The Protestant Missions — September 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

Prince Iwakura visits the United States and Europe.

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Iwakura Tomomi (岩倉具視?, October 26, 1825 - July 20, 1883) was a Japanese statesman who played an important role in the Meiji Restoration, influencing opinions of the Imperial Court.

Near the close of the year 1871, an embassy headed by Prince Iwakura had set forth to visit the United States and Europe. Its chief object was to secure such a revision of the treaties as would do away with extra-territoriality. In the letter of credence presented by Iwakura to the President of the United States, the Emperor declared: ” We expect and intend to reform and improve ” the treaties ” so as to stand upon a similar footing with the most enlightened nations, and to attain the full development of public right and interest.” The American Secretary of State said that before permitting citizens of the United States to come under the jurisdiction of Japan it would be necessary to consider the laws of that country, and he proceeded to ask about religious liberty and the edicts against Christianity. The Japanese Ambassador attempted to make it appear that the edicts were no longer enforced. Mr. De Long was then in Washington, and when Prince Iwakura denied in his conference with the Secretary of State that there was any religious persecution, Mr. De Long; cited the facts connected with the arrest and continued imprisonment of Ishikawa Einosuke. The Ambassador who could make no satisfactory reply, was told that it was useless to ask for the desired change in the treaty so long as the religion believed by most Americans was regarded in the present manner. On going to Europe the Embassy found that it was not without reason that the British and French Charges d’ Affaires had expressed the opinion that it would not be cordially received so long as the persecution of Christians continued. Before it reached England an influential deputation from the Evangelical Alliance had presented to the Foreign Secretary a memorial in which the persecutions of the Roman Catholic Christians were narrated, and the hope expressed that, in case the treaties were revised, a clause would be inserted guaranteeing religious liberty. The Westminster Gazette had opened a

The former 500 Yen banknote issued by the Bank of Japan carried his portrait.

subscription for funds to support a movement that should urge the English Government to demand the release of the Japanese exiles. A vigorous agitation was begun in France by the publication of M. Leon Pages’s pamphlet on “The Persecution of the Japanese Christians.” As the Embassy rode through the streets of Brussels, many among the spectators shouted out their demands that the Japanese Christians be released. Ito Hirobumi (afterwards Japan’s leading statesman), who was a member of the Embassy, wrote to his Government, declaring that wherever he went he was met by the strongest appeals in behalf of the Christian exiles and for religious toleration. He was sure that, unless the Government acceded to the first request and evinced a disposition to be somewhat liberal in the other matter, it would look in vain for friendly concessions on the part of the foreign nations.

Prince Itou Hirobumi (伊藤 博文?, 16 October 1841–26 October 1909, also called Hirofumi/Hakubun and Shunsuke in his youth) was a samurai of Chōshū domain, Japanese statesman, four time Prime Minister of Japan”

In November, 1872, Mori Arinori, who was in Washington as the Japanese Charge d’ Affaires, prepared a memorial to his Government in favour of complete religious freedom. Annexed to it was a draft for “The Religious Charter of the Empire of Dai Niphon” (Japan). This, as given in the English version, was as follows: —

” Whereas, in matters of conscience and religious faith, it has been justly observed that the manner of exercising them can be properly determined only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and “Whereas, no man or society of men has any right to impose his or its opinions or interpretations on an^ other in matters of religion, since every man must be responsible for himself, and  “Whereas, we have no other purpose than that of avoiding for our nation the misery which the experience of the world shows has followed the patronage by the state of any particular religion;

“It is now soletpily resolved and declared that the Imperial Government of Dai Niphon will make no law prohibiting, either directly or indirectly, the free exercise of conscience or religious liberty within its dominions.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that the organisation of any religious orders shall not be interfered with by either local or national authority, so long as such organisation does not conflict with the law of the State.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that the law of the Empire shall recognise no religious institution as special or different from any other kind of social institution.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that no special privilege or favour shall be granted by either local or national authority to any particular sect or religious denomination without extending the same at once to every other.

“And it is further solemnly resolved and declared that no religious or ecclesiastical title or rank shall be conferred by the state upon any person belonging to any religious association.

“And it is further, in conclusion, solemnly resolved and declared that no action which may promote religious animosity shall be permitted within the realm.

In this, as in many other propositions made by Mr.Mori to his Government, he was too far in advance of his times. Not until the proclamation of the new Constitution, February ii, 1889, was religious liberty assured to the people of Japan ; and on that very day, Mr. Mori, the advocate of such liberty, was assassinated by a Shinto fanatic for having, as was alleged, raised the curtain of the shrine at Ise with his walking-stick.

Portrait of Itō Hirobumi was on the 1,000 yen note of Japan from 1963 until a new series was issued in in this, as in many other propositions made by Mr.Mori to his Government, he was too far in advance of his times. Not until the proclamation of the new Constitution, February ii, 1889, was religious liberty assured to the people of Japan ; and on that very day, Mr. Mori, the advocate of such liberty, was assassinated by a Shinto fanatic for having, as was alleged, raised the curtain of the shrine at Ise with his walking-stick.

Though the guaranty of religious freedom did not come until 1889, the Government on February 19, 1873, ordered the removal of the edict-boards which, among other regulations, prohibited Christianity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iwakura_Tomomi

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ito_Hirobumi

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