Mr. D. W.
Stevens to Mr. Evarts.
Tokei, Japan, November 21, 1878. (Received Dec. 19, 1878.)
Sir: The return of His Majesty the Emperor on the 9th instant, after a progress the longest he has yet undertaken, was made the occasion of a reception of the diplomatic corps to-day at the imperial palace. The representatives of the treaty powers, through the doyen of the corps, Sir Harry S. Parkes, Her Britannic Majesty’s minister, felicitated His Majesty upon his return to the capital, and upon the happy auspices attending the progress just completed. The Emperor thanked the foreign representatives for this manifestation of good will, and expressed a wish for the continued health and welfare of the heads of their respective governments.
The recent progress of the Emperor occupied nearly two and a half months, and during that time he visited some of the most distant parts of the Empire. His journey was first directed through the rich provinces of Joshin and Shinshin to the port of Nügata on the west coast. Thence he proceeded south partly by the west coast and partly by the Nakasendo [Page 611] or central mountain road to Kioto, whence lie returned to Tokei by the Tokaido, the road near the eastern coast.
His Majesty was received throughout his progress with manifestations of loyalty and cordial good will. Extensive preparations were everywhere made for his reception; new roads were constructed, old ones repaired, and fine bridges built; the towns and villages through which he passed wore a holiday dress, and the people collected by thousands, most of them to see their sovereign for the first time.
The progress of the Emperor undoubtedly has a political significance.
The past few years have seen Japan torn by internal strife, and even now the spirit of discontent does not seem to have been allayed. The recent radical changes in the Empire have of necessity borne hardly upon some of the people, and upon none more heavily than upon the ancient military caste, the Samurai. Four rebellions within as many years; the revolt and tragic death of men who were foremost in restoring the Emperor to the full power of his throne, bear witness to deep-seated disaffection.
During all these troubles it has been the first effort of the discontented to impress upon the minds of the people the belief that rebellion was directed not against the Emperor, whom they held sacred and whose authority they did not dispute, but against the counsellors who surrounded him. Yeto made this plea in 1873; Mayebara repeated it two years later, while Saigo boldly declared that the Emperor was a prisoner in the hands of evil-minded men, who did in his name what he really never sanctioned.
To counteract influences such as these, it has been the evident desire of the present ministry to appeal to the body of the nation, and to show them that their sovereign has a strong personal interest in the welfare of the whole people. One by one privileges, formerly the badges of the samurai, have become accessible to the heimin, or lower orders. The army and navy, once peculiarly the domain of samurai alone, are now open to the common people, and the highest offices of state can be attained to by the humblest.
The task undertaken has been one of unification and education; the unification of what were until recently semi-independent, feudal clans, loosely connected by a vague sentiment of loyalty toward a soverieign too far withdrawn to elicit strong personal interests; the education of the great body of the people to a sense of the rights and the consequent duties which are theirs as subjects of the Empire. By visiting their homes, worshipping at their temples, displaying interest in their schools, their manufactures, arts, and agriculture, the Emperor has no doubt created a bond of personal esteem between himself and many of his people to whom otherwise he would have been little more than a name.
While it would be idle to represent Japan as having attained the goal at which she aims, or even as having more than begun the difficult labor of revolutionizing not only many of the customs, but the habits of thought of a whole nation, it will be acknowledged that many commendable measures have been taken, none, I am convinced, wiser or more likely to lead to good results than the recent progress of the Emperor.
I have, &c.