U.S. Begins Trade with Japan
FDR creates the CCC
Commodore Perry Opens Trade with Japan
On March 31, 1854, Commodore Matthew Perry signed a peace and trade agreement with Japan.
Following continuing attempts by Europeans to convert the Japanese to Catholicism, Japan cut off nearly all outside contact in 1639. For more than 200 years, Japan permitted trade only with Dutch and Chinese ships bearing special charters.
On July 8, 1853, under the direction of President Millard Fillmore, Commodore Matthew Perry led four steamships into Tokyo Bay to open relations between Japan and the United States. The Japanese were impressed by the giant steamships, which they had never seen before and described as “giant dragons puffing smoke.”
Perry carried with him a letter for the Emperor from President Fillmore, requesting that Americans stranded in Japan be returned home and expressing interest in opening trade between the two nations. He also presented the emperor with a variety of gifts, including a working steam locomotive model, a telegraph, a telescope, and several wines and liquors, all intended to show the Japanese the superiority of American culture and benefits of trade.
The following year, Perry returned on February 13 with 10 ships and 1,600 men. Though the Japanese resisted at first, they allowed him to land at Kanagawa (near present-day Yokohama). The two sides negotiated for several weeks before signing the Convention of Kanagawa on March 31, 1854.
The 12-article treaty established peace between the two nations, opened the Japanese ports of Shimoda and Hakodate, permitted assistance to shipwrecked American sailors (and stated they wouldn’t be imprisoned or mistreated), allowed for a currency exchange, forbid America from using any other Japanese ports, and opened an American consulate in Shimoda. The governments of both nations ratified the treaty nearly a year later, on February 21, 1855. The treaty was significant in that it led to several similar agreements between Japan and other nations.
Also on This Day in History… March 31, 1933
Birth of Civilian Conservation Corps
On March 31, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to decrease unemployment in America.
In the presidential election of 1932, Democratic nominee Franklin D. Roosevelt promised a “new deal” for the “forgotten man.” Reacting to the ineffectiveness of the Hoover administration in meeting people’s needs during the Great Depression, Americans overwhelmingly voted in favor of this promise.
Much of the New Deal legislation was put into effect during President Roosevelt’s first three months in office. To revive business activity, the National Recovery Administration (NRA) was established. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insured bank deposits, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) protected the public from fraudulent stock market practices. In order to alleviate the suffering of the unemployed, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) were created.
Having run a similar, smaller program as governor of New York, Roosevelt knew how the CCC would be run. On March 21, 1933, he address Congress, “I propose to create [the CCC] to be used in complex work, not interfering with abnormal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth.”
The Emergency Conservation Work Act was submitted to Congress the same day and then approved on March 31, 1933. President Roosevelt then issued his executive order on April 5 and appointed the first CCC director.
The CCC employed young men for hard physical labor – planting trees, building dams, fighting forest fires, and in other activities. The Corps campers were given jobs, room and board, and were also enrolled in classes during off hours. More than 40,000 individuals were taught to read and write during this program. The work of the CCC did a great deal to develop and protect the nation’s natural resources. Over two million men served in the CCC before it was disbanded in 1942.
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