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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

From the time of the fifth shogun


the case of cash payments the money was transported to the castle of Yedo or Osaka, where it came under the care of the finance administrator (kane-bugyo). Finally, the accounts connected with such receipts of cash were compiled and rendered by the administrator of accounts (kane-bugyo), and were subsequently audited by officials named katte-kata, over which office a member of the roju or waka-doshiyori presided. Statistics compiled in 1836 show that the revenue annually collected from the Tokugawa estates in rice and money amounted to 807,068 koku and 93,961 gold ryo respectively. As for the rate of the land-tax, it varied in different parts of the provinces, from seventy per cent, for the landlord and thirty for the tenant to thirty for the landlord and seventy for the tenant.


It has been shown above that, from the time of the fifth shogun, debasement of the coins of the realm took place frequently. Indeed it may be said that whenever the State fell into financial difficulty, debasement of the current coins was regarded as a legitimate device. Much confusion was caused among the people by repeated changes in the quality of the coins. Thus, in the days of the eighth shogun, no less than four varieties of a single silver token were in circulation. When the country renewed its foreign intercourse in the middle of the nineteenth century, there were no less than eight kinds of gold coin in circulation,

nine of silver, and four of copper or iron. The limits within which the intrinsic value of gold coins varied will be understood when we say that whereas the gold oban of the Keicho era (1596-1614) contained, approximately, 29.5 parts of gold to 13 of silver and was worth about seventy-five yen. The corresponding coin of the Man-en era (1860) contained 10.33 parts of pure gold to 19.25 of silver, and was worth only twenty-eight yen.


The earliest existing record of the use of paper currency dates from 1661, when the feudal chief of Echizen obtained permission from the Bakufu to employ this medium of exchange, provided that its circulation was limited to the fief where the issue took place. These paper tokens were called hansatsu (fief notes), and one result of their issue was that moneys accruing from the sale of cereals and other products of a fief were preserved within that fief. The example of Echizen in this matter found several followers, but the system never became universal.


The administration of justice in the Tokugawa days was based solely on ethical principles. Laws were not promulgated for prospective application. They were compiled whenever an occasion arose, and in their drafting the prime aim was always to make their provisions consonant with the dictates of humanity. Once, indeed, during the time of the second shogun, Hidetada, a municipal administrator, Shimada Yuya, having held the office for more than twenty years, and having come to be regarded as conspicuously expert in rendering justice, it was proposed to the shogun that the judgments delivered by this administrator should be recorded for the guidance of future judges. Hidetada, however, objected that human affairs change so radically as to render it impossible to establish universally recognizable precedents, and that if the judgments delivered in any particular era were transmitted as guides for future generations, the result would probably be slavish sacrifice of ethical principles on the altar of stereotyped practice.

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