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PREFATORY ESSAY

xix

The political transformation of Japan is of too recent a date for any trustworthy judgment to be formed as to its character, and still less as to its permanency. At the outset the revolution replaced the titular sovereign upon the throne, and was followed by the destruction of the feudal system japan under which the Tycoons had for nearly eight centuries governed Japan as a sort of Eastern “ Mayors of the Palace.” The restoration, therefore, of the spiritual emperor seemed calculated to bring about the revival of the old autocratic system of rule. As a matter of fact the revolution has turned out to be only the prelude to the creation of a Constitutional Monarchy, formed after the fashion of the Western world. Within the course of the years which have elapsed since the deposition of the Tycoon, Japan has been converted into a civilized, progressive, self-governing commonwealth of the European type. During this period post - offices, railways, telegraphs, ironclads, weapons of precision, things hitherto unknown, have been introduced into the Japanese Empire. Primary schools, compulsory education, the use of the European alphabet and of Roman characters, freedom of the press, religious toleration, vote by ballot, party government, and well-nigh all the mechanism of European administration have been adopted by the subjects of the Mikado, who is still supposed to rule in virtue of his spiritual supremacy. The original Assembly, nominated in 1875 by the Mikado, has now been changed into a popular Parliament freely elected by the people. It is difficult to avoid a doubt how far the Japanese have imbibed the spirit, as well as adopted the forms, of constitutional government. Still, it must be said that in the course of a period so brief as scarcely to count in the history of a nation, they have not only made immense material progress, but have developed a spirit of individual nationality which augurs well for their future. Japanese youths have been sent to all parts of the civilized world, to study the languages, the armies, and the industries of every important nation. Foreign instructors have been brought into Japan; but their services have as a rule been dispensed with as soon as their pupils had acquired sufficient knowledge to impart it as teachers to their fellow-countrymen. The motto of Japan might well be that of Italy in the Garibaldian era,, fard da se. The progress of Japan has already induced the European Powers to forgo the right, guaranteed by the capitulation treaties, of having their subjects placed under consular jurisdiction. Finally, Japan’s recent participation in the expedition of the Allied Powers for the rescue of the Ministers besieged in Pekin has raised the island empire of the East to the level of a Power of which account has to be taken in all international questions; and this position was finally confirmed by the alliance between Japan and Great Britain at the opening of 1902. It is sometimes said that all these questions of what—for lack of any exactly equivalent English term—may be best called la haute politique, do not interest the labouring classes, who under the general democratic tendencies of our time are gradually acquiring more and more political influence, jf]e and who in England, the United States, and the British self-governing colonies are practically labouring supreme whenever they choose to exert their power. But this, though true in regard to a classes’ bygone time, is at the best only a half-truth nowadays. The spread of education, the wider, even if superficial, acquaintance with foreign affairs created by the cheap press, the abolition of caste privileges, and the tone of modern thought, have all tended to render the civilized and self-governing nations of the world more homogeneous than they were wont to be. The sentiment of national pride is far more widely diffused, if not absolutely keener, nowadays than it was in bygone times. In consequence, popular opinion, whether intelligent or otherwise, plays a far larger part in public affairs than it did formerly. The result of this changed state of things must be to render the ideas which underlie Imperialism more intelligible and acceptable to the classes who live by manual labour than they were when the 19th century came into existence. Moreover, these classes are beginning to realize that their personal interests as wage-earners may be indirectly affected by questions of foreign or Imperial policy. Still, it may be fully admitted that, as a rule, questions which directly affect the sons of toil are those most calculated to enlist their sympathies. The so-called governing classes have already begun to take this fact into account, and to modify their tactics accordingly. During the discussions on parliamentary reform Lord Palmerston is reported to have replied to a friend, who remarked that in the reformed Parliament Ministers and members were much of the same class as they had been in the