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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/761

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POLITICAL HEADS—CHIEFS, KINGS, ETC.

sight, but, surrounded with empty dignity and commanding the opinion of the bulk of the samarai or military class, wielded the real power themselves. They took care, however, to perform every act in the name of the fainéants, their lords, and thus we hear of. . . daimios, just as in the case of the Emperors, accomplishing deeds and carrying out policies of which they were perhaps wholly ignorant." This lapsing of political power into the hands of ministers was, in the case of the central government, doubly illustrated. Successors as they were of a god-descended conqueror whose rule was real, the Japanese Emperors gradually became only nominal rulers; partly because of the sacredness which separated them from the nation, and partly because of the early age at which the law of succession frequently enthroned them. Their deputies consequently gained predominance. The regency in the ninth century "became hereditary in the Fujiwara [sprung from the imperial house], and these regents ultimately became all-powerful. They obtained the privilege of opening all petitions addressed to the sovereign, and of presenting or rejecting them at their pleasure." And then, in course of time, this usurping agency had its own authority usurped in like manner. Again succession by fixed rule was rigorously adhered to; and again seclusion entailed loss of hold on affairs. "High descent was the only qualification for office, and unfitness for functions was not regarded in the choice of officials." Besides the Shôgun's four confidential officers, "no one else could approach him. Whatever might be the crimes committed at Kama Koura, it was impossible, through the intrigues of these favorites, to complain of them to the Shôgun." The result was that "subsequently this family. . . gave way to military commanders, who," however, often became instruments in the hands of other chiefs.

Though less definitely, this process was exemplified during early times in Europe. The Merovingian kings, to whom there clung a tradition of supernatural origin, and whose order of succession was so far settled that minors reigned, fell under the control of those who had become chief ministers. Long before Childeric the Merovingian family had ceased really to govern. "The treasures and the power of the kingdom had passed into the hands of the prefects of the palace, who were called 'mayors of the palace,' and to whom the supreme power really belonged. The prince was obliged to content himself with bearing the name of king, having flowing locks and a long beard, sitting on the chair of state, and representing the image of the monarch."

From the evolution standpoint we are thus enabled to discern the relative beneficence of institutions which, considered absolutely, are not beneficent, and are taught to approve as temporary that which, as permanent, we abhor. The evidence obliges us to admit that subjection to despotic rulers has been largely instrumental in advancing civilization. Induction and deduction alike prove this.

If, on the one hand, we group together those wandering, headless