Commission Number 1

Irish_Stamp_John_Barry

Born on this day in 1745 in Tacumshane, County Wexford, Ireland.  John Barry was the son of a poor tenant farmer.  He was raised on stories of the butchery of the Irish by the English under Cromwell.   Evicted by their English landlord they went to live in Rosslare with an uncle who owned a fishing skiff.  Barry carried a hatred of the British with him for the rest of his life.

Barry signed up as a cabin boy and worked his way up through the ranks and across the Atlantic to the American Colonies.  He was a successful merchant captain sailing between Philadelphia and the Caribbean.  He commanded many ships including the Barbados, the Patty and Polly, the Industry, the Page and the Black Prince.

He lost his brother Patrick “lost at sea on a French frigate the limey’s sunk.”  His hatred of the British deepened further.

In 1776, prior to the declaration of Independence, he was awarded a commission in the Continental Navy by John Hancock.  He went on to command the Delaware, the Lexington, the Raleigh and the Alliance.

So successful was Barry that the British offered him the huge sum of £100,000 and command of any Royal Navy Frigate if he would defect.  Captain Barry responded that not all the money in the British treasury or command of its entire fleet could tempt him to desert his adopted country

After the war, in 1797 Barry was issued Commission No.1 in the US Navy by George Washington and became thereafter “Commodore Barry” and “Father of the American Navy”.

In placing Barry at the head of the Navy I have special trust and confidence in [his] patriotism, valor, fidelity and abilities” President George Washington

 

 

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