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among the rest of the people. Novels and romances, dramas and theatricals, story-tellings and recitations had become powerful organs of popular education. No small percentage of mechanics or farmers could read and write. In fine, three centuries of profound peace
had prodaced great improvement in the social condition of the masses. As a resalt, there had come to exist a class of what may be called a representative commonalty, composed of men mainly recruited from the Samurai class, but also with important additions from other classes. Only one touch of modern thought was needed to set this class of men, and through them the whole nation, like well-dried fuel, on fire with the new life of freedom.
The steady growth of popular influence under the new régime strictly bears out the statement I have above made. In the famous oath of the present Mikado, in which, at the very beginning of his reign, he stated for the guidance of the nation the principles of the new administration, occurs a phrase which significantly expresses the spirit of the now time then being ushered in. The phrase used is Koji-Yoron, which, rendered in English, reads “public opinion and general deliberation.” Now, why should the Emperor refer to his most earnest intention of following public opinion then, as also afterwards at critical epochs, as the ground of his claim to be oveyed by the nation at large, if not for the reason that even at that early stage the most potent factor in politics was a class of men who, as students of current politics, constituted, informally but really, a representative commodalty ? These men gave expression to the intelligent public opinion of the time, or, rather, through their agitation, created it, so that nothing was dreaded by the authorities so much as their opposition. On the other hand, with their approval and support all things were possible. The Emperor's oath was thus bat a frank recognition on his part of the existing state of things. The new reign, therefore, began not as the autocratic imperial administration of the days of yore, depending solely upon the divine right of kingship, but also with a solemn pledge that it aimed at the inauguration of constitutional government. Indeed, a year after the restoration an Assembly was organised for the discussion of legislative and administrative measures. But the attempt was as yet premature, and the Assembly soon ceased to exist. The laborious stages of preparation had to be gone through before the country was fit for a parliamentary régime.
The first great task of the new Government was administrative centralisation. Japan in the middle of the present century was in a condition very similar to that of France in the seventeenth. The country was divided up into some three hundred princedoms, large and small, most of them virtually independent States.
Laws, customs, traditions, dialects were distinct in each of these. Frontiers were guarded with great strictness, and commerce was hampered
with a hundred artificial restrictions. With no uniform mode of taxation and no legal security for life and property, the rich were in constant dread of money requisitions, and the peasantry weighed down with the sole burden of taxation and frequent calls for corvée. The work of centralisation accomplished in France by Sully, Richelieu, Mazarin, and Colbert in the course of a century had to be accomplished in Japan in the course of a generation. Thanks to the patriotism of the Mikado and of his great Ministers--men like Kido, Okubo, and Ito—as well as to the lessons of modern Europe, the work was accomplished, in some respects, even more satisfactorily than in France, and a parliamentary régime finally ushered in without a bloody revolution.*
In this work of centralisation the Mikado's Government did not sail entirely in calm waters. There were troubles on the right and the left. The centralising policy was distasteful both to the Conservatives and the Radicals. The former did not like it because they were not yet weaned from their old feudal notions; the latter because they thought the Government did not march fast enough. Several rebellions occurred, culminating in the great Satsuma rebellion, which almost assumed the proportions of a civil war. When, however, it became clear that all these attempts failed to shake the authority of the central Government, the Radicals, led by Count Itagaki, inaugurated a series of political agitations, which, beginning with 1878, grow year after year in scope and volume. Pamphlets were issued, newspapers were started, lectures were given, immense mass meetings were held, memorials with long lists of signatures were presented to the Government, and political parties--Radical, Progressive, and Conservative-grew as spontaneously as mushrooms. The years 1881 and 1882 were very noisy ones indeed. The foreign observers of the, time might have noticed in these occurrences a parallel to events in England when the “Chartist " movement and the Repeal agitation were going on under O'Connell. Only the Japanese agitations were finally successful in achieving the end. In October 1882 the Emperor
* 1869.-Feudalism abolished and all authority resumed into the hands of the Emperor.
1872.--The army organised on the basis of universal conscript duty. The Samurais lose their monopoly of military service.
1873.— The Government undertakes the survey of all lands, with the view of regulating the tax on an equitable basis.
1874-1877.-A period of insurrections, due to dissatisfaction with the centralising policy of the Government.
1878.-Okubo assassinated. Ito takes his place as the guiding spirit in the Govern. ment. The Provincial Assemblies, on an electoral basis, convened. From this time their regular meetings take place annually in all Prefectures.
1878-1882.-Period of great political agitations.
1885.- The Imperial Cabinet and Administration thoroughly reorganised on modern basis.
1888.—Municipal self-government granted to cities, towns, and villages. 1889.--The promulgation of the Constitution.
iseued a rescript promising to inaugurate a Constitutional régime eight
From these observations it will be clear that the social condition of the country was ripe for the introduction of representative institutions, and that without some such solation of the problem, the best interests of the nation would in all probability have been seriously imperilled. It will be seen, also, that the Government did all they could, taking the circumstances of the case into account, in making the necessary preparations. From these reasons it may, perhaps, be a priori concluded that the future of Constitutional régime in Japan is one of bright promise. But a priori arguments are not much in vogue in ühese days of experimental science. Let me, therefore, take a glance, before I conclude, at the history of the Imperial Diet, and try to understand the situation after eight years of experiment. What does such a study teach us respecting the future ?
The history of the Japanese Parliament, briefly told, is as follows: The first Diet was opened in November 1890, and the twelfth session in May 1898. In this brief space of time there have been four dissolutions and five Parliaments.* From the very first the collision between the Government and the Diet has been short and violent. In the case of the first dissolution, in December 1891, the question turned on the Budget estimate, the Diet insisting on the bold curtailment of items of expenditure. In the second dissolution, in December 1893, the question turned on the memorial to be presented to the Throne, the Opposition insisting in very strong terms on the necessity of strictly enforcing the terms of treaties with Western Powers, the Diet regarding the Cabinet as too weak-handed in foreign politics. The third dissolution, in June 1894, was also on the same question. The Cabinet, in these two latter cases, was under the presidency of Marquis Ito (then Count), and was vigorously pushing forward negotiations for treaty revision, through the brilliant diplomacy of Count Matsu, the Foreign Minister. This strict-enforcement agitation was looked upon by the Government as a piece of anti-foreign agitationa Jingo movement—and as endangering the success of the treatyrevision negotiations. In fact, the revised treaty with Great Britain was on the latter date well-nigb completed, it being signed in Jaly following by Lord Kimberley and Viscount Aoki. It was at this stage that the scepticism of foreign observers as to the final success of representative institutions in Japan seemed to reach its height, leading many of them to the belief that the Constitution would have to be
The regular term of a Parliament four years in the House of Representatives and seven in the House of Peers. There has bitherto been no Parliament which has com. pleted the regular term of mandate. The present Parliament had already passed three years, and it seemed all but certain that in 1898, for the first time, a Japanese Parliament would be dissolved through the expiration of its regular mandate. But quite unexpectedly the last Parliament was dissolved in its third year.
sooner or later suspended, if Japan was to enjoy a wise and peaceful administration. When the first violent collision took place, they said it was perhaps to be expected since the Government was then under the Premiership of Count Matsakata, and in the hands of second-rate politicians. Marquis Ito and some of the most tried statesmen of the time were out of office, forming a sort of reserve force, to be called out at any grave emergency. But great was the disappointment when it was seen that after Marquis Ito, with some of the most trusted statesmen as his colleagues, had been in office but little over a year, dissolution followed dissolution, and it seemed that even the Father of the Constitution was unable to manage its successful working. Wbat, an anonymous contributor in the CONTEMPORARY REVIEW, writing soon after the war, says on the “ Japanese Constitutional Crisis and the War,” probably well expresses the sentiment of the more intelligent class of foreign observers.
“ In the beginning of July of last year Japan presented the spectacle of a house completely divided against itself. Some of the best friends of the country, and some of the most intelligent among her citizens (the italics are mine]—men, too, who had welcomed the advent of representative institutions with enthusiasm--were anxiously and moodily discussing the advisability of the suspension of the Constitution and a reversion to the timehonoured régime of despotism tempered by assassination, to which the nation had been so long accustomed."
I must take exception to the part italicised. Most probably the writer's observation on that point was somewhat coloured by his own prejudices and misgivings. At any rate, however, there is no question that the Constitutional situation was at that time exceedingly critical. But when the war broke out the situation was completely changed. In the August following the whole nation spoke and acted as if they were one man and had but one miud. In the two sessions of the Diet held during the war the Government was most ably supported by the Diet, and everybody hoped that after the war was over the same good feeling would continue to rule the Diet. On the other hand, it was well known that the Opposition members in the Diet had clearly intimated that their support of the Government was merely temporary, and that after the emergency was over they might be expected to continue their opposition policy. Sure enough, many months before the opening of the ninth session, mutterings of deep discontent, especially with reference to the retrocession of the Liaotang peninsula, began to be widely heard, and it was much feared that the former scenes of fierce opposition and blind obstruction would be renewed. However, as the session approached (December 1896) rumours were heard of a certain entente between the Government and the Liberal party, at that time the largest and the best organised in the country. And in the coming session the Government secured a majority,
through the support of the Liberals, for most of its important Bills.
Now this entente between Marquis Ito and the Liberals was a great step in advance in the constitutional history of the country, and a very bold departure in a new direction on the part of the Marquis. He was known to be an admirer of the German system, and a chief upholder of the policy of Chozen Naikaku, or the Transcendental Cabinet policy, which meant a Ministry responsible to the Emperor alone. Marquis Ito saw evidently at this stage the impossibility of carrying on the Government without a secure parliamentary support, and Count Itagaki, the Liberal leader, saw in the Marquis a faithful ally, whose character as a great constructive statesman, and whose history as the anthor of the Constitution, both forbade his ever proving disloyal to the Constitution. The entente was cemented in May following by the entrance of Count Itagaki into the Cabinet as the Home Minister. On the other hand, this entente led to the formation of the Progressist party by the union of the six Opposition parties, as well as to the union of Count Okuma, the Progressist leader, and Count Matsugata, leader of the Kagoshima statesmen. Their united opposition was now quite effective in harassing the administration.
At this stage certain neutral men, particularly Count Inouye, suggested compromise, offering a scheme of a Coalition Cabinet. There were men, too, in the Cabinet who favoured such a course, and the scheme almost approached realisation. Bat Count Itagaki was firm in opposing such a compromise, saying it was tantamount to the ignoring of party distinction, and as such was a retrogression instead of being a forward step in the constitutional history of the country. He finally tendered his resignation. When Marquis Ito saw that the Count was firm in his determination, he, too, resigned, saying that he felt so deeply obliged to the Liberals for their late parliamentary support that he would not let the Count go out of office alone. Thus fell the Ito Ministry after five years' brilliant service.
The new Cabinet, formed in September 1896, had Count Matsukata for Premier and Treasury Minister; Count Okuma for Foreign Minister; and Admiral Kabayama, the hero of the Yaloo battle, for Home Minister. There were at this time three things that the nation desired. It wanted to be saved from the impending business depression. It wished to see Japanese Chauvinism installed at the Foreign Office, and the shame of the retrocession of the Liaotung peninsula wiped off. It hoped, lastly, to a Parliamentary Government inaugurated and all the evils of irresponsible bureaucracy removed. The statesmen now installed in office aspired to satisfy all these desires, and they were expected to work wonders. But, unfortunately, the Cabinet lacked unity. The Satsuma elements and the Okuma elements no more mixed together than oil and water.