Hostname: page-component-88dd8db54-kmbnl Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-03-05T15:21:29.842Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

I. The Seitaisho: A Constitutional Experiment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011

Robert A. Wilson
University of California at Los Angeles
Get access


With the formal abolition of the Tokugawa Shogunate on January 3, 1868, there was created in Japan a governmental void which was not filled finally and satisfactorily until 1889. The search of Japanese leaders for a satisfactory government structure for the new state was thus one of long duration. It did not begin seriously until the successful outcome of the military struggle with the Tokugawa forces in the early months of 1868 seemed assured.

Problems of Political Power in Modern Japan: A Symposium
Copyright © The Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1952

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 Implicit in this brief study of the development of political institutions in the early months of the long Meiji period is the assumption that, while military control of the state by the anti-Tokugawa coalition was assured by mid-1868, the new leaders of the government, nevertheless, moved with considerable circumspection toward the centralization of political power and the termination of feudalism. The interests of the state obviously would not be served if the struggle with the Tokugawa proved to be merely a prelude to a further internecine conflict among feudal groups.

2 Shiryō, IshinJimukyoku, Hensan: Ishin Shi (Tokyo, 19391942), 5: 384391. See these pages for a discussion of the roles played by various leaders in the formulation of the “Oath.”Google Scholar

3 Ibid., 395.

4 Ibid.; Takeki, Osatake, Nihon Kenseishi Taiko (Tokyo, 19381939), 1: 137.Google Scholar

5 Ishin Shi, 5: 524.

6 Ibid., 395–398.

7 Nobutaka Ike, The Beginnings of Political Democracy in Japan (Baltimore, 1950), 37.

8 Japanese Government Documents,” ed., W. W. McLaren, Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, 42 (May, 1914), 4.Google Scholar

9 Ibid., 5.

10 Ishin Shi, Index Volume. The third section of this volume, entitled “Appointments to Important Offices of the Meiji Government,” contains a tabulation of the offices of government for the period from January 3, 1868, to approximately September, 1871. Appointments to offices established under the authority of the “Seitaisho” will be found in pp. 23–28 of this section. In Volume One of Meiji Shiyo, pp. 54–152 the appointments of personnel to the various offices of government are also detailed in the day by day entries which characterize this source work in Japanese history.

11 Ishin Shi, Index Volume, “Appointments to Important Offices of the Meiji Government.” In most cases the compilers of the Ishin Shi have given us the names of the appointees, their tenure in office, and their clan status.

12 Ishin Shi, 5: 526. Yokoi Shonan's letter is quoted here in part. It is dated June 18, 1868, from which fact we must assume that the judgments advanced are from observations made during the first week of the operation of the new government structure.

13 Meiji Shiyo, Tokyo Imperial University Edition, (Tokyo, 1933) 1: 66.

14 Ishin Shi, 5: 527.

15 Ibid. 528.

16 Ibid., 529.

18 See lshin Shi, 5: 532 and 5: 540 for the submission of this question to the Kogisho and Jokyoku Kaigi respectively.

19 Meiji Shiyo, 1: 142.

20 Junichiro, Otsu, Dai Nippon Kensei Shi (Tokyo, 19271928) 1: 273.Google Scholar