Mr. Hubbard to Mr. Bayard.

No. 548.]

Sir: I have the honor to inform the Department of the assassination of the Japanese minister of education, Viscount Mori Arinori, which occurred at his residence early on the morning of February 11.

So far as can be ascertained the assassination had no political significance whatever, and was committed by a Shintoist religious fanatic, without aid or instigation from any accomplice, for the purpose of avenging some real or imagined slight or indignity to a Shinto temple, [Page 539]which the assassin claimed the late minister once committed in entering the temple without removing his hat and shoes. The assassin was at once killed by an attendant of the minister.

The minister lived about twenty-four hours after receiving the wound.

The assassination was especially deplorable coming, as it did, on a day when all of Japan had put on holiday attire and was rejoicing over the constitution which was to be promulgated that day.

Viscount Mori was born in 1841, and had served his country in many honorable capacities, having been at one time the diplomatic representative of Japan at Washington; afterwards becoming vice-minister for foreign affairs, and later envoy and minister to England and to China, respectively.

Under his administration of the department of education Japan has made wonderful strides in educational advancement.

I inclose a clipping from the Japan Mail, giving an account of the assassination, which is believed to be in the main correct.

I have, etc.,

Richard B. Hubbard.
[Inclosure in No. 548.—Extract from the Japan Mail.]

Assassination of Viscount Mori.

It is with the most sincere regret that we have to announce the fatal termination of the injury received on the morning of the 11th by his excellency the minister of state tor education. It appears that the weapon used by the assassin was an ordinary Japanese kitchen-knife, the flat triangular blade of which had been sharpened to a state of great keenness. Unfortunately the blow was delivered so as to cut an artery, and, owing probably to the fact that all Tokio had begun to keep festival, medical aid was not procured until three hours had elapsed. By that time the Viscount had fainted from loss of blood, and at 5 o’clock on Tuesday morning he passed away. The irony of fate could scarcely be shown more cruelly than in the death of such a man by such an instrument. The particulars of the sad affair are now known. The murderer, a youth of about twenty-live, went to Viscount Mori’s house early in the morning, and asked for an interview with the minister. He was received by his excellency’s private secretary, but at first declined to state his business through a third party, alleging that it demanded the utmost secrecy. Ultimately, however, he reluctantly consented to explain that he had come to warn the minister against an assault which certain discontented students of the university contemplated making upon him while he was en route for the palace. The secretary carried this message to Viscount Mori, but the minister treated it with some disdain, and told the secretary that he had better question the informant more fully. While the secretary was obeying this instruction the Viscount himself came down stairs dressed in full uniform, and as he was about to pass the door of the room in which the secretary and the youth were conversing, the former said, “This, your excellency, is the man of whom I have just been speaking to you.” The professed informant then advanced, and had begun to repeat his story when suddenly grasping the Viscount, and drawing a kitchen-knife which he had concealed in his clothes, he plunged it in the minister’s abdomen. Concerning what immediately ensued there is, as may well be supposed, some confusion. Whether the man in attempting to make his way from the house seemed to threaten fresh violence, or whether he showed a disposition to follow up his murderous assault, it is at all events certain that one of the minister’s guards, who though standing in the vestibule was unable to prevent the fatal deed, immediately cut the assassin down. Under any circumstances this was regretable, but it would have been more so had there been any suspicion that the assailant had accomplices. Such, however, was not the case. From a manifesto found on his person, and corroborated by subsequent inquiries, the fact is placed beyond doubt that he was absolutely alone in his attempt and that its sole motive was a fanatical desire to wreak vengeance on the Viscount for an act of sacrilege which it appears that the latter did really, whether ignorantly or inadvertently, commit by entering the principal shrine at Ise without removing his hoots. By a zealot like Nishino Bunjiro—for that seems to have been the man’s [Page 540]name—such a proceeding on the part of a prominent minister of state may have been interpreted in the sense of a serious peril to the future of Shintoism in Japan. At all events he was content to sacrifice his own life in order to vindicate the majesty of the gods he reverenced. What an example of the curiously linked chain from which human destinies hang! That one of the ablest statesmen and most brilliant scholars in Japan should be struck down in the very prime of life by a kitchen-knife, and for no better reason than because he had failed to remove his foot-gear when entering a revered sanctuary! And yet there are critics who profess to believe that the religious sentiment is non-existent in Japan. We shall not at the present moment attempt to speak in detail of the deceased minister’s career. His death, felt all the more keenly in contrast with the national rejoicing at the promulgation of the constitution, has thrown Tokio into mourning. That the assassin was virtually a lunatic there can be little doubt, though the time he chose for the execution of his fell design seems to show either a subtle purpose to give the tragedy greater emphasis, or a clever idea that among the crowds and confusion of the national festival he might find exceptional facilities for escape.