In 1794, on this day Matthew Calbraith Perry the fifteenth President of the United States was born in Newport, Rhode Island.
Matthew C. Perry
15th US PresidentThe son of Captain Christopher Perry and Sarah Perry, he was also the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, famous for capturing an entire British squadron at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812. Commissioned as midshipman in 1809, he launched an illustrious naval career that would last almost half a century, culminating in the opening of Japan.
Commodore Perry returned to the United States in 1855, a national hero who commanded almost universal respect and a remarkable reputation for forceful negotiation. The man of the hour, he was ran for office, winning the Presidency in 1856.
The arrival of such a powerful figure in the White House certainly augured well for the country. Because during his single term of office, the disintegration of the Union began to accelerate with frightening speed. Of course the expectation was that Perry would impose a quasi-military solution upon the south just as Andrew Jackson had done so during the Nullification Crisis.
He certainly tried, grasping at solutions that had worked in the past. But it didn't quite work out that way, because the famous gunboat diplomacy which had worked with such success in Tokyo Bay met a rather different response in Charleston Harbour.
In 1860, on this day the thirty-sixth United States Congress voted to impeach President Matthew C. Perry for ordering the US Navy to force open Charleston Harbor thereby exceeding the authority of Commander-in Chief as defined by Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution.
President Perry ImpeachedThe escalating crisis in government had been precipitated by the abolitionist seizure of Fort Sumter. A catastrophic loss of trade forced the South Carolina Militia to launch an attack on John Brown's raiders, but the possibility of Federal Property being occupied was too much for Perry who decided to pre-empt. However the US Navy refused to execute the order, considering the retired Commodore quite insane to consider that the gunboat tactics of Tokyo Bay would translate into a resolution in Charleston Harbour.
Indeed such a clumsy attempt at coercion would have been tantamount to a declaration of war, a power reserved to the US Congress. This point was forceably expressed by the former lawyer turned Whig Congressman Abraham Lincoln (pictured) who argued that "they [the framers at Philadelphia] so frame[d] the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bring this oppression upon us".
In 1859, on this day a group of raiders led by the Northern abolitionist John Brown seized the coastal fortification located in Charleston Harbor sending the Federal soldiers away in small boats.
Siege of Fort SumterWith merchant shipping diverting to safer ports, the immediate lost of commerce forced the South Carolina Militia to launch a strike on Federal Property that would be viewed as an Act of War by US President Matthew C. Perry.
In fact the complete surprise achieved by the raiders was due to Allan Pinkerton's tight control of operational security. Brought into Brown's confidence as security enforcer, he had soon discovered that the original plan to seize the arsenal at Harper's Ferry had been compromised such that it was unlikely they would achieve their goal of arming freemen and slaves to create a general servile insurrection.
© Today in Alternate History, 2013-. All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.