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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

IEMOCHI 1858 1866 Iesada died in 1858


Iesada died in 1858, and the reluctance of the Imperial Court to sanction the succession of Iemochi was evidenced by a long delay in the transmission of the necessary Imperial document. During that interval, the feudatories of Mito and Echizen had a memorable interview with the premier, Ii, whose life seemed at that time to hang by a thread, but who, nevertheless, advanced unflinchingly towards his goal. The three feudatories offered to compromise; in other words, they declared their willingness to subscribe the commercial convention provided that Keiki was appointed shogun; the important fact being thus established that domestic politics had taken precedence of foreign. Ii not only declined this offer, but also did not hesitate to punish the leaders of the opposition by confinement and by temporary exclusion from the Court.


It was during the days of the thirteenth shogun that Japan may be said to have commenced her practical study of foreign military science. Instructors were imported from Holland, and a college was established at Nagasaki. Among its graduates were several historical characters, notably Katsu Rintaro, after-wards Count Katsu, minister of Marine in the Meiji Government. A naval college (Gunkan Kyojujo) also was organized at Tsukiji, in Yedo, while at Akunoura, in Nagasaki, an iron-foundry was erected. There, the first attempt at shipbuilding on foreign lines was made, and there, also, is now situated the premier private dockyard in Japan, namely, that of the Mitsubishi Company. Already, in 1854, the Dutch Government had presented to Japan her first steamship, the Kanko Maru.


An indirect consequence of these disputes between the Throne and the Court nobles, on one side, and the Bakufu officials, on the other, was to perplex the foreign representatives who were now residing in Yedo. These representatives learned to believe that the shogun's ministers were determined either to avoid making treaties or to evade them when made. However natural this suspicion may have been, it lacked solid foundation. That is proved by a memorial which the Yedo statesmen addressed to the Throne after the negotiation of the Harris treaty. They made it quite plain that they were acting in perfect good faith, the only doubtful point in the memorial being that, after the organization of a competent army and navy, the problem of peace or war might be decided. "If peaceful relations be maintained by ratifying the treaty," they wrote, "the avaricious aliens will definitely see that there is not much wealth in the country, and thus, abandoning the idea of gain, they will approach us with friendly feelings only and ultimately will pass under our Emperor's grace. They may then be induced to make grateful offerings to his Majesty, and it will no longer be a question of trade but of tribute." Something of sinister intention seems to present itself between the lines of this document. But we have to remember that it was addressed ultimately to the Kyoto nobles, whose resentment would have been at once excited by the use of friendly or self-effacing language.

There is also on record correspondence that passed between the Bakufu premier, Ii, and certain friends of his in the Imperial capital. From these letters it appears that Yedo was advised by the far-seeing section of the Kyoto statesmen to simulate the policy of bringing aliens under Japanese influence, and of using for purposes of military and naval development the wealth that would accrue from oversea trade. In a word, the Bakufu had to disguise their policy in terms such as might placate the Kyoto conservatives, and this deception was once carried so far that an envoy sent to Kyoto from Yedo represented the shogun as hostile at heart to foreigners, though tolerating them temporarily as a matter of prudence. It cannot be wondered at that the foreign representatives found much to perplex them in these conditions, or that at the legations in Yedo, as well as among the peoples of Europe and America, an uneasy feeling grew up that Japan waited only for an opportunity to repudiate her treaty engagements.

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