- PERRY, Matthew Calbraith, naval officer, was born in Newport, R.I., April 10, 1794; son of Christopher Raymond and Sarah (Alexander) Perry.
He was warranted a midshipman in the U.S. navy through the influence of his father, and joined the schooner Revenge in January, 1809. He was transferred to the frigate President under Captain Rodgers, in 1810; ordered to the frigate United States in 1813; commissioned lieutenant, July 24, 1818; returned to the President under Commodore Decatur in April, 1814, and the same year transferred to the Chippewa. He served at the Brooklyn navy yard, 1814-19; was executive officer on the U.S. ship Cyane under Captain Trenchard, and sailed for the coast of Africa to aid the Colonization society in its efforts to found, on the island of Shebro, a free negro colony, which, owing to the unhealthfulness of the location, was transferred to Liberia. He was appointed to the command of the schooner Shark in 1821, and engaged in the war against the West Indian pirates, 1822-23. He was promoted lieutenant-commander in 1822; was executive officer of the North Carolina, under Commodore Rodgers, and cruised in the Mediterranean. He was commissioned commander, March 21, 1826, and until 1830 was on recruiting service at Boston, Mass., where he founded the first naval apprenticeship system in the United States. In 1830 he was in command of the corvette Concord; conveyed John Randolph to St. Petersburg as U.S. minister to Russia, this being the first American man-of-war to enter Russian waters, and he was offered, but declined, a high rank in the Russian service. He was promoted master commandant, Jan. 7, 1833; was detailed at the Brooklyn navy yard, and during this service superintended the school of gun practice at Sandy Hook; organized the Brooklyn Naval lyceum; assisted in founding the Naval Magazine; made a study of the tides on the American coast; perfected plans for a steam naval service, and commanded the first steam war vessel of the U.S. navy, the Fulton II., 1838-40. He was promoted captain, Feb. 7, 1837, and declined the command of the South Sea exploring expedition. He introduced the Fresnel light at Navesink, and prepared plans for the construction and equipment of the Missouri and Mississippi, the first steam frigates built for the U.S. navy. He was promoted commodore, June 12, 1841, and commanded the African squadron sent out under the provisions of the Ashburton treaty; commanded the Mississippi in the squadron under Commodore Conner, 1846; was in charge of a fleet of five vessels sent against Tabasco, Mexico, and succeeded in burning the town and destroying the Mexican storehouses. He had directed the naval attack against Tampico; succeeded to the command of the Gulf squadron, and completed the Seige of Vera Cruz, begun by Commodore Conner.
In March, 1852, he was placed in charge of the Japan expedition with orders to secure a treaty with that empire that would afford protection for United States seamen and ships wrecked on the coast, and free access for the U.S. navy to one or more ports for the protection of merchantmen there for purposes of trade. This treaty was signed, March 31, 1854, and Perry returned to the United States. The state of Rhode Island presented him with a piece of plate for his services in Japan, June 15, 1855; the city of Boston, a gold medal; the merchants of the city of New York, a silver dinner service, and the merchants of Canton, China, a silver candelabrum. He is the author of: The History of the Japan Expedition (1854). In 1868 Mr. and Mrs. August Belmont caused a bronze statue to be erected to his memory at Touro Park, Newport, R.I. He died in New York city, March 4, 1858.