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Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels

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  • Enacted: 1825
  • Rescinded: 1842
  • Japanese: 異国船打払令 (ikokusen uchiharai rei)

The Edict to Repel Foreign Vessels was a policy put in place by the Tokugawa shogunate in 1825, and rescinded in 1842, stating that all foreign vessels (i.e. chiefly, Western ships) which approached Japan without proper trading permissions (that is, Western ships other than those of the Dutch East India Company) were to be fired upon and driven away with cannon.

The edict is often cited within a narrative of "Japan's" isolationist and aggressive attitudes and actions against Western interaction, a precursor or even cause for the later supposed "opening" of Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry. The shogunate, however, was not truly able to exercise full control over such matters, and it was coastal domains (and the Ryûkyû Kingdom), not the shogunate, or "Japan" as a unitary actor, which had to effect the actual enforcement of this edict.

In practice, the Edict was enforced only on an ad hoc basis. On at least one occasion (that of the American ship Morrison in 1837), Ryûkyû not only did not fire on the foreign vessel, but in fact provisioned it. Satsuma han fired on that same vessel a few months later, driving it away, but it is unclear if Satsuma fired on any other ships during this period. Similarly, cannon batteries prepared at Matsumae han fired upon foreign vessels in 1831 and 1834, but did not fire upon other vessels which appeared in 1832 and 1834. The Morrison may have been the only time this edict was actually officially invoked in firing upon a foreign vessel.[1]

References

  • Robert Hellyer, Defining Engagement, Harvard University Press (2009), 150-151.
  1. Constantine Vaporis (ed.), "Sizing up the Foreign Threat: Aizawa Seishisai's Shinron (New Theses, 1825)," Voices of Early Modern Japan, Westview Press (2012), 119.
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