CHAPTER V. THE SHOGUNATE: FROM THE ACCESSION OF IYEYASU (1603) TO THE COMING OF PERRY (1853)
IYEYASU REORGANIZES THE SHOGUNATE
After disposing of the heir of Hideyoshi, Iyeyasu faced the great task of consolidating his conquests and insuring their permanence in the hands of his family. It is here that his distinctive genius shines out. He was fortunately succeeded by an able son and grandson, Hidetada (1579-1632), and Iyemitsu (1603-1651), who walked in his steps. Sowell did these three do their work that the empire was dominated by their house for two and a half centuries and for over two centuries the country was undisturbed by war. The means that they used to achieve these ends were various. In the first place, Iyeyasu had himself appointed shogun (1603) and thus placed himself at the head of the feudalized military system that had first been organized by Yoritomo, over four hundred years before. He located the military capital at Yedo, the present Tokyo, away from the imperial court, nearer the geographical center of the main island and in the North, from which most of his support came. The city became in time the largest in the land. Its castle, the residence of the shoguns, was a massive and extensive piece of masonry and in an altered form is to-day the imperial palace. Iyeyasu surrounded Yedo with fiefs held by members of his own family, the Tokugawa. All strategic points were placed in the hands of chiefs whom he could trust. Officials responsible to the shogun were put over the principal cities, and the main highway between Tokyo and Yedo was carefully guarded. Iyeyasu skillfully distributed fiefs among members of his family and loyal barons wherever there seemed likely to be disaffection. Thus two great families, possible aspirants for the shogunate, were certain to find a strong fief organized near them or between them and given to a Tokugawa. The funds of those barons of whose loyalty there was any doubt were depleted by the enforced construction of great works, especially castles.
All daimyo were commanded to maintain houses in Yedo. Each was to keep some of his family or retainers there throughout half of the year as hostages for his good behavior, and each was himself to spend the other half of the year there, where he could be watched. The rules regarding hostages, it may be added, were cancelled by the fourth of the Tokugawa shoguns. Deputy governors under the direct control of Yedo were scattered through the country, and were still another check on the daimyo. The feudal barons were allowed a great deal of liberty within their own fiefs, and the commoners-merchants, farmers, and towns- people-were encouraged to govern their local affairs through guilds, city elders, and village chiefs. All officers were held strictly accountable for the maintainance of order, however, and a habit of discipline and obedience was acquired which was in sharp contrast to the anarchy and excessive individualism of the last years of the Ashikaga. This habit of discipline was to be of service to the nation in the great changes of the nineteenth century.
The imperial institution was not destroyed, but the emperor was effectively barred from any active interference in national affairs by the clever expedient of increasing his sanctity. His divine origin was emphasized and was held to remove him from the sordid duties of ruling and of concerning himself with the material affairs of his realm. None but his most intimate ministers and the members of his family were to come into intimate contact with him. No others might see his sacred face. He was to devote himself to honoring his imperial ancestors and obtaining their blessings for the realm. He was still held, however, to be the source of all authority and the shoguns were in theory merely his servants. He was provided with a modest but sufficient revenue and was allowed to confer empty titles of honor. The old civil or court nobility was preserved and the sanctity in which it was held was increased, but it was provided with only meager stipends, and was given no part in the active administration. The appointment and tenure of the emperor's chief officials were virtually under the control of the bakufu. From this same source, and not from independent estates, were derived the incomes of the monarch and the court aristocracy. To make the imperial impotence doubly certain, Kyoto was surrounded by a cordon of fiefs held by military lords on whose loyalty the Tokugawa could depend, and Osaka, the port to Kyoto, was governed directly by the shogun.
All classes of society were carefully controlled by minute and exact regulations. The imperial court, feudal lords, warriors, and commoners had their actions, their dress, and their food strictly standardized. Confusion and turmoil were reduced to a minimum by a most elaborate system of governmental supervision. Education, the printing of books, and especially the study and teaching of the works of the Chinese Confucian scholars were fostered, possibly in the belief that by these means public and private morality would be made stable and order become secure. The successive shoguns helped the merchant and farming classes by favorable rules and public works. This may have been done with the conviction that if the country were prosperous there would be no unrest.
Iyeyasu initiated and his successors completed the consolidation of the nation by stamping out Christianity and cutting off all but the scantiest intercourse with the outside world. We have already seen how the foreign faith was introduced by the Jesuits, and how its rapid growth and the discord created by it led to its proscription by Hideyoshi. That proscription was not fully carried out and in the years that followed Christianity continued to spread. Foreign priests kept up their propaganda and many of the inhabitants, possibly 600,000 in all, principally in Kiushiu and other southern portions of the empire, became Christians. During the earlier years of his rule Iyeyasu was apparently not averse to Christianity and distinctly favored the missionaries on several occasions. He seems to have had no religious motive in this, but did it as a commercial measure. He was exerting himself to open up and maintain trade with Europe and the lands of Eastern Asia. For a number of years commercial relations were kept up with Spain through Mexico, and the Dutch and the English were both permitted to establish trading factories in the South. Japanese merchants made their way unopposed by the shogun to the Philippines, Annam, Siam, China, and India. Iyeyasu was eager to see a mercantile marine developed and Japan's mines opened. Gradually, however, his attitude underwent a change and toward the latter part of his life he became hostile to Christianity. Hidetada and Iyemitsu, especially the latter, were even more bitter and ended not only by stamping out Christianity but by closing the country against all but the slightest contact with the outside world. It is difficult to ascertain all the reasons for this policy, but a few are apparent. An envoy sent to Europe reported unfavorably on what he had seen of the foreign religion in its own home. A shipwrecked Englishman, Will Adams, won the regard of Iyeyasu and painted in an unfavorable light the history of the Catholic Church, encouraging the suspicion that the propaganda of Spanish and Portuguese missionaries was but the preliminary to political aggression. A Christian conspiracy was discovered against the shogun and his authority was defied by a Franciscan father. There were unseemly dissensions and rivalries between the different missionary orders. The missionaries, especially the Jesuits, obeyed their religious superiors rather than the temporal authorities, an attitude that was intolerable to shoguns who were trying to insure peace by centralizing all power in their own hands. The Spaniards tried to shut out the Dutch, and the Dutch in turn tried to shut out the English from the Japanese trade. In 1614 Iyeyasu ordered that all foreign priests be expelled, that all churches be destroyed, and that all Japanese Christians be compelled to renounce their faith. His determination to enforce the edict was strengthened by the evident sympathy of the Christian communities with Hideyori in his last stand. It was also reinforced by the persistent refusal of the missionaries to leave Japan. They hid themselves, or were deported only to return. Such contumacy boded ill for the peace and unity that it was Iyeyasu's chief ambition to establish. Iyeyasu died (1616) before he could fully carry out his policy of repression. Hidetada and Iyemitsu, however, continued and made more stringent his anti-Christian policy. Missionaries persisted in coming to Japan and many of the native Christians refused to renounce their faith. Their stubborn disobedience strengthened the fears of the shoguns. It seemed evident that the prestige and possibly the supremacy of the Tokugawa was at stake. To the alarmed Yedo chiefs it was even conceivable that Japanese independence might be threatened. The foreign faith was proscribed primarily on political, not on religious grounds. As in the early Roman empire, Christianity seemed to mean treason. The most stringent measures were adopted to stamp out the church. Missionaries and converts were apprehended by the thousand and on refusing to renounce their faith were killed, many of them by the most cruel methods. The fine heroism of the martyrs but heightened the apprehensions and determination of the Tokugawa officials. The persecution culminated in a rebellion in 1638 when most of the remaining Christians rose as a unit and made a last stand in an old castle not far from Nagasaki. They were annihilated by the government troops and the church practically ceased to exist. The edicts against it were strictly enforced until well into the nineteenth century. Registration in the Buddhist temples of all persons was made compulsory. All Japanese were forced to profess allegiance to some branch of Buddhism, and all suspected of being recalcitrant were required on pain of death to tread on the emblems of the Christian faith. Only in one or two remote localities, and under disguised forms, did the foreign religion persist.
The stubborn resistance of the Christians could not but arouse in the shoguns a suspicion of all foreign trade. For a time the effort was made to keep up the much desired commerce with the Spanish and Portuguese, but as the persecution of the Christians became more severe and missionaries continued to come on the vessels of their nationals, the Yedo officials decided that all intercourse with Spain and Portugal must be stopped. Trade with the former was interdicted in 1624 and with the latter in 1638. When, in 1640, the Portuguese tried to resume intercourse, their messengers were decapitated. To make certain that no disturbing influences would invade the empire, all Japanese were forbidden to leave the country and any one who succeeded in doing so was to be executed on his return. The building of any vessels large enough for over-seas traffic was interdicted. The English had for a few years maintained their trading factory but found it unprofitable and closed it. They later desired to reopen commerce but were not permitted to do so. Of all European nations only the Dutch were allowed to continue to send ships. They were by their past history bitterly opposed to the Catholic church and were not at all eager to propagate their Protestant faith. They had even helped the Tokugawa officials to exterminate the Japanese Christians. Less fear therefore was felt of them. Still, they were Christians, and to the timorous officials at Yedo were not entirely above suspicion. Their trade drained the country of specie and restriction was gradually increased until they were eventually allowed to come only to one port, Nagasaki. There their merchants were carefully confined to a small island and were forbidden to hold any religious service. Only a few ships a year could come and the number was eventually reduced to one. Only once a year could any of the Dutch come ashore, and then merely to make a strictly guarded journey to Yedo to do homage to the shogun. The most minute regulations were adopted for all intercourse with them. In spite of the humiliations it entailed the Dutch continued their trade because for many years it was highly lucrative. Their imports were largely silk and piece goods and these they exchanged for gold and copper which sold in Europe at a large profit.
With this slight exception, Japan was now hermetically sealed against contamination from the Occident. The land entered on more than two centuries of hermit life. A few ideas filtered in through the Dutch, and a carefully regulated one-sided commerce was carried on by the Chinese who were themselves almost equally well sealed against contact with Europe. That this voluntary isolation was a disadvantage is open to question. It is true that it deprived Japan of the stimulus that comes from international competition, but disintegration might have resulted. In the ensuing centuries she was being prepared for the great awakening that took place with the renewal of intercourse with the West by Commodore Perry.
The Tokugawa organization had at last insured internal and external peace. The centuries of disorder and civil strife had come to an end. The system, however, carried within it the seeds of its own destruction. It became an anomaly. Warlike in its origin and purpose, an organized military feudalism, all its strength was now directed to the repression of strife. Its decay was inevitable. It was like the shell of a chrysalis. Within it the nation could rest and become prepared for the transformation of the nineteenth century, but in the shock of that transformation the shell was to be destroyed. The years of peace led to great changes within the nation. For the first time since the seventh century it began to be a unit. The Tokugawa system forced it to cease to be a group of warring clans, and to act as a whole. True, the forms of feudalism were preserved and the fiefs still existed. National unity was not complete, but the barriers that had helped to divide the nation were being weakened. Although the bakufu issued no extensive codes, it published a system of rules by which the actions of every subject were carefully ordered. Obedience to laws issued by a central authority was becoming a habit.
Moreover, the nation was becoming more prosperous. With order insured, the farmer and the artisan could pursue their occupations unmolested. The state encouraged agriculture and undertook irrigation and riparain works. Peasant proprietorship of land increased, and village self- government was strengthened. Roads were improved. Internal commerce grew in volume. The attention of the military chiefs was turned from fighting to the pastimes of peace. Luxury sprang up, and extravagant amusements, methods of dress, eating, and living became common. The wishes of the mighty were catered to by a merchant class which itself became wealthy. Commercial capital was accumulated and the currency was improved. Although there were occasional famines and epidemics of disease, population increased. There was but little abject poverty, and the cities had no slums to compare with those of modern London or New York.
Education became fairly widespread and literature and art flourished. In the capital and the homes of the daimyo, schools were established and the sons of the rude soldiers became polished men of the world. Lecture halls were maintained for the common people. There was much study of the Chinese classical writers. This had been encouraged, it will be remembered, by Iyeyasu and his successors, and it was given additional impetus by the influx of Chinese scholars after the downfall of the Ming dynasty in the middle of the seventeenth century before the Manchu invasion. For the first time in the nation's history the avowed followers of Confucius became numerous. There had been for many centuries a few in nearly every generation who called themselves such, but the teachings of the Chinese sage had never previously been accorded so wide a hearing. There were many lecturers on Confucianism, and different sects arose, the two principal groups of which followed the Chinese philosophers Chu Hsi and Wang Yang Ming. The first, called Sho Shi in Japanese, had long been known. He had taught that the world and its laws must be studied before the moral code could be determined; knowledge must come first and right conduct would follow. Wang Yang Ming (1472-1529), on the other hand, held that a man's knowledge of the moral law is intuitive, derived from looking within his own heart. Chu Hsi held that all nature is the result of the working of two forces: Wang Yang Ming held that these two forces are one. Chu Hsi ruled out of the classics much of the supernatural. He belittled religious observances and emphasized the orderly processes of nature. His commentaries on the writings of Confucius were received in China as official until the twentieth century. In Japan, as in China, Chu Hsi was given the support of the state, but Wang Yang Ming had many devoted followers. He appealed strongly to the samurai who adhered to the Zen sect of Buddhism. Most of the upper classes became Confucianists, and while still nominally adherents of Buddhism, rather openly regarded the Indian faith as a mass of superstitions and fit only for the unlettered masses.
The state encouraged the collection of books. Historians basked in the light of official favor and made extensive studies of the nation's past. Painting and ceramics reached new heights of achievement. Colored genre prints and a popular literature were developed to please those of the lower ranks. Famous works of architecture were being produced, such, for example, as the beautiful temples that still adorn the tomb of Iyeyasu at Nikko. The old Japan was perfecting its culture.
The old warrior or samurai class was decaying. It is true that its ethical code, bushido, was being elaborated more than ever before into a formal system and that martial exercises and ideals were encouraged. The spectacle of a military caste being served by the entire nation, however, and yet having not fought for decades, was an anomaly. Luxury was sapping the strength of the feudal soldiers. The heirs of the great daimyo were falling under the control of their retainers, much as the emperors in the old days had fallen under the control of the Fujiwara and then of the shoguns. Even the shoguns were at times dominated by their ministers. The pernicious habit of abdication that had been inaugurated for the emperors centuries before was still popular; Iyeyasu himself had retired some years before his death, although he persisted in controlling the administration from his seclusion. His successors frequently followed his example. As a result the nominal shogun was often a child and before he had reached middle life abdicated in favor of a youthful heir.
Moreover, the increased leisure for study and its encouragement by the bakufu had turned men's thoughts to the past. Japan's history was delved into and compiled and with the work came a renewed love of things Japanese. The language was studied and organized. A vernacular literature, as opposed to one in the classical Chinese, was developed. Shinto, the old native cult, was revived, and with its revival came an increased reverence for the emperor, its head. Buddhism, although it had been made a state religion by the Tokugawa in their efforts to stamp out Christianity, was looked at askance by these patriots, for it too was a foreign faith. But more important politically was the discovery by the historians that the emperor was the rightful ruler of the nation and that the shogunate was a comparatively recent innovation. Among a group of scholars the conviction gained ground that the shogun must resign and that the emperor must be restored to his rightful place as the actual as well as the nominal head of the nation. By a strange irony of fate this school of historians had its birth in the home of one of the branches of the Tokugawa family.
Reënforcing the renewed emphasis upon the institution of the emperor, was the interest in Chinese classical literature. The Tokugawa officials, when they promoted its study and welcomed the fugitive scholars of the Ming, could not have appreciated how subversive the writings of the Confucian school could prove to the bakufu. The Chinese classics emphasized the position of the monarch and knew nothing of the dual system that existed in Japan. Loyalty to such ideals could not but weaken the position of the shogun, for according to them he was but a minister of the emperor and had usurped the power of his master.
The great feudatories of the South, former rivals of the Tokugawa, and never completely contented with their rule, could be counted on to aid in any attempted restoration of the emperor, if for no other reason than that it might give them an opportunity to place a new family on the seat of the shogun.
IMPENDING CHANGE IN NINETEENTH CENTURY
By the middle of the nineteenth century the nation was ripe for change. The old order was decaying. The vigor of the Tokugawa shoguns had so declined that they were more and more controlled by their ministers. Rumors of dissatisfaction and unrest were beginning to be heard. Some revolution was seemingly about to take place. What form it would have taken had there been no interruptions from without, it is hard to say. By one of the strange coincidences of history, however, just as the old Japan was ripe for change it came into contact with the expanding Occident and out of the shock a new nation emerged.
For further reading see: Griffis, The Mikado's Empire; Lloyd, The Creed of Half Japan; Brinkley, Japan, Its History, Arts, and Literature; Brinkley, A History of the Japanese People; Longford, The Story of Old Japan; Davis, Japan, from the Age of the Gods to the Fall of Tsingtao; Cary, A History of Christianity in Japan.