Matthew Calbraith Perry
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U.S. naval officer Matthew Calbraith Perry headed an expedition in 1853–54 that forced Japan to enter into trade and diplomatic relations with the West after more than two centuries of isolation. Through his efforts the United States became an equal power with Britain, France, and Russia in the economic exploitation of East Asia.

Earlier, Perry had served as commanding officer (1837–40) of the first U.S. steamship, the "Fulton"; led a naval squadron to Africa to help suppress the slave trade (1843); and successfully commanded naval forces during the Mexican War (1846–48). In March 1852, President Millard Fillmore placed Perry—who was called by his honorary rank of commodore—in charge of a naval expedition to induce the Japanese government to establish diplomatic relations with the United States. With two frigates and two sailing vessels, he entered the fortified harbor of Uraga on July 8, 1853. Calling himself an "admiral," he refused to obey Japanese orders to leave and sent word that if the government did not delegate a suitable person to receive the documents in his possession, he would deliver them by force if necessary. The Japanese defenses were inadequate to resist him, and after a few days of diplomatic sparring they accepted his letter from the President of the United States requesting a treaty.

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Matthew Calbraith Perry. Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan. Published by the order of the Congress of the United States. Washington: Beverley Tucker, Senate Printer, 1856.
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