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MUTSU HITO, MIKADO, or EMPEROR, OF JA...

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Originally appearing in Volume V19, Page 101 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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MUTSU HITO, MIKADO, or EMPEROR, OF JAPAN (1852— ), was born on the 3rd of November 1852, succeeded his father, Osahito, the former emperor, in January 1867, and was crowned at Osaka on the 31st of October 1868. The country was then in a ferment owing to the concessions which had been granted to foreigners by the preceding shogun Iyemochi, who in 1854 concluded a treaty With Commodore Perry by which it was agreed that certain ports should be open to foreign trade. This convention gave great offence to the more conservative daimios, and on their initiative the mikado suddenly decided to abolish the shogunate. This resolution was not carried out without strong opposition. The reigning shogun, Keiki, yielded to the decree, but many of his followers were not so complaisant, and it was only by force of arms that the new order of things was imposed on the country. The main object of those who had advocated the change was to lead to a reversion to the primitive condition of affairs, when the will of the mikado was absolute and when the presence in Japan of the hated foreigner was unknown. But the reactionary party was not to be allowed to monopolize revolutions. To their surprise and discomfiture, the powerful daimios of Satsuma and Choshu suddenly declared themselves to be in favour of opening the country to foreign intercourse, and of adopting many far-reaching reforms. With this movement Mutsu Hito was cordially in agreement, and of his own motion he invited the foreign representatives to an audience on the 23rd of March 1868. As Sir Harry Parkes, the British minister, was on his way to this assembly, he was attacked by a number of two-sworded samurai, who, but for his guard, would doubtless have succeeded in assassinating him. The outrage was regarded by the emperor and his ministers as a reflection on their honour, and they readily made all reparation within their power. While these agitations were afoot, the emperor, with his advisers, was maturing a political constitution which was to pave the way to the assumption by the emperor of direct personal rule. As a step in this direction, Mutsu Hito transferred his capital from Kioto to Yedo, the former seat of the shoguns' government, and marked the event by renaming the city Tokyo, or Eastern Capital. In 1869 the emperor paid a visit to his old capital, and there took as his imperial consort a princess of the house of Ichijo. In the same year Mutsu Hito bound himself by oath to institute certain reforms, the first of which was the establishment of a deliberative assembly. In this onward movement he was supported by the majority of the daimios, who in a supreme moment of patriotism surrendered their estates and privileges to their sovereign. This was the death-knell of the feudalism which had existed for so many centuries in Japan, and gave Mutsu Hito the free hand which he desired. A centralized bureaucracy took the place of the old system, and the nation moved rapidly along the road of progress. Everything European was eagerly adopted, even down to frock-coats and patent-leather boots for the officials. Torture was abolished (1873), and a judicial code, adapted from the Code Napoleon, was authorized. The first railway—that from Yokohama to Tokyo—was opened in 1872; the European calendar was adopted, and English was introduced into the curriculum of the common schools. In all these reforms Mutsu Hito took a leading part. But it was not to be expected that such sweeping changes could be effected without opposition, and thrice during the period between 1876 and 1884 the emperor had to face serious rebellious movements in the provinces. These he succeeded in suppressing; and even amid these pre-occupations he managed to inflict a check on his huge neighbour, the empire of China. As the government of this state declared that it was incapable of punishing certain Formosan pirates for outrages committed on Japanese ships (1874), Mutsu Hito landed a force on the island, and, having inflicted chastisement on the bandits, remained in possession of certain districts until the compensation demanded from Peking was paid. The unparalleled advances which had been made by the government were now held by the emperor and his advisers to justify a demand for the revision of the foreign treaties, and negotiations were opened with this object. They failed, however, and the consequent disappointment gave rise to a strong reaction against everything foreign throughout the country. Foreigners were assaulted on the roads, and even the Russian cesarevich, after-wards the tsar Nicholas II., was attacked by would-be assassins in the streets of Tokyo. A renewed attempt to revise the treaties in 1894 was more successful, and in that year Great Britain led the way by concluding a revised treaty with Japan. Other nations followed, and by 1901 all those obnoxious clauses suggestive of political inferiority had finally disappeared from the treaties. In the same year (1894) war broke out with China, and Mutsu Hito, in common with his subjects, showed the greatest zeal for the campaign. He reviewed the troops as they left the shores of Japan for Korea and Manchuria, and personally distributed rewards to those who had won distinction. In the war with Russia, 1904–5, the same was the case, and it was to. the virtues of their emperor that his generals loyally ascribed the Japanese victories. In his wise patriotism, as in all matters, Mutsu Hito always placed himself in the van of his countrymen. He led them out of the trammels of feudalism; by his progressive rule he lived to see his country advanced to the first rank of nations; and he was the first Oriental sovereign to form an offensive and defensive alliance with a first-rate European power. In 1869 Mutsu Hito married Princess Haru, daughter of Ichijo Tadaka, a noble of the first rank: He has one son and several daughters, his heir-apparent being Yoshi Hito, who was born on the 31st of August 1879, and married in 1900 Princess Sada, daughter of Prince Kujo, by whom he had three sons before 1909. Mutsu Hito adopted the epithet of Meiji, or " Enlightened Peace," as the nengo or title of his reign. Thus the year 1901, according to the Japanese calendar, was the 34th year of Meiji.
End of Article: MUTSU HITO, MIKADO, or EMPEROR, OF JAPAN (1852— )
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