No. 427.
Mr. Bingham to Mr. Blaine.

No. 1385.]

Sir: For several weeks past His Majesty the Emperor of Japan has been making a progress in the north of his empire in the island of Yesso, and on the 12th instant signalized his return to this capital by issuing an imperial decree to the effect that in the 23d year of Meiji (1890) His Majesty would establish a parliament, and in the mean time he would by proclamation make known the constitutional limitations of the imperial [Page 729]prerogatives and of the national parliament. I note that His Majesty in this decree remarks that he perceived the tendency of his people “is to advance too rapidly, and without that thought and consideration which alone can make progress enduring,” thereby confirming what I had occasion to say in my No. 1102 of His Majesty’s address on the 25th of March, 1880, to the provincial governors of the empire, that “the Emperor intends that the people shall hasten slowly towards constitutional and representative government.”

It cannot be doubted that this decree marks one of the most eventful acts of the illustrious administration of His Imperial Majesty. It seemed, to me fitting, as the representative of our constitutional system of government, that I should congratulate his excellency Mr. Inouye, the minister for foreign affairs, upon this decree of His Imperial Majesty, and accordingly I addressed a note of congratulation to his excellency on the 14th instant, a copy of which is herewith, together with a copy of the imperial decree as published in the Japan Daily Mail of the 13th instant.

Should the Emperor live, as it is to be hoped he may, to consummate what he has thus inaugurated, it may be said that this act of his, in the interests of his people and of good government, regulated by written law, is second to no act of any of the rulers of this empire during an unbroken dynasty of twenty-five centuries.

Surely this decree for liberty and justice, sheltered and regulated by written constitutional law, will live in all the future of this people. Very impressive are the Emperor’s words:

Our ancestors in heaven watch our acts, and we recognize our responsibility to them for the faithful discharge of our high duties.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 1385.]

Mr. Bingham to Mr. Inouye.

Dear Sir: I beg most heartily to congratulate you upon the imperial decree of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, of date the 12th instant, declaring his purpose to establish an imperial parliament. What His Majesty has resolved to do accords with all the great reforms he has already inaugurated, of which I made mention in my dispatch to my government, No. 1159, as published in the Foreign Relations for 1880, page 690, a copy of which I gave you.

To hasten slowly in this crowning work, at His Majesty proposes, is the dictate of wisdom.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 1385.—Extract from the Japan Daily Mail, October 13, 1881.]

imperial decree.

We, sitting on the throne which has been occupied by our dynasty for over 2,500 years, and now exercising, in our own name and right, all the authority and power transmitted to us by our ancestors.

We have long had it in view gradually to establish a constitutional form of government to the end that the peaceful permanence of our dynasty may be assured and our successors provided with a rule for their guidance.

It was with this object in view that, in the 8th year of Meiji, we established the [Page 730]Genro-In, and in the 11th year of Meiji authorized the formation of local assemblies, thus laying the formation for the gradual reforms which we contemplated. These, our acts, must convince you, our subjects, of our determination in this respect from the beginning.

Systems of government differ in different countries, but sudden and unusual changes cannot be made without great inconvenience.

Our ancestors in heaven watch our acts, and we recognize our responsibility to them for the faithful discharge of our high duties, in accordance with the principles and the perpetual increase of the glory they have bequeathed us.

We therefore hereby declare that we shall, in the 23d year of Meiji, establish a parliament in order to carry into full effect the determination we have announced; and we charge our faithful subjects bearing our commissions to make, in the mean time, all necessary preparations to that end.

With regard to the limitations upon the imperial prerogative, and the constitution of the parliament, we shall decide hereafter and shall make proclamation in due time.

We perceive that the tendency of our people is to advance too rapidly, and without that thought and consideration which alone can make progress enduring, and we warn our subjects, high and low, to be mindful of our will, and that those who may advocate sudden and violent changes, thus disturbing the peace of our realm, will fall under our displeasure.

We expressly proclaim this to our subjects.

By command of His Imperial Majesty.

First Minister of State.