Chapter 2: Unforeseen Consequences (1842-1867)
Japan at this time was what one could say “Between a rock and a hard place” due to foreign intrusion and the recent greedy interests of Asia from the European and American powers. Because of the increased tension from alien powers, Tokugawa Ieyoshi would issue his advisors to begin to observe these foreign powers. America by the mid 1800's was still young, and beginning its own industrial revolution in the northern states in particular. Hungry for power and for foreign recognition, the United States of America would formally declare war against Mexico in 1845 because they were the only power which stood in the way for America's “Manifest Destiny”. This destiny is what sparked Ieyoshi's interest since America to Ieyoshi represented a small child trying to establish itself among the old powers. Ieyoshi would concentrate his efforts on America first because of their blind aggression and in order to defeat your enemy, one must understand his enemy first.
The Mexican-American War
The United States would launch a two-pronged assault into Mexico using Napoleonic tactics to defeat her enemy. Because of America's recent desire to become industrialized, they would have the upper hand in equipment and manpower which would prove fruitful in this war since its front lines were long and unclear sometimes. The United States would send the bulk of her army to Texas to support the recent uprisings against Mexican rule, and an expeditionary force from the Rocky Mountains to occupy the Colorado River to hamper communications. Mexico would blindingly send most of her army into Oklahoma and be surrounded by the advancing American troops, forcing a premature major engagement.
Aside from a few skirmishes, there would only be one major battle which would be the siege of Monterrey which was the keystone of surrounding the Mexican forces. The American light artillery would prove to be unless in the city due to the stone fortifications. Eventually sheer human wave tactics would overwhelm the valiant Mexican defenders and the city would be in the hands of the American military.
An Artist's Painting of the Battle of Monterrey
The war would drag on for several years after due to each sides refusal to tend to the logistics of such a large front. However, due to America's recent increased aggression, Britain ceded “British Columbia” to quench America's hunger for land. This could also have been due to the fact that Britain was dealing with a massive uprising in India so in consequence, many troops in Canada were diverted to India to quell the recent rebel insurgents, leaving Canada mostly undefended. Eventually the war would end in an American victory, with Mexico ceding mostly all of its northern territories to the United States.
The New Mexican-American Borders
During the war, the United States would launch several ships destined to Japan and the resulting meeting of these two nations would change the course of history forever. Arriving on February 6th, 1850, Japanese commoners would describe seeing “Black Ships” in the coastal waters. The ships would be in Edo Bay and it would be found out soon that Commodore Matthew C. Perry would be the commander of these ships that came from the far away continent of North America.
Commodore Matthew C. Perry's ships entering Edo Bay
The chairman of the senior councilors, Abe Masahiro, met with Tokugawa Ieyoshi to discuss how to deal with the Americans. The Bakufu (The Shogunate in European terms) would be thrown into turmoil at this time, and it would be up to Abe Masahiro to deal with national security though he had no prior experience in this event. Many of the feudal daimyo leaders wanted to go to war with America and likewise, Ieyoshi wanted them out as well, but the senior councilors of which Abe belonged to wanted to compromise with the foreigners.
A Japanese Drawing of the “Black Ships” Docked in Edo Bay
Lacking consensus, Abe decided to compromise by accepting Perry's demands for opening Japan to foreign trade while also making military preparations. Later that year, the Treaty of Peace and Amity (or Treaty of Kanagawa) opened two ports to American ships seeking provisions, guaranteed good treatment to shipwrecked American sailors, and allowed a United States consul to take up residence in Shimoda, a seaport on the Izu Peninsula, southwest of Edo.
The Bakufu was severely damaged by this incident by compromising with the foreigners. Debate over the government policy was unusual and had engendered public criticism of the Bakufu but finally Japan more open to Western thought, though most of the people at that time would have had rather stayed in isolation.
Japan is finally open to the West...
Soon later, Abe then began to strengthen the regime by ordering Dutch warships and armaments from the Netherlands and building new port defenses. In 1855 a naval training school with Dutch instructors was set up at Nagasaki, and a Western-style military school was established at Edo; by the next year, the government was translating Western books. This was all done to learn from the West and to use this knowledge to protect themselves from imperialism such as what Britain did to China in the previous decade. The United States had forced Japan break their isolation and now, a nation that was over one hundred years behind in technology, was beginning to learn what it was capable of. Though rewards would be great at the end of modernization, the road getting there would be one soaked in blood and Japan would soon face one of the greatest crises any nation dreaded: Civil War.