Mr. Hubbard to Mr. Bayard.
Tokio, February 14, 1889. (Received March 12.)
Sir: I have the honor to transmit official copies of the constitution of Japan, with accompanying papers, consisting of “Imperial speech on the promulgation of the constitution;” “Imperial oath at the sanctuary [Page 536]of the Imperial palace;” “Imperial ordinance concerning the House of Peers;” “Law of the houses;” “The law of finance;” “Law of election for the members of the House of Representatives,” and “Appendix of the law of election for the members of the House of Representatives.”
Inasmuch as the Department of State will give to this constitution and accompanying papers an earnest and patient examination before forming a final judgment as to their merits, any attempted synopsis or discussion by me is unnecessary in the premises.
On the 11th February, at 10 o’clock a. m., the constitution was promulgated by his majesty the Emperor in the throne-room of the new palace with suitable and most imposing ceremonies. The diplomatic corps attended the ceremony at the express invitation of his majesty, and occupied a place of honor with the princes of the imperial blood immediately to the left of the throne.
The occasion was a most impressive one.
If I may be allowed to express my views, I am convinced that a careful reading of this constitution will enable my Government to reach the same opinion with its representative here, that the substance of this most important instrument, its declaration of rights to be held sacred alike by the Crown and its subjects, and to be hereafter inviolate, not only should have made the day memorable forever in the annals of the Empire, but should be a cause of sincere congratulation from all Western nations.
My observation and experience—personal and official—at this court and among this people since 1885, convinces me that all their progress, of which so much has been written and spoken—a progress in wise and freer government, of which this constitution is the highest and noblest testimonial—is not a short-lived or experimental thing, nor a thin veneering of Western civilization, so to speak, on the still vigorous body of oriental political systems, but rather proof of a solid and permanent triumph over the past of her history which ushers in a new era for Japan among the nations.
The constitution having been promised some years ago to be given in 1889 by the Emperor to his subjects, the 11th of February (the two thousand five hundred and forty-ninth anniversary of the foundation of the Empire) was recently declared the day on which the constitution should be promulgated; and the event, having been for years eagerly awaited, was celebrated with rejoicing by all Japanese subjects from the homes of fishermen and peasants to the palace of the Emperor.
The day was observed as the most important political event in the history of the Empire throughout the entire country with illuminations, bonfires, military and naval salutes, ringing of bells, processions, and decorations of houses and the streets of towns and cities with bunting and evergreens; and to the inspiring sounds of music the people literally “danced for joy.”
In an interview with his majesty in the evening of the day of the promulgation of the constitution, he having invited a large company of guests to dine at the palace, I took occasion to tender to him the earnest congratulations of my Government and of its representative on the completion of this glorious day’s work.
The Emperor, with evident gratification, replied, expressing his thanks for my words of congratulation, and expressed the hope that the occasion of the promulgation of the constitution which guarantied in a liberal sense political and religious liberty to his subjects might be an event which would increase the sympathy and friendship which the [Page 537]Government and people of the United States had so long cherished for Japan.
Apropos to this celebration, the greatest political event in the history of the Empire, I herewith have the honor, as a matter of interest to the Department of State, to inclose a leader from the Japan Daily Mail, giving a careful resume of the main points involved in this revolution of the political system of this Government, which henceforth places the Empire among enlightened constitutional monarchies.
I have, etc.,