VIII. RESTORATION AND REFORMATIONTHE Restoration was at the same time a reformation. In emerging from an Asiatic hermitage to take our stand upon the broad stage of the world, we were obliged to assimilate much that the Occident offered for our advancement and at the same time to resuscitate the classic ideals of the East. The idea of the reformation is clearly expressed in the imperial declaration of 1868 in which his present Majesty, after ascending the throne, stated that national obligations should be regarded from the broad standpoint of universal humanity.
As the word signifies, our restoration was essentially a return. The government once again assumed the form of an imperial bureaucracy, such as had existed before the rise of feudalism over seven hundred years ago. The first act of the new government was to reëstablish all the ancient offices, together with their former nomenclature, while many long forgotten functions and ceremonies were revived and Shintoism was proclaimed as the religion of the imperial household. Posthumous honors were conferred on loyalists who, like Masashige, had served the cause of the court during the former shogunates, and the descendants of many of them were ennobled.
Yet these revivals of past conditions were tempered with the new spirit of freedom and equality. The Mikado, while pronouncing Shintoism to be the religion of the household, granted liberty of conscience to the entire nation, and Christianity was freed from the interdiction under which it had lain since the Jesuit insurrection of the seventeenth century. The class distinction between nobles, samurai, and commoners was nominally retained, and the daimios and kuges were given titular rank according to the fine grades of the old Chinese system. A new aristocracy even was created. All class privileges, however, were abolished, and all, from the princes and the marquises down to the abhorred yettas (who to-day bear the nickname of the "New Commoners"), were made equal in the eye of the law, while examinations for the civil service were thrown open to every one. The object of those who conducted the reformation was so to fuse together the hardened strata of Tokugawa social life that the entire nation might participate in the glory and responsibilities of the Restoration. There were four main lines along which the work of preparing the nation to meet the problem of modern life was carried. These were, first, constitutional government; second, liberal education; third, universal military service; and fourth, the elevation of womanhood.
Constitutional government has been deemed impracticable for Eastern nations, and in Turkey it was a sad failure. With us, however, since the assembling of our first parliament the principles and ordinances of the state have been so well carried out that we can safely affirm the experimental age to have been passed and constitutional government to have become an inherent part of our political consciousness. We may have had occasional stormy debates and divisions, a phase of affairs not unknown in the conduct of Western national assemblies; but whenever threatened with foreign complications, all factions have invariably united in support of the cabinet. The successful working of the new system is partly due, no doubt, to an inherent power of self-government exemplified in the administration of many of our previous institutions, and partly to the fact that the nation had long been preparing for the responsibility of self- government.
In 1867, as soon as the Shogun had resigned his office, the Unionist ministry created two councils, one composed of the leading daimios and kuges, the other of representative samurai from various daimiates. When his Majesty the present Emperor ascended the throne in 1868 and proclaimed the Restoration, he declared the establishment of a national assembly in which important affairs of state should be decided by public opinion. In 1875 a senate was created, to which all contemplated legislation had to be submitted by the cabinet, and this was soon followed by the establishment of the Court of Final Appeal. Thus were inaugurated the three principal factors in the conduct of a constitutional government, namely, the executive, legislative, and judicial bodies. In 1879 the senate passed a law creating in each local prefecture an assembly in which representatives elected by the taxpayers were to decide the annual expenditures and taxation of the province. In 1881 an imperial proclamation announced that the Constitution would go into effect in 1890, and accordingly in February of that year it was duly promulgated. Our diet consists of the House of Commons and House of Peers, the latter an outgrowth of the senate established in 1875. It is significant that our Constitution was the voluntary gift of the Mikado, and not, as in the case of some European nations, one forced from the sovereign by the people. Consistent with Eastern traditions, our democracy is an accretion, not an eruption.
The question of education for the people held a prominent place in the imperial declaration of 1868, the Mikado commanding the acquisition of knowledge from all sources throughout the world. We have already mentioned the existence in Tokugawa days of elementary schools for the commoners and academies of learning for the higher classes. These were now systematically organized so that they might furnish the nation with the knowledge necessary for carrying out the obligations of its new environment. Elementary education was made compulsory for all boys and girls above six years of age, and normal schools were established in each of the provinces to supply them with teachers. In our educational system of to-day, next above the elementary schools come the middle schools, in which a liberal education is given and pupils are prepared for entering the higher institutions of learning. There are also special schools for those desirous of entering the navy or army, agriculture, industrial science, commerce, or the arts and crafts, while the imperial university includes colleges of law, literature, medicine, engineering, and science. Female education is not neglected, though, in accordance with Eastern custom, it is given separately. A few years ago a ladies' university was started in Tokio. The study of one of the European languages is compulsory in all except the elementary schools-that of English being the one generally required. A great number of Americans and Europeans are employed to give instruction, and thousands of young men and women study abroad either at their own or the government's expense. Our eagerness to acquire Western learning has prompted hosts of our young men to seek menial work in foreign countries,-service, according to Confucian notions, not being considered derogatory. The ethical training given to the rising generation is based on the teachings of earlier days.
The imperial manifesto which formulated the national code of morality, after summing up the universal principles of ethics, concludes with these words: "These are the teachings of our imperial ancestors, and this is the path followed by your ancestors." It is hardly necessary to add that the fruits of our newly acquired knowledge are all consecrated in intense devotion to the Mikado.
Our system of military service has proved more potent than any other factor in strengthening national loyalism. It has, in fact, transformed the commoner into a samurai. Conscription had obtained in Japan long before the rise of feudalism, and its practice was merely revived in 1870 on German and French lines. According to the present system, every male at twenty years of age is liable to be drafted for three years' service with the colors, and after that for a service of five years each in the first and second reserves. In case of extreme emergency the whole nation may be called to arms. The officers, trained in special schools and staff colleges, come mostly from samurai families, and their traditional code of life has permeated the entire new army. For the nation at large the social distinction of many centuries has thrown a halo about the sworded class, while current fiction and drama have for the last fifty years so idealized the patriotic soldier that the peasant conscript on entering the ranks feels himself ennobled not only in his own estimation but in that of his brethren; he is now a man of the sword, the soul of honor. He is fairly intelligent, thanks to the village school, soon mastering his tactics and imbibing that profound sense of duty which is the essence of samuraihood. At first, on account of his heretofore peaceful life, there were some misgivings about his courage; but the baptism of fire proved him able to take his place beside the best of the samurai. The contempt of death displayed by our conscripts is not founded, as some Western writers suppose, on the hope of a future reward. We preach no Valhalla or Moslem heaven awaiting our departed heroes; for the teachings of Buddhism promise in the next life but a miserable incarnation to the slayer of man. It is a sense of duty alone that causes our men to march to certain death at the word of command. Behind all lies devotion to the sovereign and love of country. Our conscript but follows the historic example of those heroes who ever gave themselves as willing sacrifices for the good of the nation. If he sometimes offers his blood too freely, it is through an exuberance of patriotic love; for love, like death, recognizes no limits.
Another important feature of the reformation lay in the exaltation of womanhood. The Western attitude of profound respect toward the gentler sex exhibits a beautiful phase of refinement which we are anxious to emulate. It is one of the noblest messages that Christianity has given us. Christianity originated in the East, and, except as regards womanhood, its modes of thought are not new to Eastern minds. As the new religion spread westward through Europe, it naturally became influenced by the idiosyncrasies of the various converted nations, so that the poetry of the German forest, the adoration of the Virgin in the middle centuries, the age of chivalry, the songs of the troubadours, the delicacy of the Latin nature, and, above all, the clean manhood of the Anglo-Saxon race, probably all contributed their share toward the idealization of woman.
In Japan, woman has always commanded a respect and freedom not to be found elsewhere in the East. We have never had a Salic law, and it is from a female divinity, the Sun-goddess, that our Mikado traces his lineage. During many of the most brilliant epochs in our ancient history we were under the rule of a female sovereign. Our Empress Zingo personally led a victorious army into Korea, and it was Empress Suiko who inaugurated the refined culture of the Nara period. Female sovereigns ascended the throne in their own right even when there were male candidates, for we considered woman in all respects as the equal of man. In our classic literature we find the names of more great authoresses than authors, while in feudal days some of our amazons charged with the bravest of the Kamakura knights. As time advanced and Confucian theories became more potent in molding our social customs, woman was relegated from public life and confined to what was considered by the Chinese sage as her proper sphere, the household. Our inherent respect for the rights of womanhood, however, remained the same, and as late as the year 1630 a female mikado, Meisho-Tenno, ascended the throne of her fathers. Until after the Restoration, a knowledge of such martial exercises as fencing and jiu jitsu was considered part of the education of a samurai's daughter, and is, indeed, still so considered among many old families. Among the commoners the various industries and trades have always been open to women as they are to-day, while we have already seen how, in spite of her apparent seclusion, the Tokugawa lady impressed her individuality on the state. Buddhism has its worship for the eternal feminine and Confucianism has always inculcated a reverence for womanhood, teaching that the wife should always be treated with the respect due to a guest or friend.
We have never hitherto, however, learned to offer any special privileges to woman. Love has never occupied an important place in Chinese literature; and in the tales of Japanese chivalry, the samurai, although ever at the service of the weak and oppressed, gave his help quite irrespective of sex. To-day we are convinced that the elevation of woman is the elevation of the race. She is the epitome of the past and the reservoir of the future, so that the responsibilities of the new social life which is dawning on the ancient realms of the Sun-goddess may be safely intrusted to her care. Since the Restoration we have not only confirmed the equality of sex in law, but have adopted that attitude of respect which the West pays to woman. She now possesses all the rights of her Western sister, though she does not care to insist upon them; for almost all of our women still consider the home, and not society, as their proper sphere.
Time alone can decide the future of the Japanese lady, for the question of womanhood is one involving the whole social life and its web of convention. In the East woman has always been worshiped as the mother, and all those honors which the Christian knight brought in homage to his lady-love, the samurai laid at his mother's feet. It is not that the wife is less adored, but that maternity is holier. Again, our woman loves to serve her husband; for service is the noblest expression of affection, and love rejoices more in giving than in receiving. In the harmony of Eastern society the man consecrates himself to the state, the child to the parent, and the wife to the husband.
After the successful accomplishment of the Restoration, there still remained for nearly thirty years one bitter drop in our cup of happiness. That was the question of treaty revision. We had established a constitutional government and a complete educational system; we had reorganized our army and navy and joined the Geneva Convention; we had remodeled our civil law code and developed extensive commercial relations with the rest of the world, yet the foreign powers persistently refused to revise the obsolete treaties signed under the Tokugawa shogunate. We did not complain of the low rate of our customsduties, though with our growing commerce this meant a heavy loss to us, but of the jurisdiction exercised by exterritorial courts. Japan was restored, but not entirely freed. There were spots in the Mikado's realm which his sovereignty could not reach. The Westerner, who has never known the presence of a foreign consular court in his own country, cannot be expected to realize the anguish that they cause to those upon whom they are imposed. It is not that the decisions of these courts are unfair, but misunderstandings are always arising through the existence of race distinctions, while the fact that foreign laws should be administered at all is in itself a condemnation of the law and justice of the country, and is necessarily a humiliation to any self-respecting nation. Since the beginning of the Restoration the efforts of our government have been constantly directed toward the abolishment of this system, but every proposal of ours was either met by the foreign powers with a peremptory refusal or elicited some exorbitant demand in exchange. The United States of America, it is true, agreed to a revision if all the other powers would join, but this was something which Europe was sure not to do. It was a hard task for us to convince the West that an Eastern nation could successfully assume the responsibilities of an enlightened people. It was not until our war with China in 1894-95 had revealed our military strength as well as our capacity to maintain a high standard of international morality, that Europe consented to put an end to her ex-territorial jurisdiction in Japan. It is one of the painful lessons of history that civilization, in its progress, often climbs over the bodies of the slain.
Great are the struggles that we have had to undergo during these last few decades. In the turmoil of the reformation the swing of the pendulum was often extreme, causing the passage of many unnecessary if not actually harmful measures. We have often stood bewildered in the mid-stream of conflicting opinions, watching with dismay the shifting sand-banks of the half-realized constantly changing with the currents of subconscious thought. All the ridiculousness of paradox, all the cruelty of dilemma, were ours. We might have laughed had we not wept. Conservative reactions caused riots and local rebellions in which we lost many of the greatest pioneers of our reformation, and radical zealots often cut short with their swords the career of some far-sighted leader. We must be ever thankful that the helm was held throughout by hands strong enough to keep the ship of state steadily on its course, in spite of storms and contrary currents.