The First Saionjis Cabinet (第1次西園寺内閣)

Kinmochi SAIONJI, the president of Rikken Seiyukai (Friends of Constitutional Government Party), became Prime Minister, succeeding to Taro KATSURA, based on the promise made between them during the Russo-Japanese War (since Katsura was afraid of Genro [elder statesmen]'s interference, he didn't assemble Council of Genro: he only got the approval from Hirobumi ITO and Kaoru INOUE, both of whom were Saionji's guardians, for that transfer of power). Katsura and Genro restricted Saionji's power by making conditions on policies and personnel affairs; Saionji came to terms with them on the condition that Takashi HARA and Masahisa MATSUDA, the two most trusted assistants, would be in the cabinet. Katsura considered himself as the guardian of the cabinet and tried to influence Saionji's handling of the government, which led to the delicate politics with Takashi HARA, Minister of Home Affairs.

While the cabinet pursued the policy complying with Genro like Aritomo YAMAGATA and Katsura, such as making The Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty, Russo-Japanese Agreement and French-Japanese Agreement, it continued to make efforts in order to realize party politics; in order to reform Ministry of Home Affairs, which was the power base for Yamagata, the cabinet tried to abolish the County system, only to fail; the cabinet succeeded in taking members of Kizokuin (the House of Peers) into the Cabinet. However, the politics inside the cabinet did not go smoothly since the Seiyukai was a minority in the cabinet. Two months after the establishment of the cabinet, Takaaki KATO, Minister of Foreign Affairs, resigned because he was against the nationalization of railways (in fact, however, he is said to have resigned due to his health problem). After that, when both Isaburo YAMAGATA, the Minister of Correspondence and Yoshio SAKATANI, Minister of Finance, were going to hand in their resignationletters to the Emperor Meiji after their conflict over the railway budget problem, Saionji, who was only expected to take them to the emperor, handed in his own letter of resignation; Hara and Masatake TERAUCHI, Minister of Army, worked very hard to persuade Saionji to take back his resignation. In the tenth general election of members of the House of Representatives, the Seiyu party won 187 seats, and almost became the majority; Aritomo YAMAGATA, who feared the stability of the party, reported to the throne that the cabinet was not effective in its financial policy or regulation of socialism. Saionji regarded it as Yamagata's demand to replace Matsuda (Minister of Finance) and Hara (Interior Minister) and his cabinet resigned en masse (recently, the following are considered as the reasons of the resignation: the anti-Seiyuto maneuver by Katsura was revealed; it would be difficult to carry out Kaoru INOUE's demand for financial reconstruction by increasing tax revenue. Hara and others were not informed of the resign en mess until it was reported to the throne).

The Seiyu party in that cabinet achieved great results, compared with the fourth Ito's cabinet, most of which were the members of the Seiyu party and did nothing except giving chaos; in other words, the party in the first Saionji's cabinet established support in the bureaucracy and the House of Peers.
Soho TOKUTOMI attributed the true failure of the cabinet to Saionji's excessive dependence on Katsura, his 'sworn friend'; Soho criticized the cabinet by saying, '(SAIONJI) depended on Buddha (KATSURA) and went down to the hell (resign en masse).' (Taisho seikyoku shiron [A Political History of the Taisho Era])

Minister of State

[Original Japanese]