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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Bakufu were naturally much incensed



If the Satsuma men thus received a conclusive lesson as to the superiority of Western armaments, the Choshu fief was destined to be similarly instructed not long afterwards. It will have been perceived that at this epoch the Imperial Court was very prolific in anti-foreign edicts. One of these actually appointed the 11th of May, 1863, as the date for commencing the barbarian-expelling campaign, and copies of the edict were sent direct to the feudatories without previous reference to the shogun. The Choshu daimyo found the edict so congenial that, without waiting for the appointed day, he opened fire on American, French, and Dutch merchantmen passing the Strait of Shimonoseki, which his batteries commanded. The ships suffered no injury, but, of course, such an act could not be condoned, and the Bakufu Government being unwilling or unable to give full reparation, the three powers whose vessels had been fired on joined hands with England for the purpose of despatching a squadron to destroy the Choshu forts, which result was attained with the greatest ease. This "Shimonoseki Expedition," as it was called, enormously strengthened the conviction which the bombardment of Kagoshima had established. The nation thoroughly appreciated its own belligerent incapacity when foreign powers entered the lists, and patriotic men began to say unhesitatingly that their country was fatally weakened by the dual system of government.


The sway exercised by the extremists in Kyoto now received a check owing to their excessive zeal. They procured the drafting of an Imperial edict which declared the Emperor's resolve to drive out the foreigners, and announced a visit by his Majesty to the great shrines to pray for success. This edict never received the Imperial seal. The extremists appear to have overrated their influence at Court. They counted erroneously on his Majesty's post facto compliance, and they thus created an opportunity of which the moderates took immediate advantage. At the instance of the latter and in consideration of the fictitious edict, Mori Motonori of Choshu, leader of the extremists, was ordered to leave the capital with all the nobles who shared his opinions. Doubtless the bombardment of Kagoshima contributed not a little to this measure, but the ostensible cause was the irregularity of the edict. There was no open disavowal of conservatism, but, on the other hand, there was no attempt to enforce it. The situation for the extremists was further impaired by an appeal to force on the part of the Choshu samurai. They essayed to enter Kyoto under arms, for the ostensible purpose of presenting a petition to the Throne but really to make away with the moderate leaders. This political coup failed signally, and from that time the ardent advocates of the anti-foreign policy began to be regarded as rebels. Just at this time the Shimonoseki expedition gave an object lesson to the nation, and helped to deprive the barbarian-expelling agitation of any semblance of Imperial sanction.


When the Choshu feudatory attempted to close the Shimonoseki Strait by means of cannon, the Bakufu sent a commissioner to remonstrate. But the Choshu samurai insisted that they had merely obeyed the sovereign's order, and the better to demonstrate their resolution, they put the commissioner to death. Thus directly challenged, the Bakufu mustered a powerful force and launched it against Choshu. But by this time the two great southern clans, having learned the madness of appealing to force for the purpose of keeping the country closed, had agreed to work together in the interests of the State. Thus, when the Bakufu army, comprising contingents from thirty-six feudatories, reached Choshu, the latter appealed to the clemency of the invading generals, among whom the Satsuma baron was the most powerful, and the appeal resulted in the withdrawal of the punitory expedition without the imposition of any conditions. The Bakufu were naturally much incensed. Another formidable force was organized to attack Choshu, but it halted at Osaka and sent envoys to announce the punishment of the rebellious fief, to which announcements the fief paid not the least attention.

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