No. 312.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Evarts .

No. 807.]

Sir: Referring to my No. 796, of the 16th ultimo, wherein I acquainted you of the assassination of his excellency Okubo Toshimichi, I beg leave to further communicate a translation from the Nichi Nichi Shimbun (the official organ), an account of the funeral of Mr. Okubo and a memorial of his life from the Japan Mail. It was apparent in the many thousands who looked on in silence when the remains of the murdered minister were borne to the grave, attended by the personal representatives of His Imperial Majesty, by the ministers of state, and the representatives of all nations accredited to this court, and many people, that there was general and sincere regret that the minister was dead, and that so great a calamity had befallen the empire.

On the 15th of May, the day after the assassination and death of Mr. Okubo, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor addressed to Mr. Okubo a letter, a copy of which the foreign minister has kindly sent to me at my request. I inclose a translation of His Majesty’s letter, in which he says to Mr. Okubo, as though present and in life: “You were indeed our most valued and trusted servant. In your untimely death we have, therefore, suffered the most mournful bereavement. In token of our respect we hereby confer upon you the title Udaijin, with the rank of sho-ni-i (senior second), and also present you with five thousand yen.”

There is something very impressive in the simple faith of this people, that their dead still live.

I have, &c.,

[Page 496]
[Inclosure 1 in No. 807.—Translation.]
[Extract from the Japan Daily Herald, May 21, 1878.]


(From the Nichi Nichi Shimbun.)

The obsequies of Okubo Toshimichi, on whom the title of Udaijin and the grade of senior second rank officer were posthumously bestowed, took place yesterday.

The funeral procession left the residence of the deceased minister in Sannen-cho, Kasumigaseki, Tokio, at 2 p.m., and winding its way by Uchi-saiwai-cho, through the Tora-no-mon gate, along Katohhia-cho past the public works department by the Seventh street of Ta-machi Akasaka, by Denna-cho over Ushinakisaka, reached the burial grounds at Awoyama. The procession was preceded by a police inspector on horseback, followed by nine mounted police sergeants, who rode three abreast. Then followed a regiment of cavalry, a company of sappers, and a band of music; next came two battalions of infantry and a field-battery; after these were borne aloft branches of the sacred tree Sakaki, and sixteen banners in red and white, in two files.

Then came Shinto priests on horseback, and ten musicians, in two lines, immediately followed by the coffin and its fifty bearers, accompanied by attendants, who carried severally the sword of the deceased, his shoes, and artificial flowers. Behind the coffin rode the chief mourner, Okubo Toshikazu, in a carriage, followed by the four sons of the deceased in another carriage. Then followed General Saigo, Lieutenant-Generals Oyama, Nozu, Takashima, and four other gentlemen. After a little interval came the imperial representatives, the princes of the blood, the ministers, the members of the privy council, the foreign representatives, other foreigners, and some of the nobles. Next in order came Kawaji, the chief of police, police inspectors, and police sergeants, all on horseback; the Sonin (the 4th to the 7th class), the Hannin (8th to the 17th class), the remainder of the nobles, and many other persons. A battalion of infantry and a field-battery closed the procession.

The soldiers carried their rifles reversed, and their arms, as well as the instruments of the musicians, were draped with white crape.

As soon as the coffin arrived in the cemetery at Awoyama, the troops took up a position to the west of the grave, and a salute of fifteen rounds was fired from a battery of six guns, while the priests performed the funeral service, the music played in a mournful strain, and when the service was over another salute of fifteen rounds was again fired. The coffin was then lowered into the grave, which was more than 15 feet deep, and when the grave had been filled up a tablet was placed upon it, which bears the following inscription: “Here rests Okubo Toshimichi, member of the privy council, minister of the home department, senior third rank officer, knight of the first class of the order of the Rising Sun, and, after his death, honored with the title of Udaijin, and senior second rank officer.”

It is impossible to tell how many hundred thousands of people witnessed the funeral; the carriages alone were counted by hundreds upon hundreds; the streets, the entire route from Okubo’s residence to the cemetery, were lined on both sides with policemen; men and women crowded like ants in the streets to have a look at the funeral, the splendor of which they greatly admired, but the sadness of their feelings made them all very subdued and quiet. The cost of the funeral probablv amounts to more than 20,000 yen.

Nakamura Taro, Okubo’s coachman, who was killed at the same time as his master, has been buried close to the latter.

[Inclosure 2 in No. 807.]
[Extract from the Japan Daily Herald, May 22, 1878.]


(From the Japan Mail.)

The Japanese revolution, mild as its course has been, manifests its likeness to the bloodier revolutions of Europe in devouring its own children. Okubo Toshimichi, councilor of state and minister of the department of the interior, one of the leaders of the band of patriots who swept away the feudal system because it was a usurping despotism, fell, on the 14th instant, by the swords of assassins, who make it their first charge against him that he was an enemy to public discussion and the people’s rights.

It may be true, as declared in the circular promptly issued by the authorities, that the actual perpetrators of the crime, the six youths now undergoing examination, represent the whole extent of the conspiracy; but we are not bound to receive on trust the further statement in the circular that the incident has no political significance. [Page 497] Had the crime been the act of a solitary maniac, or the wreaking out of some feeling of private revenge, there would have been no great improbability in the official assurance thus spontaneously tendered; but the ink of the circular was hardly dry when an epitome of the manifesto setting forth reasons which actuated the murderers was published in one of the leading newspapers of the capital. It is scarcely necessary to dilate upon the abhorrence which deeds of this kind must excite in the mind of every well-wisher of this country, whatever may be the shade of his political opinions; but in view of the well-marked division of parties, of the prominent position held by the deceased statesman among the party now in power, and of the recent evidences of the intensity with which, under the external calm maintained by the strong hand of the administration, political ideas are fermenting and seething among the masses, it would be folly to attempt to shut our eyes to the fact that for the Japanese nation, and for the present cabinet in particular, the death of Okubo is an event of the utmost political significance. In order to be able to forecast the influence which it is likely to have upon the course of public affairs, it will be necessary to pass in brief review the career and character of the vassal whose loss the Mikado bewailed in words of such studied dignity in his address to the assembly of provincial governors.

Born early in the third decade of the present century, of a humble samurai family in the Satsuma clan, and nurtured in the traditions of haughty exclusivism and of jealousy of the Tokugawa Shoguns which were the heritage of the Thimadzu house, Okubo’s sympathies were early enlisted in the literary movement which looked longingly forward to the restoration of the governing power to the sovereign’s hands. Drawn toward Kioto, the center of this movement, he there cultivated the friendship of the few among the Kuge who gave signs of political capacity, and between these dignitaries on the one hand and the body of patriotic students like himself, the pick and flower of the various feudal clans, on the other, an alliance was cemented which formed the nucleus of the court party that ultimately overthrew the Shogunate. In the troubled times which followed the appearance of the foreign fleets in the harbors of the Kwanto, the politics of his own province afforded ample scope for the display of his remarkable intelligence and vigor. He was in the train of Shimadzu Saburo in 1862 when Richardson’s life was offered as a sacrifice on the shrine of the offended dignity of that arrogant nobleman, and in the negotiations and fighting which ensued he proved himself one of the boldest and ablest members of the clan.

We must pass hastily over the five eventful years that elapsed between the fight at Kagoshima and the abdication of the last of the Shoguns; not because the part played by Okubo in the drama then enacting was an unimportant one, but because the interest of the story is now historical rather than practical. It was not till the very moment of the crisis, the fight at Fushimi, that Okubo stepped into the front rank of the councilors of the new government. It was at his urgent advice that the brocade banner was unfurled which stamped the Shogun a traitor. Immediately after he sent in a startling memorial, recommending the removal of the capital from Kioto and the abandonment by the sovereign of that excessively reverential ceremonial by which his assumption of semi-divinity was maintained.

In the discussion of this and other urgent questions of state, the wide difference in the caliber of the two sections of which the court party, now the new government, was composed was made abundantly manifest. The Kuge, whose whole stock of attainments consisted in a knowledge of court etiquette and a smattering of elegant literature, were as children by the side of the samurai leaders, men versed in the practical work of local administration, and bent on obtaining for themselves that position in the national councils to which their abilities justly entitled them. Between the old principle of office for the aristocrat, and the new principle of tools to the workmen the contest was not doubtful; and within a month of the presentation of Okubo’s memorial, on the 6th April, 1868, the Mikado, under the most solemn forms by which a monarch can pledge himself, swore that he would establish a deliberative assembly, submit all measures to public discussion, and make intellect and learning the qualifications for office. On the removal of the court to Yedo, now Tokio, the new government found itself face to face with an array of probably as difficult problems in statesmanship as it has ever fallen to the lot of any administration to deal with. And after all deductions for inevitable mistakes have been made, the result is one of which any nation might reasonably be proud. But patriotic vanity is prone to forget both the stimulus and the help derived from the unwelcome contact of the foreigner. A burning sense of the inferiority of Japan to the once despised barbarians has been the mainspring at once of most of the beneficial reforms and most of the dangerous mistakes made by the administration now in the tenth year of its tenure of power. Okubo’s name is imperishably associated with the long list of reforms which have changed Japan from a conglomeration of feudal principalities into a compact state of the modern type, but it is also connected in a special manner with most of the great mistakes that have alienated the sympathies of large classes of the people from the bureaucratic machine which governs them. Of all Japanese statesmen, he was the least distinctively Japanese. Something of a foreign strain, a strong dash of the [Page 498] European, was perceptible in his character, fitting him to be the conductor of foreign influences and the interpreter of foreign ideas to his colleagues in the cabinet. Resolute, daring, and ambitious, he fancied that new institutions could be created as quickly and as easily as the old had been destroyed. Hence his eagerness to anticipate in his own lifetime results which must be the gradual growth of several generations. As a statesman, he was unquestionably inferior to his great colleague Kido, who represents the purely national side of the revolution, as Okubo represents the foreign influence which latterly has shaped its course. As a politician, his great defect was inability to estimate correctly the forces that opposed him. He forgot that, as he and his colleagues were gaining experience and assimilating new ideas, there were thousands of earnest and able minds throughout the nation undergoing the same process of development, and keeping pace with if not outstripping them in the race. The seminal ideas of liberty and personal rights have been sown broadcast among the people, and the popular party only waits for the appearance of competent leaders to manifest its strength. The broad question at issue between this party and the men now in power is whether the people are to have a voice in the work of civilizing themselves, or whether everything is to be done for them by a paternal government whose means of ascertaining their feelings and their wants are palpably defective.

The weighty significance of Okubo’s death consists, then, it seems to us, in this, that it will put an end to the epoch of purely personal government, and leave the field clear for the initiation of constitutional government by party, a change for which, to the credit of Japan be it told, the nation is fairly ripe. That change and that alone will effectually remove the causes which produce such deliberate outrages as that which now wounds the self-respect of the nation and tarnishes its fame abroad.

Were it not that moral forces are in the main independent of the particular individuals who are moved by and transmit them, Japan might, perhaps, have reason to bewail as irreparable the loss of its three greatest men within a twelvemonth. Hardly a year ago, Kido, the finest intellect of the revolution, passed away in the deserved enjoyment of the confidence of his sovereign, the regard of his colleagues in and out of office, and the unqualified admiration of every section of his countrymen. But a few months have passed since Saigo, the most magnanimous spirit among the band that laid anew the foundations of the empire, fell, overwhelmed in a tempest of civil strife. And now Okubo, the most resolute will in that knot of councilors who have labored to wrench the nation from its ancient moorings and launch it in the current of modern progress, has fallen by the daggers of assassins. But the country need not and does not despair. It has made immense strides in political development since the days, so short a time ago, when reverence for the Emperor and hatred of the barbarians summed up its highest aspirations.

Fortunately for itself it has grown in intelligence sufficiently to know that its first want is no longer the ascendency of iron-handed leaders, but of—

The law

That from Discussion’s lips may fall,

With life that working strongly, binds,

Set in all lights by many minds,

To close the interests of all.

[Inclosure 3 in No. 807.]

To the late Okubo Toshimichi, senior officer of the third rank, with the first-class order of merit, councilor of state, and minister of the interior:

Having devoted yourself to the empire with patriotic zeal, and having served the sovereign with loyal faith, you originated and carried out the great measures which resulted in the restoration. Moreover, by your inflexible integrity and unremitting zeal you have accomplished invaluable services abroad, while by your intelligent judgment you have accomplished equal achievements at home. You were, indeed, our most valued and trusted servant. In your untimely death we have, therefore, suffered the most mournful bereavement. In token of our respect, we do hereby confer upon you the title of Udaijin, with the rank of shoni-i, and also present you with 5,000 yen.

[The Emperor’s seal.]