The Constitutional Development of Japan 1863-1881 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 66 pages of information about The Constitutional Development of Japan 1863-1881.

If there is any form of society which is diametrically opposed to the spirit of national union, of liberal thought, of free intercourse, it is feudal society.  A monarchical or a democratic society encourages the spirit of union, but feudal society must, from its very nature, smother it.  Seclusion is the parent of feudalism.  In our enlightened and progressive century seclusion is no longer possible.  Steam and electricity alone would have been sufficient to destroy our Japanese feudalism.  But long before its fall our Japanese feudalism “was an empty shell.”  Its leaders, the Daimios of provinces, were, with a few exceptions, men of no commanding importance.  “The real power in each clan lay in the hands of able men of inferior rank, who ruled their masters.”  From these men came the present advisers of the Emperor.  Their chief object at that time was the thorough unification of Japan.  Why, then, should they longer trouble themselves to uphold feudalism, this mother of sectionalism, this colossal sham?

[Footnote 1:  Translation given in the English State Papers.]

[Footnote 2:  Consular Report of the U.S.A., No. 75, p. 626.]


Influences that shaped the growth of the representative idea of government.

We have seen in the last two chapters how the Shogunate and feudalism fell, and how the Meiji government was inaugurated.  We have also observed in the memorials of leading statesmen abundant proof of their willingness and zeal to introduce a representative system of government.  We have also seen the Kogisho convened and dissolved.

John Stuart Mill has pointed out, in his Representative Government, several social conditions when representative government is inapplicable or unsuitable: 

1.  When the people are not willing to receive it.

2.  When the people are not willing and able to do what is necessary for its preservation.

“Representative institutions necessarily depend for permanence upon the readiness of the people to fight for them in case of their being endangered.”

3.  When the people are not willing and able to fulfil the duties and discharge the functions which it imposes on them.

4.  When the people have not learned the first lesson of obedience.

5.  When the people are too passive; when they are ready to submit to tyranny.

Now when we look at the Japan of 1871, even her greatest admirers must admit that she was far from being able to fulfil the social conditions necessary for the success of representative government.  Japan was obedient, but too submissive.  She had not yet learned the first lesson of freedom, that is, when and how to resist, in the faith that resistance to tyrants is obedience to truth; that the irrepressible kicker against tyranny, as Dr. Wilson observes, is

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The Constitutional Development of Japan 1863-1881 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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