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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The conscription law was revised




The work of railway construction, which may be said to have commenced with the Meiji era, has not advanced as rapidly as some other undertakings. The country has now only 5770 miles of lines open to traffic and 1079 miles under construction. All these railways may be said to have been built with domestic capital. Nearly the whole was nationalized in 1907, so that the State has paid out altogether sixty-six million pounds sterling--$325,000,000--on account of railways, an investment which yields a net return of about three and a half millions sterling--$17,000,000--annually.


Another direction in which Japanese progress has been very marked is in the development of a mercantile marine. At an early period of the country's modern history, her statesmen recognized that transports are as necessary to the safety of a State as are soldiers, and, in fact, that the latter cannot be utilized without the former. The Government, therefore, encouraged with liberal subsidies and grants-in-aid the purchase or construction of ships, the result being that whereas, in 1871, Japan's mercantile marine comprised only forty-six ships with a total tonnage of 17,948, the corresponding figures in 1910 were 6436 and 1,564,443 respectively. In the war with China in 1894-1895, as well as in that with Russia

in 1904-1905, Japan was able to carry large armies to the Asiatic continent in her own vessels, thus demonstrating the wisdom of the policy pursued by the Government, although it had been habitually denounced by the enemies of subsidies in any circumstances. Shipbuilding yards had also been called into existence, and there are now four of them where vessels aggregating 87,495 tons have been built.


It has been seen that the Satsuma rebellion of 1877 severely taxed the military resources of the empire. In fact, the organization of special brigades to supplement the conscripts was found necessary. Therefore, two years later, the conscription law was revised, the total term of service being increased from seven years to ten, with the result that the number of trained soldiers who could be called out in case of war became larger by fully one-half. Further, in 1882, another expansion of armaments was effected in obedience to an Imperial decree, so that when war with China broke out in 1894, Japan possessed an available force of seven divisions (including the guards), and these, raised to a war-footing, represented about 150,000 men. She had already learned that, however civilized the Occident might claim to be, all the great States of the West depended mainly on military and naval force, and that only by a demonstration of that force could international respect be won.

Of course, this creed was not publicly proclaimed. Firmly as Japanese statesmen believed it, they could not confess their conviction openly in the Diet, and therefore much difficulty was experienced in inducing the two houses to endorse the Government's scheme of increased armaments. Indeed, the subject came to be a frequent topic of discussion between the Cabinet and the House of Representatives, and in the end Japan was obliged to go into war against China without a single line-of-battle ship, though her adversary possessed two. Nevertheless, the Island Empire emerged signally victorious.

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