free ebooks

A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Bakufu prime minister visited Kyoto


treaty was concluded in spite of the failure of two attempts to obtain the sanction of the Throne. Plainly the Bakufu shrank from openly adopting a policy which, while recognizing its necessity, they distrusted their own ability to force upon the nation. They had, however, promised Mr. Harris that the treaty should be signed, and they kept their word at a risk, of whose magnitude the American consul-general had no conception. Mr. Harris had brought to this conference exceptional diplomatic skill and winning tact, but it cannot be denied that he derived assistance from contemporaneous events in China, where the Peiho forts had just been captured and the Chinese forced to sign a treaty. He was thus able to warn the Japanese that the British and the French fleets might be expected at any moment to enter Yedo Bay, and that the best way to avert irksome demands at the hands of the British was to establish a comparatively moderate precedent by yielding to the American proposals.


Between the conclusion of the Harris commercial treaty and its signature, the Bakufu prime minister visited Kyoto, for the purpose of persuading the Imperial Court to abandon its anti-foreign attitude. His mission was quite unsuccessful, the utmost concession obtained by him being that the problem of the treaty should be submitted to the feudatories. Another question raised on this occasion in Kyoto

was the succession to the shogunate. The twelfth shogun, Ieyoshi, had died in 1853, and was succeeded by Iesada, a physically incompetent ruler. Iesada had been married to the daughter of the Satsuma feudatory, as planned by the former Bakufu premier, Abe, who hoped thus to cement friendly relations with the great southern baron, a hereditary enemy of the Tokugawa. There was no issue of the marriage, and it being certain that there could be no issue, two candidates for the shogunate were proposed. They were Keiki, son of Nariaki of Mito a man of matured intellect and high capacities, and Iemochi, son of Nariyuki of Kii, a boy of thirteen. Public opinion supported the former, and his connexion with the house of Mito seemed to assure an anti-foreign bias. Chiefly for the latter reason, the Court in Kyoto favoured his nomination.

But Keiki was not really an advocate of national seclusion. Had the succession been given to him then, he would doubtless have adopted a liberal policy. On the other hand, his appointment would have been equivalent to the abdication of Iesada, and in order to avert that catastrophe, the shogun's entourage contrived to obtain the appointment of Ii Kamon no Kami to the post of prime minister in Yedo. This baron was not less capable than courageous. He immediately caused the young daimyo of Kii to be nominated successor to the shogunate, and he signed the Harris treaty. A vehement outcry ensued. It was claimed that the will of the Imperial Court had been set at nought by signing the treaty without the sovereign's sanction, and that unconditional yielding to foreign demands was intolerable. The Mito baron headed this opposition. But it is observable that even he did not insist upon the maintenance of absolute seclusion. All that he and his followers demanded was that a delay should be imposed in order to obtain time for definite preparation, whereas the premier, Ii, was for the immediate opening of the country.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us