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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

One of the ablest statesmen that Yedo ever possessed


A

less vertebrate policy could scarcely have been formulated, but the conduct of the Bakufu statesmen was more stalwart than their language. Under the guidance of Abe Masahiro, one of the ablest statesmen that Yedo ever possessed, batteries were built at Shinagawa to guard the approaches to Yedo; defensive preparations were made along the coasts of Musashi, Sagami, Awa, and Kazusa; the veto against the construction of ocean-going ships was rescinded, and the feudatories were invited to build and arm large vessels; a commission was given to the Dutch at Deshima to procure from Europe a library of useful books; cannon were cast; troops were drilled, and everyone who had acquired expert knowledge through the medium of the Dutch was taken into official favour.

But all these efforts tended only to expose their own feebleness, and on the 2nd of November, 1853, instructions were issued that if the Americans returned, they were to be dealt with peacefully. "In short, the sight of Perry's steam-propelled ships, their powerful armament, and the specimens they carried of Western wonders had practically broken down the barriers of Japan's isolation without any need of treaties or conventions." Thus, when the American commodore returned in the following February with ten ships and crews numbering two thousand, he easily obtained a treaty by which Japan promised kind treatment to shipwrecked sailors; permission to foreign vessels to obtain stores and provisions

within her territory, and an engagement that American vessels might anchor in the ports of Shimoda and Hakata. Much has been written about Perry's judicious display of force and about his sagacious tact in dealing with the Japanese, but it may be doubted whether the consequences of his exploit did not invest its methods with extravagant lustre.

TREATIES OF COMMERCE

Russia, Holland, and England speedily obtained treaties similar to that concluded by Commodore Perry in 1854. These, however, were not commercial conventions. It was reserved for Mr. Townsend Harris, American consul-general in Japan, to open the country to trade. Arriving in August, 1856, he concluded in March, 1857, a treaty securing to United States citizens the right of permanent residence at Shimoda and Hakodate, as well as that of carrying on trade at Nagasaki and establishing consular jurisdiction. Nevertheless, nothing worthy to be called commercial intercourse was allowed by the Bakufu, and it was not until Mr. Harris, with infinite patience and tact, had gone to Yedo alter ten months' delay that he secured the opening of ports other than Nagasaki to international commerce. In this achievement he was assisted by Hotta Masamutsu, successor to the great Masahiro, and, like most of his colleagues, a sincere advocate of opening the country.

Japan has been much blamed for her reluctance in this matter, but when we recall the danger to which the Yedo administration was exposed by its own weakness, and when we observe that a strong sentiment was growing up in favour of abolishing the dual form of government, we can easily appreciate that to sanction commercial relations might well have shaken the Bakufu to their foundations. It was possible to construe the Perry convention and the first Harris convention as mere acts of benevolence towards strangers, but a commercial treaty would not have lent itself to any such construction. We cannot wonder that the shogun's ministers hesitated to take an apparently suicidal step. They again consulted the feudatories and again received an almost unanimously unfavourable answer.

In fact, history has preserved only one unequivocal expression of consent. It was formulated by Matsudaira Yoshinaga, baron of Echizen. He had been among the most ardent exclusionists in the first council of feudatories; but his views had subsequently undergone a radical change, owing to the arguments of one of his vassals, Hashimoto Sanae--elder brother of Viscount Hashimoto Tsunatsune, president of the Red Cross Hospital, who died in 1909. "Not only did this remarkable man frankly advocate foreign trade for its own sake and as a means of enriching the nation, thus developing its capacity for independence, but he also recommended the fostering of industries, the purchase of ships and firearms, the study of foreign arts and sciences, and the despatch of students and publicists to Western countries for purposes of instruction. Finally, he laid down the principle that probity is essential to commercial success." Such doctrines were then much in advance of the time. Nevertheless, Harris achieved his purpose. He had audience of the shogun in November, 1857, and, on the 29th of the following July, a treaty was concluded opening Yokohama, from the 1st of July, 1858, to commerce between the United States and Japan.


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