The Great Commodore: The Exploits of Matthew Calbraith Perry

The Great Commodore: The Exploits of Matthew Calbraith Perry

The Great Commodore: The Exploits of Matthew Calbraith Perry

The Great Commodore: The Exploits of Matthew Calbraith Perry

Excerpt

The story of Matthew Calbraith Perry has been told once before. But it is one of those restless chronicles that need retelling with every generation, and can never be told the same way twice. Many men have lived lives like that. It is because they had a hand in the first shaping of forces that never desist but go on altering the destinies of nations throughout eternity. Hence their stature is always changing to posterity, and yesterday's picture is never the same as today's.

Scattered over the world still are men who remember the day of Perry's greatest exploits. Possibly there are some who have talked with the man himself. Their version of the events here narrated would have been colored by the small-talk of naval floggings and duels, and the politics of a nation that still held with slavery. But steam-driven iron-clads quickly made antiquarian curiosities out of Perry's naval innovations, and the Civil War cut new political patterns from whole cloth; so that the estimates of his contemporaries had little bearing on the Great Commodore's worth to the generation that followed.

In 1887 the Reverend William E. Griffis undertook to interpret Perry to his generation. He was a missionary of wide repute, and he says that the questions of his students in Japan, where he labored many years, first incited his study of the American sailor whom the Japanese adopted as their national hero. His story therefore is tinged with a moralist's exposition to an essentially fundamentalist audience; again a picture which, however well drawn, hardly shows the Great Commodore's lively relationship to our world of 1935.

The narrative herewith offered is an attempt to portray a wholly remarkable personality, who in an era spiritually as remote from ours as that of the four English Georges, had the energy, the foresight, the drama-feeling and most of all the sheer rough-and-tumble tenacity of will to divine the future of America upon the world's seven seas, and bully his remote generation into preparing the way for ours.

At least, this is offered as a dignified excuse for launching another biographic caravel upon the seas of printer's ink already dubiously crowded. If the reader wishes the real truth, he may have it. Matthew Calbraith Perry's career includes more rip-roaring, two-fisted . . .

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