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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

An American brig under Commander Glynn


months later, the Preble, an American brig under Commander Glynn, anchored off Nagasaki and threatened to bombard the town unless immediate delivery was made of fifteen foreign seamen held by the Japanese for shipment to Batavia. The castaways were surrendered, and Commander Glynn found evidence to prove that Japan was by no means ignorant of American doings in Mexico, and that she was beginning to comprehend how close the world was approaching her shores. Once again in the following year (1849), the King of Holland wrote, telling the Japanese to expect an American fleet in their waters twelve months later, and to look for war unless they agreed to international commerce. This was no empty threat. The Washington Government had actually addressed to European nations a memorandum justifying an expedition to Japan on the ground that it would inure to the advantage of all, and the King of Holland appended to his letter a draft of the treaty which would be presented in Yedo. "All these things render it obvious that in the matter of renewing their relations with the outer world, the Japanese were not required to make any sudden decision under stress of unexpected menace; they had ample notice of the course events were taking."


The Emperor Ninko died in 1846 and was succeeded by his son, Komei, the 121st sovereign. The country's foreign relations soon became a

source of profound concern to the new ruler. Among the Court nobles there had developed in Ninko's reign a strong desire to make their influence felt in the administration of the empire, and thus to emerge from the insignificant position to which the Bakufu system condemned them. In obedience to their suggestions, the Emperor Ninko established a special college for the education of Court nobles, from the age of fifteen to that of forty. This step does not seem to have caused any concern to the Bakufu officials. The college was duly organized under the name of Gakushu-jo (afterwards changed to Gakushu-iri). The Yedo treasury went so far as to contribute a substantial sum to the support of the institution, and early in the reign of Komei the nobles began to look at life with eyes changed by the teaching thus afforded. Instructors at the college were chosen among the descendants of the immortal scholars, Abe no Seimei, Sugawara no Michizane, and others scarcely less renowned. The Emperor Ninko had left instructions that four precepts should be inscribed conspicuously in the halls of the college, namely:

Walk in the paths trodden by the feet of the great sages.

Revere the righteous canons of the empire.

He that has not learned the sacred doctrines, how can he govern himself?

He that is ignorant of the classics, how can he regulate his own conduct?

A manifest sign of the times, the portals of this college were soon thronged by Court nobles, and the Imperial capital began to awake from its sleep of centuries. The Emperor himself evinced his solicitude about foreign relations by fasting and by praying at the shrines of the national deities, his Majesty's constant formula of worship being a supplication that his life might be accepted as a substitute for the safety of his country. The fact was that the overthrow of the Yedo Bakufu had begun to constitute an absorbing object with many of the high officials in Kyoto. It had hitherto been an invariable rule that any policy contemplated in Yedo became an accomplished fact before a report was presented in the Imperial capital. But very soon after his coronation, the Emperor Komei departed from this time-honoured sequence of procedure and formally instructed the Bakufu that the traditional policy of the empire in foreign affairs must be strictly maintained. The early Tokugawa shoguns would have strongly resented such interference, but times had changed, and Ieyoshi bowed his head quietly to the new order. Thenceforth the Bakufu submitted all questions of foreign policy to the Imperial Court before final decision.

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