- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 9 Sep 1918, p. 267-282
- Miyaoka, Tsunejiro, Speaker
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- Item Type
- The oath taken by the late Emperor, Meiji Tenno, in 1868 at the sanctuary dedicated to the worship of his Imperial ancestors, making various promises through five principles with regard to representative government in Japan, which may be said to embody the whole of the policy by means of which Japan has attained her present position among the nations of the world. A quotation to show the spirit in which this oath was taken and proclaimed to the people of Japan, revealed through the manifesto issued by Meiji Tenno to his people on March 14, 1868. The nature of Japanese government according to Baron Hozumi in his work "Ancester-Worship and Japanese Law." A review of some of the landmarks in the history of the phenomenal transition of Japan from a medieval feudal state in 1868 to a modern constitutional monarchy with all the forms of representative government in national, local and municipal administration. Some data relating to the organization of the House of Representatives of the Imperial Diet, which corresponds to the House of Commons of the British Parliament, and of the Local Assemblies. Suffrage for the election of members of the House of Representatives. The number of men entitled to vote in 1912. Qualifications to become a member of the House of Representatives. Franchise for the election of members of a local assembly. Tax qualification for being elected a member. Conclusions.
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- 9 Sep 1918
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- THE GROWTH OF REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT IN JAPAN
AN ADDRESS BY TSUNEJIRO MIYAOKA
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto,
September 9, 1918
On March 14 of the lunar calendar in the year 1868 of the Christian era* the late Emperor, whom we would like to be known by his posthumous name Meiji Tenno, took the following oath at the sanctuary dedicated to the worship of his Imperial ancestors:**
1. Widely representative institutions for deliberation shall be established, and the affairs of state shall be determined in accordance with public opinion.
2. The sovereign and the people shall unit as one man in the vigorous execution of the policies of the Empire.
3. The common people no less than the civil and the military officers shall be permitted to pursue the respective
Mr. Miyaoka was the special guest of the American Bar Association and the Canadian Bar Association and is referred to by the former as "The eminent Japanese Counsellor-at-law and Diplomatist, who, to thoroughly sound knowledge of general and international law, adds an altogether exceptional acquaintance with the English language." Mr. Miyaoka has been in the diplomatic service of Japan since 1887 and has served in Washington, in Berlin and in Tokio. He was Japan's agent before the Arbitral Tribunal of The Hague during 1904 and 1905, and was commissioned by his Government as delegate to various important international meetings, one of these being his appointment as President of the Japanese Commission to the Opium Conference at Shanghai, China.
*On December 5 (lunar calendar) in the year 1872 Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar. In this address up to that time dates are given in the lunar calendar.
**Komei Tenno died on December 25, 1866, and his only son Meiji Tenno formally ascended the throne on January 9, 1867.
objects of their lives, and we must see to it that no cause for discontent is given anywhere.
4. Unworthy customs of old shall be abolished, and things shall be adjusted in accordance with the eternal principle of justice.
5. Wisdom and knowledge shall be sought throughout the world, and the power of the Empire shall thereby be strengthened.
These five principles consecrated by the oath of the great Emperor may be said to embody the whole of the policy by means of which Japan has attained her present position among the nations of the world. The system of compulsory education so successfully carried out that the percentage of illiteracy in Japan is one of the smallest in the world, has its foundation on this Imperial oath. The representative institutions of the government now so prevalent in the central as well as the local administration of the country is the direct result of this declaration. In short the so-called Five Articles of the Imperial Oath form the Magna Charta not only of political liberties but of all the social changes which have been wrought in Japan within the last fifty years.
To show you the spirit in which this oath was taken and proclaimed to the people of Japan, let me translate a paragraph from the manifesto issued by Meiji Tenno to his people on March 14, 1868. His Majesty declared:
Since the middle ages of our history the Imperial regime has declined and powerful military families have one after another in succession exercised the real prerogative of the sovereign. Those military families invariably pretended to show the greatest respect to the Imperial Court, but the respect paid was of such a character as to remove the Emperor farther and farther away from his people. The Emperor is at once the father and the mother of the people of this country. If he is placed on a high pedestal and is worshipped, but the means of knowing the wishes, the desires and the needs of his children are cut away from him, he becomes a sovereign only in name. Then the glory of the Imperial Court becomes a sham and the Emperor no longer wields real power.
If the Emperor and his people do not live closer together, how can I, as your sovereign, properly discharge my duties? I have now taken into my hands the prerogative of my ancestors.* If henceforth there should be a man or a woman whose just rights are denied to him or her, I am accountable for such a deplorable state of affairs.
In the arduous work of meeting the vicissitudes of our national existence I shall work and work till my bones ache, always standing in the fore-front of my people. It shall be my constant aim to follow in the footsteps of my Imperial ancestors in promoting the welfare of the nation. It is my hope that by so doing I may acquit myself of the heavy responsibility which rests on my shoulders as your sovereign.
It will be observed that the whole utterance is conceived in the spirit of an entire devotion to the cause of the people, not in that of an autocrat who claims as his due blind obedience to his will on the part of his people. Paradoxical as it may seem the democratization of Japan commenced with the Imperial Court as the center of the movement.
Baron Ilozumi, in his highly instructive work entitled Ancester-Worship and Japanese Law** describes the fundamental principle of the Japanese Government as theocratico-patriarchal constitutionalism. He maintains that the government is theocratical, because "the Emperor holds the sovereign power, not as his own inherent right, but as an inheritance from his divine-ancestor." "The Emperor rules over the country as the supreme head
*Tokugawa Yoshinobu the fifteenth and the last Shogun of the Tokugawl family, tendered to the Imperial Throne his resignation of the office of Shogun and surrendcred his prerogative to rule the Empire by virtue of delegated authority, on October 14, 1867. His resignation and surrender of authority was accepted and the fact formally proclaimed by Emperor Meiji on December 9, 1867, in the presence of his Ministers and court dignitaries in the Imperial Palace at Kioto.
**The work is in English. It was originally prepared as an address and was delivered by the author at the International Congress of Orientalists held in Rome in October 1899. Its third 'and revised edition appeared in Tokio in 1913.
or the vast family of the Japanese nation." Hence the Baron concludes the government is patriarchal. "The Emperor exercises the sovereign power according to the Constitution which is based on the most advanced principles of modern constitutionalism. The government is therefore, constitutional."*
Now let us trace some of the landmarks in the history of the phenomenal transition of Japan from a medieval feudal state in 1868 to a modern constitutional monarchy with all the forms of representative government in national, local and municipal administration.
In 1867 we see Japan under the nominal rule of the Emperor who resided in Kioto surrounded by an aristocracy of birth called Kuge, commonly known as the court nobles in contradistinction to the feudal lords who formed the military aristocracy. The adage of English constitutional practice, "The King reigns but does not rule," was in no country more true than in feudal. Japan when she was under the regime of dual sovereignty during a period of about six hundred and eighty years from 1180 to 1867 of the Christian era. As is well described in the Imperial manifesto of March 14, 1868, the power of the Emperor was nominal, while the all-powerful chief of the military chiefs really ruled the country under authority delegated by the Emperor. The title of such allpowerful military chief was Shogun which meant generalissimo or commander in chief of the armies. The Shogun dynasties rose and fell, each succeeding Shogunate exercising sway over the realm by virtue of delegation of authority from the reigning monarch. The appointment of a Shogun with all the prerogatives which that title carried with it, was itself an act of the Imperial prerogative; but the irony of the regime was that the Imperial prerogative was and had to be exercised in favour of the head of that feudal family which had subjugated all the rest of the feudal chiefs in the realm. The last period of the Shogunate was that of the Tokugawa family, which lasted for two hundred and sixtyeight years.
*See pages 87-88 of the third edition.
Thus in 1867 the Emperor of Japan nominally reigned in Kioto, but the real government of Japan which had in its hard diplomatic relations with foreign countries, the command over the army and the navy, the right of coinage and of working gold, silver and copper mines, as well as the administration of Buddhist and Shinto shrines and of justice in all important cases, was the government of the Tokugawa Shogun. The seat of that government was Yedo, now called Tokio. Important measures of policy were either first submitted by the government to the Imperial Court at Kioto for Imperial approval before they were executed, or were merely reported for information after they were carried out. The procedure made little difference, for if the measure was submitted in advance the Imperial Court was expected to give the imprimatur of approval to every measure recommended by the Shogunate government. The city of Yedo with the surrounding districts, as well as many other strategically and economically important places in the Empire, were placed under the direct rule of the government. The rest of the country was divided as fiefs among the feudal chiefs who were either relatives or vassals of the Tokugawa family as well as among those who were originally rivals but had pledged themselves to be loyal supporters of that regime. The number of such fiefs or feudal dominions amounted to more than two hundred and seventy, each of which was a small kingdom governed by the respective feudal lord subject to the overlordship of the Tokugawa Shogun. The surrender to the Emperor by the Tokugawa Shogun in 1867 of the de facto sovereignty directly exercised by his government over important territory in the Empire and of the overlordship exercised over the dominions of his relatives, vassal chiefs and other semi-independent feudal chiefs, struck the very root of the entire regime. Theoretically this was merely a political change, the renunciation of the hereditary office of Shogun by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the fifteenth Shogun of the Tokugawa Family.*
*See History of the Political Institutions in the Meiji Era, by Viscount Kiyoura, Tokio, 1899, page 9. The work is in Japanese and has not been translated into any foreign language.
If one of the allied feudal lords who combined to declare war on Tokugawa Yoshinobu under a sealed mandate of the Emperor at Kioto could have succeeded in ascending the throne of the Shogun left vacant by the abdication of the latter on October 14, 1867, the regime of dual sovereignty would have persisted in Japan. Such an eventuality was, however, made impossible by the nature of the movement which culminated in the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The movement was started as a revival of Imperialism. It was justly argued that the dismemberment of the sovereignty of Japan into nominal and real sovereignty was nothing short of high treason. The nation must restore Imperial power to where it rightly belonged, was the battle cry. The success of the revolution against the then established order of things was the restoration of the real regime of Imperialism as it existed in Japan prior to 1180 A.D.
If the overlordship of Tokugawa over the Empire was an act of treason against the legitimate sovereignty, then the exercise of lordship by the two hundred and seventyodd feudal chiefs over their dominions, their vassals and other inhabitants of such dominions, was equally incompatible with the integral maintenance of the Imperial prerogative. The Emperor was not only the sovereign of all the people of Japan then living, but was the lineal descendant of the sovereigns of their ancestors, and was moreover the head of the Imperial house which was older than the history of Japan and stood to all the families in the Empire in the relation of the main family to the branch families.*
According to the Japanese conception of things there tray be distinction among men in the degree of honours accorded to each by reason of their personal attainments, or by reason of descent, that is to say, of the personal attainments of their forebears. The intrusion of one or
*See Baron Hozumi, Ancestor-Worship and Japanese Law, 3d edition, Tokio, 1913, pages 88 and 102 to 105.
See also The Soul of the Far East by Percival Lowell, published by Houghton, Mifflin Co. , 1898. On page 36 that acute observer on Japan flays, "The Fmpire is one great family; the family is a little Empire."
more individuals between the Emperor who is the head of the nation, on the one hand, and the people of Japan, who are equally his subjects, is inconsistent with the conception of sovereignty vested in the head of the Imperial familv.
Thus, paradoxical as it may seem, the restoration of Imperialism was the first step onward in the modernization of Japan, for so long as the country was feudal there could be no basis for constitutional limited monarchy.
Until July 14, 1871, the decentralization of Japan with the ancient feudal chiefs as the governors of their respective dominions continued, excepting such localities as were under the immediate administration of the Tokugawa government which became subject to the direct control of the Imperial Government in 1867.
On July 14. 1871, an Imperial manifesto was issued abolishing the regime of administration of the ancient domains by their respective feudal lords, and such domains were either united or divided up into smaller parts to form convenient administrative units. This is the origin of the modern local government system of Japan.
In April, 1868, an organization of government was adopted, at the head of which stood a body called the Council of State (Giseikwan). The Council had two chambers, the higher and the lower. The higher chamber was what we now would call the Cabinet, except that in addition to its executive function, it was clothed with legislative duties. It promulgated laws upon the approval of or in obedience to the command of the Emperor. Broad lines of policy were deliberated upon, subject to the approval or veto of the Emperor, such for instance as the conclusion of treaties with foreign Powers, the declaration of war, or the restoration of peace.
The lower chamber was composed of delegates commissioned by the chiefs of the local governments who were at that time, except as already noted, the feudal lords of the ancient regime. Herein lies the beginning of modern representative government in Japan. In January, 1868, the Emperor Meiji took the oath that "Widely representative institutions for deliberation shall be established, and the affairs of state shall be determined in accordance with public opinion"; and within a period of four months such a deliberative assembly was constituted, the members of which were appointed not by the central government but by the chiefs of local governments who continued to retain a large measure of autonomy within their former dominions. The function of this body was consultative only, but all important questions such as the conclusion of treaties with foreign nations, the declaration of war or conclusion of peace, taxation, military service, etc., were submitted to its deliberation by the upper chamber. This was therefore a means of ascertaining what at that time was the only legitimate public opinon, namely, the views of the local governments which constituted in a sense -imperio in imperio. By the organization of April, 1868, a judiciary was created to be occupied solely with the administration of justice and with matters of police.
In July, 1869, the organization was more or less changed, but the lower chamber of the Council of State was continued under the name of the Assembly. The members were not commissioned to sit in this Assembly by the central government, but a member was selected by the chief of each local government from among the officials of that government. The term of office of the members was four years, and every two years one-half of the total number went out and new men were sent to take the places vacated. The meetings of the Assembly were held on stated days of every month, and its deliberations were open to the public. It was the prerogative of the Assembly to receive petitions from people at large not on matters concerning themselves individually or affecting the interest of certain localities only, but on the broad lines of policy of the Empire. Such petitions when deemed worthy of official attention were transmitted to Daijogwan which was the highest executive body immediately subordinate to the Emperor.*
*See Viscount Kiyoura, History of the Political Institutions in the Meiji Era, page 19.
All these changes are carefully described by Viscount Kiyoura in his work entitled History of the Political Institutions in the Meiji bra, published in Tokio in 1899. That work is in Japanese, and no translation into any European language has been made.
In July, 1871, the form of government was remodeled. Two chambers were created under the office of the Prime Minister and were respectively called the Left and the Right Chamber. Laws were promulgated by the Prime Minister in obedience to the command of the Emperor, but it was the duty of the Left Chamber to take the initiative in the legislative work by submitting draft laws to the Prime Minister, as well as to deliberate and pass judgment upon draft laws submitted by the Premier. The Right Chamber was the meeting hall of the chiefs of the executive departments. Measures passed by the Left Chamber which affected the executive branch of the government were, therefore, submitted by the Prime Minister for advice to the Right Chamber. So vice versa matters passed by the Right Chamber regarding which the Prime Minister thought it wise to call for an expression of the legitimate public opinion of the day, were submitted to the deliberation of the Left Chamber. The Prime Minister, subject to the command of the Emperor, was the sole judge as to the wisdom of submitting a draft law for deliberation to the Left Chamber and of adopting or rejecting any measure recommended by either chamber.
From December 3 of the lunar calendar in the year 1872 A.D., which was January 1, 1873, Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar, so that the days and the months of all the dates I have given prior to that date are the days and the months of the lunar calendar, while the days and the months of all subsequent dates correspond precisely with the dates of the Gregorian calendar.
In April, 1875, the Chambers of the Left and of the Right were abolished, and a Senate composed of members appointed by the Crown was established. The Senators were appointed from among (a) the nobles, that is to say, from among the ancient feudal lords and the "court nobles," (b) higher officials of the government,
3. To express opinion on its own initiative to the government regarding matters touching the interest of the respective prefectures.
4. To express opinion in answer to questions submitted by the governor regarding matters touching the interest of the prefecture.
5. To determine rules governing its deliberation, that is, to say, its own by-laws.
On February 11, 1889, the Constitution of Japan was promulgated, which took effect from November, 1890, upon the opening of the national parliament called the Imperial Diet.
In May, 1890, laws of the organization of prefectures, of counties, as well as of cities, towns and villages, were promulgated. These laws were later amended, but were all based on the principle that the prefectures, the counties as well as the cities, towns and villages, were self-governing corporate bodies. Article 2 of the present Law of Organization of Prefectures provides
Article 2. Prefectures are juridical persons. They are subject to the supervision and control of the government, but within the limit of laws and ordinances they shall have the power to manage their own public affairs as well as such other matters as appertain to them under the provisions of a law or an ordinance or by usage and custom.*
In the narrow compass of a single address it is impossible to go into the details of the various representative institutions which exist in Japan for the purposes of government, both national and local. Let me conclude by giving you some data relating to the organization of the House of Representatives of the Imperial Diet, which corresponds to the House of Commons of the British Parliament, and of the Local Assemblies.
The number of seats in the House of Representatives is 381. Of the total number 76 members are returned by
*The Law of the Organization of Prefectures now in force is Law No. 64 of March 16, 1899, as amended by Law No. 2 of 1908 and Law No. 35 of 1914.
large cities while the rest of the Empire, excluding Formosa and Corea but including Hokkaido and Loochoo Islands, return 305 members.
The suffrage for the election of members of the House of Representatives is limited to Japanese male subjects of twenty-five years of age or more, who have had their domicile continually within the electoral district for a period of at least one year prior to the time fixed for the making of the roster of electors, and who moreover satisfy one or the other of the following property qualifications
1. That the person had paid national land tax amounting to ten yen or more for a period of not less than one year preceding the time fixed for the making of the roster of electors, and that he continues so to pay, or
2. That the person had paid direct national tax, other than land tax, amounting to ten yen or more, or had paid a sum of ten yen or more as direct national tax taking his land tax as well as other direct national taxes together, for a period of two years preceding the time fixed for the making of the roster of electors, and that he continues so to pay.
In the case of succession, upon the death of the head of a family, the amount of taxes paid by the deceased is, for the purpose of qualification for election, regarded as the taxes paid by the heir. The sum of ten yen is equal to five dollars of the Canadian or American currency, so that the tax qualification may be said to be on the basis of a pound a year.*
In 1912 the population of Japan excluding Corea, Formosa and Saghalien, was 52,522,753, of which 26; 544,759 were males. In that year the number of men entitled to vote within the same area was 1,503,968: The votes actually cast which were valid amounted to 1,388,528, while the number of votes rejected as null and void was 10,653.**
*Article 8 of the Law of Election of the Members of the House of Representatives, promulgated as Law No. 73 on March 29, 1900. One yea is equal to fifty cents or slightly more than two shillings.
**See Resume Statistique de l'Empire du Japan, Tokio, 1917, pages 6 and 201.
Regarding the qualification to become a member of the House of Representatives there is no limitation further than that the person must be a Japanese male subject of thirty years or more, and must not be under civil disability or a bankrupt or an ex-convict who has not regained the exercise of his public rights.*
The franchise for the election of members of a local assembly is limited to such public citizens of a city, town or village within the boundary of the prefecture as have the right to vote for the election of the members of the city, the town or the village assembly, as the case may be, and who moreover have paid, for a period of at least one year, direct national tax amounting to three yen or more.
The tax qualification for being elected a member is higher than that for franchise. In order to be eligible the man must have paid a sum of ten yen or more as direct national tax during the preceding year and must continue to pay the same.
I have now traced as briefly as possible the political changes which took place in Japan from 1867 to 1900. In 1867 the right of sovereignty in the hands of the Emperor of Japan was only nominal. The country was absolutely feudal and presented a state of affairs one sees in the middle ages of European history. The internal political difficulties arising from the opening of the relations of diplomatic intercourse with foreign nations, consequent upon the advent of Commodore Perry in the Bay of Yedo, accelerated the downfall of the Tokugawa Shogunate. On October 14, 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the last of the reigning feudal overlords, surrendered to the Emperor his de facto sovereignty. "The people shall be made to conform themselves to law, they shall not be permitted to know what the law is" was the principle of government in ancient China. That tyrannical principle had been adopted in Japan. The Emperor Meiji upon
*Articles 10 and 11 of the Law of Election of the Members of the House of Representatives.
resumption of sovereignty reversed this system, and adopted the enlightened rule that every law before it can be enforced must be made known to the people. Moreover of his own free volition, His Majesty took the vow that means should be devised whereby legitimate public opinion might be ascertained through free expression in a representative assembly. As the forerunner of and in preparation for the opening of a representative national legislature the Emperor created a Senate in 1875, the members of which were appointed by him from among the nobles, the officials of the government and the men learned in political science as well as in law. This body served as the consultative assembly in the drafting and adoption of laws until a bicameral legislature called the Imperial Diet came into existence in 1890 in pursuance of the Constitution of the Empire promulgated on February 11, 1889. In 1878 Emperor Meiji caused local assemblies to be convened, one in each prefecture, with authority to determine the annual budget of public expenditures to be defrayed out of the revenue obtained by local taxation, as well as the means of raising such revenue. The opening of such local assemblies was designed as the preparation for the adoption of the system of local self-government which was introduced in 1890. Thus the transformation of Japan from a feudal state into a modern constitutional monarchy with local autonomy throughout the Empire was accomplished within a brief space of twenty-three years. Such transformation, however, was effected neither by one stroke nor in one period. There were successive stages in the process of transformation; and the care with which each step forward was taken would undoubtedly excite the admiration of the world, if such details were better known. It is the study of such details that enables us to discover that in the modern democratization of Japan the Imperial Throne has been the center of the movement.
Feudalism is a system of privileges. It is the military aristocracy that governs. This system of privileges was abolished in Japan by the revival of Imperialism. Imperialism carried with it the principles of democracy, for it insisted on the theory that the Emperor was the head of the great family to which all other families in the Empire stood in relation of branches to the main stock. All the people of Japan are equally the subjects of the Emperor, and no subject may claim the right to govern another excepting in special cases recognized by law, such as the exercise of parental authority by the father or mother over children. As your democracy insists on the equality of men before the law, before taxation and before the ballot box, so does the democracy of Japan insist on the equality of all before the Emperor who alone is clothed with the authority to reign subject to the Constitution. A distinguished British statesman once said that the greatest asset of the British Empire was the Crown. With equal truth may it be said that the most valuable heritage of the Japanese nation is its Imperial family.