Mr. Bingham to Mr. Blaine.
Tokei, Japan, October 21, 1881. (Received November 19.)
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.,