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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

1867 1912 The throne was occupied at this time by Mutsuhito


Britannica, 11th Edition; article "Japan," by Brinkley.

Keiki himself, although the memorial was directed against him, may fairly be reckoned among these longsighted patriots. The Tosa memorial appealed so forcibly to the convictions he entertained that he at once summoned a council of all feudatories and high officials then in Kyoto; informed them of his resolve to adopt the advice of the memorialist, and, on the following day, handed in his resignation to the Emperor. This memorable event took place on the 14th of October, 1867; and the answer of the Emperor before the assembly of December 15th marked the end of the shogunate.


The throne was occupied at this time by Mutsuhito, who had succeeded on the 13th of February, 1867, at the death of his father, Komei, and who himself died on the 29th day of July 1912. At the time of his accession, the new monarch was in his fifteenth year, having been born on the 3rd of November, 1852.


Undoubtedly Keiki's resignation was presented in all good faith. It deserves to rank among the most memorable incidents of the world's history, for such a sacrifice has seldom been made by any ruler in the interests of his nation. But by the Satsuma and Choshu feudatories, the sincerity

of the shogun was not recognized. Through their influence the youthful Emperor was induced to issue an edict calling Keiki a traitor, accusing him of arrogance and disloyalty, declaring that he had not hesitated to violate the commands of the late Emperor, and directing that he should be destroyed. In obedience to this rescript the Tokugawa officials were treated with such harshness that Keiki found it impossible to calm their indignation; it culminated in an abortive attack upon Kyoto. Thereupon, Keiki retired to Yedo, which city he subsequently surrendered unconditionally. But all his former adherents did not show themselves equally placable. An attempt was made to set up a rival candidate for the throne in the person of the Imperial lord-abbot of the Ueno monastery in Yedo; the Aizu clan made a gallant and unsuccessful resistance in the northern provinces, and the shogun's admiral, Yenomoto (afterwards viscount), essayed to establish a republic in Yezo, whither he had retired with the Tokugawa warships. But these petty incidents were altogether insignificant compared with the great event of which they were a sequel.


The year-name was now changed to Meiji (Enlightened Government), from January 1, 1868, a term fully justified by events. One of the earliest acts of the new Government was to invite the foreign representatives to the Imperial city, where the Emperor himself received them in audience, an act of extreme condescension according to Japanese canons of etiquette. Thereafter, an Imperial decree announced the sovereign's determination to cement amicable relations with foreign nations, and declared that any Japanese subject guilty of violence to a foreigner would be acting in contravention of his sovereign's commands, as well as injuriously to the dignity and good faith of the country in the eyes of the powers with which his Majesty had pledged himself to maintain friendship. So signal was the change that had taken place in the demeanour of the nation's leaders towards foreign intercourse! Only two years earlier, the advent of a squadron of foreign war-vessels at Hyogo had created almost a panic and had caused men to cry out that the precincts of the sacred city of Kyoto were in danger of desecration by barbarian feet. But now the Emperor invited the once hated aliens to his presence, treated them with the utmost courtesy, and publicly greeted them as welcome guests. Such a metamorphosis has greatly perplexed some students of Japanese history. Yet the explanation is simple. The Kagoshima and Shimonoseki expeditions had taught Japan that she was powerless in the face of Western armaments; she had learned that national effacement must be the sequel of seclusion, and, above all, she had come to an understanding that her divided form of government paralyzed her for purposes of resistance to aggression from abroad.

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