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an extraordinarily brief period, and that, as tyros
experimenting with alien systems, the Japanese
might be betrayed into many errors. A struggle
thus ensued between foreign distrust on the one side
and Japanese aspirations on the other, a struggle
often developing painful phases. For whereas
the case for the foreign resident stood solid and
rational so long as it rested on the basis of his
proper attachment to the laws and the judiciary
which the efforts of his nationals, through long
generations, had rendered worthy of trust and
reverence, and on the equally intelligible and

reasonable ground that he wanted convincing
VOL. v._ 3


proofs of Japan's competence to discharge her
novel functions with discretion and impartiality
before submitting himself to her jurisdiction, it
ceased to be a solid and rational case when its
champions undertook, not merely to exaggerate
the risks of trusting Japan implicitly, but also to
demonstrate her radical unworthiness of any trust
whatever, and to depict her under aspects so de-
terrent that submission to her jurisdiction assumed
the character of a catastrophe. The struggle
lasted eleven years, but its gist is contained in this
brief statement. The foreign resident, whose
affection for his own systems was measured by
the struggle their evolution had cost, and whose
practical instincts forbade him to take anything
on trust where security of person and property
was concerned, would have stood out a whole-
somely conservative and justly cautious figure,
had not his attitude been disfigured by local
journalists, who, in order to justify his conserva-
tism, allowed themselves to be betrayed into the
constant r6le of blackening Japan's character and
suggesting harshly prejudiced interpretations of
her acts and motives. It is one thing to hesitate
before entering a new house until its habitable
qualifications have been ascertained. It is another
thing to condemn it without trial as radically and
necessarily deficient in such qualifications. The
latter was, in effect, the line often taken by
the noisiest opponents of Japan's claims, and,
of course, no little resentment and indigna-



tion were aroused on the side of the Japanese,
who, chafing against the obvious antipathies of
their foreign critics, and growing constantly more
impatient of the humiliation to which their
country was internationally condemned, were
sometimes prompted to displays of resentment
which became new weapons in the hands of
their critics. Throughout this struggle the
Government and citizens of the United States
always showed conspicuous sympathy with Jap-
anese aspirations, and it should also be recorded
that, with exceptions so rare as to establish the
rule, foreign tourists and publicists discussed the
problem liberally and fairly, perhaps because, un-
like the foreign communities resident in Japan,
they had no direct interest in its solution.

It would be erroneous to suppose that respon-
sibility for the singularly protracted character of
the negotiations for revision rested entirely on the
foreign side. More than once an agreement had
reached the verge of conclusion, when Japanese
public opinion, partly incited by political in-
trigues, rebelled vehemently against the guaran-
tees demanded of Japan, and the negotiations
were interrupted in consequence, not to be again
resumed until a considerable interval had elapsed.
This point is easily understood by recalling that
whereas, at the outset of the discussion, Japanese
officialdom had the matter entirely in its own
hands and might have settled it on any basis,
however liberal to foreigners, without provoking,



for the moment at all events, seriously hostile
criticism on the part of the nation, there gradu-
ally grew up among the people, pari passu, with
journalistic development, with the study of inter-
national law, and with the organisation of politi-
cal parties, a strong sense of what an independent
State has a right to expect; and thus the longer
the negotiations were protracted, the keener be-
came the popular scrutiny to which they were
subjected and the greater the general reluctance
to endorse any irksome concessions. Had foreign
diplomacy recognised the growth of that senti-
ment and been content to take moderate ad-
vantage of the Japanese negotiators' mood, the
issue might have been comparatively satisfactory
to foreigners. But by asking too much and hag-
gling too long, Western statesmen lost their op-
portunity of obtaining any substantial guarantees,
and had ultimately to hand over their nationals
to Japanese jurisdiction virtually on trust.

The end was reached in 1894, when Great
Britain agreed that after an interval of five years,
ending in July, 1899, Japanese tribunals should
assume jurisdiction over all British subjects within
the confines of Japan, the only condition imposed
being that the new Japanese codes of law some
of which had not yet emerged from the hands of
the compilers must have been in operation for a
period of at least one year before the abolition of
British Consular jurisdiction. Japan, on her side,
undertook that, simultaneously with the recovery



of her judicial autonomy, the whole country
should be thrown open, and all limitations upon
the trade, travel, and residence of foreigners should
be removed throughout the length and breadth of
the land. As to tariff autonomy, it was arranged
that Japan should recover it after a period of
twelve years, and that in the interval a greatly
increased scale of import duties should be applied.
Thus Great Britain took the lead in releasing
Japan from the fetters of the old system. The
initiative came from her with special grace, for
the system and all its irksome consequences had
been imposed on Japan originally by a combina-
tion of Powers with England in the van. As a
matter of historical sequence, the United States
dictated the terms of the first treaty providing for
consular jurisdiction. But from a very early
period the Washington ^Government showed its
willingness to remove all limitations of Japan's
sovereignty, whereas Europe, headed by England,
whose preponderating interest entitled her to the
place of leader, resolutely refused to make any
substantial concession. In Japan's eyes, there-
fore, British conservatism seemed to be the one
serious obstacle to her international enfranchise-
ment, and since the British residents in the Settle-
ments far outnumbered all other nationalities,
alone had newspaper organs to ventilate their
grievances, and exhibited all a Briton's proverbial
indifference to the suavities and courtesies of
speech and method that count for so much in

r O ^ 1 O

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disarming resentment, it was certainly fortunate
for the popularity of her subjects in the Far East
that England saw her way finally to set a liberal

Nearly five years were required to bring the
other Occidental Powers into line with Great
Britain and America. It should be stated, how-
ever, that neither reluctance to make the neces-
sary concessions nor want of sympathy with
Japan caused the delay. The explanation is
that each set of negotiators sought to improve
either the terms or the terminology of the treaties
already concluded, and that the tariff arrange-
ments for the different countries required elab-
orate discussion.

Until the last of the revised treaties was rati-
fied, voices of protest against revision continued
to be vehemently raised by a large section of the
foreign community in the Settlements. Some
were honestly apprehensive as to the issue of the
experiment. Others were swayed by racial preju-
dice, pure and simple. A few had fallen into
an incurable habit of grumbling, or found their
account in professing to champion so-called
" foreign interests ; " and all were naturally re-
luctant to forfeit the immunity from taxation
hitherto enjoyed. It seemed as though the in-
auguration of the new system would find the
foreign community in a mood which must greatly
diminish the chances of a happy result, for where
a captious and aggrieved disposition exists, oppor-



tunities to discover causes of complaint cannot
be wanting. But at the eleventh hour this un-
favourable demeanour underwent a change. So
soon as it became evident that the old system was
hopelessly doomed, the sound common-sense of
the European and American business-man as-
serted itself. The foreign residents let it be seen
that they intended to bow cheerfully to the in-
evitable, and that no obstacles would be willingly
placed by them in the path of Japanese jurisdic-
tion. The Japanese, on their side, took some
striking steps. An Imperial rescript declared in
unequivocal terms that it was the sovereign's
policy and desire to abolish all distinctions be-
tween natives and foreigners, and that by fully
carrying out the friendly purpose of the treaties
his people would best consult his wishes, main-
tain the character of the nation, and promote its
prestige. The Premier and other Ministers of
State issued instructions to the effect that the re-
sponsibility now devolved on the Government,
and the duty on the people, of enabling foreigners
to reside confidently and contentedly in every part
of the country. Even the chief Buddhist prelates
addressed to the priests and parishioners in their
dioceses injunctions pointing out that freedom of
conscience being now guaranteed by the Con-
stitution, men professing alien creeds must be
treated as courteously as the disciples of Buddhism,
and must enjoy the same rights and privileges.
Thus the great change was effected under



circumstances of happy augury. Its results
have been successful thus far. Difficulties, it is
true, have not been altogether absent. The Jap-
anese have made some mistakes, and the mere
novelty of the experiment predisposes the conser-
vative foreigner to be hypercritical of its working.
Never before, since the crown of civilisation was
placed upon the head of the Occident, have
Western Christians passed under the jurisdiction of
Oriental " pagans." This unprecedented act of
trust on the part of Occidental Governments did
not signify a corresponding access of confidence
on the part of Occidental subjects and citizens.
It is a hard but a true saying that the average
European or American looks down upon the
Japanese people, approaches the contemplation of
all their acts with a spirit of condemnation or
condescension, and considers that he practises
praiseworthy self-denial when he pays to Jap-
anese laws or their guardians even a moiety of
the deference that he would intuitively render
under like circumstances in a Western country.
Administration can never achieve more than a
success of sufferance when the ruled stand upon
a plane higher than that conceded to the rulers.
But it has been shown, at all events, that the
measure of tolerance which foreigners are pre-
pared to display is sufficient for the working of
the novel system, and that all the sinister predic-
tions once so freely uttered about the vindictive
advantage which the Japanese would certainly



take of their newly acquired power, were baseless.
Foreigners residing in Japan now enjoy immunity
of domicile, personal and religious liberty, free-
dom from official interference, and security of life
and property as fully as though they were living
in their respective fatherlands.

From the point of view of Japan's position
among the nations, her war with China in 1894
1895 was perhaps even more important than her
recovery of judicial and tariff economy, and by a
singular coincidence the former event happened
at such a time as materially to reinforce the in-
fluence of the latter.

Friction between the two empires commenced
in 1873, when, the crew of a Riukiuan junk hav-
ing been barbarously treated by the inhabitants
of northern Formosa, Japan applied to China for
redress, and, failing to obtain it, took the law
into her own hands. Double offence was thus
given to the Middle Kingdom, for its rulers held
not only that their territory had been invaded
when Japan's forces landed in Formosa, but also
that her assumption of protective responsibilities
with regard to the Riukiu Islands was a direct
infringement of Chinese sovereignty, the in-
habitants of Riukiu being Chinese subjects.
The latter point, however, was not raised by the
statesmen in Peking. They confined their re-
monstrances to the invasion of Formosa, and
they finally agreed to recoup Japan's expenses
provided that she withdrew her troops from that


island. Had Japan needed any confirmation of
her title to the ownership of Riukiu, she might
have derived it from this incident, since the
Chinese Government, by agreeing to indemnify
her outlays incurred in protecting Riukiuans, con-
structively admitted her right to protect them.
But the fact is that Japan entertained no mis-
givings as to the validity of her title. The Riu-
kiu Islands, having been conquered by Satsuma,
had for centuries been regarded as an appanage
of that fief, and the language and customs of
their inhabitants showed unmistakable traces of
Japanese affinities. Therefore in 1876 the
Tokyo Government did not hesitate to extend
the newly organised administrative system to
Riukiu, which thenceforth became " Okinawa
Prefecture," the former ruler of the islands being
pensioned after the manner of the other feuda-
tories. China entered an objection. She claimed
that Riukiu had always been a tributary of the
Middle Kingdom, and she was doubtless per-
fectly sincere in the contention. But China's
interpretation of tribute did not seem reducible
to a working theory. So long as her own advan-
tage could be promoted, she regarded as a token
of vassalage the presents periodically carried to
her Court from neighbouring States. So soon,
however, as there arose any question of discharg-
ing a suzerain's duties, she classed those offer-
ings as insignificant interchanges of neighbourly
courtesy. It was true that Riukiu had followed



the custom of despatching gift-bearing envoys to
China from time to time, just as Japan herself
had done, though with less regularity. But it
was also true that Riukiu had been subdued by
Satsuma without China's stretching out a hand to
help her ; that for two centuries the islands had
been included in the Satsuma fief, and that China
had recently made a practical acknowledgment
of Japan's superior title to protect the islanders.
Each empire asserted its claims positively, but
whereas Japan put hers into practice, China con-
fined herself to remonstrances. Things remained
in that state until 1880, when General Grant,
visiting the East, suggested the advisability of a
compromise. A conference met in Peking, and
the plenipotentiaries agreed that the islands
should be divided, Japan, taking the northern
group, China the southern. But on the eve of
signature the Chinese plenipotentiary drew back,
pleading that he had no authority to conclude an
agreement without previously referring it to cer-
tain other dignitaries. Japan, sensible that she
had been flouted, withdrew from the discussion
and retained the islands, China's share in them
being reduced to a grievance.

This incident illustrated China's methods and
their results. From time immemorial her policy
towards the petty States on her frontiers had
been to utilise them as buffers for softening the
shock of foreign contact, while contriving, at the
same time, that her relations with them should



involve no inconvenient responsibilities to herself.
The aggressive impulses of the outside world
were to be checked by an unproclaimed under-
standing that the territories of these States par-
took of the inviolability of the Middle Kingdom
itself, while the States, on their side, must never
expect their Suzerain to bear the consequences
of their acts. This arrangement, depending
largely on sentiment and prestige, retained its
validity in the atmosphere of Oriental seclusion,
but quickly failed to endure the test of modern
Occidental practicality. Tonquin, Annam, Siam,
and Burmah were withdrawn, one by one, from
the circle of buffers, and from the fiction of
dependence on China and independence towards
all other countries. With regard to Korea, how-
ever, China proved more tenacious. The pos-
session of the peninsula by a foreign Power
would have threatened the maritime route to the
Gulf of Pechili, and would have given easy access
to Manchuria, the cradle of the dynasty now
ruling China. Therefore the Peking statesmen
endeavoured to preserve the old-time relations
with the little kingdom. But they never could
persuade themselves to modify the indirect
methods sanctioned by tradition. Instead of
boldly declaring the peninsula a dependency of
the Middle Kingdom, they sought to keep up the
romance of ultimate dependency and intermediate
sovereignty. Thus, in 1877, Korea was suffered
to conclude with Japan a treaty of which the



first article declared her " an independent State
enjoying the same rights as Japan," and subse-
quently to make with the United States (1882),
Great Britain (1883), and other Powers treaties in
which her independence was constructively ad-
mitted. China, however, did not intend that
Korea should exercise the independence thus
conventionally recognised. A Chinese Resident
was placed in Soul, and a system of steady though
covert interference in Korea's domestic and for-
eign affairs was inaugurated.

Japan suffered chiefly by these anomalous con-
ditions. In all her dealings with Korea, in all
complications that arose out of her comparatively
large trade with the peninsula, in all questions
connected with her numerous settlers there, she
found herself negotiating with a dependency of
China, and with officials who took their orders
from the Chinese Representative. China had
long entertained a rooted apprehension of Japan-
ese aggression in the peninsula an apprehension
not unwarranted by history and that distrust
tinged all the influence exerted by her agents
there. Much space would be required to reca-
pitulate the occasions upon which Japan was made
sensible of the discrimination thus exercised
against her. It is enough to say that such occa-
sions were numerous, and that by degrees her
indignation was roused. No single instance,
indeed, constituted a ground for strong inter-
national protest, but the Japanese people gradu-



ally acquired a consciousness of being perpetually
baffled, thwarted, and humiliated by China's in-
terference in the peninsular kingdom's affairs.

To appreciate the bitterness of such conditions,
it has to be remembered that for the previous
thirty years China had treated Japan as a con-
temptible deserter from the Oriental standard,
and had regarded her progressive efforts with
openly disdainful aversion ; while Japan, on her
side, had chafed more and more to furnish some
striking evidence of the wisdom of her prefer-
ence for Western civilisation. In the breast of
each nation there had been smouldering a senti-
ment of umbrage which could scarcely fail to be
translated into hostile action sooner or later, un-
less either Japan reverted to conservatism or China
became progressive.

Even more serious were the consequences of
Chinese interference when considered from the
point of view of Korean administration. The
rulers of the little State lost all sense of national
responsibility and gave unrestrained sway to
selfish ambition. The functions of the judiciary
and of the executive alike came to be discharged
by bribery only. Family interests predominated
over those of the State. Taxes were imposed in
proportion to the greed of local officials. No
thought whatever was taken for the welfare of
the people or for the development of the coun-
try's resources. Among the upper classes faction
struggles, among the lower, insurrections, began



to be more and more frequent. Personal respon-
sibility was unknown among officials, family
influence overshadowing everything. To be a
member of the Bin family, to which the Queen
belonged, was to possess a passport to office and
an indemnity against the consequences of abuse
of power, however flagrant. From time to time
the advocates of progress or the victims of op-
pression rose in arms. They effected nothing
except to recall to the world's recollection the
miserable condition into which the peninsula
had fallen. Chinese military aid was always
furnished readily for the suppression of these
emeutes, and thus the Bin family learned to
base its tenure of power on ability to conciliate
the Middle Kingdom and on readiness to obey
Chinese dictation, while the people at large fell
into the apathetic condition of men that possess
neither the blessing of security of property nor
the incentive of national ambition.

As a matter of State policy the Korean problem
caused much anxiety to Japan. Her own se-
curity being deeply concerned in preserving
Korea from the grasp of Western Powers, she
could not suffer the little kingdom to drift into
a condition of such administrative incompetence
and national debility that a strong aggressor
might find at any moment a pretext for inter-
ference. On two occasions, namely in 1882 and
1884, when China's armed intervention was
employed in the interests of the Bin to suppress



movements of reform, the partisans of the victors,
regarding Japan as the fountain of progressive
tendencies, attacked and destroyed her legation
in Soul and compelled its inmates to fly from
the city. Japan behaved with forbearance at
these crises, but in the consequent negotiations
she acquired conventional titles that touched the
core of China's alleged suzerainty. For in 1882
her right to maintain troops in Soul for the pro-
tection of her legation was admitted, and in
1885 she concluded with China a convention
by which each Power pledged itself not to send
troops to Korea without notifying the other,
the two empires being thus placed on an equal
military footing with regard to the peninsular

In the spring of 1894 a serious insurrection
broke out in Korea, and the insurgents proving
themselves superior to the ill-disciplined, ill-
equipped troops of the Government, the Bin
family had recourse to its familiar expedient,
appeal to China's aid. The appeal elicited a
prompt response. On the 6th of July, 2,500
Chinese troops embarked at Tientsin, and were
transported to the peninsula, where they went
into camp at Ya-shan, on the southwest coast,
notice of the measure being given by the Chinese
Government to the Japanese Representative in
Peking, according to treaty.

During the interval immediately preceding
these events, Japan had been rendered acutely




sensible of China's arbitrary and unfriendly inter-
ference in the peninsula. Twice the efforts of
the Japanese Government to obtain redress for
unlawful and ruinous tradal prohibitions issued by
the Korean Authorities, had been thwarted by
the action of the Chinese Resident in Soul ; and
once an ultimatum addressed from Tokyo to the
Korean Government in the sequel of long and
vexatious delay, had elicited from the Viceroy
Li in Tientsin an insolent threat of Chinese
armed opposition. Still more strikingly provo-
cative of national indignation was China's pro-
cedure with regard to the murder of Kim
Ok-kyiin, the leader of progress in Korea, who
had been for some years a refugee in Japan.
Inveigled from Japan to China by fellow country-
men sent from Soul to assassinate him, Kim was
shot in a Japanese hotel in Shanghai, and China,
instead of punishing the murderer, conveyed
him, together with the corpse of his victim, in
a warship of her own to Korea, the assassin to be
publicly honoured, the body to be savagely mu-
tilated. When, therefore, the insurrection of
1894 in Korea induced the Bin family again to
solicit China's armed intervention, the Tokyo
Government concluded that, in the interests
of Japan's security and of civilisation in the
Orient, steps must be taken to put an end finally
to the barbarous corruption and misrule which
rendered Korea a scene of constant disturbance,
offered incessant invitations to foreign aggression,

VOL. v.


and checked the country's capacity to maintain

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Online LibraryF. (Frank) BrinkleyJapan, its history, arts and literature (Volume 5) → online text (page 3 of 16)