Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States, Transmitted to Congress, With the Annual Message of the President, December 2, 1878
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Evarts
Tokei, Japan , September 10, 1878. (Received October 18.)
Sir: Herewith I have the honor to inclose an editorial of the Japan Daily Herald of the 31st ultimo, together with the remarkable plea of the assassins of Mr. Okubo, His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s late minister of the home department.
You will observe that the editor undertakes to lift the horrid and base and cowardly murder of Mr. Okubo above the “vulgar region of ordinary murder,” because the motives of the assassins, the editor considers, were wholly political. So it seems if assassins declare their motives for assassination to be political it results that their declaration of political motives “elevates their great crime.”
The tale of the assassination committed by Ichiro and his associates, as written by them and herein inclosed, contains nothing which I have occasion to note, save this, that in reference to the Lew Chew Islands the assassins say that “the inhabitants petitioned our (the Japanese) government with good reason”; that Japan took advantage of the inferior strength of the islands and compelled them to change their form of government and wounded their national feelings. They conclude by saying that in the foreign relations of Japan “the great point is not to possess brute force” nor “to oppress the weak and cringe to the strong,” [Page 500] but to “have right and justice on our [their] side.” (See last two paragraphs of their address to the Mikado.)
I have, &c.,
THE PLEA OF SHIMADA ICHIRO AND HIS ASSOCIATES.
[From the Japan Daily Herald, August 31, 1878.]
At the time when the late home minister was assassinated, we translated from a Tokio newspaper—the Choya Shimbun—a paragraph relating how, in the afternoon of the day on which the tragic event took place, the letter-box of that newspaper was found to contain a sealed statement, signed by the six assassins, and headed “Tale of a Traitor’s Assassination,” in which the motives of the conspirators were set forth. The Choya Shimbun published a few lines of that statement, and was in consequence suspended for some time, although it had immediately forwarded the original to the police department. A perusal of the document shows what an utter misrepresentation it was to pretend that Okubo’s assassination had no political significance. Ichiro’s statement is—more Japonico—written in a rather diffusive style, but the circumstances under which it was written gave it a peculiar interest, which is heightened by the fact that it, in the present gagged state of press and speech in Japan, stands forth as a unique expression of probably widely entertained opinions, and deeply felt grievances. Notwithstanding, therefore, the extravagance and exaggeration of language which, with the exception of the prefatory part, to some extent, vitiates the composition throughout, we have thought the production well worth translating.
The document is a lengthy one, and it gave us much trouble to procure a copy, owing to the fact of its having, for very obvious reasons, been, as far as possible, suppressed by the government. Nevertheless, a portion of it has been translated and published in the Shanghai Courier, and to-day we give extracts from such portions of our own full translation as come within the bounds of the legitimate discussion and criticism of government measures and policy. Libelous portions of Ichiro’s complaints, reflecting upon the conduct of officials, whose names are mentioned, connected with the administration, we omit. The charges may or may not be true, but as we have no means of knowing, we should not be justified in publishing them to the foreign world. Entertaining, as we do, no feelings of hostility toward the members of the government, our only object in printing so much of the memorandum as we do is because it has now become historical, and derives a deep interest and significance from the fact of its authors having sealed it with their blood. From one statement made it would seem that the conspirators had long brooded over their design, and that they had waited for a fitting opportunity to put it into execution. As to their motives, they appear to have been wholly political; and this elevates the great crime they committed beyond the vulgar region of ordinary murder. When we examine the several articles of impeachment, we find a good deal of invective, based upon well-known facts, and the case against the government very well reasoned. Some charges, however, have no foundation beyond the mere prejudices of the writer and his class, especially those relating to the alleged waste of money and extravagance on public works and buildings, the expenditure of which, mostly taking place in and about the metropolis, perpetually provokes provincial jealousy and envy.
The allegation that the government in its intercourse with foreigners loses sight of the national dignity, we regard as wholly undeserved. Remembering the inferior rank which Japan necessarily holds in the congress of nations in comparison with the great powers, it is rather an excess of self-assertion that it is fairly chargeable with than the reverse; Japanese diplomacy, like that of other countries, is occasionally constrained by imperious circumstances to follow a line of action which it cannot avoid.
Taking Shimadzu Ichiro’s complaints in their entirety; allowing for their bitterness and passionate tone, for exaggeration, the vituperation which characterizes many passages, and for its personal malevolence in places—nevertheless, with all these drawbacks, it merits very serious attention, for the defects of government which it discloses, and the vicious policy and misdemeanors it condemns. If the sentiments avowed by Ichiro are those entertained by any considerable section of the samurai class, it behoves the administration to consider of its ways; to earnestly set about the task, too long delayed, of its own reformation, and to make timely concessions to those popular demands which a bureaucratic oligarchy are always loath to make. The existence of men driven to desperation, like Ichiro and his associates, partly by real and partly by fancied wrongs, is a perpetual menace to an administration which governs by force. The members of the government carry their lives in their hands, and not one of them can tell which of their number shall not prove to be the next victim of political resentment, which, denied other expression, finds it in the malignity of whispered hate, in the ruthless steel of the assassin, or in fratricidal civil war.[Page 501]
“a tale of a traitor’s assassination.
“We, the undersigned, Shimada Ichiro, shizoku of Ishikawa ken, and five others, bow our faces in the dust, and, having resolved to die, we speak thus to His Majesty the Emperor, and to the thirty-five millions of our countrymen.
“After a careful consideration of the present condition of our country, we find that it is governed neither by the will of the Emperor nor by public opinion, but merely by the whim of a few government officers in high position. Men, placed in an elevated situation, honored with the confidence of His Majesty, and charged with the interests of the empire, should hold the welfare of the state superior to their own interests; they ought by their integrity, mercy, and justice to prove themselves worthy of the trust that has been placed in them. But this is far from being the case here. If we closely scrutinize the conduct of our present high officers, we shall find them caring only for their own affairs, and thinking lightly of their official duties; they do not allow the responsibilities of office to interfere with their rest and repose; and being cunning and greedy, they bring the sovereign into contempt and grind down the people. At last they have brought shame and humiliation to this country in such a degree as was never witnessed before, and they have done the people such injury as it will take thousands of years to heal. We shall now briefly state their principal crimes.
- “First crime.—Their administration is despotic; they stifle the voice of public opinion and oppress the people.
- “Second crime.—They confuse our law system by their arbitrary enactments; their constant aim is to serve their own interests and increase their wealth and power.
- “Third crime.—They waste the revenues of the country on useless public works and superfluous public buildings.
- “Fourth crime.—They dislike loyal and patriotic men, and by holding them in disgrace they cause domestic troubles.
- “Fifth crime.—In their intercourse with foreigners they lose sight of the national dignity.
“The government of a country should have its support in public opinion, and a country is strong in proportion as its people are free.
“To stifle the voice of public opinion and oppress the people must end in the decline and fall of the country. Laws are the pillars of the country and the guide of the people; if they are passed and abolished in a disorderly and confused manner, the majesty of the law falls into contempt, and the minds of the people become bewildered. The revenues are the common property of the people, and are destined to meet the necessities of the country; if they are wasted it is the life-blood that is uselessly wrung from the people. The loyal and patriotic men are the soul of the country, and on them depends its rise or fall; if they are contemptuously thrust aside, the country must go to ruin. It is national dignity that makes our independence respected; if that dignity be lost, the country soon becomes lost. These five crimes have been the principal means by which the respect for the sovereign has been lowered and the people ground down, and these we have explained more fully in the subjoined inclosure. But, besides, hundreds of lesser and greater crimes have been committed, which it would be too tedious here to enumerate, nor is there any necessity for doing so, as the public are more or less aware of them.
“In consequence of these crimes of our * * * officers, the whole country is in a troubled state, and the obnoxious conduct of these officers has become the general topic of conversation, even on the street corners, and the subject of many petitions, but these officers make no sign of mending their ways. On the contrary, their tyranny and deceit increases daily; one penal law is enacted after another; the writers for the public press are silenced and imprisoned; they drive every able and patriotic man in the country into open revolt; they deceive His Majesty; they administer the laws of the country in their own selfish interest; they play fast and loose with the penal laws; they treat the able and patriotic men as if they were so many rebels, and in some grave instances it is believed that they have even secretly plotted the murder of the patriots. And when such secret plots are laid bare, then they call the whole country to arms to protect them from the consequences of their misdeeds.
“As long as Saigo and Kirino were still alive, our * * * officers stood in great dread of these men, and did not dare to commit such unjust and selfish acts as at present. But now Saigo and Kirino have gone, our * * * officers think they have nothing to fear, and there is no restraint any longer upon their injustice and tyranny. Their domestic policy is to treat the country as if it were their plaything, and the people as if they were their slaves; their foreign policy is to cringe to the foreign powers, thus surrendering the dignity of the country. In this way the imperial dynasty must fall, the country go to ruin, and the people become miserable, and whenever I, Ichiro, consider this, my mind is sorely distressed.
“When, last year, the southwestern troubles arose, I, Ichiro, and my companions were fully aware that Saigo and his followers were not rebels, but that the secret plotting of the government officers was the cause of all the trouble, and that, if Saigo [Page 502] and his friends were vanquished, there was no longer any hope for our country. We therefore intended to join them, and hoped thus to be able to punish our officers, but we missed our opportunity, and were prevented from carrying our intentions into effect. Afterwards we considered that, if our * * * officers, being guilty of the crimes above mentioned, remain in office and continue to administer the affairs of our country, it is impossible to foretell what may become of Japan. On the other hand to kill these officers would revive the spirit of the patriots everywhere and arrest the decline of the country; it would at the same time as it threw injustice down in the dust raise the people out of its degradation. So we resolved to kill the traitors.
* * * * * * *
“Therefore we resolved to commence by killing the two principal men, Okubo Toshimitsu and Kido Takamitsu; Kido, however, suddenly fell ill and died. Heaven has punished him for his crimes, and has chosen me, Ichiro, and my companions, to kill the others, for it is the will of Heaven that both shall be punished.
“By the command of Heaven and the will of the people, I, Ichiro, and my companions now slay the arch-traitor Okubo Toshimitsu with our sharp swords.
* * * * * * *
“We, your servants, respectfully submit to your Majesty, and to our countrymen, that it is the unbearable state of our country which causes us to sacrifice our lives. When the country becomes governed by the sacred will of your Majesty, in accordance with public opinion, then Japan will again flourish.
“It is our fervent desire that the injurious effects of our officers’ tyrannical administration may quickly disappear. If a national assembly be established according to the imperial promise made at the commencement of the restoration, and the imperial edict issued in April, 1875, and if the public opinion be thus consulted, then the imperial dynasty shall continue to reign in glory, the country shall last for ever, the people live in peace, and our desire shall have been accomplished.
“What will happen when we are no more? We shall never know; we bow to the will of Heaven. We have here exposed some of our views and the crimes of our officers, and we now submit to the judgment of your Majesty and our fellow-citizens.
“I, Ichiro, and my companions respectfully wrote the above in our intolerable grief.”
The following is a circumstantial exposition of the five alleged crimes mentioned in the “Tale of a traitor’s assassination,” which was inclosed and forwarded at the same time to the Mikado:
“First Crime.—Their administration is despotic, they stifle the voice of public opinion, and oppress the people. Shortly after the restoration, an imperial edict was issued to the assembled lords, calling a general meeting, in which all public affairs would be decided in accordance with the wishes of the people. And the meeting was held, to which representatives were summoned from every han, who discussed in what way the public administration would most advantageously be conducted. At the same time the people had the right of petition, and thus public opinion had every opportunity of making itself heard and felt. But afterwards all this was changed; the hall of the general meeting was closed, and the Sa-In substituted for it, and again the Sa-In in its turn was closed and replaced by the Genro-In. During the time, however, as well of the general meeting as of the Sa-In, if any one presented a petition, his name and address were taken down in a book, and in course of time he was called and asked to explain his ideas, and if his petition was approved it was forwarded to the imperial government. In the contrary case, the petition was returned to him, and if it was only partly approved, it was retained for consideration. The petitioner was always duly informed of what had been done with his petition, and if he dissented from the opinions held by the members of the Sa-In, it was open to him to see them and discuss with them. In this manner there was a real right of petition. But under the present Genro-In things are managed quite differently. All petitions, whatever be their contents, whether they be reasonable or not, and whether they are approved or not, are received in dumb silence, and what afterwards becomes of them is a perfect mystery; they disappear as effectually and without leaving more traces behind them than a stone thrown into the water. This being the case, and nobody caring to speak or write to no purpose at all, scarcely anybody now ever presents a petition; and if any one does, his petition is quite unheeded, so that the right of petition has become an empty formality, without any real significance. The imperial edict ordering a deliberative meeting, in which all public affairs would be decided according to the wishes of the people, is thus entirely forgotten. Our overbearing government officers contend that in no European country is it the custom to discuss the contents of a petition with the petitioner, or to give him special notice whether his petition has been approved or not. Now, this is an argument only fit for those who blindly and without discretion wish to introduce the habits and customs of civilized countries into our country. The people in Europe enjoy politic al freedom, they have their share both in the legislature and the executive; consequently there is no hard and fast line drawn between the government and the people; the people and the government are in constant mutual communication; no tyranny or oppression [Page 503] can be practiced by the government on the people, because the latter are constantly discussing the merits or demerits of the administration and the laws in their public meetings. As for individual grievances, the freedom of speech is so unlimited that they are easily brought to the attention of the authorities. In Europe, therefore, there is no necessity for petition. But look at our people! They are not permitted to hold public meetings for the discussion of the rights or wrongs of the administration or the laws. They have no other way to bring their wants to the knowledge of the authorities than by handing in a petition. How can this state of things be compared with that of Europe? If our right of petition is to be ruled by the standard generally adopted in civilized countries, then let them commence by granting our people their freedom and their share in the executive and the legislature. But while they frame our right of petition on the pattern of civilized countries, why is it that they do not also adopt the right of freedom that obtains in civilized countries? Is it that these governing officers only desire to adopt what suits their own convenience, and leave alone what might be inconvenient to them? The manners and customs of civilized countries only serve them as a pretext for oppression. The imperial edict issued in April, 1875, proclaimed a ‘constitutional monarchy,’ and the officers notified the edict throughout the whole empire. Now, when we consider what in western countries is meant by ‘constitutional monarchy,’ we shall find that it invariably means a monarchy in which the people are admitted to a share in the three great political powers of state, the executive, the legislature, and the judicature, the legislalature being in the hands of the national assembly. In this manner government in its three great ramifications is controlled by the people. Now, if our country had been truly made a constitutional monarchy, those three great political powers must at once have been kept separate from each other, and the legislature committed to the people. Since Soyeshima Taneomi, ex-Sangi, and others, had in the year 1873 forwarded their petition, in which they demanded a representative assembly, that question had become an important and all-absorbing one; some were in favor of a popular representation, while others pooh-poohed it. But times have progressed since, and at present there is scarcely any one who denies the beneficent effects of a representative assembly. The government, however, has not the courage to try it; is that the reason why our officers deny it to the people? Our officers, it is true, affirm that the degree of civilization to which our people have attained does not yet admit of a parliament. But the degree of civilization, to which our people have or have not attained, never made our * * * officers hesitate for a moment in introducing all sorts of customs and habits belonging to civilized countries, and for that purpose change the form of our administration, the architecture of our housee, the building of our roads, or to import all kinds of foreign machinery. How comes it, then, that a parliament is the only foreign institution that does not suit our people?
“At the beginning of the restoration, the Emperor ordered a general deliberative assembly, and afterward an imperial edict was issued which proclaimed a ‘constitutional monarchy.’ This proves that it was His Majesty’s will to establish a national assembly, and the people have now for years been in expectation of it, as eagerly as husbandmen after a long drought yearn for rain. Only our officers do not want it. Is it because it might be inconvenient to them?
“Again, at the beginning of the restoration, when our administrative system was reorganized, it was provided that the term of service for all government officers should be four years, and that they should be chosen and reappointed by public vote. Since that time our administrative system has often been recast, but no further mention has ever been made of a fixed limit for the term of office. Some departments and bureaus have been abolished and new ones substituted, but through all these changes certain high officers have managed to keep their rank and position, as if the same were hereditary in their families. What has then become of ‘appointment by public vote’?
“We have already mentioned that these * * * officers under an outward mask of uprightness conceal an utter selfishness; they deny the people their birthrights, and hinder them from openly stating their legitimate wants, and therefore, we repeat it, they stifle the voice of public opinion, oppress the people, and govern it in their own interest.
“Second crime.—They confuse our law system by their arbitrary enactments; their constant aim is to serve their own interest and to increase their own wealth and influence. Laws and regulations ordering what to do and prohibiting what not to do are now issued, accordingly as it suits the convenience of the government officers, without any regard to the wants of the people. The laws are, therefore, constantly altered. What was law in the morning ceases to be law in the evening. Thus the people become confused and are entrapped by severe and tyrannical laws. In some cases our officers, without due reflection, adopt the laws of western countries and want to subject our people to them; and if the people complain that these laws do not suit them, then our officers rebuke them and tell them that it is the duty of the people to obey, and that the law in such and such a foreign country is such and such. But our ignorant people do not know what their duty is, nor do they understand the laws of foreign countries, so they [Page 504] become sullen and brood in silence over their wrongs, hating the officers, whose power they know it is useless for them to try to resist. Such is at present the state of most of the ken.
“In our Ishikawa ken, for instance, the officers are constantly grasping after more power, and their administration is arbitrary and for selfish ends. An old proverb says: ‘Whatsoever the highest in the land are doing, the lowest in the land are sure to ape them,’ and unless the central government were enacting rules and prohibitions in a loose and disorderly manner it would never have happened that every ken in the country was in such a state of confusion. The laws should be the means of upholding justice and of preventing both government and people from wrong-doing; but our officers administer the laws solely for their own private ends.
“An instance of this is the affair of the copper mines, and * * * which caused a great stir among the public. Makimura Masanao was arrested by orders from the Shihosho, and again suddenly set at liberty by a special order. His arrest was evidently not ordered by His Majesty, but was an arbitrary act committed by our * * * officers, and in consequence of such acts we now frequently see the officers of the department of justice compelled to resign. Ozaki Samro and Inouye Ki once brought an action against a newspaper editor, because he had written a certain article against Ozaki Ki and Inouye Samro. They pleaded that he had only transposed their names, and that his article was meant for them. And although there was no evidence at all that they were meant by the transposed names, and the charge rested solely upon guess and supposition, the judge nevertheless accepted their complaint and condemned the editor. After sentence had been passed, it came out that they were really meant by the transposed names, but when the case was tried before the judge there was no evidence of it at all. But if guess and supposition be sufficient to condemn a man, then it may happen that when a person has lost one of his fowls, and he sees another man eating fowl on the same day on which he lost his own, he may bring an action against that other person for having stolen his fowl. What would we say of a court which, in this instance, took the charge for proven without any further evidence? When the press laws were first issued many people were thrown into prison for having violated these laws, although they were quite ignorant of having committed any offense, but nevertheless the judges never failed to condemn them.
* * * * * * *
“We said already that our * * * officers administer the laws of the country in their own interest, and not only does each and every one of them administer the laws in his own interest, but they assist each other and favor each other in that administration, and the one helps to cover up and conceal the * * * of the other. Clique government has now become the rule, and extends even to the lower officers, who are either bound to the higher officers by the ties of relationship or depend upon them as far as their promotion or discharge is concerned. Even the merchants find it to their advantage to flatter and bribe the high officers. When officers meet together their conversation always turns upon Mr. So and So having got a place through the patronage of Mr. So and So. When merchants meet the talk is: ‘If you apply to such and such a minister your petition will be granted’; or, ‘If you address yourself to such and such a chief of department he will give you the desired permission’; or else, ‘Such and such a minister has formed a company jointly with such and such persons,’ and ‘Such and such a vice-minister has established a manufactory in company with such and such persons.’ In this manner one officer abets another in his nefarious proceedings, and officers and private individuals are mixed up together in lucrative bargains. These unpleasant things are openly talked about, and thus they reach our ears. We were, therefore, right when we said that our officers confuse our law system by their arbitrary enactments, and that their constant aim is to serve their own interest and to increase their wealth and power.
“Third crime.—They waste the revenues of the country on useless public works and superfluous public buildings. It would appear that our officers at present have nothing so much at heart as to make roads and streets, erect new public buildings for the various government departments, and construct highly ornamental official residences, and they say of course that this is merely an adoption of the ways of civilized countries. But ornamental buildings are not civilization; civilization may be the force which, among other things, creates ornamental buildings, as the trunk and branches of a tree spring from its roots. If, then, we take good care of the root, the branches will take care of themselves and grow stouter and denser. Our officers, however, only care for the branches, not for the root; what they want are the ornamental buildings; the force that would spontaneously produce these they neglect. How came the countries in Europe to be possessed of venerable castles, excellent roads, splendid palaces, railways, telegraphs, gas, &c., &c., and other things from which the people derive comfort and advantage in their daily life? Each country had a succession of great men, who extended the boundaries and increased the power of his country, strengthened the army and made the people prosperous. But to arrive at such a state of perfection took centuries; and now here, a few years after the restoration, when everything is still in [Page 505] a state of transition, our officers waste our revenue and turn everything topsy turvy in order to bring our country with one bound to the same state of perfection as civilized countries. Therefore we say that they waste the revenue on useless works and superfluous buildings.
“Fourth crime.—They dislike the loyal and patriotic men, and by holding them in disgrace they cause domestic troubles. In October, 1873, Saigo and four other sangi resigned office; the cabinet was broken up in consequence, a general excitement spread throughout the country, and one revolt raised its head after another. Searching for the cause, we find the question of the invasion of Corea to be at the bottom. Our * * * officers refused to entertain the question, and the five sangi threw up office in disgust. Now, with regard to the invasion of Corea, if our officers, although they had their own opinion on the subject, really wished to act to the best for the country, why did they not consult the rest of the cabinet, and through a discussion try to arrive at an impartial decision?
“The reason why they did not do so was that their cause was a weak one. When the Saga samurai demanded that Corea should be invaded, they had no intention of taking up arms against the government, but the government became suspicious of their meetings and discussions, and ordered the ken officers to disperse them by armed force. This roused them into resistance, but who but the government provoked their resistance? The duty of the government is to rule the people gently, and not to provoke them and drive them into revolt.
“As for Mayebara Isei, it is likely enough that he struck the first blow, but his revolt was caused by the anger he felt at the intolerably overbearing conduct of our * * * officers. The government ought to rule its subjects with equal justice and impartiality, but how is that possible when it feels suspicious and distrustful of its subjects? The revolts of both Yeto and Mayebara were caused by their anger and dissatisfaction, and are so far unjustifiable, but it was the misrule of the government that provoked their dissatisfaction and made them appear rebels. The true rebels against our country are our officers; they bring the sovereign into contempt, grind down the people, toy with the laws of the land, use them as instruments for their personal profit. Yeto and Mayebara did not rebel against His Majesty; their patriotism caused them to unfurl the standard of revolt. With what grace did our * * * officers look down upon them as rebels, and put themselves forward as His Imperial Majesty’s most worthy ministers?
“The Kagoshima affair last year was solely and entirely due to the secret machinations of our officers. Some insight into these machinations was obtained by the general public, but the whole truth was never fully revealed, and therefore we shall do so now. When Saigo, Kirino and the others resigned office, a general excitement seized the imperial guards, and under the pretense of illness everybody resigned and retired to his native province. Saigo and his friends tried to keep them quiet, and established the ‘private school,’ in which these men were taught military science. The obvious reason for this was that as our * * * officers wasted their time in sloth and idleness, it would be difficult to defend the country if ever foreign troubles should arise. Therefore the pupils of the school wanted to prepare themselves to do their duty to their country, and their intentions went not any farther. But our officers were seized by an uncontrollable fear, and sent spies to examine and report upon the movement, * * * secretly plotted the assassination of Saigo, Kirino, and Shinowara, as soon as an opportunity should present itself. The plot, however, was discovered, and then Saigo and his friends wanted to get at the bottom of it, and for that purpose to proceed to Tokio. But then the officers declared that the plot was only an invention of the ‘private-school’ party. This, however, cannot be, for if there were no plot, how came it to be confessed by the would-be assassins? Even if one or two of them might have been unable to stand the pains of torture, and consequently confessed himself guilty of what he was in reality innocent of, their tales must have differed. If they did not speak the truth, it is impossible that they could all tell the same tale. No torture could have had that effect. And even if the * * * officers had not sent Nakahara and his followers as spies, and had not given them secret instructions, but Nakahara and his followers nevertheless confessed such things, although not true, can our * * * officers honestly blame Saigo and his friends for putting themselves at the head of an army? Saigo and his friends acted as they did because they believed the confessions of Nakahara and his followers. To ascertain the truth, Nakahara and his followers ought to have been examined afresh. But this was not done, matters were left in darkness, and every effort was bent upon crushing the rebellion by main force. Our * * * officers issued a proclamation that Saigo had violated the laws of his country and ought to be punished. They declared that the country was in danger, and Saigo’s army exceedingly strong, and that there, therefore, was no time to make inquiries into the assassination charge.
“Now, the duty of a government is to rule with impartiality and justice, and if Saigo were guilty and had deserved punishment, his guilt ought to have been ascertained and proven before punishment was decreed against him. The government, [Page 506] however, made no inquiry, because, forsooth, the country was in danger and Saigo at the head of a strong army. But how could the government, wielding as it did the entire military force of the empire, be in such dread of that small ‘private school’ party, that it had no time to inquire into the charge? If our officers had been truly desirous to do their duty, what could have prevented them? Any one of them might have procured an Imperial order, and taking some law-officers along with him, have set out to meet Saigo on his march. When then the Imperial order had been communicated to Saigo, and a thorough investigation had been made, and Nakahara and his followers had been proved guilty, then let them have been punished; if, on the other hand, the assassination plot proved to be a pure invention, and a mere pretext of Saigo and his friends, then let them be punished. If the government had acted in this just and impartial manner, and Saigo and his friends had not submitted, but still held aloft the standard of revolt, then they would indeed have become rebels and the enemies of the country, and the government would have been perfectly justified in putting them down by armed force, nor would there either now, nor afterward, have been raised a single voice throughout the empire to blame them. All this our officers knew perfectly well, but the thing is that their conscience was not clear. Therefore they deceived the Emperor, used the army for their own purpose, and drove Saigo and his friends into rebellion. Thus they managed to throw dust in the eyes of the people and to succeed in their treacherous scheme. Afraid of their power, nobody now dares to speak of these doings of theirs, but at some future time public opinion is sure to find a vent, and their names will be handed down to posterity blotted with a foul stain. The public blame Saigo and his friends for having set out at the head of an army, and say that as they violated the laws of their country, they were justly punished for their crimes. But this is a shallow judgment that does not look beyond the surface of things. As long as a government does its duty to the people and administers justice with impartiality, it is the duty of the people to obey and to keep peace. But if the government acts contrary to its duties, violates the laws and oppresses the innocent, then the government ceases to be a lawful government, and the people have a right to see that the laws are observed, and are not bound meekly to submit to oppression. When, therefore, Saigo and his friends wanted to proceed to Tokio for the purpose of inquiring into the circumstances of the secret plot, they were perfectly justified in doing so; and if the pupils of the ‘private school’ wished to accompany them for sake of protection, they also had a right to do so. From their desire to serve their country, the pupils of the ‘private school’ had been following Saigo’s lead for years; in protecting Saigo they thought they protected their country. When the government, acting contrary to its duties, attempted to injure its subjects, then they took up arms and looked out for themselves. We do not mean to espouse the cause of Saigo, but ignorant as they are of the true mainsprings of men’s actions, the general public are fond of passing their superficial judgments, like swallows and sparrows, that chirp and twitter when they behold the eagle soaring high above them. Therefore we have thought proper to give a plain statement of the facts.
“As already mentioned, these traitors have committed all sorts of unlawful acts, and brought about a general dissatisfaction, and we were right in charging them with keeping the loyal and patriotic men in disgrace and thus creating civil wars.
“Fifth crime.—In their intercourse with foreigners, they lose sight of the national dignity. A number of years have already passed since the reign of the Bakufu, and during the whole of that time our country has been looked down upon by foreign powers; the injurious effects of this are becoming daily more manifest. The foreign powers are the strongest, and we have had to submit, and however repugnant to us, we feel it every day in our intercourse with foreigners. This ought now to be changed, and our foreign relations ought to be put on a footing in better harmony with the principles of international law. The obvious means for effecting this is a revision of the treaties; without such a revision the prestige of the nation can never be restored. But a revision presents very serious difficulties. And why? Because our military organization is not yet sufficiently strong to enable our country to cope with foreign powers. Our most important problem at present is therefore to strengthen our military system that we may be prepared to defend ourselves by force of arms. This, however, requires a vast outlay, and it is therefore absolutely necessary to practise the strictest economy in every other branch of the administration, and avoid all useless expenses. When therefore I, Ichiro, and my companions discuss our foreign relations, we confine ourselves to insisting on the urgency of a revision of the treaties; and as to the revision of treaties, we do not enter here into details, but we merely say that our military force ought to be increased and kept in perfect readiness, and that, as this would cost a large amount of money, all unnecessary expenses in other branches onght to be cut down.
“If now we examine how our * * * officers manage this particular and all important task, we see them reposing in comfortable indifference, and wasting the public revenue on useless works and ornamental buildings, but no heed is taken of our military service, and expenses in the other branches are daily increasing. More than [Page 507] ten years have now elapsed since the restoration, and nevertheless neither our fortifications, nor our navy, nor the armament of our army are in the proper state of perfection, although all these things are of paramount importance for the defense of our country. At this rate it is impossible to tell whether we shall ever be in a proper state of military preparation. Consequently we shall be unable to procure a revision of the treaties, although the treaties have expired long ago, and if the treaties remain unrevised year after year, our country must sink lower and lower and our people become more and more worried.
“What was the result of the Formosa expedition in 1874? We spent the lives of our youth and our treasure to no purpose whatever. We were hoodwinked by China, which paid over to us a small amount of money in return for the roads we had built on the island, while our government made our people believe that China had paid us a war-indemnity. Why does the government always deceive the people?
“Our present relations with Corea are mere humbug. From the times of the Emperors Chin-ai and Ojin (the fourteenth and sixteenth successors of Jimmu Tenno), Corea became a dependency of Japan and paid us tribute. The Coreans, however, took advantage of our intestine wars and ceased paying tribute; then Taiko-sama invaded Corea with a large force and subjugated it afresh. And now we have made a treaty with them on equal terms! We grieve for our Emperor, who is thus put on an equal foot with China’s vassal. Was ever our country more bitterly defiled?
“As for the exchange of the island of Sagalien against the Kurile Islands, it was a deep humiliation for our country. It was called an exchange, but in real truth the island was taken from us. We ceded to Russia an important country, and we received from her some worthless islands. It was an exchange of a treasure against trash. We never wanted to make that exchange, but we were compelled to comply with the demands of Russia. Such was the conduct of the traitorous officers in China in olden times when the So dynasty was fast approaching its end; for the sake of inglorious peace they surrendered one province of the empire after another. Such an affront was never yet offered to our nation since it first became a people; now for the first time we have had to bear it, because our officers cause our present Emperor to act contrary to what his ancestors did. This is a great crime and ought assuredly to be punished.
“The Liukiu Islands we have treated with injustice. The inhabitants petitioned our government and with some good reason. But our government, instead of entering into negotiations with China, and coming to a clear understanding with that country whether the islands belong to us or not, took advantage of the inferior strength of the islanders, compelled them to change the form of their government, and wounded their national feelings. Our officers, who are so much afraid of Russia, are exceedingly overbearing towards Liukiu. O, ye traitors, did ye ever hear a story about the wolf? A wolf meets a tiger; directly he drops his tail, hangs his head and walks with timid steps. But let him face a fox or a badger: he swells with wrath, he snarls, his claws tear up the ground; he is every inch a mighty and ferocious beast. Our officers are exactly like the wolf.
“But in foreign relations the great point is not to possess brute force and in virtue of that oppress the weak and cringe to the strong: the great point is to have right and justice on your side. This, however, our officers have still to discover; arrogance and flattery are their only modes of dealing with foreign powers; for the sake of an inglorious peace they bring humiliation on our country and court contempt abroad. It was for this we said that they mismanage our foreign relations and lower the dignity of the country.”