Following merchant failures to open Japan, American diplomatic and military officials began to conceive of the government as a vehicle to facilitate the rights of American commerce and trade. Formal proposals to open Japan began soon after the war of 1812. Commodore David Porter, who led the first warship to fly the American flag in the Pacific, and who had been captured by the British while engaging this enemy in South Pacific waters, first wrote an extensive memo to the Secretary of the Navy in 1814 and then to President Monroe in 1815 requesting to lead an exploratory mission into the North Pacific and then connect to an expedition in Oregon to seek another transcontinental route in addition to the one explored by Lewis and Clark. "'Washington," Porter wrote to President Momoe, "might be made a first Meridian.“213 Porter's ambition and enthusiasm also led him to propose the opening of Japan to American commerce. As he wrote to President Momoe, ''The important trade of Japan has been shut against every nation...the time maybe favorable, and it would be a glory...for us, a nation of only forty years standing to beat down their rooted prejudices-secure to ourselves a valuable trade, and make that people known to the world"214 The Monroe administration here took a keen interest and began to plan for such an expedition and allocate resources. The Secretary of the Navy assigned vessels and men for the expedition giving Porter the flagship Java and two captains commanding ftigates under Porter's command In 1816, just as preparations were being made, the mission was canceled due to US-Spanish animosities in the Caribbean. The rumor of a Spanish invasion of New Orleans caused the Navy Secretary to order all ships to the Gulf and Caribbean.2I4 Despite the mission's failure to materialize some historians have credited the general goal of throwing open Japan to Western trade to Porter, claiming that it "all developed from the idea of which the proposal of 1815 initiated.“215
If such ambition did influence Porter's successors, the historical record does not reflect it. John Shillaber, US consul at Batavia, does not mention Porter in any of the writings or records he left, but some fifteen years later he also floated the idea of opening Japan. In his dispatches in the late Spring and Summer of 1831, Shillaber outlined the possibility of profitable trade with Japan and the necessity for positive government action in opening the country: "Previous missions had failed," he postulated, "owing to the jealous fears entertained by the Japanese Emperors that those powers would sooner or later, if any intercourse was opened, interfere with the internal affairs of the Empire, attempt to subvert its Government and probably make a conquest of the country. I allude more especially to England and Russia."
Thus, the US, Shillaber wrote, owning to its Republican nature and historical stand against tyranny and foreign conquest, would not be stigmatized with such desires and the Japanese would freely enter into relations with America. Within three to four years of such an opening, he said, trade with Japan could exceed five thousand tons annually worth three hundred thousand dollars. For this reason Shillaber strongly recommended that a merchant rather than naval vessel undertake the proposed expedition to Japan.217
These proposals kept Washington focused on the possibility of opening Japan, as well as understanding the island's importance for the spread of US influence and presence in the region. When the State Department sent supercargo Edmund Roberts to negotiate treaties with South East Asian states in 1832, he was also instructed to go to Japan, although no treaty was mentioned. On October 28, 1832. Secretary of State Edward Livingston wrote to Roberts en-route to inform him that "We have it in contemplation to institute a separate mission to Japan; but if you find the prospect favorable, you may fill up one of the letters of credence with the appropriate title of the Emperor, and present yourself there for the purpose of opening a trade." He instructed Roberts to continue to Japan in a merchant vessel if he were to go so as not to "submit to the indignity of being disarmed" in a national vesse1.218 Lacking the funds to complete the voyage to Japan, Roberts returned to Washington in 1834 after negotiating treaties with Siam and Muscat. He reported to the Secretary of State about Japan, stating that the way to trade with Korea and China would be through Japan. When Roberts returned to Asia the next year in order to exchange treaty ratifications he was instructed under secrecy to negotiate a treaty with Cochin China (Vietnam) and then proceed to Japan. He fell sick in South East Asia, however, and died at Macao in 1836.
British military action against China in the Opium War of 1839-1842 created a new precedence for Western penetration of Eastern markets. For states that refused to open their doors to Western trade on Western terms the military option now appeared absolutely justified As King William II of the Netherlands wrote to the Japanese emperor in 1844 in mendly advise to accommodate Western demands, "lest happy Japan be destroyed by war.“219 Although the US never gave accolade to British aggression against China, and often railed against it, they knew that Britain would not hesitate to use the means of its military for commercial and hegemonic ends. This is best reflected in Cushing's letter to President Tyler immediately after the Opium War warning of British hegemony in the Pacific.220 Furthermore, now that China had been "thrown open for the enterprise of Americans," as US Congressman Zadoc Pratt put it the year after the treaty was signed-a precedent had been set in the minds of Americans for the rest of East Asia to enter into the Western world of trade and commerce. Americans and Europeans looked eagerly to increase commerce with other Asian countries "long barricaded against commercial intercourse or diplomatic relations." ''The day and the hour' have now arrived," Pratt read before the House, "for turning the enterprise of our merchants and seamen into the harbors and markets of those long-secluded countries." Indeed, for politicians like Pratt, ''there is much reason for believing that a judicious embassy, characterized by the justice which should ever sway our government, will succeed in establishing intercourse with Japan and Corea that may be largely beneficial to the American people.“221
It is no coincidence then that Cushing recommended sailing to Japan and negotiating a treaty there after completing discussions with China. Cushing pointed out the necessity of Japan in the US spatial order in his letter to President Tyler dated December 27, 1842. After warning of the British threat in the Pacific should they seize Japan, Cushing recommended taking the initiative and opening Japan first.222 Cushing's instructions for the China mission make no reference to Japan, however, and when he sailed in the summer of 1843, the Tyler administration had made no official declarations on a Japan policy. We may surmise that the reason for the omission of the Japan mission by Cushing himself in the final instructions was due to political necessity and the danger of the heavily partisan congress getting held up in debate not just about China but the necessity of other unproven East Asian markets. We find, therefore, Cushing's authorization to head to Japan after China in a secret letter dated August 15, 1844 from the Secretary of State. With Cushing already in East Asia, the administration bypassed the congress-which had completely abandoned President Tyler-to give Cushing "a full power to treat with the Japanese authorities...in accordance with your desire.“223 Cushing had left Asian waters long before the instructions had reached him in Hong Kong, however. and he never made it to Japan.
Despite this failure due to communications, the American government looked to use the mission to East Asian waters for the purpose of exchanging treaty ratifications with China as a convenient mission to attempt negotiations with Japan. To this end Congressman Pratt proposed before his House colleagues in February 1845 a mission to Japan and Korea: "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 manufacturers of our country: be it therefore "Resolved, That in furtherance of this object, it is herby recommended that immediate measures be taken for effecting commercial arrangements with the empire of Japan.. .Little as we know of Japan. in comparison with our knowledge of other countries, we know enough of it to render us desirous of a closer acquaintance. Another year will not elapse before the American people will be able to rejoice in the knowledge that the "star-spangled banner" is recognized as an ample passport and protection for all who, of our enterprising countrymen, may be engaged in extending American commerce into the countries to which it is now proposed to dispatch suitable diplomatic and commercial agents on behalf of our governments.“224
Later that spring, Secretary of State James Buchanan instructed his commissioner bound for China, Alexander Everett, to negotiate a treaty with Japan. "Should the opportunity arise of effecting such an arrangement," Buchanan wrote referencing Cushing's desires over Japan, Everett had full powers to negotiate a treaty with Japan.225 And Navy Secretary George Bancroft instructed Commodore Biddle, who was assigned to carry Everett to the East to lend his squadron to the new commissioner's disposal for such a pwpose. In the event that Everett should "decline to [proceed to Japan], you may yourself, if you see fit, persevere in the design.“ 226 Everett did decide against sailing to Japan, and Biddle's instructions did not give him full command of the expedition, nor the means to exercise his own judgment or means to handle the situation. This effectively constrained the Biddle's mission to Japan, so that when he sailed into the Edo bay in 1846-without the accomplice of Everett-he not only failed to land or discuss trade terms, but was also physically insulted by a Japanese sailor.227
Such rejection did not discourage the US, however. Eighteen months later, the Navy sent Commodore Glynn to Japan in order to secure the safe release of a number of American sailors that had been shipwrecked on the coast of Japan. Glynn had no authority to discuss treaties or trade with the Japanese, but his presence in those waters, and his forcing of the Japanese to enter into negotiations over American sailors being held by Japanese authorities, did push Japan into a type of informal diplomacy with the US. The mission was ordered by and undertaken completely by the Navy out of reports on Americans being held captive in Japan. The congress was not informed until three years later, and the overriding concern in Glynn's reports and letters from his expedition is that of naval intelligence. Glynn devoted almost half of his fifty-page report on the expedition to accounts of Japan and its waters by shipwrecked sailors.228 The expedition brought the importance of the geographical position of Japan to Glynn's attention, and he wrote to the New York merchants Howland and Aspinwall upon his return to American waters on the necessity to use Japan as a weigh station to tap the Pacific market.
"Gentlemen [Glynn wrote]: During the two years just past [1848-1850], I have been constantly cruising about the North Pacific Ocean, and have visited nearly every port of every commercial importance upon its eastern or western shore. In all these places, not even excepting the excluded territories of Japan, I have the strongest interest existing on the prospect of establishing a line of steamers between Asia and America...If I read the signs aright, this is the time for action. The whole world is impatient to secure the arrangement, and will be willing to grant liberal terms to whoever will undertake to complete them. The prize is too great to remain long in view without exciting competition, and he who moves first will stand the best chance of being victorious in the race.“229
It was a race for the control of East Asia and the dominance of the region through treaties, influence, coaling stations, and steam. A race against Britain and Russia. For Americans, the race was on. In the late 1 840s, American newspapers, magazines, and journals began a systematic campaign reflective of the American sentiment to throw open Japan to the commerce of the world. A debate about the US relationship to Japan arose in all comers of the nation, and was taken up again and again in the country's largest papers. And once the US government had sent a squadron to the Japan seas to request and negotiate a treaty, the domestic press followed events closely. As The Farmers' Cabinet journal put it in a front page article in 1849 entitled "Japan": "Public attention is now turned towards the empire of Japan, which has so long remained a sealed book in the history of the world.“230
Many of the early articles on the subject devote space to general interest about Japan, informing their readers of the practices and history of the country. The Christian Advocate and Journal, for example, ran an article in the fall of 1849 detailing the history of Japan, the government, and previous attempts to open trade.231 The Semi-Weekly Eagle wrote in a brief note, "The Island of Japan is said to be the only country where a change in the fashion of dress has not occurred during a period of two thousand five hundred years.“232 The Farmers' Cabinet took a particular interest in all aspects of the country and its people, publishing numerous articles each month over the years on everything from Japanese literature, to flower arrangement, to religion.233
The American public debate arose in response to that being conducted in Britain. The British media had begun a campaign in the late 1840s to convince the government to take action and open Japan. The issue was championed in London by the Morning Chronicle, which prevailed on the British government to send a commercial mission to Japan to negotiate a treaty. In a leading article, the Morning Chronicle laid out the necessity for a mission and how to go about organizing it. Two days later other papers took up the debate, and soon a proliferation of articles devoted to the subject blossomed, investigating and developing the means by which a mission should occur and how it could meet success. The leading papers in India, Singapore and Hong Kong subsequently took up the issue so that such a clamor sounded throughout the British Empire that by 1850 the English United Service Magazine would write, "it now remains therefore for Great Britain to make her appearance in a becoming manner on the scene.“234
The United Service Magazine brought the fervor in Britain over Japan to an articulated height in early 1850. In an eight-page article the magazine laid out a proof of why Japan should be opened and the benefits that it would bring to Britain. This sole article is worth investigating in detail for it was picked up by the American journal Littell's Living Age in the spring of 1850, and many of its arguments reappear throughout the American press and in the justification of policy by US politicians. Linking commerce with human freedom and natural rights, the United Service Magazine opened its article with the argument with the maxim that Japan has not the right to isolate itself from the rest of the world. In the same tone and language that the US journals, the Democratic Review and the American Whig Review, would take up two years later, the United Service Magazine set forth the laws of nature which forebade the inhabitants of one part of the world to shut themselves away from another part and refuse to interact socially or economically with others. Those that do as much live in an unnatural state and ought to be corrected. "We are fully persuaded that the Japanese government had no right to sever the link of commerce which bound it to the rest of the world." In the view of this journal, therefore, it was the duty of Britain, therefore, to bring enlightenment of the natural ways of the world to those uneducated in these manners, "with a cordon of steam and tire" if necessary. 235
The markets of Japan beckoned. Rich in natural resources and possessing a population of consumers for British manufacturing goods, trade with Japan could only be advantageous to Britain. The gold mines were prophesized to be another California in scale, the copper supplies inexhaustible, and silver and iron produced in abundance. The picture here painted of Japan was one of riches waiting to be tapped. It was a land with the best silk and tea, and the "finest rice in Asia." Indeed, for the United Service Magazine, "our object being to convince the manufacturing and commercial classes of Great Britain that a vast and wealthy market might immediately be thrown open to their goods, could they be persuaded to bestir themselves, and exert that legitimate influence, which they obviously possess, on the proceedings of ministers.,,236 To this end, they portrayed a Japanese market rich in resources and desirous of British manufacturing goods.
Strategically, Japan held the key to China and control in the region, the magazine argued. Preying on the desires of the Old China Hands, the article reasoned that by securing a base near China it would lead necessarily to further engagement and influence in that great market and pave the way for possession of China. As such this would secure the region for Great Britain. "China must one day be ours," the article said, "in which case Japan would almost necessarily follow. But were its possession to precede that of China, the inversion of circumstances might be highly advantageous, because, in the language of Archimedes, this conquest would be securing to ourselves a point on which to plant our lever for moving the whole mass of Eastern Asia." For the United Service Magazine the time to act is in the present, for other Western power designs on the island could snatch it away cutting Britain out of this important market and strategic stronghold.
In conclusion, they write in the last paragraph, "The privilege of clothing forty millions of people may be secured to the merchants and manufacturers of this country, if they will at once exert themselves and induce our government to take the lead in throwing open Japan to the trade of the civilized world. What has already been done by America and France is sufficient to show that if we remain negligent much longer, others will, eventually, snatch the honor, and much too of the profit, out of our hands; since it is impossible to doubt that the nation which shall be first in the field will enjoy many advantages over those that come after.“237
Such views were not obscure, but in fact characteristic of a portion of the British public. Such debate swirled in Britain at this time. In the summer of that same year (1850)-less than twelve months before US Secretary of State Daniel. Webster's directive to send a mission-the English journal Albion ran an article entitled "Embassy to Japan," in which it made the case of the necessity for Britain to open Japan and to act immediately. Commercially, the article noted the riches in minerals, particularly gold, as well as the textile market. Strategically, the journal argued, "Japan bears somewhat the same relation to the rest of Asia as Great Britain does to the European continent.. .Should Japan become open to us, the frequent navigators of those seas would create for us a line of ports from one extremity of the Archipelago to the other, up along the kingdom of Siam, and Cochin China, to the coasts of the Celestial Empire, as far as Japan. Thus from Singapore and Sarawak to Nangasaki and Yeddo, markets would be opened fro the disposal of our merchandise, and incalculable stores of wealth be returned to the home producer.“238
With British presence in the region on the rise, and its power having been flexed in China, India and Greece, the journal called for a mission at the present time. It is the government's duty, the article said, to facilitate its merchants' commerce, especially at a time when overproduction hampered industrial growth. But more so "If we allow the Russians or Americans or any of the nations, who are eager to gain admission into these territories to anticipate us, we shall find a stronger monopoly effected and the system of seclusion much more rigidly maintained.“239 In this way the rivalry spread both ways, and as the Americans feared the British, so to did the British view themselves in the race for Japan. British East Asia colonial operations and network brought merchants and officers into contact with Japan. Like the Americans, a strong will arose to open the country and exploit the prophesized lucrative trade. In 1808t in the midst of the Napoleonic Wars, the British attempted a hostile takeover of their European rival's trading operationst the Dutch in Nagasaki. Having seized the Dutch territory of Java some years earlier, the British also looked to take over the Japan trade and establish a permanent British foothold in the North Pacific. This attempt failed, but the British governor-general in Batavia sent two more missions in 1813 and 1814, which resulted in an agreement in which the Dutch would act as middlemen in securing Japanese goods (mainly copper ore) and the British selling it on the world market. This deal ceased with the end of the Napoleonic wars and the Dutch regained full command of their meager trade monopoly.240 British interest in Japan lulled while its China hands clamored to open the China market and the government took action there. But the Anglo-American rivalry intensified and word of the US mission to Japan by Commodore Biddle reached the intelligence of British superintendent of trade and Governor of Hong Kong, Sir John Davis, in December 1845. Davis reported this intelligence back to the Foreign Office in London and was approved to undertake a secret mission to Japan. The British mission was postponed indefinitely, however, due to the inability to raise a large enough force to match the US mission. Furthermore, continuing squabbles with China over treaty interpretations kept British attention in the Far East focused on the continent.241
With the Foreign Office occupied pursuing treaty negotiations with China and fending off merchant cries to occupy the country,242 the British government could devote little attention to preparing an expedition to move against Japan at this time. When the Perry mission sailed, however, the British government kept careful watch, and the foreign secretary was urged in private correspondence to forestall the US in Japan lest Britain lose its Pacific markets. The US expedition was followed closely in the British newspaper in China, The China Mail, which was quoted in the Indian papers. Other British papers such as The Times covered the expedition, and Bentley's Miscellany leveled strong criticisms. John Bowring, the British superintendent of trade in Hong Kong in the early 1850s, reported back to London on the mission. Indeed, when the Russian minister in London told the Foreign Office that they were to send an admiral into the Pacific to keep an eye on Perry, Foreign Secretary Malmesbury instructed Bowring to assist the Russians in any way.243
Russia posed a similar threat to US designs of spatial order and regional hegemony. Moving east across Siberia, Russians attempted to access Japan and the Pacific from the north. Russian territory already stretched to the North Pacific, which posed a particularly dire threat to the US. As Hawks wrote: "There is no power in the other hemisphere to which the possession of Japan, or the control of the affairs, is as important as it is to Russia. She is on one side of the islands, the United States on the other. The Pacific ocean is destined to be the theatre of immense commercial undertakings...with such harbors on the Pacific as Japan would give her, she might hope to become the controlling maritime power of the world.“244
This passage reflects the spatial order Americans saw themselves attempting to create and the outside threats that other Western powers posed to its construction. Russia on one side of the Pacific not only necessarily limited the boundaries of American geographical reach, but also presented the specter of rivalry. Should Russia control the markets and access of the East it would, in the words of Hawks, "make her unrivalled in the world for excellency, and with her resources would control the commerce of the Pacific." Indeed, Hawks wrote, Russia, like the US, aimed ''to be a great maritime power, and to rule as mistress of the Pacific." This would hem in American ambitions, not the least so due to the possibility of land appropriation and market monopolization, canceling all other claims to East Asia and its riches. "It is not, therefore," Hawks wrote in the righteous manner Americans were coming to see themselves as the upholders of freedom and trade, "the interest of any part of the commercial world that Russia should ever own Japan.“245
From the Russian perspective, access to the North Pacific and regional markets would give the growing empire a source of wealth not just in the local trade but would also terrestrially connect Europe with Asia. Throughout the eighteenth century, Russia had made numerous unsuccessful attempts to find a year-round route to Japan and the North Pacific. At one point in the 1770s, it formed an agreement with Japan in the north to trade on the northern islands but ftozen weather constantly thwarted such ambitions.
By the nineteenth century with the growth of British and American merchant and naval activity in East Asia, Russia saw that it had to assert itself more forcefully in the region lest lose out in markets and influence. Having watched Britain take the initiative in China and American merchants gain a stronger foothold in that market, Russia could not allow either the US nor Britain to gain as much influence in Japan as they did in China and moved accordingly to outdo the Perry mission and attempted to open Japan first. On October 19, 1852 the Russian expedition sailed in attempt to beat the US to Japan. They arrived in the fall of 1853, right after Perry had paid his first visit and gave Japan the ultimatum.246 Having failed to beat Perry to Japan, the Russians actually succeeded in inciting the American Commodore to move quicker to press for and conclude treaty negotiations lest the Russians "interfere very seriously with my operation," Perry wrote in his journal.247 Hawks reemphasized this point: "The Commodore, suspecting that the Russians contemplated the design of returning to Japan and of ultimately going to Yedo, which might seriously interfere with his operations, induced him to alter his plans.“248 So Perry sailed sooner rather than later, and Russia ended up negotiating and signing a treaty with Japan a year later (1855), opening three ports to Russian trade.249
The US government had taken a peripheral interest in Japan early on, which then evolved into a mini-crisis as competition to be the first to open the closed country intensified. In the early nineteenth century Americans went forth and sought new markets and moved towards facilitation of greater access and penetration of the China market. Japan being closed to American traders, came under US scrutiny as a target for government intervention in order to guarantee access for its merchants and establish holds in the Pacific trade. Cushing put Japan in perspective of the forming US spatial order when he advised President Tyler to secure treaties with both China and Japan on the same expedition, thus solidifying American interests in the Pacific and preempting perceived British designs on the region. Although Cushing and his immediate successor failed to travel to Japan and carry out the proposed negotiations, the importance of Japan began to overtake Americans. The island as a strategic post in the large American vision of the spatial order of the earth grew in stature.
European interests in Japan created an immediacy for Americans to open the country. Both Britain and Russia had designs on the island for many of the same reasons as did the US. What is of utmost concern is the perception this created in the US and how this perception influenced the decision to send a mission to Japan at a certain time. The debate in Britain became a burning public cry in the late 1840s as the media began to demand action by the government. This public debate informed the policy circles which did discuss the matter amongst themselves and watched the American mission closely. The US remained absolutely aware of the growing sentiment in Britain, which did create the ultimate urgency to act. In many ways the race had intensified and much more was at stake in the late 1840s and early 1850s. Likewise, Russian movements on Japan and actions in the North Pacific were threatening, forcing Perry to change his schedule, if not also have some responsibility in the reasons for dispatching Perry in the first place.
When the United States government made the decision to dispatch a naval mission to Japan with diplomatic objectives, all of the factors explored above mattered. A general consensus had formed in American on Japan and the action needed to be taken by the US government. From all sides of the debate--merchants, whalers, transportation investors, politicians, the Navy-voices pointed to the necessity for one reason or another to open Japan to American commerce and interaction by entering into direct diplomatic relations with that country. Those in commerce viewed Japan as a ripe market waiting to buy American products and offer the US goods of the Orient. They made their case to their political representatives, in the media, and contributed to press for a formal treaty guaranteeing free commerce and free trade. The whalers prowling the North Pacific for their prey needed ports of refuge to refuel and repair, which few other lands beside Japan could offer. Furthermore, frequent shipwrecks off the coast washed many Americans to Japanese shores, whose safe return. was demanded. Those in the transportation business joined forces with Naval reformers and pushed the case of steam routes in the Pacific.
These steam lines would need a refueling station on their way to China, and Japan would fulfill this role with the appropriate resources and its geographical position. The threat that another Western power would achieve the prize first and set the wider world's terms of interaction with Japan threatened the US and its interests. All these points were increasingly brought to the public's attention through the general discourse as it appeared in the halls of Congress to the nations periodicals.
In this manner, no single reason arises as the answer to why the US government decided to send a mission to Japan. Rather a myriad of voices, interests and concerns, converging into a general discourse to negotiate a treaty and throw open the country to free trade with America fueled the decision to open Japan. Historians have attempted to analyze the words of President Fillmore or the instructions to Commodore Peny to find motive and desire for the motion to embark on a mission and bring the Japanese government into diplomatic relations with the US. They have attempted to pin motives on economic concerns and the Pacific market, treating Japan as an isolated entity in itself in relation to American desires, and the event that brought the US to its shores in 1853 as an alienated time in America's broader history. Historians have sought a single truth to explain the Peny expedition, emphasizing one reason and dismissing others. In doing so they have missed the larger picture of the broad debate occurring in America at that time.
Not one reason framed that debate but many and all reasons. What all these reasons did have in common was a discourse within the context of an American world order. Trade was discussed in moral terms; as a natural right, which no government or ruler ought to be able to restrict. Only when all men could interact freely with each other sans the intervention of an intervening body could men truly be free and all people benefit. This argument was pursued with the righteousness of empire and without the consideration of other peoples or other systems of social existence. The universal stood on their side and the power of the American economy would win the right of nature. The advocates of steam and a Japanese coaling station had redrawn the spatial order of the earth and extended lines outwards through which the US would seize control. Japan, although discussed in a micro context of a Pacific steam line, fit into a new world order emanating from the American continent. Control the Pacific and control the world, was their motto. The rivalry with Britain in Japan was but an extension of the global battle being fought to resituate the order of the earth; to move the center of the world from -Europe to America. The two powers were engaged in a competition for markets and influence of the world, taking colonies or establishing spheres of influence. Japan was seen in the context not as a single entity in Asia, but as a link in a global chain of commerce, influence, and control.
Thus, when the crescendo of the cacophony of cries converged into a widespread and high pitched harmonious demand, the time had arrived when those in power would come to make the decision to enact a policy. On May 9, 1851, Secretary of State Daniel Webster wrote to Navy Secretary William Graham revealing intentions to send a mission to Japan and requesting the necessary armada.250 The next day Webster drafted the president's letter to the Emperor of Japan requesting official relations,251 and within a month he had written the instructions for the mission.252 Although an expedition would not sail for another fourteen months due to logistic complications and the removal of the original commanding commodore for legal breaches, the policy was born and the US committed.
We lack any unofficial correspondence surrounding this decision, which could give us insight into the mechanism of making the policy. However, the timing of this official correspondence corresponds with a number of well-placed letters to high officials and those with access and influence to those in power. In this manner, the impetus to act was heightened. Foremost was an awareness by Americans of the increasing British cry to act in Japan. As noted above the British press began a campaign to press the case to open Japan, which the American media picked up in the spring and summer of 1850. Coupled alongside the brewing debate in the US, Commodore Glynn presented the case to President Fillmore in 1851 in this way: "Opposition may be anticipated from Europeans in China, and particularly from the English, unless measures are taken to neutralize their power. They are always jealous of our commercial success, and they are getting alarmed at the rapid strides we are making towards the weak side of their possession in Asia.“253
This international challenge to American interests weighed constantly on the minds of policy makers and it is no surprise to find the Anglo-American rivalry as a key consideration in the decision to open Japan. In early 1851 the push for a mission to Japan had begun in earnest, and the use of force if necessary would not be ruled out, as the letters among those in positions to carry out such a policy exhibit. In late January Perry wrote to Navy Secretary Graham in great detail on how to carry out such an expedition. His letter opened with the perplexing paragraph on what the mission was actually about: "The real object of the expedition should be concealed from public view, under a general understanding, that its main purpose will be to examine the usual resorts of our whaling ships, with special reference to their protection, and the opening to them of new ports of refuge and refteshment.“254
Perry continued about how to succeed in achieving this goal where others had failed, including the use of force. "With respect to the force necessary to insure success to the enterprise so far as success can be commanded, four armed vessels would be required, three first class steamers, and a sloop of war... the squadron should suddenly appear, and then demand, upon the just grounds of public utility and the rights of nations; free access to one, or both of them, to American vessels, for refreshment and repair.“255
Perry recommended that the expedition "should be strictly naval, untrammeled by the interference of diplomatic agents.“256 In a like manner Perry's naval colleague, Commodore GlYnn had written to the New York merchants Howland and Aspinwall, who were connected to Webster, telling them of his recent travels to Japan to rescue shipwrecked sailors. He discussed the desire to throw open Japanese ports to refuge and commerce in integral link to the system of American interaction with East Asia. "We want accommodations for fuel, and a depot for our steamers; we have a good cause of a quarrel, and as I told the Japanese officer who received my demand, 'they have no mends in the wide world.“ He continued in hypothesizing the stubbornness of the Japanese in refusing to open their shores, in which case "make them; we could convert their selfish government into a liberal republic in a short time; such an unnatural system would at the present day fall to pieces upon the slightest concussion.“257 We have no records of whether this correspondence reached Webster (although Howland and Aspinwall did get the contract to supply coal for the expedition). However, another merchant, Aaron Palmer had written to President Fillmore in January 1851 making a similar case: "The government of that country [Le. Japan] must, ere long, be compelled, by the force of circumstances, and especially by the presence of our people on the Pacific, to succumb to the progressive commercial spirit of the age.“258 Here among the debates on trade, steam, international rivalry and these correspondences, the decision to send a mission was made. In this manner, agency cannot be assigned to one individual or even a few men.259
Ultimately it was the decision of the President, Secretary of State, and Secretary of Navy, to be sure, but not by circumstances of their own choosing. The decision converged from all comers and forced itself upon those in the position to legislate. When Webster and Fillmore enacted the policy in mid-1851, they did so not as individuals with independent desires, but as social entities operating within spheres of diverse interests intersecting over the issue of Japan. By the time Webster wrote to Graham, the country had already taken such an acute interest in the prospect of opening Japan, of Japan's importance for the proposed steam line, and its utility in building the American spatial order of the earth, that the motivation could not rest in the hands of anyone or two individuals. The discourse only needed to be institutionalized, and when the tone reached a pitch high enough in 1851 those in power would do so.
Thus as we have seen, in 1859, the British attempted to sail up the Beihe River to Beijing with the aim of exchanging ratifications of the new Anglo-Chinese treaty, which was renegotiated the year before. Having given them permission to travel to Beijing by land but not by water, the Chinese saw the British move up the river as an assault and attacked the British ships as they attempted to break a blockade the Chinese had erected. The Chinese opened fire with surprising accuracy, killing 434 British sailors, sinking four vessels, and severely wounding the British Admiral. Watching the onslaught from anchor just off the coast was the American commander of the East India station, Josiah Tattnall. Although he had strict instructions to remain neutral throughout the Anglo-Chinese negotiations and any hostilities that might ensue, he went to the aid of the British under fire crying as justification of his disobedience: "Blood is thicker than water.” (Edgar Stanton Maclay, "New Light on the 'Blood Is Thicker Than Water' Episode," Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute 40 (1914): 1085-1103). In fact Tattnall's utterance achieved international fame almost immediately. (For this see Robert M. Langdon, "Josiah Tattnall-Blood Is Thicker Than Water," United States Naval Institute Proceedings 85, no. June, 1959)
President Buchanan confirmed Tattnall's breach of neutrality, and upon receiving a formal expression of appreciation from London for Tattnall's help in China, commended the captain for his acts and bravery. His action also won him life long friends among Her Majesty's Navy. Later in life, when Tattnall came into financial need, British servicemen put together a fund to aid the American captain. Historians have drawn on this event to exhibit the close and cooperative relationship between the powers in East Asia. Dennett devoted an entire chapter section to Tattnall's role in the second Opium War, giving the individual American's aid representative primacy in the relationship between Britain and the US in China. And other historians followed Dennett's lead to use Tattnall's words and actions as the demarcating character of Anglo-American relations. From this individual's temporal role historians have defined an age and a relationship, moving backwards and forwards in time from that moment on June 25, 1859 to blanket American involvement in East Asia for all of the nineteenth century as one of ambivalence and cooperation. This single instance of expressed cooperation between Americans and English operating in China, is no more than that, an aberration from the animosity between the two Western powers in China that preceded it, and the reflection of interests in America that had begun to operate outside of the Pacific theatre. Indeed, missing from this interpretation of Tattnall's actions and words in June of 1859, is an understanding of how the men of the times viewed the world. By focusing on these five words, the color of Tattnall's character has not only been ignored, but also the entirety of the statement left out. In view of who Tattnall really was and the entirety of what he really said, the American aid to the British under fire appears less as a shining moment of a policy of cooperation and more like the racist reaction of American Southerners on the eve of a nation about to become asunder over the issue of slavery.
From the person of Josiah Tattnall the second nomos of race appears alongside that of markets. Captain Josiah Tattnall was a southern estate owner who had deep ties to England. Both his parents were of English stock, and his father's family were loyalists during the Revolutionary war and moved to England in the midst of the fighting. His father returned to the US in 1780 and later served as a member of the Georgia legislature; was elected to the US Senate representing Georgia in 1796, and went on to become the governor of Georgia in 1800. Josiah Tattnan was born in 1795 and sent to England when he was six to be educated under the care of his grandparents. He returned to the US in 1811 and joined the Navy in 1812, though saw little action against the British in the war of that year. Tattnan had a rather distinguished naval career seeing action in the Mexican war and later being promoted to the rank of captain. In 1857 he was appointed commander of the East India station, but resigned that post and his commission as a US navy captain in 1861. His loyalties remained with his home state of Georgia, which honored him numerous times for his service throughout his career. During the Civil War, Tattnall became a senior flag officer of the Georgia Navy, and then later a captain in the Confederate Navy, commanding the defense of Georgia and South Carolina. In June 1866, following the defeat of the Confederacy, Tattnall joined the exodus of southern patriots to Canada. (Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 9 (New York,: Scribner, 1935),310-311, John A. Garraty, ed., American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999),337-338, The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography., (New York: J.T. White, 1915).
This brief biographical introduction of Tattnall is meant to point to the motivations behind his words and actions in China in 1859, which gainsay not only his instructions, but also the US policy that our investigation in this now almost forgotten episode will lay forth. If it is the case that US East Asia policy formulated around a rivalry with Britain for the China market, as we next will argue, and that Americans entertained open hostility against the English in their own quest to steal the markets of the world from them, then how are we to understand this supposed example of cooperation that historians have seized upon as an explanation for all the nineteenth century?
Given his background there is nothing to betray any Anglophobia in Tattnall's sentiments. On the contrary everything indicates that as we will be able to show, he was not of the same mind as many of his contemporaries and possessed a rather favorable bearing towards Britain. His family were loyalists, he was educated in England, he served in the Confederate Navy and received the assistance of the British Navy in the war against the north, and upon defeat he moved to British Canada. This is not to say that Tattnall shunned his loyalty to America-for he served a long and distinguished naval career-but rather that the hatred and animosity of Britain that enveloped a man like Caleb Cushing did not burn in the breast of Captain Tattnall, and he would have had no qualms about assisting the white British men in a battle against the yellow Chinese.
Tattnall likely put race before national rivalry. He was the owner of a large estate outside of Savannah Georgia, and more than likely owned slaves. Furthermore, he served on the side of the Civil War that fought for the right to continue to enslave men based on the color of their skin. The hypothesis of racial motivation in Tattnall' s actions on June 25, 1859 off the coast of northern China gets further support when we examine the entirety of the account of Tattnall's command in China. In May 1858, the American East India squadron under Tattnall anchored in Hong Kong next to the British warship Chesapeake, which was named after an American frigate destroyed by the British in the War of 1812. Having been granted twenty-four hours shore leave, the American crew, taking offense at British hubris, promptly insulted British sailors and ignited a tempestuous brawl that lasted for most of the day. Rear Admiral Stephen Decatur Trenchard recorded in his diary that "for some months after that it got to be quite the proper thing to thrash an English sailor on sight." Here we find confirmation of the continuing animosity between the Americans and English in China. The assumed cooperation and geniality emphasized in the scholarship on this period is not found in the character of the men of the times, and in fact conversely reflected by their Anglophobic action. Admiral Trenchard's recording of the blood-is-thicker-than-water incident shows that Tattnall was motivated not by an Anglo-American union or agreement to exploit China, but rather the march of the White man and Western civilization. As Trenchard wrote in his diary, Tattnall exclaimed, '''Blood is thicker than water' and that 'He'd be damned if he'd stand by and see white men butchered before his eyes. No sir; old Tattnall isn't that kind, sir. This is the cause of humanity. Is that boat ready? Tell the men there is no need of side-arms. (Quoted in Maclay, "New Light on the 'Blood Is Thicker Than Water' Episode," 1093, 1100. Dennett mentioned the second quote in a footnote, but uses it to explain the nature of the statement about blood and water, rather than why Tattnall aided the British. For Dennett, Tattnall's motivation for action was still Anglo-American cooperation. Dennett, Americans in Eastern Asia, 340f.)
In this context, Tattnall' s comments appear racially motivated. His blood-is-thicker-than-water remark refers not to the Anglo American bond, but the community of white men, which took superior precedence over other races in times of crisis. In this regard Tattnall was not unique. The new minister to China, John Ward, also a Georgia southerner, supported Tattna1l, and President Buchanan, a Democrat whose support came from the south, sustained him. While the prejudices of these American southerners were amplified by such acts, the idea of racial superiority was not confined to southerners or a few individuals. US East Asia policy balanced the ideals of freedom and the contradictions of race. The ideological justification for American involvement in East Asia was to keep the British from colonizing and enslaving populations. Americans talked of the service they would do-and claimed that they did do-for China and Japan by checking British monopoly and imperial expansion; that through US treaties and presence the peoples of East Asia would reap the benefits of civilization on their own terms through free trade and commerce. Such arguments were taken to the most articulate degree by the journals of the two American political parties in 1852, which both argued for the need of opening Japan to the commerce of the world, and the great benefits the Japanese would gain alongside all of humanity. While Britain and Europe served as the scourge of all civilization and the depredation of society and morality, America represented the freedom of man and the naturalness of society-the pure state of humanity. Yet at the same time, Americans subjugated peoples of non European descent and created racial justifications to impose American order and interests upon others whose skin was of a color other than white. Tattnall's famous utterance, therefore, is not, as historians have long held, a declaration of a bond between the US and Britain in East Asia, but rather the expression of the other side of American foreign policy, that of racial subjugation in order to impose a world order in their own image.
Such an expression was very much part of the order Americans built. As we will show, US China and East Asia policy in fact grew out of a conception of a new spatial order of the earth, and was impelled by the rivalry with Great Britain. But it must at the samet time be made clear that the Anglo-American rivalry in East Asia did not facilitate a Sino American friendship. As the Western powers competed amongst themselves for the markets of the East Asia, they did so at the expense of Asian countries, attempting to impose their own terms, distinct from their competitor's, upon China and Japan. For Americans, these were peoples not deserving of the land, resources, or markets they possessed, but must be made to yield them to Americans who, by virtue of their civil and racial superiority, knew what was best. The term "special relationship" is often invoked to explain Sino-US relations in the nineteenth century. The benevolent image of the US promoting amiable relations with China while avoiding hostilities must be replaced with one of the US moving to bring China and all of East Asia into its world order as it attempted to outdo the British in the quest for markets and influence.
The US formulated an East Asia policy in the first half of the nineteenth century, which centered on accessing the China market, and which was motivated by a rivalry with Great Britain not cooperation based on the principle that ''blood is thicker than water." Contrary to standard interpretations, US China policy did not acquiesce to British policy, nor did it follow in the British wake, or evolve solely from growing trade with China. Rather, official US China policy developed in reaction to the threat of British monopolization of East Asian markets. Americans had indeed long held a fascination with the China market, believing that there lay the keys to the riches of world trade, and that America, straddled between Europe and Asia, stood as the doorway to this trade. As trade increased and the American economy grew, China became an important market, but still the US government took no action to establish formal relations. Even at the request of its merchants' and trade officials for involvement and diplomatic representation, the US government stood silent. Not until Britain used military force to press the Chinese government into signing a treaty and open more markets did the US government act. This action was not, however, just a matter of the US taking advantage of an opportunity provided by the British victory. Rather, fearful that Great Britain, their rival for the world's markets, would establish itself in China and completely monopolize Pacific trade, the US government hastily assembled a mission to China to be led by Caleb Cushing, the ardent Anglophobe, to secure similar trade advantages for the United States.
It was under these circumstances that the United States government came to establish an independent China policy that had remained unspoken since the beginnings of the Republic: the penetration of and facilitation of access to the China market, over which the US economy would rise or fall. Americans consistently saw their future as one of expansion westward to the markets of East Asia, where the riches of China could be had and the clutches of the old world discarded. The US government formed its domestic policy around this vision, and moved the nation westward in construction of a natural infrastructure to access this market. When the time came in Washington to enter into formal state-to-state relations, the US did so reluctantly and only under threat of dire economic and political consequences if it remained mute. Here we find the origins of US China policy-not at the turn of the nineteenth century-but born with the Republic and manifest in the Treaty of Wangxia.
Around this China policy grew an entire East Asia policy. In the quest to facilitate greater access to the China market, Americans sought bases, footholds, and outposts in the region. This physical presence would not only provide staging points and rest stations on the way to China, but also allow the US to keep its Western competitors in check. As steam developed, the necessity of coaling stations became a key issue and Americans turned to Japan as the possible source to provide this resource, and the US moved to impose itself upon the secluded nation. In 1854 Commodore Perry successfully negotiated a treaty with Japan, which opened the country to Western interaction and gave the US primacy in the Pacific trade.
These developments cannot be understood as isolated relations with particular states, or even as an insular regional policy. Rather, US East Asia policy was a global agenda of realizing the preconception of a new spatial order of the earth and building the institutions that would put the US at its centre. By capitalizing on the China market the US hoped to not only tap its riches and gain command of the Pacific trade, but also to control the trade of all other nations which anchored their ships in the Asian harbors.
Americans envisioned the movement of goods and communication from Asia, across the Pacific, through the US, and across the Atlantic to the markets of Europe. Such a route would put the wealth of global trade into the economy of America and make New York the financial capital of the world London would be outdone as a new spatial order of the earth emerged. Seen in this light, Caleb Cushing's mission to China was not a minor footnote in US-China relations but the opening shot in the American quest for mastery of the globe. And as we will see, the East Asia policy that followed led directly to the opening of Japan and the shoring up of the Pacific trade, yielding the institutions and the prowess that would build empire in a wholly new image.
213 Alan B. Cole, "Captain David Porter's Proposed Expedition to the Pacific and Japan, 1815," Pacific Historical Review 9 (1940): 65.
214 Quoted in Ibid.: 64.; see also David Foster Long, Nothing Too Daring; a Biography o/Commodore David Porter, 1780-1843 (Annapolis, Md.,: U.S. Naval Institute, 1970), 173.
215 See Long, Nothing Too Daring, 173-174.
216 See Ibid., 174.
217 Dennett, Americans in Eastern Asia, 245-246.
218 Livingstong to Roberts, Oct. 28, 1832, Senate Executive Documents 59:32-1 p. 63
219 Quoted in George Alexander Lensen, The Russian Push toward Japan; Russo-Japanese Relations, 1697-1875 (princeton, N.J.,: Princeton University Press, 1959),311.
220 See page 59 above.
221 House Document 138:28-2.
222 Cushing to Tyler, Dee 27, 1842, Caleb Cushing Papers. box 35.
223 Calhoun to Cushing, Aug IS, 1844, John C. Calhoun, The Papers of John C. Calhoun, ed. Robert Lee Meriwether, William Edwin Hemphill. and Clyde Norman Wilson (Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1959), v. 19, p. 589.
224 Extension of American Commerce-Proposed Mission to Japan and Corea, Feb 15, 1845, House Document 138:28-2, p. 1,2.
225 Buchanan to Everett, Apr 15, 1845, James Buchanan and John Bassett Moore, The Works of James Buchanan, Comprising His Speeches, State Papers, and Private Correspondence (philadelphia, London: 1. B. Lippincott company, 1908), v. 6,p.145.
226 Bancroft to Biddle, May 22,1845, Senate Executive Document 59:32-1, p. 64.
227 See Merrill Bartlett, "Commodore James Biddle and the First Naval Mission to Japan, 1845-1846," American Neptune 41, no. 1 (1981).
228 S. Ex. Doc. 59:32-1, p. 6-57
229 Glynn to Howland and Aspinwall, Feb. 24, 1851, S. Ex. Doc. 59:32-1, p. 57-58, 62.
230 "Japan," The Farmers' Cabinet, April 26, 1849, v. 47, n. 36, p. 1.
231 "Japan," Christian Advocate and Journal, Oct 4, 1849, p. 157. 232 "Japan," The Semi-Weekly Eagle, Jan 14, 1850, v. 3, n. 45, p. l.
233 See for example The Farmers' Cabinet. Nov 19, 1851, v. SO, n. IS, p. 2; The Farmers' Cabinet, Oct IS, 1851, v. SO, n. 10, p. 1.
Reference to British papers and quote in "Commercial Mission to
Japan," Littell's Living Age, v. 25, April, May, June, 1850, p. 550.
m "Commercial Mission to Japan," United Service Magazine, reprinted in "Commercial Mission to Japan," Littell's Living Age. v. 25, April, May, June, 1850, p. 548-9, 555:2.
236 Ibid., 552-3, 554: 1.
237 Ibid., 555:1-2.
238 "Embassy to Japan." Albion. Jul20, 1850, v. 9, n. 29, p. 340:2.
239 Ibid., 340:3.
240 Peny, Hawks, and Wallach, Narrative, 43-44.
241 See Beasley, Great Britain and the Opening of Japan, 57, 59, 70, 196.
242 See Pelcovits, Old China Hands and the Foreign OjJke.
243 See Beasley, Great Britain and the Opening of Japan, 89-93. According to Beasley's analysis, however, the British welcomed American attempts to open Japan to international commerce out of the understanding that it would, in the end, be beneficial to British commercial interests.
244 Perry, Hawks, and Wallach, Narrative, 62.
245 Ibid., 45.
246 See Lensen, The Russian Push toward Japan.
247 Matthew Calbraith Perry and Roger Pineau, The Japan Expedition. 1852-1854; the Personal Journal of Commodore Matthew C. Perry (Washington,: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1968), 138.
248 Perry, Hawks, and WalJach, Narrative, 303.
249 See LenseD, The Russian Push toward Japan, 337.
250 Webster to Graham, May 9,1851, William A. Graham, Papers, ed. Joseph Gregoire de Roulhac Hamilton (Raleigh: State Dept. of Archives and History, 1957), v. 4, p. 90-91, Webster, The Papers of Daniel Webster: Diplomatic Papers V. 2, 288.
251 Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan, May 10, 1851, Webster, The Papers of Daniel Webster: Diplomatic Papers V. 2,289-292.; S. Ex. Doc. 59:32-1, p. 82; S. Ex. Doc. 34:33-2, serial 751, p. 9-11.
252 Webster to Aulick, June 10, 1851, Ibid.; S. Ex. Doc. 59:32-1, p. 80-81.
253 Glynn to Fillmore, June 10, 1851, S. Ex. Doc. 59:32-1, p. 75.
254 Perry to Graham, Jan. 1851, Graham, Papers, v. 4, p.16. Perry never diwlged what was the ''real object," but we may deduce nom his push for a steam navy and his later writings on Pacific geography and strategy that Perry was plugged into the broad goals of US position in the world.
255 Perry to Graham, Jan. 1851, Ibid., v. 4, p.19, 17.
256 Perry to Graham, Jan. 1851, Ibid., v. 4, p. 20.
257 Glynn to Howland and Aspinwall, Feb. 24,1851, S. Ex. Doc. 59:32-1, p. 62.
258 Palmer to Fillmore, Jan 6,1851, Palmer, Documents and Facts, 19.
259 It is interesting to note that Webster, the individual assigned key agency by historians, died before the expedition sailed. His ill health and then death did nothing to derail preparation and execution.