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Therefore, the sacrifice they were required
to make was not so bitter after all, but that it was a very
substantial sacrifice there can be no question.

THE SAMURAI'S POSITION

The above edict was promulgated on August 29, 1871; that is to say,
nearly four years after the fall of the Tokugawa. The samurai,
however, remained to be dealt with. Feudalism could not be said to
have been abolished so long as the samurai continued to be a class
apart. These men numbered four hundred thousand and with their
families represented a total of about two million souls. They were
the empire's soldiers, and in return for devoting their lives to
military service they held incomes, some for life, others hereditary,
and these emoluments aggregated two millions sterling annually. No
reformer, however radical, would have suggested the sudden
disestablishment of the samurai system or advocated the wholesale
deprivation of incomes won by their forefathers as a reward for loyal
service to the State or to the fiefs.

The Government dealt with this problem much as it had done with the
problem of the feudatories. In 1873, an Imperial decree announced
that the treasury was ready to commute the samurai's incomes on the
basis of six-years' purchase in the place of hereditary pensions and
four years for life-pensions, half of the money to be paid in cash
and the remainder in bonds carrying eight per cent, interest. This
measure was in no sense compulsory; the samurai were free to accept
or reject it. Not a few chose the former course, but a large majority
continued to wear their swords and draw their pensions as of old. The
Government, however, felt that there could be no paltering with the
situation. Shortly after the issue of the above edict a conscription
law was enacted, by which every adult male became liable for military
service, whatever his social status. Naturally, this law shocked the
samurai. The heavy diminution of their incomes hurt them less,
perhaps, than the necessity of laying aside their swords and of
giving up their traditional title to represent their country in arms.
They had imagined that service in the army and navy would be reserved
exclusively for them and their sons, whereas by the conscription law
the commonest unit of the people became equally eligible.

ENGRAVING: KIDO KOIN

FRICTION AMONG THE LEADERS OF REFORM

It could not have: been expected that this manner of treating the
samurai would obtain universal approval. Already, too, the strain of
constructive statesmanship had developed friction among the
progressist leaders who had easily marched abreast for destructive
purposes. They differed about the subject of a national assembly,
some being inclined to attach more practical importance than others
to the Emperor's coronation oath that a broadly based deliberative
assembly should be convened. A small number of zealous reformers
wished to regard this as a promise of a national assembly, but the
great majority of the progressist leaders interpreted it merely as a
guarantee against the undue preponderance of any one clan. In fact,
according to the view of the latter party the broadly based
deliberative assembly was regarded solely as an instrument for
eliciting the views of the samurai, and entirely without legislative
power. Such an assembly was actually convened in the early years of
the Meiji era, but its second session proved it to be nothing more
than a debating club and it was suffered to lapse out of existence.

A more perplexing problem now (1873) presented itself, however. The
Korean Court deliberately abandoned the custom followed by it since
the time of Hideyoshi's invasion--the custom of sending a
present-bearing embassy to felicitate the accession of each shogun.
Moreover, this step was accompanied by an offensive despatch
announcing a determination to cease all relations with a renegade
from the civilization of the Orient. It may well be imagined how
indignantly this attitude of the neighbouring kingdom was resented by
Japan. The prominent leaders of national reform at that time were
Sanjo and Iwakura, originally Court nobles;* Saigo and Okubo, samurai
of Satsuma, and Kido, a samurai of Choshu. In the second rank were
several men destined afterwards to attain great celebrity--the late
Prince Ito, Marquis Inouye, Count Okuma, Count Itagaki--often spoken
of as the "Rousseau of Japan"--and several others.

*The distinction between Court nobles and territorial nobles had been
abolished in 1871.

ENGRAVING: SANJO SANETOMI

The first five, however, were pre-eminent at the moment when Korea
sent her offensive message. They were not, however, absolutely united
as to policy. Saigo Takamori held some conservative opinions, the
chief of which was that he wished to preserve the military class in
their old position of the empire's only soldiers. He had, therefore,
greatly resented the conscription law, and while his discontent was
still fresh, the Korean problem presented itself for solution. In
Saigo's eyes an oversea war offered the only chance of saving the
samurai, since the conscription law had not yet produced any
trustworthy soldiers. He therefore voted to draw the sword at once,
and in this he obtained the support of several influential men who
burned to avenge the nation's disgrace. On the other hand, those in
favour of peace insisted that the country must not venture to engage
in a foreign war during the era of radical transition.

The discussion was carried to the Emperor's presence; the peace-party
prevailed, and Saigo with three other Cabinet ministers resigned. One
of the seceders, Eto Shimpei, had recourse to arms, but was speedily
crushed. Another, Itagaki Taisuke, from that moment stood forth as
the champion of representative institutions. The third, the most
prominent of all, Saigo Takamori, retired to Satsuma and devoted
himself to organizing and equipping a strong body of samurai. It is
not by any means clear that, in thus acting, Saigo had any
revolutionary intention. Posterity agrees in thinking that he sought
to exercise control rather than to inspire revolt. He had the support
of Shimazu Saburo (Hisamitsu), former feudatory of Satsuma, who,
although a reformer, resented a wholesale abandonment of Japanese
customs in favour of foreign. The province of Satsuma thus became a
seed-plot of conservative influences, where "Saigo and his constantly
augmenting band of samurai found a congenial environment." On the one
hand, the Central Government steadily proceeded with the organization
of a conscript army, teaching it foreign tactics and equipping it
with foreign arms. On the other, the southern clan cherished its band
of samurai, arming them with the rifle and drilling them in the
manner of Europe, but leaving them always in possession of the
samurai's sword.

ENGRAVING: IWAKURA TOMOYOSHI

THE FORMOSAN EXPEDITION

Before these curious conditions bore any practical fruit, Japan found
it necessary to send a military expedition to Formosa. That island
was claimed as part of China's domains, but it was not administered
by her effectively, and its inhabitants showed great barbarity in
their treatment of castaways from the Ryukyu, or Loochoo, Islands.
The Chinese Government's plain function was to punish these acts of
cruelty, but as the Peking statesmen showed no disposition to
discharge their duty in that respect, Japan took the law into her own
hands. A double purpose was thus served. For the expedition to
Formosa furnished employment for the Satsuma samurai, and, at the
same time, assured the Ryukyu islanders that Japan was prepared to
protect them.

The campaign in Formosa proved a very tame affair. It amounted to the
shooting-down of a few semi-savages. No attempt was made to penetrate
into the ulterior of the island, where, as modern experience shows,
many great difficulties would have had to be overcome. Peking took
serious umbrage on account of Japan's high-handed conduct--for such
it seemed to Chinese eyes. In the first place, the statesmen of the
Middle Kingdom contended that the Ryukyu Islands could not properly
be regarded as an integral part of the Japanese empire; and in the
second place, they claimed that, in attacking Formosa, Japan had
invaded Chinese territory. After a long interchange of despatches the
Tokyo Government sent an ambassador to Peking, and a peaceful
solution was found in the payment by China of a small indemnity, and
the recognition of Formosa as a part of the Middle Kingdom.*

*The indemnity amounted to 500,000 dollars (Mexican).

THE KOREAN QUESTION AGAIN

The Formosan expedition took place in 1874, and, in the fall of 1875,
a Korean fort opened fire on a Japanese warship which was engaged in
surveying the coast. Such an insult could not be tamely endured.
Japan marshalled an imposing number of warships and transports, but,
following the example set in her own case by Commodore Perry, she
employed this flotilla to intimidate Korea into signing a treaty of
amity and commerce and opening certain ports to foreign trade. Thus,
Korea was drawn from her hereditary isolation, and to Japan fell the
credit of having become an instrument for extending the principle of
universal intercourse which she had herself so stoutly opposed during
two and a half centuries. It was a clever coup, but it earned little
credit with the samurai. They regarded such a settlement as
derogatory to their country.

ABOLITION OF THE SAMURAI

It was at this stage that the Tokyo Government felt itself strong
enough to resort to conclusive measures in the cases of the samurai.
Three years had now passed since the wearing of swords had been
declared optional and since a scheme for the voluntary commutation of
the samurai's pensions had been elaborated. The leaders of progress
felt that the time had now come to make these measures compulsory,
and, accordingly, two edicts were issued in that sense. The edicts,
especially their financial provisions, imposed a heavy sacrifice. But
it is very noticeable that the momentary question evoked no protests.
It was to the loss of their swords that a number of samurai objected
strenuously.



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