ERIC Number: EJ702234
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Mar-1
Reference Count: N/A
Letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor of Japan: The President's Letter Opened a Closed Country to the West
Pinkert, Marvin; Potter, Lee Ann
Social Education, v68 n2 p134 Mar 2004
In 1852, Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy sailed to Japan with instructions to deliver a letter from President Millard Fillmore to the Emperor. The letter eventually led to the 1854 Treaty of Kanagawa and the opening of Japan to trade with Western nations. The State Department's letter book copy of the letter is featured in this article. (A letter book is a bound book containing copies of official letters.) Note: The document featured in this article comes from the records of the Department of State, Record Group 46, and is in the holdings of the National Archives. The original letter that was received by the Emperor burned in a fire in Japan in 1858. Since the early 1600s, Japan had maintained a policy of sakoku or "closed country." The Tokugawa Shogun's government had prohibited virtually all travel abroad and trade with foreign nations (with the exception of a small Dutch enclave maintained on the island of Deshima near Nagasaki). The purpose of the policy was to put an end to what the Shogunate perceived as missionary interference and the potential corrupting influence of contact with foreigners, especially Western "barbarians." The full title of the Shogun means "barbarian-subduing general," and the power to stop Westerners from violating Japan's seclusion policy was seen as a measure of the Shogunate's right to hold power. As a part of "Teaching with Documents", this article provides a list of suggested teaching activities, opportunities for more in-depth independent research, a mapping exercise, chronology of the mission to open Japan to the West, and a list of suggested readings for students who wish to further expand their knowledge of this subject matter.
Descriptors: Foreign Countries, Presidents, Archives, United States History, Political Power, World Affairs, Social Studies, Class Activities, International Trade
National Science Teachers Association, 1840 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA 22201-3000. Web site: http://www.nsta.org.
Publication Type: Guides - Classroom - Teacher; Historical Materials; Journal Articles
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Japan