December 22nd, 1885 – The Samurai Prime Minister

Today-In-History

Based on European ideas, former samurai, Itō Hirobumi established a cabinet system of government, replacing the Daijō-kan as the decision-making state organization, and on December 22nd, 1885, when he became the first prime minister of Japan.

Itō Hirobumi

Itō Hirobumi (October 16th, 1841 – October 26th, 1909)

After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Itō was appointed governor of Hyōgo Prefecture, junior councilor for Foreign Affairs, and sent to the United States in 1870 to study Western currency systems. Returning to Japan in 1871, he established Japan’s taxation system. Later that year, he was sent on the Iwakura Mission around the world as vice-envoy extraordinary, during which he won the confidence of Ōkubo Toshimichi, one of the leaders of the Meiji government.

Itō_Hirobumi_1863

Itō Hirobumi in 1863

In 1873, Itō was made a full councilor, Minister of Public Works, and in 1875 chairman of the first Assembly of Prefectural Governors. He participated in the Osaka Conference of 1875. After Ōkubo’s assassination, he took over the post of Home Minister and secured a central position in the Meiji government. In 1881 he urged Ōkuma Shigenobu to resign, leaving himself in unchallenged control.

Itō went to Europe in 1882 to study the constitutions of those countries, spending nearly 18 months away from Japan. While working on a constitution for Japan, he also wrote the first Imperial Household Law and established the Japanese peerage system (kazoku) in 1884, and then in 1885, he negotiated the Convention of Tientsin with Li Hongzhang, normalizing Japan’s diplomatic relations with Qing Dynasty China.

On April 30th, 1888, Itō resigned as prime minister, but headed the new Privy Council to maintain power behind-the-scenes. In 1889, he also became the first genrō. The Meiji Constitution was promulgated in February 1889. He had added to it the references to the kokutai or “national polity” as the justification of the emperor’s authority through his divine descent and the unbroken line of emperors, and the unique relationship between subject and sovereign. This stemmed from his rejection of some European notions as unfit for Japan, as they stemmed from European constitutional practice and Christianity.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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