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At their head stood Umeda
Genjiro, who practised as a physician and wrote political brochures
under the nom de plume of Umpin. He soon became the centre of
a circle of loyalists whose motto was Son-0 Jo-I (Revere the
sovereign, expel the barbarians), and associated with him were
Rai Miki, a son of Rai Sanyo; Yanagawa Seigan; Yoshida Shoin; Saigo
Kichinosuke--better known as Saigo Takamori, the leader of the
Satsuma rebellion of 1877,--Hashimoto Sanae, and others who have been
not unjustly described as the real motive force that brought about
the Restoration of 1867.

These men soon came to exercise great influence over the Court
nobles--especially Konoe, Takatsukasa, Ichijo, Nijo, and Sanjo--and
were consequently able to suggest subjects for the sovereign's
rescripts. Thus his Majesty was induced to issue an edict which
conveyed a reprimand to the shogun for concluding a treaty without
previously referring it to the feudatories, and which suggested that
the Mito and Owari feudatories should be released from the sentence
of confinement passed on them by Ii Kamon no Kami. This edict
startled the Bakufu. They at once sent from Yedo envoys to
remonstrate with the conservatives, and after a controversy lasting
four months, a compromise was effected by which the sovereign
postponed any action for the expulsion of foreigners and the shogun
declared that his tolerance of international commerce was only
temporary. This was regarded as a victory for the shogunate. But the
Yedo envoys, during their stay in Kyoto, discovered evidences of a
plot to overthrow the Bakufu. Great severity was shown in dealing
with this conspiracy. The leaders were beheaded, banished, or ordered
to commit suicide; the Mito feudatory being sentenced to perpetual
confinement in his fief; the daimyo of Owari, to permanent
retirement; and Keiki, former candidate for the succession to the
shogunate, being deprived of office and directed to live in
seclusion. Many other notable men were subjected to various
penalties, and this "Great Judgment of Ansei"--the name of the
era--caused a profound sensation throughout the empire. The nation
mourned for many sincere patriots who had been sentenced on the
flimsiest evidence, and the whole incident tended to accentuate the
unpopularity of foreign intercourse.

ENGRAVING: II NAOSUKE

THE SECRET EDICT

The compromise mentioned above as having been effected between Yedo
and Kyoto had the effect of stultifying the previously drafted edict
which condemned the shogun for concluding a treaty without consulting
the feudatories. The edict had not been publicly promulgated, but it
had come into the possession of the Mito feudatory, and by his orders
had been enclosed in the family tomb, where it was guarded night and
day by a strong troop of samurai. The Bakufu insisted that to convey
such a document direct from the Throne to a feudatory was a plain
trespass upon the shogun's authority. Mito, however, refused to
surrender it. The most uncompromising conservatives of the fief
issued a manifesto justifying their refusal, and, as evidence of
their sincerity, committed suicide.

ASSASSINATION OF II

Nariaki, the Mito baron, now instructed his vassals to surrender the
edict. He may have shared the views of his retainers, but he was not
prepared to assert them by taking up arms against his own family. In
the face of this instruction the conservative samurai had no choice
but to disperse or commit suicide. Some twenty of them, however, made
their way to Yedo bent upon killing Ii Kamon no Kami, whom they
regarded as the head and front of the evils of the time. The deed was
consummated on the morning of the 24th of March, 1860, as Ii was on
his way to the shogun's castle. All the assassins lost their lives or
committed suicide.

ATTITUDE OF THE JAPANESE SAMURAI

The slaying of Ii was followed by several similar acts, a few against
foreigners and several against Japanese leaders of progress. Many
evil things have been said of the men by whom these deeds of blood
were perpetrated. But we have always to remember, that in their own
eyes they obeyed the teachings of hereditary conviction and the
dictates of patriotism towards their country as well as loyalty
towards their sovereign. It has been abundantly shown in these pages
that the original attitude of the Japanese towards foreigners was
hospitable and liberal. It has also been shown how, in the presence
of unwelcome facts, this mood was changed for one of distrust and
dislike. Every Japanese patriot believed when he refused to admit
foreigners to his country in the nineteenth century that he was
obeying the injunctions handed down from the lips of his most
illustrious countrymen, Hideyoshi, Ieyasu, and Iemitsu--believed, in
short, that to re-admit aliens would be to expose the realm to
extreme peril and to connive at its loss of independence. He was
prepared to obey this conviction at the cost of his own life, and
that sacrifice seemed a sufficient guarantee of his sincerity.

THE FIRST FOREIGNERS

It must be conceded, too, that the nineteenth-century foreigner did
not present himself to Japan in a very lovable light. His demeanour
was marked by all the arrogance habitually shown by the Occidental
towards the Oriental, and though the general average of the oversea
comers reached a high standard, they approached the solution of all
Japanese problems with a degree of suspicion which could not fail to
be intensely irksome to a proud nation. Even the foreign
representatives made it their habit to seek for trickery or abuse in
all Japanese doings, official or private, and though they doubtless
had much warrant for this mood, its display did not tend to
conciliate the Japanese. Many instances might be cited from the pages
of official records and from the columns of local newspapers, but
they need not be detailed here.

Moreover, there were difficulties connected with trade. The framers
of the treaties had found it necessary to deal with the currency
question, and their manner of dealing with it was to stipulate that
foreign coins should be exchangeable with Japanese, weight for
weight. This stipulation did not take into any account the ratio
between the precious metals, and as that ratio was fifteen to one in
Europe and five to one in Japan, it is obvious that, by the mere
process of exchange, a foreign merchant could reap a rich harvest. Of
course this was never intended by the framers of the treaty, and when
the Japanese saw the yellow metal flowing away rapidly from the
realm, they adopted the obvious expedient of changing the relative
weights of the gold and silver coins.

It may be doubted whether any state would have hesitated to apply
that remedy. Yet by the foreigner it was censured as a "gross
violation of treaty right" and as "a deliberate attempt on the part
of the Japanese authorities to raise all the prices of the native
produce two hundred per cent, against the foreign purchaser." The
British representative, Sir Rutherford Alcock, in a despatch written
to his Government, at the close of 1859, penned some very caustic
comments on the conduct of his countrymen, and did not hesitate to
declare that "in estimating the difficulties to be overcome in any
attempt to improve the aspect of affairs, if the ill-disguised enmity
of the governing classes and the indisposition of the Executive
Government to give partial effect to the treaties be classed among
the first and principal of these, the unscrupulous character and
dealings of foreigners who frequent the ports for purposes of trade
are only second and scarcely inferior in importance, from the
sinister character of the influence they exercise."

It is only just, however, to note the other side of the picture, and
to observe that the foreign merchant had many causes of legitimate
dissatisfaction; that his business was constantly hampered and
interrupted by Japanese official interference; that the ready
recourse which Japanese samurai had to deeds of blood against
peaceful strangers seemed revoltingly cruel; that he appeared to be
surrounded by an atmosphere of perplexity and double dealing, and
that the large majority of the Anglo-Saxon tradesmen visiting Japan
in the early days of her renewed intercourse had nothing whatever in
common with the men described in the above despatch.

KYOTO

In order to follow the sequence of events, it is necessary to revert
to Kyoto, which, as the reader will have perceived, was the centre of
national politics in this troublous era. An incident apparently of
the greatest importance to the Bakufu occurred in 1861. The shogun
received the Emperor's sister in marriage. But the auspicious event
had to be heavily paid for, since the Bakufu officials were obliged
to pledge themselves to expel foreigners within ten years. This
inspired new efforts on the part of the conservatives. A number of
samurai visited Yokohama, and promised death to any Japanese merchant
entering into transactions with the aliens. These conservatives
further announced the doctrine that the shogun's title of sei-i
(barbarian-expelling) indicated explicitly that to expel foreigners
was his duty, and the shogun's principal officials were so craven
that they advised him to apologize for failing to discharge that duty
instead of wholly repudiating the extravagant interpretation of the
anti-foreign party.

Encouraged by these successes, the extremists in Kyoto induced the
sovereign to issue an edict in which, after speaking of the
"insufferable and contumelious behaviour of foreigners," of "the loss
of prestige and of honour constantly menacing the country," and of
the sovereign's "profound solicitude," his Majesty openly cited the
shogun's engagement to drive out the aliens within ten years, and
explicitly affirmed that the grant of an Imperial princess' hand to
the shogun had been intended to secure the unity required for that
achievement. Such an edict was in effect an exhortation to every
Japanese subject to organize an anti-foreign crusade, and it
"publicly committed the Bakufu Court to a policy which the latter had
neither the power to carry out nor any intention of attempting to
carry out."

But at this juncture something like a reaction took place in the
Imperial capital.



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