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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Ordered Hidetsugu to commit suicide


His younger brother, Hidenaga,

perished on the threshold of a career that promised to be illustrious; his infant son, Tsurumatsu, passed away in September, 1591, and Hideyoshi, being then in his fifty-fourth year, saw little prospect of becoming again a father. He therefore adopted his nephew, Hidetsugu, ceding to him the office of regent (kwampaku), and thus himself taking the title of Taiko, which by usage attached to an ex-regent.* Hidetsugu, then in his twenty-fourth year, had literary gifts and polite accomplishments much above the average. But traditions--of somewhat doubtful veracity, it must be admitted--attributed to him an inhuman love of taking life, and tell of the indulgence of that mood in shocking ways. On the other hand, if credence be due to these tales, it seems strange that they were not included in the accusations preferred finally against Hidetsugu by the Taiko, when the former's overthrow became advisable in the latter's eyes. For it did so become. Within less than two years of Hidetsugu's elevation to the post of regent, another son was born to Hideyoshi by the same lady, Yodo, the demise of whose child, Tsurumatsu, had caused Hideyoshi to despair of being succeeded by an heir of his own lineage. A niece of Oda Nobunaga, this lady was the eldest of three daughters whose mother shared the suicide of her husband, the great general, Shibata Katsuiye. Hideyoshi placed her among his consorts, bestowing upon her the castle of Yodo, hence her name, Yodogimi. Her rare beauty captivated the veteran
statesman and soldier, and won for her suggestions a measure of deference which they did not intrinsically deserve. Soon the court became divided into two cliques, distinguished as the "civil" and the "military." At the head of the latter stood Hideyoshi's wife, Yae, a lady gifted with large discernment, who had shared all the vicissitudes of her husband's fortunes, and acted as his shrewd and loyal adviser on many occasions. With her were Kato Kiyomasa and other generals and nobles of distinction. The civil party espoused the cause of the lady Yodo, and among its followers was Ishida Katsushige, to whom chiefly the ultimate catastrophe is attributed by history.

*It is by this title, "Taiko," that Hideyoshi is most frequently spoken of in History.

The birth of Hideyori on August 29, 1593, immediately actuated the dissensions among these two cliques. Ishida Katsushige, acting in Hideyori's interests, set himself to convince the Taiko that Hidetsugu harboured treacherous designs, and Hideyoshi, too readily allowing himself to credit tales which promised to remove the one obstacle to his son's succession, ordered Hidetsugu to commit suicide, and at the same time (August 8, 1595), sentenced his concubines to be executed in the dry bed of the river Sanjo. Their heads, together with that of Hidetsugu himself, were buried in the same grave, over which was set a tablet bearing the inscription, "Tomb of the Traitor, Hidetsugu." To this day, historians remain uncertain as to Hidetsugu's guilt. If the evidence sufficed to convict him, it does not appear to have been transmitted to posterity. The Taiko was not by nature a cruel man. Occasionally fits of passion betrayed him to deeds of great violence. Thus, on one occasion he ordered the crucifixion of twenty youths whose sole offence consisted in scribbling on the gate-posts of the Juraku palace. But in cold blood he always showed himself forebearing, and letters written by his own hand to his mother, his wife, and others disclose an affectionate and sympathetic disposition. It would be unjust to assume that without full testimony such a man sentenced a whole family of his own relatives to be executed.

ENGRAVING: MAEDA TOSHIIYE

HIDEYOSHI'S DEATH


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