No. 380.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.

No. 219.]

Sir: It is to be noted that on the 14th instant Sanjo Saneyoshi, prime minister of Japan, caused to be published an imperial decree, a translation of which appeared in the “Japan Weekly Mail” of the 17th instant, and a copy of which I have the honor to inclose herewith for the information of the Department.

It is not my purpose to criticise very closely this decree, and perhaps it is not proper that I should do so, but it is certainly a subject of congratulation that His Imperial Majesty the Emperor states in this decree that his oath requires him “to govern in harmony with public opinion, and to protect the rights of our (his) people.” This, though possibly not so clearly stated as might be desirable, seems to be, in some sense, a recognition of the great principle dear to freemen, and formidable to tyrants only, that it is the first duty of a government to protect the rights of the governed. It is to be hoped that His Majesty means by “the rights of the people” the rights of human nature common to all men, whatever their station in life.

No information has been furnished which enables me to specify the “five principles” referred to in this decree; but whatever they may be, it has pleased His Majesty to declare his purpose to exceed them in the prosecution of domestic reforms. To this end, His Majesty declares that he now establishes the “Geuro in” to enact laws for the Empire, and the “Dai shin-in” to reform and consolidate the judicial authority.

I have not been furnished with an official copy of the original text of this decree, but whenever it shall have reached me it will be carefully translated by the interpreter of this legation, and a copy furnished to the Department.

The policy of the Emperor, so obscurely expressed in this translation, seems, in his judgment, to involve an abandonment by the people of many of their former customs. But it is to be observed that the Emperor, apprehensive that the people maybe too eager for reforms in society and government, expresses the wish that they shall not act impulsively or hastily in the matter.

It is said that this decree is made in response to the demands of the people.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 219.—Translation.]

Notification, No. 58.

[From the “Japan Weekly Mail,” April 17, 1875.]

An edict having been made in the terms of the annexed decree, I hereby make this known.

Prime Minister.

Imperial decree.

On ascending the imperial throne we assembled the nobles and high officials of our realm, and took oath before the gods to maintain the five principles, to govern in harmony with public opinion, and to protect the rights of our people.

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Assisted by the sacred memory of the glorious line of our holy ancestors, and by the union of our subjects, we have attained a slight measure of peace and tranquilly

So short a time, however, has elapsed since the late restoration that many essential reforms still remain to be effected in the administration of the affairs of the empire.

It is our desire not to restrict ourselves to the maintenance of the five principles which we swore to preserve, but to go still further, and enlarge the circle of domestic reforms.

With this view, we now establish the Genro-in to enact laws for the empire, and the Dai-shin-in to consolidate the judicial authority of the courts. By also assembling representatives from the various provinces of the empire the public mind will best be known and the public interest best consulted, and in this manner the wisest system of administration will be determined.

We hope by these means to secure the happiness of our subjects and our own. And while they must necessarily abandon many of their former customs, yet must they not, on the other hand, yield too impulsively to a rash desire for reform.

We desire to make you acquainted with our wishes, and to obtain your hearty cooperation in giving effect to them.