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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Ishida Kotsushige outwitted him


was evident, however, that the circumstances had become critical, and it was further evident that, as long as Ishida Katsushige's intrigues continued, a catastrophe might at any moment be precipitated. Sensible of these things, a party of loyal men, spoken of in history as the "seven generals"--Ikeda Terumasa (ancestor of the present Marquis Ikeda); Kato Kiyomasa; Kuroda Nagamasa (son of Kuroda Yoshitaka, and ancestor of the present Marquis Kuroda); Fukushima Masanori, Asano Yukinaga (son of Asano Nagamasa and ancestor of the present Marquis Asano); Hosokawa Tadaoki, and Kato Yoshiaki (ancestor of the present Viscount Kato)--vowed to take Ishida's life, while he was still in Osaka Castle, whither he had gone (1599) to attend the death-bed of his friend, Maeda Toshiiye. Ishida, finding himself powerless to resist such a combination after the death of Maeda, took an extraordinary step; he appealed to the protection of Ieyasu--that is to say, to the protection of the very man against whom all his plots had been directed. And Ieyasu protected him.

We are here confronted by a riddle which has never been clearly interpreted. Why did Ishida seek asylum from Ieyasu whom he had persistently intrigued to overthrow, and why did Ieyasu, having full knowledge of these intrigues, grant asylum? Possibly an answer to the former question can be furnished by the fact that Ishida was in sore straits. Attending Maeda Toshiiye's death-bed, he had seen the partisans

of the deceased baron transfer their allegiance to Ieyasu through the intervention of Hosokawa Tadaoki, and he had learned that his own life was immediately threatened by the seven generals. Even if he succeeded (which was very problematical) in escaping from Osaka to his own castle of Sawa-yama, in Omi province, the respite could have been but brief and such a step would have been equivalent to abandoning the political arena. Only a very strong arm could save him, and with consummate insight he may have appreciated the Tokugawa chief's unreadiness to precipitate a crucial struggle by consenting to his death.

But what is to be said of Ieyasu? Unwilling to admit that his astuteness could ever have been at fault, some historians allege that the Tokugawa chief saved Ishida's life with the deliberate purpose of letting him discredit himself and his partisans by continued intrigues. These annalists allege, in fact, that Ieyasu, acting on the advice of Honda Masanobu, by whose profound shrewdness he was largely guided, saved the life of Ishida in order that the latter's subsequent intrigues might furnish a pretext for destroying Hideyori. That, however, is scarcely conceivable, for Ishida had many powerful confederates, and the direct outcome of the leniency shown by Ieyasu on that occasion was an armed struggle from which he barely emerged victorious. The truth seems to be that, for all his profound wisdom, Ieyasu erred in this instance. Ishida Kotsushige outwitted him. For, during the very days of his asylum in Fushimi, under the protection of Ieyasu, Ishida opened secret communication with Uesugi Kagekatsu and invited him to strike at the Tokugawa. Uesugi consented. It must be observed that the character of Ishida has been portrayed for posterity mainly by historians who were under Tokugawa influence. Modern and impartial annalists are by no means so condemnatory in their judgment of the man. In whatever arts of deception Ishida excelled, Ieyasu was at least his equal; while in the matter of loyalty to the Toyotomi family, Ishida's conduct compares favourably with that of the Tokugawa leader; and if we look at the men who attached themselves to Ishida's cause and fought by his side, we are obliged to admit that he must have been highly esteemed by his contemporaries, or, at any rate, that they recognized in him the champion of Hideyori, at whose father's hands they had received such benefits.

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