Meiji juyonen no seihen (the failed Meiji-14 coup of 1881) (明治十四年の政変)

Meiji juyonen no seihen (the failed Meiji-14 coup of 1881) is a politically-motivated incident, which occurred during movement of the Freedom and People's Rights and dispute regarding creation of a constitution in government, especially between Hirobumi ITO, who recommended Bismarck's constitution, which preserves the royal prerogative and Shigenobu OKUMA, who recommended constitution from England, which has parliamentary system of government, as a result of the incident in which Shigenobu OKUMA was banned from government. The incident resulted in later formulation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, which modeled after the Constitution of the German Empire, which preserves the royal prerogative.

Dispute regarding introduction of constitutional government system

After the death of Toshimichi OKUBO, there was a dispute among the government regarding transitional period to constitutional government system. Under the condition, the dispute regarding introduction of constitutional government system was led by Tomomi IWAKURA, Minister of the Right, who was in a passive attitude, Hirobumi ITO and Kaoru INOUE, who aimed gradual introduction (Choshu clique), and Shigenobu OKUMA (Sangi, Okura-kyo [Minister of the Treasury], from Hizen Domain), who aimed earlier introduction. Among the government, Shigenobu OKUMA was opposed to Masayoshi MATSUKATA, regarding his financial policy (After the Seinan War, OKUMA aimed to overcome financial deficit by foreign debt). In addition, conservative Kunaisho (Ministry of the Sovereign's Household) bureaucrats required "direct rule by the emperor" and intervened in the government, at that time political situation was unstable.

From 1880, Iwakura, who was in a passive attitude to constitutional government started to request opinions from Sangi (councilor) and ministers to deal with the Freedom and People's Rights Movement. Ito submitted written opinion and proposed gradual reform and reform of new peerage system to set up a upper house (IWAKIRA, who was from court noble family disliked the latter opinion but ITO submitted this daringly). However, Ito didn't mention from which country he will have a model of the system. Before and after Ito's submission, opinions were proposed by Sangi but only Okuma postponed submission of his opinion. In March 1881, finally Okuma secretly submitted opinions to Imperial Prince Arisugawanomiya Taruhito, Minister of the left (higher rank than Iwakura), recommended constitutional monarchy from England and insisted on earlier issue of constitution and establishment of the National Diet in two years. In May, Iwakura came to know the contents of the proposal, got very angry about the contents and the fact that Okuma ignored Iwakura, and submitted the written proposal to Imperial Prince Taruhito, and then Iwakura consulted with Kowashi INOUE. Kowashi INOUE pointed out the similarities between Okuma's proposal and Minken-ron (democratic right theory) ("Minjo-isshin" [The transition of people's way of thinking]) by Yukichi FUKUZAWA and recommended to propose a counter plan as soon as possible. Inoue made a proposal that a state system modeled after the Kingdom of Prussia, which established German Empire and had the royal prerogative, was appropriate. However, because the details of the secret proposal made by Okuma and the written opinions by Iwakura and Inoue were not disclosed to government leaders, Ito finally came to know the situation at the end of June. Ito got very angry not only at Okuma but also the fact that Iwakura and Inoue planned to introduce Prussia style secretly, so he took down Kowashi INOUE when Inoue came to visit him to explain (on June 30) and told his own resignation to Sanetomi SANJO, Daijo-daijin (Grand Minister). Iwakura asked Ito not to resign and Kowashi INOUE recommended and asked for the approval of the plan to switch to parliamentary Cabinet system from England after stabilizing state infrastructure; however, Ito didn't made a decision on whether to adopt England style or Prussia style and did not agree with banishment of Okuma, either. During this time, Kowashi INOUE convinced Kaoru INOUE, a sworn ally of Ito (Inoue thought of introduction of parliamentary Cabinet system in future), and asked Ito to cooperate with Satsuma domain clique and decide on establishment of a constitution and the time of opening a parliament.

Meiji juyonen no seihen

On the other hand, in the Freedom and People's Rights Movement, radical opinions were expressed after assassination of Alexander II of the Russia Empire in March. In the end of July, Tokyo Yokohama Mainichi Shinbun (Tokyo Yokohama Daily Newspaper) and Yubin Hochi Shinbun (Post Dispatch Newspaper) got a scoop that Kiyotaka KURODA, chief of Hokkaido Development Commissioner, was planning to sell government owned facilities and equipment to Tomoatsu GODAI, who was from the same village, at very cheap prices (Kaitakushi Kanyubutsu Haraisage Jiken [Incident of Development Commissioner's Selling of Government-Owned Facilities and Equipment]). Then, criticism towards the government became stronger and the Freedom and People's Rights Movement was pumped up. Accordingly, political faction of Okuma at the Okura-sho (Ministry of the Treasury) criticized Kuroda regarding the cheap sales prices and called for stop of the sales publicly; hence, Ito got very angry because he considered this as contributions to enemies and completely changed his opinion, agreeing with the banishment of Okuma. On August 31, the government determined that Okuma and supporters of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement cooperated on the dark plot, and thus decided the banishment of Okuma. Regarding the punishment of Okuma, who was against the sale in government, and cooling down the movement against the government, Tomomi IWAKURA (However, because Iwakura was on vacation in Arima-onsen (hot spring) from July to October, today there is doubt about involvement of Iwakura, and Ito is considered as a main plotter), Hirobumi ITO, a Sangi, and Kowashi INOUE discussed about dismissal of Okuma, stop of the sales of government owned facilities and equipment and establishment of the National Diet after 10 years while Okuma was away for a trip with Emperor Meiji. On October 11, after Emperor came back from gyoko (imperial visit), a permission of conference in the presence of the emperor was given and the Imperial Edict for Establishing a Diet was disclosed in public on the next day. On this occasion, the following agreement was made among government leaders.
As a result, the Freedom and People's Rights Movement, France style and England style, which were recommended by Okuma, were rejected but also Prussia style, which was recommended by Iwakura, was rejected (as a result, people who advocated Prussia (Germany) style strengthened their position).

Okuma left the government and started preparation for establishment of the National Diet, which had been targeted at 10 years later, and in March 1882, the next year, he set up the Constitutional Progressive Party with Azusa ONO and established Tokyo Senmon Gakko (present-day Waseda University) in Waseda.


On the other hand, unlike Iwakura and Inoue, who advocated introduction of Prussia style constitution, even Ito had decided on introduction of constitutional government system, but he was still thinking about the style of the system even after the Meiji juyonen no seihen.
In addition, there was conflict of views between Iwakura and Ito regarding reform of the peerage system and introduction of cabinet (Japan) system in future (Iwakura worried about adding new meritorious retainers during the Meiji Restoration to the peerage and abolishment of institution of ministers based on existing the ritsuryo system [a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code] and Dajokan [Great Council of State] system, because he thought he would be excluded from the center of the government.)
Therefore Ito went to Germany in 1882 to study the circumstances around the constitution of Germany (Prussia). However, it was not because of Iwakura's recommendation; instead, Ito thought that the supporters of the Freedom and People's Rights Movement would study about England and France styles, so he just chose what those supporter don't study (according to letters for Kencho SUEMATSU). Ito decided on introduction of Prussia style constitution because of advice by Lorenz von Stein, who lectured Ito in Germany (Stein was opposed to the constitutional government system in Germany and was exiled from Germany, but after he studied about Japan, he realized that the Prussia style constitutional government system would be more appropriate for Japan than for Germany). Iwakura died in 1883, and Ito came back to Japan as if he was waiting for this, and then he started to work on creation of a constitution.

[Original Japanese]