X. JAPAN AND PEACEWE have been repeatedly accused of belligerent designs and expansive ambitions. Perhaps to European nations, with their traditions of conquest and colonization, it may be inconceivable that we are not animated by the same spirit of aggrandizement that has often led them into war. But to any one who cares to study the history of our foreign policy nothing can be clearer than the constancy of our desire for the maintenance of peace, our final recourse to war being forced upon us by the necessity of safeguarding our national existence. The very nature of our civilization, in fact, prohibits aggression against foreign nations. Confucianism, which is an epitome of the agricultural civilization of China, is essentially self-contained and non-aggressive in its nature. The fertility of the vast plains wherein the teachings of Confucius were followed rendered any overstepping of their natural boundaries unnecessary. The message of the sage made love of the soil and consecration of labor go hand in hand. He and his followers taught the homely and the patriarchal virtues of meekness and harmony. Later came Buddhism to reinforce the root-idea of contentment and self-restraint. Not once during the whole of their hoary history do we find the native dynasties of China and India ever coming into collision with each other. The only occasion on which China ever menaced Japan was when in the twelfth century her own Mongol conquerors tried to impose their authority upon us.
Japan, though originally a maritime nation, had through the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism long ago become, like her neighbors, self-contained, seeking the fulfilment of her destinies within the narrow limits of her island empire. The fact that in the eighth century we had given up our ancient dominion over Korea, proves how deeply the continental idea had become a part of our national consciousness. The Korean peninsula had probably originally been colonized by us during prehistoric ages. Archæological remains in Korea are of exactly the same type as those found in our primitive dolmens. The Korean language remains, even today, the nearest allied to ours of all the Asiatic tongues. Our earliest traditions tell of the god Sosano, brother of our imperial ancestress, settling in Korea; and Dankun, first king of that country, is considered by some historians to have been his son. The third century discloses our Empress Zhingo leading an invasion of the peninsula in order to reestablish our sovereignty, threatened by the rise of a number of small independent kingdoms. Our annals are filled until the eighth century with accounts of our protection over colonies. From this time onward, however, a great change comes over Japan, and all our energy is expended in religious fervor. This age, which witnessed the erection of innumerable monasteries and the casting of the colossal Buddha of Nara, saw the last of our Korean colonies allowed to perish, her appeals for help unheeded by the mother-country.
The attempted Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century kindled in us a feeling of animosity toward the Koreans who led the Chinese vanguard. Our only act of retaliation, however, consisted in the unique expedition of the Taiko Hideyoshi, who, in the sixteenth century, led an army into Korea to measure swords with those whom he considered as his hereditary enemies. But national sentiment had long lost sympathy with any idea of foreign conquest, and the Taiko's army was presently recalled at his death. The only result of this extraordinary expedition was the sending, during subsequent Tokugawa days, of envoys from the Korean sovereign to pay the homage of a tributary king to each newly appointed shogun- a homage equally offered to the Chinese emperors. This ceremony continued till the days of the Restoration, but we never thought of availing ourselves of the right implied by it to interfere in continental politics. On the contrary, we prided ourselves upon our complete isolation from the rest of the world, and did not even seek to renew those diplomatic amenities with China which had ceased after the Taiko's expedition.
The Tokugawa policy of non-interference in continental affairs is well exemplified in the refusal of aid to the celebrated Koxinga, a patriotic general of the Ming dynasty, who drove the Dutch out of Formosa and for three generations held it against the Manchu conquerors of China. The governors of all other provinces surrendered, and he alone upheld the remnant of Ming authority. Half a Japanese himself, being the son of a Ming refugee by a Nagasaki woman, he pleaded his birth as a reason for asking for an alliance and reinforcements from the Japanese. Several young daimios, together with quite a number of samurai, fired by his appeal, wished to volunteer, but the Tokugawa authorities absolutely refused to allow them to do so.
Our relations with China and Korea since the Restoration of 1868 are strikingly illustrative of our traditional policy of peace and non-aggression. When we emerged from our sleep of three centuries international conditions were changed indeed! Events were taking place in Asia which threatened our very existence. No Eastern nation could hope to maintain its independence unless it was able to defend itself from outside attack. Natural barriers were as naught before the advance of science. The Yellow Sea and the Korean straits, which we formerly considered as invincible obstacles to aggression from the continent, amounted to little since the introduction of fast war-ships and longrange ordnance. Any hostile power in occupation of the peninsula might easily throw an army into Japan, for Korea lies like a dagger ever pointed toward the very heart of Japan. Moreover, the independence of Korea and Manchuria is economically necessary to the preservation of our race, for starvation awaits our ever-increasing population if it be deprived of its legitimate outlet in the sparsely cultivated areas of these countries. To-day the Muscovites have laid their hands on these territories, with none but us to offer any resistance. Under these circumstances, we are compelled to regard our ancient domain of Korea as lying within our lines of legitimate national defense. It was when the independence of the peninsula was threatened by China in 1894 that we were compelled to go to war with the latter country. It was for this same independence that we fought Russia in 1904.
There were several occasions when we might have taken possession of Korea, but we forbore, in the face of strong provocation, because our wishes were for peace. We must remember that the historic spirit that created the Restoration also recalled the fact that Korea was originally a Japanese province, and in the Tokugawa days paid tribute to the shogunate. A casus belli was not wanting in the early seventies of the last century, for Korea labored under strange delusions, and not only refused to recognize the government of the Restoration, but heaped insults upon us. Much less cause of provocation than ours has often been taken as a ground for aggression by European nations. The divisions in the cabinet of 1873 and the rebellion caused by the secessionists of Satsuma in 1879 were the result of disputes between the war and peace parties, in which the latter always came out victorious. At that time the West had not the keen interest in the East that she has since acquired, and would not have interfered with our actions. The members of the war party urged that the unique moment had arrived when Japan might assume control of Korea and lay at rest forever the danger of her falling into the hands of some other power. To them Korea had always been a tributary nation, and we would be but confirming already existing rights. Perhaps if the Korean question had been then settled, all the bloodshed of the Chinese and Russian wars might have been avoided.
The Mikado's chief advisers, together with a majority of those who had a voice in the government, were strongly opposed to the views of the war party. In their eyes the Restoration had a higher significance than could be found in aggrandizement at the expense of neighboring countries. To them it represented the principles of justice and humanity, liberalism, and the elevation of the Japanese race. Its very key-notes should be nobleness and self-sacrifice, the virtues of the samurai enlarged into those of the nation. The lives of those statesmen who, like Okubo-Toshimichi, Kido-Koyin, and Prince Iwakura, held to these lofty ideals gave its moral tone to the present Japanese government and are eloquent of unselfishness and purity. Their simplicity and determination are characteristic of those enlightened spirits who appear to guide the people during the critical moments of every national regeneration.
The advocates of peace prevailed, and the war party resigned from the government and rose in rebellion, so that those who remained in power were often obliged to inflict the penalty of death upon their erstwhile dearest friends. The Mikado, always for peace, not only forbade any expedition against Korea, but cultivated her friendship. In 1876 a treaty of amity was signed, in which we recognized the full sovereignty of the Hermit Kingdom and for the first time opened for her commercial relations with the rest of the world. Thus began our open-door policy in the far East. Our object in renouncing our rights over a tributary kingdom was to force China to do likewise and thus create a neutral zone between the two nations. If China and Russia had respected the independence of Korea, no wars would have taken place.
The war with China in 1894-95 was brought about by the ambition of China to make herself the practical owner of Korea, which she claimed as a tributary state. To the ancient pride of China the treaty of 1876 by which we recognized the independence of Korea was a heavy blow. She deeply resented the action of Japan in placing that kingdom beyond the pale of her dominion. Her conservative instincts revolted against our modernization, and she sought to humiliate that upstart nation which was so insignificant compared with her in point of size. The situation resembled that between Austria and Prussia in the last century, before the Seven Weeks' War, and was practically the outcome of a family quarrel which had to be settled once for all. The parallelism may be still further followed in the internal division of Austria and Hungary and that of Manchuria and China proper, for it should be remembered that the belligerent party was centered around the Manchurian court at Peking and the viceroys of Northern China, whereas the southerners were but lukewarm, even delighting in the Japanese successes. In this may be found one of the causes for the easy defeat of China at our hands.
The long-sought opportunity for seizing the control of Korea was offered to China in the discord of the Korean government. Here again the antagonism of the cabinet and the household, so fatal to Eastern autocracy, was the real cause of all trouble. To the enlightened statesmen of Seoul the opening of the country and the proposed development of her resources were matters of great satisfaction. The ladies of the household, however, feared the loss of their privileges in the liberal form of government which the cabinet was eager to establish. The household appealed to China for support, while the progressive cabinet sought the aid of Japan. A diplomatic duel ensued, which, as usual, resulted in the victory of the ladies. Practical control over the Korean government was obtained by China in the year 1894, and she decided to install herself permanently in the peninsula by sending thither, in spite of our protests, a large body of troops. The history of the war is well known. Ping-yang was another Sadowa, and our army conquered the whole of southern Manchuria, including Port Arthur. In 1895 a peace was signed, by the terms of which China fully recognized the independence of Korea and ceded to us Formosa, together with the territories which we occupied at the end of the war. By this treaty we had attained the object of our campaign, which was the protection of the territorial integrity of Korea as a safeguard against any further danger from China. With virtual command of the Yellow Sea our anxiety was set at rest.
It was then that the triple coalition interfered with the just fruits of our victory. In the name of peace, Russia, upheld by Germany and France, forcibly demanded that we give up our newly acquired possessions in Manchuria. This unexpected blow was a severe one, considering the great sacrifices we had made in the war. We were, however, in no position to refuse the combined demands of the three powers, and had only to submit; moreover, as their intervention came in the sacred name of peace, the nation had to be content. The fact that the Muscovite empire soon after coolly took possession of Port Arthur, which she had asked us to evacuate, seemed a queer proceeding; but we offered no opposition to her action, for, as novices in European diplomacy, we still believed in international morality and relied on the fair words of the Russians when they declared that their intention was to hold that place merely in the interests of universal commerce. Nine years elapsed, during which their real designs became revealed. The greatest shock came to us, however, when we found that they were determined not only to possess Manchuria, but also to annex Korea. Protest after protest was made on our part. Promise after promise was given by Russia, never to be fulfilled. Meanwhile, she was pouring huge armies into Manchuria, and her advance-guard entered Korea itself. The throat of the dragon was touched, and we arose. Among the crags of Liaotung and the billows of the Yellow Sea we closed in deadly conflict. We fought not only for our motherland, but for the ideals of the recent reformation, for the noble heritage of classic culture, and for those dreams of peace and harmony in which we saw a glorious rebirth for all Asia.
Who speaks of the Yellow Peril? The idea that China might, with the aid of Japan, hurl her hosts against Europe would be too absurd even to notice were it not for those things from which attention is drawn by the utterance. It may not, perhaps, be generally known that the expression "Yellow Peril" was first coined in Germany when she was preparing to annex the coast of Shantung. Naturally, therefore, we become suspicious when Russia takes up the cry at the very moment when she is tightening the grasp of her mailed hand on Manchuria and Korea.
The Great Wall of China, the only edifice on earth of sufficient length to be seen from the moon, stands as a monumental protest against the possibility of such a peril. This ancient rampart, stretching from Shan-hai-kuan to the Tonkan Pass, was erected not only as a barrier against foreign encroachment, but also as the self-defined territorial limit of Celestial ambition. During the twenty-one centuries of its existence but occasional sorties were made through its gates, and those only with the object of chastising predatory tribes. It is a fact peculiarly worthy of note that the legendary lore of the Chinese contains no tale of over-sea or crusade-like enterprises, no account of Macedonian conquests or Roman triumphs. The epics of the Trojan war or the Viking sagas find no echo in the literature of the Flowery Kingdom. This cry of a Yellow Peril must, indeed, sound ironical to the Chinese, who, through their traditional policy of non-resistance, are even now suffering in the throes of the White Disaster.
Again, the whole history of Japan's long and voluntary isolation from the rest of the world makes such a cry ridiculous. However changed modern conditions may be, there is no reason for supposing that either Japan or China might suddenly develop a nomadic instinct and set forth on a career of overwhelming devastation.
If the wont of history is to repeat itself, if a real peril is again to threaten the world, it will be one born in the historic cradle of the steppes, not in the rich valleys of the Hwang-ho and the Yang- tse-kiang, nor on the terraced hillsides of the Japanese archipelago. It was from within the limits of imperial Russia that in ancient times the Goths, the Vandals, the Huns, and the Mongols descended, with their nomadic hosts, over Europe and southern Asia. It is among the tall grasses that wave to the wind from the banks of the Amur to the foot of the Ural Mountains that the Siberian Cossacks and Tartars, grim descendants of Jenghiz and Tamerlane, still roam untamed. In the atrocities committed in Peking and Manchuria, and in the recent horrors of Kishinef, the world may see what is to be expected from the Muscovite soldiery when once their savage nature has broken loose. Russia herself is responsible for the possibility of that peril which she now attributes to the peaceful nations of the far East.
When will wars cease? In the West international morality remains far below the standard to which individual morality has attained. Aggressive nations have no conscience, and all chivalry is forgotten in the persecution of weaker races. He who has not the courage and the strength to defend himself is bound to be enslaved. It is sad for us to contemplate that our truest friend is still the sword. What mean these strange combinations which Europe displays,- the hospital and the torpedo, the Christian missionary and imperialism, the maintenance of vast armaments as a guarantee of peace? Such contradictions did not exist in the ancient civilization of the East. Such were not the ideals of the Japanese Restoration, such is not the goal of her reformation. The night of the Orient, which had hidden us in its folds, has been lifted, but we find the world still in the dusk of humanity. Europe has taught us war; when shall she learn the blessings of peace?