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  • 1. To what extent did the Meiji leaders intend to create a functioning democracy for Japan by 1912? Emilio Solomon #000307 178 Internal Assessment IB History HL February 4, 2012 1,647 words
  • 2. Solomon 000307 178A. Plan of Investigation The investigation assesses the extent to which the Meiji leaders intended to create afunctioning democracy by 1912. To evaluate this, the investigation focuses on Japan’s politicalreforms introduced during the Meiji Restoration. During the Meiji Restoration, political,economic, and social reforms were made to promote egalitarianism. The investigation willexamine events from circa 1870 to circa 1910. Primary and secondary sources are used to evaluate the extent to which the MeijiRestoration created a functioning democracy for Japan. The two main sources used are FromBondage To Liberation: East Asia 1860-1952by Nigel Cameron, and A Modern History Japan byJames L. McClain. These sources are then evaluated for their origins, purposes, values andlimitations. Word Count: 116B. Summary of Evidence Following the end of the Tokugawa shogunate, Japan went through a period ofmodernization called the “Meiji Restoration.” Japan adopted many reforms, including political,social, and economic reforms. The Meiji leaders promised to change Japan’s form of government,in replacement of the decentralized system of the Tokugawa shogunate (Cameron 132). In 1868,the Charter Oath was issued. The Charter Oath consisted of five articles. The fives articlespromised the creation of “deliberative councils” and the determination of policies on the basis of“general opinion,” the co-operation of all classes in carrying out the administration of affairs ofstate, full opportunity for commoners as well as for officials, and the abolition of “evil customs ofthe past.” (Jansen 195). Feudal society was abolished and the political and economic power of the daimyo was tobe removed. Samurai leaders persuaded their daimyo to give up control of their lands. Thus, the 1
  • 3. Solomon 000307 178leaders of Choshu, Satsuma, Tosa, and Hizensurrendered their lands as well (Cameron134).Japanese people were given the opportunity to “fulfill their aspirations”, regardless of theirposition in life (McClain 156).The abolition of feudal society also led to the reduction andcommutation of samurai stipends (Schirokauer 456). The Meiji leaders continued to experiment in various ways with moredemocraticinstitutions. The left and right chambers of the Meiji government were abolished andreplaced by a Supreme Court and a Chamber of Elders (Cameron 139). Leaders from the SupremeCourt and the Chamber of Elders were asked to prepare for a National Assembly, which failed. In1874, ItagakiTaisuke, a member of the Supreme Court demanded the immediate creation of anational assembly “chosen by the people” (McClain 187). However, it was not put into practiceonce again. After disputes with Okuma Shinegobu, a former shi-shi from Hizen, the Meiji leadersdeclared that a national assembly would be implemented by 1890 (McClain 191), In 1889, the Meiji leaders issued a constitution for Japan. The 1889 constitution promisedfreedom of speech and assembly and freedom from arbitrary search for the emperors and theJapanese people (Cameron 142). A diet or law making body was to be composed of twochambers: the House of Peers, which consisted of members of the imperial family, nobles, anddeputies nominated by the emperor and the House of Representatives (Cameron 142). Through theestablishment of a diet, officials agreed to share their power (Caiger 280). However, the chambershad little power. Power was mostly in the hands of the cabinet. Also, the genro advised theemperor and controlled most of the ministries (Cameron 142). By 1890, Japan made a penal codeon French lines and a commercial code on the German model. The western powers promised torelinquish extraterritoriality in 1899 (Cameron 144). In order to adopt the western-style industry, Japan accelerated through industrialdevelopment.The Meiji leaders established pilot industries, including cotton and woolen mills,cement paper, glass and clothing factories as a model for industrialists to follow (Cameron 2
  • 4. Solomon 000307 178146)..The Meiji leaders gave subsidies to industrialists to establish new private enterprises(Cameron 146). Eventually by the 1880s, industrialists were able to buy government-establishedindustries from the Meiji government. This reflected the formation of zaibatsus, or family-ownedindustries. Word Count: 533C. Evaluation of SourcesCameron. Nigel. From Bondage To Liberation: East Asia 1860-1952. Oxford University Press, 1975. Print. From Bondage To Liberation: East Asia 1860-1952, written by an American freelancewriter Nigel Cameron is a secondary source, published in 1975. The source’s purpose is to explainthe Meiji leaders’ intent to create a functioning democracy by 1912. Since the source waspublished years after 1912, the author probablyhas the ability of hindsight. The source is valuablebecause the source outlines different events that contributed to Japan’s functioning democracychronologically. The source is also valuable because the source takes into account the views ofother historians who study modern Japanese history as shown from the “works consulted” sectionof the source.However, there are limitations because the source was published years ago fromnow, where the availability of sources may have been limited.McClain, James L. A Modern History Japan. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2002. Print. A Modern History Japan, written by American historian, James McClain, is a secondarysource, published in 2002.The source’s purpose is to explain that the Meiji leaders did not solelyintend to create a functioning democracy for Japan.The source is valuablebecause the source iswritten by a professor who has taught modern Japanese history for a quarter of a century. Bothsuggest that the author has an understanding of the topic.Furthermore, the source is valuable 3
  • 5. Solomon 000307 178because the source takes into account other essential themes of Japanese history, including art andwomen, which allows readers to understand events in its historical context (French). Also, thesource is valuable because it is written from a Japanese perspective, which allows the history tostandout and be convincing (Maclean). However, there are limitations because the source’snarrative is inconsistent (Sabine). Word Count: 264D. Analysis While there are differing perspectives regarding the intention of the Meiji leaders increating a functioning democracy, some historians believe that the Meiji leaders intended to createa functioning democracy. According to historian Nigel Cameron, the Meiji leaders wanted tocreate a modern central government and carry out great social reforms (Cameron 131). TheCharter Oath was issued by the Meiji leaders, which initiated social reforms, and thus created acentral government for Japan. In general, the Charter Oath promised the creation of “deliberativecouncils” and the determination of policies on the basis of “general opinion,” the co-operation ofall classes in carrying out the administration of affairs of state, full opportunity for commoners aswell as for officials, and the abolition of “evil customs of the past.” (Jansen 195). The power ofthe daimyo’s was removed and Japanese people were able to attain egalitarianism (Cameron 134).Furthermore, the Charter Oath promised a sound financial government (Schirokauer 456).Cameron believes that the Charter Oath was by no means, a declaration of a democraticgovernment (Cameron 139). In 1889, the Meiji leaders issued a constitution for Japan. The 1889constitution promised rights for the emperors and Japanese people. These rights included thefreedom of speech and assembly and freedom from arbitrary search (Cameron 142). Also, the1889 constitution, lead to the formation of a diet or law making body, where both chambers; theHouse of Representatives and the House of Peers would share equal power (Cameron 142). 4
  • 6. Solomon 000307 178Cameron believes that the 1889 constitution was also a declaration of a democratic government.R.H.P Mason and J.G. Caigeragree that the Meiji leaders intended to create a functioningdemocracy. The ruling officials in effect agreed to share their untrammeled powers as a result of aDiet (Mason and Caiger 280). However, Mason and Caiger believe that the Meiji leaders wanteddemocracy in order attain equal status with the west. (Mason and Caiger 281). Overall, somebelieve that the Meiji leaders intentions were not democratic, or perhaps that the Meiji leaderswanted economic development for Japan. Another perspective is that the Meiji leaders did not intend to create a functioningdemocracy. James L. McClain argues that the Meiji leadersdid not create a functioningdemocracy. During the crisis of 1881, Okuma Shigenobu criticized the proposals drafted by theMeiji leaders, which included the issue of a constitutional government (McClain 191). Also,McClain argues that the Meiji leaders wanted Japan to develop economically. The Meiji leaderswanted Japan to accelerate through economic development, in order to gain respect from theWestern powers and thus, escape Western imperialism (McClain 207). As Japan went through aperiod of economic development, many family-owned industries or zaibatsu’s were formed(Cameron 146). Although Japan went through a period of economic development, not all Japanesepeople received an equal share of benefits that accompanied an expanding economy (McClain208). McClain believes that economic development threatened to abort the Meiji experiment(McClain 207). Historian Marius B. Jansen and J.G Caiger agree that economic development wasthe Meiji leaders’ primary focus until 1912. The Meiji leaders wanted to provide nationalleadership for economic development so that Japan as a whole would increase production andcreate industries.One could argue that the role of the genro could possibly be another reason whythe Meiji leaders did not intend to create a functioning democracy as well. Word Count: 561 5
  • 7. Solomon 000307 178E. Conclusion The Meiji leaders intended to create a functioning democracy for Japan by 1912.According to Nigel Cameron, Cameron explains that the Meiji leaders aimed for a functioningdemocracy, as shown from the charter oath and the constitution in 1889. Both the charter oath andthe constitution in 1889 developed Japan politically and socially. Even though Japan developedpolitically and socially by democratic means, the Meiji leaders did not solely intend to create afunctioning for Japan until 1912. The Meiji leaders wanted Japan to develop economically throughindustrialization as well. According to historian James McClain, the Meiji leaders wanted “economic development,in order to gain respect from the Western powers and thus, escape Western imperialism” (McClain207). The Meiji leaders initiated economic development through the formation of government-owned industries and family-owned industries. One could argue that the role of the genro couldpossibly be another reason why the Meiji leaders did not intend to create a functioning democracyas well. Nevertheless, it is yet questionable to what the Meiji leaders wanted for Japan. Word Count: 173 6
  • 8. Solomon 000307 178F. Bibliography Works CitedFrench, Howard W. Rev. of A Modern History Japan, by James McClain. AbeBooks.com.AbeBooks Inc. 1996-2012. Web. 15 Jan 2002. <http://www.abebooks.com/Japan-Modern-History-McClain-James-L/5365773423/bd>Cameron. Nigel. From Bondage To Liberation: East Asia 1860-1952. Mishawaka. Oxford University Press, 1965. Print.Jansen, Marius B.The Emergence of Meiji Japan. New York. Cambridge University Press, 1995. Print.Mason, R.H.P. A History of Japan.Singapore. Tokyo Tuttle Publishing,1997. Print.McClain, James L. A Modern History Japan. New York. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2002. Print.Sabine. Rev. of A Modern History Japan, by James McClain. Goodreads.com.Goodreads Inc. 2012. Web. 5 Dec 2010. <http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/129505526> 7

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