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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Alike in Satsuma and in Choshu


measures against Choshu were now recommenced, but with complete unsuccess, and thus a final blow was given to the prestige of the Yedo Government. It was at this time (1866) that the fourteenth shogun, Iemochi, passed away and was succeeded by Yoshinobu, better known, as Keiki. Whatever the political views of this nobleman may have been when he was put forward by the conservatives, in 1857, as a candidate for succession to the shogunate, he no sooner attained that dignity, in 1866, than he became an ardent advocate of progress. French experts were engaged to remodel the army, and English officers to organize the navy; the shogun's brother was sent to the Paris Exposition, and Occidental fashions were introduced at the ceremonies of the Bakufu Court.


When Keiki assumed office he had to deal speedily with two problems; that is to say, the complication with Choshu, and the opening of Hyogo. The Emperor's reluctant consent to the latter was obtained for the beginning of 1868, and an edict was also issued for the punishment of Choshu. The result was two-fold: fresh life was imparted to the anti-foreign agitation, and the Satsuma and Choshu feudatories were induced to join hands against the Tokugawa. Alike in Satsuma and in Choshu, there were a number of clever men who had long laboured to combine the forces of the two fiefs in order to unite the whole empire under the sway of the Kyoto Court. Saigo

and Okubo on the Satsuma side, Kido and Sanjo on the Choshu became leading figures on the stage of their country's new career. Through their influence, aided by that of Ito, afterwards prince, and Inouye, afterwards marquis, the two great clans were brought into alliance, and when, in 1867, the shogun, Keiki, sought and obtained Imperial sanction for the punishment of Choshu, Satsuma agreed to enter the lists on the latter's side.


An incident of a most striking and unexpected nature now occurred. Yodo, the Tosa feudatory, addressed to the shogun a memorial exposing the helpless condition of the Bakufu and strongly urging that the administration should be restored to the Emperor in order that the nation might be united to face the dangers of its new career. It is necessary to note here that, although the feudatories have been frequently referred to in these pages as prominent figures in this or that public drama, the feudal chiefs themselves exercised, in Tokugawa days, very little influence on the current of events. A modern historian speaks justly when he says:

"In this respect the descendants of the great Tokugawa statesman found themselves reduced to a position precisely analogous to that of the emperor in Kyoto. Sovereign and shogun were alike mere abstractions so far as the practical work of the government was concerned. With the great mass of the feudal chiefs things fared similarly. These men who, in the days of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu, had directed the policies of their fiefs and led their armies in the field, were gradually transformed, during the lone peace of the Tokugawa era, into voluptuous faineants or, at best, thoughtless dilettanti, willing to abandon the direction of their affairs to seneschals and mayors, who, while on the whole their administration was able and loyal, found their account in contriving and perpetuating the effacement of their chiefs. Thus, in effect, the government of the country, taken out of the hands of the shogun and the feudatories, fell into those of their vassals. There were exceptions, of course, but so rare as to be mere accidental. . . The revolution which involved the fall of the shogunate, and ultimately of feudalism, may be called democratic with regard to the personnel of those who planned and directed it. They were, for the most part, men without either rank or social standing."*

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