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The securing of a long new coast line on the Pacific through the successful termination of the War with Mexico increased by leaps and bounds the desire to open the ports of Japan to American trade. In this undertaking, it fell to the lot of Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry to succeed where others, not so carefully prepared and so well equipped, had completely failed in awakening the Japanese to the advantages to be gained by cultivating commercial relations with the United States. In the successful expedition, it was Buchanan's good fortune to be prominently associated with Perry, with whom he had served with distinction during the late war with the Mexicans.
On January 24, 1852, Perry received his formal orders to command what was called the East India Squadron. On the same day, Secretary of the Navy John Pendleton Kennedy ordered Buchanan to be ready to command the steam frigate Susquehanna of 9 guns, and about one week later Perry wrote Buchanan of his plans and of his expectation of embarking by the first of April. "In selecting your officers", he wrote, "pray be careful in choosing them of a subordinate and gentlemanlike character. We shall be obliged to govern in p127 some measure, as McKeever says, by moral suasion".1 This was a reference to the fact that flogging had recently been abolished in the navy; indeed, Perry's fleet in this expedition was the first to be governed without the lash.
Courtesy of Navy Department, Naval Records and Library
Perry was entirely too optimistic as to his date of embarking on the expedition, for many months were to elapse before this event; he however used the time wisely in making most careful preparations and in acquainting himself thoroughly with the history and customs of the Japanese. As it happened, Buchanan was the first to depart for the Orient. The Susquehanna was already in Eastern waters under command of Commodore John H. Aulick, and at first Buchanan was ordered on March 29 to go out as a passenger on the steam frigate Mississippi, of 10 guns, to join the Susquehanna. But these orders were changed, owing to the delay in the sailing of the Mississippi, and Buchanan was finally ordered on July 10 to proceed by a direct route to Hong Kong. Here he assumed command of the Susquehanna on November 10, the ship remaining the flagship of Captain Aulick's squadron.
The following excerpts from "Regulations for the Internal Government of the U. S. Steam Frigate Susquehanna", bearing the date of November 25, 1852, show very clearly Buchanan's interest in the welfare of his men and officers, particularly the midshipmen:
"No p128 officer is to remain absent from the ship after 10 o'clock P.M. except by my permission. . . . No person is to be put in irons but by my orders, or by the Commanding Officer for the time on board, and when any person is placed in confinement, immediate information is to be given to me, or such Commanding Officer. . . . Quarreling, drunkenness, and disrespect to a superior will always be severely punished. . . . The midshipmen are to be particularly attentive while on watch, and endeavor to gain every possible information in the practical part of their profession. They are particularly forbidden to punish in any manner, or abuse the men. They must endeavor to make themselves acquainted with the names of the men, in order that they may always be able to call them by their proper names. No midshipman must ever leave the deck at the expiration of his watch, until the midshipmen of the succeeding watch are on deck, without permission of the lieutenant of the watch. By the present regulations of the Navy, a midshipman before he can be regularly promoted to the rank of a lieutenant must be acquainted with the manner of rigging and stowing a ship, the management of artillery at sea, arithmetic, geometry, trigonometry, and navigation. He must also know how to make astronomical observations and calculations for nautical purposes and pass an examination on all these subjects, and also on steam engine, before a board of naval officers, by whom the morals and general character of the candidate will be inquired into. It is therefore expected that they will furnish themselves with the necessary instruments and books, and improve every leisure moment in the acquisition of a knowledge of their profession and general improvement. Having devoted p129 themselves to a service which will, perhaps, be permanent as the nation, and increase with its growth and resources, it is confidently hoped that the young gentlemen of this ship will studiously endeavor to acquire such information and to maintain such a character as will not only enable them hereafter to preserve, but to increase the high reputation of the American Navy. By carefully avoiding the first and every step towards intemperance, shunning the society of the dissolute and idle, and zealously devoting themselves to the acquirement of practical skill and professional and general information, they can alone render themselves capable of occupying with honor the high stations in the service to which all aspire, and many of them are probably destined. Such permission will be given them to go on shore as their good conduct may deserve, and every indulgence consistent with the good of the service will be granted to those who may merit it, and it will be painful to me to make exception for misconduct. They are required when at sea to send to the Cabin daily the result of their day's work, and will keep their journals written up, to be inspected by me every Sunday at 10 A.M. They are also to keep correct copies of the Quarter, Watch, Hammock, and Station Bills. They are never to be absent from the ship after sundown without permission from me. . . . As the Regulations of the Naval Academy prohibit midshipmen and acting midshipmen from chewing and smoking tobacco, I direct that those regulations be conformed to in this ship."
On December 19 the Susquehanna sailed for Amoy by way of Macao, and thence to Manila, where the vessel remained for a month. The ship then returned to Chinese waters, where Captain Aulick relinquished the p130 command of the squadron at Hong Kong and returned to the United States.
At Hong Kong, Buchanan invited Bayard Taylor, then a traveling journalist, to take passage on his ship to Canton, and thence on an official voyage to North China, in company with United States Commissioner Humphrey Marshall and his suite, in an effort to protect American interests in the zone threatened by the Taiping Rebellion. The ship sailed on March 26, 1853 and proceeded along the coast of China to the mouth of the Yangtze-kiang River and up that stream to the mouth of the Woosung, where the American consuls to Canton and Shanghai were taken on board. Thence the ship proceeded up the Woosung to Shanghai where the Commissioner joined the vessel. Here there were many merchant ships, and both English and French men-of‑war. On April 1, under orders from the American Commissioner, the Susquehanna set out for Nanking. She retraced her course down the Woosung to the Yangtze-kiang and thence up that great river. •Fifteen miles up stream the ship went aground on a shoal through the incompetence or treachery of the Chinese pilot. After great exertions Buchanan got the vessel afloat again, but he decided not to attempt to proceed further up the river because of the unreliability of the Chinese charts and pilots. Thus came to an end the attempted expedition to Nanking. "We found in Captain Buchanan", wrote Taylor,2 "the commander, all that his reputation as a gentleman and a brave and gallant officer, led us to anticipate. . . . Under such auspices, our voyage up p131 the coast of China was one of the most agreeable I ever made". On the return to Shanghai, there was a round of festivities, though there was some fear of an expected approach of the rebels who were mistakenly believed already to have occupied Nanking. The only unusual occurrence, however, was an earthquake on the evening of April 14 which gave the city a severe shaking, Buchanan with several gentlemen at the time just leaving the French consulate where they had been entertained at dinner.
At last, on November 24, 1852, Commodore Perry with his Flag Captain Henry A. Adams sailed from Norfolk on the Mississippi, under command of Sidney Smith Lee. He had proceeded down the Chesapeake from Baltimore by way of Annapolis where a grand farewell reception was held on the flagship in honor of President Fillmore, Secretary Kennedy, and other distinguished persons. The Mississippi, sailing by way of Madeira, St. Helena, Cape Town, Mauritius, Ceylon, and Singapore, arrived at Hong Kong on April 6 following, where she joined the sloop Plymouth, Commander John Kelly, the sloop Saratoga, Commander William S. Walker, and the storeship Supply, Lieutenant Commander Arthur Sinclair. On May 4th, the Mississippi proceeded to Shanghai, where Perry transferred his flag to the Susquehanna on the 9th of May.
These two vessels, May 17th, departed for the Lew Chew Islands, leaving the Plymouth at Shanghai to protect the interests of American merchants from the disturbances incident to the rebellion, and the Saratoga at Macao (Canton) to await the arrival of an American missionary, Dr. Wells Williams, who was to serve as interpreter for Perry. On May 26, the Susquehanna p132 and the Mississippi, accompanied by the storeship Supply, entered the harbor of Napha, Great Lew Chew Island. About the same time, the Saratoga came in from Macao, and four days later the U. S. transport barque Caprice arrived with coal.
On the 30th of May, Buchanan and Adams received the Regent of the islands on board the Susquehanna with a salute of 3 guns. Just one week later the visit was returned by Perry and his officers at the palace of Shui, which was the capital. A procession was formed, composed of about thirty‑two officers, one hundred twenty‑two seamen and marines, and thirty musicians, Perry himself being carried in a sedan made for the occasion by the ship's carpenter. This proceeded from the landing place to the palace, •some two miles distant. Buchanan, of course, took part in this ceremony, and also occupied a place at the highest table with Perry and Adams at the dinner of twelve courses given in the Regent's palace. These islands were tributary to the Japanese Prince of Satsuma, and though often visited previously by Europeans on the coast, they were first explored in the interior by Perry's expedition.
On June 9 Perry sailed in the Susquehanna with the Saratoga in tow for a visit to the Bonin Islands, •about eight hundred or nine hundred miles south of Japan, in order to determine its availability as a coaling station between China and California. After arriving at the Bonins, an examination was made of the southernmost of the three, Peel Island, and its harbor, Port Lloyd, was found admirably fitted to be a coaling and naval station. Perry then returned to Napha, where he arrived on June 23 and found that the Plymouth had meanwhile joined p133 the squadron, bringing mail from the United States and the news that Shanghai was in no danger of being attacked by the Taiping rebels.
Meanwhile a new Regent of the Lew Chew Islands had come into power, but he also was friendly with the Americans, who gave a dinner in his honor on June 28 on the Susquehanna. Buchanan received the Regent and his suite at the gangway and conducted them on a tour of inspection of the ship, and then to the banquet which had been prepared for them in the Commodore's cabin. Here Buchanan assisted Captain Adams and Commodore Perry in entertaining their guests, who did full justice to the food and the French and German wines, Scotch and American whiskey, Madeira and sherry, Holland gin, and sweet maraschino.
Finally, on July 1, 1853, Perry set out for Japan with our vessels, the two steamers Susquehanna and Mississippi, towing the sloops Saratoga and Plymouth. The Supply was left behind and the Caprice was sent to Shanghai. On the Fourth of July, the amateur theatricals which had been prepared as a patriotic celebration for the day had to be dispensed with on account of the extreme sultriness of the weather, but a salute of seventeen guns was fired from each ship and to soothe the disappointment of the sailors an additional ration of grog was served to them and they were excused from the daily muster at general quarters and the exercise of the great guns and small arms. Early on the morning of the 8th, the first view of Japan, Cape Idsu, was had from the masthead of the Susquehanna, which was the leading vessel. The squadron made for the entrance of Yedo Bay and then proceeded toward the city of Uraga, much to the astonishment of the crews of Japanese fishing p134 junks and other craft who were having their first sight of steam vessels in Japanese waters, which they called "The Fire-Vessels of the Western Barbarians". There was a tense excitement on board the American vessels also, as the Commodore had ordered the "decks cleared for action, the guns placed in position and shotted, the ammunition arranged, the small arms made ready, sentinels and men at their posts, and in history, all the preparations usually made before meeting an enemy".3 At five o'clock in the afternoon, the squadron came to anchor off Uraga.
Courtesy of Navy Department, Naval Records and Library
Japanese guard-boats came out in large numbers with the evident intention of preventing the foreigners from landing, and of visiting on board. By a show of force, Perry's captains prevented the latter proceeding, receiving on board only the vice-governor of the city who was permitted to come up only with the Commodore's aide, Lieutenant Contee, who informed him that they had come on a friendly mission to deliver a letter from the President of the United States to the Emperor and asked that a day might be appointed for its proper delivery. To the vice-governor's request that the squadron go to Nagasaki where foreign business was negotiated, he was told that the squadron had come to Uraga because it was near the capital and that the Commodore would not go to Nagasaki.
"When night came on", according to the narrative,4 "the presence of the ships in their waters was evidently keeping up a very lively apprehension on the part of the Japanese on shore. Beacon fires were lighted upon every p135 hilltop, and along the shores on either side as far as the eye could reach, and during the whole night the watchers on deck could hear the tolling of a great bell which was at first supposed to be that of a temple, but was probably an alarum or signal of some kind". During this eventful night, an extraordinarily bright meteor was seen from midnight until four in the morning. "The ancients", declared Commodore Perry, "would have construed this remarkable appearance of the heavens as a favorable omen for any enterprise they had undertaken. . . . It may be so construed by us, as we pray God that our present attempt to bring a singular and isolated people into the family of civilized nations may succeed without resort to bloodshed".5
Early the next morning the Governor of Uraga was permitted to come on board and be received by Commanders Buchanan and Adams and Lieutenant Contee, the result of the conference being that he was made to understand that the Commodore was determined to deliver the President's letter (which he was permitted to see) to a person of suitable rank, even if he had to land by force and deliver it in person, whatever the consequences might be. The Governor then agreed to come up with Yedo and bring an answer within three days. Meanwhile the boats of the squadron took soundings ten or twelve miles above the anchorage as well as close in shore. On Sunday, July 10th, divine service was held on board the ships and no visitors were allowed on board. During this day there was great activity of soldiers on shore, marching from one fort to another. These forts, through the telescope, appeared to be of no great strength, and some of them seemed to consist p136 merely of a false battery of black canvas. Bayard Taylor wrote that "it was amusing to hear some of our old quarter-masters now and then gravely report to Captain Buchanan: 'Another dungaree fort thrown up, sir!' "6
On the day appointed for the reply, the Governor of Uraga came on board the Susquehanna, and after a long conference in the morning and another in the afternoon, with Buchanan, Adams, and Contee, arrangements were finally made for the delivery of the President's letter and Perry's credentials to properly accredited representatives of the Emperor. Buchanan played an important part in these conferences, which were tedious and long-winded, as the following excerpts will show:
Captain Buchanan. Captain Adams and I have just had a conversation with the Admiral. He says that, since you appear to have wholly misunderstood the matter about the letter, if you can show proof that an officer of the proper rank is appointed to receive them, he will waive the matter in dispute, and deliver the original at the same time with the copies. But he requires strict evidence that the officer who shall meet him shall be of the necessary rank, and that he has been specially appointed for the purpose by the Emperor.
Yezaiman (The Governor). Nagasaki is the proper place to receive letters from foreign nations, and because Uraga is not an appropriate place, the officer will not be allowed to converse, but only to receive the letters.
Capt. B. He is only desired to receive the letters. Will he come on board, or will the letters be delivered on shore?
Yezaiman. He will not come on board, but will receive them on shore.
p137 Capt. B. Before the letters are delivered, the credentials of the officer must be translated into Dutch, signed with the proper signatures, and sent on board to the Admiral.
Yezaiman. He will be accredited to receive the letters, but cannot speak. . . .
Capt. B. That is all that is necessary.
Yezaiman. The high officer will be here the day after to‑morrow to receive the letters on shore.
Capt. B. At what hour?
Yezaiman. At eight o'clock in the morning. As soon as we see the flag hoisted we will come on board the ship.
Capt. B. Will the high officer bring the copy of the letter empowering him to act, properly certified?
Yezaiman. He will bring it. "7
And so hour after hour the conference went on through interpreters until all details were finally arranged satisfactorily. On the morning of July 14, the landing was made near the village of Kurihama. About three hundred fifty officers, seamen, and marines were selected from the squadron to take part in the ceremony. They were conveyed ashore by fifteen launches and cutters from the ships. Buchanan led the way in his barge, which was flanked on either side by two Japanese boats bearing the Governor and Vice-Governor of Uraga. The remainder of the American boats followed, with the two bands "enlivening the occasion with their music".8 When these boats had reached half way to the shore, the booming of thirteen guns from the Susquehanna announced that Perry was entering his barge. As the leading American boat touched the temporary wharf, built for the occasion, p138 "Captain Buchanan, who commanded the party, sprang ashore, being the first of the Americans who landed in the Kingdom of Japan".9 After the other boats had landed their people, a procession was formed. "The marines led the way, and the sailors following, the Commodore was duly escorted up the beach. The United States flag and the broad pennant were borne by two athletic seamen, who had been selected from the crews of the squadron on account of their stalwart proportions. Two boys, dressed for the ceremony, preceded the Commodore, bearing in an envelope of scarlet cloth the boxes which contained his credentials and the President's letter. These documents, of folio size, were beautifully written on vellum, and not folded, but bound in blue velvet. Each seal, attached by cords of interwoven gold and silk with pendant gold tassels, was encased in a circular box •six inches in diameter and three in depth, wrought of pure gold. Each of the documents together with its seal was placed in a box of rosewood •about a foot long, with lock, hinges, and mountings all of gold. On either side of the Commodore marched a tall well-formed negro, who, armed to the teeth, acted as his personal guard. These blacks, selected for the occasion, were two of the best looking fellows of their color that the squadron could furnish."10
Courtesy of Miss Nannie Buchanan Owen
This was probably the occasion, on which, according to Buchanan, there happened an amusing incident at the expense of Perry. The weather was so hot that the officers hardly saw how they could bear to wear full dress, buttoned to the throat, with chapeau, sword, and all. So Buchanan went to Perry and said, "If all the officers p139 should wear their full dress, trimmed with embroidery and gold lace, minor distinctions of uniform will be unnoticed, and the Japanese will not know which is the high officer; seeing so many, they will think no one is very exalted. But if you wear your full uniform, buttoned up to the throat, and the other officers their undress uniform, leaving their coats unbuttoned, the Japanese will readily see who is the high officer." "That is so!" assented the Commodore, and so it was arranged, to the delight of the junior officers, who pitied, nevertheless, the "high officer" in his full dress coat.11
On arriving at the "House of Reception", especially prepared for the meeting, Commodore Perry was presented to the two representatives of the Emperor, Toda, Prince of Idzu, and Ido, Prince of Iwami, to whom the letters were delivered with fitting ceremony. Commodore Perry and his officers then returned to the ships, the Japanese representatives having been clearly informed that the squadron would return in the spring for an answer to President Fillmore's letter.
On the 17th of July, the squadron departed, and returned to the Lew Chew Islands. The day following their departure, the Saratoga parted company under orders to proceed to Shanghai, and the Plymouth on the way to the islands was ordered to explore the western shores of Oho‑Sima (Oho Island). The steamers soon afterwards ran into a storm which lasted for several days, but on July 25 they arrived in safety at Napha. Having come to an understanding with the authorities as to using this place as a naval base, Perry left the Plymouth here and on August 2 sailed with his steamers for Hong Kong. On the second day out, they met the p140 sloop of war Vandalia, Commander John Pope, which had only recently arrived from the United States. She was ordered to return in company with them to Hong Kong, where the squadron arrived on August 17, a day too late to intercept the steam frigate Powhatan, Captain William J. McCluney, another recent arrival, before she set out for Napha. On the 25th of August, however, this vessel returned to Hong Kong. At the request of the merchants of Canton, the Supply was sent to protect their interests; while the rest of the squadron assembled at the port of Cum‑sing-moon, lying between Hong Kong and Macao. Here they spent several months, the Mississippi, Susquehanna, and Powhatan in turn looking after the shipping at Whampoa.
Commodore Perry, becoming suspicious of the movements and intentions of French and particularly Russian men-of‑war in Chinese waters and being determined that others should not reap what he had diplomatically sowed in Japan, decided not to wait until spring for his return to Yedo Bay, and on January 14, 1854 he departed from Hong Kong for his base in the Lew Chew Islands, in the Susquehanna with the Powhatan and the Mississippi towing the storeships Lexington, Lieutenant Commanding John J. Glasson, and Southampton, Lieutenant Commanding Junius J. Boyle. The Lexington, carrying presents for the Japanese Emperor and high officials, had fortunately just arrived. The Macedonian and Supply, a few days before, had been sent on to join the Vandalia which had been ordered to the islands as a relief. The Plymouth and Saratoga were at Shanghai; but the latter was ordered to bring some presents for the Japanese which had just arrived from Paris by an English mail steamer.
p141 On January 21st, Perry arrived at Napha. Here he visited the Regent on February 3 at Shui, and was royally entertained. The sailing ships Macedonian, Captain Joel Abbot, Vandalia, Lexington, and Southampton were dispatched in advance to Yedo Bay; and on the 7th of February the steamers Susquehanna, Powhatan, and Mississippi got under way. The Supply was ordered to Shanghai for coal and live stock, and thence to proceed to Yedo. The Saratoga was met just outside the harbor and, after transferring the presents and some live stock to the flagship, she sailed under orders for Yedo Bay, which she did not reach, however, until March 4.
The steamers arrived in the Bay on February 12, and found the Macedonian aground and the Vandalia standing by. The Mississippi pulled the grounded vessel into deep water and safety; and the same afternoon the Lexington came in. The next morning the three steamers, towing the three sailing vessels, proceeded to an anchorage •about twelve miles above Uraga and •twenty miles below Yedo, where the Southampton was found to have already arrived.
After spending about a fortnight in negotiating with the Japanese as to a suitable place for a second conference with representatives of the Emperor, a place near Yokohama was at last chosen, after Captains Buchanan and Adams had visited the place and reported favorably on it. On February 18th, Perry transferred his flag to the Powhatan so that the Susquehanna could, on short notice, return to China. Finally, preparations were completed for the conference, and on March 8 an escort of about five hundred officers, seamen, and marines, fully armed, embarked in twenty-seven boats under the command of Buchanan, which formed in line abreast and p142 then proceeded to the shore. When Perry landed, a procession was formed, which followed him and a group of officers to the music of three bands from the squadron. In the "Treaty House", temporarily erected for the purpose, Perry and his officers were received by the five Commissioners of the Emperor.
Perry had returned at a critical time in the history of Japan. "As a matter of fact, Japan was then ruled by the Shogunate (military) who had taken the title of Tai‑kun (Tycoon), meaning Great Prince, which was the equivalent of a title of the Mikado. So the Mikado was left but the shadow of authority and the prestige of antiquity and divinity at Kioto; while the Tycoon held both the purse and the sword at Yedo. But the trend of the times was toward investing the Mikado again with supreme power, and there is no doubt but that the desire of the Tycoon to placate the 'Mikado reverencers', who believed that only the Mikado, restored to ancient authority, could effect improvement in the country, was the prime reason for the friendly attitude finally decided upon towards the Americans".12 During the absence of the squadron, one Tycoon had died, and another now ruled. The councilors of state had debated long over the issues involved in President Fillmore's letter; some had wanted war, but the more progressive party had won. The Japanese had at last decided to give up their ancient policy of seclusion.
Accordingly, a famous preliminary conferences between Perry and the Japanese Commissioners, which extended over a period of three weeks, a treaty was finally signed on the 31st of March, 1854. This treaty p143 was composed of twelve articles, the most important of which provided for "the opening of Simoda and Hakodadi as ports of resort for American vessels to secure wood, water, coal, and other necessities, and as ports of refuge for shipwrecked Americans. American consuls were to have the right to reside at Simoda; whereas, at both of the specified ports, the two countries were to enjoy trade relations with certain minor restrictions".13
During the negotiations presents were exchanged between the contracting parties, though it should be said that the Emperor, or Mikado never saw any of the gifts as they all fell into the hands of the Tycoon. Among the American presents were the following articles: a collection of firearms and swords, a telescope, two telegraphic instruments, clocks, stoves, three lifeboats, a locomotive of one fourth size with tender, passenger car, and rails, four volumes of Audubon's "Birds of America", eight baskets of Irish potatoes and numerous agricultural implements, a cask of wine, several baskets of champagne, a barrel of one hundred ten additional gallons of whiskey, and various other things. Of all the presents, the Japanese were most interested in the locomotive and its cars. It was hardly large enough to carry a child, but the "Japanese were not to be cheated out of a ride and, as they were unable to reduce themselves to the capacity of the inside of the carriage, they betook themselves to the roof. It was a spectacle, not a little ludicrous, to behold a dignified Mandarin whirling around the circular road at the rate of twenty miles an hour, with his loose robes flying in the wind".14 The Japanese gifts consisted of five hundred bushels of rice, p144 three hundred chickens, gold lacquered writing tables and implements, paper boxes and bookcases, some pieces of pongee, crepe, and silk, twenty umbrellas, and thirteen dolls. Perry also entertained the Commissioners and their attendants at dinner on board his flagship, and they did complete justice to the feast, wrapping up and taking home with them, according to their custom, what they could not possibly eat. Under the influence of the wines and liquors, they became exceedingly friendly, some even hilarious, as they toasted the friendship of America and Nippon.
After the signing of the treaty, it was sent to the United States by Commander H. A. Adams in the Saratoga, which sailed on April 4th. The Susquehanna, commanded by Buchanan, had been dispatched, March 24, to be placed at the disposal of the American Commissioner to China, R. M. McLane. Perry's squadron did not leave Japanese waters until June 28, 1854, and sailing by way of the Lew Chew Islands, arrived on July 17 in Chinese waters.
On April 14, Buchanan with Commissioner McLane on board the Susquehanna sailed from Macao for Whampoa, whence he and several of his officers accompanied McLane to Canton on the little steamer Queen. Buchanan then conveyed the Commissioner back to Hong Kong, and from there to Shanghai. Here the Plymouth had remained ever since the squadron had departed on its second visit to Japan. On May 10, Buchanan and McLane left on the chartered steam brig Confucius to visit the ports of Fau‑chau‑fu, Chusan, and Ningpo, and on May 20 rejoined the Susquehanna at Wusung. Two days later, at the request of McLane, Buchanan proceeded up the Yangtze-kiang in the Susquehanna, p145 accompanied by the Confucius to make soundings. The nature and importance of these services were described at length by McLane as follows:15 "These duties required irregular and unusual service, for the officers and crew of the Susquehanna, and whether rendered at sea, or in the navigation of the interior waters of China, it was performed with zeal and ability. Captain Buchanan has advised you doubtless of the movements of the ship and of the particular service performed by the officers and crew in visiting the Treaty Ports on the Coast, and in the reconnaissance, made under my direction, of the Yangtze-kiang. To the report he may have made you on this subject, I wish only to add my personal acknowledgment for the cheerful spirit, and consummate skill with which the latter service was conducted, involving as it did great difficulties in the matter of the navigation of the river, and very delicate relations of the two belligerent parties that occupied different points of it, with their permanent shore batteries and blockading fleet. The reconnaissance was made in the face of these obstacles and without any collision with either, though collision was more than once imminent".
In respect to the latter, Buchanan wrote:" I enclose you copies of a correspondence between the Imperial and Rebel authorities. The communication from the Rebels, or followers of Tai-ping-wang, will give you a pretty good idea of what the world may expect from their religion: a more worthless, degraded set of beings I cannot think exists in the world. During our intercourse with them, we had sufficient opportunities given us to form this opinion". As an example of how Buchanan's patience was tried at Nanking, the following "Mandatory p146 Dispatch" is cited:
Liu and Lo, honored with the meritorious rank of Earthly Magistracy, holding the offices of first and second ministers of state of the second class, promoted two degrees, send this mandatory dispatch to Buchanan of the United States of America, for his full information. Whereas the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Elder Brother have greatly displayed their favor, and personally commanded our sovereign, the Celestial King, to come down and be the peaceful and true sovereign of the world, and have also sent the five kings to be assistants in the Court and strong supports in the establishment of a flourishing government; now, therefore, when this city, the Celestial Capital, has been established and built up by the sovereign authority of the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Elder Brother, it is the very time that all nations should come and pay courtly honors and all the four seas advance to receive instruction. From you, Buchanan, there has been received a public document, in which a desire is expressed to come and see the Eastern King's golden face; but we, the Ministers of State, on reading what is therein contained, find that you have presumed to employ terms, etc. used in correspondence between equals. This is not at all in conformity with what is right.
"Because our Eastern King (may he live nine thousand years) has respectfully received the Celestial Commands to come into the world and to be the assistant of the Celestial Court in drawing together the living souls of all nations; therefore you, who reside on the ocean's borders and are alike imbued with favors, ought to come kneeling and make memorial, thus conforming to the principles of true submission so as to show your sincerity in coming to pay court. But we, the Ministers p147 of State, having examined this communication, have not submitted it to the golden glance of the Eastern King lest we should excite the anger of the golden glance and draw on ourselves no light criminality. Kindly keeping in mind, however, that you are resident on the ocean's borders and have not known the rites and ceremonies of the Celestial Court, indulgence for the past may be granted; but henceforth, as is right, you must conform to the established rules and make respectful memorial."
With a great deal more high-flown language concerning the humble attitude Buchanan should take in approaching their "Celestial King", this remarkable epistle closes with the following:
"If you do indeed respect Heaven and recognize the Sovereign, then our Celestial Court, viewing all under Heaven as one family and uniting all nations as one body, will most assuredly regard your faithful purpose and permit you, year by year, to bring tribute and annually come to pay court so that you may become the ministers and people of the Celestial Kingdom, forever bathing yourselves in the gracious streams of the Celestial Dynasty; peacefully residing in your own lands, and living quietly, enjoy great glory. This is the sincere desire of us, the Great Ministers. Quickly ought you to conform to and not to oppose this Mandatory Dispatch. "16
This was received in reply to a simple request made by Buchanan on May 30 to communicate with the Minister of State and Generalissimo of the Army of Tai-ping-wang. He had made a similar request while the ship was off Ching-Kiang‑fu and with similar results. At this place, however, he exacted an apology from the Chinese when they fired on his ship.
p148 Naturally, Buchanan informed these rebel leaders that the "United States in their intercourse with foreign governments neither pay tribute nor acknowledge any superior pretensions on the part of other nations",17 and very bluntly told them that he and the Commissioner declined to have anything further to do with them at that time, and would on the following day proceed further up the river. Though no foreign ship had ever gone further up stream than Nanking, Buchanan took the Susquehanna •sixty miles above that city to Wu‑hu. The appearance of the vessel at that point created the greatest astonishment among the Chinese, thousands of whom crowded the banks as she passed".18 Buchanan then returned to Shanghai, and thence carried McLane on another tour of the Treaty Ports, finally arriving at Hong Kong on the 12th of August.
Here the Susquehanna remained until the middle of September, when the vessel set forth on her return voyage to the United States. Simoda, one of the newly opened treaty ports of Japan, was reached on September 16, and Honolulu on the 18th of October. Here His Majesty Kameamea III, King of the Sandwich Islands (now called Hawaiian Islands), was received with honors on board, and the day the ship sailed he was permitted to proceed a short distance on the vessel in order that he might see the engines in motion. "He expressed himself much gratified at his reception and all he witnessed", wrote Buchanan.19
In the long voyage from here across the Pacific only pleasant weather was encountered and the ocean seemed p149 to be rightly named. "The ship during her entire passage", wrote Buchanan, "from Hong Kong to San Francisco has sustained her character as an efficient war steamer for active service, notwithstanding the numerous unfounded reports which have been circulated to her injury; her engines have been longer in motion at one period than any other sea steamer known, as I am informed by engineers, having been in constant operation for twenty-four days, the entire passage from Simoda to Honolulu. The ship was eleven days from Honolulu to this port (San Francisco). The few defects in her machinery, and the necessary alterations which should be made to render her still more efficient will be the subject of a communication at the appropriate time".20
The Susquehanna reached San Francisco on November 11, where the following complimentary references to Buchanan appeared in a newspaper: "First voyage of a steamship across the North Pacific. . . . She is commanded by one of the most distinguished officers of our navy — Commander Franklin Buchanan — whose long services have been conspicuous and ever connected with the usefulness and honor of our navy. . . . Her cruise has been prolonged for four years — the times of her crew having expired a year since — yet through the energy of her officers and commander, a degree of contentment and subordination existed on board, highly complimentary to all parties."
After spending two weeks in San Francisco, the Susquehanna continued her voyage, stopping at Acapulco, Mexico, on December 5, and Valparaiso, January 1, 1855, where the ship was painted and coaled. She rounded the Horn in the last of January, but found the p150 weather not extremely bad. The vessel made Rio Janeiro on February 4, and on the 10th of March reached Philadelphia, where the crew was paid off and the long cruise came to an end. Three days later Buchanan was detached with three months' leave, and departed for home and family at "The Rest". Secretary of the Navy Dobbin, in congratulating him on the safe return of his ship, wrote,21 after examining the Susquehanna, "It appears that her efficiency and completeness as a man-of‑war, the efficient condition of her battery, the high state of discipline and the alacrity and expertness displayed by the men in the management of the guns reflect great credit upon the Commander, the officers associated with him, as well as upon the ship's company generally". In this pleasant fashion came to a close Buchanan's participation in an epochal event, the tremendous importance of which was hardly dreamed of by those who played parts in its dramatic scenes.
1 Perry chose his officers largely from among those who had been in his squadron during the Mexican War. In this letter of February 2, 1852 Perry also congratulates Buchanan on a new arrival in his household. "You certainly bid fair", he wrote, "to have a great many grandchildren in the course of time. I already have eight". This was doubtless a reference, though a rather belated one, to the birth of Buchanan's seventh child, a daughter Rose, born August 23, 1850. His last child, Mary Tilghman was not born until November 29, 1852.
2 "A Visit to India, China, and Japan in the Year 1853" by Bayard Taylor, p288. Not long after this Taylor joined Perry's squadron as temporary master's mate, though he resigned September 5, 1853.
12 "Matthew Calbraith Perry" in Famous American Naval Officers, Charles Lee Lewis, pp203, 204.
13 Ibid., 207, 208.
15 In a letter to Perry from Hong Kong, September 2, 1854.
16 Dated, Tuesday, May 30, 1854. Translation by E. C. Bridgman.
17 Also dated May 30.
19 In his report to the Secretary of the Navy from San Francisco, November 11.
21 March 14, 1855.
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