CHAPTER XIII. THE MEIJI ERA (Continued)
2. Internal development (1879-1889). - This decade is not marked, perhaps, by so many striking events as the preceding one; but it was a period of somewhat quiet, though rapid, internal development. Brinkley has so well summarized the work of "progressive reform," that we do not hesitate to quote at some length, as follows:
They [the statesmen in power] recast the Ministry, removing the Court nobles, appointing one of the young reformers (Itō Hirobumi) to the post of Premier, and organising the departments on the lines of a European government. They rehabilitated the nobility, creating five orders - prince, marquis, count, viscount, and baron - and granting patents to the men who had taken leading parts in the Restoration. They codified the civil and penal laws, remodelling them on Western bases. They brought a vast number of affairs within the scope of minute regulations. They rescued the finances from confusion and restored them to a sound condition. They recast the whole framework of local government. They organized a great national bank and established a network of subordinate institutions throughout the country. They pushed the work of railway construction and successfully enlisted private enterprise in its cause. They steadily extended the postal and telegraphic services. They economised public expenditures so that the State's income always exceeded its outlays. They laid the foundations of a strong mercantile marine. They instituted a system of postal savings banks. They undertook large harbor improvement and road-making. They planned and put into operation an extensive programme of riparian improvement. They made civil-service appointments depend on competitive examination. They sent numbers of students to Europe and
America to complete their studies; and, by tactful, persevering diplomacy, they gradually introduced a new tone into the Empire's relations with foreign Powers.Some of these points must be explained more fully. The Cabinet, as reorganized, and as still constituted, consists of ten members, as follows: Prime Minister, Ministers of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Treasury, Army, Navy, Justice, Education, Agriculture and Commerce, and Communications. There is also a Minister of the Imperial Household Department; but he has no seat in the Cabinet. A Privy Council was also established.
The people of Japan, outside of the imperial family, are divided into three classes: the nobility (mentioned above); the gentry, who are descendants of the old samurai class; and the common people.
The Yokohama Specie Bank was organized in 1880 for the special purpose of facilitating foreign exchange. And when the various national banks found it impossible to maintain specie payments, it was evident that there was need of a strong central bank. In 1882, therefore, the Bank of Japan was organized "for the purpose of bringing the other banks nearer together and of facilitating the monetary circulation throughout the country." This is the only bank which has the power to issue convertible bank notes. This is also the period in which (in 1879) the pioneer clearing house, that of Ōsaka, was opened.
In the preceding period, by the encouragement of the government, private steamship companies had been organized; and two more companies were organized in 1882 and 1884. One of these is the Ōsaka Shōsen Kaisha (Ōsaka Mercantile Marine Company), which is still in existence and doing a flourishing business. The other company, "after a desperate competition," united with an earlier company (Mitsubishi Mail Steamship Company) and formed the well-known Nippon Yūsen Kaisha (Japan Mail Steamship Company), which operates several foreign lines. It has been instrumental in expanding Japanese trade and commerce.
In 1882 Count Ōkuma's well-known institution at Waseda in Tōkyō was started. English was introduced into the curriculum of Japanese schools in 1884; and the cause of Christian education was strengthened during this sub-period by the opening of several new institutions and the expansion of the Dōshisha, which had been opened in 1875 in Kyōto.
Some obstacles in the way of the progress of Christianity were removed in 1884 by the disestablishment of both Buddhism and Shintō. And great assistance to the propagation of the gospel was afforded by the completion of the translation of the Bible, that of the New Testament being finished in 1880 and of the Old Testament in 1888. The great Missionary Conference in Ōsaka in 1883 had given to the work a new impetus and had led to the first "revivals" in Japan. The visit of Mrs. Leavitt to Japan in 1880 gave great encouragement to temperance work along Christian lines and led to the formation, not only of local temperance societies, but also of a Woman's Christian Temperance Union, which has been a great power for social purity and for righteousness. In 1887 the late Mr. Ishii, "the George Müller of Japan," founded the Okayama Orphan Asylum, which is now the largest and best known of such institutions.
This period was called, at the outset, one of "somewhat quiet" internal development. It was filled, however, with what Chamberlain, in his Things Japanese, dubs "Fashionable Crazes." In 1882 and 1883 the craze was printing dictionaries and other works by subscription; and this was the great time for founding societies, learned and otherwise. In 1884 and 1885 the people took up athletics; and in 1886 and 1887 waltzing was the rage. This was also about the time when "the German measles" prevailed; but it was only a mania for imitating "things German." In 1888 mesmerism, table-turning, planchette, and wrestling were fashionable. In 1889 there was a general revival of "things Japanese," so that this has been called "the great year of reaction."
The status of the Riūkiū Islands was settled during this period. The people of that country had tried to maintain friendly relations with both China and Japan, and, calling the former "father" and the latter "mother," had sent tribute to both. In 1868 the King of Riūkiū had acknowledged the new Emperor as his suzerain; in 1879 he was made a noble of Japan, and Riūkiū was formally annexed. The year before, Japan had formally annexed the Bonin Islands.
In 1882 a Korean mob attacked the Japanese legation at Seoul and burned it. The Minister and his staff made their escape with great difficulty. The result was that, in 1885, a treaty between Japan and China recognized the right of both nations to station troops in Korea, especially in Seoul.
The subject of treaty revision was a lively one during this decade. It was brought up before the treaty powers in 1882 by Inouye; and the principal point in the terms suggested was that a certain number of foreign judges should be appointed for a certain number of years, and that they should form a majority in all cases affecting foreigners. It is scarcely profitable to enter very minutely on the tedious details of that subject and of the prolonged discussions which ensued. Suffice it to say that the demands made by the foreign representatives and almost accepted by Count Inouye were so humiliating to the national dignity, and caused such a strong hostility in the public mind, that Count Inouye was compelled to postpone the negotiations and resigded his portfolio. He was succeeded in the Foreign Office by Count Ōkuma, who, with modified conditions, began negotiations with the powers one by one, and had succeeded with the United States, Germany, Russia, and France, when public opinion again asserted its power in opposition and drove Count Ōkuma also out of office, after he had almost lost his life at the hands of a fanatic. Viscount Aoki and others who followed in the Foreign Office continued negotiations, but demanded terms of equality. The foreign powers found themselves in the position of Tarquin when he was offered the Sibylline Books for a certain price and finally had to pay as much for the one last volume as was asked for the whole set! The concessions offered by Japan grew beautifully less on each occasion and finally were withdrawn entirely; so that the new treaties, when negotiated, left no vestige of extra-territoriality. But that is anticipating the course of events in the next period.
In national political affairs the promise to establish prefectural assemblies was fulfilled in 1880, and these became preparatory schools in political science; and the following year another promise, that of a constitution, was made. The prefectural assemblies do not possess absolute control of the affairs of the prefectures, because they are not entirely independent of the central government. In all cases the final ratification rests with the Governor (who is an appointee of the central government) or with the Department of Home Affairs. The latter also has the power in its own hands of suspending an assembly at its discretion. It would seem, then, that theoretically a prefectural assembly in Japan has very little real power of its own. The central government holds the authority to control these assemblies, if it should be necessary; but it also respects local public opinion as far as possible.
In 1889 the right of local self-government was extended to cities, towns, and villages, upon a somewhat similarly centralized system. In cities the Mayor is appointed by the Emperor; and he manages municipal affairs through both a "city council" and a "city assembly," of which the latter is a popular representative body, and the former is elected by the latter. Towns and villages have elective assemblies by which the Mayor and other officials are chosen.
This was a period prolific in the organization of political parties. The honor of establishing the first so-called political party in Japan belongs to Itagaki. He hailed from Tosa, from which it had been prophesied that liberty would come; and he was "the most passionate advocate of the natural rights of man." As early as 1874 Itagaki had organized a political association for the purpose of education in political science. This could scarcely be described, even loosely, as a party, except in embryo.
Another organization of the same kind was called Aikokusha, or "Patriotic Association."
In 1880 an attempt was made to organize a political party "with definite principles"; but it was opposed on the ground that it was premature. However, the Jiyutō, or "Liberal Party," was then organized by Itagaki; and, in 1881, after the Emperor had issued his promise to establish a national assembly, it was reorganized. In 1882 Ōkuma organized the Kaishintō, or "Reform Party," afterward called Shimpotō, or "Progressive Party." In the same year the government supporters organized the Teiseitō, or "Imperialist Party," which was practically the conservative party of that day. In 1886 Gotō tried to organize the various local political bands into a great league, called Daidō Danketsu, the motto of which, expressed in its name, was "similarity in great things, difference in small things"; but his influence and his party were short-lived. These parties were almost all organized around men more than measures, persons rather than principles.
In this way were political parties organized in Japan. But, as the law regulating public meetings was drastic and the police supervision was strict, it was found necessary for them to dissolve in the course of a year or two. However, they were again organized in the next period.
The Liberals, who were Radicals, became dissatisfied with the slowness of political progress, and made such an agitation that, in 1887, many were expelled from Tōkyō by the so-called "Peace Preservation Act," and those who refused to obey were imprisoned. But finally, in 1889, as the climax of the internal development and political preparations, came the extension of local self-government and the promulgation of a constitution, which ushered in the next period.