Gunboat Diplomacy

Roosevelt

On July 8th 1853 Commodore Matthew Perry arrived in Edo bay (now Tokyo) with a flotilla of ships.  He had the ships sail past the nearby town and fire blanks “in celebration of US Independence day”.

He ordered his ships boats to commence survey operations.

He refused requests by the Japanese to proceed to Nagasaki, the only Japanese port open to Europeans.

He insisted on delivering a letter of introduction to treat, with a white flag, a symbol of intent to destroy any armed resistance.

In the face of such overwhelming firepower the Japanese had little option but to treat with the Americans.  The incident ended 200 years of medieval Japanese isolation and led to the rapid industrialisation of Japan.

It is a perfect example of gunboat diplomacy, negotiating in a “friendly” manner under the guns of your ships.

It came with the threat of a waning moon
And the wail of an ebbing tide,
But many a woman has lived for less,
And many a man has died;
For life upon life took hold and passed,
Strong in a fate set free,
Out of the deep into the dark
On for the years to be.

Between the gloom of a waning moon
And the song of an ebbing tide,
Chance upon chance of love and death
Took wing for the world so wide.
O, leaf out of leaf is the way of the land,
Wave out of wave of the sea
And who shall reckon what lives may live
In the life that we bade to be?

William Ernest Henley

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