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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

All the revenues of the former fiefs were locally expended


ENGRAVING:

SAIGO TAKAMORI

EDUCATION OF THE NATION

Meanwhile the Government had been strenuously seeking to equip the people with the products of Western civilization. It has been shown that the men who sat in the seats of power during the first decade of the Meiji era owed their exalted position to their own intellectual superiority and far-seeing statesmanship. That such men should become the nation's teachers would have been natural anywhere. But in Japan there was a special reason for the people's need of official guidance. It had become a traditional habit of the Japanese to look to officialdom for example and direction in everything, and this habit naturally asserted itself with special force when there was question of assimilating a foreign civilization which for nearly three centuries had been an object of national repugnance. The Government, in short, had to inspire the reform movement and, at the same time, to furnish models of its working.

The task was approached with wholesale energy by those in power. In general the direction of the work was divided among foreigners of different nations. Frenchmen were employed in revising the criminal code and in teaching strategy and tactics to the Japanese army. The building of railways, the installation of telegraphs and of lighthouses, and the new navy were turned over to English engineers and sailors. Americans were employed in the formation

of a postal service, in agricultural reforms, and in planning colonization and an educational system. In an attempt to introduce Occidental ideas of art Italian sculptors and painters were brought to Japan. And German experts were asked to develop a system of local government, to train Japanese physicians, and to educate army officers. Great misgivings were expressed by foreign onlookers at this juncture. They found it impossible to believe that such wholesale adoption of an alien civilization could not be attended with due eclecticism, and they constantly predicted a violent reaction. But all these pessimistic views were contradicted by results. There was no reaction, and the memory of the apprehensions then freely uttered finds nothing but ridicule to-day.

FINANCE

One of the chief difficulties with which the Meiji statesmen had to contend was finance. When they took over the treasury from the Bakufu there were absolutely no funds in hand, and for some years, as has been shown above, all the revenues of the former fiefs were locally expended, no part of them, except a doubtful surplus, finding its way to the Imperial treasury. The only resource was an issue of paper money. Such tokens of exchange had been freely employed since the middle of the seventeenth century, and at the time of the mediatization of the fiefs, 1694 kinds of notes were in circulation.

The first business of the Government should have been to replace these unsecured tokens with uniform and sound media of exchange. But instead of performing that duty the Meiji statesmen saw themselves compelled to follow the evil example set by the fiefs in past times. Government notes were issued. They fell at the outset to a discount of fifty per cent, and various devices, more or less despotic, were employed to compel their circulation at par. By degrees, however, the Government's credit improved, and thus, though the issues of inconvertible notes aggregated sixty million yen at the close of the first five years of the Meiji era, they passed freely from hand to hand without discount. But, of course, the need for funds in connexion with the wholesale reforms and numerous enterprises inaugurated officially became more and more pressing, so that in the fourteenth year (1881) after the Restoration, the face value of the notes in circulation aggregated 180 million yen, and they stood at a heavy discount.


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