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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. Some scores of them, wearing old-fashioned armour and
equipped with hereditary weapons, attacked a castle, killed or
wounded three hundred of the garrison, and then died by their own
hands. Here and there throughout the empire a few equally vain
protests were raised, and finally the Satsuma samurai took the field.

THE SATSUMA REBELLION

This insurrection in the south severely taxed the resources of the
Central Government. The Satsuma samurai were led by Saigo Takamori,
but it has always been claimed for him that he undertook the command,
not for the purpose of overthrowing the Meiji Government, but in the
hope of restraining his followers. Ultimately, however, he seems to
have been swept away by the tide of their enthusiasm. The insurgents
numbered some forty thousand; they all belonged to the samurai class,
were fully trained in Occidental tactics, and were equipped with
rifles and field-guns. Their avowed purpose was to restore the
military class to its old position, and to insure to it all the posts
in the army and the navy.

Fighting began on January 29, 1877, and ended on September 24th of
the same year. All the rebel leaders fell in battle or died by their
own hands. During these eight months of warfare, the Government put
sixty-six thousand men into the field, and the casualties on both
sides totalled thirty-five thousand, or thirty-three per cent, of the
whole. Apart from the great issue directly at stake, namely, whether
Japan should have a permanent military class, a secondary problem of
much interest found a solution in the result. It was the problem
whether an army of conscripts, supposed to be lacking in the fighting
instinct and believed to be incapable of standing up to do battle
with the samurai, could hold its own against the flower of the bushi,
as the Satsuma men undoubtedly were. There really never was any
substantial reason for doubt about such a subject. The samurai were
not racially distinct from the bulk of the nation. They had
originally been mere farmers, possessing no special military
aptitude. Nevertheless, among all the reforms introduced during the
Meiji era, none was counted so hazardous as the substitution of a
conscript army for the nation's traditional soldiers. The Satsuma
rebellion disposed finally of the question.

ENGRAVING: SAIGO TAKAMORI

EDUCATION OF THE NATION

Meanwhile the Government had been strenuously seeking to equip the
people with the products of Western civilization. It has been shown
that the men who sat in the seats of power during the first decade of
the Meiji era owed their exalted position to their own intellectual
superiority and far-seeing statesmanship. That such men should become
the nation's teachers would have been natural anywhere. But in Japan
there was a special reason for the people's need of official
guidance. It had become a traditional habit of the Japanese to look
to officialdom for example and direction in everything, and this
habit naturally asserted itself with special force when there was
question of assimilating a foreign civilization which for nearly
three centuries had been an object of national repugnance. The
Government, in short, had to inspire the reform movement and, at the
same time, to furnish models of its working.

The task was approached with wholesale energy by those in power. In
general the direction of the work was divided among foreigners of
different nations. Frenchmen were employed in revising the criminal
code and in teaching strategy and tactics to the Japanese army. The
building of railways, the installation of telegraphs and of
lighthouses, and the new navy were turned over to English engineers
and sailors. Americans were employed in the formation of a postal
service, in agricultural reforms, and in planning colonization and an
educational system. In an attempt to introduce Occidental ideas of
art Italian sculptors and painters were brought to Japan. And German
experts were asked to develop a system of local government, to train
Japanese physicians, and to educate army officers. Great misgivings
were expressed by foreign onlookers at this juncture. They found it
impossible to believe that such wholesale adoption of an alien
civilization could not be attended with due eclecticism, and they
constantly predicted a violent reaction. But all these pessimistic
views were contradicted by results. There was no reaction, and the
memory of the apprehensions then freely uttered finds nothing but
ridicule to-day.

FINANCE

One of the chief difficulties with which the Meiji statesmen had to
contend was finance. When they took over the treasury from the Bakufu
there were absolutely no funds in hand, and for some years, as has
been shown above, all the revenues of the former fiefs were locally
expended, no part of them, except a doubtful surplus, finding its way
to the Imperial treasury. The only resource was an issue of paper
money. Such tokens of exchange had been freely employed since the
middle of the seventeenth century, and at the time of the
mediatization of the fiefs, 1694 kinds of notes were in circulation.

The first business of the Government should have been to replace
these unsecured tokens with uniform and sound media of exchange. But
instead of performing that duty the Meiji statesmen saw themselves
compelled to follow the evil example set by the fiefs in past times.
Government notes were issued. They fell at the outset to a discount
of fifty per cent, and various devices, more or less despotic, were
employed to compel their circulation at par. By degrees, however, the
Government's credit improved, and thus, though the issues of
inconvertible notes aggregated sixty million yen at the close of the
first five years of the Meiji era, they passed freely from hand to
hand without discount. But, of course, the need for funds in
connexion with the wholesale reforms and numerous enterprises
inaugurated officially became more and more pressing, so that in the
fourteenth year (1881) after the Restoration, the face value of the
notes in circulation aggregated 180 million yen, and they stood at a
heavy discount.

The Government, after various tentative and futile efforts to correct
this state of depreciation, set themselves to deal radically with the
problem. Chiefly by buying exporters' bills and further by reducing
administrative expenditures as well as by taxing alcohol, a
substantial specie reserve was gradually accumulated, and, by 1885,
the volume of fiduciary notes having been reduced to 119 millions,
whereas the treasury vaults contained forty-five millions of precious
metals, the resumption of specie payments was announced. As for the
national debt, it had its origin in the commutation of the
feudatories' incomes and the samurai's pensions. A small fraction of
these outlays was defrayed with ready money, but the great part took
the form of public loan-bonds. These bonds constituted the bulk of
the State's liabilities during the first half-cycle of the Meiji era,
and when we add the debts of the fiefs, which the Central Government
took over; two small foreign loans; the cost of quelling the Satsuma
rebellion, and various debts incurred on account of public works,
naval construction, and minor purposes, we arrive at the broad fact
that the entire national debt of Japan did not exceed 305 million yen
at the close of the twenty-eighth year of her new era.

A war with China in 1894-1895--to be presently spoken of--and a war
with Russia in 1904-1905, together with the price paid for the
nationalization of railways and for various undertakings, brought the
whole debt of the nation to 2300 million yen in 1907, which is now
being paid off at the rate of fifty million yen annually. It remains
to be noted that, in 1897, Japan took the momentous step of adopting
gold monometallism. The indemnity which she obtained from China after
the war of 1894-1895 brought to her treasury a stock of gold
sufficient to form a substantial specie reserve. Moreover, gold had
appreciated so that its value in terms of silver had exactly doubled
during the first thirty years of the Meiji era. There was
consequently no arithmetical complication connected with the adoption
of the single gold standard. It was only necessary to double the
denomination, leaving the silver subsidiary coins unchanged.

EDUCATION

In the field of education the Meiji statesmen effected speedy
reforms. Comparatively little attention had been directed to this
subject by the rulers of medieval Japan, and the fact that the Meiji
leaders appreciated the necessity of studying the arts and sciences
of the new civilization simultaneously with the adoption of its
products, bears strong testimony to the insight of these remarkable
men. Very shortly after the abolition of feudalism, an extensive
system of public schools was organized and education was made
compulsory. There were schools, colleges, and universities, all
modelled on foreign lines with such alterations as the special
customs of the nation dictated. These institutions grew steadily in
public favour, and to-day over ninety per cent, of boys and girls who
have attained the school age receive education in the common
elementary schools, the average annual cost per child being about 8s.
6d. ($2.00), to which the parents contribute 1.75d. (3.5 cents) per
month. Youths receiving education enjoy certain exemption from
conscription, but as this is in strict accordance with the Western
system, it need not be dwelt upon here.

LOCAL ADMINISTRATION

For purposes of local administration the empire is divided into
prefectures (ken), counties (gun), towns (shi), and districts (cho or
son). The three metropolitan prefectures of Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto
are called fu, and their districts are distinguished as "urban" (cho)
and "rural" (son), according to the number of houses they contain.
The prefectures derive their names from their chief towns. The
principle of popular representation is strictly adhered to, every
prefecture, every county, every town, and every district having its
own local assembly, wherein the number of members is fixed in
proportion to the population.



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