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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Hideyoshi followed Nobunaga's example



After Nobunaga's death, in 1582, the supreme power fell into the hands of Hideyoshi, and had he chosen to exercise it, he could have easily undone the whole work hitherto achieved by the Jesuits at the cost of much effort and devotion. But, at first, Hideyoshi followed Nobunaga's example. He not only accorded a friendly audience to Father Organtino, as representative of the fathers, but also he went in person to assign to the Company a site for a church and a residence in Osaka. At this time, "many Christian converts were serving in high positions, and in 1584, the Jesuits placed it on record that 'Hideyoshi was not only not opposed to the things of God, but he even showed that he made much account of them (the fathers) and preferred them to all the sects of the bonzes. . . He is entrusting to Christians his treasures, his secrets, and his fortresses of most importance, and he shows himself well pleased that the sons of the great lords about him should adopt our customs and our law.' Two years later in Osaka he received with every mark of cordiality and favour a Jesuit mission which had come from Nagasaki seeking audience, and on that occasion his visitors recorded that he spoke of an intention of christianizing one half of Japan." Nor did he confine himself to licensing the missionaries to preach throughout all Japan: he exempted not only churches from the billeting of soldiers but also the priests themselves from local burdens.

style="text-align: justify;">"This was in 1586, on the eve of his great military enterprise, the invasion of Kyushu. . . He carried that difficult campaign to completion by the middle of 1587, and throughout its course he maintained a uniformly friendly demeanour toward the Jesuits. But suddenly, when on the return journey he reached Hakata in the north of the island, his policy underwent a radical metamorphosis. Five questions were by his orders propounded to the vice-provincial of the Jesuits: 'Why and by what authority he and his fellow propagandists had constrained Japanese subjects to become Christians? Why they had induced their disciples and their sectaries to overthrow temples? Why they persecuted the bonzes? Why they and other Portuguese ate animals useful to men, such as oxen and cows? Why the vice-provincial allowed merchants of his nation to buy Japanese and make slaves of them in the Indies?' To these queries Coelho, the vice-provincial, made answer that the missionaries had never themselves resorted, or incited, to violence in their propagandism, or persecuted bonzes; that if their eating of beef was considered inadvisable, they would give up the practice, and that they were powerless to prevent or restrain the outrages perpetrated by their countrymen. Hideyoshi read the vice-provincial's reply and, without comment, sent him word to retire to Hirado, assemble all his followers there, and quit the country within six months. On the next day (July 25, 1587) the following edict was published:

'Having learned from our faithful councillors that foreign priests have come into our estates, where they preach a law contrary to that of Japan, and that they have even had the audacity to destroy temples dedicated to our Kami and Hotoke; although the outrage merits the most extreme punishment, wishing nevertheless to show them mercy, we order them under pain of death to quit Japan within twenty days. During that space no harm or hurt will be done, to them. But at the expiration of that term, we order that if any of them be found in our estates, they should be seized and punished as the greatest criminals. As for the Portuguese merchants, we permit them to enter our ports, there to continue their accustomed trade, and to remain in our estates provided our affairs need this. But we forbid them to bring any foreign priests into the country, under the penalty of the confiscation of their ships and goods.'"*

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