No. 422.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.

No. 56.]

Sir: On the 21st ultimo a memorial was presented to the Sa In (lower council) by Soyeshima Tane omi, late minister for foreign affairs, and other prominent Japanese, asking that a parliament or popular assembly be established. The Sa In, after some discussion, disposed of this memorial by a refusal, substantially, to comply with the demand of the memorialists.

The memorial is thought to have been intended to excite hostility [Page 665] against the newly organized government, and it is understood that the persons who signed it clamor for war with Corea. It is significant that its presentation was closely followed by the attempt upon the life of Mr. Iwakura, who, in my opinion, is foremost as an adviser among the officials of the empire. Still more significant is the fact that the refusal of the council to accede to the demand of the memorialists has been followed by acts of armed hostility on the part of the Samourai of the province of Hizan in the south, where, it is reported, the government barracks have been attacked, with what result is not yet known. Fears are entertained that the governor has| not a strong enough force to make successful resistance against the insurgents, the attacking party being estimated at 3,500 men. I am informed that Okubo, minister of the interior, a field-officer of high repute, has gone to the disaffected province, followed by Shimadzu Saburo, a prince of Satsuma, to try conciliation; but I am also informed that the troops of the empire are moving in force in that direction. It is generally believed that the desire of the Samourai for war against Gorea, and their dissatisfaction with the known peace policy of the present ministry, are the causes of the outbreak in Hizan. In this connection I respectfully call your attention to my Nos. 16 and 19 of November last, in which I speak at length of Japan and the attitude of the European powers toward her in this regard.

I am fully persuaded that the immediate and pressing want of Japan is capital and skilled labor, and that she cannot obtain these without a revision of existing treaties. * * * * *

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 56.—Translation.]


To the honorable board of Sa In:

Gentlemen: We have the honor to address to you the accompanying memorial, and to beg that you take it into consideration.

You will find its proposals some which we often made to you during the time we were in the government service, for they are all matters which we have always earnestly desired. As, however, embassadors were visiting all the treaty-powers in Europe and America to obtain practical knowledge, it was decided to delay the discussion until their return. Now, though the embassadors have already returned several months, we hear of nothing being done.

From the want of concord existing of late between the government and the people, the present position of the government is that it is liable to be brought to destruction. We extremely regret that this state of danger should have been occasioned by nothing else than the prevention by the government of free expression of opinion by the public.

Soeshima Tane-omi. Shizoku Saga Ken.
Gato Shojiro. Shizoku Tokei Fu.
Itagaki Taisuke. Shizoku Kochi Ken.
Yeto Shimpei. Shizoku Saga Ken.
Yuri Kimimasu. Shizoku Tsuruga Ken.
Komuro Nobuo. Shizoku Miyoto Ken.
Okamoto Kensaburo. Shizoku Kochi Ken.
Furusawa Uro. Shizoku Kochi Ken.

the memorial.

Your respectful memorialists, having considered with whom the power of the government at present lies, (see that;) it is neither with the Emperor nor with the people, but with the officials alone. Well! Although the officials would not show disrespect for His Majesty, the honor and magnificence of the imperial council-chamber gradually disappears; and, although they do not wish to neglect the people, the laws are too [Page 666] changeable, so that the proclamations of the morning are changed in the evening, and all things done according to the individual will of the officials. Rewards and punishment are administered with partiality; the public are forbidden to discuss government proceedings; and they are obliged to be silent under the oppression.

It must be evident, even to children three feet high, that it is impossible tranquilly to govern the empire under such conditions; and the country will quickly be ruined unless there is an improvement in its present mode of government.

Unable to divest our minds of the feelings of patriotism, we have consulted on the best means of relieving the government from its perilous position. The public opinion of the whole empire must be aroused. Nothing else will do. And to this end it is important to establish min-sen gi-in, (min public, sen choice, gi deliberations, in house,) where the members shall be chosen by the people, and shall discuss the laws. Then, the power of the officials being limited, (under control,) all men, both public and private, will find themselves happy and contented.

Now we beg to lay before you the following opinions respecting the above:

As the people, as is their duty, pay the taxes to the government, they should possess the right and power to examine government affairs. This being a self-evident proposition, should be understood by all, without requiring any explanation from us.

We beg, therefore, that the officials cease to oppose this right. They may oppose our proposition to establish the parliament, by saying that, as our people do not yet themselves promote the march of civilization and are ignorant and unlearned, the time has not arrived for establishing a parliament.

We reply, if it be so, so much the more necessary is it to establish the parliament, in order that the people may advance in knowledge and wisdom, and promote themselves to the state of civilization. Because, in order that they may so progress, they should first be taught to watch their rights and powers, and then they should be led to discuss public affairs, so as to rouse up each one to prize his rights and privileges, and to identify himself with the prosperity or adversity of the nation. Then there would be none so indifferent as to be content to remain ignorant. If the people be expected naturally to advance and progress of themselves without any such spur, we may wait perhaps a century, just as if the muddy water in a river were expected to clear itself naturally. Again, the officials most unreasonably say to establish a parliament now, at once, would be like nothing but the assembling together the fools of the whole empire. Alas! why are they so self-conceited, and why so look down upon the people? All officials ought, of course, to be the most clever of the people; but as it may be uncertain whether or not there are more learned and intelligent persons than they themselves, they should not feel this contempt. If the people be so foolish as for the officials to despise them, the officials must themselves be ignorant and unintelligent, for they are but one class of people. But which is the best way of governing? Is it by the absolute acts of a small party of officials alone, or by the public opinion of a vast body—all the inhabitants—of the empire?

We dare say that politicians or officials have greatly increased their knowledge and capacity, as compared with what they had before the recent great revolution of the Government—seven years ago; for the more learning and knowledge are cultivated, the better they are able to be advanced.

For this reason, we say again, the parliament must be established at once, in order to enable the people to improve in education and knowledge, and promote themselves to a state of civilization. It is the duty of the government to encourage in the people an ambition which shall cause them to step forward in such progress.

In a barbarous country, the people being only bold, disorderly, and disobedient to the government, it is the first duty of government to make progress by compelling the people to obey. Now, our people are not barbarous, and they are very obedient to the government. Such being the ease, it must be the ambition of government that the parliament be established to-day, on purpose to stir up the people to know their own minds, and to exercise the proper duty of each one’s taking part in the national affairs. This having been accomplished, the public throughout the whole empire shall, for the first time, be of one mind. Now, what makes a firm and strong government? It is the strength of public opinion. We need not go back to antiquity for example. We will prove it by the change of government which happened in October last.

How unsatisfactory was the government at that time! That it was able to stand was indeed wonderful. But who and how many of the people were glad of the change? Not only were they indifferent upon the matter, but nine-tenths of them knew nothing about it; and were only surprised by the movement among the military. It is for this simple object: to open unobstructedly the communication between the minds of the government and the people, so as to unite them together as one body, that the parliament should be established at first. Then the empire will increase in strength and the government itself will become firm.

Having thus perfectly explained the rights of the people, examined the present condition of the government, and called in proof the change of government in October last, as above mentioned, we are the more confident in our demand; and we [Page 667] therefore earnestly declare, the best and simplest way of upholding and strengthening the empire is to establish a parliament and arouse public discussion.

We do not here enter into details of the subject, as they could not he all mentioned even in many papers. We privately hear that the opinion of the present officials is to delay any efforts from day to day.

They say, “It is heedless progress; for how does it benefit the country?” And again: “It is yet too early to enter upon the subject.” We proceed, therefore, to examine the two phrases.

First, the phrase “It is heedless progress “we do not quite understand. Do they mean that it is roughly done? The establishment of a parliament should be most carefully effected. Again, do they say that it would derange the regular order of beginning and end, the hastening and delaying, according as circumstances change, because all departments are not altogether in concord? This is because (the goverment having no fixed regulations) all business is committed to the will of any of the officials. It is evident, for these very reasons, that it is most important to establish the parliament. As progress is necessary for the nation, all things must be brought within that progress; they therefore only oppose it on the ground of “heedlessness.” The heedlessness has nothing to do with the parliament.

The second phrase, “It is too early,” we are not only unable to comprehend, but our opinion is just the reverse. Because, if the parliament be established so hastily as today, yet it will not be in perfect working order for some time, perhaps months or years. And thus we are very anxious that it shall not be delayed a single day. So, as we said before, the phrase is just the contrary to our opinion. But, further, we hear the officials say, “As the parliament in European countries and America have not been established in a morning or an evening, but gradually, according to the progress of the people, we cannot hold them up as examples for imitation.”

We reply: Parliament is not the only thing constituted according to the progress of the nations, but several sciences, public works, machines, and many other like things. But the reason these things took so many hundred years to perfect is, that everything had to be discovered by their own individual experience, for they had no examples to imitate. But we are able to select examples for imitation, and have not to contrive and discover for ourselves alone. If we were able only to use the steam-engine when we have ourselves discovered the natural law of steam, or if we can only work the telegraph when we have ourselves discovered the principles of electricity, how many years will be required before we can avail of them?

The purpose we have now discussed is:

A representative parliament must be established at once; and the degree of progress made by our people is just suitable for its establishment. We do not consider it necessary to refute the opinions of those officials who oppose it; but only to rouse the people to public discussion, to acknowledge the full rights and power of the people, and to excite them to activity, so that, the government and people being agreed with each other, the emperor and his subjects shall love each other, and our empire shall become happy, strong, and powerful. Thus we earnestly pray that our memorial may be favorably considered.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 56.—Translation.]

Reply of the Sa In to the memorial of Soyeshima and others, asking the establishment of a parliament.

Soejima Tane-omi, Shizoku of Saga Ken, and seven other Shizoku, addressed to this board a memorial for establishing a representative parliament. As the subject approves itself to our reason, it has been already formally referred to Sei In in a memorial from this board, and having been assented to and the rules inquired into, we think the memorial should be adopted.

But as each Fu and Ken throughout the country has been ordered—during last year—to establish a local assembly in every province, and as the department of Naimusho has been lately established, we have desired of Sei In that after the memorial has been referred to that department, the local assemblies shall be opened at once and the parliament gradually established.


To Soejima Tane-omi and others.