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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Not unnaturally the foreigners resident in Japan



It cannot be contended that this obviously imperfect system was disfigured by many abuses. On the whole, it worked passably well, and if its organic faults helped to discredit it, there is no denying that it saved the Japanese from complications which would inevitably have arisen had they been entrusted with jurisdiction which they were not prepared to exercise satisfactorily. Moreover, the system had vicarious usefulness; for the ardent desire of Japanese patriots to recover the judicial autonomy, which is a fundamental attribute of every sovereign State, impelled them to recast their laws and reorganize their law courts with a degree of diligence which would otherwise have probably been less conspicuous. Twelve years of this work, carried on with the aid of thoroughly competent foreign jurists, placed Japan in possession of codes of criminal and civil law in which the best features of European jurisprudence were applied to the conditions and usages of Japan. Then, in 1883, Japan renewed her proposal for the abolition of consular jurisdiction, and by way of compensation she promised to throw the country completely open and to remove all restrictions hitherto imposed on foreign trade, travel, and residence within her realm.

But this was a problem against whose liberal solution the international prejudice of the West was strongly enlisted. No Oriental State

had ever previously sought such recognition, and the Occident, without exception, was extremely reluctant to entrust the lives and properties of its subjects and citizens to the keeping of a "pagan" people. Not unnaturally the foreigners resident in Japan, who would have been directly affected by the change, protested against it with great vehemence. Many of them, though not averse to trusting Japan, saw that her reforms had been consummated with celerity amounting to haste, and a great majority fought simply for consular jurisdiction as a privilege of inestimable value, not to be surrendered without the utmost deliberation. The struggle that ensued between foreign distrust and Japanese aspirations often developed painful phases, and did much to intensify the feeling of antagonism which had existed between the Japanese and the foreign residents at the outset and which even to-day has not wholly disappeared. The Government and citizens of the United States of America never failed to show sympathy with Japanese aspirations in this matter, and, as a general rule, "foreign tourists and publicists discussed the problem liberally and fairly, perhaps because, unlike the foreign communities resident in Japan, they had no direct interest in its solution."

The end was not reached until 1894. Then Great Britain agreed that from July, 1899, jurisdiction over all British subjects within the confines of Japan should be entrusted to Japanese tribunals, provided that the new Japanese codes of law should have been in operation during at least one year before the surrender of jurisdiction. Japan, on her side, promised to throw the whole country open from the same date, removing all limitations upon trade, travel, and residence of foreigners.

Tariff autonomy had been an almost equal object of Japanese ambition, and it was arranged that she should recover it after a period of twelve years, an increased scale of import duties being applied in the interval. It will be observed that Great Britain took the lead in abandoning the old system. It was meet that she should do so; for, in consequence of her preponderating commercial interests, she had stood at the head of the combination of powers by which the irksome conditions were originally imposed upon Japan. The other Occidental States followed her example with more or less celerity, and the foreign residents, now that nothing was to be gained by continuing the struggle, showed clearly that they intended to bow gracefully to the inevitable. The Japanese also took some conspicuous steps.

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