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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

But the Bakufu ignored his advice


at this juncture something like a reaction took place in the Imperial capital. A party of able men, led by Princes Konoe and Iwakura, had the courage to denounce the unwisdom of the extremists, at whose head stood Princes Arisugawa and Sanjo. At that time the most powerful fiefs in Japan were Satsuma and Choshu. Both were hereditarily hostile to the Tokugawa, but were mutually separated by a difference of opinion in the matter of foreign policy, so that when the above two cabals were organized in Kyoto, the Choshu men attached themselves to the extremists, the Satsuma to the moderates. The latter contrived to have an Imperial rescript sent to Yedo by the hands of the Satsuma feudatory, Shimazu Hisamitsu. This rescript indicated three courses, one of which the shogun was asked to choose: namely, first, that he himself should proceed to Kyoto for the purpose of there conferring with the principal feudatories as to the best means of tranquillizing the nation; secondly, that the five principal littoral fiefs should be ordered to prepare coast defences, and, thirdly, that Keiki of Mito and the feudatory of Echizen should be appointed to high office in the Bakufu administration.

To obey this rescript was to violate the fundamental law of the Bakufu, namely, that all interference in administrative affairs was forbidden to the Kyoto Court. The only dignified course for the shogun to take was to refuse compliance or to resign, and probably had he done

so he would have recovered the power of which he had gradually been deprived by the interference of Kyoto. But his advisers lacked courage to recommend such a course. At their suggestion the shogun signified his willingness to comply with the first and the third of the conditions embodied in the edict. The Satsuma feudatory strongly counselled that the shogun should decline to proceed to Kyoto and should reject all proposals for the expulsion of foreigners, but the Bakufu ignored his advice.


At this time there occurred an incident which had the most far-reaching consequences. A party of British subjects, three gentlemen and a lady, met, at Namamugi on the Tokaido, the cortege of the Satsuma feudatory as he was returning from Yedo. Unacquainted with the strict etiquette enforced in Japan in such situations, the foreigners attempted to ride through the procession, the result being that one, Mr. Richardson, was killed, and two of the others were wounded. The upshot of this affair was that the British Government, having demanded the surrender of the samurai implicated in the murder, and having been refused, sent a naval squadron to bombard Kagoshima, the capital of the Satsuma baron. In this engagement, the Satsuma men learned for the first time the utter helplessness of their old weapons and old manner of fighting, and their conversion to progressive ideas was thoroughly effected.


The submissive attitude of the Bakufu towards the Imperial Court encouraged the extremists in Kyoto to prefer fresh demands. Instead of waiting for the shogun to repair to Kyoto, as he had pledged himself to do in compliance with the edict mentioned above, they contrived the issue of another rescript, requiring the Bakufu to proclaim openly the adoption of the alien-expelling policy, and to fix a date for its practical inception. Again the Bakufu yielded. They did not, indeed, actually take the steps indicated in the rescript, but they promised to consider its contents as soon as the shogun arrived in Kyoto. The extremists, however, could not reconcile themselves to even that delay. In the spring of 1863, they constrained Keiki, who had been appointed guardian to the shogun and who was then in Kyoto, to give an engagement that on the shogun's return to Yedo decisive measures to put an end to foreign intercourse should be begun. This engagement the shogun found awaiting him on his arrival in the Imperial capital, and at the same time messages daily reached him from Yedo, declaring that unless he returned at once to Yedo to settle the Namamugi affair, war with Great Britain would be inevitable. But the conservatives would not allow him to return. They procured the issue of yet another Imperial decree directing that "if the English barbarians wanted a conference, they should repair to Osaka Harbour and receive a point-blank refusal; that the shogun should remain in Kyoto to direct defensive operations, and that he should accompany the Emperor to the shrine of the god of War where a 'barbarian-quelling sword' would be handed to him." Illness saved the shogun from some of his perplexities and, in his absence, the Yedo statesmen paid the indemnity required by Great Britain for the Namamugi outrage and left her to exact whatever further redress she desired. Accordingly, in July, 1863, a British squadron proceeded to Kagoshima and bombarded it as already described.

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