XXVIII. THE RECENT REVOLUTIONS IN JAPAN.
IT is the popular impression in the United States and in Europe that the immediate cause of the fall of the shōgun's Government, the restoration of the mikado to supreme power, and the abolition of the dual and feudal systems was the presence of foreigners on the soil of Japan. No one who has lived in Dai Nippon, and made himself familiar with the currents of thought among the natives, or who has studied the history of the country, can share this opinion. The foreigners and their ideas were the occasion, not the cause, of the destruction of the dual system of government, which would certainly have resulted from the operation of causes already at work before the foreigners arrived. Their presence served merely to hasten what was already inevitable.
I purpose in this chapter to expose the true causes of the recent marvelous changes in Japan. These comprise a three-fold political revolution within, a profound alteration in the national policy toward foreigners, and the inauguration of social reforms which lead us to hope that Japan has rejected the Asiatic, and adopted the European, ideal of civilization. I shall attempt to prove that these causes operated mainly from within, not from without; from impulse, not from impact; and that they were largely inlellectual.
The history of Japan, as manifested in the current of events since the advent of Commodore Perry, has its sources in a number of distinct movements, some logically connected, others totally distinct from the rest. These were intended to effect: 1. The overthrow of the shōgun, and his reduction to his proper level as a vassal; 2. The restoration of the true emperor to supreme power; 3. The abolition of the feudal system and a return to the ancient imperial régime; 4. The abolition of Buddhism, and the establishment of pure Shintō as the national faith and the engine of government. These four movements were historically and logically connected. The fifth was the expulsion of the foreign "barbarians", and the dictatorial isolation of Japan from the rest of the world; the sixth, the abandonment of this design, the adoption of Western civilization, and the entrance of Japan into the comity of nations. The origin of the first and second movements must be referred to a time distant from the present by a century and a half; the third and fourth, to a period within the past century; the fifth and sixth, to an impulse developed mainly within the memory of young men now living.
There existed, long before the advent of Perry, definite conceptions of the objects to be accomplished. These lay in the minds of earnest thinkers, to whom life under the dual system was a perpetual winter of discontent, like snow upon the hills. In due season the spring would have come that was to make the flood. The presence of Perry in the Bay of Yedo was like an untimely thaw, or a hot south-wind in February. The snow melted, the streams gathered. Like houses built upon the sand, the shōgunate and the feudal system were swept away. They were already too rotten and worm-eaten to have the great fall which the simile might suggest. The mikado and the ancient ark of state floated into power. Buddhism stood as upon a rock, damaged, but firm. The foreigner, moored to the pile-driven foundations of his treaties, held his own here firmly than before. The flood in full momentum was swollen by a new stream and deflected into a new channel. Abandoning the attempt to defy the gravitation of events, to run up the hill of a past forever sloping backward into the impossible, the flood found surcease with the rivers of nations that make the ocean of human solidarity.
The chief motors of these movements were intellectual. Neither the impact of foreign cannon-balls at Kagoshima or Shimonoséki (see Appendix), nor the heavy and unjust indemnities demanded from the Japanese, wrought of themselves the events of the last ten years, as foreigners so complacently believe. An English writer resident in Japan concludes his translation of the "Legacy of Iyéyasŭ" by referring to it as the "constitution under which this country [ Japan] was governed until the time within the recollection of all, when it gave way to the irresistible momentum of a higher civilization." The translator evidently means that the fall of the dual form of government and the feudal system was the direct result of contact with the higher civilization of Europe and America. English writers on Japan seem to imply that the bombardment of Kagoshima was the paramount cause that impelled Japan to adopt the foreign civilization.
Much, also, has been said and written in praise of Japan for her abolition of the feudal system by a "stroke of the pen," and thus "achieving in one day what it required Europe centuries to accomplish." An outsider, whose knowledge of Dai Nippon is derived from our old text-books and cyclopedias, or from non-resident book-makers, may be so far dazed as to imagine the Japanese domi-gods in state- craft, even as the American newspapers make them all princes. To the writer, who has lived in a daimiō's capital before, during, and after the abolition of feudalism, the comparison suggests the reason why the Irish recruit cut off the leg instead of the head of his enemy. Long before its abolition, Japanese feudalism was ready for its grave. The overthrow of the shōgun left it a headless trunk. To cut off its legs and bury it was easy, and in reality this was what the mikado's Grovernment did, as I shall show.
As it would be vain to attempt to comprehend our own late civil war by beginning at Sumter, or even with the Compromise measures of 1851; so one will be misled who, in attempting to understand the Japan of to-day, looks only at events since Perry's time. The roots of the momentous growth of 1868 are to be found within the past centuries.
Yoritomo's acts were in reality the culmination of a long series of usurpations, begun by the Taira. Under the plea of military necessity, he had become an arch-usurper. In the period 1184-1199 A.D. began that dual system of government which has been the political puzzle of the world; which neither Kaempfer, nor the Déshima Hollanders, nor the Portuguese Jesuits seem ever to have fully understood; which has filled our cyclopedias and school-books with the misleading nonsense about "two emperors," one "spiritual" and the other "secular;" which led the astute Perry and his successors to make treaties with an underling; which gave rise to a vast mass of what is now very amusing reading, embracing much prophecy, fiction, and lamentations, in the Diplomatic Correspondence from Japan; and which keeps alive that venerable solecism heard among a few Rip Van Winkles in Japan, who talk, both in Japanese and English, about the "return of the tycoon to power." There never was but one emperor in Japan; the shōgun was a military usurper, and the bombastic title "tycoon" a diplomatic fraud.
We have seen how the policy of Yoritomo was continued by the Hōjō, the Ashikaga, and the Tokugawas, who consummated the permanent separation of the throne and the camp. The custom of the shōguns going to Kiōto to do the mikado homage fell into desuetude after the visit of Iyémitsŭ. The iron-handed rule of the great commander at Yedo was felt all over the empire, and after centuries of war it had perfect peace. Learning flourished, the arts prospered. So perfect was the political machinery of the bakufu that the power of the mikado seemed but a shadow, though in reality it was vastly greater than foreigners ever imagined.
The dwellings of the two rulers at Yedo and Kiōto, of the domineering general and the overawed emperor, were typical of their positions. The mikado dwelt, unguarded, in a mansion surrounded by gardens inclosed within a plaster wall, in a city which was the chosen centre of nobles of simple life, highest rank, and purest blood, men of letters, students, and priests, and noted for its classic history and sacred associations, monasteries, gardens, and people of courtly manners and gentle life. The shōgun lived in a fortified and garrisoned castle, overlooking an upstart city full of arsenals, vassal princes, and military retainers. The feelings of the people found truest expression in the maxim, "The shōgun all men fear; the mikado all men love."
The successors of Iyéyasŭ, carrying out his policy, having exterminated the "corrupt sect" (Christianity), swept all foreigners out of the empire, and bolting its sea-barred gates, proceeded to devise and execute measures to eliminate all disturbing causes, and fix in eternal stability the peaceful conditions which were the fruit of the toils of his arduous life. They deliberately attempted to prevent Chronos from devouring his children.
According to their scheme, the intellect of the nation was to be bounded by the Great Wall of the Chinese classics, while to the hierarchy of Buddhism - one of the most potent engines ever devised for crushing and keeping crushed the intellect of the Asiatic masses - was given the ample encouragement of government example and patronage. An embargo was laid upon all foreign ideas. Edicts commanded the destruction of all boats built upon a foreign model, and forbade the building of vessels of any size or shape superior to that of a junk. Death was the penalty of believing in Christianity, of traveling abroad, of studying foreign languages, of introducing foreign customs. Before the august train of the shōgun men must seal their upper windows, and bow their faces to the earth. Even to his tea-jars and cooking-pots the populace must do obeisance with face in the dust. To study ancient history, which might expose the origin of the shōgunate, was forbidden to the vulgar, and discouraged among the higher. A rigid censorship dried the life-blood of many a master spirit, while the manufacture and concoction of false and garbled histories which extolled the reigning dynasty, or glorified the dual system of government as the best and only one for Japan, were encouraged. There were not wanting poets, fawning flatterers, and even historians, who in their effusions styled the august usurper the Ō-gimi (Chinese, tai-kun, or "tycoon"), a term meaning great prince, or exalted ruler, and properly applied only to the mikado. The blunders, cruelties, and oppressions of the Tokugawa rulers were, in popular fiction and drama, removed from the present, and depicted in plots laid in the time of the Ashikagas, and the true names changed. One of the most perfect systems of espionage and repression ever devised was elaborated to fetter all men in helpless subjection to the great usurper. An incredibly large army of spies was kept in the pay of the Government. Within such a hedge, the Government itself being a colossal fraud, rapidly grew and flourished public and private habits of lying, and deceit in all its forms, until the love of a lie apparently for its own sake became a national habit. When foreigners arrived in the Land of the Gods during the decade following Perry's arrival, they concluded that the lying which was everywhere persistently carried on in the Government and by private persons with such marvelous facility and unique originality was a primal characteristic of Japanese human nature. The necessity of hoodwinking the prying eyes of the foreigners, lest they should discover the fountain of authority, and the true relation of they shōgun, gave rise to the use of official deception that seemed as variegated as a kaleidoscope and as regular as the laws of nature. The majority of the daimiōs who had received lands and titles from the shōgun believed their allegiance to be forever due to him, instead of to the mikado, a belief stigmatized as rank treason by the students of history. As for the common people, the great mass of them forgot, or never knew, that the emperor had ever held power or governed his people; and being officially taught to believe him to be a divine personage, supposed he had lived thus front time immemorial. Knowing only of the troubled war times before the "great and good" Tokugawas, they believed devoutly in the infallibility, paternal benevolence, and divine right of the Yedo rulers.
The line of shōguns, founded by Iyéyasŭ, was the last that held, or ever will hold, the military power in Japan. To them the Japanese people owe the blessing of nearly two hundred and seventy years of peace. Under their firm rule the dual form of grovermnent seemed fixed on a basis unchangeable, and the feudal system in eternal stability. There did not exist, nor was it possible there should arise, causes such as undermined the feudalism of Europe. The Church, the Empire, free cities, industrialism - these were all absent. The eight classes of the people were kept contented and happy. A fertile soil and genial clime gave food in unstinted profusion, and thus was removed a cause which is a chronic source of insurrection in portions of China. As there was no commerce, there was no vast wealth to be accumulated, nor could the mind of the merchant expand to a limit dangerous to despotism by fertilizing contact with foreigners. All learning and education, properly so called, were confined to the samurai, to whom also belonged the sword and privilege. The perfection of the governmental machinery at Yedo kept, as was the design, the daimiōs poor and at jealous variance with each other, and rendered it impossible for them to combine their power. No two of them ever were allowed to meet in private or to visit each other without spies. The vast army of eighty thousand retainers of the Tokugawas, backed by the following of some of the richest clans, such as Owari, Kii, Mito, and Echizen (see Appendix), who were near relatives of the shōgunal family, together with the vast resources in income and accumulation, made it appear, as many believed, that the overthrow of the Tokugawas, or the bakufu, or the feudal system, was a moral impossibility.
Yet all these fell to ruin in the space of a few months! The bakufu is now a shadow of the past. The Tokugawas, once princes and the gentry of the land, whose hands never touched other tools than pen and sword, now live in obscurity or poverty, and by thousands keep soul and body together by picking tea, making paper, or digging the mud of rice-fields they once owned, like the laborers they once despised. Their ancestral tombs at Kuno, Shiba, Uyéno, and Nikkō, once the most sacred and magnificently adorned of Japanese places of honor, are now dilapidating in unarrested neglect, dishonor, and decay. The feudal system, at the touch of a few daring parvenus, crumbled to dust like the long undisturbed tenants of catacombs when suddenly moved or exposed to the light of day. Two hundred and fifty princes, resigning lands, retainers, and incomes, retired to private life in Tōkiō at the bidding of their former servants, acting in the name of the mikado. They are now quietly waiting to die. They are the "dead facts stranded on the shores of the oblivious years." What were the causes of these three distinct results? When began the first gathering of the waters which burst into flood in 1868, sweeping away the landmarks of centuries, floating the old ship of state into power, impelling it, manned with new men and new machinery, into the stream of modern thought, as though Noah's ark had been equipped with engines, steam, and propellers? To understand the movement, we must know the currents of thought, and the men who produced the ideas.
There were formerly many classes of people in Japan, but only three of these were students and thinkers. The first comprised the court nobles, the literati of Kiōto; the second, the priests, who brought into existence that mass of Japanese Buddhistic literature, and originated and developed those phases of the India cultus which have made Japanese Buddhism a distinct product of thought and life among the manifold developments of the once most widely professed religion in the world. This intellectual activity and ecclesiastical growth culminated in the sixteenth century. Since that time Japanese thought has been led by the samurai, among whom we may include the priests of Shintō. The modern secular intellectual activity of Japan attained its highest point during the latter part of the last and the first quarter of the present century. Even as far back as the seventeenth century, the students of ancient history began to understand clearly the true nature of the duarchy, and to see that the shōgunate could exist only while the people were kept in ignorance. From that time Buddhism began to lose its hold on the intellect of the samurai and lay educated classes. The revival of Chinese learning, especially the Confucian find Mencian politico-ethics, followed. Buddhism was almost completely supplanted as a moral force. The invasion of Corea was one of the causes tributary to this result, which was greatly stimulated by the presence of a number of refugee scholars, who had fled from China on the overthrow of the Ming dynasty. The secondary influence of the fall of Peking and the accession of the Tartars became a parallel to the fall of Constantinople and the dispersion of the Greek scholars through Europe in the thirteenth century. The relation between the sovereign (mikado) and vassal (slōgun) had become so nearly mythical, that most Japanese fathers could not satisfy the innocent and eager questions of their children as to who was sovereign of Japan. The study of the Confucian moral scheme of "The Five Relations" (i. e., sovereign and minister, parent and child, husband and wife, elder and younger brother, and between friends), in which the first and great requirement is the obedience of the vassal to his lord, aroused an incoercible desire among the samurai to restore and define that relation so long obscured. This spirit increased with every blunder of the bakufu; and when the revolution opened, "the war-cry that led the imperial party to victory was Daigi meibun, or the 'King and the subject;' whereby it was understood that the distinction between them must be restored, and the shōgun should be reduced to the proper relation of subject or servant to his sovereign."
The province of Mito was especially noted for the number, ability, and activity of its scholars. In it dwelt the learned Chinese refugees as guests of the daimiō. The classic, which has had so powerful an influence in forming the public opinion which now upholds the mikado's throne, is the product of the native scholars, who submitted their text for correction to the Chinese scholars. The second Prince of Mito, who was born 1622, and died 1700, is to be considered, as was first pointed out by Mr. Ernest Satow, as "the real author of the movement which culminated in the revolution of 1868." Assembling around him a host of scholars from all parts of Japan, he began the composition of the Dai Nihon Shi, or "History of Japan." It is written in the purest Chinese, which is to Japan what Latin is to learning in Europe, and fills two hundred and. forty-three volumes," or matter about equal to Mr. Bancroft "History of the United States." It was finished in 1715, and immediately became a classic. Though diligently studied, it remained in manuscript, copied from hand to hand by eager students, until 1851, when the wide demand for it induced its publication in print. The tendency of this book, as of most of the many publications of Mito, was to direct the minds of the people to the mikado as the true and only source of authority, and to point out the historical fact that the shōgun was a military usurper. Mito, being a near relative of the house of Tokugawa, was allowed greater liberty in stating his views than could have been granted to any other person. The work begun by Mito was followed up by the famous scholar, Rai Sanyo, who in 1827, after twenty years of continuous labor, completed his Nihon Guai Shi ("External History of Japan"), in which he gives the history of each of the military families, Taira, Minamoto, Hōjō, Ashikaga, etc., who held the governing power from the period of the decadence of the mikados. This work had to pass the ordeal of the censorate at Yedo, and some of the volumes were repeatedly purged by the censors before they were allowed to be published. The unmistakable animus of this great book is to show that the mikado is the only true ruler, in whom is the fountain of power, and to whom the allegiance of every Japanese is due, and that even the Tokugawas were not free from the guilt of usurpation.
The long peace of two centuries gave earnest patriots time to think. Though the great body of the people, both the governing and the governed classes, enervated by prolonged prosperity and absence of danger, cared for none of these things, the serious students burned to see the mikado again restored to his ancient authority. This motive alone would have caused revolution in due time. They felt that Japan had retrograded, that the military arts had sunk into neglect, that the war spirit slumbered. Yet on all sides the "greedy foreigners" were eying the Holy Country. Already the ocean, once a wall, was a highway for wheeled vessels. The settlement of California and the Pacific coast made the restless Americans their neighbors on the east, with only a wide steam ferry between. American whalers cruised in Japanese waters, and hunted whales in sight of the native coasters. American ships repeatedly visited their harbors to restore a very few of the human waifs which for centuries in unintermitted stream had drifted up the Kuro Shiwo and across the Pacific, giving to America wrecks and spoils, her tribes men, her tongues words, and perhaps the civilization which in Peru and Mexico awoke the wonder and tempted the cupidity of the Spanish marauders (see Appendix). Defying all precedent, and trampling on Japanese pride and isolation, the American captains refused to do as the Hollanders, and go to Nagasaki, and appeared even in the Bay of Yedo. The long scarfs of coal-smoke were becoming daily matters of familiar ugliness and prognostics of doom. The steam-whistle heard by the junk sailors - as potent as the rams' horns of old - had already thrown down their walls of exclusion. The "black ships" of the "barbarians" passing Matsumaë in one year numbered eighty-six. Russia, on the north, was descending upon Saghalin; the English, French, Dutch, and Americans were pressing their claims for trade and commerce. The bakufu was idle, making few or no preparations to resist the fierce barbarians. Far-sighted men saw that, in presence of foreigners, a collision between the two centres of government, Yedo and Kiōto, would be immediate as it was inevitable. When it should come, in the nature of the case, the shō gunate must fall. The samurai would adhere to the mikado's side, and the destruction of the feudal system would follow as a logical necessity. It was the time of luxury, carousal, and the stupor of licentious carnival with most of the daimiōs, but with others of gloomy forebodings.
Another current of thought was flowing in the direction of a restored mikadoate. It may be called the revival of the study of pure Shintō, and, in examining the causes of the recent revolution, can not be overlooked. The introduction of Buddhism and Chinese philosophy greatly modified or "corrupted" the ancient faith. A school of modern writers has attempted to purge modern Shintō, and present it in its original form.
According to this religion, Japan is pro-eminently the Land of the Gods, and the mikado is their divine representative and vicegrerent. Hence the duty of all Japanese implicitly to obey him. During the long reign of the shōguns, and of Buddhism, which they favored and professed, few, indeed, knew what pure Shintō was. Its Bible is the Kojiki, compiled A.D. 712. Several other works, such as the Nihongi, Manyoshiu, are nearly as old and as valuable in the eyes of Shintō scholars as the kojiki. They are written in ancient Japanese, and can be read only by special students of the archaic form of the language. The developments of a taste for the study of ancient native literature and for that of history were nearly synchronous. The neglect of pure Japanese learning for that of Chinese had been almost universal, until Keichiu, Kada, and other scholars revived its critical study. The bakufu discouraged all such investigation, while the mikado and court at Kiōto lent it all their aid, both moral and, as it is said, pecuniary. Mabuchi (1697-1769), Motoöri (1730-1801), and Hirata (1776-1843), each successively the pupil of the other, are the greatest lights of pure Shintō; and their writings, which are devoted to cosmogony, ancient history, and language, the true position of the mikado and the Shintō cultus, exerted a lively influence at Kiōto, in Mito, in Echizen, Satsuma, and in many other provinces, where a political party was already forming, with the intention of accomplishing the abolition of the bakufu and a return to the Ōsei era. The necessary result of the study of Shintō was an increase of reverence for the mikado. Buddhism, Chinese influence, Confucianism, despotism, usurpation, and the bakufu were, in the eyes of a Shintōist, all one and the same. Shintō, the ancient true religion, all which a patriot could desire, good grovernment, national purity, the Golden Age, and a life best explained by the conception of the "millennium" among Christians, were synonymous with the mikado and his return to power. The arguments of the Shintōists helped to swell the tide that came to its flood at Fushimi. Throughout and after the war of 1868-1870, there were no more bitter partisans who urged to the last extremes of logic and severity the issues of the war and the "reformation." It was the study of the literature produced by the Shintō scholars and the historical writers that formed the public opinion that finally overthrew the shōgunate, the bakufu, and feudalism.
Long before foreigners arrived, the seeds of revolution were above the soil. The old Prince of Mito, a worthy descendant of his illustrious ancestor, tired of preaching Shintō and of persuading the shōgun to hand over his authority to the mikado, resolved, in 1840, to take up arms and to try the wager of battle. To provide the sinews of war, he seized the Buddhist monasteries, and melted down their enormous bronze bells and cast them into cannon. By prompt measures the bakufu suppressed his preparations for war, and imprisoned him for twelve years, releasing him only in the excitement consequent upon the arrival of Perry.
Meanwhile Satsuma, Chōshiu, and other Southern clans were making extensive military preparations, not merely to be in readiness to drive out the possible forelign invaders, but, as we now know, and as events proved, to reduce the shōgun to his proper level as one of many of the mikado's vassals. The ancestors of these most powerful clans had of old held equal rank and power with Iyéyasŭ, until the fortunes of war turned against them. They had been overcome by force, or had sullenly surrendered in face of overwhelming odds. Their adhesion to the Tokugawas was but nominal, and only the strong pressure of superior power was able to wring from them a haughty semblance of obedience. They chafed perpetually under the rule of one who was in reality a vassal like themselves. On more than one occasion they openly defied and ignored the bakufu's orders; and the purpose, scarcely kept secret, of the Satsuma and Chōshiu clans was to destroy the shōgunate, and acknowledge no authority but that of the mikado.
From the Southern clans rose, finally, the voice in council, the secret plot, the coup d'état, and the arms in the field that wrought the purpose for which Mito labored. Yet they would never have been successful, had not a public sentiment existed to support them, which the historical writers had already created by their writings. The scholars could never have gratified their heart's wish, had not the sword and pen, brain and hand - both equally mighty - helped each other.
Notably pre-eminent among the Southern daimiōs, in personal characteristics, abilities, energy, and far-sightedness, was the Prince of Satsuma. Next to Kaga, he was the wealthiest of all the daimiōs (see Appendix). Had he lived, he would doubtless have led the revolutionary movement of 1868. Besides giving encouragement to all students of the ancient literature and history, he was most active in developing the material resources of his province, and in perfecting the military organization, so that, when the time should be ripe for the onslaught on the bakufu, he might have ready for the mikado the military provision to make his government a complete success. To carry out his plans, he encouraged the study of the Dutch and English languages, and thus learned the modern art of war and scientific improvement. He established cannon-foundries and mills on foreign principles. He saw that something more was needed. Young men must visit foreign countries, and there acquire the theory and practice of the arts of war and peace. The laws of the country forbade any subject to leave it, and the bakafu was ever on the alert to catch run- aways. Later on, however, by a clever artifice, a number of the brightest young men, about twenty-seven in number, got away in one vessel to Europe, and, despite the surveillance of the Yedo officials, others followed to England and the United States. Among these young men were some who are now high officials of the Japanese Grovernment.
The renown of this prince extended all over the empire, and numbers of young men from all parts of the country flocked to be his pupils or students. Kagoshima, his capital, became a centre of busy manual industry and intellectual activity. Keeping pace with the intense energy of mind and hand was the growing sentiment that the days of the bakufu were numbered, that its fall was certain, and that the only fountain of authority was the mikado. The Satsuma samurai and students all looked to the prince as the man for the coming crisis, when, to the inexpressible grief of all, he sickened and died, in 1858. He was succeeded in actual power by Shimadzŭ Saburo, his younger brother. No master ever left more worthy pupils; and those most trusted and trusting, among many others, were Saigō, Ōkubo, and Katsŭ. The mention of these names calls up to a native the most stirring memories of the war. Saigō became the leader of the imperial army. Ōkubo, the implacable enemy of the bakufu, was the master-spirit in council, and the power behind the throne which urged the movement to its logical consequences. At this moment, the annihilator of the Saga rebellion, crowned with diplomatic laurels, and the conqueror of a peace at Peking, he stands leader of the Cabinet, and the foremost man in Japan. Katsŭ advised the bakufu not to fight Chōshiu, and his master to resign his position, thus saving Yedo from destruction. The lesser men of note, pupils of Satsuma, who now hold positions of trust, or who have become disinterested Cincinnati, to show their patriotism, are too many to mention.
Familiarity with the facts above exposed will enable one to understand the rush of events that followed the arrival of the American envoy. The bakufu was apparently at the acme of power. The shōgun Iyévoshi at Yedo was fainéant. The mikado at Kiōto, Koméi Tennō, father of the present emperor, was a man who understood well his true position, hated the bakufu as a nest of robbers, and all foreigners as unclean beasts. Within the empire, all was ripe for revolution. Beneath the portentous calm, those who would listen could hear the rumble of the political earthquake. From without came puffs of news, like atmospheric pulses portending a cyclone. On that 7th day of July, 1853, the natural sea and sky wearing perfect calm, the magnificent fleet of the "barbarian" ships sailed up the Bay of Yedo. It was the outer edge of the typhoon. The Susquehanna was leading the squadrons of seventeen nations:
There was one spectator upon the bluffs at Yokohama who was persuaded in his own mind that the men who could build such ships as those; who were so gentle, kind, patient, firm; having force, yet using it not; demanding to be treated as equals, and in return dealing with Japanese as with equals, could not be barbarians. If they were, it were better for the Japanese to become barbarous. That man was Katsŭ, now the Secretary of the Japanese Navy.
The barbarian envoy was a strange creature. He was told to leave the Bay of Yedo and go to Nagasaki. He impolitely refused, and staid and surveyed, and was dignified. This was anomalous. Other barbarians had not acted so; they had quietly obeyed orders. Furthermore, he brought letters and presents, all directed "To the Emperor of Japan." The shōgun was not emperor, but he must make believe to be so. It would not do to call himself the mikado's general only. This title awed sufficiently at home; but would the strangers respect it? A pedantic professor ("not the Prince of Dai Gaku") in the Chinese college (Dai Gaku Kō) at Yedo was sent to treat with the barbarian Perry. A chopper of Chinese logic, and a stickler for exact terms, the pedant must, as in duty bound, exalt his master. He inserted, or at least allowed to be used in the treaties the title tai-kun, a purely Chinese word, which in those official documents signified that he was the supreme ruler of all Japan. This title had never been bestowed upon the shōgun by the mikado, nor had it ever been used in the imperial official documents. The bakufu and the pedantic professor, Hayashi, did not mean to lie to the true sovereign in Kiōto. The bakufu, like a frog, whose front is white, whose back is black, could look both ways, and present two fronts. Seen from Kiōto, the lie was white; that is, "meant nothing." Looked at by those unsuspecting dupes, the barbarians, it was black; that is, "The august Sovereign of Japan," as the preamble of the Perry treaty says. Yet to the jealous emperor and court this white lie was, as ever white lies are, the blackest of lies. It created the greatest uneasiness and alarm. The shōgun had no shadow of right to this bombastic figment of authority.
It was a new illustration in diplomacy of Æsop's Fable No. 26. The great Yedo frog puffed itself to its utmost to equal the Kiōto ox, and it burst in the attempt. The last carcass of these batrachians in diplomacy was buried in Shidzŭōka, a city ninety-five miles south- west of Tōkiō, in 1868. The writer visited this ancient home of the Tokugawas in 1872, and in a building within a mile of the actual presence of the last and still living "tycoon," and within shouting distance of thousands of his ex-retainers, saw scores of the presents brought by Commodore Perry lying, many of them, in mildew, rust, or neglect. They were all labeled "Presented by the -- -- of the United States to the Emperor of Japan." Yet the mikado never saw them. The Japanese excel at a jibe, but when did they perpetrate sarcasm so huge? The mikado's government, with Pilate's irony, had allowed the tycoon to keep the presents, with the labels on them!
We may fairly infer that so consummate a diplomatist as Perry, had he understood the true state of affairs, would have gone with his fleet to Ozaka, and opened negotiations with the mikado at Kiōto, instead of with his lieutenant at Yedo. Perhaps he never knew that he had treated with an underling.
The immediate results of the opening of the ports to foreign commerce in 1859 were the disarrangement of the prices of the necessaries. of life, and almost universal distress consequent thereon, much sickness and mortality from the importation of foreign diseases, to which was added an exceptional succession of destructive earthquakes, typhoons, floods, fires, and storms. In the midst of these calamities the shōgun, Iyésada, died.
An heir must be chosen. His selection devolved upon the tairō, or regent, Ii, a man of great ability, daring, and, as his enemies say, of unscrupulous villainy. Ii, though socially of low rank, possessed almost supreme power. Ignoring the popular choice of Keiki (the seventh son of the Daimiō of Mito), who had been adopted by the house of Hitotsŭbashi, he chose the Prince of Kii, a boy twelve years of age. In answer to the indignant protests of the princes of Mito, Echizen, and Owari, he shut them up in prison, and thus alienated from his support the near relatives of the house of Tokugawa. It was his deliberate intention, say his enemies, to depose the mikado, as the Hōjō did, and set up a boy emperor again. At the same time, all who opposed him or the bakufu, or who, in either Kiōto, Yedo, or elsewhere, agitated the restoration of the mikado, he impoverished, imprisoned, exiled, or beheaded. Among his victims were many noble scholars and patriots, whose fate excited universal pity.
The mikado being by right the supreme ruler, and the shōgun merely a vassal, no treaty with foreigners could be binding unless signed by the mikado.
The shōgun or his ministers had no right whatever to sign the treaties. Here was a dilemma. The foreigers were pressing the ratification of the treaties on the bakufu, while the milkado and court as vigorously refused their consent. Ii was not a man to hesitate. As the native chronicler writes: "He began to think that if, in the presence of these constant arrivals of foreigners of different nations, he were to wait for the Kiōto people to make up their minds, some unlucky accident might bring the same disasters upon Japan as China had already experienced. He, therefore, concluded a treaty at Kanagawa, and affixed his seal to it, after which he reported the transaction to Kiōto."
This signature to the treaties without the mikado's consent stirred up intense indignation at Kiōto and throughout the country, which from one end to the other now resounded with the cry, "Honor the mikado, and expel the barbarian." In the eyes of patriots, the regent was a traitor. His act gave the enemies of the bakufu a legal pretext of emnity, and was the signal of the regent's doom. All over the country thousands of patriots left their homes, declaring their inten tion not to return to them until the mikado, restored to power, should sweep away the barbarians. Boiling over with patriotism, bands of assassins, mostly rōnins, roamed the country, ready to slay foreigners, or the regent, and to die for the mikado. On the 23d of March, Ii was assassinated in Yedo, outside the Sakurada gate of the castle, near the spot where now stand the offices of the departments of War and Foreign Affairs, and the Gothic brick buildings of the Imperial College of Engineering. Then followed the slaughter of insolent foreigners, and in some cases of innocent ones, and the burning of their legations, the chief object in nearly every case being to embroil the bakufu with foreign powers, and thus hasten its fall. Some of these amateurs, who in foreign eyes were incendiaries and assassins, and in the native view noble patriots, are now high officials in the mikado's Government.
The prestige of the bakufu declined daily, and the tide of influence and power set in steadily toward the true capital. The custom of the shōgun's visiting Kiōto, and doing homage to the mikado, after an interval of two hundred and thirty years, was revived, which caused his true relation to be clearly understood even by the common people, who then learned for the first time the fact that the rule existed, and had been so long insolently ignored. The Prince of Echizen, by a special and unprecedented act of the bakufu, and in obedience to orders from the Kiōto court, was made premier. By his own act, as many believe, though he was most probably only the willing cat's-paw of the Southern daimiōs, he abolished the custom of the daimiōs' forced residence in Yedo. Like wild birds from an opened cage, they, with all their retainers, fled from the city in less than a week. Yedo's glory faded like a dream, and the power and greatness of the Tokugawas came to naught. Few of the clans obeyed any longer the command of the bakufu, and gradually the hearts of the people fell away. "And so," says the native chronicler, "the prestige of the Tokugawa family, which had endured for three hundred years; which had been really more brilliant than Kamakura in the age of Yoritomo on a moonlight night when the stars are shining; which for more than two hundred and seventy years had forced the daimiōs to come breathlessly to take their turn of duty in Yedo; and which had, day and night, eighty thousand vassals at its beck and call, fell to ruin in the space of one morning."
The clans now gathered at the true miako, Kiōto, which became a scene of gayety and bustle unknown since the days of the Taira.
Ending their allegiance to the bakufu, they began to act either according to their own will, or only at the bidding of the court. They filled the imperial treasury with gold, and strengthened the hands of the Son of Heaven with their loyal devotion. Hatred of the foreigner, and a desire to fill their empty coffers with the proceeds of commerce, swayed the minds of many of them like the wind among reeds. Others wished to open the ports in their fiefs, so as to pocket the profits of foreign commerce, which the bakufu enjoyed as its monopoly. A war of pamphlets ensued, some writers attempting to show that the clans owed allegiance to the bakufu; others condemning the idea as treasonable, and, having the historic facts on their side, proved the mikado to be the sole sovereign. The bakufu, acting upon the pressure of public opinion in Kiōto, and in hopes of restoring its prestige, bent all its efforts to close the ports and persuade the foreigners to leave Japan. For this purpose they sent an embassy to Europe. To has- ten their steps, the rōnins now began the systematic assassination of all who opposed their plans, pillorying their heads in the dry bed of the river in front of the city. As a hint to the Tokugawa "usurpers," they cut off the heads of wooden images of the first three Ashikaga shōguns, and stuck them on poles in public. The rōnins were arrested; Chōshiu espoused their side, while Aidzu, who was governor of the city, throw them into prison. The mikado, urged by the clamorous braves, and by kugé who had never seen one of the "hairy foreigners," nor dreamed of their power, issued an order for their expulsion from Japan. The Chōshiu men, the first to act, erected batteries at Shimonoséki. The bakufu, which was responsible to foreigners, commanded the clan to disarm. They refused, and in July, 1863, fired on foreign vessels. They obeyed the mikado, and disobeyed the shōgun. During the next month, Kagoshima was bombarded by a British squadron.
On the 4th of September, the Chōshiu cannoneers fired on a bakufu steamer, containing some men of the Kokura clan who were enemies of Chōshiu, and who had given certainaid and comfort to foreign vessels, and refused to fire on the latter. The Chōshiu men in Kiōto besought the mikado to make a progress to Yamato, to show to the empire his intention of taking the field in person against the barbarians. The proposal was accepted, and the preliminaries arranged, when suddenly all preparations were stopped, Chbshiu became an object of blackest suspicion, the palace gates were doubly guarded, the city was thrown into violent commotion; while the deliberations of the palace ended in the expulsion of Sanjō Sanéyoshi (now Dai Jō Dai Jin), Sawa (Minister of Foreign Affairs, 1870-'71), and five other court nobles, who were deprived of their rank and titles, while eighteen others were punished, and all retainers or members of the family of Mōri (Chōshiu) were peremptorily "forbidden to enter the capital" - a phrase that made them outlaws. An army was levied, and the city put in a state of defense.
The reason of this was, that the Chōshiu men were accused of plotting to get possession of the mikado's person, in order to dictate the policy of the empire. The eighteen kugé and the six ringleaders were suspected of abetting the plot. This, and the firing on the steamer containing their envoys, roused the indignation of the bakufu, and the clans loyal to it, especially Aidzu, to the highest pitch. The men of Chōshiu, accompanied by the seven kugé, fled, September 30th, 1863, to their province.
Chōshia now became the rendezvous of deserters and rōnins from all parts of Japan. In July of the following year, 1864, a body of many hundred of irresponsible men of various clans, calling themselves "Irregulars" arrived in Kiōto from the South, to petition the mikado to restore Mōri and the seven nobles to honor, and to drive out the barbarians. Aidzu and the shōgun's vassals were for attacking these men with arms at once. The mikado, not adopting the views of the petitioners, returned them no answer. On July 30th, the "Irregulars" were increased by many hitherto calm, but now exasperated, Chōshiu men, and encamped in battle array in the suburbs, where they were joined, August 15th, by two karōs, and two hundred men from Chōshiu, sent by Prince Mōri to restrain his followers from violence. While thus patiently waiting, a notification that they were to be punished was issued, August 19th, to them by the court, then under the influence of Aidzu, and Keiki was put in command of the army of chastisement.
With tears and letters of sorrowful regret to their friends at court, the Chōshiu men and the rōnins, in a written manifesto vindicated the justness of their cause, swore vengeance against Aidzu, whose troops were encamped in the imperial flower-garden, and then asking pardon of the Son of Heaven "for making a disturbance so near the base of the chariot" (the throne), they accepted the wager of battle, and rushed to the attack. "The crisis had arrived," says the native chronicler, "and the spirit of murder filled and overflowed heaven and earth. The term chōtéki, which for centuries had been obsolete, now again came into being. Many myriads of habitations were destroyed, and millions of people were plunged into a fiery pit." On the 20th of August, 1864, at day-dawn, the battle began, the Chōshiu men advancing in three divisions, numbering in all thirteen hundred men, their design being to attack the nine gates of the imperial palace and surround the flower-garden. The Tokugawa and Aidzu troops were backed by those of Echizen, Hikoné, Kuwana, and others. The battle raged furiously for two days, involving the city in a conflagration, which, fanned by a gale, reduced large quarters of it to a level of ashes. The fighting was by men in armor, equipped mostly with sword, arrow, cannon, and musket: 811 streets, 27,400 houses, 18 palaces, 44 large and 630 small yashikis, 60 Shintō shrines, 115 Buddhist temples, 40 bridges, 400 beggar's huts, and one eta village were destroyed by the flames; 1216 fire-proof store-houses were knocked to pieces by the cannonading kept up after the battle to prevent the Chōshiu men from hiding in them. "The capital, surrounded by a nine-fold circle of flowers, entirely disappeared in one morning in the smoke of the flames of a war fire." The homeless city populace fled to the suburbs, dwelling on roofless earth, pestered by the heat and clouds of mos quitoes, while men in soldiers' dress played the robber without fear or shame. "The Blossom Capital became a scorched desert." The Chōshiu were utterly defeated, and driven out of the city. Thirty of them were decapitated in prison.
The next month the bakufu begged the imperial court to deprive the Mōri family and all its branches of their titles. Elated with suc cess, an order was issued to all the clans to march to the chastisement of the two provinces of Nagato and Suwo. The Tokugawa intended thus to set an example to the wavering clans, and give proof of the power it still possessed. During the same month, September 5th and 6th, 1864, Shimonoséki was bombarded by an allied fleet bearing the flags of four foreign nations. After great destruction of life and property, the generous victors demanded an "indemnity" of three million Mexican dollars (see Appendix). The brave clan, having de tied the bakufu ai Kiōto, dared the prowess of the "civilized world," and stood to their guns at Shimonoséki till driven away by over- whelming numbers of balls and men, now prepared to face the com bined armies of the shōgunate.
Then was revealed the result of the long previous preparation in the South for war. The Chōshiu clansmen, united and alert, were lightly dressed, armed with English and American rifles, drilled in Eu ropean tactics, and abundantly provided with artillery, which they fired rapidly and with precision. They had cast away armor, sword, and spear. Chōshiu had long been the seat of Dutch learning, and translations of Dutch military works were numerously made and used there. Their disciplined battalions were recruited from the common people, not from the samurai alone, were well paid, and full of enthu siasm. The bakufu had but a motley, half-hearted army, many of whom, when the order was given to march, straightway fell ill, having no stomach for the fight. Some of the most influential clans declined or refused outright to join the expedition, whose purpose was con demned by almost all the wisest leaders, notably by Katsŭ, the shō gun's adviser.
A campaign of three months, in the summer of 1866, ended in the utter and disgraceful defeat of the bakufu, and the triumph of Chō shiu. The clans not yet in the field refused to go to the front. The prestige of the shōgunate was now irretrievably ruined.
The young shōgun, worn out with ceaseless anxiety, died at Ōzaka, September 19th, 1866. He had secured the mikado's consent to the treaties, on the condition that they should be revised, and that Hiōgo should never be opened as a port of foreign commerce. He was succeeded by Keiki, his former rival, who was appointed head of the Tokugawa family by the court October, 1866. On the 6th of January, 1867, he was made shōgun. He had repeatedly declined the position. He brought to it numerous private virtues, but only the firmness of a feather for the crisis at hand. The average Japanese lacks the stolidity and obstinacy of the Chinaman, and fickleness is supposed to be his chief characteristic. Keiki, as some of his once best friends say, was fickleness personified. If, with the help of counselors, he could make up his mind to one course of action, the keenest observers could never forecast the change liable to ensue when new advisers appeared. It is evident that the appointment of such a man at this crisis served only to precipitate the issue. His popularity at the court most probably arose from the fact that he was opposed to the opening of Hiōgo and ōzaka to the foreigners.
In October, 1867, the Prince of Tosa openly urged the new shōgun to resign; while many able samurai, Saigō, Ōkubo, Gotō, Kido, Hirozawa, Komatsŭ, backed by such men of rank as Shimadzu Saburo, and the ex-princes of Echizen, Uwajima, Ilizen, and Tosa, urged the formation of the Government on the basis of the ante-shōgun era prior to 1200 A.D. They formed so powerful a combination that on the 9th of November, 1867, the vacillating Keiki, yielding to the force of public opinion, tendered his resignation as Sei-i Tai Shōgun.
This was a long step toward the ancient régime. Yet, as in Japan, whichever party or leader has possession of the mikado is master of the situation; and as the Aidzu clan, the most stanchly loyal to the Tokugawa family, kept guard at the gates of the imperial palace, it was still uncertain where the actual power would reside - whether in the Tokugawa clan, in the council of daimiōs, or, where it rightfully belonged, with the imperial court. The influential samurai of Satsuma, and Chōshiu, and the princes of Tosa, Echizen, and Uwajima were determined not to let the question hang in suspense. Gradually, small parties of the soldiers of the combination assembled in the capital. Saigō and Ōkubo, Kido, Gotō, and Iwakura, were too much in earnest to let the supreme opportunity slip. They began to stir up the court to take advantage of the critical moment, the mikado Komei being dead, and, by a bold coup d'état, abolish the office of shōgun and the bakufu, and re-establish the Government on the ancient basis, with the young emperor at the head.
On the 3d of January, 1868, the troops of the combination (Satsuma, Tosa, Echizen, Aki, and Owari) suddenly took possession of the palace gates. The court nobles hitherto surrounding the boy emperor were dismissed, and only those favoring the views of the combination were admitted to the palace. The court, thus purged, issued an edict in the name of the mikado, which stated that the government of the country was now solely in the hands of the imperial court. The bakufu and office of shōgun were abolished. A provisional government, with three grades of office, was formed, and the positions were at once filled by men loyal to the new rulers. The family of Mōri was rehabilitated, and the seven banished nobles were recalled. Sanjō and Iwakura were made assistants to the supreme administrator, Arisugawa Miya, a prince of the blood.
The indignation of the retainers of Tokugawa knew' no bounds. The vacillating shōgun now regretted his resignation, and wished himself back in power. He left Kiōto with the clans still loyal to him, with the professed intention of calming the passions of his followers, but in reality of seizing Ōzaka, and blocking up the communications of the Southerners. Shortly after, in Yedo, on the 19th of January, the yashikis of the Satsuma clan were stormed and burned by the bakufu troops. The Princes of Owari and Echizen were sent by the court to invite Keiki to join the new Government, and receive an appointment to office even higher than he had held before. He promised to do so, but no sooner were they gone than he yielded to Aidzu's warlike counsel to re-enter Kiōto in force, drive out the "bad counselors of the young emperor," and "try the issue with the sword." He was forbidden by the court to approach the city with a military following. Barriers were erected across the two roads leading to the capital, and the Southern clansmen, numbering about two thousand, posted themselves behind them, with artillery. Keiki set out from Ōzaka on the evening of the 27th of January, with the Aidzu and Kuwana clans in the front of his following, amounting to over ten, or, as some say, thirty thousand men. At Fushimi his messengers were refused passage through the barriers. The kuan-gun (loyal army, Kiōto forces) fired their cannon, and the war was opened. The shōgun's followers, by their last move on the political chess-board, had made themselves chōtéki. Their prestige had flown.
The battle lasted three days. In the presence of overwhelming forces, the Southern samurai showed not only undaunted valor, but the result of previous years of military training. The battle was not to the strong. It was to the side of intelligence, energy, coolness, and valor. The shōgun's army was beaten, and in wild disorder fled. to Ōzaka, the historic castle of which was burned by the loyal army. The chief, unrecognized, found refuge upon an American vessel, and, reaching Yedo on one of his own ships, sought the seclusion of his castle. His own family retainers and most of the subject clans (fudai), and the daimiōs of Aidzu, Sendai, and others of the North and East, urged him to renew the fight and restore his prestige. One of his ministers earnestly begged him to commit hara-kiri, urging its necessity to preserve the honor of the Tokugawa clan. His exhortation being unsuccessful, the proposer solemnly opened his own bowels. With a large army, arsenals, munitions of war, and fleet of ships vastly exceeding those of the mikado, his chances of success were very fair. But this time the vassal was loyal, the waverer wavered no more. Refusing to listen to those who advised war, abhorring the very idea of being a chōtéki, he hearkened to the counsel of his two highest ministers, Katsŭ and Ōkubo Ichiō, and declaring that he would never take up arms against his lord, the mikado, he retired to private life. The comparison of this man with Washington because he refused to head an army, and thus save the country from a long civil war, does not seem to be very happy, though I have heard it made. Personally, Keiki is a highly accomplished gentleman, though ambitious and weak. Politically, he simply did his duty, and made discretion the better part of valor. It is difficult to see in him any exalted traits of character or evidences of genius; to Katsŭ and Ōkubo is due the last and best decision of his life. Katsŭ, the old pupil of Satsuma and comrade of Saigō, had long foreseen that the governing power must and ought of right to revert to the mikado, and, braving odium and assassination, he advised his master to resign. The victorious Southerners, led by Saigō, were in the southern suburb of Yedo, waiting to attack the city. To reduce a Japanese city needs but a torch, and the impatient victors would have left of Yedo little but ashes had there been resistance. Katsŭ, meeting Saigō, assured him of the submissive temper of the shōgun, and begged him to spare the city. It was done. The fanatical retainers of Keiki made the temple grounds of Uyéno their stronghold. On the 4th of July they were attacked and routed, and the magnificent temple, the pride of the city, laid in ashes. The theatre of war was then transferred to the highlands of Aidzu at Wakamatsŭ, and thence to Matsumaë and Hakodaté in Yezo. Victory everywhere perched upon the mikado's brocade banner. By July 1st, 1869, all vestiges of the rebellion had ceased, and "the empire was grateful for universal peace."
The mikado's party was composed of the heterogeneous elements which a revolution usually brings forth. Side by side with high-souled patriots were disreputable vagrants and scalawags of every description, rōnins, or low, two-sworded men, jo-i, or "foreigner-haters," "port- closers," and Shintō priests and students. There were a few earnest men whose darling hope was to see a representative government established, while fewer yet eagerly wished Japan to adopt the civilization of the West, and join the brotherhood of nations. These men had utilized every current and eddy of opinion to forward their own views and achieve their own purpose. The object common to all was the exaltation of the mikado. The bond of union which held the major ity together was a determination to expel the foreigners or to revise the treaties so as to expunge the odious extra-territoriality clause - the thorn that still rankles in the side of every Japanese patriot. For eighteen months the energies of the jo-i, or "foreigner-haters," were utilized in the camp in fighting the rebellious Tokugawa retainers. The war over, the trials of the new Government began. The low, two-sworded men clamored for the fulfillment of the promise that the foreigners should be expelled from Japan and the ports closed. The Shintō officials induced the Government to persecute the native "Christians," demanded the abolition of Buddhism, the establishment of Shintō by edict, and the restoration of the Government on a purely theocratic basis, and echoed the cry of "Expel the barbarian." Even with the majority of the high officials there was no abandonment of the purpose to expel foreigners. They intended to do it, but the wisest of them knew that in their present condition they were not able. Hence they simply wished to bide their time, and gain strength. It was a matter of difficulty to keep patient thousands of swaggering braves whose only tools for earning bread were their swords. The first attention was given to reorganizing a national army, and to developing the military resources of the empire. All this was done with the cherished end in view of driving out the aliens, closing the ports of commerce, and bringing back the days of dictatorial isolation. The desire for foreign civilization existed rather among the adherents of Tokugawa, among whom were many enlightened gentlemen, besides students and travelers, who had been to Europe and America, and who wished their country to take advantage of the inventions of the foreigners. Yet many of the very men who once wished the foreigners expelled, the ports closed, the treaties repudiated, who were jo-i, or "foreigner-haters," and who considered all aliens as only a few degrees above the level of beasts, are now members of the mikado's Government, the exponents of advanced ideas, the defenders and executors of philo-Europeanism, or Western civilization.
What caused the change that came over the spirit of their dreams? Why do they now preach the faith they once destroyed? "It was the lessons taught them at Kagoshima and Shimonoséki," say some. "It was the benefits they saw would arise from commerce," say others. "The child of the revolution was changed at nurse, and the Government now in power was put into its cradle by mistake or design," say others.
Cannon-balls, commerce, and actual contact with foreigners doubt less helped the scales to fall from their eyes, but these were helps only. All such means had failed in China, though tried for half a century. They would have failed in Japan also. It was an impulse from within that urged the Japanese to join the comity of nations. The noblest trait in the character of a Japanese is his willingness to change for the better when he discovers his wrong or inferiority. This led the leaders to preach the faith they once destroyed, to destroy the faith they once preached.
The great work of enlightening the mikado's followers was begun by the Japanese leaders, Ōkubo, Kido, Gotō, all of them students, both of the ancient native literature and of foreign ideas. It was finished by Japanese writers. The kugé, or court nobles, wished to ignore the existence of foreigners, drive them out of the country, or worry them by appointing officers of low rank in the Foreign Office, then an inferior sub-bureau. Ōkubo, Gotō, and Kido promptly opposed this plan, and sent a noble of the imperial court, Higashi Knzé, to Hiōgo with Datté, Prince of Uwajima (see Appendix), to give the mikado's consent to the treaties, and to invite the foreign ministers to an audience with the emperor in Kiōto. The British and Dutch ministers accepted the invitation; the others declined. The train of the British envoy was assaulted by fanatic assassins, one resisting bullet, lance, and sabre of the English dragoons, only to lose his head by the sweep of the sword of Gotō, who rode by the side of the foreigners, determined to secure their audience of the mikado. At first sight of the strangers, the conversion of the kugé was thorough and instantaneous. They made friends with the men they once thought were beasts.
In a memorial to the mikado, Ōkubo further gave expression to his ideas in a memorial that astounded the court and the wavering daimiōs, as follows: "Since the Middle Ages, our emperor has lived behind a screen, and has never trodden the earth. Nothing of what went on outside his screen ever penetrated his sacred ear; the imperial residence was profoundly secluded, and, naturally, unlike the outer world. Not more than a few court nobles were allowed to approach the throne, a practice most opposed to the principles of heaven. Although it is the first duty of man to respect his superior, if he reveres that superior too highly he neglects his duty, while a breach is created between the sovereign and his subjects, who are unable to convey their wants to him. This vicious practice has been common in all ages. But now let pompous etiquette be done away with, and simplicity become our first object. Kiōto is in an out-of-the-way position, and is unfit to be the seat of government. Let his majesty take up his abode temporarily at Ōzaka, removing his capital hither, and thus cure one of the hundred abuses which we inherit from past ages."
The memorial produced in immediate and lively effect upon the court. The young mikado, Mutsuhito, came in person to the meetings of the council of state, and before the court nobles and daimiōs took an oath, as an actual ruler, promising that "a deliberative assembly should be formed; all measures be decided by public opinion; the uncivilized customs of former times should be broken through; and the impartiality and justice displayed in the workings of nature be adopted as a basis of action; and that intellect and learning should be sought for throughout the world, in order to establish the foundations of the empire." This oath is the basis of the new Government.
These promises are either the pompous bombast of a puppet or the pregnant utterances of a sovereign, who in magnanimity and wisdom aspires to lead a nation into a higher life. That such words should in that sublime moment fall from the lips of the chief of an Oriental despotism excites our sympathetic admiration. They seem a sublime echo of affirmation to the prophetic question of the Hebrew seer, "Can a nation be born at once?" They sound like a glad harbinger of a new and higher national development, such as only those with the strongest faith in humanity believe possible to an Asiatic nation. As matter of fact, the words were uttered by a boy of sixteen years, who scarcely dreamed of the tremendous significance of the language put into his month by the high-souled parvenus who had made him emperor de facto, and who were resolved to have their ideas made the foundations of the new Government. The result of the memorial, and the ceaseless activity of Ōkubo and his colleagues, was the ultimate removal of the Government to Yedo. It is not easy for a foreigner to comprehend the profound sensation produced throughout the empire when the mikado left Kiōto to make his abode in another city. During a millennium, Kiōto had been the capital of Dai Nippon, and for twenty-five centuries, according to popular belief, the Mikados had ruled from some spot near the site of the sacred city. A band of fanatics, fired with the Yamato damashi, religiously opposed, but in vain, his journey eastward. To familiarize his people with the fact that Yedo was now the capital, its name was changed to Tōkiō, or Eastern Capital.
Then was further developed the impulse to enter the path of mod ern civilization. While Ōkubo, Kido, Gotō, Iwakura, Sanjō, Itagaki, ŭki, and the rising officials sought to purge and strengthen the political system, the work of enlightening the people and the upstarts raised suddenly to power was done by Japanese writers, who for the first time dared, without suffering death, to tell their thoughts. A large measure of freedom of the press was guaranteed; newspapers sprung up in the capital. Kido, one of the prime movers and leaders, himself established one of the most vigorous, still in existence - the Shimbun Zasshi. The new Government acted with clemency equal to the standard in Christian nations, and most generously to the literary and scientific men among the retainers of the Tokugawas, and invited them to fill posts of honor under the Government. They sent none of the political leaders to the blood-pit, but by the gracious favor of the mikado these were pardoned, and the conciliation of all sections of the empire wisely attempted. Many of those who fought the loyal forces at Fushimi, Wakamatstŭ, and Hakodaté are now the earnest advocates of the restoration and its logical issues. Even Enomoto is envoy of the court of Tōkiō to that of St. Petersburg. All of the defeated daimiōs were restored to rank and income. A complete and happy reunion of the empire was the result. Some of the scholars declined office until the time when even greater freedom of speech and pen was permitted.
There were men who in the old days, braving odium, and even death, at the hands of the bakufu, had begun the study of the English and Dutch languages, and to feed their minds at the Occidental fountains. They were obliged to copy their books in manuscript, so rare were printed copies. Later on, the bakufu, forced by necessity to have interpreters and men skilled in foreign arts and sciences, chose these students, and sent them abroad to study. When the civil war broke out, they were recalled, reaching Japan shortly after the fighting began. They returned, says one of their number, "with their faces flushed with enthusiastic sympathy with the modern civilization of Christendom." Then they began the preparation of those original works and translations, which were eagerly read by the new men in power. Edition after edition was issued, bought, read, lent, and circulated. In these books the history of the Western nations was faithfully told; their manners and customs and beliefs were explained and defended; their resources, methods of thought and education, morals, laws, systems of governments, etc., were described and elucidated. Notably pre-eminent among these writers was the school-master, Fu kuzawa. Western ideas were texts: he clothed them in Japanese words. He further pointed out the weaknesses, defects, and errors of his countrymen, and showed how Japan, by isolation and the false pride that scorned all knowledge derived from foreigners, had failed to advance like Europe or America, and that nothing could save his country from conquest or decay but the assimilation of the ideas which have made the foreigners what they are. There is scarcely a prominent or rising man in Japan but has read Fukuzawa's works, and gratefully acknowledges the stimulus and lasting benefit derived from them. Many of the leaders of the movement toward restoration, who joined it with the cry, "Expel the foreigners," found themselves, after perusal of these works, "unconsciously involved in the advance, without wish or invitation," and utterly unable to explain why they were in the movement. Fukuzawa has declined every one of the many flattering offers of office and power under the Government, and still devotes himself to his school and the work of teaching and translation, consuming his life in noble drudgery. He has been the interpreter of Western ideas and life, caring little about the merely external garnish and glitter of civilization. His books on "Western Manners and Customs," and his volumes of tracts and essays, have had an enormous circulation.
Nakamura, also a school-master, has, besides writing original tracts, translated a considerable body of English literature, John Stuart Mill's "Essay on Liberty," Smiles's "Self-help," and a few smaller works on morals and religion, which have been widely read. His memorial on the subject of Christianity and religious liberty made a very profound impression upon the emperor and court, and gave a powerful check to the ultra Shintōists. Mōri, Mitsukuri, Kato, Nishi, Uchida, Uriu, have also done noble service as authors and translators. It is the writer's firm belief, after nearly four years of life in Japan, mingling among the progressive men of the empire, that the reading and study of books printed in the Japanese language have done more to transform the Japanese mind, and to develop an impulse in the direction of modern civilization, than any other cause or series of causes.
During the past decade the production of purely Japanese literature has almost entirely ceased. A few histories of recent events, a few war-poems and pamphlets urging the expulsion of the barbarians, were issued previous to the civil war; but since then almost the entire literary activity has been exhibited in translations, political documents, memoirs of "mikado-reverencers" who had been martyrs to their faith, and largely in the expression of Western ideas adapted to the understanding of the Japanese.
The war was ended by July, 1870. Rewards were distributed; and the Government was still further consolidated by creating definite offices, and making all titles, which had been for nearly six centuries empty names, to have reality and power. There was still, however, much dead wood in the ship of state, a condition of chronic strain, a dangerous amount of friction in the machinery, wrangling among the crew, and a vast freight of bad cargo that the purest patriots saw the good ship must "unload," if she was to be saved. This unloading was accomplished in the usual way, by dismissing hundreds of officials one day, and re-appointing on the next only those favorable to the desired policy of the mikado.
Furthermore, it became daily more certain that national development and peace could never be secured while the feudal system existed. The clan spirit which it fostered was fatal to national unity. So long as a Japanese meant by "my country" merely his own clan, loyalty might exist, but patriotism could not. The time seemed ripe for action. The press was busy in issuing pamphlets advocating the abolition of feudalism. Several of the great daimiōs, long before ready for it, now openly advocated the change. The lesser ones knew better than to oppose it. The four great clans, Satsuma, Chōshiu, Tosa, and Hizen (see Appendix), were the pioneers of the movement. They addressed a memorial to the throne, in which it was argued that the daimiōs fiefs ought not to be looked on as private property, but as the mikado's own. They offered to restore the registers of their clans to the sovereign. These were the external signs of the times. Back of these, there were at least three men who were determined to sweep feudalism away utterly. They were Kido, Ōkubo, Iwakura. The first step was to abolish the appellation of court noble (kugé) and territorial prince (daimiō), and to designate both as kuazokŭ, or noble families. The former heads of clans were temporarily appointed chiji (governors of their clans). This smoothed the way. In September, 1871, the edict went forth calling the daimias to Tōkiō to retire to private life. With scarcely an exception, the order was quietly obeyed. The men behind the throne in Tōkiō were ready and even willing to shed blood, should their (the mikado's) commands be resisted, and they expected to do it. The daimiōs who were hostile to the measure knew too well the character of the men who framed the edict to resist it. The writer counts among the most impressive of all his life's ex periences that scene in the immense castle hall of Fukui, when the Daimiō of Echizen bid farewell to his three thousand two-sworded retainers, and, amidst the tears and smiles and loving farewells of the city's populace, left behind him lands, revenue, and obedient followers, and retired to live as a private gentleman in Tōkiō.
Japan's feudalism began nearly eight centuries ago, and existed until within the year 1871. It was not a tower of strength in its last days. Long before its fall, it was an empty shell and a colossal sham. Feudalism is only alive and vigorous when the leaders are men of brain and action. Of all the daimiōs, there were not ten of my personal importance. They were amiable nobodies, great only in stomach or silk robes. Many were sensualists, drunkards, or titled fools. The real power in each clan lay in the hands of able men of inferior rank, who ruled their masters. These are now the men who compose the present Government of Japan. They rose against the shōgun, overthrew him, sent him to private life, and then compelled their masters, the daimiōs, to do likewise. They hold the emperor, and carry on the government in his name. The mikado, however, is much more of a ruler than his fainéant ancestors. Still, the source of government is the same. In 1872, by actual count, four-fifths of the men in the higher offices were of the four great clans of Chōshiu, Satsuma, Hizen, and Tosa. A like census in 1876 would show a larger proportion of officials from the northern and central provinces. Nevertheless, this is not sectionalism. The ablest men rise to office and power in spite of the locality of their birth. Natural ability asserts its power, and in the Cabinet and departments are now many of the old bakufu adherents, even Katsŭ, Ōkubo Ichiō, Enomoto, and several scions of the house of Tokugawa. The power has been shifted, not changed, and is displayed by moving new machinery and doing new work.
Who are now, and who have been, the actual leaders in Japan since 1868? They are Ōkubo, Kido, Iwakura, Sanjō, Gotō, Katsŭ, Soyéjima, Ōkuma, Ōki, Ito, and many others, of whom but two or three are kugé, while none is a daimiō. Almost all were simple samurai, or retainers of the territorial nobles.
The objects of the revolution of 1868 have been accomplished. The shōgunate and the feudal system are forever no more. The mikado is now the restored and beloved emperor. The present personage, a young man of twenty-four years of age, has already show great independence and firmnness of character, and may in future become as much the real ruler of his people as the Czar is of his. The enterprise of establishing Shintō as the national faith has failed vastly and ignominiously, though the old Shintō temples have been purged and many new ones erected, while official patronage and influence give the ancient cult a fair outward show. Buddhism is still the religion of the Japanese people, though doubtless on the wane.
To summarize this chapter: the shōgun was simply one of the many vassals of the mikado of comparatively inferior grade, and historically a usurper; the term "tycoon" was a diplomatic fraud, a title to which the shōgun had, officially, not the shadow of right; the foreign diplomatists made treaties with one who had no right whatever to make them; the bakufu was an organized usurpation; the stereotyped statements concerning a "spiritual" and a "secular" emperor are literary fictions of foreign book-makers; feudalism arose upon the decadence of the mikado's power; it was the chief hinderance to national unity, and was ready for its fall before the shock came; in all Japanese history the reverence for the mikado's person and the throne has been the strongest national trait and the mightiest political force; the bakufu exaggerated the mikado's sacredness for its own purposes; the Japanese are impressible and ever ready to avail themselves of whatever foreign aids or appliances will tend to their own aggrandizement: nevertheless, there exists a strong tendency to conserve the national type, pride, feelings, religion, and equality with, if not superiority to, all the nations of the world; the true explanation of the events of the last eight years in Japan is to be sought in these tendencies and the internal history of the nation; the shōgun, bakufu, and perhaps even feudalism would have fallen, had foreigners never landed in Japan; the movement toward modern civilization originated from within, and was not simply the result of foreign impact or pressure; the work of enlightenment and education, which alone could assure success to the movement, was begun and carried on by native students, statesmen, and simple patriots.
A mighty task awaited the new Government after the revolution of 1868. It was to heal the disease of ages; to uproot feudalism and sectionalism, with all their abuses; to give Japan a new nationality; to change her social system; to infuse new blood into her veins; to make a hermit nation, half blinded by a sudden influx of light, competitor with the wealthy, powerful, and aggressive nations of Christendom. It was a problem of national regeneration or ruin. It seemed like entering into history a second time, to be born again.
What transcendent abilities needed for such a task! What national union, harmony in council, unselfish patriotism required! What chief, towering above his fellows, would arise, who by mighty intellect and matchless tact could achieve what Yoritomo, or the Taikō, or Iyéyasŭ himself, or all, would be helpless to perform? At home were the stolidly conservative peasantry, backed by ignorance, superstition, priest- craft, and political hostility. On their own soil they were fronted by aggressive foreigners, who studied all Japanese questions through the spectacles of dollars and cents and trade, and whose diplomatists too often made the principles of Shylock their system. Outside, the Asiatic nations beheld with contempt, jealousy, and alarm the departure of one of their number from Turanian ideas, principles, and civilization. China, with ill-concealed anger, Corea with open defiance, taunted Japan with servile submission to the "foreign devils."
For the first time, the nation was represented to the world by an embassy at once august and plenipotentiary. It was not a squad of petty officials or local nobles going forth to kiss a toe, to play the part of figure-heads or stool-pigeons, to beg the aliens to get out of Japan, to keep the scales on foreign eyes, to buy gun-boats, or to hire employés. A noble of highest rank and blood of immemorial antiquity, vicar of majesty and national government, with four cabinet ministers, set out to visit the courts of the fifteen nations having treaties with Dai Nippon. These were Iwakura Tomomi, Ōkubo Toshimiti, Kido Takayoshi, Ito Hirobumi, and Yamaguchi Masaka. They were accompanied by commissioners representing every Government department, sent to study and report upon the methods and resources of foreign civilizations. They arrived in Washington, February 29th, 1872, and, for the first time in history, a letter signed by the mikado was seen outside of Asia. It was presented by the embassadors, robed in their ancient Yamato costume, to the President of the United States, on the 4th of March, Mr. Arinori Mori acting as interpreter. "The first president of the free republic" and the men who had elevated the eta to citizenship stood face to face in fraternal accord. The one hundred and twenty-third sovereign of an empire in its twenty-sixth centennial saluted the citizen-ruler of a nation whose century aloe had not yet bloomed. On the 6th of March they were welcomed on the floor of Congress. This day marked the formal entrance of Japan upon the theatre of universal history.