Edict on Change of Status (an edict with three articles issued in 1591) (身分統制令)

The Edict on Change of Status was an edict with three articles issued in 1591 by Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI.

It banned the following things: Servants for samurai families such as samurai, chugen (warriors who took their orders from samurai) and komono (lowest-ranking warriors) settling as peasants or townspeople, peasants abandoning their farmland and engaging in business or working as day laborers, and samurai families employing servants who had fled from other samurai families. It said that those who violated it would be punished. Samurai here refers to wakato (young warriors and retainers). It is said that the intention in enacting this law was to ensure the number of servants for samurai families and the amount of nengu (land tax in rice) before the Bunroku-Keicho War.

The Original Text (included in the 'Kobayakawa ke monjo' [Kobayakawa family documents])

First, townspeople and farmers have to investigate if there is anyone who was in military service (from hokonin [those who served Hideyoshi], samurai, chugen and komono to arashigo [servants for miscellaneous chores]) and changed his status to townsman or farmer after the Oshu expedition that was carried out in the seventh month of last year, and if such people are founded, they must be deported. If anyone in the above categories is hidden, the whole town or village will be punished.

Second, if there is any farmer who leaves his or her rice and vegetable fields behind and engages in trading or being employed for wages, not only the farmer himself or herself but also his fellow villagers will be punished. If there is anyone who does not engage in either military service or tilling lands, deputies and other local officials must make inquiries and evict him or her. If they do not execute the instructions above, such officials will have their lands confiscated on the charge of negligence. If there is any concealment by townspeople or farmers, the whole county or town will be regarded as being blameworthy when the fact is discovered.

Third, do not employ anyone who has left his or her former master without his or her permission, whether they are samurai or komono. Perform a thorough investigation into his or her background, and ensure that he or she has a guarantor. However, if anyone already having a master is identified as a person who has left his or her former master, he or she shall be arrested under this article and handed over to his or her former master. If this law is violated and the transgressor is deliberately set free, then two or three people must be decapitated in substitution for him or her and their heads must be handed to his or her former master. If beheading three people in place of the offender is not carried out, it cannot be helped that the new master will be punished.

There are the clauses as explained in the above.

On October 8, 1591(red seal of Hideyoshi)

[Original Japanese]