Japan Between 1868 and 1912 (The Meiji) Part II
A wide agitation in favor of this regime was already underway before the Saigō revolt, and the government, aware of the unpreparedness of the population, recently freed from the shackles of feudalism, to exercise those rights that were claimed for it, attempted by any means, not excluding violence, to oppose. The Saigō revolt had marked a truce, after which the movement resumed with greater violence and extension, this time led by a man of rare ability, Ōkuma Shigenobu. The government eventually had to surrender and in 1881 an imperial edict promised the gradual adoption of the constitutional regime within ten years and set the first session of parliament in 1890. Thus disappeared, any reason for agitation, the reconstruction work could continue undisturbed. Finances were restored, a cabinet of ministers was created to replace the Council of State, and the ancient feudal nobility was arranged in five noble orders that the emperor established in 1884. Meanwhile, Itō Hirobumi, the most skilled at the time, he was sent to Europe with the task of studying the constitutions of the various states. Upon his return (1884), in recognition of his services, he was created count, appointed president of the Council of Ministers, and placed at the head of a commission charged with drawing up the new regime to be given to the country. The commission fulfilled its task in five years and in 1889, in the midst of national jubilation, the constitution was officially proclaimed and the following year, on November 25, the imperial Diet was opened for the first time. The first years of parliamentary activity were troubled by the intransigence of political parties, which arose recently and all united in opposition to the government, which, far from giving in, opposed their systematic obstruction with a firm and energetic attitude, making use of all means offered to him by the constitution. In less than four years the Diet was dissolved three times and suspended several times. For a decade the situation remained unchanged; a change took place only when Itō, in 1900, founded the party of the “Friends of the constitution” (Rikken Seiy ū kwai) who, due to the prestige of his person, immediately gained a numerical advantage in the Diet.
According to PLUS-SIZE-TIPS, the unsolved problem always remained the revision of the treaties, whose clauses concerning extraterritoriality and customs restrictions were a source of great humiliation for national pride. The remarkable social progress achieved now made the country aware that the time had come for their revision. It was only in 1894 that long years of aspirations and efforts were crowned with success with the stipulation, in London, of the first treaty conceived on the basis of equality; the English example was soon followed by other nations, but Japan had to wait until 1911 for customs autonomy.
With 1894 Japan enters a new phase characterized by national expansion which, by bringing it out of obscurity, will quickly bring it to the rank of great power. After the treaty with Korea, in which this, at least in theory, was recognized as an independent state, Japan had tried all means to persuade the Korean government to enter the path of progress with radical reforms, but its efforts were frustrated by corruption. in force among the indigenous authorities and, most of all, by the omnipotence and incompetence of Yüan Shih-k’ai (later first president of the Chinese republic), then representative of the Chinese imperial government in Korea. On the other hand, the ties between the two states were so close and ancient that they could not be canceled all of a sudden by virtue of a treaty, all the more so since neither China was willing to give up its age-old pupil nor this to deprive itself of its usual support. But meanwhile the people were reduced to misery and groaned under the official tyranny: in 894, at the height of suffering, they rebelled. The government, powerless to quell the revolt, asked China for help, which landed 3,000 men on the Korean coast. China and Japan, under a previous treaty, had undertaken not to send troops to Korea without mutual notice. The open breaking of this commitment caused the rapid intervention of Japan with the dispatch of 8000 men, who immediately occupied the capital Söul. Laborious diplomatic negotiations followed, but during these, an accident, the sinking of a Chinese transport by the Japanese cruiser Naniwa (25 July 1894), precipitated events leading to the declaration of war (10 August). Japan easily got over its opponent: in Manchuria its army soon opened its way to Peking, while other contingents, in cooperation with the fleet, conquered Wei-hai-wei and, when (February 17, 1895) the Chinese fleet had to surrender to the Japanese Admiral Itō, China asked for peace. The result was the Treaty of Shimonoseki (April 17, 1895) by which it renounced all influence in Korea, was obliged to pay the winner 200 million tael, as compensation, and gave him the Liao-tung peninsula, Formosa and the Pescadores. Shortly thereafter, however, the united action of Germany, Russia and France forced Japan to renounce Liao-tung and content itself, in its stead,
The treaty left Japan free field in Korea, where, for some time, its representative, Viscount Inoue, had had to face enormous difficulties, first of all the synophilic and misoneistic spirit of the ruling classes, especially the queen, a woman of temper. energetic and virile. Nonetheless, Inoue managed to reorganize the local administration and the army satisfactorily. On his departure, after a year, he was replaced by Viscount Miura, a man devoid of tact and organizational qualities, who in a short time practically nullified what his predecessor had done. Seeing the queen as the only obstacle to Japanese politics, he entered, with indigenous elements against her, in a conspiracy that got rid of her on 7 October 1895. Miura was recalled,