for perhaps the best brief statement of the causes leading to the Mexican war and the part played by Polk, the article “Wars;” by Prof. Alexander Johnston, Lalor’s Encyclopaedia. Vol. III, p. 1091.


The precise methods and almost immutable laws of military science required that the American invasion of Mexico in 1847 should be at the exact spot on which Cortez landed two centuries before, and where the French disembarked in 1830, and in 1865. This was at the only port on the Gulf coast of Mexico, in which large vessels could anchor. Ships entered by the North channel or fastened to rings in the castle walls. Our war vessels lay a little south of the Vera Cruz founded by the Spanish buccaneer.

With but a few skirmishes and little loss, the line of circumvallation was completed by the 18th, and named Camp Washington. Ground was broken for intrenchments, and platforms were built for the mortars which were placed in sunken trenches out of sight from the city. Waiting for a pause in the raving norther, and then seizing opportunity by the foremost hair of the forelock, the sailors landed ten mortars and four twenty-four pounder guns. By the 22d, seven of the mortars were in position on their platforms. Most of these latter were of the small bronze pattern called coehorns, after their inventor the Dutch engineer, Baron Mennon de Coehorn. These pieces could be handled by two men. A few mortars were of the ten-inch pattern.

This was a pitiful array of ordnance to batter down a walled city, and a nearly impregnable castle. With these in activity, both city and castle, if well provisioned, could hold out for months. Shells falling perpendicularly would destroy women and children, but do little harm to soldiers. The forty other mortars and the heavy guns were somewhere at sea on the transports and as yet unheard of, while every day the shadow of the dreaded vomito stalked nearer. Vera Cruz must be taken before “King Death in his Yellow Robe” arrived. The Mexicans for the nonce, prayed for his coming.

The vomito, or yellow fever, is a gastro-nervous disorder which prostrates the nervous system, often killing its victims in five or six hours, though its usual course is from two to six days. Men are more susceptible to it than women. It was the Mexican’s hope, for Vera Cruz was its nursery, and the month of March its time of beginning. Northerners taken in the hot season might recover. In the cold season, an attack meant sure death. The disease is carried and propagated by mosquitoes and flies, and no system of inoculation was then known. An outbreak among our unacclimated men would mean an epidemic.

Scott, despite his well known excessive vanity, was a humane man and a scientific soldier. His ambition was to win success and glory at a minimum of loss of life, not only in his own army but among the enemy. His aim was to make a sensation by methods the reverse of Gen. Taylor’s, whose popularity had won him the soldier’s title of “Rough and Ready,” while Buena Vista had built the political platform on which he was to mount to the presidency. “Taylor the Louisianian’s” battles were sanguinary, but indecisive. He had driven in the Mexican left wing. Scott hoped to pierce the centre, to shed little blood and to make every shot tell. The people at home knew nothing of war as a science. They expected blood and “a big butcher’s bill,” and the newspapers at least would be disappointed unless gore was abundant. His soldiers and especially those who had been under Taylor and whose chief idea of fighting was a rush and a scuffle, failed at first to appreciate him, and dubbed this splendid soldier “Fuss and Feathers.”

Scott determined at once to show, as the key to his campaign, a city captured with trivial loss. Yet all his plans seemed about to be dashed, because his siege train had failed to come. The pitiful array of coehorns and ten-inch mortars, with four light twenty-four pounder guns and two Columbiads, would but splash Vera Cruz with the gore of non-combatants, while still the enemy’s flag was flaunted in defiance, and precious time was being lost. The general’s vanity—an immense part of him—was sorely wounded. “The accumulated science of the ages applied to the military art,” which he hoped to illustrate “on the plains of Vera Cruz,” was as yet of no avail. Further, as a military man, he was unwilling to open his batteries with a feeble fire which might even encourage the enemy to a prolonged resistance. Conner is said to have offered to lend him navy guns, but he declined.

Perry arrived at Vera Cruz in the Mississippi, March 20, 1847, after a passage of thirteen days from Norfolk. He was back just in time. Steam had enabled him to be on hand to accomplish one of the greatest triumphs of his life. His orders required him to attack the sea fort fronting Vera Cruz, “if the army had gone into the interior.” The United States fleet had lain before it for a whole year without aggression. He found our army landed and Vera Cruz invested on every side. The Mexicans were actively firing, but as yet there was no response from our side. That night it blew a gale from the North. The vessels hidden in spray, and the camps in sand, waited till daylight.

Early next morning, March 21, Perry was informed that the steamer Hunter together with her prize a French barque, the Jeune Nelly, which had been caught March 20th running the blockade out of Vera Cruz, and an American schooner, were all ashore on the northeast breakers of Green Island. Their crews, to the number of sixty souls, were in imminent danger of perishing. Among them was a mother and her infant child. Perry was quick to respond to the promptings of humanity. In such a gale, not a sailing vessel dared leave her moorings. The Mississippi had parted her cables, owing to the violence of the wind. A British war steamer lay much nearer the scene of disaster, without apparently thinking of the possibility of moving in such a gale; but Perry knew his noble ship and what to do with her. He dashed out in the teeth of the tempest and forced her through the terrific waves. In admiration of the act, Lieutenant Walke made a graphic picture of the rolling Mississippi, which now hangs in the hall of the Brooklyn Lyceum. Reaching Green Island, Perry cast anchor. Captain Mayo and four officers volunteered to go to the rescue of the wrecked people. In spite of the great peril, they saved the entire party. The scene was one of thrilling interest when the young mother embraced husband and child in safety on the deck of the noble steamer. Had not the Mississippi and Perry been at hand, the whole party must have perished.

It was on his return from this errand of humanity that Commodore Matthew Perry was given and assumed the command of the American fleet—the first of such magnitude, and the greatest yet assembled under the American flag. The time was 8 a. m. March 21st. As Captain Parker recollects: “On the twenty-first of March shortly after the hoisting of the colors, we were electrified by the signal from the flag-ship ‘Commodore Perry commands the squadron.’ ” At once, Perry called with Conner upon General Scott concerning the navy’s part in the siege.

The order of relief to Commodore Conner dated Washington March 3, 1847, was worded: “The uncertain duration of the war with Mexico has induced the President to direct me no longer to suspend the rule which limits the term of command in our squadrons in its application to your command of the Home Squadron.”


Scott had opened fire March 18th, but seeing his inability to breach the walls, he was obliged to apply for help from the navy. When the new and the old naval commanders visited him in his tent on the morning of the 21st, the General requested of Perry the loan of six of the heavy shell-guns of the navy for use by the army in battery. Perry’s reply was instant, hearty, characteristic, naval: “Certainly, General, but I must fight them.”

Scott said his soldiers would take charge of the guns, if the Commodore would land them on the beach. To this Perry said “no!” That “wherever the guns went, their officers and men must go with them.” Scott objected, declined the conditions, and renewed the bombardment with his small guns and mortars; but finding that he was only wasting time, he finally consented and asked Perry to send the guns with their naval crews. The marines were already in the trenches doing duty as part of the 3d U. S. artillery. Hitherto the sailors had acted as the laborers for the army, now they were to take part in the honors of the siege. This was on account of Perry’s demand.

How the successor of Conner announced to his sailors the glory awaiting them is told in the words of Rear-Admiral John H. Upshur. “I shall never forget the thrill which pervaded the squadron, when, on the day, within the very hour of his succeeding to the command, he announced from his barge, as he pulled under the sterns of all the vessels of the fleet, in succession, that we were to land guns and crews to participate in the investment of the city of Vera Cruz. Cheer after cheer was sent up in evidence of the enthusiasm this promise of a release from a life of inaction we had been leading under Perry’s predecessor inspired in every breast. In a moment everything was stir and bustle, and in an incredibly short space of time, each vessel had landed her big gun, with double crews of officers and men. . . Perry announced that those who did not behave themselves should not be allowed another chance to fight the enemy—which proved a guarantee of good conduct in all. . . . Under the energetic chief who succeeded to the command of a squadron dying of supineness, until his magic word revived it, the navy of the United States sustained its old prestige.”

Not only were men and officers on the ships thrilled at the sight of Perry’s pennant, but joy was carried to many hearts on shore. A writer in the New York Star, of August 7th, 1852, who was on board the flag-ship during two days of the siege details the incidents here narrated.

At the investment of the city there were still left in it a few American women with their children mostly of the working class, their husbands having been driven from the city by the authorities. Governor Landero was not the man to make war on women and children, and they remained in peace until the bombardment commenced. Then they thronged to the house of Mr. Gifford the British consul for protection, and he transferred them to the sloop-of-war Daring, Captain George Marsden, who found them what place he could on his decks, already crowded with British subjects flying from the doomed city.

We had then seventy vessels, chartered transports and vessels of war in front of the city, but from negligence on the part of General Scott and Commodore Conner no provision was made to succor and relieve our homeless citizens, though “I,” says the correspondent, “who write this from what I saw, caused application to be made to both to have them taken from the deck of the Daring (where they were in the way and only kept for charity) to some of our unoccupied transport cabins. Commodore Conner flatly refused, as Captain Forrest of the navy knows, for he heard it, to have anything to do with them, and General Scott had no time. Just about then, Commodore Perry came down, to the Gulf. At noon his pennon of command floated from the Mississippi, and before the sun went down, he had gathered into a place of safety every person, whether common working people or not, who had the right to claim the protection of the American flag.”

The same writer adds: “The other time I saw him, he had just been told that Mr. Beach of the New York Sun and his daughter were in great danger in the city of Mexico, as Mr. Beach was accused of being a secret agent of the United States. The informant at the same time volunteered the information that the Sun ‘went against the Navy and Commodore Perry.’ ‘The Navy must show him that he is mistaken in his bad opinion of it,’ said the bluff Commodore, ‘and the question is not who likes me but how to get an American citizen, and above all an unprotected female out of the hands of the Mexicans.’ The son of Gomez Farias, the then President of Mexico, and one or two other Mexican gentlemen had come on board the Mississippi from the British steamer, to solicit the kind offices of Commodore Perry for permits to pass the American lines. The Commodore seized the occasion to make exchange of honor, and courtesy with young Farias. He stated the case of a father and daughter being detained in dangerous uncertainty in the city of Mexico, and obtained the pledges of the Mexicans to promote their safe deliverance. It was effected before they arrived in Mexico, but the quick and generous action of Perry was none the less to be esteemed.”

We may thus summarize the events of a day ever memorable to Matthew Perry.

March 20th. Arrival from the United States in the Mississippi. Norther.

March 21. (a) Daylight—Rescue of the Hunter. (b) 8 a. m. Receives command of squadron. (c) Call with Conner on Gen. Scott. (d) Proposal for naval battery. (e) Perry returns to the fleet and assumes command. (f) Under stern of each vessel, announces naval battery. (g) Arranges for American women and children from Vera Cruz. (h) Preparations for landing the heavy navy guns.


Perry’s first order being that the navy should give the army the most efficient coöperation, by transferring part of its heavy battery from deck to land, the six guns of the size and pattern most desired by Scott were selected. With a view to distribute honors impartially among the ships, and to cheer the men, a double crew of sailors and officers was assigned to each gun; one of the crews being the regular complement for the gun. As everyone wanted to accompany the guns, lots were drawn among the junior officers for the honor. The crews having been picked, the landing of the ordnance began on the 22d. The pieces chosen were two thirty-twos from the Potomac, one of the same calibre from the Raritan, and one sixty-eight chambered Paixhans or Columbiad from the Mississippi, the Albany, and the St. Mary’s. The three thirty-twos weighed sixty-one, and the three sixty-eights, sixty-eight hundred-weight each.

These were landed in the surf-boats, and by hundreds of sailors and soldiers were hauled up on the beach. The transportation on heavy trucks was done by night, as it was necessary to conceal from the Mexicans the existence of such a formidable battery until it was ready to open. The site chosen was three miles off. The road, as invisible for the most part as an underground railway, was of sand, in which the two trucks—all that were available—sunk sometimes to the axles, and the men to the knees, so that the toilsome work resembled plowing.

The naval battery, which, in the circumvallation was “Number Four,” was constructed entirely of the material at hand, very plentiful and sewn up in bags. It had two traverses six or more feet thick, the purpose of which was to resist a flanking, or in naval parlance a “raking” fire, which might have swept the inner space clean. The guns were mounted in their own ship’s carriages on platforms, being run out with side tackle and hand-spikes, and their recoil checked with sandbags. The ridge on which the battery was planted was opposite the fort of Santa Barbara, parallel with the city walls and fifteen feet above their level. It was directly in front of General Patterson’s command. In the trenches beyond, lay his brigade of volunteers ready to support the work in case of a sortie and storming by the Mexicans. The balls were stacked within the sandy walls, but the magazine was stationed some distance behind. The cartridges were served by the powder boys as on shipboard, a small trench being dug for their protection while not in transit.

Here then was “the accumulated science of ages” on the plains of Vera Cruz applied to the naval art, and directed against the doomed city, erected by one of the greatest engineers of the age, Robert E. Lee, with ordnance served by the ablest naval artillerists of the world, the pupils of the leading officer of the American navy, Matthew C. Perry. Most of them had been trained under his eye at the Sandy Hook School of Gun Practice. They were now to turn their knowledge into account. Not a single random shot was fired.

The exact range of each of the familiar guns was known, and the precise distance to the nearest and more distant forts. The points to be aimed at had been mathematically determined by triangulation before a piece was fired. Shortly before 10 a. m. on the 24th of March, while the last gun mounted was being sponged and cleared of sand, the cannon of Santa Barbara opened with a fire so well aimed that it was clear that the battery was discovered. A few daring volunteers sprang out of the embrasures to clear away the brush and unmask the work. The chapparal was well chopped away to give free range to the officers who sighted the pieces, the aim being for the walls below the flag-pole. The direct and cross fire of seven forts soon converged on the sandbags, and the castle sent ten- and thirteen-inch shells flying over and around. When one of these fell inside, all dropped down to the ground. For the first five minutes the air seemed to be full of missiles, but our men after a little practice at houses and flag-staffs soon settled down to their work to do their best with navy guns. One lucky shot by Lieutenant Baldwin severed the flag-staff of Santa Barbara; at which, all hands mounted the parapet and gave three cheers. In order to allow free sweep to the big guns, the embrasures had been made large, thus offering a tempting target to the enemy.

The Mexicans were good heavy artillerists, but their shot was lighter than ours. Some of them were killed by their own balls which had been picked out of the sandbags by the Americans and fired back. Their strongest and best served battery was that fronting on the one worked by our sailors. The navy was here pitted against the navy, for the commander on the city side was Lieutenant of Marines D. Sebastian Holzinger, a German and an officer of several year’s service in the Mexican navy. He was as brave as he was capable; and when his flag-staff had been cut away, he and a young assistant leaped into the space outside, seized the flag and in sight of the Americans, nailed it to the staff again. A ball from the naval battery at the same moment striking the parapet, Holzinger and his companion were nearly buried in rubbish.

Within the city the Mexican soldiers, who had before found shelter in their bomb-proof places of retreat from the mortar bombs falling vertically into the streets, did not relish and could not hold out against missiles sent directly through the walls into their barracks and places of refuge. The Paixhans shells hit exactly among soldiers, and not into churches among women. It is said that when the Mexican engineers in the city picked up the solid thirty-two pounder shot and one of the unexploded eight-inch shells, they decided at once that the city must fall.

In spite of the hammering which the sand battery received, no material injury to its walls was done, and what there was was easily repaired at night. Captains Lee and Williams were willing to show faith in their own work, and remained in the redoubt during the fire. At 2.30 p. m. the ammunition was exhausted, and the heated ordnance was allowed to cool. The last gun fired was a double-shotted one of the Potomac. Captain Aulick wishing to send a despatch to Commodore Perry, Midshipman Fauntleroy volunteered to take it, and though the Mexicans were playing with all their artillery, he arrived safely on the beach and Perry received tidings of progress.

The embrasures were filled up with sandbags, and the garrison sat under the parapet, awaiting the relief party which approached about 4 o’clock. The Mexicans, who had been driven away from their guns, now finding the Americans silent, opened with redoubled vigor which made the approaching reinforcements watch the air keenly for the black spots which were round shots.

The result of the first day’s use of the navy guns was, that fifty feet of the city walls built of coquina or shell-rock, the curtains of the redoubt to right and left, were cut away. A great breach was made, about thirty-six feet wide, sufficient for a storming party to enter; while the thicker masonry of the forts was drilled like a colander. These breaches were partly filled at night by sandbags.

The relief party led by Captain Mayo reached the battery at sunset, and after a good supper, fell to sound sleep, during which time, the engineers repaired the parapet. It was a beautiful starlight night. The time for the chirping of the tropical insects had come, and they were awakening vigorously to their summer concerts. All night long the mortars, like geyser springs of fire, kept up their rhythmic flow of iron and flame. The great star-map of the heavens seemed scratched over with parabolas of red fire, the streaks of which were watched with delight by the soldiers, and with tremor by the beleagured people in the city.

At daylight the boatswain’s silver whistle called the men to rise, and the day’s work soon after breakfast began in earnest. The sailors manned their guns, firing so steadily that between seven and eight o’clock it was necessary to let the iron tubes cool. At 7 a. m. another army battery, of four twenty-fours and two eight-inch Paixhans being finished, joined in the roar. Their fire was rapid, but the dense growth of chapparal hid their objective points from view making good aim impossible, so that the damage done was not strikingly evident.

The castle garrison had now gained the exact range of the naval battery, and thirteen-inch shell from the castle began to fall all around and close to the sandbags throwing up loose showers of soil. One dropped within the battery but upon exploding, hurt no one. The round shot from the city forts were continually grazing the parapets, and it was while Midshipman T. D. Shubrick was levelling his gun and pointing it at a tower in one of the forts, that a round shot entered the embrasure instantly killing him. During the two days, four sailors were killed, mostly by solid shot in the head or chest; while five officers and five men were wounded, mostly by chapparal splinters of yucca, or cactus thorns and spurs, and fragments of sandbags.

Meanwhile, on deck, the Commodore co-operated in the “awful activity” of the American batteries. At daylight, Perry, seeing that the castle was paying particular attention to the naval battery, ordered Tatnall in the Spitfire to approach and open upon it, in order to divert the fire from the land forces. Tatnall asked the Commodore at what point he should engage. Perry replied, “Where you can do the most execution, sir.” The brave Tatnall took Perry at his word. With the Spitfire and the Vixen, commanded by Joshua R. Sands, each having two gun-boats in tow, he steamed up to within eighty yards distance, and began a furious cannonade upon the fortress holding his position for a half hour. The fight resembled a certain one, pictured on a Netherlands historical medal, of a swarm of bees trying to sting a tortoise to death despite his armor. Here was a division of “mosquito boats” blazing away at the stone castle within a distance which had enabled the Mexicans to blow them out of the water had they handled their guns aright. The affair became not only exciting but ludicrous, when Tatnall and Sands took still closer quarters within the Punto de Hornos, where the little vessels were at first almost hidden from view in the clouds of spray raised by the rain of balls that vexed only the water. Tatnall’s idea seemed to be to give the surgeons plenty to do. Perry, however, did not believe in that sort of warfare. When he saw that the castle guns which had been trained away from the land to the ships were rapidly improving their range, he recalled the audacious fighters.

Tatnall at first was not inclined to see the signals. The Commodore then sent a boat’s crew with preemptory orders to return. Amid the cheers of the men who brought them, Tatnall obeyed, though raging and storming with chagrin. Most of the men on board his ships were wet, but none had been hurt. To retreat without bloody decks was not to his taste.

General Scott, a thorough American, had long rid himself of the old British tradition, that in all wars there must be “a big butcher’s bill.” This idea was not much modified until after the Crimean war, which was mostly butchery, and little science,—magnificent, but not war. The Soudan campaign of 1884 threatened a revival of it. We have seen how this idea dominated on the British side, in the wished-for “yard arm engagements” of the navy in 1812, and how, in place of it, the Americans bent their energies to skill in seamanship and gunnery; or, in other words, to victory by science and skill.

Perry and Scott were alike in their ideas and tastes, they regarded war more as the application of military science to secure national ends with rapidity and economy, than as a scrimmage in which results were measured by the length of the lists of killed and wounded. Tatnall, a veteran of the old school, however, seemed still to adhere to the old British ideal, and was keenly disappointed to find so few hurt on the American side.

From daybreak to one p. m., over six hundred Paixhans shells and solid shot were fired into the city by the naval battery. Fort St. Iago, which had concentrated its fire on the army batteries, now opened on the naval redoubt, the guns of which were at once trained in the direction of the new foe. A few applications of the science of artillery proved the unerring accuracy of Perry’s pupils, and St. Iago was silenced.

Captain Mayo and his officers through their glasses saw the Mexicans evacuate the fort. Chagrined at having no foemen worthy of their fire, he ordered both officers and sailors to mount the parapet and give three cheers. “If the enemy intends to fire another shot, our cheers will draw it,” said the gallant little Captain; but echo and then silence were the only answers. The naval guns having opened the breach so desired by General Scott and silenced all opposition, had now nothing further to do, were again left to cool. The naval battery had fired in all thirteen hundred rounds.

At 2 p. m., Captain Mayo turned over the command to Lieutenant Bissell and mounted his horse, the only one on the ground, to give Commodore Perry the earliest information of the enemy’s being silenced. As he rode through the camp, General Scott was walking in front of his tent. Captain Mayo rode up to him and said “General, they are done, they will never fire another shot.”

The General, in great agitation, asked “Who? Your battery, the naval battery?”

Mayo answered, “No, General, the enemy is silenced. They will not fire another shot.” He then related what had occurred.

General Scott in his joy almost pulled Captain Mayo off his horse, saying (to use his own expression) “Commodore, I thank you and our brothers of the navy in the name of the army for this day’s work.”[18]

The General then went on and complimented in most extravagant terms the rapid and heavy fire of the naval battery upon the enemy; saying, when he was informed that Captain Mayo had sent to Perry for an additional supply of ammunition, that the post of honor and of danger had been assigned by him to the navy. The General’s remarks then became more personal. He said “I had my eye upon you, Captain Mayo, as Midshipman,[19] as a Lieutenant, as a Captain, now let me thank you personally as Commodore Mayo for this day’s work.”

The loss of the second day in the navy was one officer, Shubrick, and one sailor killed and three wounded. Lieutenant Shubrick’s monument stands in the Annapolis Naval Academy’s grounds.

On Captain Mayo’s notification to Perry of the results of the cannonade by navy guns, preparations for assault were continued. It had been agreed by General Scott and Commodore Perry that the storming party should consist of three columns, one of sailors and marines, one of the regulars, and one of volunteers. Perry had resolved to head his column in person, and had already ordered ladders made. The part assigned to the navy was to carry the sea front. Perry had also planned the storming, by boat parties, of the water battery of the castle so that its guns might be spiked. For this a dark night was necessary, and the waning of the moon had to be awaited. Perry was unable to get into the position which the French had occupied in 1839, because they had treacherously moved there in time of peace; as Courbet, in 1882, got into the Min river at Foo Chow, China. For the attack on the city, ladders were already finished. Having no other material at hand, the studding-sail booms of the Mississippi had been sawed up, and the navy was ready. The volunteers were to enter through the breach made by the navy guns.

The relief party from the ships under Captain, now Rear-Admiral Breese, took their places in the naval battery on the afternoon of the 25th, ready for another day’s work if necessary. But this was not to be. The Mexican governor ordered a parley to be sounded from the city walls at evening. The signal was not understood by our forces, and the mortars kept belching their fire all night long. The next morning, the 26th, a white flag was displayed; and at 8 a. m., all the batteries ceased their fire, and quietness reigned along our lines.

A conference for capitulation was held at the lime kilns at Point Hornos. The commissioners from the army were General W. T. Worth, and Colonel Totten of the engineers,—Scott’s comrades-in-arms at Fort George in 1813—and General Pillow, who commanded a brigade of volunteers, from Tennessee. By this time, another frightful norther had burst upon land and sea. Communication with the ships could not be held, and so Perry could not be invited to sit with the commissioners, for which General Scott handsomely apologized. The navy, however, was represented by the senior captain, J. H. Aulick; while Commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, a fluent scholar in Spanish, officiated as interpreter. These officers acted in the convention entirely independent of the authority of the General, as naval officers. The Mexican commandant’s propositions were rejected, and unconditional surrender was dictated and accepted.

In the great norther of the 26th of March, twenty-six transports went ashore, and cargoes to the amount of half a million of dollars were lost. On the night of the frightful storm there was bright moonlight, and the vessels driving shoreward to their doom or dashing on the rocks were seen from the city.

Unexpectedly to General Scott, Landero, the successor of Morales who was commandant both of the city and castle, made unconditional surrender both at once. Scott had expected to take the city first, and then with the navy to reduce the castle, it being unknown to him that Morales held command at both places. It may safely be affirmed that the moral effect caused by the tremendous execution of the naval battery caused this unexpected surrender of the castle. Nevertheless the credit of the fall of Vera Cruz belongs equally to three men, Conner, Scott and Perry.

For his advance into the interior, General Scott needed animals for transportation, and with Perry the capture of Alvarado was planned. Horses were abundant at this place, and good water was plentiful. On two previous occasions, under Conner, attempts to capture this town had proved miserable failures, so that Perry and his men were exceedingly anxious to succeed in securing it themselves. It was hoped too, that an imposing demonstration by sea and land would, since Vera Cruz had fallen, intimidate and conciliate the people and prevent them joining Santa Anna. As usual, Perry distributed the honors impartially among the crews of many vessels. Quitman’s cavalry and infantry and a section of Steptoe’s artillery went by land. A party of the sailors bridged the rivers for the soldiers.

On the day of the fall of Vera Cruz, Lieutenant Charles G. Hunter of the Scourge had arrived. He was ordered to blockade Alvarado, and report to Captain Breese of the Albany. Hunter seeing signs of retreat, without waiting for orders moved his vessel in. He found the guns dismounted, and leaving two or three men in the deserted place, went up the river to Tlacahalpa, firing right and left at whatever seemed an enemy. As not an ounce of Mexican powder was burned in opposition the whole act seemed one of theatrical bravado. He left no word to his superior officers, only directing a midshipman to write to General Quitman. The cavalry on arriving found the town had surrendered.

Perry ordered the arrest of Hunter, preferred charges against him, and after court martial he was dismissed from the squadron. The people at home feasted and toasted him, and “Alvarado Hunter” was the hero of the hour, while Perry was made the target of the newspapers. Hunter’s subsequent career is the best commentary upon the act of Commodore Perry, and a full justification of it.[20] Between gallantry, and bravado coupled with a selfish breach of discipline, Perry made a clear distinction and acted upon his convictions.

Of the sixty guns found at Alvarado thirty-five were shipped as trophies and twenty-five were destroyed.

Midshipman Robert C. Rodgers had been captured by the Mexicans near the wall of Vera Cruz and was imprisoned in the castle of Perote as a spy. Though Scott wanted to be the sole channel of communication with the Mexican government, Perry claimed equal power in all that relates to the navy. He sent Lieutenant Raphael Semmes (afterwards of Confederate and Alabama fame) with the army for the purpose. Scott refused to allow him to communicate, but permitted him to remain one of the general’s aids. Semmes was thus enabled to see the battles of the campaign, the story of which he has told in his interesting book.

One of Perry’s favorite young officers at this time was Lieutenant James S. Thornton afterwards the efficient executive officer on the Kearsarge in her conflict with the Alabama.

Letter of Captain Mayo to Commodore M. C. Perry, November 4th, 1848.

Isaac Mayo was on the Hornet, in her capture of the Penguin in the war of 1812.

Captain W. H. Parker’s “Recollections of a Naval Officer,” p. 105.


Commodore Matthew C. Perry was one of the first American naval officers to overcome the prejudice of seamen against infantry drill, and to form a corps of sailor-soldiers. Under his predecessor, the navy had lost more than one opportunity of gaining distinction because [they were] unable to compete with infantry, or to face cavalry in the open field. Perry formed the first United States naval brigade, though Stockton in California employed a few of his sailors as marines in garrison. The men of Perry’s brigade numbering twenty-five hundred, with ten pieces of artillery, were thoroughly drilled first in the manual of arms and then in company and battalion formations under his own eye. His first employment of part of this body was at Tuspan. Twenty-two days after the fall of Vera Cruz, and on the day of the battle of Cerro Gordo, the bar at the river’s mouth was crossed by the light ships, the fort stormed, and Tuspan “taken at a gallop!” Obliged to give up his marines to General Franklin Pierce, Perry drilled his sailors all the more, so that little leisure was allowed them.

The capture of Tabasco involved the problem of fighting against infantry, posted behind breastworks, with sailors. This was somewhat novel work for our navy. Hitherto all our naval traditions were of squadron fights in line, ship-to-ship duels, or boat expeditions. In the present case the flotilla was to ascend a narrow and torturous river to the distance of nearly seventy miles through an enemy’s country densely covered with vegetation that afforded a continuous cover for riflemen, and then to attack heavy shore batteries.

From various points on the coast, the ships and steamers assembled like magic, and on Monday morning, June 14, 1847, the squadron came to anchor off the mouth of the Tabasco river. The detachments from eleven vessels, numbering 1084 seamen and marines in forty boats, were under the Commodore’s immediate direction and command. He had prepared the plan of attack with great care. Every contingency was foreseen and provided against, and the minutest details were subject to his thoughtful elaboration.

At that point of the river called the Devil’s Bend, danger was apprehended. Here the dense chapparal feathered down to the river’s edge affording a splendid opportunity for ambush. The alert Commodore was standing on the upper waist deck of the Scorpion under the awnings entirely exposed, on the look-out for the enemy. Suddenly, as the flag-ship reached the elbow, from the left side of the river the guns of at least a hundred men blazed forth in a volley, followed by a dropping fire. In an instant the awnings were riddled and all the upper works of wood and iron scratched, dented, and splintered, by the spatter of lead and copper. Strange to say, not a single man on the Scorpion was touched by the volley though a sailor on the Vesuvius was hit later.

As the smoke curled up from the chapparal, Perry pointed with his glass to the guns still flashing, and gave, or rather roared out, the order “Fire.” The guns of the Scorpion, Washington and the surf-boats, with a rattling fusillade of small arms, soon mowed great swaths in the jungle. From the masthead of the Stromboli, a number of cavalry were seen beyond the jungle. A ten-inch shell, from the eight-ton gun of the Vesuvius, exploding among them, seemed to the enemy to be an attack in the rear, cutting off their retreat, and they scattered wildly. Very few of the Mexicans took time to reload or fire a second shot.

It was now past six o’clock and it was determined to anchor for the night. The whole squadron assembled in the Devil’s Turn, and anchored in sight of the Seven Palm Trees below which the obstructions had been sunk. Due precautions were taken against a night attack, as the dense chapparal was only twenty yards distant. A barricade of hammocks was therefore thrown up on the bulwarks for protection, and the sailors, as soldiers are, in rhetoric, said to do, “slept on their arms.” But one volley was received from the shore during the night, the air only receiving injury.

The enemy had placed obstructions at the bar to prevent the further ascent of our forces. The Commodore, early in the morning, dispatched two boats with survey officers to reconnoitre and sound a channel. These drew the fire of a breastwork, La Comena, on the shore, which severely wounded Lieutenant William May.

The boats having been unable to find a channel, Perry gave orders to land. With grape, bombs, and musketry, the fleet cleared the ground, and then Perry gave the order, “Prepare to land,” and led the way in his barge with his broad pennant flying. All eyes watched his movements as he pulled up the river. When opposite the Palms, he steered for the shore, and with his loud, clear voice heard fore and aft, called out, “Three cheers, and land!” The cheers were given with enthusiasm, and then every oar bent. His boat was the first to strike the beach, and the Commodore was the first man to land. With Captain Mayo and his aids, he dashed up the nearly perpendicular bank, and unfurled his broad pennant in the sight of the whole line of boats. Instantly three deafening cheers again rang out from the throats of a thousand men who panted to be near it and share its fortunes. It was a sight so unusual, for a naval Commander-in-chief, to take the field under such circumstances at the head of his command, that the enthusiasm of our tars was unbounded and irrepressible. They bent to their oars with a will and pulled for the shore.

The artillery and infantry were quickly landed on the narrow flats at the base of the high banks. Reaching these, the infantry were formed in line within ten minutes. Then came the tug-work of drawing seven field pieces up a bank four rods high, and slanting only twenty-five feet from a perpendicular. With plenty of rope and muscle the work was accomplished. Three more pieces were landed later from the bomb ketches and added as a reserve. Most of the landing was done in five, and all within ten minutes. In half an hour after the Commodore first set foot on land, the column was in motion as follows:—

The pioneers far in advance under Lieutenant Maynard, the marines under Captain Edson, the artillery under Captain Alexander Slidell Mackenzie, and the detachments of seamen under the various captains to whose ships they severally belonged. Captain Mayo acted as adjutant general, the Commodore giving his personal attention to every movement of the whole. In this, as in all things, Perry was a master of details.

The march upon Tabasco now began, the burly Commodore being at the front. Through a skirt of jungle, then for a mile through a clear plain, and again in the woods, they soon came in sight of Acachapan where an advancing company of a hundred musket-men opened fire on our column. At this chosen place, the Mexican general had intended to give battle, having here the main body of his army with two field pieces and a body of cavalry. At the first fire of the Mexican musketry, our field pieces were got into position, and a few round shots, well served, put the lessening numbers of the enemy to flight. The terrible execution so quickly done showed the Mexicans that the Americans had landed not as a mob of sailors but a body of drilled infantry with artillery. A change came over the spirit of the orator, Bruno, and he fell back in his intrenchments. The road wound near the water and the march was re-commenced.

Meanwhile the ships left in the river were not idle. The flotilla, led by the Spitfire under Lieutenant, now Admiral Porter, had passed the obstructions, and according to Perry’s orders, were gallantly ascending near the fort and town. The three hearty cheers which were exchanged between ships and shore when the two parties caught sight of each other, greatly intimidated the veteranos in the fort. Behind the deserted breastworks of Acachapan, our men found the usual signs of sudden and speedy exit. Clothes, bedding and cooking utensils were visible. The bill of fare for the breakfast all ready, but untasted, consisted of boiled beef, tortillas, squash and corn in several styles.

Without delaying here, the advance column passed on and rested under several enormous scyba trees near a lagoon of water. Officers and men had earned rest, for the work of hauling field pieces in tropical weather along narrow, swampy and tortuous roads, and over rude corduroy bridges hastily constructed by the pioneers, was toilsome in the extreme. In some cases the wheels of a gun carriage would sink to their hubs requiring a whole company to drag them out. Some of the best officers and most athletic seamen fainted from heat and excessive fatigue, but reviving with rest and refreshment, resumed their labors with zeal that inspired the whole line. This march overland of a naval force with artillery along an almost roadless country seemed to demoralize both the veterans and militia in fort and trenches.

The Spitfire and Scorpion passed up the river unmolested until within range of Fort Iturbide, a shot from which cut the paddle-wheel of the Spitfire. Without being disabled, the steamer moved on and got in the rear of the fortification, pouring in so rapid and accurate a fire, that the garrison soon lost all spirit and showed signs of flinching. Seeing this, Lieutenant, now Admiral, Porter landed with sixty-eight men and under an irregular fire charged and captured it, the Mexicans flying in all directions. The town was then taken possession of by a force detailed from the two steamers, under Captain S. S. Lee, Lieutenant Porter remaining in command of the Spitfire.

When the Commodore at 2 o’clock p. m. arrived at the ditch and breastworks, a quarter of a mile from the fort, and in sight of the town, he found the deserted place well furnished with cooked dinners and cast off but good clothing. The advance now waited until the straggling line closed up, so that the whole force might enter the city in company. Soon after reaching the fort which mounted two six, three twenty-eight, and one twenty-four pounder guns with numerous pyramids of shot and stands of grape, they found the men from the ships in possession, and the stars and stripes floated above, and each detachment of the column, as it entered, cheered with enthusiasm.

The Commodore and his aids were escorted by the marines and the force marched, company front, to the plaza. They moved almost at a run up the steep street, the band playing Yankee Doodle. Bruno’s prophecy was fulfilled, but without Bruno. A few of the citizens and foreign merchants and consuls whose flags were flying welcomed the Commodore. The rain was now falling heavily and, as the public buildings were closed, and no one seemed to have the keys, the doors were forced. Quarters were duly assigned to the Commodore, staff and marines. The artillery was parked in the arcades of the plaza, so as to command all the approaches to the city, and the men rested. Even the Commodore had walked the entire distance, only one animal, an old mule, having been captured on the way and reserved for the hospital party.

Six days were spent at Tabasco. From the first hour of arriving, the Commodore made ample provision for good order, health, economy, revenue, and the honor of the American name. The scenes on the open square during the American occupation, the tattoo, reveille, evening and morning gun, the hourly cry of “all’s well,” the shrill whistle of the boatswain, and the occasional summons of all hands to quarters, showed that, with perfect discipline, the naval batallion of the Home Squadron was perfectly at home in Tabasco, and that the sailors could act like good soldiers on land as well as keep discipline aboard ship.

The large guns and war relics were put on board the flotilla, but the other military stores were destroyed. Captain A. Bigelow was left in command of the city with four hundred and twenty men. Perry’s orders against pillage were very stringent. He meant to show that the war was not against peaceful non-belligerents, but against the Mexican official class. Perry highly commended Captain Edson and his body of marines for their share of the work at Tabasco. His approbation of these men, who for nine months had served under his immediate eye, was warm and sincere. They afterwards did good service before the gates and in the city of Mexico. Perry wrote of the marines, “I repeat what I have often said, that this distinguished and veteran corps is one of the most effective and valuable arms of the service.”

The capture of Tabasco, whose commercial importance was second to that of Vera Cruz, was the last of the notable naval operations of the war. So far as the navy was concerned, the campaign was over, unless the sailors should turn soldiers altogether, for every one of the Gulf ports was in American hands. Since the fall of Vera Cruz, the navy had captured six cities with their fortresses and ninety-three cannon. This work was all done on shore, off the proper element of a naval force. In addition to these operations, the Commodore demanded and received from Yucatan her neutrality, carried into effect at the ports the regulation of the United States Treasury Department for raising revenue from the Mexicans, and found leisure to erect a spacious and comfortable hospital on the island of Salmadina equipped with all the comforts obtainable. This preparation for the disease certain to come among unacclimated men was most opportune.

About this time Perry sent home to the United States in the Raritan, in care of Captain Forest, the guns captured at various places. Three of the six at Tabasco were assigned to the Annapolis Naval Academy to be used for drill purposes. This was also in compliment to the first graduates of the institution, several of whom were serving in the Mexican campaign, as well as its first principal Captain Franklin Buchanan.


After his exploits at Tuspan, Tabasco and Yucatan, Perry, having captured every port and landing place along the whole eastern coast of Mexico, and established a strict blockade, thereby maintaining intact the base of supplies for the army in the interior, turned his attention to new foes. Bands of guerrillas, the fragments of the armies which Scott had destroyed, were not the only things to be feared. Mosquitoes and winged vermin of many species, malarial, yellow and other fevers—two great hosts—were to be fought night and day without cessation.

It is said that in northern Corea, “the men hunt the tigers during six months in the year, and the tigers hunt the men during the other six months.” In Mexico, along the coast, the northers rage during one half of the year, while the yellow fever reigns through the other half, maintaining the balance of power and an equilibrium of misery.

Fire broke out on the Mississippi, owing to spontaneous combustion of impure coal put on board at Norfolk, in a wet condition. It was extinguished only by pumping water into the coal-bunkers. Through this necessity, the flag-ship, which had thus far defied the powers of air, sun and moisture, became a foothold of pestilence. Yellow fever broke out, and, towards the end of July, the Mississippi had to be sent to Pensacola.

Perry shifted his flag to the Germantown, (a fine old frigate fated to be burned at Norfolk in 1861), Capt. Buchanan, and sailed July 16, to inquire after the health of the men on blockade and garrison duty in the ports, while the two hundred or more patients of the Mississippi quickly convalesced in Florida.

Northers and vomito, though depended on by the Mexicans to fight in their courses against the Yankees, did not work together in the same time. The northers thus far had kept back the yellow fever, but now while Scott’s army moved in the salubrious highlands of the interior, the unacclimated sailors remaining on the pestilential coast were called to fight disease, insects, and banditti, at once. They must hold ports with pitifully small garrisons, enforcing financial regulations, and grappling with villainous consuls who desecrated their national flags by smuggling from Havana, and by harboring the goods of the enemy. Many so-called “consuls” in Mexican ports were never so accredited, and could not appreciate the liberal policy of the United States towards neutrals.

While the plague was impending, there was a woeful lack of medical officers; one surgeon on seven ships at anchor, and two assistant surgeons in the hospital, composing the medical staff. The patients at Salmadina did well, but the fever broke out among the merchant vessels at Vera Cruz and the foreign men-of-war at Sacrificios.

By the middle of August, the sickly season was well advanced, and with so many of the large ships sent home for the health of the men, Perry’s force was small enough, while yet the guerrillas were as lively and seemingly as numerous and ubiquitous as mosquitoes. Fortunately for the American cause, some of the most noted of the guerrilla chiefs fell out among themselves and came to blows.

Perry wrote to Washington earnestly requesting that marines be sent out to act as flankers to parties of seamen landed to cut off guerrilla parties. In the night attacks which were frequent, the men and officers had to stand to their guns for long hours in drenching dews and heavy miasma.

The conditions of life on the low malarious Mexican coast are at any time trying to the thick-skinned whites, and unacclimated men from the north; but, in war time, the dangers were vastly increased. The marines left at the ports when on duty had to endure the piercing rays of the sun at mid-day and the heavy dews at midnight, and to beat off the guerrillas who skirmished in darkness. Added to this, were the investigations or excavations which mosquitoes, sandflies, centipedes, scorpions and tarantulas, were continually making into the human flesh with every sort of digging, fighting, chewing, sucking, and stinging instruments with which the inscrutable wisdom of the Almighty has endowed them. Added to these foes without, was that peculiar form of delirium tremens prevailing along the rivers and brought on by tropical heat with which some of the Americans were afflicted. The victims, prompted by an irresistible desire to throw themselves into the water, were often drowned. Hitherto only known in Dryden’s poetry American officers now bore witness to its violence.

On the ships, the miasma arising from decaying kelp washed upon the barren reefs and decomposed by the sun’s rays created the atmospheric conditions well suited for the spread of vomito. A sour nauseating effluvia blew over the ships all night, and easily operated upon the spleen or liver of those who, from exposure, fatigue or intemperate habits, were most predisposed.

The Commodore convened a board of medical officers on board the Mississippi prior to her departure to inquire into the causes of the disorder. In their opinion, it was atmospheric,—a theory justified by the fact that patients convalesced as soon as the ships moved out to sea. The theory of inoculation by flies, mosquitoes and other insects was not then demonstrated as now, though for other reasons netting was a boon and protection to the hospital patients.

One of the first cases, if not the very first case, of yellow fever attacking a ship’s crew in the American navy was that on board the General Greene, commanded by M. C. Perry’s father in 1799. Coming north from the West Indies to get rid of the disease, it broke out again at Newport. So virulent was the contagion, that even bathers in the water near the ship, were attacked by it. The memories of his childhood, which had long lain in his memory as a dream, became painfully vivid to the Commodore as he visited the yellow fever hospital, and saw so many gallant officers and brave men succumb to the scourge. “King Death sat in his yellow robe.” Soon even the robust form of the Commodore succumbed to the severe labors exposure and responsibilities laid upon him, though fortunately he escaped the yellow fever. Four officers died in one week; but Perry, after a season of sickness, recovered, and, on the approach of autumn was up again and active.

The expression of thanks to the navy for its services was only to an extent that may be called niggardly. Perry had sometimes to apply the art of exegesis to find the desired passage containing praise. After the brilliant Tuspan affair, he discovered a fragment of a paragraph, in a dispatch alluding to other matters, which was evidently intended to mean thanks. Instead of reading it on the quarter-deck, he mentioned it informally to his officers, lest the men should be discouraged by such faint praise. In response to the compliments of the city authorities of New York and Washington, Perry made due acknowledgment.

The truth seems to be that Matthew Perry was not personally in favor with the authorities at Washington. He had won his position and honors by sheer merit, and had compelled praise which else had been withheld. In this matter, he was not alone, for even Scott gained his brilliant victories without the personal sympathies or good wishes of the Administration.

It was as much as the Commodore of the great fleet could do to get sufficient clerical aid to assist him in his vast correspondence and other pen-work, so great was the fear at Washington, that the public funds would be squandered.

Perry persistently demanded more light draft steamers drawing not over seven and a half feet and armed with but one heavy gun, for river work. Mexico is a country without one navigable river, and only the most buoyant vessels could cross the bars. He pled his needs so earnestly that the Secretary of the Navy, John T. Mason, took him to task. It is probable that the very brilliancy of the victories of both our army and navy in Mexico, blinded, not only the general public, but the administration to the arduous nature of the service, and to the greatness of the difficulties overcome. The campaign of the army was spoken of as a “picnic,” and that of the navy as a “yachting excursion.” Certain it is that the administration seemed more anxious to make political capital out of the war, than either to appreciate the labors of its servants or the injustice done to the Mexicans.

In all his dispatches, Perry was unstinting in his praise of the army, to whose success he so greatly contributed. From intercepted letters, he learned that the presence of his active naval force had kept large numbers of the Mexican regulars near the coast, and away from the path of Scott’s army. He had seriously felt the loss of his marines, a whole regiment of whom, under Colonel Watson, had been taken away from him to go into the interior. Nevertheless, he remitted no activity, but, by constantly threatening various points, the coast was kept in alarm so that Mexican garrisons had to remain at every landing place along the water line. He thus contributed powerfully to the final triumph of our arms. On the 30th of September, he heard with gratification of the entry, thirteen days before, of Scott’s army into the city of Mexico. During November and December, the Commodore made several cruises up and down the coast, firmly maintaining the blockade, until the treaty of peace was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo, February 2, 1848. In Yucatan, Perry did much to hasten the end of the war of race and caste, which was then raging between the whites and the Indian peones and rancheros.

Santa Anna who had concealed himself in Pueblo, hoping to escape by way of Vera Cruz, opened negotiations with Perry, who replied, that he would receive him with the courtesy due to his rank, provided he would surrender himself unconditionally as a prisoner of war. It turned out in the end, that, without let or hindrance by either Mexicans or Americans, Santa Anna the unscrupulous and avaricious, left his native land, April 5, 1848, on a Spanish brig bound to Jamaica. Gallantly but vainly he had tried to resist “the North American invasion.” After seventy-eight years of amazing vicissitudes, the last years of his life being spent on Staten Island, N. Y., chiefly in cock-fighting and card-playing, he died June 20, 1876, at Vera Cruz. He was the incarnation of fickle and ignorant Mexico.

The re-embarkation of the troops homeward began in May. The city, the fortress, and the custom-house of Vera Cruz, were restored to the Mexican government, June 11, 1848. Four days later, the Commodore leaving the Germantown, Saratoga and a few smaller vessels in the gulf, sent the other men-of-war northward to be repaired or sold. The frigate Cumberland, bearing the broad pennant, entered New York bay July 23, 1848.

In the war between two republics, the American soldier was an educated freeman, far superior in physique and mental power to his foeman. The Mexicans were docile and brave, easily taking death while in the ranks, but unable to stand against the rush and sustained valor of the American troops; while their leaders were out-generaled by the superior science of officers who had been graduated from West Point. In the civil war, thirteen years later, nearly all the leaders, and all the great soldiers on both sides, whose reputations withstood the strain of four years’ campaigning, were regularly educated army officers who had graduated from the school of service in Mexico. It was the preliminary training in this foreign war, that made our armies of ’61, more than mobs, and gave to so many of the campaigns the order of science. The Mexican war was probably the first in which the newspapers made and unmade the reputation of commanders, and the war correspondent first emerged as a distinct figure in modern history. Some of the famous sayings, the texture of which may be either historically plain, or rhetorically embroidered, are still current in American speech. Nor will such phrases, as “Rough and Ready,” “Fuss and Feathers,” “A little more grape, Captain Bragg,” “Wait, Charlie, till I draw their fire,” “Certainly General, but I must fight them,” “Where the guns go, the men go with them,” soon be forgotten.

As to the rights of the quarrel with Mexico, most of the officers of the army and navy were indifferent; as perhaps soldiers have a right to be, seeing the responsibility rests with their superiors, the civil rulers. Matthew Perry, as a soldier, felt that the war was waged unjustly by a stronger upon a weaker nation, and endeavored, while doing his duty in obedience to orders, to curtail the horrors of invasion. He was ever vigilant to suppress robbery, rapine, cold-blooded cruelty, and all that lay outside of honorable war. In the letters written to his biographer, by fellow-officers, are many instances of “Old Matt’s” shrewdness in preventing and severity in punishing wanton pillage, and the infliction of needless pain on man or beast.

Whatever may have been the sentiments of the past, despite also the provocation of the Mexico of Santa Anna’s time, the verdict of history as given by Herbert Bancroft, will now find echo all over our common country. “The United States was in the wrong, all the world knows it; all honest American citizens acknowledge it.”

President Polk and his party, in compelling the war with Mexico, meant one thing. The Almighty intended something different. Politicians and slave-holders brought on a war to extend the area of human servitude. Providence meant it to be a war for freedom, and the expansion of a people best fitted to replenish and subdue the new land. At the right moment, the time-locks on the hidden treasuries of gold drew back their bolts, and a free people entered to change a wilderness to empire. There is now no slavery in either the new or the old parts of the United States.


From his home at the “Moorings” by the Hudson, Perry gave his attention to the curiosities and trophies brought home from Mexico. Ever jealous for the honor of the navy, he noted with pain a letter written by General Scott to Captain H. Brewerton, superintendent of the Military Academy at West Point, which was published in the newspapers October 16th, 1848. General Scott had presented sections of several Mexican flag-staffs captured in the campaign that commenced at Vera Cruz and terminated in the capital of Mexico. Three of them were thus inscribed:—


1. “Part of the flag-staff of the castle of San Juan d’Ulloa taken by the American army March 29th, 1847.”

2. “Part of the flag-staff of Fort San Iago, Vera Cruz, taken by the American army March 29th, 1847.”

3. “Part of the flag-staff of Fort Conception, Vera Cruz, taken by the American army March 29th, 1847.”


The four other staves from Cerro Gordo, Perote, Chapultepec, and the National Palace of Mexico, were in truth “taken by the American army” without the aid of the navy.

Perry believing that the statements in the paragraphs numbered 1, 2, and 3, were not strictly true, protested in a letter dated Oct. 19th, 1848, to the editors of the Courier and Inquirer. He maintained that the city and castle of Vera Cruz “surrendered not to the army alone, but to the combined land and naval forces of the United States.” Appealing to the facts of history concerning the bombardment of the city by the squadron, the service of the marines in the trenches, and of the ship’s guns and men in the naval battery, he continued:—

“Negotiations for the capitulation of the city and castle were conducted on the part of the squadron by Captain John H. Aulick, assisted by the late Commander Mackenzie as interpreter, both delegated by me, and as commander-in-chief at the time, of the United States naval forces serving in the Gulf of Mexico acting in co-operation with, but entirely independent of the authority of General Scott, I approved of and signed jointly with him the treaty of capitulation.”

“It seems to be a paramount duty on my part to correct an error which, if left unnoticed, would be the source of great and lasting injury to the navy; and it may reasonably be expected that General Scott will cause the inscriptions referred to to be so altered as to make them correspond more closely with history.” In proof of his assertions, Perry quoted an extract from General Scott’s Orders referring to the services of the navy in blockade, in disembarkation, in the attack on the city, and in the battery No. 5.

Like a true soldier, Scott made speedy correction on the brasses, and on the 24th of October wrote to Captain Brewerton, “Please cause the plates of those three objects to be unscrewed, efface the inscriptions and renew the same with the words and Navy inserted immediately after the word ‘Army.’ ” He added, “No part of the army is inclined to do the sister branch of our public defence the slightest injustice, and that I ought to be free from the imputation, my despatches written at Vera Cruz abundantly show.”

As commentary on the last line above, it may be stated that in his autobiography, in writing of Vera Cruz, Scott never mentions Commodore Perry, the navy, or the naval battery. Biographies of Scott, and makers of popular histories, basing their paragraphs on “Campaign Lives” of the presidential candidates, give fulsome praise to Scott, and due credit to the army; none, or next to none, to Perry and the navy.

The enlarged experience gained by our naval men during the war was now put to good use, and two great reforms, the abolition of flogging and the grog ration, were earnestly discussed. The captains were called upon for their written opinions. These, bound up in a volume now in the navy archives at Washington, furnish most interesting reading. They are part of the history of the progress of opinion as well as of morals in the United States. The proposition to do away with the “cat” and the “tot” found earnest and uncompromising opponents in officers of the old school; while, on the other hand, the credit of reforms now well established has been claimed by the friends of more than one eminent officer. Let us look at Matthew Perry’s record.

As early as 1824, Perry had studied the temperance question from a naval point of view. He was, it is believed, the first officer in our navy to propose the partial abolition of liquor, which was at that time served to boys as well as to men. This reform, he suggested in a letter to the Department, dated January 25th, 1824. His endeavor to stop the grog ration from minors was a stroke in behalf of sound moral principles and a plea for order. With a high opinion of the marines, and their well-handled bayonets—before which, the most stubborn sailor’s mutiny breaks,—Perry yet wished to take away one of the fomenting causes of evil on shipboard. When a midshipman, Perry was heartily opposed to strong drink for boys, and especially to the indiscriminate grog system licensed by government on ships of war. In his diary kept on board the President, the lad notes, with sarcastic comment, the frequent calls for whiskey from certain vessels of the squadron, especially the Argus, the crew of which had a reputation for a thirst of a kind not satisfied with water.

Perry’s letter dated New York, February 4th, 1850, fills eleven pages, and shows his usual habit of looking at a subject on all sides. To have answered the question as to grog, without consulting the sailors themselves, would have smacked too much of the doctrinaire for him. He was personally heartily in favor of abolishing grog, but with that love for the comfort of his men which so endeared “Old Matt” to the common sailor, he proposed for the first-rate seamen, the optional use of light wines. His attitude was that of temperance, rather than prohibition.

Flogging had been introduced into the American navy in 1799, when “the cat-of-nine tails” was made the legal instrument of punishment, “no other cat being allowed.” Not more than twelve lashes were allowed on the bare back. Even a court martial could not order over a hundred lashes. As to its total abolition, Perry felt that his own opinion should be formed by a consensus of the most respectable sailors. Personally he was in favor of immediately modifying, but not at once abolishing the penalty. This was to him “the most painful of all the duties of an officer.” He would rather make it more formal, leaving the question of its administration not in the hands of the captain, but of an inferior court on ship of three officers, the finding of the court to be subject to the captain’s revision. Perry believed, as the result of long experience, that the old sailors and the good ones were opposed to total abolition of flogging, since the punishment operated as a protection to them against desperate characters. To satisfy himself of public opinion, he went on board the North Carolina and asked Captain J. R. Sands to call to him eight of the oldest active sailors. The men came in promptly to the cabin, not knowing who called them or why. All were native Americans, and all were opposed to the abolition of flogging. Nevertheless, Perry was glad when this relic of barbarism was abolished from the decks of the American ships of war. On him fell the brunt of the decision. He first enforced discipline, chiefly by moral suasion, on a fleet in which was no flogging. The grog ration was not abolished until 1862.

Until the great civil war, only two fleets—that is, collections of war vessels numbering at least twelve—had assembled under the American flag. These were in the waters of Mexico and Japan. Both were commanded by Matthew C. Perry.

Nearly forty years have now passed since the Mexican war, and a survey of the facts and subsequent history is of genuine interest. The United States employed, in the invasion of a sister republic, about one hundred thousand armed men. Of these, 26,690 were regular troops, 56,926 volunteers, while over 15,000 were in the navy, or in the department of commissariat and transportation. Probably as many as eighty thousand soldiers were actually in Mexico. Of this host, 120 officers and 1,400 men fell in battle or died of wounds, and 100 officers and 10,800 men perished by disease. These figures by General Viele are from the army rolls. Another writer gives the total, in round numbers, of American war-employées lost in battle at 5,000, and by sickness 15,000. About 1,000 men of the army of occupation died each month of garrison-fever in the city of Mexico, and many more were ruined in health and character. In all, the loss of manhood by glory and malaria was fully 25,000 men. The war cost the United States, directly, a sum estimated between $130,000,000 and $166,500,000. Including the pensions, recently voted, this amount will be greatly increased.

Turning from the debit to the credit account, the United States gained in Texas, and the ceded territory, nearly one million square miles of land, increasing her area one-third, and adding five thousand miles of sea-coast, with three great harbors. Except for one of those world-influencing episodes, which are usually called “accidents,” but which make epochs and history, this large territory would long have waited for inhabitants. The vast desert was made to bud with promise, and blossom as the rose, by the discovery of some shining grains of metal, yellow and heavy, in a mill race. California with her golden hands rose up, a new figure in history, to beckon westward the returned veteran, the youth of the overcrowded East, the young blood and sinew of Europe. The era of the “prairie schooner” to traverse the plains, the steamer to ply to the Isthmus, the fast-sailing American clipper ships to double the Cape, was ushered in. Zadoc Pratt’s dream of a trans-continental railway, laid on the Indian trails, soon found a solid basis in easy possibility. In the eight months ending March 1850, nine millions of gold from California entered the United States. The volume of wealth from California and Texas in thirty-two years, has equalled the debt incurred during the great civil war to preserve the American union; enabling the government to say to Louis Napoleon, “Get out of Mexico, and take imperialism from the American continent.”

Yet even California, and the boundless possibilities of the Pacific slope could not suffice for the restless energy of the American. The merchant seeking new outlets of trade, the whaler careering in all seas for spoil, the missionary moved with desire to enter new fields of humanity, the explorer burning to unlock hidden treasures of mystery, looked westward over earth’s broadest ocean. China had opened a few wicket gates. Two hermit kingdoms still kept their doors barred. Corea was no lure. It had no place in literature, no fame to the traveller, no repute of wealth to incite. Its name suggested no more than a sea-shell. There was another nation. Of her, travellers, merchants, and martyrs had told; about her, libraries had been written; religion, learning, wealth, curious and mighty institutions, a literature and a civilization, gold and coal and trade were there. Kingly suitors and the men of many nations had pleaded for entrance and waited vainly at her jealously barred and guarded doors. The only answer during monotonous centuries had been haughty denial or contemptuous silence. Japan was the sleeping princess in the eastern seas. Thornrose castle still tempted all daring spirits. Who should be the one to sail westward, with valor and with force, held but unused, wake with peaceful kiss the maiden to life and a beauty to be admired of all the world?


We propose here to summarize the various attempts by Americans to re-open Japan to intercourse with other nations. For two centuries, after Iyéyasŭ and his successors passed their decree of seclusion, Japan remained the new Paradise Lost to Europeans. Perry made it Paradise Regained.

In The Japan Expedition, the editor of Perry’s work has given, on page 62, in a tabulated list, the various attempts made by civilized nations to open commerce with Japan from 1543 down to 1852. In this, the Portuguese, Dutch, English, Russians, American, and French have taken part. This table, however, is incomplete, as we shall show.

The American flag was probably first carried around the world in 1784, by Major Robert Shaw, formerly an officer in the revolutionary army of the United States First Artillery. It was, therefore, seen in the eastern seas as early as 1784, and at Nagasaki as early as 1797. In 1803, Mr. Waardenaar, the Dutch superintendent at Déshima, not having heard that the peace of the Amiens, negotiated by Lord Cornwallis and signed March 27, 1802, had been broken, boarded a European vessel coming into port, and recognized an American, Captain Stewart, who during the war had made voyages for the Dutch East India Company. Captain Stewart explained that he had come with a cargo of wholly American goods, of which he was proprietor. The following dialogue ensued:—


Q. “Who is the King of America.”

A. “President Jefferson.”

Q. “Why do you come to Japan?”

A. “To demand liberty of commerce for me and my people.”


Waardenaar suspected that the real chief of the expedition was not Stewart, but “the doctor” on board, and that it was a British ship. Hence, on Waardenaar’s report to the governor of Nagasaki, the latter forbade Stewart the coasts of Japan, allowing, him, however, water and provisions.

The facts underlying this apparent attempt of the enterprising Yankee to open trade with the United States so early in the history of the country seemed to be these. Captain Stewart, an American in the service of the Dutch East India Company, having made his first voyage from Batavia to Nagasaki in 1797, was sent again the following year, 1798. An earthquake and tidal wave coming on, his ship dragged her anchors and the cargo, consisting chiefly of camphor, was thrown overboard. The vessel would have become a total wreck but for the ingenuity of a native. He “used helps undergirding the ship,” floating her. Then taking her in tow of a big junk, he drew her into a safe quarter. For this, the Japanese was made a two-sworded samurai. Stewart was sent back to Batavia. Thence he fled to Bengal, where he most probably persuaded the English merchants to send him in a ship to Japan with a cargo, to open trade for them under the name of Americans.

A few days after Stewart had left, Captain Torry, the accredited agent of the Calcutta Company, came to Nagasaki, to open trade if possible. Torry had sent Stewart before him, the Japanese not daring, he thought, to refuse Englishmen after allowing Americans to trade. Torry was, however, sent away as being in league with Stewart, and left after obtaining a supply of water.

In 1807, as Hildreth in his Japan, states, the American ship, Eclipse, of Boston, chartered at Canton, by the Russian American Company for Kamschatka and the north-west coast of America, entered the harbor of Nagasaki under Russian colors, but could obtain no trade and only provisions and water. The Dutch flag being driven from the ocean, the annual ships from Batavia to Nagasaki in 1799, 1800, 1801, 1802, 1803, and at least one of the pair in 1806, 1807 and 1809, were American bottoms and under the American flag, so that the Japanese became familiar with the seventeen-starred flag of the United States of America.

The brilliant and successful foreign policy of President Andrew Jackson in Europe, has been already noted. Even Asia felt his influence. Mr. Edmund Roberts[21], a sea captain of Portsmouth, N. H., was named by President Jackson, his “agent” for the purpose of “examining in the Indian ocean the means of extending the commerce of the United States by commercial arrangements with the Powers whose dominions border on those seas.” He was ordered, January 27, 1832, to embark on the United States Sloop-of-war, Peacock, in which he was rated as captain’s clerk. On the 23rd of July, he was ordered “to be very careful in obtaining information respecting Japan, the means of opening a communication with it, and the value of its trade with the Dutch and Chinese.” Arriving at Canton, he might receive further instructions. He had with him blanks. On the 28th of October, 1832, Edward Livingstone, the United States Secretary of State, instructed him that the United States had it in contemplation to institute a separate mission to Japan. If, however, a favorable opportunity presented, he might fill up a letter and present it to the “Emperor” for the purpose of opening trade. Roberts was successful in inaugurating diplomatic and commercial relations with Muscat and Siam, but, on account of his premature death, nothing came of his mission to Japan. He died June 12, 1836, at Macao, where his tomb duly inscribed, is in the Protestant cemetery.

Commodore Kennedy in the Peacock, with the schooner Enterprise, visited the Bonin Islands in August 1837, an account of which was written by Doctor Ruschenberger,[22] the fleet surgeon.

The sight of the flowery flag of “Bé-koku” or the United States, became more and more familiar to the Japanese coasting and ship population, as the riches of the whaling waters became better known in America. The American whalers were so numerous in the Japan seas by the year 1850, that eighty-six of the “black ships” were counted as passing Matsumaé in twelve months. Perry found that no fewer than ten thousand of our people were engaged in this business. Furthermore, the Japanese waifs blown out to sea were drifted into the Black Current and to the Kurile and Aleutian islands, to Russian and British America, to Oregon and California, and even to Hawaii.

The necessity of visiting Japan on errands of mercy to return these waifs became a frequent one. Reciprocally, the Japanese sent the shipwrecked Americans by the Dutch vessels to Batavia whence they reached the United States. This was the cause of the “Morrison’s” visit to the bay of Yedo and to Kagoshima in 1837. This ship, fitly named after the first Protestant English missionary to China, whose grave lies near Roberts in the terraced cemetery at Macao, was despatched by an American mercantile firm. Included among the thirty-eight persons on board were seven Japanese waifs, Rev. Charles Gutzlaff, Dr. S. Wells Williams, Peter Parker, Mr. King, the owner, and Mrs. King. They sailed July 3d. The vessel reached Uraga, bay of Yedo, July 22d, and Kagoshima in Satsuma August 20, but was fired on and driven away. The name of “Morrison Bluff” on the map of Japan is an honor to American Christianity, as it is a shame to Old Japan.

The proposition to open commercial relations with the two secluded nations now came definitely before Congress. On February 15th 1845, General Zadoc Pratt, chairman of the select committee on statistics introduced the following resolution in Congress to treat for the opening of Japan and Corea. “Whereas it is important to the general interests of the United States that steady and persevering efforts should be made for the extension of American commerce, connected as that commerce is with the agriculture and manufactures of our country; be it therefore resolved, that in furtherance of this object, it is hereby recommended that immediate measures be taken for effecting commercial arrangements with the Empire of Japan and the Kingdom of Corea,[23] for the following among other reasons.” Then follows a memorandum concerning the proposed mission.

Captain Mercator Cooper, in the whale ship Manhattan, of Sag Harbor, returned twenty-two shipwrecked Japanese early in April 1845, from the island of St. Peters to Uraga in the bay of Yedo, where he lay at anchor four days obtaining books and charts. When the Japanese embassy of 1861 reached New York, one of the first questions asked by them was, “Where is Captain Cooper?”

Our government authorized Commodore Biddle, then in command of the East Indian squadron, to visit Japan in the hope of securing a convention. He left Chusan July 7th, and, on the 20th of July 1846, with the ship of the line, Columbus, 90 guns, and the sloop of war, Vincennes, he anchored off Uraga. Application for trade was made in due form, but the answer given July 28th by the Shō-gun’s deputy who came on board with a suite of eight persons, was a positive refusal. Commodore Biddle being instructed “not to do anything to excite a hostile feeling or distrust of the United States,” sailed away July 29, in obedience to orders.

At this very time, eight American sailors, or seven, as the Japanese account states, wrecked on the whale ship, Lawrence, June 6th, were imprisoned in Yezo; but the fact was not then known in Yedo. After seventeen months confinement, they were sent to Nagasaki and thence in October 1847, to Batavia. From one of these sailors, a Japanese samurai, or two-sworded retainer of a damiō, named Moriyama Yénosŭké, (Mr. Grove-mountain) learned to speak and read English with tolerable fluency. He acted as chief medium of communication between the Japanese and their next American visitor, Glynn; and afterwards served as interpreter in the treaty negotiations at Yokohama in 1854. At this time the Dutch trade with Japan barely paid the expenses of the factory at Déshima. The Dutch East India Company some years before had voluntarily turned over the monopoly to the Dutch government. Trade was now upon a purely sentimental basis, being kept up solely for the honor of the Dutch flag. The next step, which logically followed, was a letter from the King of Holland to the Shō-gun recommending that Japan open her ports to the trade of the world. Meanwhile, the Mikado commanded that the coasts should be strictly guarded “so as to prevent dishonor to the Divine Country.”

In September, 1848, fifteen foreign seamen, eight of them Americans, wrecked from the Ladoga, were sent in a junk from Matsumaé to Nagasaki. The Netherlands consul at Canton made notification January 27, 1849, to Captain Geisinger, a gallant officer on the Wasp in 1814, in command of the Peacock during Mr. Roberts’s first embassy, and now in command of the East India squadron, who sent Commander Glynn in the Preble, the brig once in Perry’s African squadron, and carrying fourteen guns, to their rescue. Stopping at Napa, Riu Kiu, on his way to Nagasaki, he learned from the Rev. Dr. J. Bettelheim the missionary there, of the rumors concerning “the Japanese victory over the American big ships.” The snowball of rumor in rolling to the provinces had become an avalanche of exaggeration, and Glynn at once determined to pursue “a stalwart policy.” On reaching Nagasaki, he dashed through the cordon of boats, and anchored within cannon shot of the city. He submitted to the usual red tape proceedings and evasive diplomacy for two days, and then threatened to open fire on the city unless the sailors were forthcoming. That the Japanese had already learned to respect American naval gunnery, having heard of it at Vera Cruz, the following conversation will show. The Japanese, through the Dutch, had been kept minutely informed as to the Mexican war and, in their first interview with Commander Glynn, remarked:—


“You have had a war with Mexico?”


“You whipped her?”


“You have taken a part of her territory?”


“And you have discovered large quantities of gold in it?”


The imprisoned seamen were promptly delivered on the deck of the Preble. They stated that, when in Matsumaé, they had learned from the guards of their prison of every battle we had with the Mexicans and of every victory we had gained. The prestige of the American navy won at Vera Cruz and on the two coasts had doubtless a good influence upon the Japanese, making Glynn’s mission easier than it otherwise might have been. In his report, Commander Glynn suggested that the time for opening Japan was favorable and recommended the sending of a force to do it.

Commerce with China, the settlement of California, the growth of the American whale-fishery in the eastern seas, the expansion of steam traffic, with the corollary necessities of coal and ports for shelter, and the frequency of shipwrecks, were all compelling factors in the opening of Japan—which event could not long be delayed.

The shadows of the coming event were already descried in Japan. Numerous records of the landing or shipwreck of American and other seamen are found in the native chronicles of this period. The Dutch dropped broad hints of embassies or expeditions soon to come. In September, 1847, the rank of the governor of Uraga, the entrance-port to the Bay of Yedo, was raised. In October, the daimiōs or barons were ordered to maintain the coast defences, and encourage warlike studies and exercises. In November, the boy named Shichiro Marō, destined to be the last Tai-kun (“Tycoon”) and head of Japanese feudalism, came into public notice as heir of one of the princely families of the Succession. In December, a census of the number of newly cast cannon able to throw balls of one pound weight and over was ordered to be taken. The chronicler of the year 1848 notes that nineteen foreign vessels passed through the straits of Tsushima in April, and closes his notice of remarkable events by saying: “During this year, foreign ships visited our northern seas in such numbers as had not been seen in recent times!”

Embassy to the Eastern Courts, New York, 1837.

A Voyage Round the World, Philadelphia, 1838.

Corea, the Hermit Nation, p. 390.


Though as a student and a man of culture, Perry was familiar with the drift of events in China, and was interested in Japan, yet it was not until the year 1850, that his thoughts were turned seriously to the unopened country in the eastern seas. The receipt of news about the Preble affair crystallized his thoughts into a definitely formed purpose. He began to look at the problem, of winning Japan into the comity of nations, with a practical eye, from a naval and personal view-point.

Highly approving of Commander Glynn’s course, he believed that kindness and firmness, backed by a force in the Bay of Yedo sufficient to impress the authorities would, by tact, patience and care, result in a bloodless victory. He now gathered together literary material bearing on the subject and pondered upon the question how to translate Ali Baba’s watch-word into Japanese. There seemed, however, little likelihood that the government would be willing to send thither an imposing squadron. He did not therefore seek the command of the East India squadron, and the initial proposition to do the work with which his name is connected, came to him and not from him.

Commander James Glynn, on his return, early in 1851, went to Washington earnestly wishing to be sent on a diplomatic mission to Japan with a fresh naval force. To this gallant and able young officer, belongs a considerable share of the credit of working the President and Secretary of State up to the point of action. The expedition, as it came to be organized, however, grew to the proportions of a fleet, and Glynn found himself excluded by his rank, the command of the expedition being very properly claimed by an officer of higher rank in the army. The applicant for the honor of commander of the Japan expedition, then in embryo, was Commodore J. H. Aulick, who had been in the navy since 1809, and was master’s mate of the Enterprise in her combat with the Boxer, in the war of 1812.

Dismissing from his mind, or at least postponing until a more propitious time his eastward possibilities, Perry, March 21, 1851, applied for the command of the Mediterranean squadron to succeed Commodore Morgan if the way was clear. During the summer and autumn, he was several times in Washington, and frequently in consultation with the Naval Committee. He was led to believe his desire would be granted and made personal and domestic arrangements accordingly. Yet the appointment hung fire for reasons that Perry did not then understand.

General Taylor, having been hustled into the Presidency, promptly succumbed to the unaccustomed turmoil of politics. He yielded to an enemy more dire and persistent than Santa Anna,—the office seeker, and found his grave. The urbane Millard Fillmore took his place, with Daniel Webster as Secretary of State. The suggestions of Commander Glynn for the opening of Japan had pleased both the President and Secretary, and pretty soon, one of those multiplying pretexts and opportunities for going near the “Capital of the Tycoon” occurred. It was the picking up at sea of another lot of waifs by Captain Jennings, of the barque Auckland who took them to San Francisco. On the 9th of May, 1857, Commodore Aulick proposed to the Secretary of State a plan for the opening of Japan, and on the same day, Mr. Webster addressed an official note to Hon. William Graham, Secretary of the Navy, in which these words occur:

“Commodore Aulick has suggested to me, and I cheerfully concur in the opinion, that this incident may afford a favorable opportunity for opening commercial relations with the empire of Japan; or, at least, of placing our intercourse with that Island upon a more easy footing.”

The nail already inserted in the wood by Glynn was thus driven further in by Aulick’s proposition and Mr. Webster’s hearty indorsement. The next day a letter to the “Emperor” was prepared and, on the 30th of May, Commodore Aulick received his commission to negotiate and sign a treaty with Japan. He was to be accompanied by “an imposing naval force.” At least, so Mr. Webster’s letter suggested. Unfortunately, for Commodore Aulick, he left before the nail was driven in a sure place. He departed for the East with slight preparation, foresight, or mastery of details, and long before the “imposing” naval force was gathered, or even begun. Even had Aulick remained in command, he would probably never have received any large accession to his force. Had he attempted the work of negotiation with but two or three vessels, he would most probably have failed. The preparation and sailing of the fleet to follow him was delayed. Promises were never kept, and he was recalled. Why was this? Commodore Aulick, on his return, demanded a court martial in order that he himself might know the reasons, but his wishes were not heeded. History has heretofore been silent on the point.

There are some who think that Perry is at fault here; that he grasped at honors prepared for others, reaping where he had not sowed.

The reason for the recall of Commodore Aulick and the appointment of Perry in his place were neither made public at the time, nor have they thus far been understood by the public, or even by acquaintances of Perry who ignorantly misjudge him. A number of persons, some of them naval officers, have even supposed that Perry was responsible for the bad treatment of Commodore Aulick, and that he sacrificed a fellow-officer to gratify his own ambition. The writer was long under the impression that Perry’s own urgency in seeking the position secured for himself the appointment, and that the government favored Perry at the expense of his comrade. With the view of sounding the truth at the bottom of the well, the writer made search in both Aulick’s and Secretary Graham’s official and confidential letters.

The unexpected result was the thorough vindication of Perry from the shadow of suspicion. The facts reveal that harsh treatment may sometimes hastily and needlessly be accorded to a gallant officer, and illustrate the dangers besetting our commanders, when non-naval people with a weakness for tittle-tattle live on board a man-of-war. The arrows of gossip and slander, whether on sea or land, are sufficiently poisonous. They nearly took the life, and ruined the reputation of Commodore Aulick; but of their shooting, Perry was as innocent as an unborn child. The simple facts in the case are that Commodore Aulick was recalled from China long before Perry had any idea of assuming the Japan mission, and that his relations with his old comrade in Mexico were always of the pleasantest nature. We must look from the captains to their superior.

On the 1st of May 1851, Commodore Aulick received orders to proceed in the new steamer frigate Susquehanna to Rio [de] Janeiro, taking out the Brazilian minister Macedo as the guest of the United States. He sailed from Norfolk June 8th, and by way of Madeira, arrived at his destination July 22. The Susquehanna was a steam frigate of noble spaciousness built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1847. Her launch amid a glory of sunshine, bunting, happy faces, and the symbolic breaking of a bottle of water from the river of her own name, the writer remembers as one of the bright events of his childhood. She carried sixteen guns, and was of two thousand four hundred and fifty tons burthen, but though of excellent model her machinery was constantly getting out of order. From Rio [de] Janeiro Aulick proceeded around the Cape of Good Hope on diplomatic business with the Sultan of Zanzibar. This having been finished, Aulick sailed to China and on arriving at Hong Kong, began to organize a squadron and make his personal preparations for a visit to Japan. He secured as his interpreter, D. Bethune McCartee, Esq., M. D. an accomplished American missionary at Ningpo. He also investigated, as per orders, with the aid of the missionaries of the Reformed [Dutch] Church in America at Amoy, Rev. Messrs. Doty and Talmage, (brother of T. De Witt Talmage of Brooklyn) the coolie traffic. The Saratoga was sent after the mutineers of the Robert Bowne, and visited the Riu Kiu islands. While engaged in cruising between Macao and Manilla, though smitten down with disease, the old hero was astounded at receiving a curt order from the Secretary of the Navy dated November 18th, 1851. It directed him to hand over his command to Captain Franklin Buchanan, but not to leave the China seas until his successor should arrive. At the same time, he was informed that grave imputations had been cast upon his conduct. Prompt and full explanation of these was called for. The charges were, that he had violated express orders in taking a person (his son) on board a national vessel as passenger without authority, and that he had given out at Rio [de] Janeiro that the Chevalier de Macedo was being carried at his (Aulick’s) private expense.

Meanwhile, the Anglo-Chinese newspapers got hold of the patent fact, and the ready inference was drawn that Commodore Aulick had been recalled for mis-conduct. This annoyed the old veteran to exasperation. Worn out by forty-four years in his country’s service, with both disgrace and an early but lingering death staring him in the face, with the prospect of being obliged to go home in a merchant vessel and without medical attendance, he dictated (being unable to hold a pen) a letter dated February 7, 1853 protesting against this harsh treatment caused by “ex-parte statements of certain diplomats in Rio [de] Janeiro, whose names, up to this time, have never been officially made known to me.” For months in precarious health, Aulick waited for his unnamed relief, and at last, heard that it was his as yet old friend Perry. By the advice of his physician, Dr. Peter Parker and surgeon S. S. Du Barry, he started homeward at the first favorable opportunity, by the English mail steamer, passing the Mississippi on her way out.

In London, Commodore Aulick called upon and was the guest of Chevalier de Macedo, who learned with surprise of the trouble into which he had fallen with his government. A long letter now in the navy archives, from the Brazilian, thoroughly exonerated Aulick. Arriving in New York June 1st, 1863, and reporting to Secretary Dobbin, Commodore Aulick requested that, if his letter of explanation of February 17, 1853, were not deemed satisfactory, a court of inquiry, or court martial, be ordered for his trial. After careful examination, the secretary wrote, August 2, 1853, clearing Aulick of all blame, accompanying his letter with waiting orders. In the letter of the gratified officer in response dated August 4, 1853, we have the last word in this painful episode in naval history, in which the brave veteran was nearly sacrificed by the stray gossip of a civilian apparently more eager to curry Brazilian favor than to do eternal or even American justice.

One can easily see why, in addition to the rooted instinct of a lifetime, Perry, in the light of Aulick’s misfortune, declined to allow miscellaneous correspondence with the newspapers, and sternly refused to admit on the Japan expedition a single person not under naval discipline.

The chronological order of facts as revealed by the study of the documents is this: On the 17th of November 1851, Secretary Graham dictated the order of recall to Commodore Aulick. On the next day, he wrote the following:—

Navy Department, November 18, 1851.

Commodore M. C. Perry, U. S. Navy, New York.

Sir,—Proceed to Washington immediately, for the purpose of conferring with the Secretary of the Navy.



Unusual press of business and the writing of his report for the impending session of Congress caused the receipt by Perry on his arrival in Washington, of a note, dated November 26, the substance of which was that the Secretary was so busy that he could not consider the business for which Perry was called from home, until after Congress had met. He need not, therefore, wait in Washington but was at liberty to go home and wait instructions. This was the first thorn of the rose on the way to the Thornrose castle, in the Pacific.

Somewhat vexed, as Perry must have been, at being forced on a seeming fool’s errand, he possessed his soul in patience, and, at home expressed his mind on paper as follows:—

North Tarrytown, N. Y., December 3, 1851.

Sir,—Seeing that you were so much occupied during my stay at Washington, I was careful not to intrude upon your time and consequently had little opportunity of conversing with you upon the business which caused me to be ordered to that city—it has, therefore, occurred to me, whether it would not be desirable that I should write down the accompanying notes, in further explanation of the views entertained by me, with reference to the subject under consideration.

So far as respects my own wishes, I confess that it will, to me, be a serious disappointment, and cause of personal inconvenience not to go to the Mediterranean, as I was led to believe from various reliable sources that it had been the intention of the Department to assign me to the command, and had made arrangements accordingly; but I hold that an officer is bound to go where his services are most required, yet I trust I may be pardoned for expressing a strong disinclination to go out as the mere relief or successor to Commodore Aulick without being charged with some more important service, and with a force competent to a possible successful issue the expectations of the government.

Advance in rank and command is the greatest incentive to a officer, and, having already been intrusted with two squadrons, one of them the largest one put afloat since the creation of the navy, I could only look to the Mediterranean for advance in that respect, as that station, in time of peace, has always been looked upon as the most desirable. Hence it may not be surprising that I consider the relief of Commodore Aulick who is much my junior and served under me in my second squadron, a retrograde movement in that great and deeply fostered aim of an officer of proper ambition, to push forward; unless indeed, as I have before remarked, the sphere of action of the East India squadron and its force be so much enlarged as to hold out a well-grounded hope of its conferring distinction upon its commander.

Doubtless there are others my juniors as competent, if not more so, who would gladly accept the command as it now is and, if it is not intended to augment it in view of carrying out the important object with respect to Japan, I may confidently hope that in accordance with your kind promise on the occasion of my interview with you at your house, on the evening of the day of my arrival in Washington, I shall still be assigned to the command of the Mediterranean squadron.

In thus expressing myself freely to you I feel assured from a knowledge of your high tone of character, that you will fully appreciate the motives which have influenced me in desiring to embark only in that service in the prosecution of which I could anticipate a chance of success, or even escape from mortification, disappointment, and failure.

With great respect I have the honor to be,

Your most obedient servant,


The Hon. Wm. Graham,

Secretary of the Navy, Washington, D. C.

The secretary’s clerk wrote January 14, 1852, “Commodore Perry will proceed to Washington and report to the Secretary of the Navy without delay.” The head of the Department added in autograph, “Report in person at the Department.” This time the trip to the Capital was made with something definite in view.

On the 6th of March, he received orders from the Department detaching him from the superintendence of United States Mail Steamers and transferring the command to Commodore Reany. He had, since January 9, 1849, been in active connection with steamship owners, manufacturers and inventors, and been engaged in testing the newest inventions and improvements in steam navigation. The transfer was duly made on the 8th, and on the 23d, we find Perry again in Washington holding long conversation with the Secretary of the Navy, Hon. W. A. Graham, on the outfit and personnel of the proposed Japan expedition. On the 24th, he received formal orders to command the East India squadron.

One of the first officers detailed to assist the Commodore was Lieut. Silas Bent who had been with Glynn on the Preble at Nagasaki. He was ordered to report on board the Mississippi. Perry’s “Fidus Achates,” Captain Henry A. Adams, and his special friends, Captains Franklin Buchanan, Sidney Smith Lee, were invited and gladly accepted. His exceeding care in the selection of the personnel[24] of the expedition is shown in a letter from the “Moorings” dated February 2, 1852, to Captain Franklin Buchanan. He expected them to embark by the first of April, and sent his ships ahead laden with coal for the war steamers to the Cape of Good Hope, and Mauritius. He congratulates his old friend on a new arrival in his household, “You certainly bid fair to have a great many grandchildren in the course of time. I already have eight.”

“In selecting your officers, pray be careful in choosing them of a subordinate and gentlemanlike character. We shall be obliged to govern in some measure, as McKeever says, by moral suasion. McIntosh, I see by the papers, has changed with Commander Pearson and leaves the Congress, and is now on his way home in the Falmouth. We shall now learn how the philanthropic principle of moral suasion answers.”

The reference is to the state of things consequent upon the abolition of flogging. Perry was to gather and lead to peaceful victory, the first American fleet governed without the lash.

See complete list, vol. II. of his official Report.


The charts used in the Japan expedition came mostly from Holland, and cost our government thirty thousand dollars. Perry does not seem to have been aware that Captain Mercator Cooper of Sag Harbor, Long Island, had brought home fairly good Japanese charts of the Bay of Yedo, more accurate probably than any which he was able to purchase. Captain Beechey of the B. M. S. Blossom, had surveyed carefully the seas around Riu Kiu. The large coast-line map of Japan, in four sheets, made on modern scientific principles by a wealthy Japanese who had expended his fortune and suffered imprisonment for his work, which was published posthumously, was not then accessible.

Intelligent Japanese have been eager to know, and more than one has asked the writer: “How did Perry get his knowledge of our country and people?” We answer that he made diligent study of books and men. He had asked for permission to purchase all necessary books at a reasonable price. Von Siebold’s colossal work was a mine of information from which European book-makers were beginning to quarry, as they had long done from Engelbert Kaempfer, but the importer’s price of Von Siebold’s Archiv was $503. The interest excited in England by the expedition caused the publication in London of a cheap reprint of Kaempfer.

By setting in motion the machinery of the librarians and book-collectors in New York and London, Perry was able to secure a library on the subject. He speedily and thoroughly mastered their contents.

So far from Japan being a terra incognita in literature, it had been even then more written about than Turkey. Few far Eastern Asiatic nations have reason to be proud of so voluminous and polyglot a European library concerning themselves as the Japanese. On the subject about which information was as defective as it was most needed, was the political situation of modern Japan and the true relation of the “Tycoon” to the Mikado.

Earnestly desirous of impressing the Japanese with American resources and inventions, the Commodore on March 27th, 1851, had notified the Department of his intention to obtain specimens of every sort of mechanical products, arms and machinery, with statistical and other volumes illustrating the advance of the useful arts. In addition to this, he notified manufacturers of his wish to obtain samples of every description. Armed with letters from his friends, the Appletons of New York, he visited Albany, Boston, New Bedford and Providence to obtain what he desired, and to inquire into personal details and statistics of the American whalers engaged in Japanese and Chinese waters. An unexpectedly great interest was arising from all quarters concerning Japan and the expedition thither. All with whom he had interviews were enthusiastic and liberal in aiding him. At New Bedford he learned that American capital to the amount of seventeen millions was invested in the whaling industry in the seas of Japan and China. Thousands of our sailors manned the ships thus employed.

This was before the days of petroleum and the electric light. It explained also why American shipwrecked sailors were so often found in Japan. There were reciprocal additions to the populations on both sides of the Pacific. While the Kuro Shiwo, or Black Current, was sweeping Japanese junks out to sea and lining the west coast of North America with wrecks and waifs, the rocky shores of the Sunrise Kingdom were liberally strewn with castaways, to whom the American flag was the sign of home.

The cause of this remarkable development of American enterprise in distant seas lay in the liberal policy of Russia toward our people. Our first treaty of 1824 declared the navigation and fisheries of the Pacific free to both nations. The second convention of 1838, signed by James Buchanan and Count Nesselrode, guaranteed to citizens of the United States freedom to enter all ports, places and rivers on the Alaskan coast under Russian protection. Already the northern Pacific was virtually an American possession.

There was great eagerness on the part of scientific men and learned societies to be represented in the proposed expedition. Much pressure was brought to bear upon the Commodore to organize a corps of experts in the sciences, or to allow favored individual civilians to enter the fleet. Perry firmly declined all such offers.

He proposed to duplicate none of his predecessor’s blunders, nor to imperil his personal reputation or the success of a costly expedition by the presence of landsmen of any sort on board. He sent his son to China at his own private expense. The expedition was saved the previous tribulations of Aulick, or the later afflictions of De Long in the Jeannette.

As illustrating the variety of subordinate matters to be looked into, he was instructed to inquire concerning the product of sulphur, and about weights and measures. The Norris Brothers of Philadelphia furnished the little locomotive and rails to be laid down in Japan. These, with a thousand other details were carefully studied by the Commodore.

Indeed it may be truly said that Perry’s thorough grasp of details before he left the United States made him already master of the situation. He knew just what to do, and how to do it. The Japanese did not. He appreciated the advantage of having sailor, engineer, diplomatist and captain in one man, and that man himself. Not so with Rodgers in Corea, in 1871.

If Perry, after his appointment as special envoy of the United States to Japan, had trusted entirely to his official superiors, he would probably never have obtained his fleet or won a treaty. Four months after receiving his appointment, the Whig convention met in Baltimore, June the 16th. When it adjourned, on June 22nd, the ticket nominated was “Scott and Graham.” Thenceforth, Secretary Graham took little or no practical interest in Japan or Perry. The Commodore’s first and hardest task was to conquer lethargy at home. One instance of his foresight is seen in his care for a sure supply of coal, without which side-wheel steamers, almost the only ones then in the navy, were worse than useless. He directed Messrs. Howland and Aspinwall to send out two coal ships, one to the Cape of Good Hope and the other to Mauritius. These floating depots were afterwards of the greatest service to the advance and following steamers, Mississippi, Powhatan and Alleghany.

A lively episode in international politics occurred in July, 1852, which Perry was called upon to settle. New England was convulsed over the seizure of American fishing vessels by British cruisers. Congress being still in session, the opposition were not slow to denounce the Administration.

Mr. Fillmore invited Mr. John P. Kennedy of “Swallow Barn” literary fame to succeed Mr. Graham as Secretary of the Navy. Mr. Kennedy took his seat in the cabinet July 24th. The excitement over the fishery question was then at fever heat. Mutterings of war were already heard in the newspapers. Employment for the Mexican veterans seemed promising.

The cabinet decided that the new secretary should give the law, and that Perry should execute it. Mr. Kennedy, who wisely saw Perry first, proceeded to draft the letter. On the night of July 28th his studies resulted in a brilliant state paper, which occupies seven folio pages in the Book of Confidential Letters, and he then retired to rest. Naturally his maiden effort in diplomacy tried his nerves. His broken sleep was disturbed with dreams of codfish and the shades of Lord Aberdeen till morning.

Once more summoning to his aid his old sea-racer the Mississippi, Captain McCluney, Perry left New York July 31st, 1852, stopping at Eastport, Maine, to get fresh information. There was much irritation felt by British residents at the alleged depredations of American fishermen, who, instead of buying their ice, bait, fuel and other supplies, were sometimes tempted to make raids on the shores of the islands. One excited person wrote to the admiral of the fleet:

“For God’s sake send a man-of-war here, for the Americans are masters of the place—one hundred sail are now lying in the harbor. They have stolen my fire-wood and burnt it on the beach.” They had also set fire to the woods and committed other spoliations. Collisions with the British cruisers were imminent, and acts easily leading to war were feared by the cabinet.

Perry proceeded to Halifax. He traversed the coast of Cape Breton Island, around Magdalen, and along the north shore of Prince Edward’s Island, visiting the resorts of the Yankee fishermen, and passing large fleets of our vessels. He found by experience, and was satisfied, that there had been repeated infractions of treaty, for which seven seizures had been made by British cruisers then in command of Admiral Seymour. The question, at this issue, concerning the rights of Americans fishing in Canadian waters, was one of geographical science rather than of diplomacy. It rested upon the answer given to this, “What are bays?” The last convention between the two countries had been made in 1818, when the United States renounced her right to fish within three miles of any of the coasts, bays and harbors of Canada. Only after a number of American vessels had been seized and prosecuted in the court at Halifax, was this treaty made. Including those captured for violating the convention of 1818, the number was sixty in all. The British said to Perry that the Americans had no right to take fish within three marine miles of the shore of a British province, or within three miles of a line drawn from headland to headland across bays. Canadians in American bottoms were especially expert in evading this law.

Perry found the American fishermen were intelligent and understood the treaty, but he thought that the Canadian government was too severe upon them. About 2500 vessels and 27,500 men from our ports took part in the hazardous occupation, “thus furnishing,” said the Commodore, “a nursery for seamen, of inestimable advantage to the maritime interests of the nation.” Added to the force employed in whaling in the North Atlantic, there were thirty thousand men, mostly native Americans, whose business was with salt-water fish and mammals. At one point he saw a fleet of five hundred sail of mackerel fishers.

This diplomatic voyage revealed both the dangers and pathos of the sailor-fisherman’s life. No class of men engaged in any industry are subjected to such sufferings, privations and perils. Their own name for the fishing grounds is “The Graveyard.”

The commercial and naval success of this country is largely the result of the enterprise and seamanship shown in the whaling fisheries. These nurseries of the American navy had enabled the United States in two wars to achieve on the seas so many triumphs over Great Britain. By the same agencies, Perry hoped to see his country become the greatest commercial rival of Great Britain. This could be done by looking to the quality of the common sailor, and maintaining the standard of 1812. For such reasons, if for no others, the fisheries should be encouraged.

Perry came to adjust amicably the respective rights of both British and American seamen. He warned his countrymen against encroaching upon the limits prescribed by the convention of 1818, but at the same time he would protect American vessels from visitation or interference at points left in doubt. His mission had a happy consummation. The wholesome effect of the Mississippi’s visit paved the way for the reciprocity treaty between Canada and the United States, negotiated at Washington soon after by Sir Ambrose Shea, and signed June 5th, 1854. The entrance of Mr. Kennedy in the cabinet was thus made both successful and brilliant by Commodore Perry. The “hiatus secretary” bridged the gulf of war with the firm arch of peace. The reciprocity treaty lasted twelve years, when the irrepressible root of bitterness again sprouted. Despite diplomacy, correspondence, treaties, and Joint High Commissions, still, at this writing, in 1887, it vexes the peace of two nations. The axe is not yet laid at the root of the trouble.

John P. Kennedy, another of the able literary men who have filled the chair of secretary of the navy, was an ardent advocate of exploration and peaceful diplomacy. He was heartily in favor of the Japan expedition. Perry trusted in him so fully that, at last, tired of innumerable delays, having made profound study of the problem and elaborated details of preparation, he determined on his return from Newfoundland, September 15th, to sail in a few weeks in the Mississippi, relying upon the Secretary’s word that other vessels would be hurried forward with despatch.

Repairing to Washington, the Commodore had long and earnest interviews with the Secretaries of the State and Navy. Things were now beginning to assume an air of readiness, yet his instructions, from the State department, had not yet been prepared. Mr. Webster at this time was only nominally holding office in the vain hope of recovery to health after a fall from his horse. Perry, seeing his condition, and fearing further delays, asked of Mr. Webster, through General James Watson Webb, permission to write his own instructions.

We must tell the story in General Webb’s own words as found in The New York Courier and Inquirer, and as we heard them reiterated by him in a personal interview shortly before his death:—

“In the last of those interviews when we were desired by Perry to urge certain matters which he thought should be embraced in his instructions, Mr. Webster, with that wisdom and foresight and knowledge, for which he was so eminently the superior of ordinary men, remarked as follows:

‘The success of this expedition depends solely upon whether it is in the hands of the right man. It originated with him, and he of all others knows best how it is to be successfully carried into effect. And if this be so, he is the proper person to draft his instructions. Let him go to work, therefore, and prepare instructions for himself, let them be very brief, and if they do not contain some very exceptionable matter, he may rest assured they will not be changed. It is so important that if the expedition sail it should be successful, and to ensure success its commander should not be trammeled with superfluous or minute instructions.’ We reported accordingly, and thereupon Commodore Perry, as we can vouch, for we were present, prepared the original draft of his instructions under which he sailed for Japan.”

Mr. Webster’s successor and intimate personal friend, Edward Everett, simply carried out the wishes of his predecessor and made no alteration in the instructions to Perry. He, however, indited a new letter to the “Emperor,” which is only an expansion of the Websterian original. Everett’s “effort” differed from Daniel Webster’s letter, very much as the orator’s elaboration on a certain battle-field differed from Lincoln’s simple speech. At Gettysburg the one had the lamp, the other had immortality in it.

The Japan document was superbly engrossed and enclosed in a gold box which cost one thousand dollars.

The Princeton, a new screw sloop-of-war had been promised to him many months before, but the autumn was well advanced before her hull, empty of machinery and towed to New York, was visible. Captain Sydney Smith Lee was to command her. In the Mississippi, Perry towed her to Baltimore. Then began another of those exasperating stages of suspense and delay to which naval men are called, and to endure which seems to be the special cross of the profession. Waiting until November, as eagerly as a blockader waits for an expected prize from port, he wrote to his old comrade, Joshua R. Sands:—

“I am desirous of having you again under my command, and always have been, but until now no good opportunity has occurred consistently with promises I had made to Buchanan, Lee, and Adams.

“The Macedonian and Alleghany will soon have commanders appointed to them. For myself I would prefer the Alleghany, as from her being a steamer she will have a better chance for distinction, and I want a dasher like yourself in her.

“Rather than have inconvenient delay on account of men, I would prefer that you take an over-proportion of young American landsmen who would in a very short time become more effective men in a steamer than middle-aged seamen of questionable constitutions.”

Commander Sands was eventually unable to go with Perry to Japan; but afterwards, in his eighty-ninth year the Rear-Admiral, then the oldest living officer of the navy, in a long letter to the writer gleefully calls attention to Perry’s trust in young American landsmen. The Princeton was finally extricated, and with the Mississippi moved down the Chesapeake. Before leaving Annapolis, a grand farewell reception was held on the flag-ship’s spacious deck. The President, Mr. Fillmore, Secretary Kennedy, and a brilliant throng of people bade the Commodore and officers farewell.

The Mississippi and the Princeton then steamed down the bay together, when the discovery was made of the entire unfitness of the screw steamer to make the voyage. Her machinery failed utterly, and at Norfolk, the Powhatan, which had just arrived from the West Indies, was substituted in her place. The precedent of building only the best steamers, on the best models, and of the best materials, set by Perry in the Mississippi and Missouri, had not been followed, and disappointment was the result. The Princeton never did get to sea. She was a miserable failure in every respect, and was finally sent to Philadelphia to end her days as a receiving-ship.

On the evening before the day the Commodore left to go on board his ship then lying at Hampton Roads, a banquet was tendered him by a club of gentlemen who then occupied a house on G street, west of the War Department, now much modernized and used as the office of the Signal corps.

There were present at this banquet, as invited guests, Commodore M. C. Perry, Lieutenant John Contee, and a few other officers of the Commodore’s staff, Edward Everett, Hon. John P. Kennedy—“Horseshoe Robinson,” the “hiatus Secretary” of the navy—Col. W. W. Seaton, the Hon. Alexander H. H. Stuart, Mr. Badger, senator from North Carolina, John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, Jefferson Davis, the Honorables Beverly Tucker, Phillip T. Ellicot, Theodore Kane, Johnson, Addison, and Horace Capron afterwards general of cavalry, and Commissioner of Agriculture at Washington, and in the service of the Mikado’s government from 1871 to 1874, making in all a party of about twenty-four. The dinner was served by Wormley, the famous colored caterer.

General Capron says in a letter dated September 13th, 1883:

“I can only state the impressions made upon my mind by that gathering, and the clear and well-defined plans of the Commodore’s proposed operations which were brought out in response to the various queries. It was apparent that all present were well convinced that the Commodore fully comprehended the difficulties and the delicate character of the work before him. . . . I am bound to say that to my mind it is clear that no power but that of the Almighty Disposer of all things could have guided our rulers in the selection of a man for this most important work.”

Perry’s written instructions were to fulfil the unexecuted orders given to Commodore Aulick, to assist as far as possible the American minister in China in prosecuting the claims of Americans upon the government of Pekin, to explore the coasts, make pictures and obtain all possible hydrographic and other information concerning the countries to be visited. No letters were to be written from the ships of the squadron to the newspapers, and all journals kept by officers or men were to be the property of the navy Department. The Secretary, in his final letter, said:—

“In prosecuting the objects of your mission to Japan you are invested with large discretionary powers, and you are authorized to employ dispatch vessels, interpreters, Kroomen, or natives, and all other means which you may deem necessary to enable you to bring about the desired results.

“Tendering you my best wishes for a successful cruise, and a safe return to your country and friends for yourself, officers and companies of your ships,

“I am, etc.,


From its origin, the nature of the mission was “essentially executive,” and therefore pacific, as the President had no power to declare war. Yet the show of force was relied on as more likely, than anything else, to weigh with the Japanese. Perry believed in the policy of Commodore Patterson at Naples in 1832, where the pockets of recalcitrant debtors were influenced through sight and the imagination.

The British felt a keen and jealous interest in the expedition. The Times, which usually reflects the average Briton’s opinion as faithfully as a burnished mirror the charms of a Japanese damsel, said:—“It was to be doubted whether the Emperor of Japan would receive Commodore Perry with most indignation or most contempt.” Japanese treachery was feared, and while one editorial oracle most seriously declared that “the Americans must not leave their wooden walls,” Punch insisted that “Perry must open the Japanese ports, even if he has to open his own.” Sydney Smith had said, “I am for bombarding all the exclusive Asiatics, who shut up the earth and will not let me walk civilly through it, doing no harm and paying for all I want.” The ideal of a wooer of the Japanese Thornrose, according to another, was that no blustering bully or roaring Commodore would succeed. “Our embassador should be one who, with the winning manner of a Jesuit, unites the simplicity of soul and straightforwardness of a Stoic.”

Providence timed the sailing of the American Expedition and the advent of the ruler of New Japan so that they should occur well nigh simultaneously. The first circumnavigation of the globe by a steam war vessel of the United States began when Matthew Perry left Norfolk, November 24th, 1852 three weeks after the birth in Kiōto of Mutsŭhito, the 123d, and now reigning Mikado of “Everlasting Great Japan.”

Perry had remained long enough to learn the result of the national election, and the choice of his old friend Franklin Pierce to the Presidency. Tired of delay, he sailed with the Mississippi alone. At Funchal the Commodore made official calls in the fashionable conveyance of the place, a sled drawn by oxen, and laid in supplies of beef and coal. The incidents on the way out, and of the stops made at Madeira, St. Helena, Cape Town, Mauritius, Ceylon and Singapore, have been described by himself, in his official narrative, and by his critic J. W. Spalding,[25] a clerk on the flag-ship. Anchor was cast off Hong Kong on the 6th of April, where the Plymouth, Saratoga, and Supply, were met. The next day was devoted to the burning of powder in salutes, and to the exchange of courtesies. Shanghai was reached May 4th. Here, Bayard Taylor, the “landscape painter in words,” joined the expedition as master’s mate. The Commodore’s flag was transferred to the Susquehanna on the 17th.


The low, level and monotonous and uninteresting shores of China were left behind on the 23d, and on the 26th, the bold, variegated and rocky outlines of Riu Kiu rose into view. An impressive reception, with full military and musical honors, was given on the third, to the regent and his staff on the Susquehanna. The climax of all was the interview in the cabin. In lone dignity, the Commodore gave the Japanese the first taste of the mystery-play in which they had thus far so excelled, and in which they were now to be outdone. Perry could equal in pomp and dignity either Mikado or Shō-gun when he chose. He notified the grand old gentleman that, during the following week, he would pay a visit to the palace at Shuri. Despite all objections and excuses, the Commodore persisted, as his whole diplomatic policy was to be firm, take no steps backward, and stick to the truth in everything. His open frankness helped by its first blows to shatter down that system of lying, deception, and espionage, under which the national character had decayed during the rule of the Tokugawas.

On the 9th of June, with the Susquehanna having the Saratoga in tow, the Commodore set out northwards for a visit to the Ogasawara or Bonin islands, first explored by the Japanese in 1675, and variously visited and named by European navigators. Captain Reuben Coffin of Nantucket, in the ship Transit, from Bristol, owned by Fisher, Kidd and Fisher, landed on the southern or “mother” island September 12th, in 1824, fixing also its position and giving it his name. British and Russian captains followed his example, and also nailed inscribed sheets of copper sheathing to trees in token of claims made. “Under the auspices of the Union Jack” a motley colony of twenty persons of five nationalities settled Peel island, one of the group, in 1830. Perry found eight whites, cultivating nearly one hundred acres of land, who sold fresh supplies to whalers. The head of the community was Nathanael Savory of Massachusetts. Perry left cattle, sheep, and goods, seeds and supplies and an American flag. He arrived at Napa again June 23d, and the 2d of July, 1853, the expedition left for the Bay of Yedo. Many and unforeseen delays had hindered the Commodore, and now that he was at the doors of the empire, how different was fulfilment from promise! Over and over again “an imposing squadron” of twelve vessels had been promised him, and now he had but two steamers and two sloops. Uncertain when the other vessels might appear, he determined to begin with the force in hand. The Supply left behind, and the Caprice sent back to Shanghai, he had but the Mississippi, Susquehanna, Plymouth and Saratoga.

The promontory of Idzu loomed into view on the hazy morning of the 7th, and Rock island—now crowned by a lighthouse, and connected by telephone with the shore and with Yokohama, but then bare—was passed. Cape Sagami was reached at noon, and at 3 o’clock the ships had begun to get within range of the forts that crowned or ridged the headlands of the promontory. The weather cleared and the cone of Fuji, in a blaze of glory, rose peerless to the skies.

Cautiously the ships rounded the cape, when from one of the forts there rose in the air a rocket-signal. “Japanese day fire-works” are now common enough at Coney Island. Made of gunpowder and wolf dung, they are fired out of upright bamboo-bound howitzers made of stout tree trunks. The “shell” exploded high in air forming a cloud of floating dust. The black picture stained the sky for several minutes. It was a signal to the army lying in the ravines, and a notice, repeated at intervals, to the court at Yedo. The expected Perry had “sailed into the Sea of Sagami and into Japanese history.”

In the afternoon, the first steamers ever seen in Japanese waters, dropped anchor off Uraga. As previously ordered, by diagram of the Commodore, the ships formed a line broadside to the shore. The ports were opened, and the loaded guns run out. Every precaution was taken to guard against surprise from boats, by fire-junks, or whatever native ingenuity should devise against the big “black ships.”

The first signal made from the flag-ship was this, “Have no communication with the shore, have none from the shore.” The night passed quietly and without alarms. Only the boom of the temple bells, the glare of the camp-fires, and the dancing of lantern lights told of life on the near land. This is the view from the American decks. Let us now picture the scene from the shore, as native eyes saw it.

The Japan Expedition, New York, 1855


Among the many names of their beautiful country, the Japanese loved none more than that of “Land of Great Peace,”—a breath of grateful repose after centuries of war. The genius of Iyéyasŭ had, in the seventeenth century, won rest, and nearly a quarter of a millennium of quiet followed. The fields trampled down by the hoof of the war-horse and the sandal of the warrior had been re-planted, the sluices and terraces repaired, and seed time and harvest passed in unintermitting succession. The merchant bought and sold, laid up tall piles of gold kobans, and thanked Daikokŭ and Amida for the blessings of wealth and peace. The shop keeper held a balance of two hundred rios against the day of devouring fire or wasting sickness, or as a remainder for his children after the expenses of his funeral. The artisan toiled in sunny content, and at daily prayer, thanked the gods that he was able to rear his family in peace. Art and literature flourished. The samurai, having no more use for his sword, yet ever believing it to be “his soul,” wore it as a memento of the past and guard for the future. He lounged in the tea-houses disporting with the pretty girls; or if of studious tastes, he fed his mind, and fired his heart with the glories of Old Japan. As for the daimiōs, they filled up the measure of their existence, alternately at Yedo, and in their own dominions, with sensual luxury, idle amusement, or empty pomp. All, all was profound peace. The arrows rusted in the arsenals, or hung glittering in vain display, made into screens or designs on the walls. The spears stood useless on their butts in the vestibules, or hung in racks over the doors hooded in black cloth. The match-locks were bundled away as curious relics of war long distant, and for ever passed away. The rusty cannon lay unmounted in the castle yards, where the snakes and the rats made nests and led forth their troops of young for generations.

Upon this scene of calm—the calm of despotism—broke the vision of “the black ships at Uraga.” At this village, long noted for its Midzu-amé or rice-honey, the Japanese were to have their first taste of modern civilization. Its name, given nine, perhaps eleven centuries before, was auspicious, though they knew it not. The Chinese characters, sounded Ura-ga, mean “Coast Congratulation.” At first a name of foreboding, it was to become a word of good cheer!

“The fire-vessels of the western barbarians are coming to defile the Holy Country,” said priest and soldier to each other on the afternoon of the third day of the sixth month of Kayéi, in the reign of the Emperor Koméi. The boatman at his sculls and the junk sailor at the tiller gazed in wonder at the painted ships of the western world. The farmer, standing knee deep in the ooze of the rice fields, paused to gaze, wondering whether the barbarians had harnessed volcanoes. With wind blowing in their teeth and sails furled, the monsters curled the white foam at their front, while their black throats vomited sparks and smoke. To the gazers at a distance, as they looked from their village on the hill tops, the whole scene seemed a mirage created, according to their childhood’s belief, by the breath of clams. The Land of Great Peace lay in sunny splendor. The glorious cone of Fuji capped with fleecy clouds of white, never looked more lovely. Even the great American admiral must surely admire the peerless mountain.[26] The soldiers in the fort on the headlands, obeying orders, would forbear to fire lest the fierce barbarians should begin war at once. The rocket signal would alarm great Yedo. The governor at Uraga would order the foreigners to Nagasaki. Would they obey? The bluff whence the Morrison had been fired upon years before, once rounded, would the barbarians proceed further up the bay? Suspense was short. The great splashing of the wheels ceased. As the imposing line lay within an arrow’s range, off the shore, the rattling of the anchor-chains was heard even on land. The flukes gripped bottom at the hour of the cock (5 p. m.)

The yakunin or public business men of Uraga had other work to do that day than to smoke, drink tea, lounge on their mats, or to collect the customs from junks bound to Yedo. As soon as the ships were sighted, the buniō, his interpreter, and satellites, donned their ceremonial dress of hempen cloth and their lacquered hats emblazoned with the Tokugawa trefoil, thrust their two swords in their belts, their feet in their sandals, and hied to the water’s edge. Their official barge propelled by twelve scullsmen shot out to the nearest vessel. By their orders a cordon of boats provisioned for a stay on the water was drawn around the fleet; but the crews, to their surprise could not fasten their lines to the ships nor climb up on board. The “hairy barbarians,” as was not the case with previous visitors, impolitely pitched off their ropes, and with cocked muskets and fixed bayonets really threatened to use the ugly tools if intruders mounted by the chains. A great many naru hodo (the equivalent of “Well I never!” “Is it possible?” “Indeed!”) were ejaculated in consequence.

Mr. Nakashima Saburosŭké (or, in English, Mr. Middle Island, Darling No. 3) vice-governor, and an officer of the seventh or eighth rank, was amazed to find that even he, a yakunin and dressed in kami-shimo uniform, his boat flying the governor’s pennant, and his bearers holding spears and the Tokugawa trefoil flag, could not get on board. The i-jin (outlanders) did not even let down their gangway ladder, when motioned to do so. This was cause for another official naru hodo. The barbarians wished to confer with the governor himself. Only when told that the law forbade that functionary from boarding foreign ships, did they allow Mr. Nakashima and his interpreter Hori Tatsunosūké (Mr. Conch Dragon-darling,) to board. Even then, he was not allowed to see the grand high yakunin of the fleet, the Commodore, who was showing himself master of Japanese tactics.

Perry was playing Mikado. The cabin was the abode of His High Mighty Mysteriousness. He was for the time being Kin-réi, Lord of the Forbidden Interior. He was Tennō, (son of the skies) and Tycoon (generalissimo) rolled into one. His Lieutenant Contee acted as Nai-Dai-Jin, or Great Man of the Inner Palace. A tensō, or middle man, secretary or clerk, carried messages to and fro from the cabin, but the child of the gods with the topknot and two swords knew it not. Since the hermits of Japan were not familiar [with] the rank of Commodore, but only of Admiral, this title came at once and henceforth into use. The old proverb concerning the prophet and his honors abroad found new illustration in all the negotiations, and Perry enjoyed more fame at the ends of the earth than at home.

Mr. Nakashima Saburosŭké was told the objects for which the invisible Admiral came. He had been sent by the President of the United States on a friendly mission. He had a letter addressed to “the emperor.” He wished an officer of proper rank to be chosen to receive a copy, and appoint a day for the momentous act of accepting with all the pomp and ceremony and circumstance, so august a document from so mighty a ruler, of so great a power. The Admiral would not go to Nagasaki. With imperturbable gravity of countenance, but with many mental naru hodo, the dazed native listened. The letter must be received where he then was.

Further, while the intentions of the admiral were perfectly friendly, he would allow of no indignity. If the guard-boats were not immediately removed, they would be dispersed by force. Anxious above all things to preserve peace with the i-jin or barbarians, the functionary of Uraga rose immediately, and ordered the punts, sampans and guard-boats away.

This, the first and master move of the mysterious and inaccessible Commodore in the game of diplomacy, practiced with the Riu Kiu regent was repeated in Yedo Bay. The foiled yakunin, clothed with only a shred of authority, could promise nothing, and went ashore. There is scarcely a doubt that he ate less rice and fish that evening. Perhaps he left his bowl of miso (bean-sauce) untasted, his shiru (fish soup) unsipped. The probabilities approach certainty that he smoked a double quota of pipes of tobacco. A “hairy” barbarian had snubbed a yakunin. Naruhodo!

Darkness fell upon the rice fields and thatched dwellings. The blue waters were spotted with millions of white jelly-fishes looking as though as many plates of white porcelain were floating submerged in a medium of their own density. Within the temples on shore, anxious congregations gathered to supplicate the gods to raise tempests of wind such as centuries ago swept away the Mongol armada and invaders. The “divine breath” had wrought wonders before, why not now also?

Indoors, dusty images and holy pictures were cleansed, the household shrines renovated, fresh oil supplied to the lamps, numerous candles provided, and prayers uttered such as father and mother had long since ceased to offer. The gods were punishing the people for neglect of their altars and for their wickedness, by sending the “ugly barbarians” to destroy their “holy country.” Rockets were shot up from the forts, and alarm fires blazed on the headlands. These were repeated on the hills, and told with almost telegraphic rapidity the story of danger far inland. The boom of the temple bells, and the sharp strokes on those of the fire-lookouts, kept up the ominous sounds and spread the news.

For several years past unusual portents had been seen in the heavens, but that night a spectacle of singular majesty and awful interest appeared. At midnight the whole sky was overspread with a luminous blue and reddish tint, as though a flaming white dragon were shedding floods of violet sulphurous light on land and sea. Lasting nearly four hours, it suffused the whole atmosphere, and cast its spectral glare upon the foreign ships, making hull, rigging and masts as frightfully bright as the Taira ghosts on the sea of Nagatō. Men now living remember that awful night with awe, and not a few in their anxiety sat watching through the hours of darkness until, though the day was breaking, the landscape faded from view in the gathering mist.

The morning dawned. The barbarians had remained tranquil during the night. The unhappy yakunin probably forgot the lie[27] he had told the day before, for at 7 o’clock by the foreigners’ time, the governor himself, Kayama Yézayémon, with his satellites arrived off the flag-ship. Its name, the Susquehanna, struck their fancy pleasantly, because the sound resembled those of “bamboo” (suzuki) and “flower” (hana). The grand dignitary of Uraga in all the glory of embroidery, gilt brocade, swords, and lacquered helmet with padded chin straps, ascended the gangway as if climbing to the galleries of a wrestling show. Alas, that the barbarians, who did not even hold their breath, should be so little impressed by this living museum of decorative art. There was not one of them that fell upon his hands and knees. Not one Jack Tar swabbed the deck with his forehead. Some secretly snickered at the bare brown legs partly exposed between the petticoat and the blue socks. This buniō in whose very name are reflected the faded glories of the old imperial palace guard in medieval Kiōto, was accustomed to ride in splendid apparel on a steed emblazoned with crests, trappings and tassels, its mane in pompons, and its tail encased, like an umbrella, in a silk bag. His attendant outwalkers moved between rows of prone palms and faces, and of upturned top-knots and shining pates. Now, he felt ill at ease in simple sandals on the deck of a mighty ship. The “hairy foreigners” were taller than he, notwithstanding his lacquered helmet. In spite of silk trousers, and rank one notch higher than the official of yesterday, he was unable to hold personal intercourse with the Lord of the Forbidden Interior. The American Tycoon could not be seen. The buniō met only the San Dai Jin, Captains Buchanan and Adams, and Lieutenant Contee. A long discussion resulted in the unalterable declaration that the Admiral would not go to Nagasaki. He would not wait four days for an answer from Yedo, but only three. The survey boats would survey the waters of the bay.

“His Excellency” (!) the buniō was shown the varnish and key hole of the magnificent caskets containing the letters from the great ruler of the United States. Eve did not eye the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil with more consuming curiosity, than did that son of an inquisitive race ogle the glittering mysterious box. It was not for him to know the contents. He was moved to offer food and water. With torturing politeness, the “hairy faces” declined. They had enough of everything. The ugly barbarians even demanded that the same term of respect should be applied to their President as that given to the great and mighty figure-head at Yedo. This came near being a genuine comedy of Much Ado about Nothing, since one of the Tycoon’s titles expressed, in English print was “O.”

In spite of the rising gorge and other choking sensations, the republican president was dubbed Dairi. The buniō of Uraga was told that further discussion was unnecessary, until an answer was received. No number of silent volleys of “naru hodo” (indeed) “tai-hen” (hey yo) or “dekinai” (cannot) could possibly soothe the internal storm in the breast of the snubbed buniō. He gathered himself up, and with bows profound enough to make a right angle of legs and body, and much sucking in of the breath ad profundis, said his “sayonara” (farewell) and went ashore.

The third day dawned, again to usher in fresh anomaly. The Americans would transact no business on this day! Why? It was the Sabbath, for rest and worship, honored by the “Admiral” from childhood in public as well as private life. “Dōntaku” (Sunday,) the interpreter told the buniō. With the aid of glasses from the bluffs on shore, they saw the Mississippi’s capstan wreathed with a flag, a big book laid thereon, and smaller books handed round. One, in a gown, lowered his head; all listening did likewise. Then all sang, the band lending its instrumental aid to swell the volume of sound. The strains floated shoreward and were heard. The music was “Old Hundred.” The hymn was “Before Jehovah’s awful throne, Ye nations bow with sacred joy.” The open book on the capstan was the Bible. In the afternoon, a visiting party of minor dignitaries was denied admittance to the decks of the vessels; nor was this a mere freak of Perry’s, but according to a habit and principle.

This was the American rest-day, and Almighty God was here worshiped in sight of His most glorious works. The Commodore was but carrying out a habit formed at his mother’s knee, and never slighted at home or abroad. To read daily the Bible, receiving it as the word of God, and to honor Him by prayer and praise was the chief part of the “provision sufficient to sustain the mind” so often recommended by him to officers and men. “This was the only notable demonstration which he made before landing.”

“Remarkable was this Sabbath morning salutation, in which an American fleet, with such music as those hillsides never re-echoed before, chanted the glories of Jehovah before the gates of a heathen nation. It was a strange summons to the Japanese.” Its echoes are now heard in a thousand glens and in the cities of the Mikado’s empire. The waters of Yedo Bay have since become a baptismal flood. Where cannon was cast to resist Perry now stands the Imperial Female Normal College. On the treaty grounds rises the spire of a Christian church.

Meanwhile, the erection of earth-works along the strand and on the bluffs progressed. The farm laborers, the fishermen, palanquin-bearers, pack-horse leaders, women and children were impressed into the work. With hoe and spade, and baskets of rope matting slung from a pole borne on the shoulders of two men, or each with divided load depending scale-wise from one shoulder, receiving an iron cash at each passing of the paymaster, they toiled day and night. Rude parapets of earth knit together with grass were made and pierced with embrasures. These were twice too wide for unwieldly, long, and ponderously heavy brass cannon able to throw a three or six pound ball. The troops were clad in mail of silk, iron and paper, a kind of war corset, for which rifle balls have little respect. Their weapons were match-locks and spears. Their evolutions were those of Taikō’s time, both on drill and parade. Curtained camps sprung up, around which stretched impressive walls of cotton cloth etched by the dyer’s mordant with colossal crests. These were not to represent “sham forts, of striped canvas,” and thus to frighten the invaders, as the latter supposed; but, according to immemorial custom, to denote military business, and to display either the insignia of the great Shō-gun or the particular clan to which a certain garrison or detachment belonged. The political system headed by the Tycoon, had to the Japanese mind nothing amusing in its name of Bakafu or Curtain Government, though to the foreigner, suggestive of Mrs. Caudle. It had, however, a certain hostile savor. It was a mild protest against the camp over-awing the throne. It implied criticism of the Shō-gun, and reverence to the Mikado.

The names and titles which now desolated the air and suffered phonetic wreck in collision with the vocal organs to which they were so strange, furnish not only an interesting linguistic study, but were a mirror of native history. The uncouth forms which they took upon the lips of the latest visiting foreigners are hardly worse in the scholar’s eyes, than the deviations which the Japanese themselves made from the Aino aboriginal or imported Chinese forms. In its vocabulary the Japanese is a very mixed language, and the majority of its so called elegant terms of speech is but mispronounced Chinese. To the Americans, the name of one of the interpreters seemed “compounded of two sneezes and a cough,” though when analyzed into its component elements, it reflects the changes in Japanese history as surely as fossils in the rocks reveal the characteristics of bygone geological ages. In the old days of the Mikado’s supremacy, in fact as well as in law, when he led his troops in war, instead of being exiled in a palace; that is, before the thirteenth century, both military and civil titles had a meaning. Names had a reality behind them, and were symbols of a fact. A man with kami (lord) after his name was an actual governor of a province; one with mon terminating his patronymic was a member of the imperial guard, a soldier or sentinel at the Sayé mon (left gate) or Uyé mon (right gate) of the palace; a Hei was a real soldier with a sword or arrow, spear or armor. A suké or a jō a marō or a himé, a kamon or a tono was a real deputy or superior, a prince or princess, a palace functionary or a palace occupant of imperial blood. All this was changed when, in the twelfth century, the authority was divided into civil and military, and two capitals and centers of government, typified by the Throne and the Camp, sprang up. The Mikado kept his seat, the prestige of antiquity and divinity, and the fountain of authority at Kiōto, while the Shō-gun or usurping general held the purse and the sword at Kamakura. Gradually the Shō-gun (army-commander, general) usurped more and more power, claiming it as necessary, and invariably obtaining new leases of power until little was left to the Mikado but the shadow of authority. The title of Tai-kun (“Tycoon”) meaning Great Prince, and the equivalent of a former title of the Mikado was assumed. Next the military rulers at Kamakura, from the twelfth to the sixteenth century and in Yedo from the seventeenth century, controlled the appointments of their nominees to office, and even compelled the Emperor to make certain of them hereditary in elect families. The multitude of imperial titles, once carrying with their conferment actual duties and incomes, and theoretically functional in Kiōto became, as reality decayed, in the higher grades empty honorifics of the Tycoon’s minions, and in the lower were degraded to ordinary personal names of the agricultural gentry or even common people. What was once an actual official title sunk to be a mere final syllable in a name.

The writer, when a resident in the Mikado’s empire, was accustomed to address persons with most lofty, grandiloquent, and high flown names, titles and decorative patronymics, in which the glories of decayed imperialism and medieval history were reflected. His cook was an Imperial Guardsman of the Left, his stable boy was a Regent of the University, while not a few servants, mechanics, field hands and manure carriers, were Lords of the Chamber, Promoters of Learning, Superintendents of the Palace Gardens, or various high functionaries with salary and office. Just as the decayed mythology and far off history of the classic nations furnished names for the slaves in Carolina cotton fields, in the days when Lempriêre was consulted for the christening of newly born negro babies, so, the names borne by thousands of Japanese to-day afford to the foreign analyst of words and to the native scholar both amusement and reflection. To the Americans on Perry’s fleet they furnished endless jest as phonetic and linguistic curiosities.

A Japanese poet puts this stanza in the mouth of Perry; “Little did I dream that I should here, after crossing the salty path, gaze upon the snow-capped Fuji of this land.”

“M—— Y—— is at Shimoda, and has not forgotten the art of lying.” Townsend Harris to Perry, October 27, 1857.


Opening upon the beautiful bay (), like a door (do), the great city in the Kuantō, or Broad East of Japan, was well-named Bay-door, or Yedo. Founded as a military stronghold tributary to the Shō-gun at Kamakura in the fourteenth century, by Ota Dō Kuan, it was made in 1603 the seat of the government by Iyéyasŭ. This man, mighty both in war and in peace, and probably Japan’s greatest statesman, made the little village a mighty city, and founded the line of Shō-guns of the Tokugawa family, which ruled in the person of fifteen Tycoons until 1868. To the twelfth of the line Iyéyoshi, President Fillmore’s letter was to be delivered, and with the thirteenth, Iyésada, the American treaty made. The Americans dubbed each “Emperor”!

Yedo’s chief history and glory are associated with the fortunes of the Tokugawas. It had reached the zenith of its greatness when Perry’s ships entered the bay. Its palaces, castles, temples, and towers were then in splendor never attained before or beheld in Japan since. It was the centre of wealth, learning, art and gay life. Its population numbered one million two hundred thousand souls, of whom were five hundred thousand of the military class.

Upon this mass of humanity the effect of the news of “black ships” at their very doors was startling. All Yedo was soon in a frightful state of commotion. With alarmed faces the people thronged to the shrines to pray, or hastily packed their valuables, to bury or send off to the houses of distant friends. In the southern suburbs thousands of houses were emptied of their contents and of the sick and aged. Many who could, left their homes to go and dwell with relatives in the country. Couriers on horseback had first brought details of the news by land. Junks and scull-boats from Uraga arrived hourly at Shinagawa, and foot-runners bearing dispatches panted in the government offices. They gave full descriptions of what had been said and done, the number, shape and size of the vessels, and in addition to verbal and written statements, showed drawings of the black ships and of the small boats manned by the sailors. It was no clam’s-breath mirage this time. The rumor so often pooh-poohed had turned to reality.[28]

The samurai went to their kura (fire proof storehouses) and unpacked their armor to repair and furbish, and to see if they could breathe, as they certainly could perspire in it, and brandish a sword with both hands, when fully laced up. They scoured the rust off their spears, whetted and feathered their arrows, and restrapped their quivers upon which the moths had long feasted. The women rehemmed or ironed out flags and pennants. Intense activity prevailed on the drill grounds and matchlock ranges. New earth-banks for targets were erected. Vast quantities of powder were burned in practice. It was the harvest time of the priests, the armorers, the sword-makers, and the manufacturers of oiled paper coats, leggings, hats and sandals, so much needed in that rainy climate during camp-life. The drug business boomed with activity, for the hastily gathered and unseasoned soldiers lying under arms in camp suffered from all sorts of maladies arising from exposure.

Hokŭsai, whose merciless caricatures of carpet soldiers once made all Japan laugh, and who had died four years before with the snows of nearly ninety years upon his head, was not there to see the fun. His pupils, however, put the humor of the situation on paper; and caricatures, lampoons and jokes directed against these sons of luxury in camp were numerous, and after the departure of the ships they found ready sale.

One enterprising merchant and ship owner in Yedo had, months before Perry arrived, made a fortune by speculating in oiled paper, buying up all he could lay his hands upon, making water-proof garments and selling at high prices. Indiscreetly exulting over his doings, he gave a feast to his many friends whom his sudden wealth had made. The two proverbs “In vino veritas,” and “Wine in, wit out,” kissed each other. Over his merry cups he declared that “the vessels of the barbarians” had been “the treasure-ships of the seven gods of happiness” to him. The authorities got wind of the boast, and clapped the unlucky wight in prison. He was charged with secretly trading with foreign countries. His riches took wings and flew into the pockets of the yakunin and the informer. While the American ships were at Napa he was beheaded. His fate sobered other adventurous spirits, but did not injure business.

The book-sellers and picture-shop keepers, who had sent artists down to Uraga, also coined kobans by selling “brocade pictures” or broadsides bedizened with illustrations in color, of the floating monsters and the tall man of strange garb, speech, tonsure, hirsute fashion, and shape of eyes. Fans, gaily colored and depicting by text and drawing the wonders that now thrilled the nation, were sent into the interior and sold by thousands. The governor was compelled to issue proclamations to calm the public alarm.

Meanwhile, in the castle, the daimiōs were acquainted with the nature of the despatches and the object of the American envoy. Discussion was invited, but there was nothing to be said. Innumerable pipes were smoked. Long hours were spent on the mats in sedentary recumbence on knees and heels. Uncounted cups of tea were swilled. Incredible indignation, impotent wrath and contempt were poured upon the ugly barbarians, but still an answer to the unanswered question, “what was to be done?” could not be deferred. This was the problem.

They must first lie to the foreigners and make them believe that the Shō-gun was a Tai-kun and had imperial power. This done, they would then have the chronic task of articulating lie after lie to conceal from prying eyes the truth that the Yedo government was a counterfeit and subordinate. The Shō-gun was no emperor at all, and what would they do if the hairy devils should take a notion to go to Kiōto? They could not resist the big ships and men, and yet they knew not what demands the greedy aliens would make. They had no splendid war vessels as in Taikō’s time, when the keels of Japan ploughed every sea in Asia and carried visitors to Mexico, to India, to the Phillipines. No more, as in centuries ago, were their sailors the Northmen of the sea, able to make even the coasts of China and Corea desolate, and able to hurl back the Mongol armada of Kubhlai Khan. Then should the Americans land, and, by dwelling in it, defile the Holy Country, the strain upon the government to keep the foreigners within bounds and to hold in the Yedo cage the turbulent daimiōs would be too great. Already many of the vassals of Tokugawa were in incipient rebellion. If Japan were opened, they would have a pretext for revolt, and would obey only the imperial court in Kiōto. The very existence of the Tokugawa family would then be jeoparded. If they made a treaty, the “mikado-reverencers” would defy the compact, since they knew that the Tycoon was only a daimiō of low rank with no right to sign. In vain had the official censors purged the writings of historical scholars. Political truth was leaking out fast, and men’s eyes were being opened. In vain were the prisons taxed to hold in the whisperers, the thinkers, the map-makers, the men who believed the country had fallen behind, and that only the Mikado restored to ancient authority could effect improvement.

Finally, two daimiōs were appointed to receive the letter. Orders were given to the clans and coast daimiōs to guard the most important strategic positions fronting the bay of Yedo, lest the foreigners should proceed to acts of violence. Several thousands of troops were despatched in junks to the earth forts along the bay of Yedo.

Meanwhile Perry, the Lord of the Forbidden Interior, had allowed no Japanese to gaze upon his face. The buniō had held several consultations with the Admiral’s subordinates, had been shown the ship and appointments, and had tasted the strangers’ diet. The barbarian pudding was delicious. The liquors were superb. One glass of sugared brandy made the whole western world kin. The icy armor of reserve was shuffled off. The august functionary became jolly. “Naruhodo” and “tai-hen” dropped from his lips like minted coins from a die. So happy and joyful was he, that he forgot, while his veins were warm, that he had not gained a single point, while the invisible Admiral had won all.

A conference was arranged to be held at Kurihama (long-league strand), a hamlet between Morrison Bluff and Uraga for July 13th. The minutest details of etiquette were settled. The knowing subordinates, inspired by His Inaccessibility in the cabin, solemnly weighed every feather-shred of punctilio as in the balances of the universe. In humiliation and abasement, Mr. Yézayémon regretted that upholstered arm-chairs and wines and brandies could not be furnished their guests on the morrow. It was no matter. The “Admiral” would sit like the dignitaries from Yedo; but, as it ill befitted his Mysterious Augustness to be pulled very far in a small boat, he would proceed in the steamers to a point opposite the house of deliberation within range of his Paixhans. He would land with a proper retinue of officers and soldiers. Possibly a Golownin mishap might occur, and the Admiral wished to do nothing disagreeable. Even if the government was perfectly sincere in intentions, the swiftness of Japanese assassins was proverbial, and the rō-nin (wave-man) was ubiquitous.

The day before, sawyers had been busy, boards and posts hauled, and all night long the carpenters sent down from Yedo plied chisel and mallet, hooked adze and saw. Mat sewers and binders, satin curtain hangers, and official canvas-spreaders were busy as bees. Finally the last parallelogram of straw was laid, the last screen arranged, the last silk curtain hung. The retainers of Toda, Idzu no kami, the hatamoto, with all his ancestral insignia of crests, scarlet pennants, spears, banners, lanterns, umbrellas, and feudalistic trumpery were present. The followers of Ito were there too, in lesser numbers. For hundreds of yards stretched canvas imprinted with the Tokugawa blazon, a trefoil of Asarum leaves. On the beach stood the armed soldiers of several clans, while the still waters glittering in the beams of the unclouded sun were gay with boats and fluttering pennants.

In the matter of shine and dazzle the Japanese were actually outdone by the Americans.

The barbarian officers had curious looking golden adornments on their shoulders, and pieces of metal called “buttons” on the front of their coats. What passed the comprehension of the spectators, was that the same curious ornaments were found at the back of their coats below the hips. Why did they wear buttons behind? Instead of grand and imposing hakama (petticoat trousers) and flowing sleeves, they had on tight blue garments. As the sailors rowed in utterly different style from the natives, sitting back to the shore as they pulled, they presented a strange spectacle. They made almost deafening and hideous noises with brass tubes and drums, with which they seemed pleased. The native scullers could have beaten the foreign rowers had the trial been one of skill. The Uraga yakunin and Captain Buchanan led the van of boats. When half way to the shore, thirteen red tongues flamed out like dragons, and thirteen clouds of smoke like the breath of the mountain gods, leaped out of the throats of the barbarian guns.

Then, and then only, the High, Grand, and Mighty, Invisible and Mysterious, Chief Barbarian, representative of the august potentate in America, who had thus far augustly kept himself behind the curtain in secrecy, revealed himself and stepped into his barge. The whole line then moved to the beach. A few minutes later there were a thousand scowls and curses, and clinching of fingers on sword-hilts, and vows of revenge, as the soil of the holy country was defiled by the first barbarian, Buchanan, who sprang ashore on the jetty hastily made of straw rice bags filled with sand.

Many a countryman in the crowds of spectators on the hills around, as he saw the three hundred sailors, mariners, bandsmen and officers, went home to tell his fellow-villagers of foreigners ten feet in stature, as hairy in face as dogs, with polls on their crown as red as the shōjo (or scarlet-headed demons), and of ships as big as mountains, having guns that made heaven and earth crash together when they were fired. The numbers as reported in the distant provinces ran into myriads.

There was no one that gazed more upon Commodore Perry than Kazama Yézayémon. He, the snubbed buniō, had waited through the minutes of the hours of five days to see the mighty personage. With vast officiousness he now led the way to the pavilion. Two gigantic tars carried the American flag, and two boys the mysterious red box whose outside Kazama had seen. Of majestic mien and portly form, tall, proud and stately, but not hairy faced, “big as a wrestler, dignified as a kugé,” (court noble) the august Commodore, already victor, advanced forward. On either side as his guard, stalked a colossal kurumbō (black man) armed to the teeth. This sable pair, guarding the burly Commodore, like the Ni O (two kings) of a temple portal, constituted one of the greatest curiosities of the pageant. Many in the gazing crowds had never seen a white man; but probably not one had ever looked upon a human being whose whole skin was as black as the eyes of Fudō. Only in the theatre, when they had seen the candle-holders with faces smeared with lamp black, had they ever beheld aught like what now smote their eyes.

The procession entered the pavilion with due pomp. The Japanese officials were all dressed in kami-shimo (high and low) or ceremonial winged dress of gold brocade. Toda, Idzu no kami, and Ito, Iwami no kami, the two commissioners, sat on camp-stools. When all was ready, the two boys advanced and delivered their charge to the blacks. These, opening in succession the scarlet cloth envelope and the gold-hinged rosewood boxes, with true African grace, displayed the letter written on vellum bound in blue velvet, and the gold tasseled seals suspended with silk thread. In perfect silence, they laid the documents on the lacquered box brought from Yedo. It was like Guanzan handling the sacred books.

“The First Counsellor of the Empire,” as the Americans called Toda, acknowledged in perfect silence receipt of the documents. The interpreter who had been authorized by the “Emperor”—according to the foreigners’ ideas—handed the receipt to the Commodore, who sat during the ceremony. What little was spoken was in Dutch, chiefly between Perry and the interpreters. The whole affair was like a “Quaker” meeting of the traditional sort. The official reply read:—

“The letter of the President of the United States of North America and copy are hereby received and delivered to the Emperor. Many times it has been communicated that business relating to foreign countries cannot be transacted here in Uraga, but in Nagasaki. Now it has been observed that the Admiral in his quality of embassador of the President would be insulted by it; the justice of this has been acknowledged, consequently the above mentioned letter is hereby received in opposition to the Japanese law. Because this place is not designed to treat of anything from foreigners, so neither can conference nor entertainment take place. The letter being received, you will leave here.”

The Commodore then gave notice that he would return “in the approaching spring, probably in April or May.” This concluded the ceremonies of reception, which lasted half an hour. With all due care and pomp the Americans returned to their decks. That part of the Bay of Yedo fronting Kurihama was named “Reception Bay,” as a certain headland was dubbed by Perry himself Rubicon Point.

The “black ships” remained in the bay eight days. Their boats were busily employed in surveying the waters. Perry kept his men on ship’s food, holding them all in leash, allowing no insults to the people, receiving no gifts. In no instance was any Japanese molested or injured. The Americans burned no houses, stole no valuables, outraged no women. None was drunk. Not a single native was kicked, beaten, insulted or robbed. One party landed, and actually showed a politeness that impelled the people to set out refreshments of water, tea and peaches. These “hairy” Americans were so kind and polite that they smoked friendly pipes, showed the people their trinkets and watches, and even patiently explained, in strange and unintelligible language, but with pantomimic gesture, the uses of many things which drew forth volleys of naru hodo! kiréi! rippani! médzurashi! so désŭ, né! and many a characteristic grimace, shrug and mutual nod from the light-hearted and impressible people.

All this was strange and unlooked-for. This was not the way the Russians in Saghalin, nor the British sailors at Nagasaki, had acted. The people began to think that probably the foreigners were not devils, but men after all. Eyes were opened on both sides.

More than one American made up his mind that the Japanese were not so treacherous, murderous, or inhospitable as they had heard. The natives began to believe that if the “hairy faces” were devils, they were of an uncommonly fine species, in short as jolly as tengus or spirits of the sky. Strangely enough, the “hairy” foreigners were clean shaven.

One authentic anecdote related by the Japanese is worth mentioning. At the banquet given by the governor of Uraga, Perry tasted the saké served so plentifully at all entertainments, and asked what the cost or price of the beverage might be. On being told, finding it exceedingly cheap, the Commodore with a very serious face remarked to his host that he feared it was highly injurious to the people to have so ridiculously cheap an intoxicant produced in the country. All present were deeply impressed with the Commodore’s remark.

Despite the fact that the decoction of fermented rice, called saké, which contains alcohol enough to easily intoxicate, and fusel oil sufficient to quickly madden, was not relatively as cheap as Perry supposed, yet Japan’s curse for centuries has been cheap liquor.

Another anecdote, less trustworthy, is preserved in a native book. The time suits Shimoda, but other considerations point to Uraga or Yokohama. The subjective element, probably predominates over historical fact. Some enemy of Buddhism or its priests, some wit fond of sharp barbs, from a Shintō quiver, probably, manufactured the story, which runs as follows:—


“When Perry came to Shimoda, he took a ramble through the town, and happened to enter a monastery yard. It was in summer, and two bonzes were taking a nap. Of course they were shaved as to their heads, and their bodies were more than half uncovered. At first glance, Perry thought that these shaven-pated and nude savages were in an unseemly act. ‘This is a savage land’, he said; and until he saw and talked with the better representatives of Japan, he was of a mind to treat the Japanese as he would the lowest African tribes.”


Without a yard of canvas spread, the four ships moved rapidly out of the Bay on the morning of March 17th. The promontory of Uraga was black with spectators who watched that stately procession whose motor was the child born of wedded fire and water.

Japan now gave herself up to reflection.

Ota Dō Kuan the founder of Yedo (Gate of the Bay) in the fifteenth century, wrote in the summer-house of his castle a poem, said to have been extant in 1854, and to have been pointed out as fulfilled by Perry:

“To my gate ships will come from the far East,

        Ten thousand miles.”

—Dixon’s Japan, p. 218.


The Mississippi touching at Napa, found there the Supply, and met the Vandalia on the way to Hong Kong, where the Commodore arrived on the 7th of August. The Powhatan returned from a futile visit to Riu Kiu on the 25th. To protect American lives and property against the imminent dangers of the Tai-ping rebellion, the Supply was sent to Canton and the Mississippi anchored off Whampoa. The remainder of the squadron was ordered to Cum-sing-moon, between Macao and Hong Kong, where the machinery which sadly needed repair was refitted.

Having thus disposed of his force, the Commodore, in order to arrange the accumulated results of his voyage to Japan, took a house at Macao for his own accommodation and that of the artists and surveying party. A hospital, which was also established in the town, under the care of the fleet surgeon, was soon full of fever patients; and an annex, in the form of a cemetery, was found necessary. The Japan expedition left American graves at Macao, Napa, Uraga, Yokohama, Shimoda, and Hakodaté. Among the officers lost, was Lieutenant John Matthews drowned at the Bonin islands. His name was given by Perry to a bay near Napa, which he surveyed. His monument in Vale Cemetery at Schenectady, N. Y. was erected by his fellow-officers of the Asiatic Squadron.

The Commodore himself, worn-out by heavy and multifarious duties, was finally prostrated by an attack of illness. Nevertheless the work of the expedition suffered no remission. The making of charts, and the completion of nearly two-hundred sketches and drawings, and the arrangement and testing of the scientific apparatus which was to be proved before the Japanese, were perfected. The daguerreotype, talbotype, and magnetic telegraphic apparatus were especially kept in working order. The Japanese from the first, as it proved, were mightily impressed by these “spirit pictures,” into which as they believed, went emitted particles of their actual souls.

The lengthened stay of the Commodore at Macao enabled him to see the places of interest and to study life in this old city, once so prosperous; whence had sailed, three centuries before, in the Portuguese galleons explorers, traffickers and missionaries to Japan. The opulent American merchants of Canton made Macao their place of summer sojourn, so that elegant society was not lacking. With the French commodore, Montravel, whose fleet lay at anchor in the roadstead, and with Portuguese whom he had met in Africa, his intercourse was especially pleasant. It had been the intention of the Commodore to wait until spring before sailing north, but the suspicious movements of the French and Russians, spoken of below, induced him to alter his plans.

Towards the end of November, the French naval commander suddenly left port under sealed orders. About the same time the Russian Admiral Pontiatine in the Pallas and with three other vessels lay at Shanghai, having returned from Nagasaki. Suspecting that either or both the Russians and French contemplated a visit to Yedo Bay, Perry became very anxious for the arrival of the Lexington, which had more presents for the Japanese on board. Rather than allow others to get advantage and reap where he had sown, before he himself had thrust in the sickle, Perry resolved to risk the exposure and inconvenience of a mid-winter cruise to Japan, despite the stories told of fogs and storms on the Japanese coast. The dangers of a winter sea-journey between the two countries are portrayed, even in very ancient Chinese poetry.

The object of the American mission had been reported at Kiōto, where it created a profound impression and intense excitement. The first thing done, and that within four days after Perry left, was to despatch a messenger to the Shintō priests at the shrines of Isé to offer up prayers for the peace of the Empire, and for the divine breath to sweep away “the barbarians.” One week later, the Shō-gun Iyéyoshi died. He was buried in Shiba in Yedo in a superb mausoleum among his ancestors, but not until the 7th of September.

At Yedo, the question of acceeding to the demand of the barbarians was hotly debated. The daimiōs “nearly lost their hearts in consultation that lasted day and night.” The Prince of Mito wanted to fight them. “The officials knew it would be madness to resist an enemy with myriads of men-of-war who could capture all their junks and blockade their coasts.” The Shō-gun’s minister was Abé, Isé no Kami, the daimiō of Bizen, who had married the adopted daughter of Echizen. He it was who inspired the arguments of the government. He believed that as Japan was behind the world in mechanical arts, it would be better to have intercourse with foreigners, learn their drill and tactics, and thus fight them with their own weapons. If the Japanese pleased, they might then shut up their country or even go abroad to conquer other nations. Others doubted the ability or willingness of many of the disaffected class to fight for Tokugawa.

The native historians tell us that “the Shō-gun Iyéyoshi, who had been ill since the beginning of the summer, was rendered very anxious about this sudden and pressing affair of the outer barbarians;” and, soon after sickened and died. He was the father of twenty-five children, all but four of whom had died in infancy. One of his daughters had married. His death at this alarming crisis plunged his retainers in the deepest grief. Iyésada, his seventh child, succeeded him as the thirteenth Shō-gun of the Tokugawa line.

Of this fact, Perry had received official notice from the Japanese through the Dutch authorities. As the communication hinted that delay was necessary on account of official mourning, Perry, instead of cock-billing his yards, thought it a ruse, and delayed not a moment.

Accordingly, on the 14th of January 1854, in the Susquehanna, with the Powhatan and Mississippi towing the stores ships Lexington and Southampton, the Commodore left for Riu Kiu; the Macedonian and Supply having gone on a few days before to join the Vandalia. The Plymouth and Saratoga were to come later. The steamers arrived at Napa, January 20th, and the Commodore thus paid his fourth visit to Riu Kiu.

The slow sailers were to be sent ahead to Yedo Bay, with one week’s start. Captain Abbot in the Macedonian, in company with the Vandalia, Lexington, and Southampton set out northward on the 1st of February. The Commodore followed on the 7th with the three steamers, meeting the Saratoga just outside. The Supply with coal and live stock from Shanghai, was to join the squadron in Yedo Bay. The promise of an “imposing squadron of twelve vessels,” seemed about to be fulfilled.

In Yedo, the new Shō-gun Iyésada and his advisers had felt that something must be done both in peaceful and warlike preparations. The ex-daimiō of Mito, released from confinement, was appointed commissioner of maritime defences. A series of forts was built on the shallow part of the bay in front of Yedo, off Shinagawa its southern suburb. Thousands of laborers were paid isshiu (6¼ cts.) per day, and the coins minted for that purpose are still called dai-ba (fort, or fort money) by the people around Shinagawa. They were creditably built of earth, and faced with stone; but having no casements, would have illy defended the wooden city from bombardment by Perry’s columbiads. A great number of cannon were cast, and military preparations continued unceasingly. The expenses were met by a levy on the people of Yedo and vicinity, and on the rich merchants of Ozaka.

The old edict of Iyéyasŭ concerning naval architecture was rescinded, and permission was given to the daimiōs, to build large ships of war. Their distinguishing flag was a red ball representing the sun on a white ground. This was the origin of the present flag of Japan. The law of 1609 had commanded vessels of over five hundred koku (2,500 bushels, or 30,000 cubic feet capacity) to be burned, and none but small coasting junks built. Orders were given to the Dutch to build a man-of-war, and to import books on modern military science. A native who had learned artillery from the Dutchmen at Nagasaki, was now released from the prison, and was made musketry instructor. His method soon became fashionable and he thus became the introducer of the European system of warfare into Japan. Drilling, cannon-casting and fort-building were now the rage.

Yet in all this fuss and preparation, wise men saw only the fulfilment on a national scale of their own old proverb. “On seeing the enemy, to begin to whet arrows.” Belated war-preparations, when the enemy was at their gates, seemed futile. On the 1st day of the 11th month (December 2d) a notification was issued, that “owing to want of military efficiency, the Americans would, on their return, be dealt with peaceably.” The salary of the governor of Uraga was raised. Very significantly, at the end of the year, the old practice of Fumi-yé, or trampling on the cross and Christian emblems, so long practiced at Nagasaki, was abolished. Perry’s way was now clear, though he knew it not.

There was a native scholar in Yedo, a typical progressive Japanese of this period, a student, through the medium of the Dutch language, of European literature. Hearing of the order for a man-of-war and books from Holland, he petitioned the government rather to send Japanese to Europe to study the most important arts, and to assist in building and working the ship. They would thus learn the art of navigation on the voyage, and see the foreign countries. The authorities did not favor his proposition. Yoshida Shoin, one of his former pupils, heard of his old master’s plan, and resolved himself to make a sea-voyage.

When Admiral Pontiatine with the Russian ships put in at Nagasaki in September “to discuss the question of the northern boundary of the two nations in Saghalin,” Yoshida bade his master good-bye, merely saying that he was going on a visit to Nagasaki, but secretly intending to go abroad.

Sakuma, who divined his plan, gave him money for his expenses; and, according to the custom of polite farewells, composed a stanza of Chinese poetry in which he wished him a safe and pleasant journey. On his arrival at Nagasaki, the ship had gone. He then returned to Yedo, and Sakuma secretly told him how to set about getting passage on the American vessels. We shall hear of Yoshida again. He and Sakuma were typical men in a small, but soon to be triumphant, majority.

As the time for Perry’s return was near at hand, the Bakafu chose Hayashi, the chief Professor of the Chinese language and literature in the Dai Gakkō (Great School, or University) to treat with Perry. As the American interpreters were Chinese scholars, the documents, besides those in the Dutch and English language for the benefit of Americans, would be in the Chinese character for the benefit of the Japanese. Hayashi was a man profoundly versed in Chinese learning, a pedant, and a stickler for exact terms. He was also a most devotedly loyal retainer of the house of Tokugawa. His rank was that of a Hatamoto (flag-bearer), and his title Dai Gaku no Kami, or Regent of the University, (not “Prince” of Dai Gaku.) He was of benevolent countenance, and courtly manners, dignified presence. He had lived the life of a scholar, expounding the classics of Confucius and Mencius, and was highly respected at court for his vast learning. In brief, he was a typical product, and one of the best specimens of Yedo culture in the later days of the Tokugawas. The Hayashi family was noted for the many scholars in Chinese literature that adorned the country and the name. He was carefully instructed by his superior officers as how he should deal with Perry. He made his preparations so as to leave the academic groves of Séido for the treaty-house at Uraga; for there, it was decreed in Yedo that the treaty was to be made.

Fortunately for the Japanese, they had a first-rate interpreter of English, though Perry knew it not. His name was Nakahama Manjiro. With his two companions, he had been picked up at sea in 1841, by an American captain, J. H. Whitfield, and brought by way of Honolulu to the United States, where he obtained a good school education. Returning to Hawaii in 1850, he resolved with his two companions to return to Japan. Furnished with a duly attested certificate of his American citizenship by the United States consul, Elisha Allen, afterwards minister to Washington, he built a whale-boat named The Adventurer, sailed to Riu Kiu in the Sarah Boyd, Captain Whitmore, and in January, 1851, landed. The three men proved their nationality to the natives of Riu Kiu not by their language, which they had forgotten, but by their deft manipulation of chopsticks, the use of which a Japanese baby learns before he can talk.

After six months in Riu Kiu and thirty months in Nagasaki, the waifs reached their homes. On being brought to Yedo with his boat, Manjiro was made a samurai or wearer of two swords. As an official translator, he wrestled with Bowditch and logarithms, even to the partial bleaching of his hair. After several years of severe work, twenty manuscript copies of his book were made. His boat, now come to honor, was used as a model for others. The original was placed in a fire-proof storehouse as an honorable relic.

On Saturday, the 11th of February, 1854 three days after the Russians had left Nagasaki, and on the ninth day of the Japanese New Year, the watchers on the hills of Idzu descried the American squadron approaching. The Macedonian had grounded on the rocks a few miles from Kamakura, the medieval capital of the Minamoto Shō-guns, and near the spot over which Nitta Yoshisada, three hundred and twenty years before, had led his victorious hosts to overthrow the Hōjō usurpers. The powerful Mississippi, which had extricated and saved from utter loss during the Mexican war, the fine old frigate Germantown from a similar peril, easily drew off the Macedonian on Sunday, the 12th. On Monday, the 13th, amid all the lavish splendors of nature, for which the scenery of Adzuma, as poets call eastern Japan, is noted, the stately line of ships, the sailers towed by the steamers, moved up the bay,

“With all their spars uplifted,

Like crosses of some peaceful crusade.”

The superb panorama that unfolded before the eyes from the decks charmed all eyes. Significant and portentous seemed the position of the lights of heaven on that eventful day. To the west of the peerless mountain Fuji, “the moon was setting sharply defining one side with its chill cold rays.”[29] In the orient, the sun arising in cloudless radiance burnished with brilliant glory the lordly cone as it swelled to the sky. Did the natives recall their poet’s comparison and contrast of “the old sage, grown sad and slow,” and “the youth” who “new systems, laws and fashions frames?” The moon typified Old Japan ready to pass away, the the sun heralded the New Japan that was to be. Matthew Perry was set for the rising and fall of many in the then hermit land.

Passing Uraga and Perry Island, the seven vessels dropped anchor at the “American anchorage,” not far from Yokosŭka, and off the place, called in Japanese, Koshiba-ōki, (the little grass-plot looking out on the far-off sea). Unconsciously, the officers paced their decks beneath the shadows of the twin tombs of Will Adams[30] and his Japanese wife. From these very headlands, over which the English exile, who may have seen Shakespeare, took his evening walks two centuries before, he had perhaps seen in prophetic vision a sight like that below. Happy coincidence, that Perry’s right-hand man, bore the same name, Adams!

The Commodore, still mysterious, invisible and inapproachable, had again out-flanked the wily orientals with their own weapons and turned their heavy guns against themselves. The mystery-play was kept up in a style that exceeded that of either Kiōto or Yedo. The naval generalissimo remained in the Forbidden Interior of his cabin as if behind bamboo curtains.

Kurokawa Kahéi and his two interpreters were received with excruciating politeness by Captain Adams, assisted by Messrs. Portman, Williams and the Commodore’s son. In the delegation of official men were ométsŭkes (censors, spies, or checks). They were well named “eye-appliers” (to holes usually made noiselessly, with moistened finger-tips, in the paper screens of the houses). These suggested that the negotiations should be carried on at Kamakura or Uraga. The programme, foreshadowed by answers to their questions, was an American advance on that of the previous year. The “Admiral” would do no such thing. It must be near the present safe anchorage. All the visits, conferences, discussions, presents, bonbons, oranges and confectionery, offers of eggs, fish and vegetables were impotent to alter the fiat of the Invisible Power in the cabin.

For the benefit of the United States and the civilized world, the survey boats were out daily making a map of the bottom of the bay. No boats’ crews were allowed to land. No native was in any way injured in person or property. The visitors received on deck refreshments, champagne, sugared brandy, port, and politeness in profusion. Of information concerning the invisible “Admiral’s” policy, save as His Invisibility allowed it, they received not a word.

Several days passed, the broad pennant was transferred to the Powhatan, and the Japanese were given till the 21st to make up their mind. Captain Adams was sent to Uraga to inspect the proposed place of anchorage and the new building specially erected for treaty making. There an incident occurred which afforded more fun to the Japanese than to the Americans. On the 22nd of February, while the guns of the Vandalia were thundering a salute in honor of Washington, Captain Adams with fourteen officers and attendants entered the hall of reception. Here were gathered a formidable array of dignitaries, retainers and no less than fifty soldiers. A suspicion of treachery dawned on the Americans. Was this to be a Golownin affair?

Perhaps Izawa, the daimiō in charge, was fond of a joke. He was, in fact, in favor of foreign intercourse, but more noted for high living and gay sport than for dignity of word and mien, withal a lively and popular fellow. After preliminaries, Captain Adams handed him the Commodore’s note. Preparatory to getting out his goggle-spectacles, he folded his fan with a tremendous snap. Instantly the American officers, alarmed and exchanging glances of concern, clapped hands to their revolvers.[31] All the more amused, Izawa most deliberately and with scarcely repressed inward merriment, adjusted his goggles, and read the document, finding it in good form. After decoctions of rice and tea, with sponge-cake and oranges (saké, cha, Castile, mikan) had been served, the officers returned to their ships at the 8th hour, Japanese time, the Hour of the Ape, or about 3 p. m. Captain Adams decided that the building proposed for treaty negotiations was “for simple talk large enough, but not for the display of presents.” Kurihama was then suggested. “No, the Admiral would rather go to Yedo,” “No, no! better go to Kanagawa, but do please, please go back to Uraga.” This was the simple substance of much conversation carried on in Japanese, Dutch and English, with not a little consumption of paper, India ink and Chinese characters. The one word of Perry and Adams was “Yedo.” The tongues of the interpreters, or in Japanese “word-passers,” grew weary, yet no backward step was taken.

Meanwhile on the 24th, Perry moved his six ships forward up the bay ten miles, anchoring beyond Kanagawa. From the masthead the huge temple-gables, castle-towers, fire-lookouts and pagodas of Yedo could be easily seen, and the bells of Shiba and Asakŭsa heard. More exactly, the anchorage was off Dai-shi-ga-wara, a lovely meadow (wara) named in honor of Japan’s greatest medieval scholar, His Most Exalted Reverence, Kōbō, the inventor of the Japanese alphabets, learned in Chinese and Sanskrit, and the Philo of the Land of the Gods. He it was who absorbed Shintō, the primitive religion, into the gorgeous cult of India, and made Buddhism triumphant in all Japan. Another happy omen for Perry!

The Vandalia’s boats now brought Hayashi’s letter to Perry, and Yezaémon the interpreter came nominally to plead again for Uraga, but in reality to accede to the American’s decision. A fleet messenger, riding hard on relays of horses, had brought the word to Hayashi—“If the American ships come to Yedo, it will be a national disgrace. Stop them, and make the treaty at Kanagawa.”[32] As Perry writes, “Finding the Commodore immovable in his purpose, the pretended ultimatum of the Japanese commissioners was suddenly abandoned, and a place directly opposite, at Yokohama, was suggested as the place of treaty.”

The official buildings and enclosure finished March 9th, were erected on the ground now covered by the British consulate, the Custom House, the American Union Church and two streets of the modern city. They were guarded on the left, right and rear by the retainers of Ogasawara, a high officer in the Tycoon’s palace, and Sanada, lord of Shinano; and on the water side by Matsudaira, lord of Sagami, who had hundreds of boats and their crews under his command. Against possible fanatics and assassins who might attack, or the too progressive spirits who would communicate with the Americans, the precautions were not wholly in vain. The writer has heard Japanese officers, now in high rank but enlightened, declare that they had devoted themselves by vows to the gods to kill Perry, the arch-defiler of the Holy Country. Only the strong hand of government held them back.

Further than this, the Japanese did not know how the Americans would act. Either from malice intent or provoked by unruly natives, they might begin war. Every one of Sanada’s and Ogasawara’s retainers were sworn[33] to ask no quarter, but fight till the last man was slain.

Spalding’s “The Japan Expedition,” p. 213.

The Mikado’s Empire, p. 262.

Record of Conference with the American Barbarians. Japanese Official Manuscript.

Record of Conference. Jap. MS.

Japanese Record.

Commodore Perry entering the Treaty-House.


The morning of March 8th, 1854, dawned clear and beautiful. The bay was alive with gorgeous state barges, swift punts, and junks with tasseled prows. On land, in the foreground were a few hundred feudal retainers in gay costumes, while on the bluffs beyond stood dense masses of spectators. These were kept back with rope-barriers, and by petty officials of prodigious self-importance. The sunbeams glittered on the bare heads and freshly-pomatumed top-knots of country folk, and was reflected dazzlingly from lacquered hats and burnished weapons. In the variegated paraphernalia of feudalism,—then of such vast importance, but now as cast off trumpery transmigrating through the parlors and museums to dusty nirvana in the garrets of christendom,—could be distinguished the insignia of the commissioners and feudal lords, whose troops darkened the hill tops as spectators. The striped oval figure of Hayashi; the five disks surrounding a smaller central dot like satellites about Jupiter, belonging to Ito; the feminine millinery, three curved women’s hats, of Isawa; the revolving disks suggesting a wind-mill, of Tsudzuki; the three Euclid-recalling cubes of Udono; the ring-enclosed goggle-spectacles of Takénouchi; appeared and reappeared on banner, umbrella, hat, coat, and cover of dignitaries and retainers. Many and various were the explanations offered by the Americans as to the cabalistic meaning of these crests of Japanese heraldry. One in particular, which looked like three commas in perpetual revolution, but prevented from flying off into a nebular hypothesis by a tire, attracted special attention.

Only the stern discipline to which they were accustomed, and the suspicion of possible need for powder and ball, in case of treachery, kept grim the faces of marines and sailors. The whole tableau seemed to the officers a well-sustained joke from the pages of Gulliver’s Travels. To Jack Tar, it looked as if a pack of euchre-cards had come to enlarged life. The gay-costumed figures and bronze visages moved before him like the flesh-and-blood originals of the kings, jacks, and knaves on his favorite pasteboards. Can we doubt but that more than one Japanese now saw himself in a new light?

With five hundred men landed in twenty-seven boats, each one, including musicians, thoroughly well-armed, the marines forming a hollow square, the three bands discoursing music, the Paixhans on the Macedonian, and the howitzers in the boats, making fire, flame, thunder, and echoes; with all possible fuss, parade, shine and glitter, the sailor-diplomatist made disembarkation at noon, in his white gig from the Powhatan. With due deliberation and stately march, he entered the treaty-house, where negotiations began. The Commodore knew as he confesses, “the importance and moral influence of such show upon so ceremonious and artificial a people as the Japanese.” Without being at all anxious to imitate or copy them, he yet impressed them amazingly. How he came to know so much about etiquette and propriety, without having lived in Kiōto, or studied Confucius or Ogasawara (the Chesterfield of Japan) strained their wits to discover. Perhaps they noticed that while “the emperor,” that is the chief daimiō of Yedo, and the Mikado’s lieutenant styled “Tycoon,” (as Koku-O, king of a country) received a salute of twenty-one guns, and his hatamoto Hayashi, officer of the sixth rank seventeen guns, the first salute was from the heavy ordnance on the Macedonian, while the others were from boat-howitzers. The Powhatan hoisted at the masthead the striped pennant, which the Americans innocently supposed was the national emblem.

The tedious business of diplomacy began by interchange of notes and answers. Then Hayashi remarked that attention would be given to the supply of wood, coal, and water for needy ships, and to the care of shipwrecked sailors, but that no proposition for trade could be allowed. To this Perry made no reply, but spoke up suddenly upon the question of burial. A marine on the Mississippi named Williams, had died two days previously, and it was proposed to bury him on Matsu-shima (Pine Isle) or Webster’s Island. After private conferences by the Japanese in another room, exchange of much sentiment on both sides, and an exposition of Japanese law and custom by Hayashi—during which Perry intimated his readiness to stay in the bay a year or two if necessary—permission was granted to bury in one of the temple-grounds at Yokohama. Thus began with Christian ceremonies, under the very shadow of the edicts promulgated centuries before, denouncing “the Christian criminal God,” with offer of gold to informers against the “outlawed sect,” that God’s acre now so beautiful. Its slope was to fatten with many a victim by the assassin’s sword before Japan should become a Land of Great Peace either to the alien or the Christian.

The native scribe adds in a note to his Record, “This subject was brought up suddenly, as if the American wished to find out how quickly we were in the habit of deciding questions. Hence the commissioners made their decision promptly. Thereupon Perry seemed to be very glad and almost to shed tears.” In response to the Commodore’s assertion that to esteem human life as very precious was the first principle of the United States government, while the contrary was the case with that of Japan, Hayashi answered, warmly defending his countrymen and superiors against intentional cruelty, but denouncing the lawless character of many of the foreign sailors. Like all Japanese of his school and age, he wound up with a panegyric of the pre-eminence of Japan above all nations in virtue and humanity, and the glory and goodness of the great Tokugawa family which had given peace to the land during two centuries or more.

“The frog in the well knows not the great ocean,” say his countrymen of to-day.

In the further negotiations, the Japanese official account of which agrees with the details given in Perry’s own narrative, the Commodore made wholesome use of the fears of the islanders. The reputation of American ships, ordnance, and armies had preceded him. The invaders of Mexico were believed fully when the wealth, power, and rapidity of movement possessed by the United States were dilated upon. Perry threatened to make use of “the resources of civilization,” if the plain demands of humanity were ignored. It is more than probable that cold statistics would not have justified his glowing vision of fifty or a hundred war steamers, full of soldiers, coming from California to make war on Japan, in case her government refused to help shipwrecked Americans. Yet, of his patience, persistency, and resolve neither to provoke nor to take an insult, there can be no question. Perry, in person, impressed the Japanese commissioners as much as by the fleet itself. They noted, as the Record declares, that Captains Adams, Abbot, and Buchanan, as shown by their uniform and epaulettes, were of the same rank, “so that if Perry were killed, either of the others could command,” and continue the matter in hand.

The Record also reflects the character of Perry as a man of kindly consideration. His friendly regard for and sympathy with a people of high and sensitive spirit, which had been weakened by centuries of enforced isolation, is also witnessed to. In one sense the Japanese feel, to this day, proud to have been put under pressure by so true a soldier, and so genuine a friend.

Between ship and shore, during the blustery March weather, the Commodore made many trips in his barge, accompanied by chosen officers. One day, with Pay-director J. G. Harris, who relates the incident, Perry and his companions entered the treaty-house. Their boat-cloaks, which they had worn to protect the “bright-work” of epaulettes, buttons and belts from the salt spray, were still over their shoulders. One of the first questions asked the Japanese commissioners was, whether they had favorably considered the proposition of the day before, that certain ports should be opened.

Hayashi replied that they had pondered the matter, and had concluded that Shimoda and Hakodaté should be opened; provided that Americans would not travel into the interior further than they could go and return the same day; and provided, further, that no American women should be brought to Japan.

When the translation of Hayashi’s reply was announced, the Commodore straightened up, threw back his boat-cloak, and excitedly exclaimed: “Great Heavens, if I were to permit any such stipulation as that in the treaty, when I got home the women would pull out all the hair out of my head.”

The Japanese fairly trembled at the Commodore’s apparent excitement, supposing they had grossly offended him. When, however, explanation was made by the interpreters, they all laughed right heartily, and the business continued.

The Ninth Article, or the “favored nation” clause was introduced at the suggestion of Dr. S. Wells Williams.[34]

Unknown to any of the Americans, Nakahama Manjiro, who had received a good common school education in the United States, sat in an adjoining room, unseen but active, as the American interpreter for the Japanese. All the documents in English and Chinese were submitted to him for correction and approval.[35] He was afterwards made curator of the scientific and mechanical apparatus brought by Perry and presented by the United States government, and in 1860, he navigated the first Japanese steamer, commanded by Katsŭ Awa, to Hawaii and California. Katsŭ Awa was one of the captains commanding the troops detailed to watch carefully “the American barbarians, lest they should proceed to acts of violence.”

While the negotiations were progressing, the other ships arrived, making ten in all. Presents and bouquets were exchanged, and guests and hosts amused each other. American palates were tickled with castira (Castile) or sponge-cake, rice beer, candied walnuts, Suruga tea, pickled plums, sugared fruits, sea-weed jelly, luscious crabs and prawns, dried persimmons, boiled eggs, fish soups, broiled tai, koi and karei fresh from the nets of the Yokohama fisherman. They essayed or avoided the impossible dishes of cuttle and sliced raw fish. All was served in the baby-house china and lacquered ware of the country. Some of the officers were vividly reminded of their infantile days.

The Japanese were regaled with viands that were master-pieces of American cookery. To the intense amusement of the “children of the gods,” the lords of the kitchen were kurumbō (blacks), a color and a creature such they had seen only in their own theatres when candle-holders with lamp-blacked faces illuminated the facial performances of actors. Save the dignified professor, Hayashi, they became over-flowingly merry over champagne and the national mixed drinks of the Great Republic. They learned the mysteries of mint-juleps and brandy-smashes. They lost their center of gravity over puddings and potations, and then laughed themselves sober at the sailors’ exhibition of negro minstrelsy. They were shown the discipline and drill of the ships, and the evolution of the marines. They were delighted with presents which revealed the secrets of the foreigners’ power. Rifles and gunpowder, the electric telegraph, the steam locomotive and train, life-boats, stoves, clocks, sewing-machines, agricultural implements and machinery, standard scales, weights, measures, maps and charts, the works of Audubon and other American authors were presented, most improperly labeled or engraved “To the Emperor of Japan.” The Mikado, Japan’s only emperor, never saw them, though the writer did in the storerooms of the exiled Tycoon at Shidzŭoka in 1872. The American may proudly note how very large a share his countrymen have had in inventions and in applications of the great natural forces that have revolutionized modern society. That one mile of telegraph wire has now become thousands; and that tiny railway, with toy locomotive and one car able to hold only a child, was the germ of the railway system in the Mikado’s empire. Historic truth compels us to add that among the presents there were one hundred barrels of whiskey, a good supply of cherry cordial, and champagne. Thus did the new civilization with its good and evil confront the old. New Japan was to be born in the age of steam, electricity, the photograph, the newspaper and the printing-press; yet in the train of the culture of the West was to follow its curses and enemies. With the sons of God came Satan also.

In return, the Japanese presented the delicate specialties of the artisans of their country, in bronze, lacquer, porcelain, bamboo, ivory, silk and paper; with coins, match-locks and swords, which now rest in the Smithsonian Institute. For the squadron, one hundred kokŭ (five hundred bushels) of rice and three hundred chickens were provided. They entertained their guests with wrestling matches between the prize bipeds whose diet includes the entire fauna of Japan. Strangely enough, they did not play dakiu or polo, their national game on horseback, in which so many of their riders excel. All the presents were duly wrapped in paper, with a symbolic folded paper and dried fish skin.

During the two months and more of the presence of the ships in the bay, the Japanese cruisers and spy-boats kept watch and ward in cordon, though at a distance from the Americans. This was to prevent political enemies and too eager students from getting aboard in order to leave Japan. Again and again did Yoshida Shoin and his companion attempt to break the blockade, but in vain. The pair then set off overland to Shimoda.

When the telegraph poles and rails for the locomotive had been made ready, the news of the exhibition about to be given fired the samurai of Yedo with consuming curiosity to see. All sorts of pretexts were made to obtain permission to be on the spot. Egawa, a noted flag-supporter whose yashiki or feudal palace lay near Shiba in Yedo, insisted on coming to Yokohama on the pretext of guarding the treaty building. He was ordered back, and it was hinted that Sanada’s men at arms could perform worthily the coveted duty. If the Americans made war and proceeded to Yedo, Egawa’s picked men could die more nobly “under the Shō-gun’s knee.” As the Japanese narrator learned afterwards, Egawa’s real purpose was to learn telegraphy and the secrets of steam engineering. It is not at all improbable that among his band of well-dressed gentlemen were expert mechanics as well as students who had from the Dutch at Nagasaki obtained their first knowledge of western inventions.

The treaty was signed March 31st, 1854. Its provisions are thus given by a Japanese author[36]:—


“The Bakafu promised to accord kind treatment to shipwrecked sailors, permission to obtain wood, water, coal, provisions and other stores needed by ships at sea, with leave also to anchor in the ports of Shimoda in Idzu and Hakodaté in Matsumaé.” Trade or residence was not yet secured. “The hermit” was as yet unwilling to enter “the market-place.” The gains by treaty did not seem great, but Perry knew then, as we know more fully now, that the thin end of a great wedge had been inserted in the right place. He had made a beginning which was half the end, as we shall see farther on.

The sleeping princess had received her first kiss, and the gates of Thornrose castle would soon fly open. They were now ajar. More than one native of this “Princess Country” recalled the hiding of the Sun-goddess in the cave, and how with music and dance, feast and frolic, and show of cunning inventions exciting her curiosity, she was lured to peep out, so that the strong-handed god could open the door fully and all faces become light with joy.[37]

Moving his steamers up the bay to within sight of Yedo, the Commodore left on the 18th of April for Shimoda, having sent the sailing ships ahead for survey. For nine weeks he had held in leash his two thousand or more ship’s people, and had impressed the Japanese with the decency and dignity of the American sailor’s behavior. Grand as was the triumph he accomplished in diplomacy, his victory in discipline seems equally praiseworthy and remarkable.

At Shimoda (now noted chiefly for the quarries which furnish stone for the modern government buildings in Tōkiō) the squadron remained until the end of the first week in May. One day late in April as Dr. S. Wells Williams and clerk J. W. Spalding were botanizing on land, Yoshida Shoin and his devoted companion, Ichiji Koda met them, and pressed into the clerk’s bosom a letter.[38] On the appearance of Japanese officers, they disappeared. Somewhat after midnight of the 25th the watch-officer on the Mississippi heard the cry of “American, American!” With their delicate and blistered hands they implored in the language of gesture to be taken on board, that their boats be cast adrift, and they be secreted aboard. Their clothing was stuffed full of writing-paper and materials, on which they expected to note down what they saw in foreign countries. They were sent to the flag ship, and Perry, as he felt in honor and in conscience bound, despite his own sympathies and desires and their piteous appeals, sent them ashore. Further than this, he was unable to get at the real motive of the suppliants. “It might have been a stratagem to test American honor, and some believed it so to be,” yet Perry wrote in addition, with the prophecy of hope, “In this disposition of the people in Japan, what a field of speculation, and it may be added, what a prospect full of hope opens for the future of that interesting country.”

The prisoners sent to Chôshiu, were kept incarcerated within the limits of their own clan for five years. Sakuma was punished as an accomplice, because his stanza of poetry was discovered in Yoshida’s baggage. Active in those events leading to the revolution of 1868, Yoshida (who altered the name to Toraijiro) suffered decapitation and political martyrdom in Yedo January 31st, 1859. He died thinking it

“Better to be a crystal, though shattered,

  Than lie as a tile unbroken on the housetop.”

His indomitable spirit possessed others, and his pupils rose to high office and power in the wave of revolution that floated the boy-mikado to supreme power and placed the national capitol in Yedo in 1868.

The Commodore arrived at Hakodaté May 17 and remained in the waters of Yezo until June 28th, 1854. He little knew then that the beautiful harbor would fourteen years later be made famous by a naval battle between the Shō-gun’s force of Dutch and American-built wooden war steamers, and the Mikado’s iron-clad ram Adzuma Kan (Stonewall).

Sailing for Riu Kiu, he entered Napa harbor, July 1st. On the 12th, the regent presented him with a large bronze bell of fine workmanship, cast in 1168 a. d., by two Japanese artizans, and inscribed with flowery sentences. One, which declared that “the barbarians would never invade the land,” had a striking significance, though its composer had proved a false prophet. It now hangs, tongueless but useful, in the grounds of the Annapolis Naval Academy. As from China and Formosa, so from Japan at Shimoda and in Riu Kiu, blocks of native stone duly engraved were accepted as contributions to the obelisk on the banks of the Potomac, in perpetuation of the memory of Washington. On the 17th, the other vessels of the squadron having been despatched on various missions, the Commodore in the Mississippi left Napa for Hong Kong.

The glory of Commodore Perry’s success is not that he “invented,” or “first thought of” or was the “sole author, originator, and father of the Japan expedition.” Such language is nonsense, for the thought was in many minds, both of naval men and civilians, from Roberts to Glynn and Aulick; but it was Perry’s persistency that first conquered for himself a fleet, his thorough-going method of procedure in every detail, and his powerful personality and invincible tenacity in dealing with the Japanese, that won a quick and permanent success without a drop of blood. A thorough man of war he was from his youth up; yet he proved himself a nobler hero, in that he restrained himself and his lieutenants from the use of force, while yet not giving place for a moment to the frivolities of Japanese yakunin of the Tokugawa period.

Autograph letter to the writer. February 8th, 1883.

The Friend, Honolulu. October, 1884—“An unpublished chapter in the History of Japan.” Rev. S. C. Damon’s interview with Manjiro in Tokio, summer of 1884.

Kinsé Shiriaku, p. 3.

Japanese Fairy World, p. 300.

Perry’s Narrative, pp. 484-489. Spalding’s Japan Expedition, pp. 276-286. R. L. Stevenson’s Familiar Studies of Men and Books.


For over two years, since leaving his native country, Perry had been under a constant burden of responsibility incurred in anxiety to achieve the grand object of his mission. His close attention to details, the unexpected annoyances in a sub-tropical climate, and the long strain upon his nerves had begun to wear upon a robust frame. He now looked eagerly for his successor, and to the rest of home. To his joy he found at Hong Kong orders permitting him to return either in the Mississippi, or in the British mail steamer by way of India. He chose the latter.

The store-ships, Supply and Lexington, were ordered homeward by way of the Cape of Good Hope and the Susquehanna and Mississippi for New York by way of Shimoda, Honolulu and Rio [de] Janeiro. The Mississippi was to tow the Southampton, which contained coal for the two steamers. The Commodore awaited only the arrival of the Macedonian from Manilla, whither she had gone to return the waifs picked up at sea, to turn over his command to Captain Abbot.

Before permitting Perry to leave for home, the American commercial residents in China gave the Commodore an expression of their estimate of his character as a man, and their appreciation of his services as a diplomatist to their country. This took the form of a banquet, with an address of unusual merit by Gideon Nye, and the presentation of an elaborate candelabrum made by Chinese jewelers in crystal and sycee silver. In return, Perry presented to Mr. Nye a cane made of gun carriages from San Juan d’Ulloa. Owing to war and the local troubles, the work of art did not reach New York until December 1858.[39]

On the morning of September 11th, at Hong Kong, the Mississippi and Macedonian fired parting salutes. The yards and rigging were manned by the sailors who gave three hearty cheers, and the British mail steamer, Hindostan, moved off bearing the diplomatist and his flag-lieutenant homeward.

From England Perry crossed to the continent, and at Hague, spent several delightful days at the house of his son-in-law, the American Minister, the Hon. August Belmont. With Mrs. Belmont, the Commodore’s daughter Caroline, were then visiting Mrs. Perry and Miss Perry, the Commodore’s wife and youngest daughter. Thence returning to Liverpool on Christmas day, he paid a visit to the American consul at Liverpool, one Nathaniel Hawthorne, who has thus recorded his impression of his visitor:—[40]

“Commodore P—— called to see me this morning—a brisk, gentlemanly, off-hand, but not rough, unaffected and sensible man, looking not so elderly as he might, on account of a very well made wig.

“He is now on a return from a cruise to the East Indian seas and goes home by the Baltic with a prospect of being very well received on account of his treaty with Japan. I seldom meet with a man who puts himself more immediately on conversable terms than the Commodore. He soon introduced his particular business with me,—it being to inquire whether I could recommend some suitable person to prepare his notes and materials for the publication of an account of his voyage. He was good enough to say that he had fixed upon me, in his own mind, for this office; but that my public duties would, of course, prevent me from engaging in it. I spoke of —— ——, and one or two others but he seemed to have some acquaintance with the literature of the day, and did not grasp very cordially at any name that I could think of; nor indeed could I recommend any one with full confidence. It would be a very desirable task for a young literary man, or for that matter for an old one; for the world can scarcely have in reserve a less hackneyed theme than Japan.”

The master of English style, the literary American Puritan, so thoroughly at home in spirit-land and in analysis of conscience, was not expert in judging visible things. His mistake in describing the material on Perry’s scalp was amusing though natural. Not a few persons supposed that the Commodore wore a wig, yet the only head-ornament made use of by him was that given him by the Almighty, and still duplicated in his children. His handsome and luxuriant hair grew well forward on his forehead.

Perry, though exultant of his success, was uncertain of his political reception. There were dangers in a change of administration. The Japan expedition was a Whig measure, while the party now in power was Democratic. The English newspapers seemed to entertain a high opinion of the Commodore’s ability, and very flattering were some of their accounts of the expedition and the editorials concerning its leader. Not able to understand our Republican institutions, one of them wondered, with a “blush of shame,” “Why the government does nothing for Perry or Scott.” Others may wonder too.

Had a Whig administration been in power, it is doubtful whether Perry would have received any reward further than the thanks of the Navy Department, the honor of the publication of his journal, and a few copies of his own book. Looking back now at Pierce’s barren administration, the one bright spot in it seems to be the opening of Japan to diplomatic intercourse. It was a time of intense political excitement. The Kansas troubles, the World’s Fair in New York, and the beginning of surveys for the Union Pacific Railroad helped to turn attention from foreign matters. Nevertheless, the Senate at the opening of its session December 6th, called for the correspondence relating to the Japan Expedition. President Pierce delayed action until after an interview with Perry, and on January 30th, 1855, transmitted the report. The Commodore had arrived home on the 12th, eighteen days before, after an absence of two years and two months. The official documents were published in an octavo volume of 195 pages.

The Mississippi left Hong Kong the next morning after the Commodore’s departure, a few hours after that of the United States brig, Porpoise (which was never heard of again), on the 21st of September, entered Shimoda harbor finding there the Susquehanna and Southampton. The Susquehanna left on the 24th, and the Mississippi on the 1st of October, the latter completing her journey around the globe on the 23d of April, 1855. On the next day, the Commodore repairing to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, formally hauled down his flag, and thus consummated the final act in the story of the United States Expedition to Japan. He now set himself to work in a hired room in Washington to tell that story in manuscript. Aided by Lieutenants Maury and Bent, secretaries, artists, printers, and a Japanese lad as attendant, it took shape in the sumptuous publication of three richly illustrated folio volumes.

Though receiving no marked token of respect from the government, yet other honors social and substantial, were not wanting. By the city of New York he was presented with a set of silver plate. The merchants of Boston had a medal struck in his honor. The original was presented to him in gold[41] the subscribers receiving copies in silver and bronze. From the city of Newport, his native place, he was tendered a reception by the municipal authorities.

Little Rhode Island, so justly proud of her many eminent sons, was not unmindful that the Perrys were of her own soil. She accordingly summoned Matthew Calbraith Perry to receive at the hands of her chief magistrate, and in presence of her legislature, a token of her regard in the form of a solid silver salver weighing three hundred and nineteen ounces, suitably chased and inscribed. The resolutions of the legislature ordering the token were passed February 25th 1855.

An open air ceremony or presentation was decided upon and took place at 5 o’clock in the afternoon of June 15th upon the balcony in front of the old State House, the legislators occupying the room within. In response to the governor’s address Perry, deeply moved, spoke as follows:—

“It was in my earliest boyhood, before the introduction of steamboats or railroads, that I often watched upon the shore for the first glimpse of the gaily decorated packet-sloop, that in those days usually brought the governor from Providence to this town, and witnessed with childlike delight, in sight of this very edifice, the pomp, parade and festivities of ‘Election Day.’ Since then I have traversed almost every part of the globe in the prosecution of the duties of a profession of which I am justly proud, and now, after a lapse of nearly half a century, when declining in life, to be called by the representatives of my native state back to these hallowed precincts, here to receive from the lips of its Chief Magistrate the commendation of my fellow-citizens, is an honor I little expected when as a boy midshipman, forty-six years ago, I first embarked upon an element, then and always the most congenial to my aspirations for honorable emprise.”


Cherishing a keen remembrance and love of his boyhood’s home, he resolved to visit it, and also the ancestral farm and cemetery at South Kingston. In a call made upon one of his earliest friends he stated that his object was to purchase the Perry homestead, which he said would never have gone out of the family if he had not been at sea. He wished to erect a monument to his grandfather, Freeman Perry.

While thus on his native heather, the burly Commodore would visit also Tower Hill where his father once lived, and his youngest sister, Mrs. Jane Butler of South Carolina, was born. When offered a guide he said he thought he knew the way better than his guide. Every foot, indeed, was familiar ground. Miss Oprah Rose, in writing, March 15th 1883, of this visit, says further: “I had never seen the Commodore before, but had seen his younger brother and sister. His hair, I noticed, was handsome and grew well on his forehead. His eyes indicated thought, and, as he turned them rather slowly, seemed to take in or comprehend what he saw; in manner he was easy and natural. As he walked away, I saw that he expressed character in the manner he carried his shoulders. It was a military air. He looked as if he expected to do his duty even if he made sacrifices.”

Resuming his literary tasks during the months of June and July, between artists and engravers, he collected the illustrative matter for the text of his first volume. This, with the first part of the manuscript amounting to one hundred and fifty-nine pages, he sent to the printer on the 7th of August. He then hied away to Saratoga to forget the novel cares of authorship in drinking at the famed health-fountains and inhaling the air of the Kayaderosseras hills. He found much change and some improvement. The hostelry of the old Revolutionary soldier, Jacobus Barhyte, where all the famous people gathered to enjoy the host’s famous fish dinners, and in whose groves Poe elaborated his poem of The Raven, was gone, along with the well stocked preserves; but in grander hotels and on ampler porches, the gay throng chatted and enjoyed life. The Commodore after a ten day’s stay returned to New York, April 27.

When his first volume was out, Perry enjoyed the author’s genuine delight of sending autograph presentation copies of his book to personal friends and those most interested in the Japan enterprise. Among several autographs letters of acknowledgement, is one from Irving in which he says:—

“You have gained for yourself a lasting name and have won it without shedding a drop of blood, or inflicting misery on a human being. What naval commander ever won laurels at such a rate?”

This first volume was afterward republished for popular use by D. Appleton & Co., and a smaller book based upon it was compiled by Dr. Robert S. Tomes under the title of “The Americans in Japan.”

The preparation of the second volume required great care. Here the delicate work of specialists was called in. Fortunately Perry was sufficiently familiar, by personal acquaintance with scientific experts, to easily find the right men for the right work. On September 9th 1856, Perry sent to the printers a goodly portion of the manuscript of the second volume, and was pleased to find volume third—the work of Chaplain Jones—also in press. It now looked as if the whole work would be ready for delivery at the next session of Congress. Ever conscientious in the expenditure of government money, Perry relieved his aids of further service and continued the work alone. He read every line of script before going to the printer, and corrected all the proof sheets. We find him writing December 28th 1856, to Townsend Harris, our consul-general to Japan then living at Shimoda, who was slowly but surely driving in the wedge inserted by the sailor-diplomatist.

When in sight of the consummation of his literary enterprise, February 2d 1857, Perry wrote, “I have been drawn into much expense not to be put into a public bill,” . . . “The greater portion of the labor has been performed by myself and those employed under my direction.” He sought help outside of the navy only when it was impossible to do otherwise. The completed work was therefore a true product of the navy. Dr. Francis L. Hawkes wrote the preface, added a few footnotes and here and there a sentence, and Dr. Robert Tomes prepared the introduction, but the narrative was of Perry’s own writing. Nathaniel Hawthorne or some other master of letters might have made a better product as literature, but for history it is well that Perry told his own story.

A set of six superbly drawn and colored pictures of the most striking scenes of the Japan Expedition was prepared for the government archives and for sending abroad for foreign rulers and cabinets. They were drawn by the eye-witnesses Brown and Heine,[42] and were executed in lithograph by Brown and Lewis of Albany. Three hundred copies of the set were printed, and the plates then destroyed. Each set was in a portfolio.

Eighteen thousand copies of the Japan Expedition were published, at a total cost of $360,000. Fifteen thousand copies were given to members of Congress, two thousand to the Navy Department chiefly for distribution among the officers, and one thousand to the Commodore of the Expedition. Of this thousand, Perry gave five hundred copies to Dr. Hawkes.

This was the reward of a grateful republic!

During the Commodore’s absence in Japan, his family had lived at No. 260 Fourth avenue, New York City. He now took steps to secure a permanent home and so purchased the house at No. 38 West 32d street. The forty years growth of the metropolis was vividly brought before his mind when on first looking out of the window of his new home, the old in Bloomingdale, from which he took his bride, was in sight. His new home stood on what was part of the lawn of the old Slidell homestead.

He became interested in the work of the American Geographical Society, and attended its meetings. He prepared two papers, “Future Commercial relations with Japan and Lew Chew,” (Riu Kiu), and “The Expediency of Extending Further Encouragement to American Commerce in the East,” which were printed in the society’s journal, and excited much interest. On the 6th of March 1856, at a crowded meeting in the chapel of the New York University, at which Perry was present, Rev. Francis L. Hawkes read his paper, afterwards published in pamphlet form, on “The Enlargement of Geographical Science, a consequence to the opening of new avenues to commercial enterprise.” The president of Columbia college, Charles King, in moving a vote of thanks, spoke in high praise of the merits and polished literary style of the essay. The prospects of trade, of coal, of mail-steamers to China, the new avenues open to American commercial enterprise, and the work of Christian missions heartily believed in by Perry, were discussed by him with clearness, strength and beauty.


James Buchanan was inaugurated President, and Lewis Cass became Secretary of State, March 4th 1857. General James Watson Webb was eager to have the mission to China filled by his friend Commodore Perry. He was long held back by Perry’s modesty and refusal to give assent to his friend’s warm importunity. After permission had been given, General Webb hastened to Washington, but was one day too late. Less than twenty-four hours before, the Hon. Wm. B. Reed had received the appointment as envoy to Peking. Perry’s fame as a diplomatist was to be inseparably linked to Japan only.

General Webb, in speaking to the writer in 1878 in New York, said that the regret of General Cass in not having known of Perry’s willingness to go, and that it was too late, seemed very sincere. Perry had allowed his friends to make the proposition, inasmuch as great events were about to take place in China and he was eager to advance American interests in the East. Further, he expected if he were appointed, to have the personal services of Dr. S. Wells Williams his old interpreter and friend whose character, knowledge and abilities, we know, constituted the real power behind the American Legation in China from 1858 to 1876.

On the 28th of December 1857, Perry reported that his work on the book would end with the year, and his office in Washington be closed. On the 30th, he was detached from special duty to await orders. It was intimated to him at the Department that he was to have command of the squadron in the Mediterranean—the American naval officers’ paradise, when away from home. To this duty Perry looked forward with delight. Thornton A. Jenkins was to be his chief of staff. He spent the pleasant winter in New York enjoying social life.[43] Early in January, 1858, he made a report on the cause of the loss of the Central America, with suggestions for changes in the laws which should secure greater safety of life and property on the ocean. These studies, which have since borne good fruit, were with other matter published in a pamphlet of seven pages, January 15th, 1858. His last official services were performed as a member of the Naval Retiring Board.

The time was now drawing near when this man of tireless activity, who was ever solicitous about the life and safety of others, was to part with his own life. The inroads upon a superb constitution, made by constant work on arduous and trying service, at many stations, in two wars, in three or four diplomatic missions, and in protracted study so soon after return from Japan, were becoming more and more manifest. In the raw weather of February 1858, the Commodore caught a severe cold which from the first gave indications of being serious. The old torment of rheumatism developed itself, and yet not until the hour of his death was he believed to be in mortal danger. It became manifest, however, that the disease, contracted thirty-five years before, in his energy and anxiety to save life and property, had undermined his constitution. Symptoms of rheumatic gout appeared. One token of organic change was a strong indisposition to ascend elevations of any sort. For four weeks he felt more or less out of health. A change of physicians did not better his case. On the 4th of March at midnight, the disease, leaving the region of the stomach, began to assault the citadel, and at 2 a. m. at his home in Thirty-second street, New York City, he died of rheumatism of the heart.

His nephew, by marriage to the daughter of Commodore Oliver H. Perry, the Rev. Dr. Francis Vinton, who was with him in his sickness says, “His last wish expressed to me was to be buried by his father and mother and brother in the old burial ground, to mingle his dust with his native soil. He even choose his grave there.”

At his death, Matthew Calbraith Perry was third on the list of captains, having served at sea twenty-five years and three months, and on other duties nineteen years. Since entering the navy in 1808, he had been unemployed less than five years, and had completed a term of service within one year of a half century.

As a member of numerous civic and scientific associations, as well as President of the Montezuma Society, the loss of Matthew Perry was that of a citizen of broad tastes, sympathies, labors and influences. The great city offered profuse tokens of regard and manifestations of sorrow. The flags of the shipping in the harbor, and on the public buildings and hotels, were flying at half-mast during three days. It was arranged that on Saturday, in the grave-yard of St. Mark’s church at Second avenue and Tenth street, the hero should be buried with appropriate honors.

The military pageant which preceded the hearse consisted of five hundred men of the Seventh Regiment, two hundred officers of the First Division of the New York State Militia, followed by a body of United States Marines. The pall-bearers included the Governor of the State, General Winfield Scott, Commodores Sloat, Breese, McCluney and Bigelow, and seven others, eminent and honored in the various fields of achievement; but the most touching sight was the simplest. The sailors who had served under Commodore Perry in the Japan Expedition and the Mexican war, had volunteered on this occasion to do honor to their old commander. They were the most interesting among the mourners. Although engaged in various pursuits, in different places, they all managed to appear in the regular working uniform of the United States Navy. This they had procured at their own expense. They paraded under the command of Alonzo Guturoz and Philip Downey. All bore evidence of having seen hard service. They attracted much attention as they paraded through the streets, and the simple music of their fifes and drums seemed more appropriate and more impressive, than even that of the regimental band.

The route lay through Fifth Avenue, Fourteenth street, and Second Avenue to Saint Mark’s Church.

The sensation produced throughout the community by the loss of so illustrious a naval commander was shown in the faces of the crowd. Despite the cold weather, the people lined the streets to see and listen and feel. The tolling of the church bells, and the boom of the minute guns rolling up from the ships and yard of the naval station, added solemnity to the scene.

Within the church, the burial service was conducted by the Rev. Drs. Hawks, Vinton, Higbee, and Montgomery. The anthem “Lord let me know my end,” the hymn “I would not live alway,” and the interlude “I heard a voice from Heaven,” were sung, moving all hearts by their sweetness and solemnity.

The service over, the coffin was carried out and deposited in the grave in the church-yard adjoining, and lowered into its last resting place. The committal service and prayer over, the marines fired the three volleys of musketry. The weather-beaten tars of the Japan Expedition took a last look at the wooden enclosure which contained all that was mortal of their beloved Commander, and all turned to depart. “The sight of those honest hardy marines, who had collected from all quarters, and at great personal inconvenience, to pay this last tribute of respect and affection to one whom they had once loved to obey, was interesting and suggestive. One almost expected to witness a repetition of the scene that occurred at the funeral of Lord Nelson, and to see the stars and stripes that floated above the grave torn into shreds and kept as momentoes of the man and the occasion; but their affection though deep and strong did not run into the poetical, and the flag remained whole and untouched.”

In the church of St. Nazaro in Florence, may be read upon the tomb of a soldier the words:

“Johannes Divultius, who never rested, rests—Hush!”

That is Perry’s real epitaph.

The unresting one now rests in the Isle of Peace. The two brothers, Perry of the Lakes, and Perry of Japan, sleep in God, near the beloved mother on whose bosom they first learned the worth of life, whose memory they worshipped throughout their careers, and beside whose relics they wished to lie.

On a hill in the beautiful Island cemetery at Newport, which overlooks aboriginal Aquidneck, the City and Isle of Peace, the writer found on a visit, October 30th, the family burying-ground. In the soft October sunlight, the sight compelled contrast to the ancestral God’s acre in South Kingston, among whose lichened stones of unwrought granite the Commodore proposed erecting a fitting monument to his fathers. Within the evergreen hedge, in the grassy circle ringed with granite and iron lay, on the north side, the tomb of the Commodore’s grand-daughter, a lovely maiden upon whose grave fresh flowers are laid yearly by the loving parent’s hands.

The tomb of M. C. Perry is of marble, on a granite base, with six garlands of oak leaves chiselled on it and bearing the modest inscription:

“Erected by his widow to the memory of Matthew Calbraith Perry, Commodore in the United States Navy, Born April 19th, 1794. Died March the 4th, 1858.”

On the south side beneath and across, lies the son of the Commodore who bore his father’s name:

“In memory of Matthew Calbraith Perry, Captain in the U. S. Navy. Died November 10th, 1848.”

Another stone commemorates his son Oliver, who was with his father in China and Japan, and for some time, United States consul at Hong Kong:

“In memory of Oliver Hazard Perry, son of Matthew C. and Jane Perry. Died May 17th, 1870, aged 45.”

The Commodore’s widow, Jane Slidell Perry survived her husband twenty-one years; and died in Newport, R. I., at the home of her youngest daughter, Mrs. Tiffany, on Saturday, June 14, 1879, at the age of 82.

See letter of James Purdon Esq., New York Times, January 6th, 1859.

English Note Books, Vol. I., Dec. 25, 1854.

See page 221.

Putnam’s Magazine, August 1856, pp. 217, 218.

See “A Dinner at the Mayor’s,” Harper’s Magazine, October 1860.


The active life of Matthew Perry spanned the greater part of our national history “before the war.” He lived to see the United States grow from four to thirty-two millions of people, and the stars in her flag from fifteen to thirty-one. He sailed in many seas, visited all the nations of Christendom, saw most of the races of the earth, and all flags except that of the stars and bars. He saw the rise and fall of many types of naval architecture. He was familiar with the problems of armor and ordnance, resistance and penetration, and had studied those questions in the science of war, which are not yet settled. He had made himself conversant with the arts auxiliary to his profession, and was one of the foremost naval men of his generation. His personal importance was far beyond his rank. He died fully abreast of his age, and looked far beyond it. Had he lived until the opening of “the war,” he would have been fully prepared, by alertness of mind, for the needs of the hour, and would doubtless have held high rank. He was called to rest from his labors before feeling the benumbing effects of old age. As it was, his influence was clearly traceable in the navy, and younger officers carried out his ideas into practice, when opportunity came. Had the United States, at the opening of the rebellion possessed a respectable modern navy, such as Perry labored for, the great southern ports could have been at once sealed; and that foreign aid, without which the Confederacy could not have lived six months, would have been made null. Indeed, with a first-class navy, the slave-holder’s conspiracy could never have been hatched. As it was, the navy kept off foreign intervention.

Despite the long and brilliant succession of services rendered his country, Matthew Perry never received either rank or reward beyond those of an ordinary captain.

The rank of admiral was provided for in the Act of Congress of November 15th, 1776, and the title of admiral was conceded to Paul Jones in the correspondence of the State Department. Yet although the original law, creating the American navy, allowed the rank of captains in three grades of commodore, vice-admiral and admiral, there was no legal title higher than captain in the United States navy until 1862; until Farragut hoisted his flag at the main peak of the Hartford August 13th, 1862, as senior rear-admiral; becoming, July 25th, 1866, admiral. In compliment to his services Charles Stewart was commissioned senior flag-officer, and at the time of Perry’s death, Stewart was senior to himself. Yet if the title of admiral, prior to Farragut, belongs to any American officer by virtue of largeness of fleets commanded, by responsibility of position, or by results achieved, surely we may speak as the Japanese did of “Admiral Perry.”

With most of his subordinate officers, Perry’s relations were of the pleasantest nature compatible with his own high sense of duty and discipline. If he erred, it was usually in the right direction. Professor Henry Coppée, who was a young officer in the Mexican war, writes, from memory, in 1882:—

“He (Perry) was a blunt, yet dignified man, heavy and not graceful, something of a martinet; a duty man all over, held somewhat in awe by the junior officers, and having little to do with them; seriously courteous to others. The ship seemed to have a sense of importance because he was on board.”

The same gentleman relates that once, upon going on board the flag-ship, the midshipmen, with the intent of playing a practical joke, told him to go to Commodore Perry and talk with him. They expected to see the landsman gruffly repelled. The tables were turned, when the would-be jokers saw “the old man” kindly welcome the young officer and engage in genial conversation with him. “I remember,” adds Dr. Coppée, “years afterwards when I heard of what he accomplished in Japan, saying to myself, ‘Well, he is just the man of whom I should have expected it all.’ ”

He had both the qualities necessary for war and for peaceful victory. Though his conquests in war and in peace, in science and in diplomacy, were great, the victory over himself was first, greatest and most lasting. He always kept his word and spoke the truth.

“The Commodore was not a genial man socially. His strong characteristics were self-reliance, earnestness of purpose and untiring industry, which gave such impetus to his schemes as to attract and carry with them the support of others long after they had passed out of his own hands. It was the magnetic power of these qualities in the character of the man that enlisted the services of others in behalf of his purposes, and not any special amenities of manner or sympathies of temperament, that drew them lovingly toward him. And yet, under this austere exterior, which seemed intent only upon the performance of cold duty, as duty, he had a kind and gentle nature that in domestic life was an ornament to him. Never afraid of responsibility in matters of official duty, he was ever on the alert to seek employment when others hesitated. He was bluff, positive and stern on duty, and a terror to the ignorant and lazy, but the faithful ones who performed their duties with intelligence and zeal held him in the highest estimation, for they knew his kindness and consideration of them.”[44]

He was not inclined to allow nonsense and cruel practical jokes among the midshipmen, and could easily see when a verdant newcomer was being imposed upon, or an old officer’s personal feelings hurt by thoughtless youth. The father of a certain captain in the Mexican war, whose record was highly honorable, was reputed to have handled the razor for a livelihood. The young officers knowing or hearing of this, delighted occasionally to slip fragments of combs, old razors, etc., under his cabin door. Perry, angry at this, treated him with marked consideration.

He was far from being entirely deficient in humor, and often enjoyed fun at the right time. At home, amid his children and friends, he enjoyed making his children laugh. Being a fair player on the flute, he was an adept in those lively tunes which kept the children in gleeful mood. Even on the quarter-deck and in the cabin, he was merry enough after his object had been attained. The usual tenor of his life was that of expectancy and alertness to attain a purpose. Hence, the tense set of his mind only occasionally relaxed to allow mirth. Captain Odell says, “He was not a very jolly or joking man, but pleasant and agreeable in his manners, and respected by all who had intercourse with him.” The moral element of character, which is usually associated with habitual seriousness in men who aspire to be founders, educators or leaders, was very marked in Matthew Perry.

The impressions of a young person or subordinate officer, will, of course, differ from those formed in later life, and from other points of view. We give a few of both kinds:—

“His many excellent qualities of heart and head were encased in a rough exterior. ‘I remember,’ says a daughter of Captain Adams, ‘when I was a little girl at Sharon Springs, being impressed by a singular directness of purpose in the man. I used to like to watch him go into the crowded drawing-room. He would stand at the door, survey the tangled scene, find his objective point, and march straight to it over and through the confusion of ladies, children and furniture, never stopping till he reached there. He was a man of great personal bravery, as were all the Perrys, of undoubted courage and gallantry, bluff in his manners, but most hearty and warm in feelings, and with that genuine kindness which impresses at the moment and leaves its mark on the memory. Children instinctively liked the big and bluff hero. As a friend he was most true and constant, and his friendship was always to be relied on.’ ”

“Such was the vein and character of the man, that the impression he made on my mind and affections was such as to make me desirous of following him to the cannon’s mouth, or wherever the fortunes of peace or war should appoint our steps.”[45]

“He was an intense navy man, always had the honor of the navy at heart, and lost no opportunity to impress this feeling upon the officers of his command.”[46]

“I have no unfavorable recollections of Commodore Perry. On the contrary, I think he was one of the greatest of our naval commanders. He had brains, courage, industry and rare powers of judging character, and I believe he would not have spared his own son had he been a delinquent. He seemed to have no favorites but those who did their duty.”[47]

“I consider that Commodore Matthew C. Perry was one of the finest officers we ever had in our navy—far superior to his brother Oliver. He had not much ideality about him, but he had a solid matter-of-fact way of doing things which pleased me mightily. He was one of the last links connecting the old navy with the new.”[48]

He seemed never idle for one moment of his life. When abroad, off duty he was remembering those at home. He brought back birds, monkeys, pets and curiosities for the children. He collected shells in great quantities, and was especially careful to get rare and characteristic specimens. With these, on his return home, he would enrich the museums at Newport, Brooklyn, New York and other places.

As he never knew when to stop work, there were, of course, some under his command who did not like him or his ways.

In the matter of pecuniary responsibility, Perry was excessively sensitive, with a hatred of debt bordering on the morbid. This feeling was partly because of his high ideal of what a naval officer ought to be, and partly because he feared to do injustice to the humblest creditor. He believed a naval officer, as a servant of the United States Government, ought to be as chivalrous, as honest, as just and lovely in character to a bootblack or a washerwoman as to a jewelled lady or a titled nobleman. His manly independence began when a boy, and never degenerated as he approached old age, despite the annoyances from the law-suits brought upon him by his devotion to duty regardless of personal consequences. He refused to accept the suggestion of assistance from any individual, believing it was the Government’s business to shield him.

In reply to an allusion, by a friend, when harassed by the lawsuit, to the pecuniary assistance he might expect from a relative by marriage, he replied, “I would dig a hole in the earth and bury myself in it, before I would seek such assistance.”

He had a great horror of debt, of officers contracting debts without considering their inability to pay them. He often lectured and warned young officers about this important matter.

Under date of Nov. 16th, 1841, we find a long letter from him to Captain Gregory of the North Carolina concerning midshipmen’s debts. He blames not so much “the boys” as Mr. D. (the purser), who indulged them, for “a practice utterly at variance with official rectitude and propriety, and alike ruinous to the prospects of the young officer.” He insists that the middies must be kept to their duties and studies, and their propensity to visit shore and engage in unsuitable expenses be restrained.

In ordinary social life, and in council, Perry appeared at some disadvantage. He often hesitated for the proper word, and could not express himself with more than the average readiness of men who are not trained conversers or public speakers. With the pen, however, he wrought his purpose with ease and power. His voluminous correspondence in the navy archives and in the cabinets of friends, show Matthew Perry a master of English style. A faulty sentence, a slip in grammar, a misspelling, is exceedingly rare in his manuscript. From boyhood he studied Addison and other masters of English prose. In his younger days especially, he exercised himself in reproducing with the pen what he had read in print. He thus early gained a perspicuous, flowing style, to which every page of his book on the Japan Expedition bears witness. Like Cæsar, he wrote his commentaries in the third person. Perry himself is the author of that classic in American exploration and diplomacy. Others furnished preface, introduction, index, and notes, but Matthew Perry wrote the narrative.[49]

He rarely wrote his name in full, his autograph in early life being Matthew C. Perry; and later, almost invariably, M. C. Perry. In this he affected the style neither of the fathers of the navy nor of the republic, who abbreviated the first name and added a colon.

It was the belief of Matthew Perry that the Bible contained the will of God to man, and furnished a manual of human duty. It was his fixed habit to peruse this word of God daily. On every long cruise he began the reading of the whole Bible in course.

Rear-Admiral Almy says: One pleasant Sunday afternoon in the month of April, 1845, and on the way home by way of the West Indies, I was officer of the deck of the frigate Macedonian, sailing along quietly in a smooth sea in the tropics, nearing the land and a port. The Commodore came upon deck, and towards me where I was standing, and remarked: “I have just finished the Bible. I have read it through from Genesis to Revelation. I make it a point to read it through every cruise. It is certainly a remarkable book, a most wonderful book.” As he uttered these words, the look-out aloft cried “Land O!” which diverted his attention, perhaps, or he would have continued with further remarks.

“Perry,” writes another rear-admiral, “was a man of most exemplary habits, though not perhaps a communicant of any church, and upright, and full of pride of country and profession, with no patience or consideration for officers who felt otherwise.”

Keenly enjoying the elements of worship in divine service, he was also a student of the Book of Common Prayer. His own private copy of this manual of devotion was well marked, showing his personal appreciation of its literary and spiritual merits. Often, in the absence of a chaplain, he read service himself. Of the burial service, he says it is “the English language in its noblest form.”

He enjoyed good preaching, but never liked the sermon to be too long. “The unskilled speaker,” says the Japanese proverb, “is long-winded.” The parson was encouraged not to tire his hearers, or to cultivate the gift of continuance to the wearing of the auditor’s flesh. In flagrant cases, the Commodore usually made it a point to clear his usually healthy throat so audibly that the hint was taken by the chaplain. In his endeavor to be fair to both speaker and hearers, Perry had little patience with either Jack Tar or Shoulder Straps who shirked the duty of punctuality, or shocked propriety by making exit precede benediction. When leave was taken, during sermon, with noise or confusion, the unlucky wight usually heard of it afterwards. While at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Perry had the old chapel refurnished, secured a volunteer choir, and a piano, and so gave his personal encouragement, that the room was on most occasions taxed beyond its capacity with willing worshippers. When in 1842, the ships fitted out at the yard were supplied with bibles at the cost of the government, Perry wrote of his gratification: “The mere cost of these books, fifty cents each, is nothing to the moral effect which such an order will have in advancing the character of the service.”

Perry manifested a reverence for the Lord’s Day which was sincere and profound. He habitually kept Sunday as a day of rest and worship, for himself and his men. Only under the dire pressure of necessity, would he allow labor or battle to take place on that day. In the presence of Africans, Mexicans and Japanese, of equals, or of races reckoned inferior to our own, Perry was never ashamed or afraid to exemplify his creed in this matter, or to deviate from the settled customs of his New England ancestry. Japan to-day now owns and honors the day kept sacred by the American commodore and squadron on their entrance in Yedo Bay.

With chaplains, the clerical members of the naval households, Perry’s relations were those of sympathy, cordiality and appreciation. About the opening of the century, chaplains were ranked as officers, and divine service was made part of the routine of ship life on Sundays. The average moral and intellectual grade of the men who drew pay, and were rated as “chaplains” in the United States Navy, was not very high until 1825, when a new epoch began under the Honorable Samuel L. Southard. This worthy Secretary of the Navy established the rule that none but accredited ministers of the gospel, in cordial relations with some ecclesiastical body, should be appointed naval chaplains. From this time onward, with rare exceptions, those holding sacred office on board American men-of-war have adorned and dignified their calling. Until the time of Perry’s death, there had been about eighty chaplains commissioned. With such men as Charles E. Stewart, Walter Colton, George Jones, Edmund C. Bittenger, Fitch W. Taylor, Orville Dewey, and Mason Noble,—whose literary fruits and fragrant memories still remain—Perry always entertained the highest respect, and often manifested personal regard. For those, however, in whom the clerical predominated over the human, and mercenary greed over unselfish love of duty, or who made pretensions to sacerdotal authority over intellectual freedom, or whose characters fell below their professions, the feelings of the bluff sailor were those of undisguised contempt.

We note the attitude of Perry toward the great enterprise founded on the commission given by Jesus Christ to His apostles to make disciples of all nations. Naval men, as a rule, do not heartily sympathize with Christian missionaries. The causes of this alienation or indifference are not far to seek, nor do they reflect much credit upon the naval profession. Apart from moral considerations, the man of the deck, bred in routine and precedent is not apt to take a wide view on any subject that lies beyond his moral horizon. Nor does his association with the men of his own race at the ports, in club or hong, tend to enlarge his view. Nor, on the other hand, does the naval man always meet the shining types of missionary character. Despite these facts, there are in the navy of the United States many noble spirits, gentlemen of culture and private morals, who are hearty friends of the American missionary. Helpful and sympathetic with all who adorn a noble and unselfish calling, they judge with charity those less brilliant in record or winsome in person. Perry’s attitude was ever that of kindly sympathy with the true missionary. With the very few who degraded their calling, or to those who expected any honor beyond that which their private character commanded, he was cool or even contemptuous. He had met and personally honored many men and women who, in Africa, Greece, the Turkish Empire, and China, make the American name so fragrant abroad. In the ripeness of his experience, he took genuine pleasure in penning these words: “Though a sailor from boyhood, yet I may be permitted to feel some interest in the work of enlightening heathenism, and imparting a knowledge of that revealed truth of God, which I fully believe advances man’s progress here, and gives him his only safe ground of hope for hereafter.[50] To Christianize a strange people, the first important step should be to gain their confidence and respect by means practically honest, and in every way consistent with the precepts of our holy religion.” Of the Japanese people, he wrote: “Despite prejudice, their past history and wrongs, they will in time listen with patience and respectful attention to the teachings of our missionaries,” for they are, as he considered, “in most respects, a refined and rational people.”

How grandly Perry’s prophecy has been fulfilled, all may see in Christian Japan of the year 1887.

Silas Bent, U. S. N.

Rear-Admiral Joshua R. Sands, U. S. N.

Rear-Admiral John Almy, U. S. N.

Engineer John Follansbee.

D. D. Porter, Admiral U. S. Navy.

Rev. Dr. Vinton’s Oration at Perry Statue, Newport, Oct. 2nd, 1868. Letters of Dr. Robert Tomes and John Hone, New York Times, October 1868.

Paper read before the American Geographical Society, March 6th, 1856.


The momentum of Perry’s long and active life left a force which, a generation after his death, is yet unspent. He rests from his labors, but his works do follow him. His thoughts have been wrought towards completion by others.

The opening of Japan to foreign commerce and residence, and ultimately to full international intercourse, occupied his brain until the day of his death. His interest did not flag for a moment. What we see in New Japan to-day is more the result of the influence of Matthew Perry and the presence of Townsend Harris, than of the fear of British armaments in China. English writers have copied, even as late as 1883,[51] the statement of Captain Sherard Osborn[52] and the London Times,[53] that “as soon as the Tientsin Treaty was arranged, the American commodore [Tatnall] rushed off to Japan to take advantage of the consternation certain to be created by the first news of recent events in the Peiho. It was smartly imagined.” We propose to give a plain story of the facts.

Townsend Harris the United States Consul at Ningpo, China, was appointed July 31st, 1855, by President Pierce, Consul-General to Japan. No more fortunate selection could have been made. By experience and travel, thoroughly acquainted with human nature and especially the oriental and semi-civilized phases of it, Mr. Harris possessed the “dauntless courage, patience, courtesy, gentleness, firmness and incorruptible honesty” needed to deal with just such yakunin or men of political business, as the corrupt and decaying dynasty of Yedo usurpers naturally produced. Further, he had a kindly feeling towards the Japanese people. Best of all, he was armed with the warnings, advice and suggestions of Perry, whom he had earnestly consulted.

Ordered, September 8th, 1855, by President Pierce to follow up Captain Edmund Robert’s work and make a treaty with Siam, Mr. Harris after concluding his business, boarded the San Jacinto at Pulo Pinang, and arrived in Shimoda harbor, August 22d, 1856. The propeller steamer was brought to safe anchorage by a native pilot who bore a commission printed on “The Japan Expedition Press,” and signed by Commodore Perry. The stars and stripes were hoisted to the peak of the flag-staff raised by the San Jacinto’s carpenters on the afternoon of September 3d. Then in his quiet quarters at Kakisaki, or Oyster Point, Mr. Harris, following out Perry’s plan of diplomatic campaign, won alone and unaided, after fourteen months of perseverance, a magnificent victory. Lest these statements seem inaccurate we reprint Mr. Harris’ letter in full.

U. S. Consulate General, Simoda,

October 27, 1857.

My Dear Commodore Perry,—Your kind favor of December 28th 1856, did not come to hand until the 20th inst., as I was fourteen months at this place without receiving any letters or information from the United States. The U. S. sloop of war Portsmouth touched here on the 8th of last month, but she did not bring me any letters; her stay here was very short, just enough to enable me to finish my official letter; had time permitted I would have written to you by her.

I am much obliged to you for your good advice; it was both sound and well-timed advice, and I have found every one of your opinions, as to the course the Japanese would pursue with me, prove true to the letter.

Early last March I made a convention with the Japanese which, among other provisions, secured the right of permanent residence to Americans at Simoda and Hakodadi, admits a Consul at Hakodadi, opens Nagasaki, settled the currency question, and the dollar now passes for 4670 cash instead of 1600, and lastly admits the enterritoriality of all Americans in Japan. It was a subject of deep regret to me that I was not able to send this convention to the State Department until quite six months after it had been agreed on.

In October 1856, I wrote to the Council of State at Yedo that I was the bearer of a friendly letter from the President of the United States addressed to the Emperor of Japan, and that I had some important matter to communicate which greatly concerned the honor and welfare of Japan. I desire the Council to give orders for my proper reception on the road from this to Yedo, and to inform me when those arrangements were completed. For full ten months the Japanese used every possible expedient to get me to deliver the letter at Simoda, and to make my communications to the Governors of this place. I steadily refused to do either, and at last they have yielded and I shall start for Yedo some time next month. I am to have an audience of the Emperor, and at that time I am to deliver the letter.

I am satisfied that no commercial treaty can be made by negotiations carried on any where but at Yedo, unless the negotiator is backed up by a powerful fleet.

I hope when at Yedo to convince the government that it is impossible for them to continue their present system of non-intercourse, and that it will be for their honor and interest to yield to argument rather than force.

I do not expect to accomplish all that I desire on this occasion, but it will be a great step in the way of direct negotiations with the Council of the State, and the beginning of a train of enlightenment of the Japanese that will sooner or later lead them to desire to open the country freely to intercourse with foreign nations.

I have just obtained a copy of your “Expedition to Japan and the China Seas,” and have read it with intense interest. I hope it is no vanity in me to say that no one at present can so well appreciate and do justice to your work as I can.

You seem at once and almost intuitively to have adopted the best of all courses with the Japanese. I am sure no other course would have resulted so well. I have seen quite a number of Japanese who saw you when you were at Simoda and they all made eager inquiries after you. M—— Y—— is at Simoda, and has not forgotten the art of lying.

Please present my respectful compliments to Mrs. Perry and to the other members of your family, and believe

Yours most sincerely,


As Perry predicted, the Japanese yielded to Mr. Harris who, a few days after he had sent the letter given above, went to Yedo, and had audience of the Shō-gun Iyésada. He afterwards saw the ministers of state, and presented his demands. These were: Unrestricted trade between Japanese and American merchants in all things except bullion and grain, the closing of Shimoda and the opening of Kanagawa and Ozaka, the residence in Yedo of an American minister, the sending of an embassy to America, and a treaty to be ratified in detail by the government of Japan.

Professor Hayashi was first sent to Kiōto, to obtain the Mikado’s consent. As he had negotiated the first treaty it was thought that with his experience, scholarly ability and eminent character, he would be certain to win success, if anyone could. Despite his presence and entreaties, the imperial signature and pen-seal were not given; and Hotta, a daimiō, was then despatched on the same mission. The delay caused by the opposition of the conservative element at the imperial capital was so prolonged, that Mr. Harris threatened if an answer was not soon forthcoming, to go to Kiōto himself and arrange matters.

The American envoy was getting his eyes opened. He began to see that the throne and emperor were in Kiōto, the camp and lieutenant at Yedo. The “Tycoon”—despite all the pomp and fuss and circumlocution and lying sham—was an underling. Only the Mikado was supreme. Quietly living in Yedo, Mr. Harris bided his time. Hotta returned from his fruitless mission to Kiōto late in April 1858; but meanwhile Ii, a man of vigor and courage, though perhaps somewhat unscrupulous, was made Tairō or regent, and virtual ruler in Yedo. With him Mr. Harris renewed his advances, and before leaving Yedo, in April 1858, secured a treaty granting in substance all the American’s demands. This instrument was to be signed and executed September 1st, 1858. Ii hoped by that time to obtain the imperial consent. A sub-treaty, secret, but signed by the premier Ii and Mr. Harris, binding them to the execution of the main treaty on the day of its date, was also made, and copies were held by both parties.[54] This diplomacy was accomplished by Mr. Harris, when he had been for many months without news from the outside world, and knew nothing of the British campaign in China.

Meanwhile Flag-Officer Josiah Tatnall, under order of the United States Navy Department, was on his way to Japan, to bring letters and dispatches to the American Consul-general, was ignorant of Mr. Harris’ visit to Yedo, or his new projects for treaty-making. On the Powhatan he left Shanghai July 5th, joining the Mississippi at Nagasaki five days later. Here the death of Commodore Perry was announced, the Japanese receiving the news with expressions of sincere regret. The Treaty at Tientsin had been signed June 26, but Tatnall, innocent of the notions of later manufacture, so diligently ascribed to him of rushing “off to Japan to take advantage of the consternation certain to be created by the first news of recent events in the Peiho,” . . . was so far oblivious of any further intentions on the part of Mr. Harris of making another treaty with Japan, that he lingered in the lovely harbor until the 21st of July. In the Powhatan he cast anchor in Shimoda harbor, on the 25th, the Mississippi having arrived two days before. On the 27th, taking Mr. Harris on board the Powhatan, Tatnall steamed up to Kanagawa, visiting also Yokohama, where Perry’s old treaty-house was still standing. Meeting Ii on the 29th, negotiations were re-opened. In Commodore Tatnall’s presence, the main treaty was dated July 29th (instead of September 1st) and to this the premier Ii affixed his signature, and pen-seal. By this treaty Yokohama was to be opened to foreign trade and residence July 1st of the following year, 1859, and an embassy was to be sent to visit the United States. The Commodore and Consul-general returned to Shimoda August 1st. Mr. Harris then took a voyage of recreation to China.

On the 30th of June 1859, the consulate of the United States was removed from Shimoda to Kanagawa, where the American flag was raised at the consulate July 1st. The Legation of the United States was established in Yedo July 7, 1859. Amid dense crowds of people, and a party of twenty-three[55] Americans, Mr. Harris was escorted to his quarters in a temple.

The regent Ii carried on affairs in Yedo with a high hand, not only signing treaties without the Mikado’s assent, but by imprisoning, exiling, and ordering to decapitation at the blood-pit, his political opposers. Among those who committed hara-kiri or suffered death, were Yoshida Shoin, and Hashimoto Sanai. The daimiōs of Mito, Owari, and Echizen,[56] were ordered to resign in favor of their sons and go into private life. “All classes now held their breath and looked on in silent affright.” On the 13th of February 1860, the embassy, consisting of seventy-one persons left Yokohama in the Powhatan to the United States, arriving in Washington May 14, 1860. The English copy of the Perry treaty had been burned in Yedo in 1858, and one of their objects was to obtain a fresh transcript. The writer’s first sight and impression of the Japanese was obtained, when these cultivated and dignified strangers visited Philadelphia, where they received the startling news of the assassination in Yedo, March 23d, of their chief Ii, by Mito rō-nins.

The signing of treaties without the Mikado’s consent was an act of political suicide on the part of the Yedo government. Not only did “the swaggering prime minister” Ii, become at once the victim of assassin’s swords, but all over the country fanatical patriots, cutting the cord of loyalty to feudal lords, became “wave-men” or rō-nin. They raised the cry, “Honor the Mikado, and expel the barbarian.” Then began that series of acts of violence—the murder of foreigners and the burning of legations, which foreigners then found so hard to understand, but which is now seen to be a logical sequence of preceding events. These amateur assassins and incendiaries were but zealous patriots who hoped to deal a death-blow at the Yedo usurpation by embroiling it in war with foreigners. More than one officer prominent in the Meiji era has boasted[57] of his part in the plots and alarms which preceded the fall of the dual system and the reinstatement of the Mikado’s supremacy. To this the writer can bear witness.

Meanwhile the ministers of the Bakafu were “like men who have lost their lanterns on a dark night.” Their lives were worth less than a brass tem-pō. Amid the tottering framework of government, they yet strove manfully to keep their treaty engagements. “No men on earth could have acted more honorably.”[58] All the foreign ministers struck their flags, and retired to Yokohama, except Mr. Harris. He, despite the assassination, January 14, 1861, of Mr. Heusken his interpreter, maintained his ground in solitude. English and French battalions were landed at Yokohama, and kept camp there for over twelve years. On the 21st of January, 1862, another embassy was despatched to Europe and the United States. Their purpose was to obtain postponement of treaty provisions in regard to the opening of more ports. In New York, they paid their respects to the widow of Commodore Perry, meeting also his children and grandchildren.

Plots and counterplots in Kiōto and Yedo, action and reaction in and between the camp and the throne went on, until, on the 3rd of January, 1868, two days after the opening of Hiogo and Ozaka to trade, the coalition of daimiōs hostile to the Bakafu or Tycoon’s, government, obtained possession of the Mikado’s palace and person. The imperial brocade banner of chastisement was then unfurled, and the “Tycoon” and all who followed him stamped as chō-téki traitors—the most awful name in Japanese history. One of the first acts of the new government, signalizing the new era of Meiji, was to affix the imperial seal to the treaties, and grant audience to the foreign envoys. In the civil war, lasting nearly two years, the skill of the southern clansmen, backed by American rifles and the iron-clad ram, Stonewall, secured victory. Yedo was made the Kiō or national capital, with the prefix of Tō (east), and thenceforward, the camp and the throne were united in Tōkiō, the Mikado’s dwelling place.

All power in the empire having been consolidated in the Mikado’s person in Tōkiō, one of the first results was the assertion of his rule over its outlying portions, especially Yezo, Ogasawara and Riu Kiu islands, the resources of Yezo and the Kuriles included in the term Hokkaido or Northern sea-circuit were developed by colonists, and by a commission aided by Americans eminent in science and skill. Sappōro is the capital city, and Hakodaté the chief port. The thirty-seven islands of Riu Kiu, with their one hundred and sixty thousand inhabitants are organized as the Okinawa Ken, one of the prefects of the empire. The deserted palace-enclosure of Shuri, to which in 1853, Perry marched, with his brass bands marines and field-pieces, to return the visit of the regent, is now occupied by battalion of the Mikado’s infantry. The dwellings of the king and his little court now lie in mildew and ruin,[59] while the former ruler is a smartly decorated marquis of the empire. Despite China’s claim[60] to Riu Kiu, Japan has never relaxed her grasp on this her ancient domain.[61] Variously styled “the Southern Islands,” “Long Rope” (Okinawa), “Sleeping Dragon,” “Pendant Tassels,” the “Country which observes Propriety,” or the “Eternal Land” of Japanese mythology, and probably some day to be a renowned winter health-resort, Riu Kiu, whether destined to be the bone of contention and cause of war between the rival great nations claiming it, or to sleep in perpetual afternoon, has ceased to be a political entity. No one will probably ever follow Perry in making a treaty with the once tiny “Kingdom.”

The Ogasawara (Bonin) islands were formally occupied by the civil and military officers of the Mikado in 1875, and the people of various nationalities dwell peaceably under the sun-flag. An American lady-missionary and a passenger in the steamer San Pablo, Mrs. Anna Viele of Albany, spent from January 14th to 31st, 1855, at the Bonin Islands. She found of Savory’s large family three sons and three daughters living. The old flag of stars and stripes given to Savory by Commodore Perry is still in possession of his widow, and is held in great reverence by his children and grandchildren, all of whom profess allegiance to the United States. The boys, as soon as of age, go to Yokohama and are registered in the American consulate. One of the sons bears the name of Matthew Savory, so named by the Commodore himself when there. A grandson having been born a few days before the arrival of the San Pablo, Mrs. Viele was invited to name him. She did so, and Grover Cleveland Savory received as a gift a photograph of the President of the United States. Trees planted by the hand of the Commodore still bear luscious fruit. Though the cattle were long ago “lifted” by passing whalers, the goats are amazingly abundant.[62] The island of Hachijō (Fatsizio,) to which, between the years 1597 and 1886, sixteen hundred and six persons, many of them court ladies, nobles, and gentlemen from Kiōto and Yedo, were banished, is also under beneficent rule. The new penal code of Japan, based on the ideas of christendom, has substituted correctional labor,[63]—even with the effect of flooding America and Europe with cheap and gaudy trumpery made by convicts under prison contracts,—and Hachijō ceases to stand, in revised maps and charts, as the “place of exile for the grandees of Japan.”

Ancient traditions, vigorously revived in 1874 claimed that Corea was in the same relation to Japan as Yedo or Riu Kiu; or, if not an integral portion of Dai Nihon, Corea was a tributary vassal. A party claiming to represent the “unconquerable spirit of Old Japan,” (Yamatō damashii,) to reverence the Mikado, and to cherish the sword as the living soul of the samurai, demanded in 1875, the invasion of Corea. The question divided the cabinet after the return of the chief members of it from their tour around the world in 1875, and resulted in a rebellion crushed only after the expenditure of much blood and treasure. It was finally determined not to invade but to “open” Corea, even as Japan had been opened to diplomacy and commerce by the United States. Only twelve years after Perry’s second visit to the bay of Yedo, and in the same month, a Japanese squadron of five vessels and eight hundred men under General Kuroda appeared in the Han river, about as far below the Corean capital as Uraga is from Tōkiō. In the details of procedure, and movement of ships, boats and men, the imitation of Perry’s policy was close and transparent.[64] Patience, skill and tact, won a “brain-victory,” and a treaty of friendship, trade, and commerce, was signed February 27th, 1876. The penultimate hermit nation had led the last member of the family into the world’s market-place. In this also, Perry’s work followed him.

Two years after this event, a company of Japanese merchants in Yokohama, assembled together of their own accord; and, in their own way celebrated with speech, song and toast, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the arrival of Commodore Perry and the apparation of the “Black ships” at Uraga. The general tenor of the thought of the evening was that the American squadron had proved to Japan, despite occasional and temporary reverses, an argosy of treasures for the perpetual benefit of the nation.

The object-lesson in modern civilization, given by Perry on the sward at Yokohama, is now illustrated on a national scale. Under divine Providence, with unique opportunity, Japan began renascence at a time of the highest development of forces, spiritual mental, material. With Christianity, modern thought, electricity, steam, and the printing-press, the Mikado comes to his empire “at such a time as this.” Since the era of Meiji, or Enlightened Peace, was ushered in, January 26, 1858, the Mikado Mutsŭhito, the 123d sovereign of the imperial line, born twenty-one days before Perry sailed in the Mississippi for Japan, has abolished the feudal system, emancipated four-fifths of his subjects from feudal vassalage and made them possessors of the soil, disarmed a feudal soldiery numbering probably six hundred thousand men trained to arms, reorganized the order of society, established and equipped an army forty thousand strong, and a navy superior in ships and equipments to that of the United States, assured the freedom of conscience, introduced the telegraph, railway, steam-navigation, general postal and saving, and free compulsory public educational systems;[65] declared the equality of all men before the law, promised limitation of the imperial prerogative, and the establishment of a national parliament in a. d. 1890.

All this looks like a miracle. “Can a nation be born at once,” a land in one day?

The story of the inward preparation of Nippon for its wondrous flowering in our day, of the development of national force, begun a century before Perry was born, which, with outward impact made not collision, but the unexpected resultant,—New Japan, deserves a volume from the historian, and an epic from the poet. We have touched upon the subject elsewhere.[66] Suffice it to say that the Dutch, so long maligned by writers of hostile faith and jealous nationality, to whom Perry in his book fails to do justice, bore an honorable and intelligent part in it.[67] Even Perry, Harris and the Americans constitute but one of many trains of influences contributing to the grand result. Perry himself died before that confluence of the streams of tendency, now so clearly visible, had been fully revealed to view. The prayers of Christians, the yearning of humanity, the pressure of commerce, the ambition of diplomacy, from the outside; the longing of patriots, the researches of scholars, the popularization of knowledge, the revival of the indigenous Shintō religion, the awakening of reverence for the Mikado’s person, the heated hatred almost to flame of the Yedo usurpation, the eagerness of students for western science, the fertilizing results of Dutch culture, from the inside; were all tributaries, which Providence made to rise, kept in check, and let loose to meet in flood at the elect moment.

Meanwhile, Japan groans under the yoke imposed upon her by the Treaty Powers in the days of her ignorance. “Extra-territorialty” is her curse. The selfishness and greed of strong nations infringe her just and sovereign rights as an independent nation. In the light of twenty-eight years of experience, treaty-revision is a necessity of righteousness and should be initiated by the United States.[68] This was the verdict of Townsend Harris, as declared to the writer, in 1874. This is the written record of the English and American missionaries in their manifesto of April 28th, 1884 at the Ozaka Conference.[69] Were Matthew Perry to speak from his grave, his voice would protest against oppression by treaty, and in favor of righteous treatment of Japan, in the spirit of the treaty made and signed by him; to wit:

“There shall be a perfect, permanent, and universal peace, and a sincere and cordial amity, between the United States of America on the one part, and the Empire of Japan on the other, and between their people, respectively, without exception of persons or places.”

Young Japan, J. R. Black.

A Cruise in Japan waters, and Japan fragments.

November 1st, 1859.

Commodore Tatnall told this to Gideon Nye. See Mr. Nye’s letter, January 31st, 1859, to the Hong Kong Times; reprinted in pamphlet form Macao, March 22, 1864.

See their names, and dates of the Mississippi’s movements, in “A Cruise in the U. S. S. Frigate Mississippi,” July 1857 to February 1860, by W. F. Gragg, Boston, 1860.

It was in the educational service of this baron and his son, that the writer went to Japan and lived in Echizen. The Mikado’s Empire, pp. 308, 426-434, 532-536.

Episodes in a Life of Adventure, p. 163, by Laurence Oliphant, 1887.

Townsend Harris’s words to the writer, October 9th, 1874.

Cruise of the Marquesas, London, 1886.

The story of the Riu Kiu (Loo Choo) complication by F. Brinkley, in The Chrysanthemum, Yokohama, 1883. Audi Alteram Partem, by D. B. McCartee Esq. M. D.

Asiatic Soc. of Japan. Transactions Vol. I, p. 1; Vol. IV. p. 66.

Asiatic Society of Japan, Transactions Vol. IV, p. 3.

Asiatic Society and Japan Transactions, Vol. VI, part III, pp. 435-478.

Corea, the Hermit Nation, p. 423.

Hon. John A. Bingham to Mr. Evarts, U. S. Foreign Relations, 1880.

The Recent Revolutions in Japan, chapter XXVIII in The Mikado’s Empire, and pamphlet The Rutgers Graduates in Japan, New Brunswick N. J. 1886.

Transactions, Asiatic Society of Japan, Vol. V. p. 207.

Japanese Treaty Revision by Prof. J. K. Newton, Bibliotheca Sacra, January 1887.

Published in The Independent, N. Y.







Diary, Remarks, etc. (on board the United States frigate President, Commodore Rodgers), made by M. C. Perry. [From March 19, 1811, to July 25, 1813].


Letters of M. C. Perry to his superior officers, and to the United States Navy Department, in the United States Navy Archives, Washington D. C.; in all, about two thousand. These are bound up with others, in volumes lettered on the back Officers' Letters, Master Commandants’ Letters, Captains' Letters. As commodore of a squadron, M. C. Perry’s autograph letters and papers relating to his cruises are bound in separate volumes and lettered: Squadron, Coast of Africa, under Commodore M. C. Perry, April 10 1843, to April 29 1845, [1 volume, folio]; Home Squadron, Commodore M. C. Perry’s Cruise [2 volumes, folio, on The Mexican War]; East India, China and Japan Squadron, Commodore M. C. Perry, Volume I, December 1852 to December 31 1853; Volume II, January 1854 to May 1855 [2 volumes, folio].


Letters to naval officers, scientific men, and personal friends.




Unsigned articles in The Naval Magazine, Brooklyn, N. Y.


Future Commercial Relations with Japan and Lew Chew.


The Expediency of Extending Further Encouragement to American Commerce in the East.


Enlargement of Geographical Science, Pamphlet, New York, 1856.


Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. 3 volumes, folio. Washington, 1856. 1 volume, folio. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1857.


The Perry family Bible, dates of births, marriages and deaths.


Scrap books, kept at various periods of M. C. Perry’s life by the children and relatives of M. C. Perry.


Kinsé Shiriaku (Short History of Recent Times, 1853–1869, by Yamaguchi Uji, Tokio, 1871 translated by Ernest Satow, Yokohama, 1873).


Genji Yumé Monogatari (Dream Story of Genji, inside history of Japan from 1850 to 1864), translated by Ernest Satow in Japan Mail, 1874.


Kinsé Kibun (Youth’s History of Japan, from Perry’s arrival, 3 volumes, illustrated, Tokio, 1874).


Hoku-é O Setsu Roku, Official Record of Intercourse with the American Barbarians (made by the “Tycoon’s” officers, during negotiations with Perry in 1854; manuscript copied from the Department of State, Tokio, 1884).


A Chronicle of the Chief Events in Japanese history from 1844 to 1863, translated by Ernest Satow; in Japan Mail, 1873.


Japanese poems, street songs, legends, notes taken by the writer during conversations with people, officers, and students, chiefly eyewitnesses to events referred to.



The other authorities quoted, are referred to in the text and footnotes, or mentioned in the preface.


In answer to an inquiry, Hext M. Perry, Esq., M.D., of Philadelphia, Pa., who is preparing a genealogy of the Perry family, has kindly furnished the following epitome:—

Dear Sir,—I have no doubt of our name being of Scandinavian origin. The Perrys were from Normandy, the original name being Perier which has in course been reduced to its present—and for many hundred years past in England and America—Perry. A market town in Normandy, France, is our old Perry name—Periers. The name doubtlessly originated from the fruit, Pear, French Poire; or, the fruit took its name from the family which is perhaps more likely. At any rate Poire is easily modulated into Perer, Perier, Periere, etc., and so across the Channel to England, with William the Conqueror, in 1086, it soon ripens into our name Perry. Perry is a delightful fermented beverage in England made from pears—a sort of pear cider.

“Perry” identifies by its arms with “Perers.” The family of Perry was seated in Devon County, England, in 1370.

That of “Perier” was of Perieres in Bretagne (Brittany, France), and descended from Budic, Count of Cornuailles, A. D. 900, whose younger son Perion gave name to Perieres, Bretagne. A branch came to England, 1066, and Matilda de Perer was mother to Hugo Parcarius who lived in time of Henry I. The name continually recurs in all parts of England, and thence the Perrys, Earls of Limerick. There was also a Norman family of Pears intermarried with Shakespere which bore different arms “Perrie” for Perry—“Pirrie,” for Perry.


Odo, Robert, Ralph, Hugh, &c., de Periers, Normandy 1180-95. Robert de Pereres, England, 1198.

It appears that the family Saxby, Shakkesby, Saxesby, Sakespee, Sakespage or Shakespeare was a branch of that of De Perers, and this appears to be confirmed by the armorial. The arms of one branch of Perire or Perers were: Argent, a bend sable (charged with three pears for difference). Those of Shakespeare were:—Argent, a bend sable (charged with a spear for difference). As before stated, the family of Perere came from Periers near Evreux, Normandy, where it remained in the 15th century. Hugo de Periers possessed estate in Warwick 1156; Geoffrey de Periers held fief in Stafford, 1165, and Adam de Periers in Cambridge. Sir Richard de Perers was M. P. for Leicester 1311, Herts 1316-24, and Viscount of Essex and Herts in 1325.

Courteously Yours,



It is interesting to inquire whether the family of Calbraith is still in existence. An examination of the directory of the city of Philadelphia during the years 1882, 1883, 1884 recalls no name of Calbraith, and but one of Calbreath, though fifty-two of Galbraith are down in the lists. The spelling of the name with a C is exceedingly rare, the name Galbraith, however, is common in North Ireland and in Scotland. Arthur, the father of our late president of the same name, in his “Derivation of Family Names,” says it is composed of two Gaelic words Gall and Bhreatan; that is “strange Breton,” or “Low Country Breton.” The Galbraiths in the Gaelic are called Breatannich, or Clanna Breatannich, that is “the Britons,” or “the children of Britons,” and were once reckoned a great clan in Scotland, according to the following lines:—

“Galbraiths from the Red Tower,

Noblest of Scottish surnames.”

The Falla dhearg, or Red Tower was probably Dumbarton, that is the Dun Bhreatan, or stronghold of the Britons, whence it is said the Galbraiths came.

Of one of the unlucky bearers of the name Galbraith, a private of our army in Mexico, Longfellow has written in his poem of “Dennis Galbraith.” In his “History of Japan,” Mr. Francis Ottiwell Adams, an English author, naturally falls into the habit of writing Matthew G. Perry. The Rev. Calbraith B. Perry of Baltimore, nephew of Matthew C. Perry, suggests that the initial letter of the name is merely the softening of the Scotch G.


Of Matthew C. Perry, born in Newport, April 10, 1794, and Jane Slidell born in New York, February 29, 1797, who were married in New York, October 24, 1814, there were born four sons and six daughters:—

John Slidell Perry, died March 24, 1817.

Sarah Perry (Mrs. Robert S. Rodgers.)

Jane Hazard Perry (Mrs. John Hone) died December 24, 1882.

Matthew Calbraith Perry, Jr., died November 16, 1873.

Susan Murgatroyde Perry, died August 15, 1825.

Oliver Hazard Perry, died November 17, 1870.

William Frederick Perry, died March 18, 1884.

Caroline Slidell Perry, (Mrs. August Belmont.)

Isabella Bolton Perry, (Mrs. George Tiffany.)

Anna Rodgers Perry, died March 9, 1838.

Matthew C. Perry died in New York, March 4, 1858; his wife, who was his devoted companion and helper, Jane Slidell Perry, survived him twenty years, and died in Newport, R. I., June 14, 1879, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. George Tiffany. A pension of fifty dollars per month was granted to her, by Act of Congress, from the date of her husband’s death.

Of the Commodore’s children, who grew to adult life, Sarah was married to Col. Robert S. Rodgers (brother of the late Rear-Admiral John Rodgers, U. S. N.), at the Commandant’s house, Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N. Y., December 15, 1841, and now lives near Havre de Grace, Maryland.

Jane Hazard was married to John Hone, Esq., of New York, at the Commandant’s house, Brooklyn Navy Yard, October 20, 1841.

Matthew Calbraith married Miss Harriet Taylor of Brooklyn, April 26, 1853. He entered the United States Navy as Midshipman, June 1, 1835, was appointed Lieutenant April 3, 1848, and later Captain. He was placed on the retired list April 4, 1867.

Oliver Hazard Perry, an officer in the United States Marine Corps, was appointed Lieutenant February 25, 1841; was in the Mexican war, and resigned July 23, 1849; was appointed United States Consul at Hong Kong. He died in London May 17, 1870. He was unmarried.

William Frederick Perry, died unmarried.

Caroline Slidell Perry was married, in New York, to the Hon. August Belmont, late Minister of the United States to the Netherlands, November 7, 1849.

Isabella Bolton Perry married Mr. George Tiffany in New York, August 17, 1864.


(Furnished by the Chief Clerk United States Navy Department, 1883.)

Matthew C. Perry was appointed a Midshipman in the United States Navy, January 16th, 1809; March 16th, 1809, ordered to the naval station, New York; May 11th, 1809, furloughed for the merchant service; October 12th, 1810, ordered to the President; February 22d, 1813, appointed Acting Lieutenant; July 24th, 1813, appointed Lieutenant; November 16th, 1813, ordered to New London; December 20th, 1815, granted six month’s furlough; September 22d, 1817, ordered to the navy yard, New York; June 8th, 1821, ordered to command the Shark; July 29th, 1823, ordered to the receiving ship at New York; July 26th, 1824, ordered to the North Carolina; March 21st, 1826, promoted to Master Commandant; August 17th, 1827, ordered to the naval rendezvous at Boston; September 2d, 1828, granted leave of absence; April 22d, 1830, ordered to command the Concord; December 10th, 1832, detached and granted three months’ leave; January 7th, 1833, ordered to the navy yard, New York; February 9th, 1837, promoted to Captain; March 15th, 1837, detached from the navy yard, New York; August 29th, 1837, ordered to command the Fulton; March the 2d, 1840, ordered to the steamer building at New York to give general superintendence over the gun-practice; June 12th, 1841, ordered to command the navy yard, New York; February 20th, 1843, ordered to hold himself in readiness for command of the African squadron; May 1st, 1845, detached and granted leave; December 27th, 1845, ordered to examine merchant steamers at New York; January 6th, 1846, ordered to examine docks at New York—examination finished February 4th, 1846; May 18th, 1846, ordered to examine steamers at New York; 21st July, 1846, ordered to report at Department; August 20th, 1846, ordered to command the Mississippi; March 4th, 1847, ordered to command the Home Squadron; November 20th, 1848, detached from command of Home Squadron, and ordered as General Superintendent of ocean mail-steamers; November 3d, 1849, ordered to report at the Department; January 22d, 1852, given preparatory orders to command the East India Squadron; 3d March, 1852, detached as Superintendent of ocean mail-steamers; March 24th, 1852, ordered to command the East India Squadron; January 12th, 1855, reported his arrival at New York; June 20th, 1855, ordered to Washington as a Member of Efficiency Board under Act of Congress, February 28th, 1855; September 13th, 1855, Board dissolved; December 30th, 1857, detached from special duty and wait orders.

He died at New York City, N. Y., on the 4th of March, 1858.


Matthew C. Perry may be called the founder of the apprenticeship system in the United States Navy, however much the present improved methods may differ from his own. He was the first officer to attempt a systematic improvement on the hap-hazard and costly method of recruiting formerly in vogue. Under the old plan, one-fourth the men and boys picked up at random became invalided or were discharged as unfit. It took four month’s work at five recruiting stations to get a crew for the “North Carolina.” The daily average of recruits at five stations, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Norfolk and Baltimore, was but seven, at the utmost, and could not be increased without bounties. Perry’s experience at recruiting stations prompted him to a thorough study of the subject, and attempt at reform. He addressed the Department on this theme as early as 1823. In a letter of eleven pages, dated January 25, 1824, a model of clearness and strength, he elaborated his idea of providing crews for men-of-war by naval apprentices properly educated. He proposed that a thousand apprentices be engaged yearly, saving in expense of pay (from $792,000 to $462,000) the sum of $330,000. He suggested withholding the ration of spirits for the first two years of indenture, so that a further saving of $43,800, and total saving $373,800, would be secured.

In this paper he treats the problem of the great difficulty, delay and expense of obtaining men for our naval service, which becomes greater in time of hostilities. This was shown in the war of 1812 when large bounties were offered. The sea-faring population of the United States had not increased since 1810. Whereas there had been in 1810, 71,238 seamen, there were in 1821 only 64,948. In case of another war, the merchant ships should not be suffered to rot in port as in 1812, but ought to pursue their usual voyages. Hence merchant ships would want sailors, and when there was considered the number wanted for that popular branch of speculation—privateering, he feared that few would be left for the public service, unless exorbitant pay and bounties were given as inducements for enlisting. Owing to the decay of the New England carrying trade, and the fisheries, the sources for sea-faring men had dried up; and it was easier to get ships than men. Even in New York a sloop’s crew was unobtainable in less than twenty days. If this were so, how hard would it be to equip a fleet!

The remedy proposed was to receive boys as apprentices to serve until of age and to be educated and clothed by the government. Such a system would be a blessing to society. It would reform bad and idle boys, and create in a numerous class of men attachment to the naval service, besides raising up warrant and petty officers of native birth. These at present were mostly foreigners. Boys shipped only for two years; they then got discharged and perhaps went roaming on distant voyages all over the earth, losing the discipline they had acquired. There was no difficulty to get boys in New York. The city alone could supply five hundred annually, and the city corporations would assist the plan. “Experience proves that these lads do well. The very spirit which prompts them to youthful indiscretion gives them a zest for the daring and adventurous life to which they are called in our ships of war.”

With characteristic tenacity, he returned to the subject in a letter to the Department, January 10 1835, giving the results of further studies. One half of all the men enlisted for the navy came from the New York rendezvous. From April 2d, 1828 to October 14, 1834, there were enlisted 17 petty officers, 2,335 seamen, 1,174 ordinary seamen, 842 landsmen and 414 boys, a total of 4,782, or 19 a week. Nearly ten months were necessary to get 750 men, the crew of a line-of-battle ship, twenty weeks to furnish a frigate with 380 men, and eight weeks to enlist 150 men for a sloop of war.

Perry noticed another glaring defect in the system, and wrote September 25, 1841, concerning frauds on the government, by men enlisting in the navy getting advance pay and then deserting. Parents connived at enlistment, and often got off “minors” by habeas corpus writs, and the government thus lost both the recruit and the advance money. The same trouble had been found in the British navy. Native-born men enlisted, got advance pay, and then claimed alien birth. Perry consulted with the district attorney as to how to stop this practice.

While on the Fulton, Perry returned to his idea of perfecting the apprenticeship system first suggested by him. He asked permission to have his letters of 1823 and 1824 copied for him by Dr. Du Barry, that he have authority to increase the complement of the Fulton as vacancies should occur, and to employ as many as the vessel would accommodate. His requests were finally granted. The law of Congress passed in March or April 1847, authorizing the apprenticeship system, was the result of his persistent presentation of his own plan elaborated in 1824.

Seventeen indentured apprentices were received, and a daily school on board the Fulton was instituted, in which the lads who proved apt to learn were taught the English branches, seamanship, war exercises, and partially the operations of the steam engine. After one year’s experience, Perry wrote July 8th, 1839, reporting that the boys already performed all the duties of many men. They gave less trouble and were more to be depended upon. While the utmost vigilance of officers was required to prevent desertions of sailors on account of the near allurements of the great city, the boys with a greater attachment were more to be trusted.

As only one-fifth of the sailors in the navy were native Americans, Perry took intense pride in the enterprise of rearing up men for the national service, in whom patriotism would be natural, inherited and heartfelt. He cheerfully met all the difficulties in the way—such as parents claiming their boys on various pretexts, and the law-suits which followed. To the boys themselves, Perry was as kind as he was exacting. He believed in tempting boys in the sense of proving them with responsibility enough to make men of them. Sufficient shore liberty was given, and once in a while, even the joys of the circus were allowed them.

He proposed to man one of the new national vessels with a crew of his trained apprentices, and under picked officers to send them on a long cruise to demonstrate the success of his system. When the brig Somers was launched April 16, 1842, the time seemed ripe, and he obtained permission of the Department to carry out his plan. The vessel had been built, and the boys had been trained under his own eye. After a conference with Secretary Upshur in September, it was arranged she should make a trip to Sierra Leone and back, occupying ninety days, traversing seven thousand miles, and visiting the ports or colonies of four great nations. A few days afterwards the Somers sailed away, full of happy hearts beating with joyful anticipations, yet destined to make the most painful record of any vessel in the American navy.

On this sad subject, either to state facts or give an opinion, we have nothing to say. The real or imaginary mutiny and its consequences did much to injure and finally destroy the apprenticeship system as founded by Perry. Other reasons for failure lay in the fact that boys of good family expected by enlistment to become line and staff officers. Disappointed in their groundless hopes, they deserted or wanted to be discharged. Failing in this, they sought release by civil process.

By the system of 1863, the same failure resulted. In 1872 “training ships,” as we now understand the term, were put in use. On June 20, 1874, the Marine School Bill was passed which created the present admirable system, which has little or no organic connection with any other system previously in vogue. It is now possible, with the Annapolis Naval Academy and the School-ship system, to provide abundantly both officers and sailors for the military marine of the United States. In any history of the naval-apprenticeship system of the United States navy, despite the claims made by others, or the many names associated with its origin or development, the name of Matthew Perry must not be lost sight of as prime mover.


Matthew Perry never fought a duel, or acted as a second, though duelling was part of the established code of honor among naval men of his school and age, and provocation was not lacking. On his return from the cruise in the North Carolina, an unpleasant episode occurred, growing out of idle gossip and the malignant jealousy felt towards an officer of superior parts by inferiors unable to understand one so intensely earnest as Matthew Perry. The manner in which Perry dealt with the man and the matter strengthens the claim we have made for him as an educator of the United States Navy. The conversation at a dinner party in Philadelphia filtered into the ear of a certain lieutenant in Washington, who reported that Captain M—— had spoken of Matthew Perry as “a d——d rascal.” Perry at once took measures to ferret out the anonymous slanderer. He first learned from Captain M—— the total falsity of the report, and then demanded from the disseminator of the scandal the name of his informant, which was refused. Thereupon Perry wrote to the Secretary of the Navy, pleading the general injury to the service from calumnies and unfounded reports. The Secretary wrote to the offending lieutenant to tell the truth. The latter pleaded the “privacy of his room,” “sacred confidence among gentlemen,” and declined to give the name of the person “understood” to have made the offensive remark to him. The Secretary, Hon. Samuel L. Southard, in a letter which is a model of terse English, read the offender a lecture on the unmanly folly of dabbling in idle gossip, and laid down the principle of holding the disseminator of reports responsible for the truth of statements made on the authority of another. The triangular and voluminous correspondence from Boston, Washington and Norfolk, from November 15th 1827, to April 1828, may be read in the United States Navy Archives. Perry demanded a court-martial, if necessary, to clear himself from unjust suspicion. It was not needful. His tenacity and perseverance conquered. The gossipper begged permission to withdraw his remark, and then crawled into oblivion.

In this paper war, extending over several months, the officer whose victories both in peace and war were many, scored points in behalf of truth and good morals, of the discipline and order of the Navy, and of the advance of civilization. Heretofore, the custom of duelling had largely prevailed in the corps, and to this savage tribunal of arbitration a thousand petty questions of personal honor had been brought. Yet despite all arguments in favor of the bloody code, which believers in or admirers of its supposed benefits may fabricate in its favor, the fact remains that it served but an insignificant purpose. Its direct influence was slight in repressing those petty personal differences which, belonging to human nature, have such congenial soil in a crowded ship. Duelling was a cure but no preventative, the killing being as frequent as the curing.

Matthew Perry might have challenged the lieutenant, and, like scores of his brother officers, appealed to the savage code; but having long pondered upon and frequently witnessed the slight benefit accruing from the costly sacrifice of life and limb from duelling, he aimed to cut out from the life of the service the whole system, root and branch, and to substitute the more rigid test of personal responsibility. In choosing the slower and, in old naval eyes, more inglorious method of correspondence, and appeal to considerate judgment of his peers in court, he exhibited more moral courage, showed his true character and motive, and lifted higher the splendid standard of the American Navy. To the formation of that esprit of discipline which all now concede to be “the life of the service,” Perry, in this episode nobly contributed. He made the pen mightier than the sword.

Despite his clear record on this subject, made thus early, he came very near being made the victim of a political quarrel, and a reformer’s zeal. Readers of the works of John Quincy Adams may get an impression unjust to Captain Matthew Perry, because of the Resolution of Inquiry, December 3d, 1838, “into the conduct of Andrew Stevenson (United States Minister to Great Britain, and J. Q. Adams’s political enemy) in his controversy with Daniel O. Connell, as well as the participation of Captain Perry in that affair.”[70] To make a long story short, Mr. Adams, in his political zeal to injure an enemy and moral purpose to abolish “the detestable custom of private war,” struck the wrong man. All the information on which Mr. Adams based his inquiry was contained, as he confessed, in “those published letters of James Hamilton of South Carolina;” whereas, Mr. Hamilton regretted and publicly apologized for writing the principal letter which gave rise to the other two.[71] The whole controversy is not without interest, and humor of both the Irish and American sort. It is possible that Perry never knew till he found his name dragged into Congress, what use of his name had been made by Hamilton. So far as manifested in his official record,[72] Matthew Perry’s example, influence and energetic action were totally opposed to duelling. In his African cruises, and at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, we find him earnestly laboring to root out of existence a practice at war with Christian civilization.

How well he and like-minded men succeeded, is now known to all—except an occasional hot head in which passion outruns information. It is perfectly safe for a person seeking either notoriety or satisfaction to challenge a naval officer of the United States to fight a duel. One familiar with the “Laws for the better government of the Navy” need have no fears of the result. Neither government nor individuals now consider “a single person entitled to a whole war.”

J. Q. Adams’ Works, Vol. X, p. 48; and Journal of same year.

Niles Register, Vol. LV, (from September, 1838 to March, 1839, pp. 61, 62, 104, 105, 132, 133, 258.)

Letters. U. S. Navy Archives, August, 10th, 1841; February, 1845.



By William Sidney Mount in 1835, when M. C. Perry was forty years old, now in possession of one of the Commodore’s children.

One at the time of his marriage.

One painted from a photograph by Brady, about 1864.

One at the Brooklyn Naval Lyceum.

One at the Annapolis Naval Academy, by J. R. Irving.

A painting from a daguerreotype was made in Japan by a Japanese artist.


Of these, there are several taken from life, from one of which the frontispiece of this volume has been made.


In Harper’s Magazine for March, 1856, from a photograph by Brady of New York, in an illustrated article on “Commodore Perry’s Expedition to Japan,” by Robert Tomes, Esq., M.D.

In a London illustrated paper, about 1853.

In Gleason’s Pictorial, Boston, of August 5th, 1854.

In Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper of Saturday March 13, 1858.

Other prints in newspapers and lithographs of the face or bust of M. C. Perry were made during his lifetime.

Bust and Statue.

A bust in marble of M. C. Perry, in sailor garb by E. D. Palmer, of Albany N. Y., was made in 1859, and is now in possession of the Commodore’s daughter, Mrs. August Belmont of New York.

In Touro Park, Newport, R. I., the city of his birth, about fifty yards east of the “old round tower” is a bronze statue of M. C. Perry, on a pedestal of Quincy granite. The extreme height is sixteen feet, the statue being eight, and the pedestal eight feet in height. The face, modelled partly from photographs and partly from Palmer’s bust, is considered a good likeness. The effect of the figure is grand, and the position easy and natural. The model was designed by John Quincy Adams Ward of New York, and the pedestal by Richard M. Hunt. On the latter are four excellent bas-reliefs in bronze, representing prominent events in M. C. Perry’s life.

These are, “Africa, 1843,” Perry’s rescue of the man condemned to undergo the sassy ordeal, (p. 173); “Mexico, 1846,” transportation of the heavy ship’s guns through the sand and chapparal to the Naval Battery; “Treaty with Japan, 1854,” two scenes, representing the reception of the President’s letter at Kurihama (p. 359), and the negotiation of the treaty at Yokohama (p. 366). On the front of the plinth of the pedestal is cut an American ensign; on the north and south sides an anchor, and in the rear, “Erected in 1868, by August and Caroline S. Belmont.” The bronzes were cast at the Wood Brothers’ foundry in Philadelphia. Pa. The statue was unveiled October 2d, 1868, when the city of Newport was given up to public holiday in honor of the event. The military display consisted of marines, sailors, and apprentices from the U. S. S. Saratoga and cutter Crawford, under command of Captain, now Rear-Admiral, J. H. Upshur; and four militia companies. One thousand children from the public schools were ranged within the hollow square formed by the military, and sang chorals. Besides seven or eight thousand spectators, there were officers of the army and navy, clergy and the children and grand-children of Commodore M. C. Perry. After prayer by Rev. J. P. White, unveiling of the statue by Mrs. Belmont, salutes from guns in the park and on shipboard, music, a speech of presentation by Mr. Belmont, and responses by Mayor Atkinson, the orator of the day, the Rev. Francis Hamilton Vinton, D. D. delivered the oration and eulogy. The exercises were closed by a speech from Captain J. H. Upshur, U. S. N., who drew a glowing picture of M. C. Perry’s action at Vera Cruz, and of his success in Japan. See the Newport Mercury of October 3d, 1868, and the published oration of Dr. Vinton “The statue” says Pay Director J. Geo. Harris, U. S. N., in a letter to the writer May 19, 1887, “is in all respects a likeness.” “I was impressed with its remarkable fidelity in stature, pose and bearing, as in full dress he met the Japanese commissioners on the shore at Yokohama.”


The gold medal struck in Boston had on its face the head of “Commodore M. C. Perry,” and on the reverse the following legend with a circle of laurel and oak leaves: “Presented to Com. M. C. Perry, Special Minister from the United States of America, By Merchants of Boston, In token of their appreciation of his services in negotiating the treaty with Japan signed at Yoku-hama, March 31, and with Lew Chew at Napa, July 11, 1854.” On the band at the base of the wreath is the word Mississippi, and over it the figures of two Japanese junks, between the sterns of American ships. Copies of this medal in silver and bronze were received by subscribers to the gold original. The die was cut by F. N. Mitchell.




Adams, Will, 353.

Admiral, 212, 396, 397.

Admiralty, British, 48, 103, 130.

Alabama Claims, 2.

Albany, 365.

Alexander, Sarah, 5, 6.

American Geographical Society, 386, 408.

Anecdotes, see under Perry.

Annapolis, 22-24, 197, 250, 305, 439, 443.

Antarctic Exploration, 107-109.

Arctic Exploration, 9, 87, 102.

Army and Marine Officers:

  Capron, Horace, 306, 307.

  Coppée, Henry, 397.

  Edson, 249.

  Forrest, 202, 250.

  Holzinger, D. S., 229.

  Lee, R. E., 228, 130.

  Patterson, R., 227, 277.

  Pillow, 237.

  Perry, O. H., 297, 354, 394, 432.

  Quitman, 238, 239.

  Ringgold, 150.

  Scott, Winfield, 210, 218, 221, 222, 233-237, 252, 257.

  Shaw, R., 270, 261-263, 298, 378, 391.

  Steptoe, 239.

  Taylor, Zachary, 209, 218, 282.

  Totten, 337.

  Viele, 267.

  Watson, 257.

  Worth, W. T., 237.

Asiatic Society of Japan, 420, 421, 424.

Artillery, see Ordnance.

Ashburton Treaty, 167.

Authors quoted or referred to:

  Adams, F. O. 431.

  Addison, 139, 194, 403.

  Audubon, 368.

  Arthur, Rev. Wm., 431.

  Bancroft, Herbert, 260.

  Berkely, 13.

  Black, J. R., 409.

  Bowditch, 352.

  Brinckley, F., 420.

  Comte de Paris, 134.

  Confucius, 357.

  Cooper, J. F., 139.

  Darwin, 108.

  Dimon, S. C., 366.

  Halleck, Fitz Greene, 69, 75.

  Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 376, 377, 385.

  Hildreth, 272.

  Hugo, Victor, 35.

  Irving, W., 29, 130, 383.

  James, 30, 43.

  Japanese, 316, 330, 341, 342, 346, 362, 363, 370.

  Johnston, Alex., 213.

  Kaempfer, 295.

  Longfellow, 431.

  Mackenzie, A. S., 73, 74.

  Mencius, 351.

  Oliphant L., 417.

  Osborne, Sherard, 409.

  Parker, W. H., 149, 199.

  Perry, Hext M., 429.

  Poe, Edgar A., 137, 383.

  Roosevelt, 7, 31, 49.

  Satow, Ernest, 428.

  Semmes, Raphael, 240.

  Shakespeare, 430.

  Smith, Sydney, 308.

  Spalding, J. W., 310, 353, 372.

  Taylor, Bayard, 310.

  Taylor, F. W., 200, 246.

  Taylor, Henry, 35.

  Tomes, R., 384, 385, 403, 444.

  Von Siebold, 294.

  Watson, R. G., 62.

  Webb, J. W., 140, 303, 387, 388.

  Wordsworth, 9.




Barhyte, J. 383.

Bells, 313, 357, 373, 374, 392.

Berribee affair, 169, 171, 175-182.

Bible, 13, 404, 405.

Blue Peter, 211.

Boilers and protection, 33, 110, 111, 114, 123, 143.

Bombs, see Shells.

Boston, 42, 43, 44, 214, 379, 387, 445, 446.

Blockade, 45, 46, 116, 117, 369.

Bloomingdale, 45, 386.

Boulanger, 151.

British empire, 131.

British Naval Officers:

  Beechey, 294.

  Bingham, 26.

  Byron, 39.

  Cook, 14.

  Dacres, 22.

  Franklin, J., 87, 102.

  Jones, W., 193.

  Marsden, G., 223.

  Nelson, 35, 140, 392.

  Osborn, S., 409.

  Sartorius, G., 125.

  Seymour, 300.

British Navy, 45, 35-37, 131, 132, 164, 193-195, 409.

British Ships of War:

  Admiralty, 164.

  Beagle, 108.

  Belvidera, 37, 38-41.

  Blossom, 294.

  Daring, 223.

  Galatea, 44.

  Guerriere, 20, 22, 23, 26, 37, 42.

  Jersey, 3, 5.

  Leopard, 15, 16.

  Little Belt, 25, 26, 39.

  Mackerel, 41.

  Nemesis, 142.

  Penelope, 130.

  Penguin, 236.

  Rattler, 164.

  Reindeer, 277.

  Shannon, 20, 24, 34, 37.

  Terrible, 130.

  Valorous, 131.

  Watt, 4.

Broad pennant, 24, 154, 155, 169, 223, 244, 252, 310, 355.




Calbraith family, 6, 8, 15, 430, 431.

Calabar, 61.

California, 47, 267, 268.

Cannon, see Ordnance.

Cape Palmas, 174, 181.

Cape Mount, 61.

Carronade, 4, 35, 36, 132.

Cemeteries, 192, 343.

Chaplains, 406, see Clergymen.

Circumnavigation of the globe, 7, 18, 47, 159, 379.

Clay, Henry, 175.

Columbiads, 149, 218, 226.

Confederates, 48, 117, 126-128, 159, 240, 396.

Congo, 51, 184.

Cortez, 216.

Cotton-clad vessels, 117.

Clergymen, chaplains and missionaries:

  Andrews, 59.

  Bacon, 56.

  Bettelheim, J., 277.

  Bowen, N., 45.

  Bittenger, E. C., 406.

  Coke, D., 56.

  Colton, Walter, 406.

  Cuffee, Paul, 55.

  Dewey, Orville, 407.

  Harris, 154.

  Hawkes, F., 270, 385, 386, 392.

  Jenks, J. W., 82, 84, 97.

  Jones, 384, 406.

  Kelly, J. 182.

  Mills, 185.

  Noble, M., 407.

  Payne, 181.

  Perry, Calbraith, 431.

  Robertson, 89.

  Stewart, C. E., 406.

  Talmage, John, 286.

  Taylor, F. W., 200, 406.

  Vinton, F., 390, 392, 403, 445.

  White, J. P., 445.

  Williams, S. Wells, 275, 366, 388.

  Winn, 59.


  Canada, 167, 298-302.

  China, 7, 237, 307, 310, 333, 374, 376, 386, 387, 388, 394, 408, 409, 415.

  Corea, 11, 251, 268, 275, 422.

  Egypt, 88-90.

  France, 10, 11, 92, 94, 131-134, 196.

  Great Britain, 2, 3, 19, 23, 35, 37, 43, 46, 130-132, 193, 196, 298-302, 308, 409.

  Greece, 73-75, 88, 89, 408.

  Hawaii, 351, 366.

  Holland, 47, 48, 277, 294.

  Ireland, 5, 6, 12.

  India, 7, 19, 351, 375.

  Japan, 7, 47, 91, 268, 269, 270-386, 409-425.

  Liberia, 50-62, 69, 167-196.

  Mexico, 68-70, 198-260, 266-268, 278, 333, 364, 376.

  Naples, 91-96, 308.

  Norway, 44.

  Russia, 81-85, 296.

  Siam, 273, 410.

  Sierra Leone, 52, 56, 59, 60, 65, 67, 69, 70.

  Spain, 72, 73, 92.

  Turkey, 70, 88-90, 408.

  Yucatan, 250, 257.

Cross-trampling, 349.

Courbet, Admiral, 236.

Cutlass, 31.




Diplomatists and Statesmen:

  Aberdeen, 299.

  Allen, Elisha, 351.

  Ashburton, 167, 168.

  Belmont, August, 376, 432, 445.

  Bingham, J. A., 424.

  Cass, Lewis, 387, 388.

  Cassaro, 94.

  Davis, Jefferson, 306.

  Everett, Edward, 304.

  Harris, Townsend, 384, 409-418, 425.

  Lafayette, 94.

  Macedo, 285, 287, 288.

  Nelson, John, 91-96.

  Nesselrode, 296.

  Nye, Gideon, 376, 414.

  Pratt, Zodoc, 268.

  Randolph, John, 81, 82, 85.

  Reed, Wm. B., 387.

  Roberts, President, 172-176.

  Roberts, Edmund, 273, 274, 410.

  Rochambeau, 14.

  Russwarm, 182.

  Seward Wm. H., 49, 168.

  Shea, Ambrose, 302.

  Slidell, John, 45.

  Stevenson, A., 442.

  Vail, E. A., 133.

  Wall, G. D., 129.

  Webster, Daniel, 167, 283, 284, 303, 304, 306.

  Williams, S. Wells, 275, 354, 366.

Duelling, 440-443.

Dutch, 14, 37, 270-274, 277, 278, 339, 347, 348, 349, 370, 424, 425.




Engineers, 111-115, 123, 125, 161-163.




Feudalism, 88, 322, 326-329, 334, 336, 358, 359, 361, 417.

Fever: African 59, 189-191.

  Yellow, 254, 255.

Fire, 158, 163, 313.

Fireworks, 312.

Fisheries, 296, 298-302, 436.

Flags: British, 23, 46.

  Japan, 348, 420.

  Liberia, 184.

  Pirate, 67, 68.

  United States, 17, 18, 19, 41, 73, 395, 410, 416.

Flogging, 85, 86, 263-266.

French, 10, 14, 18, 38, 91, 92, 131-134;

  in Africa, 195, 196;

  in China, 236, 345;

  in Mexico, 199, 236.

Frigate, 10, 20, 27, 36, 43, 140, 159, 161.

Funchal, 41, 310.




Gaboon, 195.

Galbraith, 6, 8, 15, 430, 431.

Gardiner’s Island, 103.

Germans, 16, 51, 229.

Gettysburg, 304.

Golownin, 335, 355, 356.

Greeks, 73-75, 87-89.

Grog ration, 86, 263-264, 435.

Guinea, 51, 61.

Gunnery, see Ordnance.




Halifax, 34, 41, 300.

Hazard family, 3, 13.

Hessians, 57.

Heusken, Mr., 417.

Hong Kong, 310, 343, 374, 375, 376, 394, 432.




Impressment, 20-23, 48, 49.

International rifle match, 43.

Inventors, artists, men of science: 107, 134, 165, 297, 370.

  Bomford, 149.

  Bowditch, 352.

  Cochrane, W., 146.

  Coehorn, 216.

  Ericsson, 110, 126, 164.

  Faraday, 134.

  Fresnel, A., 133.

  Fulton, R., 28, 29, 110.

  Henry, J., 134.

  Humphries, 71.

  Irving, J. R., 443.

  Krupp, 150.

  Mount, W. S., 443.

  Paixhans, 149.

  Palmer, E. D., 444.

  Redfield, W. C., 140-143.

  Symmes, J. C., 107.

  Teulère, 136.

  Toussard, 20.

  Ward, E. C., 103.

  Ward, J. Q. A., 444.

  Wheeler, S., 148.

Irish soldiers, 206.

Iron-clads, 32, 118, 126-128, 157, 373, 419.

Iron ships, 130.





  Adzuma, 352, 373, 419.

  Art of, 314, 332, 336, 359-361.

  Bonin islands, 274, 311, 419-421.

  Buddhism, 320, 342, 357.

  Christianity in, 324, 325, 349, 363, 423.

  Fatsisio, (Hachijo), 421.

  Fuji yama, 312, 316, 353.

  Gorihama, 335-342.

  Hachijo, 421.

  Hakodaté, 343, 365, 371, 373, 419.

  Hiogo, 418.

  Idzu, 312, 371.

  Kamakura, 327, 352, 354.

  Kanagawa, 356, 413, 415.

  Kiōto, 413, 414, 418, 419.

  Kurihama, 335-342.

  Kuro Shiwo, 296.

  Loo Choo, see Riu Kiu.

  Matsumaé, 274, 277, 278, 371.

  Meiji era, 419, 423.

  Midzu-amé, 315.

  Nagasaki, 7, 270-272, 278, 316, 319, 411.

  Nagato, 321, 371.

  Names and titles, 318, 322, 326, 328, 333, 334.

  Napa, see Riu Kiu.

  Nitta, 352.

  Ogasawara islands, 311, 419, 420, 421.

  Okinawa, see Riu Kiu.

  Ozaka, 413, 418.

  Riu Kiu, 294, 310, 312, 343, 347, 351, 419, 420, 446.

  Ronin, 335, 417.

  Sapporo, 419.

  Shidzuoka, 368.

  Shimoda, 342, 371, 410, 411, 412, 415, 416.

  Shuri, 314, 419.

  Tokio, 419, 422.

  Uraga, 276, 279, 313, 356, 423.

  Yamato damashii, 338, 422.

  Yedo, 315, 326-328, 329-334, 412, 416, 419.

  Yokohama, 312, 357, 363, 415, 421, 423.

  Yokosŭka, 353.


  Bonzes, 315, 342.

  Buniō, see Kayama Yézayémon.

  Cho-teki, 419.

  Embassies, 417, 418.

  Echizen, 346, 416.

  Fudo, 338.

  Guanzan, 339.

  Hayashi, 350, 351, 357, 359, 362, 365, 413.

  Hokusai, 331.

  Hori Tatsunoske, 318.

  Hotta, 413.

  Ii, 413-417.

  Ito, 336, 338.

  Izawa, 355, 356.

  Iyésada, 329, 346, 347, 413.

  Iyeyasu, 270, 314, 329, 348.

  Iyéyoshi, 329, 345, 346.

  Katsu Awa, 366.

  Kayama Yézayémon, 321, 335, 338.

  Kobo, 357.

  Kuroda, 422.

  Kurokawa Kahéi, 354.

  Manjiro, 351, 352, 366.

  Mikado, 295, 309, 311, 318, 326-328, 333, 417, 410, 423.

  Mito, 346, 416, 417.

  Moriyama, Yenosuke, 276.

  Nagashima Saburosuke, 317, 318.

  Nitta, 352.

  Nio, 338.

  Ota Do Kuan, 329, 330.

  Sakuma, 349, 350.

  Taiko, 325, 333.

  Taira ghosts, 321.

  Toda, 336, 338.

  Tokugawa, 317, 329, 334, 336, 346, 351.

  Tycoon, 326, 327, 329, 333, 414, 417.

  Yoshida Shoin (Toraijiro), 349, 350, 369, 416.




Khartoum, 88.

Kings and rulers.

  Bomba, 95.

  Bonaparte, J., 91.

  Catharine, 84.

  Crack-O, 176-178.

  Cromwell, 3.

  Freeman, 72.

  George III., 52, 84.

  Gomez Farias, 225.

  Iturbide, 69, 70.

  Koméi, 315.

  Louis Phillipe, 131, 133, 134.

  Mehemet Ali, 88, 98.

  Murat, 91.

  Mutsuhito, 309, 423.

  Napoleon, 132.

  Nicholas, 82-84.

  Santa Anna, 205, 257, 258.

  Victoria, 131.




Lake Erie, 8, 14, 34, 45.

Langrage shot, 33, 34

Lighthouses, 133-137, 312.

Line-of-battle ships, 32, 71-75, 140.

Liquor, 86, 263, 265, 335, 341, 367, 368.

Loo choo, see Riu Kiu.

Louisiana, 11, 207, 208, 218.

Lyceum, 99-103, 443.




Macao 273, 274, 343.

Maryland in Africa, 173, 174, 185.

Massachusetts Horticultural Society, 87.

Mesurado, 59, 61, 172, 183.

Mexican war, 67, 197-269, 278, 364, 444.

Mexico, 69, 70, 198, 216, 250, 253, 260.

  Alvarado, 199, 239, 240.

  Cerro Gordo, 241.

  Green Island, 219, 220.

  Laguna, 208, 209.

  Mexico City, 210, 257, 333.

  Sacrificios island, 199, 253.

  Salmadina island, 250.

  St. Juan d'Ulloa, 69, 131, 219, 232, 233, 238, 258, 375.

  Tabasco, 200, 202-205, 242-249.

  Tampico, 205, 206-208.

  Tuspan, 241, 255.

  Vera Cruz, 68, 70, 216-240, 249, 258.

Missionaries, 52-56, 89, 407, 425.

Missions, Christian, 407.

Mongols, 320, 333.

Monitor, 72, 141.

Monrovia, 59, 60, 169, 183, 184.

Montravel Com., 344.

Mosquito fleet, 68, 233.

Mother of M. C. Perry, 6, 7, 12-14, 393.

Moustaches, 104-107.




Naval Academy, 17, 193, 197, 250, 374, 443.

Navy of the United States.

  admiral, 212, 396, 397.

  archives, 21, 264, 285, 441.

  beards and mustaches, 105, 107.

  benefit of, 4, 5, 11, 27, 47-49, 57, 65, 66, 73, 74, 95, 108, 396.

  broad pennant, 154, 244.

  bureaus, 160, 212.

  cemeteries, 191-193, 205, 343, 344.

  commodore, 154, 155.

  comet, 2-11.

  discipline, 16, 42, 86, 187, 188, 240, 249, 297, 344, 361, 371, 436, 440.

  duelling, 440-443.

  flogging, 264-266.

  grog ration, 264-266.

  honor of, 193, 261-263, 400.

  hospitals, 64, 250, 343.

  hygiene, 187-191, 250.

  marine corps, 202, 222, 241, 249, 257, 264, 361.

  mutiny, 53, 264, 439.

  nursery, 301, 435-439.

  recruiting service, 29, 30, 46, 114, 435-439.

  reforms, 154, 263, 266, 435-439, 440-443.

  sailors, 20, 29-32, 48, 65, 85-87, 89, 90, 114, 200, 226-237, 239, 241-249, 263-266, 301, 367, 371, 391, 440, 443.

  ships, types and varieties of, 4, 19, 71, 72, 110, 111, 115, 117, 140-145, 156-166, 212.

  signals, 25, 38, 198, 211, 220, 313.

  staff and line, 112-114.

  steam, 110-119, 121, 130, 156-166, 298.

  tactics, 33, 117, 118, 121, 125, 159.

  torpedoes, 28, 29.

  trophies, 5, 46, 49, 179, 240, 248, 250, 261, 262.

New Orleans, 46, 92, 207.

Newport, 8, 11, 14, 15, 44, 255, 380, 393, 444, 445.

Newspapers, 218, 223, 224, 259, 262, 308, 378, 405, 442, 445.

New York, 17, 23, 100, 99-166, 379, 383, 386, 391.

Norfolk, 69, 82, 210, 252, 306.




O'Connell, Daniel, 442.

Officers, Merchant marine:

  Burke, 170, 172.

  Carver, 170.

  Cooper, Mr., 275, 276, 294.

  Coffin, R., 311.

  Jennings, 283.

  Odell, 399.

  Stewart, 271.

  Storm, J., 139.

  Whitfield, J. H., 351.

  Whitmore, 351.

Officers, U. S. Navy:

  Abbot, 347, 364, 375.

  Adams, H., 292, 305, 322, 354, 355, 356, 400.

  Almy, J., 95, 98, 400, 404.

  Aulick, J., 230, 237, 262, 283-288, 290, 297, 307.

  Babcock, G. W., 4.

  Bainbridge, 37.

  Barron J., 123, 127.

  Bent, Silas, 292, 379, 398.

  Biddle, 68, 276.

  Bigelow, A., 212, 249, 391.

  Breese, 237, 391.

  Bridge, H., 175.

  Buchanan, F., 126, 197, 252, 286, 292, 305, 322, 337.

  Burt, N., 115.

  Cheever, 204.

  Conner, D., 107, 198, 199, 205, 206, 219-221, 238.

  Contee, J., 306, 318, 322.

  Craven, 181.

  Dahlgren, 150.

  Decatur, 45, 46.

  De Long, 297.

  Fairfax, A. B., 212.

  Farragut, D. G., 36, 72, 126, 396.

  Farron, J., 115.

  Follansbee, J., 40.

  Freelon, 188-190.

  Geisinger, D., 277.

  Glynn, J., 277-279, 281, 282.

  Gregory, 402.

  Harris, J. G., 365, 445.

  Haswell, C. H., 115, 211.

  Hunt, T. A., 212.

  Hunter, C. G., 212, 239, 240, 258.

  Hull, 143.

  Jenkins, T. A., 35, 137, 388.

  Jones, Paul, 396.

  Jones, T. ap C., 126, 197.

  Kennedy, 274.

  Kearney, 130.

  Lawrence, 24.

  Lee, S. S., 247, 292, 304, 305.

  Lockwood, 205.

  Lynch, Wm. F., 117.

  Mackenzie, A. S., 45, 73, 139, 237, 245.

  Magruder, G. A., 212.

  May, Wm., 244.

  Matthews, J., 343, 344.

  Maury, 379.

  Mayo, J., 179, 197, 220, 231, 234, 235, 236.

  McIntosh, 293.

  McCluney, 299, 391.

  McKeever, 293.

  Moller, B. C., 103.

  Morgan, C. W., 74, 440.

  Morris, 203, 205.

  Nicholson, J., 4.

  Parker, F. A., 159.

  Parker, W. A., 203.

  Parker, W. H., 149, 199, 220.

  Patterson, D., 47, 92, 97, 308.

  Pearson, 293.

  Perry, C. R., 3-8, 10, 11, 17, 254.

  Perry, J. A., 47, 48.

  Perry, O. H., 8, 13, 17, 20, 39, 98, 390, 393.

  Perry, R., 17, 20, 45.

  Pinckney, R. S., 212.

  Pickering, C. W., 117.

  Porter, D. D., 47, 66.

  Porter, D. D., 107, 246, 247, 401.

  Preble, Geo. H., 104, 105.

  Reany, 291.

  Ridgely, C. G., 99, 101, 102, 104, 108, 118.

  Rodgers, John, 28, 30, 38, 44, 72.

  Rodgers, John, 28, 47, 432.

  Rodgers, R. C., 240.

  Sands, J. R., 202, 232, 304, 305, 400.

  Sanford, H., 115.

  Semmes, R., 240.

  Shubrick, 232.

  Skinner, 193.

  Sloat, 129, 391.

  Stellwagen, 171.

  Stewart, 37, 396.

  Stockton, F., 164, 241.

  Swift, W., 103.

  Tatnall, J., 232, 233, 409, 414, 415.

  Thornton, J. S., 166, 240.

  Townsend, J. S., 153.

  Trenchard, E., 50, 52, 56.

  Upshur, J., 222, 445.

  Van Brunt, J. G., 212.

  Walke, 220.

  Walker, W. S., 212.

  Wilkes, C., 45, 49.

  Williamson, 85.

Ordnance, 17, 27, 32-36, 72, 131-133, 144, 146-155, 226-237, 241, 243, 266, 361.

Ordeal, 172-174.




Pacific Ocean, 47, 84, 268, 294, 296.

Packenham, Gen., 46, 92.

Paddle-Wheels, 111, 114, 130, 164, 298.

Paixhans Cannon, 149, 151, 226-230, 335-361.

Palaver, 162-169, 175, 177.

Perry, C. R., 3-7, 10, 11, 17.

Perry, Edmund, 3-8, 10-12.

Perry, Freeman, 3, 382.

Pension, 432.

Port Hudson, 158, 159.

Perry, Matthew Calbraith:

  ancestry, 1-7.

  anecdotes of, 8, 21, 24, 219, 222, 224, 341, 342, 366, 397, 399, 400, 404, 405, 440-443.

  birth, 8.

  childhood, 8-15, 380.

  children, 431-433, 445.

  citizen of New York, 100.

  commodore, 154, 155.

  commodore’s aid, 22.

  Europe, 41-44, 48, 71-98, 440, 442.

  Japan, 310-379, 427.

  Mediterranean, 71-98.

  Mexico, 68, 70, 197-260, 427, 444, 445.

  West Indies, 65-71.

  cruise in Africa, 50-63, 69, 167-195, 427, 444;

  —— —— Europe, 41-44, 48, 71-98, 440, 442;

  —— —— Japan, 310-379, 427;

  —— —— Mexico, 68, 70, 197-260, 427, 444, 445;

  —— —— West Indies, 65-71.

  death, 390, 415.

  detail, 431, 434.

  diary, 21, 307, 403.

  duelling, 440-443.

  executive officer, 71-75.

  family, 2, 3, 292, 429-433.

  fights pirates, 65-71.

  first battles, 25, 26, 30-41.

  founds U. S. Naval Lyceum, 101, 103.

  funeral, 390-393.

  habits, 395-408.

  hair, 105, 375.

  Japanese regard for, 364, 365, 415, 418, 423.

  knowledge of Japan, 294, 295.

  letters, 193, 403, 427.

  marriage, 45, 431-433.

  mother, 6-8, 11-14, 393.

  name, 8, 429-431.

  nick-name, 43, 259, 265.

  Revenge, 20-27, President, 38-45.

  United States, 45, Chippewa, 46, 48.

  Cyane, 50-57, Shark, 58-70.

  North Carolina, 71-76.

  Concord, 81-90, Brandywine, 94-96.

  Fulton, 110-111, Saratoga, 169, Mississippi, 198-229, 310, 374.

  Germantown, 252, Cumberland, 258.

  Susquchanna, 310-355.

  Powhatan, 355-372.

  organizes engineer corps, 112, 115.

  organizes Japan expedition, 295, 297, 305.

  organizes naval brigade, 241-246.

  organizes school of apprentices, 118, 435-439.

  organizes school of gun-practice, 146-148.

  personal traits, 83, 97, 98, 104-106, 397-408.

  politics, 139, 310.

  portraits, 443-446.

  refuses salute, 55.

  reimbursed by Congress, 93, 98.

  religion, 14, 324, 404-406.

  residence in Macao, 343, 344;

    Naples, 96-98;

    New London, 80;

    New York, 386, 388;

    Tarrytown, 138-140, 261, 289;

    Washington, 379, 388.

  rheumatism, 76-80, 389, 390.

  selects site of Monrovia, 59, 183.

  shore duty, 99, 100-166, 379-390.

  statue, 444, 445.

  takes orders to Rodgers, 23, 24.

  training at home, 13-15.

  training on ship, 19-27.

  visits, the Czar, 82-85;

    England, 129-131;

    Egypt, 88, 89;

    France, 131-134;

    Funchal, 309-310;

    Greece, 75, 88;

    Holland, 48;

    Khedive, 88;

    Louis Philippe, 133, 134;

    Shuri, 311, 419.

  wounded, 40.

  writings, 427, 428.

Perry, Oliver Hazard, 8, 10, 13, 14, 17, 19, 20, 34, 45, 98, 139, 390, 393.

Perry, Sarah Alexander, 6-8, 11-14, 45, 324.

Physicians and surgeons:

  Ayres, Eli, 58, 59.

  Du Barry, S.S., 287, 437.

  Kellogg, 189.

  McCartee, D. B., 245, 286, 420.

  McGill, 173.

  Parker, P., 275, 287.

  Rush, Benjamin, 6.

  Wiley, 63.

Pirates, 11, 63, 65-71, 75, 104.

Pivot-guns, 40, 144, 145, 150.

Pontiatine, Ad., 345.

Portsmouth, N. H., 81, 273.

Portuguese, 15, 55, 60, 62, 196, 344.

Presidents of the United States:

  Washington, 5, 216, 374.

  Jefferson, 11, 271.

  Adams, J., 10.

  Madison, 37.

  Monroe, 60.

  Adams, J. Q., 442.

  Jackson, 81, 91, 96, 119, 273.

  Van Buren, 158.

  Harrison, 139.

  Polk, 210, 255, 256, 260.

  Taylor, 209, 218, 282, 283.

  Fillmore, 298, 305, 323, 329.

  Pierce, 241, 310, 387, 410.

  Buchanan, 296, 387.

  Arthur, 431.

  Cleveland, 167, 421.

Press-gang, 20, 22, 23, 48, 49.

Prince de Joinville, 131.

Privateers, 4, 5, 36, 65, 75, 436.

Propellers, 164, 304.




Quakers, 2, 3.

Quarantine, 54, 93.

Quarrels on ship, 441, 442.




Ram, 28, 120-128.

Rhode Island, 7, 14, 15, 380-383, 393, 444.

Right of search, see Impressment.

Rohde, Ad., 198.

Russians, 82-85, 131, 296, 311, 349, 352.




Saké, 341, 356.

Saratoga, 383.

Savory, N., 311.

Schenectady, 197, 344.

Scurvy, 42, 54, 63, 64, 188, 208.

Sebastopol, 107.

Secretaries U. S. Navy, 20, 154.

  Smith, 17.

  Southard, 406, 440.

  Paulding, 157.

  Mason, 256.

  Bancroft, 197.

  Graham, 106, 283, 288, 289, 298.

  Kennedy, 298, 299, 302, 305, 306, 307.

  Dobbin, 106, 288.

  Settra Kroo, 172, 173.

  Shells, 4, 33, 146-155, 217, 228-230, 312.

  Sherbro, 52, 53, 55, 56.

  Shinto, 342.

Ships, merchant:

  Adventurer, 311.

  Auckland, 283.

  Caroline, 61.

  Central America, 389.

  Edward Barley, 170.

  Elizabeth, 51, 52, 55.

  Great Western, 129, 130.

  Jeune Nelly, 219.

  Ladoga, 277.

  Lawrence, 276.

  Manhattan, 275.

  Mary Carver, 170, 177, 179, 180.

  Morrison, 274, 275, 316.

  San Pablo, 420.

  Sara Boyd, 351.

  Transit, 311.

Ships of War:

  John Adams, 55, 66, 93, 95, 96.

  Aetna, 212.

  Alabama, 2, 145, 165, 240.

  Albany, 226, 239.

  Alleghany, 298.

  Alliance, 94.

  Argus, 24, 38, 43, 264.

  Bonita, 201, 204.

  Boston, 92, 93.

  Boxer, 282.

  Brandywine, 91, 94-96.

  Chesapeake, 34.

  Chippewa, 46, 48.

  Columbus, 7, 149, 276.

  Concord, 81-90, 92, 93, 95, 96.

  Congress, 38, 66, 293.

  Constitution, 42, 43, 50, 74, 159.

  Creole, 131.

  Cumberland, 198, 201, 258.

  Cyane, 47, 50-64, 74.

  Decatur, 212.

  Demologos, 110.

  Destroyer, 110.

  Electra, 212.

  Enterprise, 274, 282.

  Erie, 74.

  Falmouth, 293.

  Forward, 201, 204.

  Fulton, 1st, 110.

  Fulton, 2nd, 110-119, 120, 121, 141, 153, 187, 437.

  Gallinipper, 68.

  General Greene, 10, 254.

  Germantown, 252, 258, 354.

  Gnat, 68.

  Grampus, 68.

  Hartford, 396.

  Hecla, 212.

  Hornet, 54, 236.

  Hunter, 219, 225.

  Jeannette, 297.

  Kearsarge, 144, 145, 165, 166.

  La Gloire, 125.

  Lackawanna, 143.

  Lawrence, 45.

  Lexington, 345, 347, 375.

  Macedonian, 45, 46, 171, 347, 352, 361, 375, 404.

  Merrimac, 126, 127.

  McLane, 199, 201, 204.

  Miantonomah, 71.

  Midge, 68.

  Mifflin, 4.

  Mississippi, 123, 158-162, 198, 201, 207, 209, 210-212, 215, 219-221, 252, 298, 299, 352, 379, 415, 423.

  Missouri, 156-166, 306.

  Mosquito, 68.

  Nautilus, 57.

  Nonita, 201, 204.

  North Carolina, 72-76, 266, 402, 435.

  Ontario, 74.

  Pallas, 345.

  Peacock, 273, 274.

  Petrel, 209.

  Petrita, 201, 205.

  Porpoise, 171, 172, 181, 379.

  Portsmouth, 411.

  Powhatan, 298, 306, 353, 362, 415, 417.

  President, 20-28, 38-44, 144.

  Princeton, 164, 304-306.

  Plymouth, 310, 312, 347.

  Raritan, 250.

  Reefer, 201.

  Revenge, 17-20.

  Sand-fly, 68.

  San Jacinto, 410.

  Saratoga, 171, 258, 310, 312, 347, 445.

  Sea-gull, 66.

  Scorpion, 212, 242, 243, 247.

  Shark, 58-64, 65-71.

  Somers, 438.

  Southampton, 347.

  Spitfire, 22, 198, 232, 246, 247.

  St. Mary’s, 226.

  Stockton, 164.

  Stonewall, 373, 419.

  Stromboli, 212, 243.

  Susquehanna, 285, 286, 310, 312, 321, 379.

  Supply, 310, 312, 343, 347, 375.

  Tennessee, 126.

  Thistle, 50.

  Trumbull, 4, 5.

  United States, 43, 45, 95, 104.

  Vandalia, 343, 347, 355, 357.

  Vesuvius, 212, 243.

  Vincennes, 276.

  Virginia, 126.

  Vixen, 198-202, 209, 232.

  Washington, 7, 243.

  Wasp, 45.

  Weehawken, 28.

Sinoe, 169, 172.

Shō-gun, 279, 326-328, 329, 333, 352, 362, 368.

Slave-trade, 15, 53, 58, 60-62, 167, 168, 194-196.

Slavery in America, 15, 57, 67, 184-186, 260.

Slidell, Jane, 43, 376, 431, 432.

Slidell, John, Mr., 45, 47, 48.

Smithsonian Institute, 369.

Soudan, 15, 88, 234.

South Carolina, 20, 382, 442.

Statistics, 266, 267:

  U. S. Navy, Revolution, 5.

  —— ——, War of 1812, 30, 32, 36, 37, 48, 49.

  —— ——, Mexican war, 266-268.

  —— ——, Civil war, 143, 144, 396.

  —— ——, in Japan, 343, 364, 371, 375, 379.

  Africa, 184, 186, 194, 196.

  broadsides, 32, 72, 144.

  Japan, 419-424.

  lighthouses, 136.

  merchant marine, 296, 300, 301.

  ordnance, 151, 226, 230, 235.

  Perry’s work, 69, 97, 123, 225, 385, 389, 390, 395.

  recruits, 435-439.

  slave-ships, 61, 194.

  steamships, 132, 212.

Steam, 110-119, 121, 198, 199, 368, 423, 424.

Steven’s battery, 126, 155, 156, 159.

Submarine cannon, 110.

Sunday, 14, 324, 405, 406.




Tarrytown, 138-140, 261, 289.

Telegraphs, 38, 47, 134, 368, 424.

Telephones, 312.

Temperance, 86, 263-265, 435.

Torpedoes, 28, 29.

Tower Hill, 8, 10, 11, 382.

Trafalgar, 36, 37, 132.

Treaty-house, 357, 415.

Treaty, Canadian of 1818, 300;

  reciprocity, 302;

  of Ghent, 47;

  Naples, 96, 308;

  Hidalgo Guadalupe, 257;

  with Japan, 370, 371, 412-416;

  of Tientsin, 415.

Triremes, 121, 124, 140.

Tycoon, see Shō-gun.




Union College, 107.

United States, 49, 216, 395, 396.

—— ——, colonial policy, 57, 184.

—— ——, policy in war, 209, 213, 214, 250, 308.




Victorian era, 131.

Viele, Mrs. A., 420.




Wallace, Sir William, 12.


  Revolutionary, 4-6, 51, 52, 383.

  Tripolitan, 11, 18, 50.

  1812, 28-49, 103, 143, 149, 301, 435.

  Mexican, 67, 150, 198-267, 278.

  Civil, 31, 126-128, 134, 150, 165, 166, 258, 268, 396.

  Victorian era, 131.

Washington obelisk, 374.

West Point, 258.

Whalers, 274, 276, 295, 296, 421.

Wheatley, Phillis, 15.




Yamato, damashii, 338, 422.

Yellow fever, 217, 252, 254, 255.


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