AD 1864-65 Kosanji Uprising — Background #1 : The Decline of the Shogunate (Part Two)

Jul 2018
Hong Kong
AD 1864-65 Kosanji Uprising — Background #1 : The Decline of the Shogunate (Part One) <--- click this to return to the first part of the story
AD 1864-65 Kosanji Uprising — Glossary dictionary <--- for any Japanese term you’re unfamiliar in this thread, just check this dictionary for reference

The Shogunate turned “hawkish” under Il Naosuke

The newly-ascended Tairo (大老, “great elder”) the Lord of the Hikone Domain (彦根藩) Il Naosuke (井伊直弼) was aware of the growing instability and feebleness of the Shogunate. In order to restoring the Shogunate’s dominant position, and rebuilding the feudal order, he determined to squash the dissidents with an ironhanded policy, with the ambitive vision of resolving the Shogun Succession Issue and the Treaty Issue by a single blow to restabilize the regime.

6. The portrait of Il Naosuke.jpg
The portrait of Il Naosuke drawn by Naosuke’s third son Il Naoyasu (井伊直安), nowadays preserved in Gotokuji (豪德寺), Tokyo

His actions were swift and decisive : Shogun Tokugawa Iesada was persuaded to select Tokugawa Yoshitomi (later changed name to Iemochi 家茂) as the successor on 1st May. Then he signed <The US-Japanese Treaty of Amity and Commerce> on 19th June without the authorization of the Emperor, opening more ports and towns and carrying out the free trade while offering the consular jurisdiction (extraterritoriality) and low tariff duties to the Western Powers ; soon the similar treaties were concluded with Britain, France, Dutch and Russia, collectively known as the Ansei Five-Power Treaties (安政五カ国条約) which had the gigantic impact on the economy and society of Japan, and enormously damaged its sovereignty.

Il Naosuke’s tyranny evoked the huge opposition and discontent. Some daimyos like Tokuagwa Nariaki condemned Il’s flagrant disrespect to the Emperor’s will. At the meantime, Emperor Komei stealthily bestowed a decree to the Mito Domain, expressed his objection to signing treaties and his persistence of soi, and his appeal of propelling the Gosanke (御三家) and the other daimyos to supporting the Tokugawa Shogunate’s rule ; historically this piece of letter was known as the “Bogo Secret Decree” (戊午之密敕).

The Shogunate was shocked and infuriated of this since it meant that its authority was utterly ignored as the daimyos outrightly had received the instructions from the Emperor without asking the Shogunate. Sensed of conspiracy, Il Naosuke vowed to stamp out those in defiance of the Shogunate by actively struck upon the Hitotsubashi Faction and the sonno joi (尊皇攘夷, “revere the emperor, expel the barbarians”) party. He put Tokugawa Nariaki under house arrest, punished the anti-Shogunate court aristocrats like Sanjo Sanetomi (三条実美), Takatsukasa Masamichi (鷹司政通), jailed and executed several dozens of prestigious sonno joi activists as Yoshida Shoin (吉田松陰), Sanai Hashimoto (橋本左內). The victims in involvement were numerous. Such a series of events was known as the “Ansei Purge” (安政の大獄) historically.

7. The victims of the Ansei Purge.jpg
The manga depicting how the victims suffered in the Ansei Purge

The flame of rage was ignited by Il Naosuke’s ruthless crackdown. On 3rd March 1860, Tairo Il was blatantly assassinated by the Mito ronins just right at the outside of the Edo Castle, historically known as the Sakuradamon Incident (桜田門外の変). The de facto supreme ruler of the Shogunate who exerted strong leadership perished. This was another crushing blow to the Shogunate’s authority and prestige.

8. Sakuradamon Incident.jpg
The painting depicting the Sakuradamon Incident, in which Il Naosuke and his attendants were slaughtered by the Mito ronins

The Shogunate turned “doveish” under Ando Nobumasa

With such calamity, the Shogunate would never recover again and could only lick his wound and struggle to survive through the reconciliatory approach of cooperation with the imperial court (公武合体). The Roju Ando Nobumasa (安藤信正) was instrumental to arrange the marriage between Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi and the imperial Princess Kazu (和宮), the last-ditch attempt to restore the Shogunate’s prestige by this political marriage. However, on 15th January 1862, Ando Nobumasa was badly injured in an assassination attempt by the Mito ronins. And once more, the Shogunate was greatly humilitated….

Now let me halt at this point, change the theme to the economic and social background of the Bakumatsu Period.

AD 1864-65 Kosanji Uprising — Background #1 : The Decline of the Shogunate (Part Three) <--- click here to read the third part of the story


Last edited: