July 8, 1853: Perry anchors U.S. ships in Edo Bay, the beginning of American Imperialism 161 years ago

July 7, 2014

History item:  On July 8,1853 four black ships led by USS Powhatan and commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry, anchored at Edo (Tokyo) Bay. Never before had the Japanese seen ships steaming with smoke. They thought the ships were “giant dragons puffing smoke.” They did not know that steamboats existed and were shocked by the number and size of the guns on board the ships.

President Millard Fillmore, defying H. L. Mencken’s later, crabby, hoax claim of do-little-government, sent Matthew C. Perry to Japan to open Japan as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors, and as a coaling stop for steamships.  For the previous 200 years, Japan had been closed to all but a few Dutch and Chinese traders.   On July 8, 1853, Perry’s small fleet sailed boldly into restricted waters of Japan and anchored.

Delivering the American presents to the Emperor of Japan, at Yokohama.  Nimitz Museum, Annapolis

Delivering the American presents to the Emperor of Japan, at Yokohama. A. O. P. Nicholson image, 1856 publication, “Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan” – artist not identified (Washington, A. O. P. Nicholson, 1856); Nimitz Museum, Annapolis. A list of the presents can be seen at a link near the end of this post; some of the gifts, such as the model of the steam engine, can be identified in this picture.

After some contretemps, which included Japan’s telling Perry to go to Nagasaki instead (where a military party was probably waiting) and Perry’s shelling a few buildings on shore, the Emperor accepted the letter from President Fillmore.  Perry told the Emperor he would return the following year for an answer.  Perry returned on March 8, 1854, and within a month concluded the Convention of Kanagawa, opening Japan to trade from the west.  Generally unheralded, this may have been one of the more important pieces of U.S. diplomacy in history, especially considering the dramatic rise of Japan as an economic and military power, on the basis of the trade Commodore Perry demanded Japan engage in.

We should make special note of the chain of events over the following 85 or so years, culminating in World War II in the Pacific.  Had Fillmore not sent Perry, had the U.S. not insisted Japan open itself to the world, would there have been an attack on Pearl Harbor, and war in the Pacific?  Alternative histories we’ll never see.  But see the discussion at Salon, in 2014, about this topic (conveniently leaving out Millard Fillmore’s role), “What sparked Japan’s aggression during World War II?”

More:

Documents below the fold 

Steam frigate U.S.S. Susquehanna, Matthew Perry's flagship; the black hull won this small fleet a nickname,

Steam frigate U.S.S. Susquehanna, Matthew Perry’s flagship; the black hull won this small fleet a nickname, “the Black Ships.” Japanese Woodcut, from the University of Indiana

 

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Starry, starry night over Mt. Fuji

June 7, 2014

Time exposure of Mt. Fujiyama in Japan, from the south. Who was the photographer?

Time exposure of Mt. Fuji in Japan, from the south via @SciencePorn  Photo by Prasit Chansareekorn

[Photographer and National Geographic protested use of the photo by “Science Porn;” to see the photo, check it at the National Geographic site, it’s well worth the click.]

As best I’ve determined, the photographer is Prasit Chansareekorn, of Thailand.  Obviously an amazing photographer.  We might also presume the star over the summit is Polaris.

Thai photographer Prasit Chansareekorn

Thai photographer Prasit Chansareekorn

Fujiyama is the single most-visited tourist spot in Japan. (“Fujiyama” translates to “Mt. Fuji.”)  It’s the tallest mountain in Japan, at 3,776 meters (12,380 feet).  In Japanese, there is a special word for a sunrise viewed from the mountain:  Goraiko.  About 200,000 people climb the mountain every year.

It’s an active volcano, though its last eruption was 1707.  Vulcanologists discuss the possibility the mountain is overdue for an eruption.

Who would be in the best spot to get a photo of such an eruption?  What would van Gogh have made of this view?


Remembering VJ Day, the end of World War II – August 15, 1945

August 15, 2013

August 15, the Ides of August, hosted several significant events through the years. In 1945, the Emperor of Japan put his voice on radio to announce Japan would unconditionally surrender to the Allies, ending World War II in the Pacific.  Here is an update of an earlier post I wrote on the day, with a few additions and updates.

August 15, 2013, is the 68th anniversary of “Victory Japan” Day, or VJ Day. On that day Japan announced it would surrender unconditionally.

President Harry Truman warned Japan to surrender, unconditionally, from the Potsdam Conference, in July. Truman warned that the U.S. had a new, horrible weapon. Japan did not accept the invitation to surrender. The announced surrender came nine days after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and six days after a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The actual surrender occurred on September 2, 1945, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Harbor.

Celebrations broke out around the world, wherever U.S. military people were, and especially across the U.S., which had been hunkered down in fighting mode for the previous four years, since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.

I posted some of the key images of the day, earlier (go see), and repost one of my favorites here.

An unnamed U.S. sailor boldly celebrates Japans surrender with an unnamed, passing nurse, in Times Square, New York, August 15, 1945 - Alfred Eisenstadt, Life Magazine

Alfred Eisenstaedt’s iconic photo of the Kiss in Times Square, V-J Day 1945.

More and Resources:


Millard Fillmore’s links to March 8: Hurrah! and R.I.P.

March 8, 2013

I awoke from a particularly hard sleep after a night celebrating ten Cub Scouts’ earning their Arrow of Light awards and advancing into Boy Scout troops, to a missive from Carl Cannon (RealClear Politics) wondering why I’m asleep at the switch.

Millard Fillmore died on March 8, 1874, and he expected to see some note of that here at the Bathtub.  This blog is not the chronicler of all things Millard Fillmore, but can’t we at least get the major dates right?

Carl is right.  Alas, Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub is avocation, and at times like these an avocation that should be far down the list of avocations.

To mark the date, here is a post out of the past that notes two key events on March 8 that Fillmore had a hand in, the second being his death.  Work continues on several fronts, and more may splash out of the tub today, even about Fillmore.  Stay tuned.

Fillmore died on March 8, 1874; exactly 20 years earlier, Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed in Japan, in the process of what may be the greatest and most overlooked legacy of Millard Fillmore’s presidency, the opening of Japan to the world.  Here’s that post:

Commodore Matthew C. Perrys squadron in Japan, 1854 - CSSVirginia.org image

The Black Ships — Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s squadron in Japan, 1854 – CSSVirginia.org image from Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, Boston, May 15, 1852 (also, see BaxleyStamps.com); obviously the drawing was published prior to the expedition’s sailing.

On March 8, 1854, Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed for the second time in Japan, having been sent on a mission a year earlier by President Millard Fillmore.  On this trip, within 30 days he concluded a treaty with Japan which opened Japan to trade with the U.S. (the Convention of Kanagawa), and which began a cascade of events that opened Japan to trade with the world.

Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1852 photograph, Library of Congress via WikiMedia

Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1852 photograph, Library of Congress via WikiMedia

Within 50 years Japan would come to dominate the seas of the the Western Pacific, and would become a major world power.

1854 japanese woodblock print of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Peabody Museum: The characters located across the top read from right to left, A North American Figure and Portrait of Perry. According to the Peabody Essex Museum, this print may be one of the first depictions of westerners in Japanese art, and exaggerates Perrys western features (oblong face, down-turned eyes, bushy brown eyebrows, and large nose).  But compare with photo above, right.  Peabody Museum holding, image from Library of Congress via WikiMedia

1854 japanese woodblock print of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Peabody Museum: “The characters located across the top read from right to left, ‘A North American Figure’ and ‘Portrait of Perry.’ According to the Peabody Essex Museum, ‘this print may be one of the first depictions of westerners in Japanese art, and exaggerates Perry’s western features (oblong face, down-turned eyes, bushy brown eyebrows, and large nose).'” But compare with photo above, right. Peabody Museum holding, image from Library of Congress via WikiMedia

Then, 20 years later, on March 8, 1874, Millard Fillmore died in Buffalo, New York.

The Perry expedition to Japan was the most famous, and perhaps the greatest recognized achievement of Fillmore’s presidency.  Fillmore had started the U.S. on a course of imperialistic exploitation and exploration of the world, with other expeditions of much less success to Africa and South America, according to the story of his death in The New York Times.

The general policy of his Administration was wise and liberal, and he left the country at peace with all the world and enjoying a high degree of prosperity. His Administration was distinguished by the Lopez fillibustering expeditions to Cuba, which were discountenanced by the Government, and by several important expeditions to distant lands. The expedition to Japan under Commodore Perry resulted in a favorable treaty with that country, but that dispatched under Lieut. Lynch, in search of gold in the interior of Africa, failed of its object. Exploring expeditions were also sent to the Chinese seas, and to the Valley of the Amazon.

More:


Millard Fillmore at 212 – boiling mad?

January 7, 2012

Millard Fillmore was born January 7, 1800. Had he lived, Millard Fillmore would be 212 years old today, very cranky, and looking for a good book to read.  Had each year been a degree Fahrenheit, he’d be boiling!

Millard Fillmore clipart from University of South Florida

Millard Fillmore clipart from University of South Florida - Free! Click image to go to USF site.

Would you blame him for being cranky? He opened Japan to trade. He got from Mexico the land necessary to make Los Angeles a great world city and the Southern Pacific a great railroad, without firing a shot. Fillmore promoted economic development of the Mississippi River. He managed to keep a fractious nation together despite itself for another three years. Fillmore let end the practice of presidents using slaves to staff the White House, then called “the President’s Mansion,” eight years before the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Then in 1852 his own party refused to nominate him for a full term, making him the last Whig to be president. And to add insult to ignominy, H. L. Mencken falsely accused him of being known only for adding a bathtub to the White House, something he didn’t do.

As Antony said of Caesar, the good was interred with his bones — but Millard Fillmore doesn’t even get credit for whatever evil he might have done: Fillmore is remembered most for being the butt of a hoax gone awry, committed years after his death. Or worse, he’s misremembered for what the hoax alleged he did.

Even beneficiaries of his help promoting the Mississippi River have taken his name off their annual celebration of the event. Fillmore has been eclipsed, even in mediocrity (is there still a Millard Fillmore Society in Washington?).

Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore, free clipart from University of South Florida

Millard Fillmore, free clipart from University of South Florida

Millard Fillmore was a man of great civic spirit, a man who answered the call to serve even when most others couldn’t hear it at all. He was a successful lawyer, despite having had only six months of formal education (a tribute to non-high school graduates and lifelong learning). Unable to save the Union, he established the University of Buffalo and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. During the Civil War, he led the local militia in support of the war effort, many rungs down from his role of Commander-in-Chief. And, it is said of him that Queen Victoria said he was the most handsome man she had ever met.

A guy like that deserves a toast, don’t you think?

Resources:


Japan and U.S. team up on new topographic map of the world

December 9, 2011

This will strike a note of joy in the heart of every Boy Scout and every orienteer in the world:  The U.S. and Japan have teamed up for new, super-accurate topographic maps.

Here’s the NASA press release:

RELEASE : 11-351

NASA, Japan Release Improved Topographic Map Of Earth

WASHINGTON — NASA and Japan released a significantly improved version of the most complete digital topographic map of Earth on Monday, produced with detailed measurements from NASA’s Terra spacecraft.

The map, known as a global digital elevation model, was created from images collected by the Japanese Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer, or ASTER, instrument aboard Terra. So-called stereo-pair images are produced by merging two slightly offset two-dimensional images to create the three-dimensional effect of depth. The first version of the map was released by NASA and Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in June 2009.

“The ASTER global digital elevation model was already the most complete, consistent global topographic map in the world,” said Woody Turner, ASTER program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With these enhancements, its resolution is in many respects comparable to the U.S. data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), while covering more of the globe.”

The improved version of the map adds 260,000 additional stereo-pair images to improve coverage. It features improved spatial resolution, increased horizontal and vertical accuracy, more realistic coverage over water bodies and the ability to identify lakes as small as 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) in diameter. The map is available online to users everywhere at no cost.

“This updated version of the ASTER global digital elevation model provides civilian users with the highest-resolution global topography data available,” said Mike Abrams, ASTER science team leader at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “These data can be used for a broad range of applications, from planning highways and protecting lands with cultural or environmental significance, to searching for natural resources.”

The ASTER data cover 99 percent of Earth’s landmass and span from 83 degrees north latitude to 83 degrees south. Each elevation measurement point in the data is 98 feet (30 meters) apart.

NASA and METI are jointly contributing the data for the ASTER topographic map to the Group on Earth Observations, an international partnership headquartered at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, for use in its Global Earth Observation System of Systems. This “system of systems” is a collaborative, international effort to share and integrate Earth observation data from many different instruments and systems to help monitor and forecast global environmental changes.

ASTER is one of five instruments launched on Terra in 1999. ASTER acquires images from visible to thermal infrared wavelengths, with spatial resolutions ranging from about 50 to 300 feet (15 to 90 meters). A joint science team from the United States and Japan validates and calibrates the instrument and data products. The U.S. science team is located at JPL.

NASA, METI, Japan’s Earth Remote Sensing Data Analysis Center (ERSDAC), and the U.S. Geological Survey validated the data, with support from the U.S. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and other collaborators. The data are distributed by NASA’s Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., and by ERSDAC in Tokyo.

Users of the new version of the ASTER data products are advised that while improved, the data still contain anomalies and artifacts that will affect its usefulness for certain applications.

Data users can download the ASTER global digital elevation model at:

https://lpdaac.usgs.gov/or

http://www.ersdac.or.jp/GDEM/E/4.html

For more information about NASA’s Terra mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/terra

– end –

New topographical map of Earth from Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) of Japan and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

New topographical map of Earth released October 17, 2011, from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) of Japan and the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

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Radiation dose comparison charts from XKCD

March 20, 2011

No, there’s no humor in this thing — just good, solid information.

XKCD put together a chart that shows in geometric terms how various radiation doses work. With a tip of the pen to Bob Parks, the chart notes that cell phones don’t count here because cell phones don’t put out ionizing radiation, the type that causes cancer, but just radio waves.

The chart won’t be easy to read here — click on the image and go to the XKCD site for a bigger, more readable image:

Radiation Dose Chart from XKCD

Radiation Dose Chart from XKCD

It’s a good, clear graphic in its full size.  Go see.


What’s the radiation level right now?

March 19, 2011

Concerned about radiation from Japan?

It’s highly improbable that dangerous levels of radiation would drift more than a few miles from the damaged nuclear power plants in Japan, but maybe seeing some actual readings might convince people there’s not much to worry about — other than our sympathy for Japan, the Japanese people and especially those workers who have stayed on the site of the power plant to work to secure the reactors so they do not become hazards to the population at large.  Those workers may be exposed to significant, harmful radiation, and they deserve all the thanks you can give them.

Below is a map of the contiguous 48 states of the U.S., showing live readings from about a dozen sampling sites across the nation.  The map should update about every minute (if it doesn’t, and  you want to see updates, click through to the Radiation Network site).

Normal background levels are about 25 to 75; a low-level warning might be given if readings are sustained at 100.  These numbers are Counts Per Minute (CPM), a very crude measure from a Geiger counter showing how many radioactive particles or rays hit the sensor in a minute.  It does not distinguish alpha, beta or gamma, and it may be dependent on the design of the Geiger counter, especially the size of the sensor — differently designed machines give different readings even right next to each other.

So it’s a crude count, but it’s a map of counts.

Radiation Network map of radiation in the U.S.  Read legend, use with caution

Radiation Network map of radiation in the U.S. Read legend, use with caution. Click map to go to Radiation Network site.

Here is legend information for the map:

Legend for Radiation Network map

Sampling station symbols, Radiation Network

Nuclear site, calculated by the Radiation Network

At left is a symbol used on the map to mark “nuclear sites” by the Radiation Network.  Note that a nuclear “site” is not necessarily a nuclear power station.  For example, there are nuclear sites designated near Moab, Utah; there are a couple of ore refining facilities or tailing ponds there, but no nuclear power station.  The map shows a nuclear site in the Texas Panhandle.  There is no nuclear power station there.

Instructions on how to read the map, from RadNet:

How to Read the Map:

Referring to the Map Legend at the bottom left corner of the map, locate Monitoring Stations around the country that are contributing radiation data to this map as you read this, and watch the numbers on those monitoring stations update as frequently as every minute (your browser will automatically refresh).  The numbers represent radiation Counts per Minute, abbreviated CPM, and under normal conditions, quantify the level of background radiation, i.e. environmental radiation from outer space as well as from the earth’s crust and air.  Depending on your location within the US, your elevation or altitude, and your model of Geiger counter, this background radiation level might average anywhere from 5 to 60 CPM, and while background radiation levels are random, it would be unusual for those levels to exceed 100 CPM.  Thus, the “Alert Level” for the National Radiation Map is 100 CPM, so if you see any Monitoring Stations with CPM value above 100, further indicated by an Alert symbol over those stations, it probably means that some radioactive source above and beyond background radiation is responsible.

Notice the Time and Date Stamp at the bottom center of the Map.  That is Arizona Time, from where we service the Network, and your indication of how recently the Radiation Levels have been updated to the Map.

(Please note: Any White circles on the map represent Monitoring Stations that are running Simulations, instead of using a real Geiger counter, so any Alert levels that may occur over those stations are to be ignored since they represent only momentary testing.)

Remember, “alert level” is sustained count above 100. But again, be alert that this is only counts per minute, and may be difficult to translate to an accurate radiation reading.

The Radiation Network is an all volunteer operation, no government funding or other involvement.  In fact, the network is seeking volunteers to get a Geiger counter and hook it up to the internet to provide even more real-time readings.  See “How to Participate in the Nationwide Radiation Network.”

If you’re a denier of global warming/climate change, you should use your usual denial tool, claiming that because radiation at background levels is “normal,” no level of radiation can be harmful.  In fact, if you’d make that claim and volunteer to go staff the crews trying to cool the reactors, the entire world would salute you.

Should you be concerned? MIT’s Technology Review explains that the levels of radiation at the plant site itself are quite low, though higher than normal (article by Courtney Humphries).  The article also explains that radiation levels rapidly drop the farther from the plant one is; while we may be able to detect increases in radiation attributable to the radiation from Fukushima site, it is highly unlikely that radiation will exceed safety standards:

In terms of potential health dangers from radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, “the people who are in the most immediate danger from acute and severe radiation doses are those people who are on site at the moment and who are desperately trying to keep the reactors under control,” says Jacqueline Williams, a radiation oncologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Moving away from the immediate vicinity of the plant, radiation levels drop very rapidly. James Thrall, radiologist-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that radiation levels are inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source: The level at two miles from the source are one-quarter what they are at one mile, and “at 10 miles away, it’s almost an infinitesimal fraction,” he says. Individual exposure also varies widely depending on whether a person is outside or indoors, or shielded with protective clothing. Japanese authorities have evacuated the population living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant, and have warned those living within 30 kilometers to stay indoors. Some experts say that people living beyond this range have no cause for concern at this time. “This has nothing to do with the general population,” McBride says.

The trickier question is whether lower doses of radiation—well below the threshold of acute illness—could lead to long-term health consequences for those in that area. Thrall says that epidemiological studies on survivors of nuclear attacks on Japan have found that those receiving 50 millisieverts or more had a slightly elevated cancer risk—about 5 percent higher than expected—and that risk seemed to rise with higher exposures. But scientists still vigorously debate whether that risk can be extrapolated down to even lower exposures.

After the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the population experienced a surge in thyroid cancers in children. However, scientists found that the culprit was not radiation in the air but radioactive contamination of the ground, which eventually found its way into cow’s milk. Thrall points out that in Japan, this is highly unlikely because the authorities are carefully monitoring the water and food supplies and keeping the public informed, which did not happen at Chernobyl.

More, resources:


Millard Fillmore’s 211th

January 7, 2011

Millard Fillmore was born January 7, 1800. Had he lived, Millard Fillmore would be 211 years old today, very cranky, and looking for a good book to read.

Millard Fillmore clipart from University of South Florida

Millard Fillmore clipart from University of South Florida - Free! Click image to go to USF site.

Would you blame him for being cranky? He opened Japan to trade. He got from Mexico the land necessary to make Los Angeles a great world city and the Southern Pacific a great railroad, without firing a shot. Fillmore promoted economic development of the Mississippi River. He managed to keep a fractious nation together despite itself for another three years. Fillmore let end the practice of presidents using slaves to staff the White House, then called “the President’s Mansion,” eight years before the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Then in 1852 his own party refused to nominate him for a full term, making him the last Whig to be president. And to add insult to ignominy, H. L. Mencken falsely accused him of being known only for adding a bathtub to the White House, something he didn’t do.

As Antony said of Caesar, the good was interred with his bones — but Millard Fillmore doesn’t even get credit for whatever evil he might have done: Fillmore is remembered most for being the butt of a hoax gone awry, committed years after his death. Or worse, he’s misremembered for what the hoax alleged he did.

Even beneficiaries of his help promoting the Mississippi River have taken his name off their annual celebration of the event. Fillmore has been eclipsed, even in mediocrity (is there still a Millard Fillmore Society in Washington?).

Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore, free clipart from University of South Florida

Millard Fillmore, free clipart from University of South Florida

Millard Fillmore was a man of great civic spirit, a man who answered the call to serve even when most others couldn’t hear it at all. He was a successful lawyer, despite having had only six months of formal education (a tribute to non-high school graduates and lifelong learning). Unable to save the Union, he established the University of Buffalo and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.  During the Civil War, he led the local militia in support of the war effort, many rungs down from his role of Commander-in-Chief.  And, it is said of him that Queen Victoria said he was the most handsome man she had ever met.

A guy like that deserves a toast, don’t you think?

Resources:


July 8, 1853: Perry anchors U.S. ships in Edo Bay, the beginning of American Imperialism

July 8, 2010

History item:  On July 8,1853 four black ships led by USS Powhatan and commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry, anchored at Edo (Tokyo) Bay. Never before had the Japanese seen ships steaming with smoke. They thought the ships were “giant dragons puffing smoke.” They did not know that steamboats existed and were shocked by the number and size of the guns on board the ships.

President Millard Fillmore, defying H. L. Mencken’s later, crabby, hoax claim of do-little-government, sent Matthew C. Perry to Japan to open Japan as a refuge for shipwrecked sailors, and as a coaling stop for steamships.  For the previous 200 years, Japan had been closed to all but a few Dutch and Chinese traders.   On July 8, 1853, Perry’s small fleet sailed boldly into restricted waters of Japan and anchored.

Delivering the American presents to the Emperor of Japan, at Yokohama.  Nimitz Museum, Annapolis

Delivering the American presents to the Emperor of Japan, at Yokohama. A. O. P. Nicholson image, 1856 publication, “Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan” – artist not identified (Washington, A. O. P. Nicholson, 1856); Nimitz Museum, Annapolis. A list of the presents can be seen at a link near the end of this post; some of the gifts, such as the model of the steam engine, can be identified in this picture.

Perry told the Emperor he would return the following year for an answer.  Perry returned on March 8, 1854, and within a month concluded the Convention of Kanagawa, opening Japan to trade from the west.  Generally unheralded, this may have been one of the more important pieces of U.S. diplomacy in history, especially considering the dramatic rise of Japan as an economic and military power, on the basis of the trade Commodore Perry demanded Japan engage in.

More:

Japanese woodblock print showing one of Perry's ships - Nagasaki Prefecture, via MIT

Japanese woodblock print showing one of Perry’s ships – Nagasaki Prefecture, via MIT

Documents below the fold

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Happy Birthday, Milly!

January 7, 2010

Millard Fillmore was born January 7, 1800. Had he lived, Millard Fillmore would be 210 years old today, and probably very cranky, and looking for a good book to read.

Millard Fillmore (unknown artist, circa 1840) - National Portrait Gallery

Millard Fillmore (unknown artist, circa 1840) - National Portrait Gallery

Would you blame him for being cranky?  He opened Japan to trade.  He got from Mexico the land necessary to make Los Angeles a great world city and the Southern Pacific a great railroad, without firing a shot.  Fillmore promoted economic development of the Mississippi River.  He managed to keep a fractious nation together despite itself for another three years.  Fillmore let end the practice of presidents using slaves to staff the White House (then called “the President’s Mansion”).

Then in 1852 his own party refused to nominate him for a full term, making him the last Whig to be president.  And to add insult to ignominy, H. L. Mencken falsely accused him of being known only for adding a bathtub to the White House, something he didn’t do.

As Antony said of Caesar, the good was interred with his bones — but Millard Fillmore doesn’t even get credit for whatever evil he might have done:  Fillmore is remembered most for being the butt of a hoax gone awry, committed years after his death.  Or worse, he’s misremembered for what the hoax alleged he did.

Even beneficiaries of his help promoting the Mississippi River have taken his name off their annual celebration of the eventFillmore has been eclipsed, even in mediocrity (is there still a Millard Fillmore Society in Washington?).

Happy birthday, Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore was a man of great civic spirit, a man who answered the call to serve even when most others couldn’t hear it at all.  He was a successful lawyer, despite having had only six months of formal education (a tribute to non-high school graduates and lifelong learning).  Unable to save the Union, he established the University of Buffalo and the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society.  And, it is said of him, that Queen Victoria said he was the most handsome man she had ever met.

A guy like that deserves a toast, don’t you think?

Resources:


Free Bing! Ransom the kid home from Japan

August 13, 2009

Bing still has both his ears -- but look what they did to the ears of the kid in back of him.  Help bring Bing home!

Bing still has both his ears -- but look what they did to the ears of the kid in back of him. Help bring Bing home!

Bing Haubrich has made new friends in Japan, but they want to keep him there. In fact, they have threatened to hold him for ransom unless his American friends and family do two things:

1. Answer questions about Japan/Nippon culture and cuisine.

2. Donate money to help his mother pay the plane fare for his trip.

It’s tempting for a young man to stay in Japan, because so far he has found the food to be awesome and the shopping (even in vending machines) to be, let’s say, “unique.” In fact, the Japanese students think that if he stays long enough he could use his ninja powers to be Emperor someday. I don’t think that this would be a good thing for world peace, as Bing has not worked out his “Megalomania” issues and

So, here is one of the questions that they want you to answer:

15. In World War I, the Japanese:

a. Joined the Axis.
b. Joined the Allies.
c. Maintained a strict neutrality.
d. Considered it a European War.

Do you know the answer?  Quick!  Get over to Tangled Up In Blue Guy, and help bring Bing back!

(Hey, head over there if you don’t know the answer. Maybe you’ll learn something — I did!)


Last use of atomic weapons in war – Nagasaki, Japan, August 9, 1945

August 9, 2009

Nuclear anniversaries have been ignored this year, it seems to me.

Ceremony in Nagasaki marked the remembrance of the victims of the second atomic weapon used in war, which was detonated over Nagasaki on August 9, 1945Agence France Press reports:

Nagasaki’s mayor, marking the 64th anniversary of his city’s atomic bombing by the United States, called on Sunday on the leaders of nuclear-armed powers to visit the site and build a nuclear-free world.

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, map by CNN

Hiroshima and Nagasaki, map by CNN

Tomihisa Tanoue urged world leaders from both declared nuclear powers and others such as Iran, Israel and North Korea to visit the city in southwestern Japan.

“I am sure anyone who visits here would feel the sorrow of the victims and be shaken by it,” the mayor said in an address at an annual ceremony commemorating the 1945 bombing.

A minute of silence was observed at 11:02 am (0202 GMT), when the US bomb exploded above the city, killing roughly 74,000 people. The bombing followed one a week before in Hiroshima and hastened Japan’s surrender in World War II.

Tanoue said an April speech by US President Barack Obama in Prague, where Obama pledged to build a world with no nuclear weapons, “impressed” the residents of Nagasaki.

“The Japanese government must support the Prague speech. As a nation that has come under nuclear attack, Japan must lead the international community” in abolishing the weapons, he said.

Similar appeals were made Thursday when Hiroshima marked the anniversary of its bombing, which killed 140,000 people.

At the Nagasaki ceremony, Prime Minister Taro Aso reiterated the Japanese government’s anti-nuclear stance, three weeks ahead of national elections that he is tipped to lose.

Aso raised eyebrows at the Hiroshima ceremony, when he pledged to work toward abolishing nuclear weapons but later told reporters that he thought it was “unimaginable” to attain a nuclear-free world.

Similar ceremonies, and similar pleas for nuclear non-proliferation marked the August 6 anniversary of the atomic bomb drop on Hiroshima.  The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported:

Some 50,000 people gathered Thursday at the peace park in Hiroshima to mourn the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba delivered a peace declaration, calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons by 2020.

“The hibakusha still suffer a hell that continues,” said Akiba.

“The Japanese government should support hibakusha, including those who were victims of black rain and those who live overseas,” he said.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso delivers a speech in front of the Memorial Cenotaph during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, western Japan on Aug. 6, 2009. Hiroshima on Thursday mourned the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II. (Xinhua/Ren Zhenglai)

"Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso delivers a speech in front of the Memorial Cenotaph during the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima, western Japan on Aug. 6, 2009. Hiroshima on Thursday mourned the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing of the city by U.S. forces during the World War II. (Xinhua/Ren Zhenglai)"

It was reported Wednesday that the Japanese government aims to come to an agreement with all atomic bomb survivors who have sued the government for financial support to help them pay medical bills for illnesses related to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Akiba also said “The year 2020 is important as we want to enter a world without nuclear weapons with as many hibakusha as possible. We call on the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020.”

Referring to the movements such as the environmentalists, Akibasaid, “Global democracy that respects the will of the world and respects the power of the people has begun to grow.”

“We have the power. We have the responsibility. We are the Obamajority. And we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes we can,” said the mayor.

On Wednesday, Akiba urged the people around the world to join the city’s efforts to abolish nuclear weapons in response to U.S. President Barack Obama’ s appeal for a world free of nuclear weapons.

During the 50-minute memorial ceremony, a moment of silence was observed at 8:15 a.m., the time the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima 64 years ago, killing nearly 100,000 people in a blink.

This in a week when two burgeoning new nuclear powers, Iran and North Korea, continue to claim they will flout non-proliferation agreements for their own self defense.

The question obtains on nuclear issues as well as genocides:  When does “never again” start?

Other related posts at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub:


Millard Fillmore and March 8: Hurrah! and R.I.P.

March 8, 2009

Commodore Matthew C. Perrys squadron in Japan, 1854 - CSSVirginia.org image

The Black Ships — Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s squadron in Japan, 1854 – CSSVirginia.org image from Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, Boston, May 15, 1852 (also, see BaxleyStamps.com); obviously the drawing was published prior to the expedition’s sailing.

On March 8, 1854, Commodore Matthew C. Perry landed for the second time in Japan, having been sent on a mission a year earlier by President Millard Fillmore.  On this trip, within 30 days he concluded a treaty with Japan which opened Japan to trade with the U.S. (the Convention of Kanagawa), and which began a cascade of events that opened Japan to trade with the world.

Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1852 photograph, Library of Congress via WikiMedia

Commodore Matthew C. Perry in 1852 photograph, Library of Congress via WikiMedia

Within 50 years Japan would come to dominate the seas of the the Western Pacific, and would become a major world power.

1854 japanese woodblock print of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Peabody Museum: The characters located across the top read from right to left, A North American Figure and Portrait of Perry. According to the Peabody Essex Museum, this print may be one of the first depictions of westerners in Japanese art, and exaggerates Perrys western features (oblong face, down-turned eyes, bushy brown eyebrows, and large nose).  But compare with photo above, right.  Peabody Museum holding, image from Library of Congress via WikiMedia

1854 japanese woodblock print of U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew C. Perry. Peabody Museum: “The characters located across the top read from right to left, ‘A North American Figure’ and ‘Portrait of Perry.’ According to the Peabody Essex Museum, ‘this print may be one of the first depictions of westerners in Japanese art, and exaggerates Perry’s western features (oblong face, down-turned eyes, bushy brown eyebrows, and large nose).'” But compare with photo above, right. Peabody Museum holding, image from Library of Congress via WikiMedia

Then, 20 years later, on March 8, 1874, Millard Fillmore died in Buffalo, New York.

The Perry expedition to Japan was the most famous, and perhaps the greatest recognized achievement of Fillmore’s presidency.  Fillmore had started the U.S. on a course of imperialistic exploitation and exploration of the world, with other expeditions of much less success to Africa and South America, according to the story of his death in The New York Times:

The general policy of his Administration was wise and liberal, and he left the country at peace with all the world and enjoying a high degree of prosperity. His Administration was distinguished by the Lopez fillibustering expeditions to Cuba, which were discountenanced by the Government, and by several important expeditions to distant lands. The expedition to Japan under Commodore Perry resulted in a favorable treaty with that country, but that dispatched under Lieut. Lynch, in search of gold in the interior of Africa, failed of its object. Exploring expeditions were also sent to the Chinese seas, and to the Valley of the Amazon.

Here we are in 2013, 160 years after the end of Millard Fillmore’s presidency, 159 years after Commodore Perry’s success on the mission to Japan Fillmore sent him on, 139 years after Millard Fillmore’s death, and not yet have we come to grips with Fillmore’s real legacy in U.S. history. Most of that legacy, we don’t even acknowledge in public. Santayana’s Ghost paces nervously.


VJ Day, the end of World War II – August 15, 1945

August 15, 2008

Today is the 63rd anniversary of “Victory Japan” Day, or VJ Day. On that day Japan announced it would surrender unconditionally.

President Harry Truman warned Japan to surrender, unconditionally, from the Potsdam Conference, in July. Truman warned that the U.S. had a new, horrible weapon. Japan did not accept the invitation to surrender. The announced surrender came nine days after the U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and six days after a second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. The actual surrender occurred on September 2, 1945, aboard the battleship U.S.S. Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Harbor.

Celebrations broke out around the world, wherever U.S. military people were, and especially across the U.S., which had been hunkered down in fighting mode for the previous four years, since the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7, 1941.

I posted some of the key images of the day a year ago (go see), and repost one of my favorites here.

An unnamed U.S. sailor boldly celebrates Japans surrender with an unnamed, passing nurse, in Times Square, New York, August 15, 1945 - Alfred Eisenstadt, Life Magazine

Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic photo of the Kiss in Times Square, V-J Day 1945.

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