free ebooks

A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Satsuma feudatory was the first to take umbrage


the samurai at large, however, the case was different. For them, the preservation of the fief had always been the prime object of interest and fealty. To uphold it concerned their honour; to preserve it, their means of livelihood. Nothing could have been more remarkable than that these men should have quietly acquiesced in the surrender of legislative and financial autonomy by their chiefs. The most credible explanation is that on this great occasion the samurai obeyed their habitual custom of associating some form of self-immolation with every signal deed.


The total abolition of feudalism may be said to have now come in sight, but the leading progressists adopted all precautions to consummate their programme without disturbance. They resolved to preserve, at the outset, the semblance of the old system, and to that end the ex-feudatories were nominated to the post of governor in the districts where they had formerly exercised autonomic power. The samurai, however, were left in possession of their incomes and official positions. It was enacted that each governor should receive yearly one-tenth of the revenue of his former fief; that the emoluments of the samurai should be taken in full from the same source, and that the surplus, if any, should go to the Central Government.

The latter was organized with seven departments, namely, Religion, Home Affairs, Foreign

Affairs, Army and Navy, Finance, Justice, and Law. This Cabinet was presided over by a premier--necessarily an Imperial prince--and by a vice-premier. Moreover, it was assisted by a body of eighteen councillors, who comprised the leaders of reform. Evidently, however, all this was only partial. It is true that the fiefs (hari) had been converted into prefectures (ken), and it is also true that the daimyo had become mere governors. But, on the other hand, the local revenues continued to pass through the hands of the governors, and in the same hands remained the control of the samurai and the right of appointing and dismissing prefectural officials. A substantial beginning had been made, however, and presently another appeal being addressed to the ex-daimyo, they were induced to petition for the surrender of their local autonomy. The same plan was pursued in the case of the samurai. It was essential that these should cease to be hereditary soldiers and officials and should be reabsorbed into the mass of the people from whom they had sprung originally. Following the course which had proved so successful with the feudatories, a number of samurai were induced to memorialize for permission to lay aside their swords and revert to agriculture. But neither in the case of the feudatories nor in that of the samurai were these self-sacrificing petitions carried into immediate practice. They merely served as models.


It may well be supposed that the ambitions of the great clans by which this revolution has been effected proved somewhat difficult to reconcile. The Satsuma feudatory was the first to take umbrage. He contended that, in selecting the high officials of the new organization, sufficient account had not been taken of the services of his fief. With considerable difficulty he was satisfied by his own appointment to an office second only to that of prime minister. This incident led, however, to an agreement under which each of the great clans, Satsuma, Choshu, Hizen, and Tosa, should be equally represented in the Government. Thus, the "principle of clan-representation received practical recognition in the organization of the Government. It continued to be recognized for many years, and ultimately became the chief target of attack by party-politicians." It was further arranged, at this time, that each of the above four clans should furnish a contingent of troops to guard the sovereign's person and to form the nucleus of a national army.

eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us