Joseph H. (Joseph Henry) Longford.

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presented to the




The Cambridge Manuals of Science and



iLon&on: FETTER LANE, E.G.






All rights reserved

The Emperor Mutsu Hito




Late H.M. Consul at Nagasaki ;

Professor of Japanese, King's

College, London

Cambridge :
at the University Press

(Cambridge :


With the exception of the coat of arms at
the foot, the design on the title page is a
reproduction of one used by the earliest known
Cambridge printer, John Siberch, 1521


little book has at least one original feature.
It is, to the best of the author's knowledge, the
first book on Japan which has ever been issued at
the price of one shilling. Surely, this will commend
it to readers and bookbuyers, even if it exposes no
more than the skeleton of the modern history of
a people who are both our allies and our good
customers (as well as our rivals) in trade, and who
can now give us valuable lessons of patriotic courage,
sacrifice, and perseverance in return for all we have
taught them.

J. H. L.

August, 1913.



Introduction . . . ; ! . . . 1

I. Historical Sketch . . . ; . . . 3

II. Restoration of the Emperor . . . . 16

III. Reforms in Foreign and Domestic Policy . . 28

IV. Social Reforms 41

V. Development of Constitutional Government . 54

VI. Recovery of National Autonomy. . . . 71

VII. Trade and Industry 84

VIII. Foreign Relations. 18671895 .... 100

IX. Foreign Relations. 1895 1913 .... 120

X. The Emperor Meiji . . . . . 142

Notes 157

Postscript. Books on Japan . . . . 159

Index . .. ,.'.., . 161


The Emperor Muteu Hito (18671912) . . Frontispiece

Facing page
The Emperor Komei (18471867) 14

The Emperor Yoshi Hito now on the throne . . 22

Sign Manual and Seal of the Emperor Mutsu Hito . 30

With Countersign and Seal of Connt Okuma, Minister
for Foreign Affairs, given at the palace at Kioto, April 24,
1897 (copied from one of the author's exequaturs).

Prince Ito 60

Assassinated at Harbing, October 26, 1909.

Sir Harry 8. Parkes, K.C.B., G.C.M.G 80

British Minister to Japan 1865 1882 (died at Peking

The five Choshiu Students in England, 1864. . . 116

Four of the five students subsequently became Prince
Ito, Marquis Inouye, Viscount Inouye (not related to
Marquis Inouye) and Viscount Yamao, and all five held
high administrative offices in the Government. The
present Ambassador to the Court of St James is the only
son of Marquis Inouye.

Marquis Inouye 132

Map of the Japanese Empire at end

The author is indebted to the courtesy of His Excellency the
Japanese Ambassador for the illustrations of the Emperor Komei
and of Marquis Inouye.


IN the 7th century of the Christian era, Japan,
as one incident in the general assimilation of Chinese
civilisation which then took place, adopted the Chinese
calendar, in which years are counted in chronological
periods of irregular length, distinguished from each
other by specific names nengo or year names. In
1872, subsequent to the abandonment of the Chinese
in favour of the European system as the foundation
of the national civilisation, the old calendar was
replaced by the Gregorian, though not in its entirety.
A formal recognition of the Christian era would have
been inconsistent with the reverence that was due to
the Emperor as the acknowledged descendant of the
Gods of Heaven, and to the national religion of which
he was the head, and it was therefore decided that
while days and months should henceforth be reckoned
on the Western model, the old system of year-count-
ing by nengo should be retained. Under it a name,
usually one of good omen, such as " Great Honour,"
" Heavenly Virtue," " Tranquil Peace," " Great Pros-
perity," was chosen at the beginning of each period


and the successive years were described as the first,
second, etc. years of that period until the time came
when it was arbitrarily terminated and a new one
adopted. There was not even a remote approximation
to uniformity in the length of the periods. Many
only continued for one year, while three exceeded 20
and one 30 years.

In the year following the accession of the late
Emperor the occurrence of his birthday was signalised
by the inauguration of a new period to which the
name of Meiji Enlightened Government was given.
It was, at the same time, decreed that in future there
should be only one chronological period in each
reign and that it should coincide with the length of
the reign, with the exception that, as a new period
has, through all ages, always been reckoned from the
first day of the year of its adoption, each should in
future begin on the 1st of January preceding the
sovereign's accession and close on the 31st of
December preceding his death. The period of Meiji
the longest in history dates from January 25th,
1868, that being New Year's Day under the old
(Chinese) calendar, till December 31st, 1911, and
is almost synchronous with the late Emperor's
reign. In this volume we propose to tell the story
of the evolution of Japan from an unknown and
impotent Asiatic state into one of the acknowledged
Powers of the world, which took place during the


period of Meiji, in the reign of the Emperor Mutsu
Hito. It is the story of one of the most eventful
reigns of any period or of any nation in the world's
history, a story which is full of the most pregnant
lessons of what can be achieved by an intelligent
and courageous people, working with whole-hearted
patriotism, under the leadership of a liberal and
enlightened sovereign.



BEFORE proceeding with our main task it is
necessary that a short sketch of the history and
polity of Japan should be given in order that our
readers may be enabled to have a clear understanding
of the social and political conditions of the Empire
at the beginning of Meiji. The first Emperor was
Jimmu Tenno, who founded the Empire and ascended
the throne in the year 660 B.C., little more than
a century later than the founding of Rome. From
him, all the subsequent occupants of the throne
traced their descent in an unbroken line, and as
Jimmu was the direct descendant, in the fifth genera-
tion, of the Sun Goddess (Tensho Daijin), who herself
sprang from the creators of Heaven and Earth, all



his successors have claimed through him a divine
descent, a claim which has been accepted with un-
questioning faith by their subjects in all times, which
the most extreme spirit of modern materialism has
not yet affected, and which is as devoutly acknow-
ledged to this day by the most advanced student of
Huxley or Schopenhauer as it was by any of the
sages of old.

Jimmu's successors, throughout twelve centuries,
were all sovereigns in reality as well as in name, all
taking an active and vigorous share in their govern-
ment, but from the seventh century of the Christian
era they permitted the executive power to fall into
the hands of the leading family among their courtiers,
the Fujiwara, who, like the Emperors themselves,
claimed divine origin, their remote ancestor having
descended from Heaven in the train of Jimmu's
progenitor, the Sun Goddess's grandson ; they also,
like the Emperors, survive to this day. For four
hundred years the Fujiwara conserved to themselves
all the executive authority of the realm until it was
wrested from them by the leaders of a race of soldiers,
who, while the later generations of the Fujiwara
were, in the ease and luxury of the Court at Kioto,
sinking into the condition of idle and incapable
voluptuaries, had been hardened by continuous
military service against the Ainu, the savage autoch-
thons of Japan, in those days still numerous and


powerful on the northern frontiers of the lands that
had been colonised by the followers of Jimmu and
their descendants. The greatest of these leaders was
Yoritomo, who succeeded at the close of the twelfth
century in making himself dictator of the Empire,
under the title of Sei-i-tai-Shogun or "Barbarian-
repressing-great-General," which was conferred on
him by the Emperor. The title, abbreviated in
common use into Shogun, was one which had pre-
viously been frequently conferred on generals in
command of armies in the field, but it signified only
military authority and it lapsed with the termination
of the special command for which it was given.
Yoritomo gave it a new significance. He assumed
not only the military but the civil power and retained
the title for life. He established his residence at
Kamakura, a town about 30 miles from Tokio, which
quickly grew into a large and populous city and
became the real capital of the Empire while Kioto,
the home of the legitimate Emperors, was only so in
name. There he administered, as the de facto sove-
reign, the government of the Empire while the
provinces were held and governed by his relatives
and adherents, soldiers who had fought by his side
and who owed all their fealty to him alone.

This was the beginning of the systems of dual
government and of feudalism in Japan which lasted
from the time of Yoritomo (1192 1199) until the


accession of the late Emperor. At Kioto there was
always the Emperor, the legitimate sovereign, the
acknowledged source of all authority and the sole
fountain of honour, surrounded by a small retinue of
courtiers, who were known as Kuge, many of whom
sprang from the Imperial family, and all of whom
claimed an origin and descent that were only less
illustrious than those of the Emperor. Both Em-
perors and court were entirely dependent on the
Shoguns for their means of support, which were for
many long centuries provided with such parsimony,
that all were practically sunk in abject poverty. On
the other side, the Shogun's courts, first at Kamakura
and afterwards at Yedo, with an interval between
the two at Kioto, in the very shadow of the Emperor's
own palace, were maintained in the utmost Imperial
splendour ; the national executive was entirely in
the hands of the Shoguns and their ministers, and
all the land in the provinces was parcelled among
feudal lords the daimio the majority of whom
sprang from soldiers of fortune who were rewarded
by successive dynasties of the Shoguns with the
grants of large estates, the spoils of almost unceasing
civil war.

Yoritomo's own direct descendants did not long
hold the great office which their progenitor had won.
It fell in turn to other military adventurers during
the succeeding four centuries, the last and the greatest


of whom was Tokugawa lyeyasu who became Shogun
at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The
system, inaugurated by Yoritomo, was brought to its
highest perfection by lyeyasu, who, in the measures
he took to secure the retention of the Shogunate in
his own family and the peace of the realm, showed
that he was a constructive statesman of the highest
order of genius, and he was ably followed by some of
his earliest successors. So successful were he and
they, that throughout 260 years, during which his
descendants occupied the throne of the Shoguns at
Yedo, their authority was never once questioned and
the country under their government, which, for five
centuries prior to the accession of lyeyasu, had been
almost continuously desolated by civil war, fought
with no less bitterness and savage cruelty than those
which characterised the wars of Europe in the same
periods, enjoyed profound and unbroken peace, and
its people, according to the descriptions of European
writers, who saw and studied them, should have been
one of the happiest in the world.

To this picture there was another side. During
the last hah of the sixteenth and the first quarter of
the seventeenth centuries Japan fi-eely admitted to
her harbours European ships, which found their way
to the Far East, and Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch
and English traders were in turn welcomed by her.
Jesuit and other missionaries of the Roman Catholic


Church followed the first Portuguese and Spanish
traders and their proselytising efforts, carried on
with equal zeal and ability, met with such success
that, within one century from the landing of the first
missionary, there were said to have been over a million
native converts to Christianity of all classes of the
people. Unfortunately the zeal of the missionaries
outran their discretion and gave rise to the suspicion
that proselytism was merely an antecedent step to
territorial aggression threatening the political inde-
pendence of the Empire, and as the suspicion grew
to certainty, the whole attitude of the Government
changed both to Christianity and to Europeans.
Christianity was extirpated by persecution as ruthless
as that of Nero. Missionaries were put to death or
expelled. Traders too were expelled, an exception
being made only in favour of the Dutch, a small colony
of whom were permitted to remain under the most
humiliating conditions, closely interned in the little
island of Desima in the harbour of Nagasaki, where
they carried on a trade which, though hampered by
vexatious restrictions, brought them enormous profits.
All other Europeans were forbidden to approach the
shores of Japan or to land on pain of death. And
not only were Europeans forbidden to land in Japan,
but Japanese were, under equally severe penalties,
forbidden to go abroad. None who did so was
permitted to return. Throughout the middle ages


the Japanese had shown themselves bold and ad-
venturous seamen, making their way both as pirates
and traders not only to China and Siam, but in some
instances across the Pacific to Mexico. Now they
were forbidden by their own authorities to build any
ship larger in burthen than 500 Koku (50 tons) and
from the day on which the edict which forbade them
was issued their traditional maritime spirit was gone,
and the national seclusion, which it was the policy of
the early Tokugawas to effect, was complete.

For 220 years Japan was cut off from all the
world. She had her own high degree of social and
artistic civilisation, refined and picturesque in all its
elements, but while Europe was advancing with giant
strides in industrial, military and political science,
Japan stood still and her internal state in the middle
of the nineteenth century showed no material advance
on what it had been in the early part of the seven-
teenth. She was contented in herself and with her
own acquirements and neither knew nor cared for
aught that was happening in the outer world.

Internally the country was crushed under one of
the most iron systems of feudalism that the world has
ever seen. The Shogun was the feudal superior,
though nominally only as the mandatory of the
Emperor. A third of the whole Empire was under
his direct rule and the revenues were paid into his
Treasury. The remainder was shared among 260


feudal lords, all of whom varied in strength, wealth
and influence in proportion to the extent of their
domains, but all alike enjoyed complete legislative
and executive autonomy within their own boundaries,
an autonomy which did not even exclude the right of
coinage. All maintained armies of hereditary soldiers
samurai whose allegiance was due only to their
own immediate feudal lords, for whose sake every
samurai was always ready to sacrifice without a
murmur life, liberty, name, family or property. Each
lord, in his turn, owed allegiance to the Shogun,
from whom he received his investiture on succession,
whose approval he had to obtain in marriage and
adoption, and to whom he was obliged to render
military service when called upon. All lived in regal
splendour and independence in fortified castles on
their own estates, and in no less splendour in great
palaces in Yedo, where they were obliged to pass
part of each year. The sole occupations of the
samurai were those of arms, literature and the ad-
ministration of their lords' estates and revenues, and
both daimio and samurai combined to form the
governing and aristocratic class and with their
families numbered some two million souls. Beneath
them, divided by an unfathomable social gulf, across
which none could pass, was the subject and plebeian
class, divided into three orders, farmers, artisans and
traders, in number about thirty millions, whose sole


lot in life was to minister to the well-being and
luxury of their superiors.

The general characteristics of the Japanese people
were then such that there is scarcely a word which
Buckle wrote in the second chapter of his History of
Civilization on the physical and moral conditions of
the ancient peoples of India, Egypt, Mexico or Peru,
which mutatis mutandis might not have been applied
to those of the people of Japan. On the part of the
upper class there was the most autocratic use of
despotic power ; on that of the lower the most servile
subservience in every incident of life. Slavery, ex-
cept perhaps in prehistoric times, never existed as
a recognised institution in Japan, but practically
speaking, less than sixty years ago, slavery, abject
slavery, was the natural state of the great body of
the" people. They counted for nothing. They not
only had no voice in the management of the public
affairs of the state, the province, or the city, but their
liberty, their property, and even their lives were held
at the absolute disposal of their immediate rulers.
Their occupations, their dress, their residences were
all rigidly prescribed for them ; on them fell the
entire financial burthens of the state and their sole
functions were to labour for the comfort and luxury
of the upper classes and to render to them an ab-
solute and unquestioning obedience. The " habits of
tame and servile submission were generated among


them" and extended through successive generations
had their invariable result in that the history of the
world affords no more striking instance of an abjectly
spiritless race than that of the Japanese lower classes
only sixty years ago. They spoke in subdued tones,
with bent backs and eyes on the ground : they would
scarcely dare to strike a blow even in the defence of
their own lives and families, and all the history of
Japan does not furnish one single instance of their
having "turned upon their rulers, of any war of
classes, of any popular insurrection, of even one
great popular conspiracy."

As subjection made the lower classes abjectly
servile so did despotic power and immunity from all
the burthens of life render the aristocratic class
tyrannical and cruel. The samurai of Japan have
been quoted in England as models of everything that
is most noble in man, as chivalrous, frugal, brave,
courteous, loyal, patriotic, self-sacrificing. They were
all that theoretically, and actually so in many in-
dividual cases, but foreigners in Japan, fifty years
ago, conceived very different ideas of them as a class.
Sir Rutherford Alcock, our first minister to Japan, a
keen observer, a man of the world, a careful student,
who knew the Japan of his day, calls them " Swash-
bucklers, swaggering blustering bullies, many cowardly
enough to strike an enemy in the back or cut down
an unarmed and inoffensive man, but ever ready to


fling their own lives away in accomplishing a revenge
or carrying out the behests of their chief." Even
contemporaneous writers of their own class in Japan
described them as ignorant, cruel, dissolute and idle.
They treated the classes below them with the utmost
contempt and brutality. Their patriotism and loyalty
were local not national, were given entirely to their
immediate feudal chiefs and not to the sovereign, and
jealousy among rival clans would always have been a
serious obstacle to national union, even in defence of
the country against foreign aggression.

Such were the conditions of the people of Japan
in the closing years of the Tokugawa regime. They
were all, daimio, samurai and plebeians, entirely
segregated from their legitimate sovereign, the
Emperor, who, living in the sacred seclusion of his
palace at Kioto, maintained intact the divine prestige
which had been transmitted to him from his an-
cestors but was utterly powerless to assert himself
in the administration of the Empire of which he was
the nominal head. The Shogun was his Mayor of the
Palace, the major-domo, who carried on the Govern-
ment and who alone of all his subjects enjoyed the
right of access to him. So great was the power of
the Shogun, so complete its outer manifestation, both
at the beginning and at the close of the Tokugawa
regime, that Europeans who came to Japan invariably
termed him " His Majesty." The learned Jesuits of the


16th and 17th centuries, the equally learned Dutch
savants of the 18th century, and the diplomatists of
the 19th century all erred alike. They heard vaguely
of another Emperor who was never seen either by his
own subjects or by them, not even when they visited
the holy city of Kioto in which he lived, of whom they
were told as a sacred being of divine origin, vested
with divine prerogatives and shrouded in impene-
trable mystery, but powerless as a political factor
in the state, so much so that neither the Jesuit
missionaries nor the Dutch traders seem ever to
have made the smallest effort to enlist his influence
in their favour.

On the other hand, what they termed "the
Emperor," but who was in reality the Shogun, the
Mayor of the Palace, was very vividly present to
the eyes and thoughts of both. His authority over
all the realm was undisputed. All the feudal lords,
both great and small, rendered homage to him, and
though exercising almost unlimited autonomy in their
own domains accepted his orders with unquestioning
obedience. He had great wealth of his own, the
yearly revenue from his family estates amounting to
eight millions sterling in an age when the purchasing
power of money was manifold what it now is. He
had at his call an immense army of devoted samurai,
he had a council of able ministers and he lived in
imperial splendour, that was apparent to all, both

The Emperor Komei


natives and foreigners, in the great city of Yedo
which in size, wealth and population far outshadowed
the ancient and venerated capital of Kioto. To the
Jesuits, fresh from the splendours of Rome, Madrid or
Lisbon, his palace seemed in its grandeur, glittering
with gold, "like an enchanted palace," and when
attended by a great and stately escort he made royal
progresses beyond its walls, the streets were all
cleared of everything that could offend his sight ;
the upper windows of all houses closed so that none
could look down on him ; no fires could be lighted
for two days beforehand lest the sky should be ob-
scured, and all people humbly prostrated themselves
on the ground as he passed by.

When Europeans once more made their appear-
ance on the shores of Japan, no longer as abject
suppliants like the Dutch, but demanding ingress as
a right and prepared to support their demands with
irresistible force, the Emperor was still a myth in
their eyes. The Shogun was the de facto sovereign
with whom they had to deal and as far as they knew,
in their ignorance of the history and institutions of
Japan, he was also the dejure sovereign. In Perry's
treaty he was described as "the August Sovereign
of Japan," and in the first English treaty that of
Admiral Stirling concluded in 1854 as "His Imperial
Highness, the Emperor " : in Lord Elgin's Treaty of
1858, as "His Majesty the Tycoon," and in the


Prussian Treaty of 1861, as "Seine Majestat der
Taikun." The title "Tycoon" or more properly
"Taikun" was a new one adopted from China. Its
literal signification is "Great Lord."

The new treaties came into force in 1858. The

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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Henry) LongfordThe evolution of new Japan → online text (page 1 of 11)