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President Matthew C. Perry

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Matthew C. Perry, 15th US President

10th April, 1794

On this day Matthew Calbraith Perry the fifteenth President of the United States was born in Newport, Rhode Island.

The son of Captain Christopher Perry and Sarah Perry, he was also the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, famous for capturing an entire British squadron at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Commissioned as midshipman in 1809, he launched an illustrious naval career that would last almost half a century, culminating in the opening of Japan.

Commodore Perry returned to the United States in 1855, a national hero who commanded almost universal respect and a remarkable reputation for forceful negotiation. The man of the hour, he was run for office, winning the Presidency in 1856.

The arrival of such a powerful figure in the White House certainly augured well for the country. Because during his single term of office, the disintegration of the Union began to accelerate with frightening speed. Of course the expectation was that Perry would impose a quasi-military solution upon the south just as Andrew Jackson had done so during the Nullification Crisis.

He certainly tried, grasping at solutions that had worked in the past. But it didn't quite work out that way, because the famous gunboat diplomacy which had worked with such success in Tokyo Bay met a rather different response in Charleston Harbor ...

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