Commodore Perry

An increasing interest of West in Japanese studies was influenced by the role of history and culture in international relations that are beneficial for the further exteriorization of diplomacy and the art of negotiations. This is what a thorough researcher may call the art of the possible. However, modern political science continues to use a non-violent approach in commercial and foreign relations. Besides, the domination of carefully related principles is much more in use, when the probability of war increases.  Such legendary examples as ship crew of Commodore Perry, who opened Japan to the West, motivate others to follow the well-established practices. Commodore Perry was the one who led an effective mission to Japan. Perry’s embark gained many benefits for the USA, such as signing commercial treaties using the high quality political discussion and the use principles of non-intrusiveness into political affairs of Tokugawa government. At the same time, Commodore Perry was the one who proposed effective solutions to Japanese leaders to ensure that they will have relative profits from commercial agreements. 

However, the prehistory of events influenced the development of diplomatic culture between the U.S. and Japan. This paper attempts to highlight the extent of the role of Commodore Perry in the event of opening up Japan towards the development of international trade with the U.S. It was very beneficial for Japan, although some researchers call the commercial treaties unequal. In this relation, the critical discussion of Commodore Perry’s visit has been expressed mostly on the matter of the Western intrusion in the Japanese “realm at great peace”. Therefore, this paper will critically analyse and explore the benefits of the future determination of Japanese values across the global world. Above all, this paper will focus on the role of Commodore Perry in developing a sustainable political setting between the United States and Japan in the mid-19th century. Finally, the paper will make recommendations on further research in this field.  In future, Commodore Perry can be compared with the settings and roles of other diplomats and ambassadors of the world, highlighting the need for leading the productive political discussion between the competitive countries to fix the “fractured political landscape” in neighbouring states across the globe.


Culture of Political Discussion in Tokugawa’s Period (1600-1868)

Tokugawa was the leader of Japan, and his Dynasty managed to survive the struggles and competitors of the Emperor’s throne for over two centuries, starting right in-between the 16th and 17th century. The ruling period was characterized by the policy stability of bureaucracy and the rise of humanistic values across Japan. The development of culture was prominent due to high literacy rate and poetic skills that had been usually accompanied by the beauty of the tea ceremony in the settings of art and tranquillity. In contrast, existing kabuki theatre and sumo fighting directly influenced the lifestyle of Japanese in this period. The art of woodblock prints was accustomed to the needs of effective planning of daily life coloured by bright emotions of life. 

The development of the emotionally coloured life was on the rise, since Japanese rulers and artists were inspired by the Confucian philosophy. In relation to this topic, the role of philosophy was important in negotiations with Commodore Perry, who stood strong for his political beliefs. In contrast, the representatives of the Tokugawa government were the ones who supported the tranquillity of the Eastern philosophical thought and lifestyle. That is why, presumably, they had to reach a compromise in their way of thinking about trade policies. In this relation, commercial position of Japan was called unequal, however, later progressed as an exemplary for the economic treaties between the U.S. and China between 1842 and 1946. These treaties were significant for “developing good strategies for winning in China” both in relation of commerce and trade benefits between the two countries. 

Possibly, the resultant inequality of the treaty was motivated by the need for social and economic changes in Japan in the 19th century. The process of colourful reconciliation and effectiveness of discussion was not tolerated by the Confucian philosophy, which required rather emotional than logical approach towards the negotiations. In this relation, it was rather all that could be done due to the professionalism of those who managed to take part in signing the treaties of inequality. For example, primary and secondary sources claim that Tokugawa “much respected Confucian learning” and, therefore, taught lectures in philosophy and even released some political and religious leaders from jails, who supported his viewpoint on the country development under the promotion of the political philosophy of the East. However, some attempts and endeavours on this matter resulted in applying the Confucian Laws of Compassion towards the members of the other side of the political discussion. In this matter, the role of Tokugawa’s government was extremely significant, specifically on the matter of segregation between the dominance of religion and philosophy on one hand, and policy development in the field of international relation, on the other hand.

In contrast, Tokugawa government was extremely powered by taxation that was hard to pay, especially on the rural lands. Bengston in his research provides the example of koku (180 litters) of rice tax that was collected across the Japan. The researcher found based on 100,000 histories from life of the rural communities that Tokugawa period had strict taxation requirements. This proves that there is a commercial strength in balance for economic development as for the “treaties of inequality” powered by Commodore Perry. He was the one who enthused signing the commercial treaties that presumably brought more profit to the U.S. rather than Japan. However, the country of the rising sun had everything they need from taxation rather than from trade. That is why, there was more to yield from the U.S. proposal to sign commercial treaties. The role of Commodore Perry was of superior importance, and in order to commemorate his role, his famous white flag was exposed in the ceremony of the final surrender that signified Commodore as a symbolic expression of dedication and talent as an ambassador. This artefact was shown in the ceremony celebrating the end of the World War II. This ceremony contributed much into the researches in history of Japan published in Cambridge and works about the sources of Japanese traditions, in religious and cultural context.

The Role of Commodore Perry

Prior to his diplomatic visit to Japan, Commodore Perry exposed his talent as a mediator in international relations between the U.S. and Mexico, Portugal and Britain. Later, he showed his abilities to lead a political discussion with the Chinese government. The Pacific world knew him as the hero who paid much attention to details when discussing treaty affairs. At the same time, Perry was aware that violence was not an effective argument for the successful discussion, since the military forces had only temporary effect on promotion of changes in international policies between the neighbouring countries. When he visited Edo Bay in 1853, he exposed the white flag to Japan, expressing that his intentions were peaceful. He had a letter from the U.S. government with the request to sign commercial treaties between the two countries. The letter was sent to the representatives of the Japanese government; however, they were not successful. There was no military conflict, and Commodore Perry had to be back to the U.S. and prepare for the second visit that happened on 13 February 1853, when the ambassador came back to the Japanese shore with a request to sign the treaties. This tactic was effective, since the Japanese government had time to think about the need of signing the treaties and discuss the points of the U.S. commercial offer between the first and the second visit. Finally, the treaties were signed, signifying warm relations between the two countries. 

The extent of the role of Commodore Perry in opening Japan was at first commemorated with financial reward. In 1855 he was granted with the prize of $20,000 to highlight the success of American commercial influence on Japan. Howell, in his substantive research Foreign Encounters and Informal Diplomacy in Early Modern Japan, called his mission effective because of the mastery of both Perry and his screw on board, who could be treated as pioneers in opening up Japanese culture and promoting economic growth. In this relation, Perry’s mission in diplomacy is clearly analysed by Beasley. He was aware that Commodore should be praised as talented diplomat, for he managed to change the traditional way of thinking about Americans as “barbarians.” By the way, this point of view was very common to the Japanese emperors, who cherished the Confucian ideology and Buddhist philosophy interchangeably from one period to another. The myth was ruined when Perry’s four ships arrived to the bay close to Japan to promote the role of the Manifest of Destiny that proved the wiliness to put efforts into the freedom of commerce. One thousand six hundred members of Perry’s team should also be praised for opening Japan and values of the East.

The Extent of the Perry’s role: Dimensions

The extent of the role of Commodore Perry and his team in opening Japan can be treated in different aspects, including determination and distribution of the values of the Western commerce in the Japanese environment. The U.S. trade was successful, since in that period, relationships of the Old World on the matter of selling and buying with the world were not as advanced. 

When comparing the situation in trade in 19th and 21st century, it could be surely said that it differed, as “Japan was not taken seriously in intent or capability” before the rise of this country in advances in economics. Earlier, there has been no effective motivation to buy one or another type of goods, which advertising companies are prioritizing nowadays. In the 19th century, the situation was different, and signing treaties was an effective instrument of political manipulation, however, there could be a hidden interest in all political measurements. Too often, even in the modern globalized world driven by e-commerce and social media marketing, people evaluate political issues that affect trade directly. In contrast, the 19th century Japan was rather famous for its culture and high-end artefacts, theatres and tea parties than the need to express the trade benefits of one or another country. At the same time, American goods were popular in Japan; therefore, the role of Commodore Perry could not be underestimated, since he used his brain instead of weapon. His skills in political discussion exceeded expectations and, thus, let the U.S. win economically and politically in all goals. His efforts helped the two countries to start working closer with each other, in spite of the fact that many researchers treated these treaties as unequal, giving preference to the political interests of the U.S. Similarly, in China, the effect of the so-called expansion of interests can become an important topic for the further researches in Japanese and Chinese studies. 

Therefore, the following dimensions of the Commodore Perry’s role should be considered, when studying the value of political discussion and compromising qualities instead of inclination to the weapon conflicts. The dimensions include such areas as intelligence, culture, political instruments, culture, Confucian philosophy, the need for changes, economical benefits, exchange of experience, the need for the rationalizing of event flow, the essence of the compromise, etc. The role of Commodore Perry, in all these issues is important, for he started the freer trade between the U.S. and Japan, which were segregated by the Pacific Ocean. This fact makes two countries significant players in this zone, however, the roles of the smaller countries shall not be underestimated in this region. For example, the developing efforts of Singapore, Taiwan, China, Maldives, and Korea in free trade can be considered more valuable for developing new opportunities, which the U.S. is more likely to develop in the short-come future if following the example of Commodore Perry in developing the rational commercial activities between with the neighbouring countries. Moreover, this strategy will allow developing more benefits from trade in many aspects such as trade environment, delivery options, and payment methods, which are the opportunities hard to encounter when considering types of political discussions in foreign affairs in the 19th century. The future research should include alternative options in promoting Perry and his team as masters of the fruitful communication with foreigners who had very different lifestyle, religious preference and culture. The role of Commodore Perry was to encourage development of Japan from the state of tranquillity experienced by the country in the 19th century during the reign of Tokagawa government that although experienced “the difficulty of reconciling Confucianism with democracy” The efforts of the ambassador are good examples of the productive style of leadership in negotiations.  


The extent of the role of Commodore Perry in establishing effective trade relationships between the U.S. and Japan should not be underestimated since there is still access to numerous researches in public and university libraries. This allows to determine the Perry’s role as extremely significant for establishing strong relationships with the East. In its turn, Japan shared cultural, religious, and social values with the West that brought various goods options to Japan, which demanded high quality items manufactured by the U.S. In this relation, the exchange of the so-called treaties of inequality was mutually profitable.

Commodore Perry was the one, whose role was to share the American dream of success with the rest of the neighbouring countries. His missions to China and Mexico were also successful, awarding him with the financial prize and developing his reputation as a suitable ambassador. His talent was proved by a great number of political affairs that solved arising issues, when it came to the risks of war and conflicts rechargeable by the interrogation between key players in the Pacific region. His famous white flag even now symbolizes the intention of peace and friendship, caring about the commonly related interests that can be reached without using any weapon all across the globe. Of course, nowadays, many of foreign affairs experts do not pay enough attention to Perry’s style of negotiating; political leaders are not much interested in respecting each other and, thus, end up using weapons in war conflicts. Trade, instead, has been suffering from the lack of high quality products and wide assortment of benefits, leading to the lack of economic stability and social standards deviations of different types.

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Jan 20, 2020 in History Essay Samples