Lawrence Kearny House
This historic home was originally located on High Street, but has twice been moved. The home is now located next to the Raritan River and offers exhibits related to the history of Perth Amboy.
Learn more about the long history of the US Navy's "Open Door Policy" in China. Bruce A. Elleman, International Competition in China, 1899-1991: The Rise, Fall, and Restoration of the Open Door Policy
Learn more about Sino-American relations in Kearny's time and throughout the 19th century. The Golden Ghetto: The American Commercial Community at Canton and the Shaping of American China Policy, 1784-1844
Backstory and Context
After the war, Kearny joined America's small but growing fleet in the Mediterranean and charged with fighting pirates that were still preying on American merchants. When the First Opium War (1839-1842) between Chinese forces and British merchants erupted, Kearny was commanding the US Constellation and commanding the East India Squadron. Kearny's small squadron was tasked with protecting the small but growing number of American merchant vessels operating in East Asia. During that mission, Kearny demonstrated initiative and diplomatic skill by securing and trading privileges for American merchants in Canton.
Kearny choose Canton because it was only Chinese port during that time period where foreign merchants were allowed to trade. Kearny's mission led to the signing of the Treaty of Wanghia in 1844. This treaty gave the United States most favored nation status, effectively giving American merchants the same trading privileges extended to Britain. The treaty established terms of trade and set tariff rates (tariffs are taxes on imports). It also provided American merchants with legal immunity from Chinese courts with one exception-the treaty obligated American merchants and sailors to hand over anyone they found dealing in opium-an addictive and illegal drug that British and other foreign merchants were smuggling into China.
Kearny's mission became the first of many 19th century naval missions aimed at helping United States businesses gain a foothold in Asian markets. By the late 19th century, and with European powers dividing China into "spheres of influence," the United States pursued a new policy in China that American leaders referred to as "The Open Door Policy."