PROGRESS OF JAPAN.
Oub own immediate times have witnessed no more remarkable spectacle that the bloodless revolution whioh has taken place in Japan, and which has placed her in the front rank of Eastern nations. Her people differ as widely in their characteristics from those of China as do those of Great Britain from the people of Spain ; indeed, among the Eastern peoples the Japanese may not inaptly he described as the Britons of the East For while, like the Spaniard, the Chinese is slow to accept innovation, and is content to run in the same grooves from century to century, the Jap iB by instinct progressive, he is inventive, »nd constructive, and is quick to adapt himself to the conditions and to adopt the ideas and improvements of advancing civilisation. Hence it has come about that within the past two decades an almost phenomenal progress has been made by the subjects of the Mikado, not in one but in almost every direction. The people have been educated, a complete system of public schools, crowned by collegiate institutions, established, the area of manufacturing enterprise enormously extended, a powerful naval and military system built up, and an iron-clad fleet, built on the most modern principles, and commanded, officered, and manned by trained Japanese, called into existence, and, last not least, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press proclaimed, and great strides made in the development of a constitutional system of government. History shows no parallel for such tremendous achievements in so short a time, and it iB one of the most j remarkable phases of this wonderful transformation that for years past all this has been going on by a peaceful process of evolution, in strong contrast to the history of the Western nations, whose successive advances to a higher plane have been born of the throes of revolution, and whose liberties have invariably been baptised in blood. Writing on this ■ntieot an Auckland contemporary (the " Herald ") points out that " a quarter of a century has not passed since the Japanese were ruled by the most absolute despotism. Their Mikado and Shogun (called Tycoon by the outer Barbarians) formed a curious species of joint Sovereign, in which the Mikado was a sleeping partner. Leading a life of mysterious and oarefully guarded seclusion, he was looked upon with reverential awe, while the Shogun did the work and acquired all the power. The Lords or Daimios ruled by astriotly feudal system. The people had the right to be well governed It was the only right they had, and if neglected, they had to bear the evil loyally and be thankful that things were not worse. The Government had long ago enforced uniformity in religion by killing every heretio as a traitor to his gods and his eountry, and it carefully guarded against the intrusion of foreigners beyond certain ports opened to them by treaty. Snddenly, «b in the twinkling of an eye, the old fabric fell to pieces. The Shogun was disrated, the Mikado brought from his Beolusion, the feudal rightß and privileges of the Daimois were abolished, and a regular, though despotio, Government was established. The forcible intrusion of European and American Governments was the ostensible cause of this great revolution, but the seeds must have been long sown, and the people have been ripe for the change. The old order must have been passing away of itself, or the new could not have so quickly taken its place. Of course there was hard fighting between the Mikado's forces and the retainers of the Daimios, but the Mikado's soldiers were well drilled and armed, and those of the Daimios stood no chance. They made a brave fight, but they and their castles fell easily before the rifles and cannon of the Imperial army. Since then newspapers, banks, factories, foundries, and all the accompaniments of modern civilisation have been domiciled in the country," And now comes news of the crowning of the edifice of the new national status by the promulgation of the new constitution. This, we learn, "is granted in accordance with a promise made seven or eight years ago. In the interval preparations have been oarefully made, even to the extent of training the young men in the colleges as public speakers and educating them in political science to fit themselves for the work they will have in hand. The constitutions of many countries were carefully studied, and one based on the constitution of the German Empire was finally adopted as most suitable to their present condition. The Mikado, who is 88 years of age, will be styled Emperor, and the Parliament will be called the Imperial Diet. The House of Lords will be partly hereditary, partly elective, and partly nominated by the Emperor, The House of Bepresentatives will consist of 800 membere to be paid £160 a year each. The suffrage depends on the payment of direct taxes to a certain amount, and the constitution can only be amended or altered by the Emperor, The Diet has no power to interfere with it in any way. Freedom of religious worship, freedom of the press, freedom of speech and public meeting are guaranteed. Great precautions are taken to maintain order in the Diet and the Presidents of the two Houses are endowed with arbitrary powers of considerable extent. The Emperor will be the actual chief of the Executive, and rale as well as reign. Ministers will be appointed by him and answerable only to him, sp that there will be no fights in Parliament either to keep a Ministry in or to turn it out. The advance is altogether so tremendous that the reservation of these poweis must be regarded as showing prudence and wisdom. As the constitution gets into working order, no doubt changes will be made in the direction of curtailing the powers of the Emperor and increasing those of the Parliament. For some years, however, the Parliament will be |ittle more than a debating and supervising body. The real' power will fetfll be with' the Emperor and those whom he may choose to appoint to the higher offices of State." There is, however, here an enormous advance — as great an advance as, probably; could be made with safety, and when we learn that the Statesmen of Japan are also contem plating the adoption of Christianity as the national religion, and that the higher classes of Japanese- are having tjieir children taught the English language, it is* easy to see that the progress they have already made is fcus an^earnes^ of what is to come. And when it is turther remembered that Japan has a population p 38,QQ0,Q0Q (ecraftl to (ho pof uMott
of the United Kingdom) with a national income of sixteen millions, a standing army of 170,000 men, with large available reserves, and a powerful ironclad navy, it is safe to prediot that she is destined yet to play an important part in the history of the world, and in particular to exercise great influence in matters affecting Asian and Pacific interests.
Permanent link to this item
Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2123, 1 May 1889
PROGRESS OF JAPAN. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2123, 1 May 1889
Using This Item
See our copyright guide for information on how you may use this title.