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Even to be thus flouted did not provoke the
Yedo statesmen to adopt a manly and dignified
course. Instead of protesting against the second
edict and declining to receive it, they duly ac-
knowledged it, and promised that its contents
should be debated when the Sfiogun reached

In the early spring of 1863 the SKogun set out
for the Imperial city. As his cortege passed
along the seashore near Kanagawa, he could see
a strong squadron of British war-vessels assem-
bled in Yokohama harbour. Being a mere boy,
he probably gave himself no concern about the
purpose of these vessels' presence, nor was he told
that they were a demonstration to obtain from
his own Government redress for the assassination
committed by the Satsuma samurai, or that he
himself would have travelled by sea had not his
ministers apprehended the seizure of his person
by the British ships. Fate could scarcely have
been more ironical than she was when she con-
trived that the SKogun should be cited to Kyoto
to answer for not driving out intruders by whom
his own capital was openly menaced and his own
movements were restricted.

This journey to Kyoto was not undertaken in



accordance with any definite policy. Even the
course to be pursued on arrival there had not
been mapped out. The Shogun s ministers con-
soled themselves with vague hopes : they trusted
to the chapter of accidents. Very different was
the conduct of the extremists. By methods little
short of intimidation, they extorted from Prince
Keiki, the Shogun' s guardian, who was then in
Kyoto, a promise that immediately on the Shogun' s
return to Yedo, measures to terminate foreign
intercourse should be commenced. They even
required a pledge as to the number of days to be
spent by the Shogun in Kyoto and on his journey
back to Yedo. These engagements confronted
the Shogun when he reached the Imperial capital.
From the position of an autocrat, he had fallen
to that of a mere subordinate. Instead of issuing
orders, it had become his duty to receive and
obey them. For the moment the extremists,
under the leadership of Mori, chief of Choshiu,
had command of the situation. Though headed
by such men as Princes Konoye (the Regent),
Iwakura, and Chigusa, and the feudal chiefs of
Echizen, Aizu, and Tosa, the moderates could not
make head against the tide in the absence of
Shimazu of Satsuma, whom the Tokaido assassi-
nation (described above) had compelled to return
to his fief. Slights and even insults were con-
spicuous in the treatment accorded to the Shogun
at the Imperial Court. 1 From Yedo, at the same

1 See Appendix, note 42.



time, couriers arrived almost daily, urging that
unless the SHbgun returned at once to settle the
complication with the British, war could not be
avoided. The extremists welcomed the prospect.
Nothing could have suited them better than that
a British fleet should demolish the last vestiges of
the Yedo administration. They have just been
seen stipulating that the Sfibgun should return to
his capital within a fixed number of days for the
purpose of expelling foreigners. But now that
there was a prospect of his destruction being
furthered by holding him in Kyoto, they held
him there. An Imperial decree was published
directing that if the " English barbarians'* wanted
a conference, they should be invited to repair to
Osaka harbour, there to receive a point-blank re-
fusal ; that the Shogun should remain in Kyoto to
assume the direction of defensive operations, and
that he should accompany the Emperor to the
shrine of the God of War, where a " barbarian-
quelling sword " would be handed to him.

Under such circumstances, the Shogun had re-
course to the last refuge of the helpless : he fell
sick ; and Yedo, being thus left to its own re-
sources, chose the only practicable route, paid
the indemnity demanded for the Richardson
murder, and left the British to exact from Sat-
suma whatever further redress they deemed ne-
cessary. This the British did so effectually, in
July (1863), that all idea of measuring strength
with the Occident disappeared completely from



the minds of the Satsuma samurai, and their chief,
Shimazu, already imbued with moderate views,
now finally adopted the resolution of oppos-
ing the anti-foreign extremists with his entire

But in the mean while several important events
had occurred.

Among the various edicts obtained from the
sovereign by the extremists, there was one
which fixed the iith of May, 1863, as the
date for practically inaugurating the anti-foreign
policy. Copies of this edict were distributed
among the feudatories, without the intervention
of the Shogun, a course flagrantly opposed to
administrative precedents. The Choshiu chief
alone rendered immediate obedience. In fact
his zeal outran his orders, for without awaiting
the appointed day, he opened fire on foreign
vessels passing through the strait of Shimo-no-
seki, which his batteries commanded. Ships
flying the flags of the United States, of France,
and of Holland having been thus treated, vigor-
ous remonstrances were addressed to the Yedo
Government by the representatives of those three

Meanwhile, the Shogun's ministers in Yedo,
observing that their master was detained in Kyoto
against his will, and that, unless a bold stroke
were struck, his authority must be permanently
impaired, sent two battalions of picked samurai
by sea to Osaka, and marched them to the im-



mediate vicinity of Kyoto. Such a display of
wellnigh reckless resolution on the part of states-
men who had hitherto shown themselves sub-
missive almost to pusillanimity, astounded the
public. Had the troops been allowed to enter
the city, the extremists could not have made any
effective resistance. But the Sboguns officials in
Kyoto persuaded the samurai to retire. The op-
portunity was lost, and nothing resulted from this
bold move except the Sbogun's speedy return to

The extremists now had full mastery of the
situation in Kyoto. It seemed that nothing
could check them. Yet at this moment of
apparent supremacy, their cause received a blow
from which it never recovered. They had the
audacity to forge an Imperial edict, declaring
the Emperor's firm resolve to drive out the
barbarians, and announcing that His Majesty
would make a pilgrimage to the great shrines
to pray for success. They doubtless imagined
that their influence at Court would enable them
to secure the Emperor's post-facto endorsement
of this edict. But they were mistaken. At the
instance of the moderates, an order was issued
that Mori of Choshiu, leader of the extremists,
should withdraw from the capital with all his
vassals and with the nobles who had supported
his views.

The only credible explanation of this marked
change of attitude in Kyoto was that the bom-


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bardment of Kagoshima by a British squadron
had furnished a conclusive proof of Japan's
helplessness to stand in arms against foreigners.
It is true that the Court did not openly disavow
its anti-foreign policy ; but it never again at-
tempted to enforce it. Shimazu of Satsuma was
summoned to Kyoto, and at his instance the
S/iogun repaired thither again, receiving now a
gracious welcome and finding an opportunity
which might have been utilised to put an end
for ever to anti-foreign agitation and to restore
the administrative authority of Yedo. His
advisers, however, seemed in those days to be
entirely without capacity to take a wise step.
They saw no course except to continue their
simulated arrangements for terminating foreign
intercourse, though public opinion had evidently
begun to change towards that problem.

Two events now occurred which finally
deprived the anti-foreign movement of all mis-
chievous power. The Choshiu samurai, seeking
to recover their influence by force, made a raid
against Kyoto, and were not driven back until a
large section of the city had been destroyed by
fire.- Their alleged object was to present a peti-
tion to the Throne ; but their real and well-
understood purpose was to destroy the leaders of
the moderates. This attempt and its signal
failure not only involved the national disgrace
of the Choshiu men, but also discredited the
cause they espoused. The Emperor had previ-
VOL. m. 15 225


ously been regarded as the leader of the anti-
foreign policy, but its most vehement advocates
now began to be classed as rebels. Shortly
afterwards, the three Powers whose merchant-
men had been fired on by the Shimo-no-seki
batteries, together with England, sent a joint
squadron which demolished Choshiu's forts,
destroyed his ships, and without any apparent
effort scattered his fighting men. This " Shimo-
no-seki expedition," the theme of endless discus-
sion * in later times, had for direct result a
national conviction that to resist foreigners by
force was quite hopeless ; and for indirect, an
universal inference that the Shogunate instead of
wielding the power of the country, constituted a
fatal obstacle to national unity. Of all the fac-
tors that operated to draw Japan from her seclu-
sion and to overthrow feudalism, the most
powerful were the shedding of Richardson's blood
at Namamugi on the Tokaido, and the resulting
" Kagoshima expedition," the shelling of foreign
vessels by Choshiu's forts at Shimo-no-seki, and
the abortive attempt of the Choshiu samurai to
recover their influence in Kyoto, by force. The
year 1863 saw the "barbarian expelling" agita-
tion deprived of the Emperor's sanction ; the
two principal clans, Satsuma and Choshiu, con-
vinced of their country's impotence to defy the
Occident ; the nation almost fully roused to a
sense of the disintegrating and weakening effects

1 See Appendix, note 43.



of the feudal system ; and the traditional antipa-
thy to foreigners beginning to be exchanged for
a desire to study their civilisation and to adopt
its best features.

As for the Shogunate, evil fortune continued to
attend all its doings. It began to be a house
divided against itself. Its Yedo officials con-
ceived a strong distrust of their Kyoto colleagues,
and even of the Satsuma chief, Shimazu Samuro,
whose influence had hitherto been loyally exerted
in the Shogun's cause. The consequences of this
discord were speedily apparent. When the
Choshiu batteries began to fire upon foreign
vessels navigating the Shimo-no-seki Strait, a
commissioner was sent from Yedo to remonstrate
against such lawless action. The Choshiu folk
replied that they were obeying the sovereign's
orders, which did not concern the Stiogun, and
they capped their contumacy by killing the com-
missioner. A military expedition then became
inevitable. Thirty-six feudatories furnished con-
tingents, and an overwhelming force moved
against the rebellious noble. The Choshiu chief
made no resistance. He took steps to prove his
contrition, and then appealed to the clemency of
the invading generals, who justified his confidence
by leaving him in undisturbed possession of his
fief and withdrawing their forces unconditionally.
Intelligence of these doings provoked much in-
dignation among the Yedo statesmen. They
concluded that such leniency must have been



inspired by a treacherous purpose on the part of
the Kyoto officials who had endorsed it, and on
the part of the Satsuma chief whose troops formed
a large part of the expeditionary force. Prep-
arations were therefore made for a second attack
upon Choshiu, the Shogun himself leading his
army. It was confidently believed that the
rebellious clan would submit without a struggle,
and that the expedition would be nothing more
than a pleasant picnic. Possibly that forecast
would have proved correct had a semblance of
earnestness been imparted to the operations. But
the army of invasion halted at Osaka and envoys
were sent to pronounce sentence upon Choshiu.
These proceedings soon assumed a farcical aspect.
On the one side, penal proclamations were sol-
emnly addressed to the offending clan ; on the
other, the clan paid not the smallest attention to
them. A swift, strong blow was essential. The
SKogun could have delivered it and the Choshiu
men could not then have resisted it in the im-
mediate sequel of their defeat by a foreign squad-
ron. But the Shogun hesitated, and in the
meanwhile the proximate cause of all his troubles
became again active.

Great Britain happened to be represented at
that time in Japan by Sir Harry Parkes, a man
of exceptional perspicacity and of military
methods. He foresaw that the days of the Yedo
Court were numbered ; he believed that the
interests of his own country as well as those of



Japan would be furthered by the Emperor's
resumption of administrative power ; and the
abundant energy of his disposition made it diffi-
cult for him to trust the consummation of these
things to the slow processes of time. The Em-
peror had not yet ratified the treaties. They
were understood to have his sanction, but the
diplomatic formality of ratification was still
wanting. Further, it appeared eminently desir-
able from the British merchant's point of view
that the import duties fixed by the treaties should
be reduced from an average of fifteen per cent
ad valorem to five per cent, and that the ports of
Hyogo and Osaka should be opened at once to
foreign trade, instead of nearly two years hence,
as originally agreed. Now the Shogun owed
a sum of two million dollars to the four Powers
which had undertaken the Shimo-no-seki expe-
dition. They had imposed a fine of three
million dollars on Choshiu, and the Yedo Govern-
ment had undertaken to pay the money. Two
millions were still due. It occurred to Sir Harry
Parkes that a good bargain might be struck by
offering to forego this debt of two millions in
exchange for the ratification of the treaties, the
reduction of the tariff", and the speedy opening of
Hyogo and Osaka. The proposition, being in
the nature of a peaceful offer, might have been
preferred without the cooperation of war-ships.
But Sir Harry Parkes had learned to think that
a display of force should occupy the fore-



ground in all negotiations with Oriental States,
and he possessed the faculty of persuading him-
self that a naval demonstration might be repre-
sented to the European public as a perfectly
friendly prelude to a conference. He got together
a fleet of British, French, and Dutch men-of-
war, and sailed with them to Hyogo for the
purpose of setting forth his project of amicable

It will be remembered that the two crucial
stages of the early treaty negotiations were the
passage of foreign vessels into the Bay of Kana-
gawa and the admission of an American Envoy
to the Shogun's capital. Hyogo stood in the
same relation to the imperial city of Kyoto that
Kanagawa occupied towards Yedo. The arrival
of a foreign squadron at Hyogo could not fail
to disturb the nation even more than the appari-
tion of Commodore Perry's vessels at Kanagawa
had disturbed the S/iogun's officials. Thus, when
eight foreign war-ships cast anchor off Hyogo
in November, 1866, and when the Foreign
Representatives, speaking from out of the shadow
of fifty cannon, set forth the details of their
" friendly " exchange, all the troubles of foreign
intercourse seemed to have been revived in an
aggravated form. Here were the "barbarians"
at the very portals of the Imperial Palace, and
it did not occur to any one to suppose that such
pomp and parade of instruments of war had
been prepared for the mere amusement of



Japanese sightseers, or that a refusal of the ami-
cable bargain proposed in such terms would
be followed by the quiet withdrawal of the
menacing squadron, which, as the Japanese had
fully learned at Kagoshima and Shimo-no-seki,
could raze their towns and shatter their ships
with the utmost ease. Choshiu rebels and all
other domestic troubles were forgotten in the
presence of this peril. The anti-foreign agi-
tators, who had been virtually reduced to silence,
raised their voices again in loud denunciation
of the Sbogun's incompetence to preserve the
precincts of the sacred city from such trespasses.
The Emperor himself shared the general alarm,
and in a moment the Shogunate was confronted
by a crisis of the gravest nature. A resolute
attitude towards either the Imperial Court or
the foreigners could alone have saved the situa-
tion. But the Shogun's ministers pursued their
usual temporising tactics. They sought to
placate the Foreign Representatives by half-
promises, and they urged the Imperial Court
to concede something.

The Emperor, brought once more under the
influence of the anti-foreign party, took an
extraordinary step at this stage. He dismissed
from office and otherwise punished the ministers
to whom the Sbogun had entrusted the conduct
of the negotiations with the Foreign Repre-
sentatives. That was an open violation of the
Yedo Government's administrative rights. Noth-



ing remained for the SKogun except to resign.
He adopted that course, submitting to the
sovereign two addresses ; in one of which
Prince Keiki was recommended as his successor ;
in the other, the necessity of ratifying the trea-
ties was set forth in strong terms. The Court,
however, shrank from the responsibilities in-
volved in accepting this resignation. Answer
was made to the Sh'ogun that the treaties had
the Imperial assent and that the Sb'ogun was
empowered to deal with them, but that since
they contained many objectionable provisions,
steps must be taken to revise them, after con-
sultation with the feudatories, and that, under
no circumstances, should Hyogo and Osaka be
opened. It was an impracticable compromise,
but the SKogun lacked courage to reject it. His
ministers conceded the tariff changes proposed
by the Foreign Representatives and further
promised that Hyogo would be opened speedily.
The Representatives therefore sailed away with
a pleasant consciousness of success. They had
come in their war-ships to propose a friendly
exchange, the conditions being that in return
for remitting two million dollars of an indemnity
excessive from the outset they should obtain
three important concessions. They went away
having obtained two of the concessions and
without having remitted a dollar of the

The Sbogun was now free to prosecute his



interrupted expedition against Choshiu. But
the opportunity to carry it to a successful issue
no longer existed. The Choshiu men had
found time to organise their defences, and to
receive a large accession of strength from
quarters permeated with dissatisfaction against
the Yedo Government. Every operation under-
taken by the Shogun' s adherents ended in failure,
and the Choshiu samurai found themselves in
a position to assume the offensive.

While the nation was watching this display
of impotence and drawing conclusions fatal to
the prestige of the Yedo Government, the
Shogun died and was succeeded by Prince Keiki

It has been shown that Prince Keiki was put
forward by the anti-foreign conservatives as
candidate for the succession to the Shogun 's
office in 1857, when the complications of for-
eign intercourse were in their first stage of acute-
ness. Yet no sooner did he become Sb'bgun
in 1866 than he remodelled the army on
French lines, engaged English officers to or-
ganise a navy, sent his brother to the Paris
Exposition, and altered many of the forms
and ceremonies of his Court so as to bring
them into accord with Occidental fashions.
This contrast between the politics he repre-
sented when a candidate for office and the
practice he adopted on succeeding to power
nine years later, furnished an apt illustration



of the change that had come over the spirit
of the time. The most bigoted of the ex-
clusionists were now beginning to abandon all
idea of at once expelling foreigners and to think
mainly of acquiring the best elements of their

Pressing for immediate settlement when Keiki
became Shogun were two questions, the trouble
with Choshiu and the opening of Hyogo to
foreign trade. In the eyes of the great majority
of the feudatories, notably the Satsuma chief, the
former problem was the more important ; in
the eyes of the Shogun, the latter. Twice the
Emperor was memorialised in urgent terms to
sanction the convention providing for the open-
ing of Hyogo at the beginning of 1868, and at
length he reluctantly consented. At the same
time an edict was obtained imposing severe pen-
alties on Choshiu. The former provoked a fresh
ebullition among the anti-foreign politicians ; the
latter had a result still more disastrous to the
Tokugawa, for it united against them the great
clans of Satsuma and Choshiu.

This is one of the turning-points of Japan's
modern history. A few words are needed to
make it intelligible.

In spite of the generally hostile sentiments
entertained towards each other by the Satsuma
and Choshiu clans, each comprised a number of
exceptionally gifted men whose ambition was to
join the forces of the two fiefs for the purpose of



unifying the Empire under the rule of the Kyoto
Court. Prominent among these reformers on
the Satsuma side were Saigo and Okubo, while
on the Choshiu side were Kido and Sanjo, all
four destined to play great parts in the drama of
their country's new career. Saigo and Okubo, in
common with the bulk of the Satsuma samurai,
entertained, at the outset, strongly conservative
ideas with regard to foreign intercourse, but such
views, as has been shown, were not shared by the
Satsuma chief and his principal vassals. The
Satsuma leaders, in fact, tended to liberalism.
Choshiu, on the contrary, was permeated by anti-
foreign prejudice. Hence anything like hearty
coalition between the two clans seemed impos-
sible, and the breach grew wider after 1863;
for the bombardment of Kagoshima by a British
squadron in that year having finally convinced all
classes in Satsuma of the hopelessness of resisting
foreign intercourse, they made no secret of their
progressive principles, and were consequently
regarded as unpatriotic renegades by the Choshiu
samurai. Events accentuated the difference.
The Choshiu batteries in 1863 fired on and
destroyed a Satsuma steamer laden with cotton
for foreign markets ; the Satsuma men took a
leading part in resisting Choshiu's attempt to re-
enter Kyoto in 1864. Nothing seemed less
likely than a union of such hostile elements.
But Choshiu's turn to receive a convincing object
lesson came in 1865, when a foreign fleet attacked



Shimo-no-seki and demonstrated Japanese help-
lessness to resist Western weapons. At the same
time two youths of the Choshiu clan, Ito and
Inouye, 1 returning from England, whither they
had been sent to study means of expelling for-
eigners, began to propagate vigorously among
their clansmen the liberal convictions acquired
on their travels. Choshiu, in short, was con-
verted, as Satsuma had already been, and the
advocates of national unification found at length
an opportunity to bring the two clans together.
They could not have succeeded, however, in
engaging Satsuma to espouse any scheme hostile
to the Tokugawa had not the latter's leading
officials alienated the Satsuma chief, first by a
display of groundless suspicion, and afterwards by
deciding to send a second expedition against
Choshiu, although Satsuma had been one of the
leaders of the former expedition and had en-
dorsed its results. These things had gradually
cooled Satsuma's friendship towards the Yedo
Court, and when, in 1867, the Stiogun Keiki
obtained a rescript authorising the severe punish-
ment of Choshiu, Satsuma secretly entered into
an alliance with the latter. Capital as the inci-
dent was, its importance escaped the knowledge
of the Yedo Court. But the Shbgun soon had
ample evidence that among all the feudatories
he could no longer count certainly upon the
loyalty of more than three or four, the whole of

1 See Appendix, note 44.



the rest having been estranged either by his
treatment of the Choshiu question or by his

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 3) → online text (page 14 of 16)