March 31 - 1854 - The Convention of Kanagawa
United States President Millard Fillmore sent Commodore Matthew Perry and a fleet away from Norfolk in late 1852 to try and force the opening of Japanese ports to American trade. It was a bold move, as America was not quite a world power and Japan had been rigidly isolated from the rest of the world since 1600. Despite that, when Perry showed up in Edo Bay in 1853, the Japanese government knew something needed to be done regarding Perry and his large ships with impressive guns. Problematically, who exactly was in charge of the Japanese government was unclear, as the ruling Tokugawa Shogun was extremely ill and his son and heir was severely debilitated. Therefore, the highest councilor, Abe Masahiro, decided to deal with Perry. Perry remarkably said he wanted trade opened to US ships, but that he would come back in a year for their final answer. Perry actually showed back up in six months, and forced Japanese officials to agree to his terms in what became known as the Convention of Kanagawa. Within a year and a half, Britain, France, and Russia had negotiated similar deals and the Tokugawa shogunate was beginning to fall apart.