Kono Hironaka (河野広中)

Hironaka KONO (August 24, 1849 – December 29, 1923) was a party politician in the Meiji and the Taisho periods. He was the tenth chairman of the House of Representatives.

On August 24, 1849, he was born as the third son of the country samurai of Miharu Domain, in Mutsu Province, Hiroshi KONO and Riyoko. The Kono family was given 100 koku, and they also ran a variety of business, such as kimono fabrics dealer, sake brewing industry and wholesale dealer of fishes. He learnt Confucianism from Shikei KAWAMAE, and this influenced him to advocate Sonno-joi (slogan advocating reverence for the Emperor and the expulsion of foreigners). In the Boshin War, Miharu Domain first joined in the Ou (Mutsu Province and Dewa Province) allied troops, but KONO was with his brother, Hiroyasu, and set up its submission to the Meiji Government and held a meeting with the general stuff of Tosando spearhead governor, Taisuke ITAGAKI. After the submission of the domain, he joined Tosa Domain and participated in the capture of Nihonmatsu Domain and the Aizu War.

Participation in Jiyu Minken Undo (Movement for Liberty and People's Right)

After the Meiji Restoration, he served as an assistant Junior Clerk of Wakamatsu Prefecture, village headman, ward mayor, and so on. In February, 1873, he was appointed as a vice-mayor of the fourteenth ward in Iwasaki Prefecture (later Tokiwa-machi, Fukushima Prefecture, now Tamura City), but he read "Liberty" by John Stuart Mill (translated by Masanao NAKAMURA), and this opened his eyes to Jiyu Minken Undo. In October of the same year, he became the mayor of the same ward, and KONO set up a local assembly ahead of the rest of the country, and deliberated the civil administration of the ward.

In 1875, KONO who turned to be the ward mayor of Ishikawa (later Ishikawa-machi, Fukushima Prefecture) went to Tokyo for hearing local administrative assemblies. He made a petition to establish the National Diet, but the government didn't approve of it. He went back to his hometown, and he established Sekiyosha in his duty station, Ishikawa-machi, Fukushima Prefecture, and it became the pioneer of Jiyu Minken Undo in Tohoku Region. In 1877, when the Seinan War broke out, he visited Taisuke ITAGAKI in Kochi Prefecture, and talked about re-forming Aikokusha (Society of Patriots) as the base of the movement for establishing the National Diet. After he returned home, he established Sanshisha in Miharu, and he also drafted regulations for civil assembly in Fukushima Prefecture and he also prepared for the opening of the prefectural assembly.

In 1878, he tendered his resignation to Fukushima Prefectural Office, and devoted himself to the movement for civil rights in Tohoku Region. In 1879, he participated in the third Aikokusha meeting which was held in Osaka. In April, 1880, in the forth Aikokusha meeting, a resolution to appeal the government to establish the National Diet had passed, and Kenkichi KATAOKA and he submitted a petition asking for an establishment of the National Diet to Daijokan (Grand Council of State) and Genroin (the Chamber of Elders), on behalf of more than 87000 signatures from all over the country, but it was turned down. In October, 1881, he participated in the formation of Liberal Party (in the Meiji Period). He played the leading role not only in the national political arena as a Liberal Party executive, but also in a prefectural assembly as an assembly member of Fukushima Prefecture and a chairman of the assembly.

But in 1882, the Fukushima Incident occurred against the tyranny by the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Michitsune MISHIMA. KONO was arrested in December, 1882, for the charge of conspiracy of domestic conflict because he exchanged a compact covenant under joint signatures to oppose domains-dominated government (Meiji oligarchy) with comrades Hideaki TAMONO and others, and in 1883, he was sentenced to seven years of detention at the special criminal court. In 1889, he was discharged from prison under the amnesty at the promulgation of the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. Released from prision, KONO took part in the Daido danketsu (Grand Coalition) Movement which rallied the democratic rights movement by Shojiro GOTO, and participated in the planning of Daido club.

Member of the House of Representatives era

In 1890, he ran for the first general election of the members of the House of Representatives, and was elected for the first time. Since then, he was elected consecutively until the fourteenth general election of members of the House of Representatives in 1920. KONO first belonged to Liberal Party, and became a power in the party as a leader of Tohoku faction. In the Forth Diet, he led Liberal Party as a director of the House, and disputed with the Second ITO Cabinet over the budget. But he gradually took a cooperative policy with the ITO Cabinet, and this made him at odds with Tosa faction, including Toru HOSHI and Tsuna TAKEUCHI. As a result, he left Liberal Party in 1897.

In June, 1898, he exerted himself to the formation of Shinpo-to Party (Progressive Party) which used to be Liberal Party and Constitutional Progressive Party, and saw the establishment of Kensei-to Party (Constitutional Party). But soon Kensei-to Party was torn up. KONO didn't joined the former Liberal Party line, Kensei-to Party which he used to belong, but joined Kensei honto (true Constitutional Party) which was led by former Progressive Party line by Shigenobu OKUMA. After that, he criticized the domains-dominated government, and claimed popular election and hard-line diplomacy toward Russia.

In 1903, he was elected as the tenth chairman of the House of Representatives, but in the nineteenth opening ceremony of the House in December, he, from his position as hard-liners, read impeachment of Taro KATSURA Cabinet in Hotobun (response speech) to the imperial rescript (Hotobun Incident). The government opposed to this and this led to the dissolution of the House of Representatives. In 1905, he opposed to Treaty of Portsmouth, and as a chairman at the National Assembly which was held in Hibiya Park in September to oppose the peace treaty, he implicated the Hibiya Incendiary Incident. He was accused of mayhem, but was found not guilty in 1906.

After he went through small factions in the House of Representatives as a leader of anti-Rikken seiyukai (Friends of Constitutional Government) group, he participated in the formation of Rikken Kokumin-to Party (Constitutional Nationalist Party). He then took part in the movement for Katsura New Party, and established Rikken Doshikai (Constitutional Association of Friends). He also belonged to Kenseikai (Constitutional Party). In 1915, he assumed the position as Minister of Agriculture and Commerce in the second OKUMA Cabinet.

He died on December 29, 1923. He was 74 years old. His grave is at Gokoku-ji Temple, in Otsuka, Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.

[Original Japanese]