Fact Sheet: Commodore Matthew C. Perry

  • Born in South Kingstown, Rhode Island on April 10, 1794.Photograph, Commodore Matthew Perry
  • Embarked in a naval career as midshipman at the age of fifteen.
  • Advanced to the rank of Lieutenant in 1813.
  • In 1837, Perry supervised the construction of first naval steamship, Fulton.
  • Promoted to the rank of Captain in 1837.
  • Promoted to the rank of Commodore in 1842.
  • In 1843-1844, Perry commanded the African Squadron, which was engaged in suppressing the slave trade.
  • In 1853, Perry was sent on a mission by President Millard Fillmore to establish trade with Japan – a country that had been isolated from the outside world since the 17th century.
  • In July of that same year, Perry leads a squadron of four ships into Tokyo Bay and presented representatives of the Japanese Emperor with the text of a proposed commercial and friendship treaty. The Japanese rejected Perry’s demands and Perry withdrew.
  • Perry returned to Japan in February, 1854. This time he appears with seven ships - four sailing ships, three steamers – and one thousand, six hundred men.
  • After a standoff, Perry landed for peace and trade talks on March 8, 1854, and began to negotiate with the Japanese to establish a trade agreement.
  • On March 31, 1854, Perry signs the Treaty of Kanagawa on behalf of the United States, which established "permanent" friendship between the two countries. The treaty guaranteed that the Japanese would save shipwrecked Americans and provide fuel for American ships, but also opened the opportunity for trade between Japan and the United States. The signing of this treaty signaled the end of Japanese isolation.
  • Perry died in New York City, New York on March 4, 1858.

Commodore Perry's ship, depicted by a Japanese artist

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