The First Katsura Cabinet (第1次桂内閣)

That was the first cabinet of Kei-En era (Katsura-Saionji era) that lasted for more than ten years.

Soon after the collapse of the fourth Ito Cabinet, Kaoru INOUE was appointed at first to form his cabinet. However, Inoue declined forming his cabinet partly because Eichi SHIBUSAWA did not become Minister of Finance against Inoue's expectation, and partly because Rikken Seiyukai (Friends of Constitutional Government Party) was in chaos. Genro (elder statesman) thought it almost impossible to elect a Prime Minister from the generation of Genkun (the statesmen who contributed in Meiji Restoration), so they decided to chose Katsura.
Since the major members of the cabinet were the bureaucrats who were following Aritomo YAMAGATA, the cabinet was criticized as 'the second-rate cabinet.'
The ruling party in the Congress was only the Teikokuto (Imperialist party) and the Rikken Seiyukai led by Hirobumi ITO and the Kensei Honto (True Constitutional party) led by Shigenobu OKUMA were the opposition parties. Although Rikken Seiyukai led by Hirobumi ITO admitted the necessity of Japan's military expansion, they required a thorough administrative and financial reform, not increased land taxes, which Katsura was going to promote. That cabinet disapproved of the administrative and financial reform plan, which was made by Yoshihito OKUDA, the Director-General of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau, and made him resign; Ito and other members of the Seiyu party were enraged by that and attacked the cabinet, which led to such a critical situation as the Constitution of the Empire of Japan might be abandoned (from Katsura's letter to Aritomo YAMAGATA on May 19 ('Aritomo YAMAGATA monjo' [written materials]).

In order to weather that crisis, Katsura took a more clearly adversarial stand against the Russian Empire by concluding the Anglo-Japanese Alliance; he also succeeded in having Hirobumi ITO resigning his position as the president of the (Rikken) Seiyu party by kicking him up to chairman of the Privy Council. The Seiyu party promoted its intra party harmony under the leadership of Kinmochi SAIONJI, who became the president of the party.

The greatest achievement of the First Katsura Cabinet was the Russo-Japanese War. Taro KATSURA, Prime Minister, expected the alliance with the Seiyu party in order to stabilize the political situation during the war and made a secret promise with Takashi HARA that he would transfer the position of Prime Minister to Saionji (however, the recent study on the diaries kept by Hara and Katsura proved that, at first, they did not clarify the date of transfer and that they decided the date, with a sense of crisis about the weakened Katsura cabinet after the Hibiya Incendiary Incident). The First Katsura Cabinet, which was supported by the Seiyu party, weathered the Russo-Japanese War. However, since many were killed or injured in the war and people suffered from repeated tax increase such as emergency special taxes, their frustration and fury led to the Hibiya Incendiary Incident. The cabinet fulfilled its role to some extent; it concluded the Treaty of Portsmouth, the second Eulsa Treaty and Japan-China-Manchuria Treaty. The cabinet resigned en masse in December, 1905 and the imperial command to form a cabinet was given to Kinmochi SAIONJI, as it had been promised. Katsura was in office for 1,681 days, the longest for one cabinet in Japanese political history.

Thereafter, the time from the end of Russo-Japanese war and the coup in 1913 was called "Kei-En era" (Katsura-Saionji era): Katsura, supported by Aritomo YAMAGATA, a Genro and Saionji, supported by Hirobumi ITO, another Genro, took turns becoming a Prime Minister and forming his cabinet.

Minister of State

[Original Japanese]