Free Meiji Restoration Essay Sample
The Class Name
Meiji Restoration also known as the Meiji Revolution is a set of political, military and socio-economic reforms in Japan's in 1868-1889, which has transformed backward agrarian country into one of the leading countries in the world. It is the transition from a samurai management system and shogunate to direct imperial rule in the person of the emperor Mutsuhito and his government. Policy of restoration has significantly influenced the political system, legislation, Imperial Court, provincial administration, finance, industry, diplomacy, education, religion and other spheres of life of the Japanese. With the Meiji Restoration binds formation of Japanese nation-state in a new time and a Japanese national identity. Meiji years were characterized by breaking the Japanese traditional way of life and accelerate the deployment of the country's achievements of Western civilization. Therefore, the restoration is sometimes called "Meiji Restoration." So let's analyze the background and major factors of the success of the reforms.
The end of XVII - beginning of XVIII centuries were marked by the deterioration of the economic situation in the country. The gap in living standards between the nobility and the common people has increased tremendously. Despite the significant development of commodity economy, in the village has deteriorated condition of the peasantry as a result of increasing feudal taxes. In desperation peasants have revolted. A new feature of peasant uprisings was their massive and unusual scale, often covered several provinces where government troops or military units of daimyo could not cope with the rebels. The growth of peasant and urban riots across central Japan after the uprising in 1837 has undermined the economy and political stability can be explained by a new attempt to strengthen the shogunate feudal system. The refuse of the large part of the feudal to support Tokugawa regime were defined by failures in the internal politics of the shogunate, based on a system of regulations and the actual collapse of the policy of isolation. Also, one of the reasons that undermined the Tokugawa shogunate authority was a civil war in 1863 - 1867 years. When the shogun asked the Emperor for "advice" at the time of arrival in the country the squadron of Commodore Perry, shogun forced himself to continue to consult with the Imperial court. In the face of the deteriorating situation and the apparent weakening the position of the shogunate Western powers in 1865 demanded the immediate opening of ports provided by the 1858 Harris Treaty, as well as the revision of tariffs. Shogun has fully adopted the requirements of foreigners and has achieved ratification at the imperial court.
Taking advantage of the weakness of his position, the leaders of aristocratic-bourgeois bloc presented a memorandum drawn up on behalf of the new emperor, demanding from the shogun an immediate "return" power to "rightful ruler." In October 1867, a memorandum was handed to the shogun Keiko. Keiko had understood the determination of heads of the opposition and the military force of the enemy, so he agreed with the request. During the Civil War the Imperial government has established new political standards. In February 1868 it was stated to representatives of foreign states in Japan, that Imperial government is a new legitimate government of the country. Emperor was proclaimed head of state that had the right to exercise diplomatic relations.
Meiji Restoration - in the narrow sense is a political upheaval and civil war in 1867-1868, that culminated in the overthrow of the reign of the shogun Tokugawa by feudal and restoration of the Emperor. In a broad sense it is the bourgeois revolution, which has resulted in the elimination of the feudal system and the establishment of Japan's centralized bourgeois state. Events of Meiji Restoration were caused by the aggravation of contradictions of feudalism as a result of the development of commodity-money relations, the rise of the popular movement in the city and the countryside and strengthening separatism of domains. The crisis has worsened with the signing of the unequal Ansei Treaties and attempts by foreign powers to impose Japan a regime of surrender. Peasant War and the need to strengthen the power has become an important incentive for reform. This has often caused disagreements between the feudal and bourgeois groups within the imperial government. The consequence of this was that the subsequent implementation of the bourgeois reforms often was an incomplete, limited.
Conducted in Japan after the 1868 reforms were very beneficial not only to the emerging capitalist elements, but - much more for the former feudal lords-daimyo, for which they have made it possible to remain at the helm of government, and painless to become a member of the financial oligarchy, bank depositors, owners of industrial enterprises. 1868 is the year of the beginning of a series of reforms that have led to fundamental changes in the areas of economics, politics, culture and social relations. They have had bourgeois character and helped to transform Japan from a feudal to a capitalist country. Japanese oligarchs (the bourgeoisie) have decided to withdraw from any attacks on foreigners and the West until the Japan will be strong enough to begin struggle. Thus, it was necessary to carry out reforms in the country as in Western countries. Japanese made a special delegation that traveled to the Western countries and have studied their strengths: the laws, factories, organization of the army, weapons, railroads, etc. However, first of all Japanese had to make the centralization of power.
The condition for the formation of the unitary Japan was the elimination of the old federalist structure of the country. Its regions were autonomous domains controlled by daimyo. During the civil war in 1868-1869, the Japanese government confiscated the possessions of the shogunate, which was divided into prefectures. However, the domains have remained outside its direct control. On January 20, 1869 daimyo of four pro-government domains: Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen filed an appeal, saying that everything belongs to the Emperor of Japan. In February 1869 officials Kido Takayoshi and Ōkubo Toshimichi offered to Emperor to reassign these areas to the new government. On this offer immediately agreed the daimyo of Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen that have returned to the monarch their land with the population. On July 25, 1868 the government ordered to do the same with other daimyo domains. In exchange for the land daimyo have become the heads of regional offices of the central government and received a salary from the state.
At the same time with the administrative reform were changes in the structure of government. On 15 August 1869 the government was divided into three chambers: the central, left and right. Central Chamber was cabinet ministers. It consisted of a large state minister, left and right ministers and advisers. The left chamber was legislature and advisory body to the central chamber. The structure of the right chambers was: eight ministries that guided the ministers and their deputies. Most government posts have occupied by natives of the former domains of Satsuma, Choshu, Tosa, and Hizen. The main positions have occupied capital aristocrats such as Sanjō Sanetomi and Iwakura Tomomi.
One of the main tasks of the imperial government was to create a modern efficient army. After elimination of the domains, their armies of samurai, were reassigned to the War Department. On January 10, 1873, at the initiative of Ōmura Masujirō and Yamagata Aritomo, the government imposed a state of universal conscription. From that time all men that have reached the age of 20 were required to serve in the army, regardless of their social origin. The newest imperial army began to form mainly of peasants. For the construction of the national Japanese Imperial State government also has pursued an active social policy. On June 25, 1869 it formed two privileged classes - titled (Kazoku) and untitled (Shizoku) nobility. The first consists of aristocrats from the capital and the daimyo, and the second from samurai. In addition, the Imperial power proclaimed the equality of peasants, artisans and merchants, regardless of occupation and positions. They became known as the "common people." In 1871 it was established equality of all classes before the law. On April 4, 1871 Imperial government passed a law on the registration of the population. The following year, the population was recorded in the register according to three categories of estates - titled and untitled nobility, and commoners.
The overriding objective of the Imperial government in building a modernized Japan was the creation of a stable financial system. The main source of replenishment of the state treasury was a land tax. After the elimination of domains and daimyo, the government has assumed its rights and obligations of debt, so the money to replenish the budget was extremely difficult. Therefore, the authorities have undertaken to conduct land and tax reform, in order to stabilize the Japanese finance. In 1871, the Imperial government has allowed to create new arable areas on the pristine lands, and in 1872 was canceled the ban on the sale of land and recognized the existence of private property. Property owners have received certificates of land ownership, which indicates the price of the land. Certificate system has eliminated the traditional communal form of land ownership. On July 28, 1873 on the basis of this system Imperial government began reform of land and taxes, which ended in 1880. As a result of the reform instead of an unstable tax yield criterion was the stable price of land, and the land owners have turned to taxpayers. Land tax was to be paid in cash in the amount of 3% of the value of the land. These transformations have provided stable filling the state treasury and contributed to the development of commodity-money relationship in the region. The change of the country's industrial development vector led to industrial growth and the emergence of new technologies in the country. Also, the Japanese paid a lot of money to foreign experts and specialists for training their personnel in Japan and for industrialization. In 1872 under the control of European engineers opened the first railway connecting Tokyo and Yokohama. Locomotives were brought from Europe, and the station building was designed in the United States. The first passenger was the emperor himself. At the same time to move through the streets, on the basis of the English sample was taken left-hand traffic.
Also, it should be noted the attitude of Japanese contemporaries to reforms. For example Sakuma Shozan in "Reflections on my errors" wrote that a mix of eastern ethics and western science is the way to Japanese success. He also has believed that Japan needs reforms, and the Japanese should benefit from Western technology and inventions. Also, according to him in Japan was to be created a new army with disciplined soldiers and Western weapons, and the choice of the soldiers did not have to be based on classes, but on the merit of the person. He also considered it important to the study of science and mathematics in particular, as well as "barbaric languages". Another contemporary of the Meiji reforms was Iwasaki Yataro - the founder of Mitsubishi. He believed that the coastal trade is too important for Japan to give it to foreigners. Foreigners involved in coastal trade - is the loss of business benefits, unemployment and the loss of trade opportunities for the Japanese. Thus, he considered it necessary to oust foreign traders and revise the treaties. In a "Letter to Mitsubishi employees", he writes that the state subsidy is the key to success of Mitsubishi in the Japanese market, and cuts in staff and expenditure, along with support from the state are major advantages in the fight against the Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. Also, interesting for the study are thoughts of Fukuzawa Yukichi described in his work "Escape from Asia." In his work, Fukuzawa on the example of China and Korea says that it is not necessary to resist the Japanese westernization of the country, and the penetration of Western technology. Fukuzawa wrote that Japanese should differ from Chinese and Koreans as foreigners do not expect it from Japan and Japanese. Moreover Fukuzawa argues that the Japanese themselves should pursue the same policy towards the Koreans and Chinese as Western countries to be on equal with them.
Thus, summarizing all the mentioned above it should be stated that the major factors of the success of Meiji reforms was the willingness of the different classes for changes and wise approach to reforms. Under the reign of Tokugawa shogunate there were several peasant uprisings and civil war, because the shogunate hasn’t taken into account interests of peasants and the Japanese bourgeoisie. Thus, with the wise approach to reforms that was described by the contemporaries Japan has succeeded and has become one of the major players in the world.
Alfred Andrea, James Overfield. The Human Record: Sources of Global History. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2011.
Auslin, Michael R. Negotiating with Imperialism: The Unequal Treaties and the Culture of Japanese Diplomacy. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006.
Beasley, W.G. The Perry Mission to Japan, 1853-1854. London: Routledge, 2003.
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Katsuro, Hara. An Introduction to the History of Japan. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, 2009.
McKay, John P. A History of World Societies, Combined Volume. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2011.
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