« PreviousContinue »
mined the Government to solicit from the Western Powers a suspension of their treaty rights and an extension of the time appointed for opening the additional ports.
As the Japanese use little gold in ornament, and the jewellery of the ladies is chiefly silver, much of the gold—in which the country has been supposed to be exceedingly rich—has probably either been melted down into ingots, or is hoarded in the form of kobangs, in the palaces of the Daimios. Several of the Japanese islands have been long renowned for their gold production, but foreigners have never obtained access to the mines; and, since the monetary crisis which so greatly embarrassed the Government, stringent orders have been issued to withdraw the gold coin entirely from circulation.* The province of Matsmai, in the island of Yesso, is believed to have long yielded a steady supply of gold of extraordinary purity. Silver is also known to abound. The iron-mines of Yesso are very productive, and the temper of Japanese swords proves that they possess the art of converting the ore into steel of first-rate quality. Niphon has plenty of copper. The abundance of this metal is so great that it is commonly used in the houses, public buildings, and ships. Utensils of every description are made of it, but its exportation is prohibited. Europeans are allowed to visit the lead-mines, some of which produce as much as 85 per cent, of pure metal. Those near Hakodadi were visited by Sir Rutherford Alcock, who inquired of the superintendent why the Government would not permit the produce to be exported. The reply was characteristic. 'We have none to spare.' 'None to spare,' said the Minister, ' what can you use it for? You neither employ it in building nor in utensils.' 'We want it all for ball practice,' said the superintendent. The restrictions on the exportation of copper originated in the persuasion that the Government had been grossly cheated by the Dutch, who made enormous profits from their importations of this metal. It cannot now be lawfully sold; even for the repair and re-coppering of foreign ships a Japanese jury must first meet to estimate the quantity required. There is an inexhaustible supply of sulphur, as might be expected from the volcanic character of the country, and all the ingredients of gunpowder are found. Japan is richly provided with coal. But all these elements of future wealth are as yet very imperfectly developed. The mines of every description are quite in their infancy, and no engineering skill has yet been applied to them. The time, we trust, is at hand when they will be made available in commerce;
* The use of it as a medium of exchange with foreigners is now prohibited under the penalty of death.
and and the notion that the country would be permanently impoverished by permitting the export of its metals will be exploded, together with many other fallacies which keep Japan (although its people are possessed of as keen and practical intellects as any in the world in all matters of public economy) in a state of puerile ignorance, which is equally derogatory to its intelligence and civilisation.
The military resources of Japan have been variously estimated. The old Dutch writers, professing to be guided by the native authorities, calculate the number of troops which the different independent princes could bring into the field at 368,000 infantry, and 38,000 cavalry, in addition to the force which the Tycoon is stated to possess, and which constitutes a separate army amounting to 100,000 men. If every independent prince is bound to contribute his quota of troops for the service of the Imperial Government, the army of Japan will rank as one of the largest in the world. The force of the Tycoon, however, we suspect, consists only of troops furnished by such of the Daimios as hold their estates direct from him on the condition of military service. There will then remain the great princes of Satsuma, of Fizen, of Mito, and others, whose retainers would constitute so many independent armies, subject to no authority but that of their respective chiefs. This military as well as civil independence of the great Daimios constitutes the real difficulty of the Tycoon in his relations with foreign Powers; for it is doubtful whether he is able to enforce an acquiescence in his policy by these great princes without entering on a civil war; and an aggression upon the independence of one prince would probably unite all the others in a league against him. The Government of the Tycoon is therefore necessarily a weak one; and having been originally founded in usurpation, it is liable at any time to be overthrown by a successful rebellion against it. The Prince of Satsuma, with his colonial dependency of the Loochoo Islands; the Prince of Xendai, with his vast territorial possessions; and the Prince of Kanga, possessing the revenue of a small kingdom, together with many others, might combine, and bring into the field a much larger force than that of the Tycoon himself. These proud and overbearing princes have in former times assumed often an attitude of armed hostilitv, and set not only the Tycoon but their Spiritual Emperor at defiance. The difficulties of making the Tycoon responsible for the acts of the great Daimios are thus exceedingly great. It appears, indeed, by recent advices, that the Tycoon himself is not averse to the alliance of foreigners, and that he may possibly come to such an understanding with the Western Powers as may enable him not
only only to crush all internal opposition, but increase his own power at the expense both of the Daimios and the Mikado, and inaugurate an entirely new era in the policy and history of Japan. A European force which should undertake the invasion of Japan would undoubtedly find itself engaged in a very formidable undertaking, if the nation were united. A large proportion of its people is regularly trained to arms. To destroy Yeddo, a city constructed of wood and paper, would be an easy task ; to bombard the ports might be a simple operation; but to penetrate the interior, and bring a Japanese army to a decisive action, would be one of the most arduous operations that any commander could undertake. The roads through which Sir Rutherford Alcock passed in his journey from Nagasaki to Yeddo were found everywhere practicable for artillery, but never, he says, was there a country less adapted for the movements of cavalry. In the event of any advance into the interior, the want of interpreters, of facilities of communication, and of means for obtaining information, would, he thinks, be very great, and, as regards the mass of the population, an invading army could look for nothing better than neutrality.* The Japanese Government has for a long time past been purchasing cannon and rifles from Dutch and American traders. The Prince of Satsuma and other princes have done the same, and the troops have been scientifically instructed in their use. The roar of guns and the rattle of musketry has been constantly heard in Yeddo and in the neighbourhood of other great towns; and as we have before stated, a school of musketry was established in 1860. Nor have European tactics been neglected. Mr. Fortune, the latest traveller in Japan who has given to the world the results of his observations, frequently saw large bodies of troops put through their evolutions in the parks of the Daimios, and no doubt can exist that they have been regularly trained in the art of European warfare. A curious confirmation of this is supplied by Mr. Fonblanque, the title of whose interesting work we have prefixed to this article. When Count Eulenberg introduced the members of the Prussian Legation to the Minister for Foreign Affairs at Yeddo, that functionary appeared struck by the name of one of the attaches. 'Brandt! Brandt I' he exclaimed, 'Are you the author of a work on military tactics?' M. de Brandt replied that his father had written such a work. 'Oh,' said the minister, 'it is very good; I had it translated from the Dutch into Japanese—I will give you a copy.' On the following day a Japanese translation of General de Brandt's 'Treatise on the Three Arms' was sent to the Prussian embassy.
Nor have the warlike preparations of Japan been confined to the organization and improvement of its field force. The Government has taken measures for the defence of the ports and the capital. Four large and formidable forts now defend Yeddo; and at Hakodadi one has been completed mounting several hundred heavy cannon. The preparations at Nagasaki are of the same character, and the prevailing opinion seems to be that the artillerymen will stand to their guns. It is scarcely possible to arrive at any other conclusion from these symptoms of spirit and determination than that the country has been systematically prepared for a war which it was believed impossible to avert. The first Power that entered into new commercial relations with Japan was, as is well known, the Federal States of America. That Government endeavoured to acquire a position superior to that of any other of the Treaty Powers. It hoped to obtain such a preponderating influence as might give it a species of protectorate over Japan, and, in die hope of conciliating the Government, it submitted to injuries and indignities with far greater patience than the other Powers. It did not promptly resent even the assassination of its Secretary of Legation, but its minister remained at Yeddo when the other envoys indignantly withdrew. This mean and undignified conduct has met only with the treatment which it deserved. The first overt act of hostility committed by the Japanese against foreign Powers has been directed against the Federal States; an American ship having been deliberately fired into by two war-steamers. British, Dutch, and French ships have since experienced similar treatment; and hostilities have broken out, if not with tlve Tycoon, with several of the princes who either always disclaimed his authority or have now for the first time revolted from his government.
The present Tycoon has on more than one occasion evinced a disposition to adopt a more liberal policy than any of his predecessors would have approved. He is said to have received a great accession to his revenue by opening his ports; and some of his recent measures certainly indicate a determination to emancipate himself from the domineering influence of the great Daimios who long surrounded his Court. The presence of these nobles, with their vast bands of retainers, devoted to the persons and interests of their lords, in Yeddo, had a necessary tendency to overawe the Tycoon. It is impossible to imagine anything more incompatible with the functions of government than the quartering in the capital of from 200,000 to 300,000 two-sworded retainers of these great princes, constantly brooding over sedition and hatching conspiracies and plots. A very important ordinance has, however, been lately issued by the Tycoon, which amounts almost to
a revolution a revolution in the State. It directs that the highest Daimios are henceforth to visit Yeddo only once in seven years, and then only for a hundred days at a time; the second class only once in three years, and then for a hundred days; while a third class are to reside there for half a year; but their wives and families are to return to and remain permanently in the provinces. This appears to be a blow artfully struck at the power of the great Daimios, and is calculated to greatly diminish their political influence. It relieves them from the heavy charges and inconvenience which attended their periodical progresses to the capital, and restores them to their families; but whether they will consider these advantages as a sufficient compensation for the loss of power may be doubted. That great noblemen should not be permitted to visit the capital of their country oftener than once in seven years, certainly imposes a galling restraint on their liberty. It degrades them at once, as it were, from powerful peers to mere landed proprietors. Although there was no political institution or assembly which enabled them to give a constitutional expression to their opinions, their presence in Yeddo made itself felt in every action of the Government. The edict is said to have caused the utmost consternation among the people and shopkeepers of Yeddo. How would London receive an announcement that the Court was thus shorn of its splendour, that our nobility would reside in future wholly on their estates, and that the wives and daughters of our country gentlemen would never again come up to 'town'? There would be a wild cry of despair in every street, and half the tradesmen of the 'West End' would be bankrupts within a year. Whatever may be the motive of so radical a change, it seems to prove that the power of the Tycoon must be greater than has been supposed, to have enabled him to effect so complete a social revolution. A struggle has been going on for centuries between the Tycoon and the great princes of Japan, and it is far from having been yet brought to a conclusion. The position of all foreign Powers in that country is most anomalous. By an edict issued in the seventeenth century it is declared high treason to harbour any foreigner within the dominions of the Tycoon. This edict has never been annulled; and a Japanese who should take the life of a minister of any foreign Power might plead the law of his country in justification of the act. Hence the impunity enjoyed by the murderous assailants of the British embassy, and by the political assassins who have been busy at their bloody work ever since the conclusion of the treaties. They are secretly applauded, and are left unpunished by the Government. It is doubtful whether any of the treaties with foreign Powers have been