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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

It has been observed by several critics that if Hideyoshi

*Hulbert's History of Korea.

Two letters have already passed between us, and the matter has been sufficiently discussed. What talk is this of our joining you against China? From the earliest times we have followed law and right. From within and from without all lands are subject to China. If you have desired to send your envoys to China, how much more should we? When we have been unfortunate she has helped us. The relations which subsist between us are those of parent and child. This you know well. Can we desert both Emperor and parent and join with you? You doubtless will be angry at this, and it is because you have not been admitted to the Court of China. Why is it that you are not willing to admit the suzerainty of the Emperor, instead of harbouring such hostile intents against him? This truly passes our comprehension.

The bitterness of this language was intensified by a comment made to the Japanese envoys when handing them the above despatch. His Majesty said that Japan's programme of conquering China resembled an attempt to bail out the ocean with a cockle-shell. From Korea's point of view her attitude was perfectly justifiable. The dynasty by which the peninsula was then ruled owed its very existence to China's aid, and during two centuries the peninsula had enjoyed peace and a certain measure of prosperity under that dynasty. On the other hand, Korea was not in a position to think of resisting Japan on the battle-field. The only army which the former could boast of possessing consisted of men who were too indigent to purchase exemption from service with the colours, and thus she may be said to have been practically without any efficient military organization. Moreover, her troops were not equipped with either artillery or match-locks. The only advantage which she possessed may be said to have been exceedingly difficult topographical features, which were practically unknown to the Japanese. Japan had not at that time even the elements of the organization which she was ultimately destined to carry to such a high point of perfection. She had no secret-service agents or any cartographers to furnish her generals with information essential to the success of an invasion, and from the moment that her troops landed in Korea, their environment would be absolutely strange.


These considerations did not, however, deter Hideyoshi. Immediately on receipt of the above despatch from the Korean Court, preparations were commenced for an oversea expedition on a colossal scale. Nagoya, in the province of Hizen, was chosen for the home-basis of operations. It has been observed by several critics that if Hideyoshi, instead of moving by Korea, had struck at China direct oversea, he would in all probability have seen his flag waving over Peking in a few months, and the whole history of the Orient would have been altered. That may possibly be true. But we have to remember that the Korean peninsula lies almost within sight of the shores of Japan, whereas to reach China direct by water involves a voyage of several hundred miles over seas proverbially tempestuous and dangerous. Even in modern times, when maritime transport has been so greatly developed, a general might well hesitate between the choice of the Korean and the ocean routes to China from Japan, were he required to make a choice. In the face of the certainty of Korean hostility, however, Hideyoshi's selection was certainly open to criticism. Nevertheless, the event showed that he did not err in his calculations so far as the operations on shore were concerned.

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