The Protestant Missions — August 15, 2010 at 10:08 pm

January, 1868, Power was restored to the Emperor!


The Meiji Emperor (明治天皇, Meiji-tennō?) (3 November 1852 – 30 July 1912) or Meiji the Great was the 122nd emperor of Japan according to the traditional order of succession, reigning from 3 February 1867 until his death. He presided over a time of rapid change in Japan, as the nation rose from a feudal shogunate to become a world power.

January, 1868, saw the great revolution by which political power was restored to the Emperor, and a new form of government inaugurated. In May, the American Minister received a set of official gazettes, whose publication had been commenced in Kyoto. They were numbered from one to nine, with the exception that the sixth number was lacking. As this excited curiosity, a copy of the missing number was obtained and was found to contain the following law, which was to be posted with certain others in all the towns and villages, replacing similar laws of the Shogunate.

“The evil sect called Christian is strictly prohibited. Suspicious persons should be reported to the proper officers, and rewards will be given.”

The foreign representatives at once remonstrated against this edict, saying that, while they had no desire to interfere with the internal affairs of Japan, they could not remain indifferent to an act that cast such opium upon the religion of the nations from which they came, the publication of such an ordinance at such a time being inconsistent with the friendly feelings professed by the new Government.

The Japanese ministers replied by referring to the strong feeling that the people had against Christianity because of the troubles to which it had given rise in former years. It was generally supposed, they said, that its followers practise various magical rites connected with foxes and other objects of superstitious dread. While it was impossible to prevent men from believing whatever seemed to them true, it was necessary to prevent the open profession of Christianity and the performance of its rites. If the Government failed to prohibit Christianity, it would be accused of favouring it. They acknowledged that the insertion of the word ” evil ” was ill-advised, and issued new orders saying: “In sending out the edict concerning Christianity there was unfortunately a mistake in the wording. This arose from the fact that in past times there had been the strict prohibition of Christianity and also of evil sects. The ordinance must at once be corrected so as to read:

“The former prohibition of the Christian sect must be strictly observed.

“Evil sects are strictly prohibited.”

As a Japanese writer has said, “This was a very strange order. What was the mistake? Was it in calling Christianity an evil sect? If Christianity is not evil, why should it be prohibited?” The reason for the amendment not being clear, the edict in many places was left in its first form.

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