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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Bakufu had practically no choice


-When

inaugurating the policy of seclusion, the Bakufu Government took care to leave China and Holland as a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world. It will be wise to utilize that bridge for dealing with foreign States, so as to gain time for preparations of defence, instead of rushing blindly into battle without any supply of effective weapons. If the Americans have need of coal, there is an abundant supply in Kyushu. If they require provisions and water, their needs can easily be satisfied. As for returning distressed foreign seamen, that has hitherto been done voluntarily, and an arrangement on this subject can be made through the medium of the Dutch. As for foreign trade, the times have changed radically since a veto was imposed on all commercial transactions, and it by no means follows that what was wise then is expedient now. Japan must have ocean-going vessels, and these cannot be procured in a moment. Her best way is to avail herself of the services of the Dutch as middlemen in trade, and to lose no time in furnishing herself with powerful men-of-war and with sailors and gunners capable of navigating and fighting these vessels.

-In short, the wisest plan is to make a show of commerce and intercourse, and thus gain time to equip the country with a knowledge of naval architecture and warfare. The two things most essential are that Christianity should not be admitted in the train of foreign trade, and that the strictest economy should

be exercised by all classes of the people so as to provide funds for the building of a navy and the fortification of the coasts.

The question alluded to at the close of the above, namely, the question of finance, was a paramount difficulty for the Bakufu. In the very year of Perry's coming, a member of the Cabinet in Yedo wrote as follows to Fujita Toko, chief adviser of the Mito feudatory: "Unless I tell you frankly about the condition of the treasury you cannot appreciate the situation. If you saw the accounts you would be startled, and would learn at a glance the hopelessness of going to war. The country could not hold out even for a twelvemonth, and there is nothing for it except that everyone should join in saving money for purposes of equipment. If we keep the peace now and toil unremittingly for ten years, we may hope to restore the situation." In truth, the Bakufu had practically no choice. "On one hand, thousands of publicists, who believed themselves patriotic, clamoured for the policy of seclusion, even at the cost of war; on the other, the Yedo Government knew that to fight must be to incur crushing defeat." The Bakufu then issued the following temporizing decree:

"With regard to the despatch from the United States Government, the views of competent men have been taken and have been carefully considered by the shogun. The views expressed are variously worded but they advocate either peace or war. Everyone has pointed out that we are without a navy and that our coasts are undefended. Meanwhile, the Americans will be here again next year. Our policy shall be to evade any definite answer to their request, while at the same time maintaining a peaceful demeanour. It may be, however, that they will have recourse to violence. For that contingency we must be prepared lest the country suffer disgrace. Therefore every possible effort will be made to prepare means of defence. Above all it is imperative that everyone should practise patience, refrain from anger, and carefully observe the conduct of the foreigners. Should they open hostilities, all must at once take up arms and fight strenuously for the country."


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