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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

And the Tokugawa were pure usurpations


soon as attention was intelligently concentrated on the history of the past, it was clearly perceived that, in remote antiquity, the empire had always been administered from the Throne, and, further, that the functions arrogated to themselves by the Hojo, the Oda, the Toyotomi, and the Tokugawa were pure usurpations, which deprived the Imperial Court of the place properly belonging to it in the State polity. Just when this reaction was developing strength, the dispute about the title of the ex-Emperor occurred in Kyoto, and furnished an object lesson more eloquent than any written thesis. The situation was complicated by the question of foreign intercourse, but this will be treated separately.

ENGRAVING: MITSUGUMI-NO-SAKAZUKI (Sake Cups used only on Happy Occasions such as Weddings and New Year Days)





FROM what has been stated in previous chapters, it is clearly understood that Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu were all well disposed towards foreign intercourse and trade, and that the Tokugawa chief made even more earnest endeavours than Hideyoshi to differentiate between Christianity and commerce,

so that the fate of the former might not overtake the latter. Ieyasu, indeed, seems to have kept three objects steadfastly in view, namely, the development of oversea trade, the acquisition of a mercantile marine, and the prosecution of mining enterprise. To the Spaniards, to the Portuguese, to the English, and to the Dutch, he offered a site for a settlement in a suburb of Yedo, and had the offer been accepted, Japan might never have been closed to foreign intercourse. At that time the policy of the empire was free trade. There were no customs dues, though it was expected that the foreign merchants would make liberal presents to the feudatory into whose port they carried their wares. The Tokugawa baron gave plain evidence that he regarded commerce with the outer world as a source of wealth, and that he wished to attract it to his own domains. On more than one occasion he sent an envoy to Manila to urge the opening of trade with the regions in the vicinity of Yedo, and to ask the Spaniards for expert naval architects. His attitude is well shown by a law enacted in 1602:

"If any foreign vessel by stress of weather is obliged to touch at any principality or to put into any harbour of Japan, we order that, whoever these foreigners may be, absolutely nothing whatever that belongs to them, or that they may have brought in their ship, shall be taken from them. Likewise, we rigorously prohibit the use of any violence in the purchase or sale of any of the commodities brought by their ship, and if it is not convenient for the merchants of the ship to remain in the port they have entered, they may pass to any other port that may suit them, and therein buy and sell in full freedom. Likewise, we order, in a general manner, that foreigners may freely reside in any part of Japan they choose, but we rigorously forbid them to propagate their faith."

In the year 1605, the Tokugawa chief granted a permit to the Dutch for trade in Japan, his expectation being that the ships which they undertook to send every year would make Uraga, or some other place near Yedo, their port of entry. In this he was disappointed. The first Hollanders that set foot in Japan were eighteen survivors of the crew of the wrecked Liefde. These men were at first placed in confinement, and during their detention they were approached by emissaries from the feudatory of Hirado, who engaged some of them to instruct his vassals in the art of gun casting and the science of artillery, and who also made such tempting promises with regard to Hirado that the Dutch decided to choose that place for headquarters, although it was then, and always subsequently remained, an insignificant little fishing village. The Dutch possessed one great advantage over their rivals from Manila and Macao: they were prepared to carry on commerce while eschewing religious propagandism. It was this element of the situation that the Hirado feudatory shrewdly appreciated when he enticed the Dutchmen to make Hirado their port of entry.

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