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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Omura was obliged to act promptly


In the very month (September, 1616) when Cocks "cried quittance with the Spaniards," a new anti-Christian edict was promulgated by Hidetada, son and successor of Ieyasu. It pronounced sentence of exile against all Christian priests, not excluding even those whose presence had been sanctioned for the purpose of ministering to the Portuguese merchants; it forbade the Japanese, under penalty of being burned alive and having all their property confiscated, to connect themselves in any way with the Christian propagandists or with their co-operators or servants, and above all, to show them any hospitality. The same penalties were extended to women and children, and to the five neighbours on both sides of a convert's abode, unless these became informers. Every feudal chief was forbidden to keep Christians in his service, and the edict was promulgated with more than usual severity, although its enforcement was deferred until the next year on account of the obsequies of Ieyasu. This edict of 1616 differed from that issued by Ieyasu in 1614, since the latter did not explicitly prescribe the death-penalty for converts refusing to apostatize. But both agreed in indicating expulsion as the sole manner of dealing with the foreign priests. It, is also noteworthy that, just as the edict of Ieyasu was immediately preceded by statements from Will Adams about the claim of Spain and Portugal to absorb all non-Christian countries, so the edict of Hidetada had for preface Cock's attribution of aggressive designs to the Spanish ships at Kagoshima in conjunction with Christian converts. Not without justice, therefore, have the English been charged with some share of responsibility for the terrible things that ultimately befell the propagandists and the professors of Christianity in Japan. As for the shogun, Hidetada, and his advisers, it is probable that they did not foresee much occasion for actual recourse to violence. They knew that a great majority of the converts had joined the Christian Church at the instance, or by the command, of their local rulers, and nothing can have seemed less likely than that a creed thus lightly embraced would be adhered to in defiance of torture and death. The foreign propagandists also might have escaped all peril by obeying the official edict and leaving Japan. They suffered because they defied the laws of the land.

Some fifty of them happened to be in Nagasaki at the time of Hidetada's edict. Several of these were apprehended and deported, but a number returned almost immediately. This happened under the jurisdiction of Omura, who had been specially charged with the duty of sending away the bateren (padres). He seems to have concluded that a striking example must be furnished, and he therefore ordered the seizure and decapitation of two fathers, De l'Assumpcion and Machado. The result completely falsified his calculations, for so far from proving a deterrent, the fate of the two fathers appealed widely to the people's sense of heroism. Multitudes flocked to the grave in which the two coffins were buried. The sick were carried thither to be restored to health, and the Christian converts derived new courage from the example of these martyrs. Numerous conversions and numerous returns of apostates took place everywhere.

While this enthusiasm was at its height, Navarette, vice-provincial of the Dominicans, and Ayala, vice-provincial of the Augustins, emerged from hiding, and robed in their full canonicals, commenced an open propaganda, heralding their approach by a letter addressed to Omura and couched in the most defiant terms. Thus challenged, Omura was obliged to act promptly, especially as Navarette declared that he (Navarette) did not recognize the Emperor of Japan but only the Emperor of Heaven. The two fanatics were seized, conveyed secretly to the island of Takashima, and there decapitated; their coffins being weighted with big stones and sunk in the sea, so as to prevent a repetition of the scenes witnessed at the tomb of the fathers mentioned above. Thereupon, the newly elected superior of the Dominicans at once sent three of his priests to preach in Omura's territories, and two of them, having been seized, were cast into prison where they remained for five years. Even more directly defiant was the attitude of the next martyred priest, an old Franciscan monk, Juan de Santa Martha. He had for three years suffered all the horrors of a medieval Japanese prison, yet when it was proposed to release him and deport him to New Spain, his answer was that, if released, he would stay in Japan and preach there. He laid his head on the block in August, 1618.


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