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

By Walter Wallace McLaren | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
MILITARISM AND CLAN GOVERNMENT

WHEN the Ito Administration resigned in August 1896, Okuma was undoubtedly the greatest figure in Japanese politics, and the people demanded that he should be placed in charge of the Foreign Affairs of the Empire. But Okuma stood outside of the official coterie: he was the acknowledged head of the Shimpoto, the strongest of the Opposition parties, and he was committed to the cause of responsible government. His admission to the Cabinet was therefore a matter not easily arranged, especially as the bankers and manufacturers desired the return of Matsukata to the Finance Ministry.

Negotiations occupied more than a fortnight. On the one side, Matsukata had a rooted objection to all political parties. He had never truckled to any of them, and he resigned in 1891 rather than violate the strict principles of the Constitution with regard to the "independence" of the Cabinet. On the other, Okuma could not afford to enter a clan Cabinet unless he could make terms acceptable to his party. The programme of the Shimpoto, as set forth in a manifesto issued in March 1896, included the following: "Our party intends to introduce the system of responsible Cabinets by the steady pursuit of progressive principles; to assert the national rights by remodelling the Empire's foreign policy; to manage the national finances in such a manner as to encourage the development of industry and commerce; in short, to obtain the reality of constitutional government." It was the

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