Mr. Bingham to Mr. Fish.
Tokei , April 20, 1875. (Received May 25.)
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.,