free ebooks

A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The Liberals and Progressists joined hands



As for the provisions of the Constitution, they differed in no respect from those of the most advanced Western standard. One exception to this statement must be noted, however. The wording of the document lent itself to the interpretation that a ministry's tenure of office depended solely on the sovereign's will. In other words, a Cabinet received its mandate from the Throne, not from the Diet. This reservation immediately became an object of attack by party politicians. They did not venture to protest against the arrangement as an Imperial prerogative. The people would not have endured such a protest. The only course open for the party politicians was to prove practically that a ministry not responsible to the legislature is virtually impotent for legislation.

Success has not attended this essay. The Throne continues, nominally at all events, to appoint and dismiss ministers. As for the proceedings of the diet, the most salient feature was that, from the very outset, the party politicians in the lower chamber engaged in successive attacks upon the holders of power. This had been fully anticipated; for during the whole period of probation antecedent to the meeting of the first Diet, the party politicians had been suffered to discredit the Cabinet by all possible means, whereas the Cabinet had made no effort to win for themselves partisans in the electorates. They relied wholly upon the sovereign's

prerogative, and stood aloof from alliances of any kind, apparently indifferent to everything but their duty to their country. Fortunately, the House of Peers ranged itself steadfastly on the side of the Cabinet throughout this struggle, and thus the situation was often saved from apparently pressing danger. The war with China (1894-1895) greatly enhanced the Diet's reputation; for all the political parties, laying aside their differences, without a dissenting voice voted funds for the prosecution of the campaign.


During several years the House of Representatives continued to be divided into two great parties with nearly equally balanced power--the Liberals and the Progressists, together with a few minor coteries. But, in 1898, the Liberals and Progressists joined hands, thus coming to wield a large majority in the lower house. Forthwith, the Emperor, on the advice of Prince Ito, invited Counts Okuma and Itagaki to form a Cabinet. An opportunity was thus given to the parties to prove the practical possibility of the system they had so long lauded in theory. The united parties called themselves Constitutionists (Kensei-to). Their union lasted barely six months, and then "the new links snapped under the tension of the old enmities."

A strange thing now happened. The Liberals invited Prince Ito to be their leader, and he agreed on condition that his followers should obey him implicitly. A new and powerful party was thus formed under the designation of Friends of the Constitution (Rikken Seiyukai). Thus, the Liberals not only enlisted under the statesmen whose overthrow they had for nearly twenty years sought to effect, but also they practically expunged from their platform an essential article of faith--parliamentary cabinets. Another proof was here furnished that political combinations in Japan were based rather on persons than on principles.

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