A Political History of Japan during the Meiji Era, 1867-1912

By Walter Wallace McLaren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE FIRST FOUR YEARS

IF the Constitution had been promulgated in a period of sabbath calm, induced by the wholesale suspension of the Opposition Press as well as by an appreciation upon the part of the educated classes of the event's significance, the spell was soon broken. In a few months editors and politicians regained their accustomed volubility, and long before the Diet was elected the political arena was again the scene of turmoil. Itagaki and Okuma, the two foremost party leaders, quickly decided upon the action which the situation demanded. Itagaki had stood outside the oligarchy, a voice crying in the wilderness, practically throughout his whole career, and he knew only too well after a single perusal of the provisions of the Constitution that his demands for an Executive responsible to the Diet had not been heeded. Article LV alone would have been enough to have driven him into Opposition once more. Okuma, on the other hand, having been a member of the oligarchy which drafted and issued the instrument, may be regarded as having consented to its terms: his quarrel, therefore, was not primarily with the terms of the new Constitution, but with the two leading Choshu members of the Government, Ito and Inouye. In 1881 they had ruined his political career by defeating his scheme for a Parliament in 1883, and six years later they had again triumphed over him. Toward the close of 1889 these two men headed the opposition within the Cabinet to his treaty- revision negotiations, and forced him out of the circle of the oligarchs. Okuma's revenge is written large

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