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The Jesuit Peril

 THE second half of the sixteenth century is the most interesting period in Japanese history — for three reasons. First, because it witnessed the apparition of those mighty captains, Nobunaga, Hidéyoshi, and Iyéyasu, — types of men that a race seems to evolve for supreme emergencies only, — types requiring for their production not merely the highest aptitudes of numberless generations, but likewise an extraordinary combination of circumstances. Secondly, this period is all-important because it saw the first complete integration of the ancient social system, — the definitive union of all the clan-lordships under a central military government And lastly, the period is of special interest because the incident of the first attempt to christianize Japan — the story of the rise and fall of the Jesuit power — properly belongs to it.

The sociological significance of this episode is instructive. Excepting, perhaps, the division of the imperial house against itself in the twelfth century, the greatest danger that ever threatened Japanese national integrity was the introduction of Christianity by the Portuguese Jesuits. The nation saved itself only by ruthless measures, at the cost of incalculable suffering and of myriads of lives.

It was during the period of great disorder preceding Nobunaga's effort to centralize authority, that this unfamiliar disturbing factor was introduced by Xavier and his followers. Xavier landed at Kagoshirna in 1549; and by 1581 the Jesuits had upwards of two hundred churches in the country. This fact alone sufficiently indicates the rapidity with which the new religion spread; and it seemed destined to extend over the entire empire. In 1585 a Japanese religious embassy was received at Rome; and by that date no less than eleven daimyō, — or "kings," as the Jesuits not inaptly termed them — had become converted. Among these were several very powerful lords. The new creed had made rapid way among the common people also: it was becoming “popular," in the strict meaning of the word.

When Nobunaga rose to power, he favoured the Jesuits in many ways — not because of any sympathy with their creed, for he never dreamed of becoming a Christian, but because he thought that their influence would be of service to him in his campaign against Buddhism. Like the Jesuits themselves, Nobunaga had no scruple about means in his pursuit of ends. More ruthless than William the Conqueror, he did not hesitate to put to death his own brother and his own father-in-law, when they dared to oppose his will. The aid and protection which he extended to the foreign priests, for merely political reasons, enabled them to develop their power to a degree which soon gave him cause for repentance. Mr. Gubbins, in his "Review of the Introduction of Christianity into China and Japan," quotes from a Japanese work, called Ibuki Mogusa, an interesting extract on the subject: —


"Nobunaga now began to regret his previous policy in permitting the introduction of Christianity. He accordingly assembled his retainers, and said to them: 'The conduct of these missionaries in persuading people to join them by giving money, does not please me. How would it be, think you, if we were to demolish Nambanji [The "Temple of the Southern Savages" — so the Portuguese church was called]?' To this Mayéda Tokuzénin replied: ‘It is now too late to demolish the Temple of the Namban. To endeavour to arrest the power of this religion now is like trying to arrest the current of the ocean. Nobles, both great and small, have become adherents of it. If you would exterminate this religion now, there is fear that disturbance should be created among your own retainers. I am therefore of opinion that you should abandon your intention of destroying Nambanji.' Nobunaga in consequence regretted exceedingly his previous action in regard to the Christian religion, and set about thinking how he could root it out."


The assassination of Nobunaga in 1586 may have prolonged the period of toleration. His successor Hidéyoshi, who judged the influence of the foreign priests dangerous, was for the moment occupied with the great problem of centralizing the military power, so as to give peace to the country, But the furious intolerance of the Jesuits in the southern provinces had already made them many enemies, eager to avenge the cruelties of the new creed. We read in the histories of the missions about converted daimyō burning thousands of Buddhist temples, destroying countless works of art, and slaughtering Buddhist priests; — and we find the Jesuit writers praising these crusades as evidence of holy zeal. At first the foreign faith had been only persuasive; afterwards, gathering power under Nobunaga's encouragement, it became coercive and ferocious. A reaction against it set in about a year after Nobunaga's death. In 1587 Hidéyoshi destroyed the mission churches in Kyōto, Ōsaka, and Sakai, and drove the Jesuits from the capital; and in the following year he ordered them to assemble at the port of Hirado, and prepare to leave the country. They felt themselves strong enough to disobey: instead of leaving Japan, they scattered through the country, placing themselves under the protection of various Christian daimyō. Hideyoshi probably thought it impolitic to push matters further: the priests kept quiet, and ceased to preach publicly; and their self-effacement served them well until 1591. In that year the advent of certain Spanish Franciscans changed the state of affairs. These Franciscans arrived in the train of an embassy from the Philippines, and obtained leave to stay in the country on condition that they were not to preach Christianity. They broke their pledge, abandoned all prudence, and aroused the wrath of Hidéyoshi. He resolved to make an example; and in 1597 he had six Franciscans, three Jesuits, and several other Christians taken to Nagasaki and there crucified. The attitude of the great Taiko toward the foreign creed had the effect of quickening the reaction against it, — a reaction which had already begun to show itself in various provinces. But Hideyoshi's death in 1598 enabled the Jesuits to hope for better fortune. His successor, the cold and cautious Iyéyasu, allowed them to hope, and even to reestablish themselves in Kyōto, Ōsaka, and elsewhere. He was preparing for the great contest which was to be decided by the battle of Sekigahara; — he knew that the Christian element was divided, — some of its leaders being on his own side, and some on the side of his enemies; — and the time would have been ill chosen for any repressive policy. But in 1606, after having solidly established his power, Iyéyasu for the first time showed himself decidedly opposed to Christianity by issuing an edict forbidding further mission work, and proclaiming that those who had adopted the foreign religion must abandon it. Nevertheless the propaganda went on — conducted no longer by Jesuits only, but also by Dominicans and Franciscans, The number of Christians then in the empire is said, with gross exaggeration, to have been nearly two millions. But Iyéyasu neither took, nor caused to be taken, any severe measures of repression until 1614, — from which date the great persecution may be said to have begun. Previously there had been local persecutions only, conducted by independent daimyō, — not by the central government. The local persecutions in Kyushu, for example, would seem to have been natural consequences of the intolerance of the Jesuits in the days of their power, when converted daimyō burned Buddhist temples and massacred Buddhist priests; and these persecutions were most pitiless in those very districts — such as Bungo, Ōmura, and Higo — where the native religion had been most fiercely persecuted at Jesuit instigation. But from 1614 — at which date there remained only eight, out of the total sixty-four provinces of Japan, into which Christianity had not been introduced — the suppression of the foreign creed became a government matter; and the persecution was conducted systematically and uninterruptedly until every outward trace of Christianity had disappeared.


The fate of the missions, therefore, was really settled by Iyéyasu and his immediate successors; and it is the part taken by Iyéyasu that especially demands attention. Of the three great captains, all had, sooner or later, become suspicious of the foreign propaganda; but only Iyéyasu could find both the time and the ability to deal with the social problem which it had aroused. Even Hideyoshi had been afraid to complicate existing political troubles by any rigorous measures of an extensive character, Iyéyasu long hesitated. The reasons for his hesitation were doubtless complex, and chiefly diplomatic. He was the last of men to act hastily, or suffer himself to be influenced by prejudice of any sort; and to suppose him timid would be contrary to all that we know of his character. He must have recognized, of course, that to extirpate a religion which could claim, even in exaggeration, more than a million of adherents, was no light undertaking, and would involve an immense amount of suffering. To cause needless misery was not in his nature: he had always proved himself humane, and a friend of the common people. But he was first of all a statesman and patriot; and the main question for him must have been the probable relation of the foreign creed to political and social conditions in Japan. This question required long and patient investigation; and he appears to have given it all possible attention. At last he decided that Roman Christianity constituted a grave political danger and that its extirpation would be an unavoidable necessity. The fact that the severe measures which he and his successors enforced against Christianity — measures steadily maintained for upwards of two hundred years — failed to completely eradicate the creed, proves how deeply the roots had struck. Superficially, all trace of Christianity vanished to Japanese eyes; but in 1865 there were discovered near Nagasaki some communities which had secretly preserved among themselves traditions of the Roman forms of worship, and still made use of Portuguese and Latin words relating to religious matters.


To rightly estimate the decision of Iyéyasu — one of the shrewdest, and also one of the most humane statesmen that ever lived, — it is necessary to consider, from a Japanese point of view, the nature of the evidence upon which he was impelled to act. Of Jesuit intrigues in Japan he must have had ample knowledge — several of them having been directed against himself; — but he would have been more likely to consider the ultimate object and probable result of such intrigues, than the mere fact of their occurrence. Religious intrigues were common among the Buddhists, and would scarcely attract the notice of the military government except when they interfered with state policy or public order. But religious intrigues having for their object the overthrow of government, and a sectarian domination of the country, would be gravely considered. Nobunaga had taught Buddhism a severe lesson about the danger of such intriguing. Iyéyasu decided that the Jesuit intrigues had a political object of the most ambitious kind; but he was more patient than Nobunaga. By 1603 he had every district of Japan under his yoke; but he did not issue his final edict until eleven years later. It plainly declared that the foreign priests were plotting to get control of the government, and to obtain possession of the country: —


“The Kirishitan band have come to Japan, not only sending their merchant-vessels to exchange commodities, but also longing to disseminate an evil law, to overthrow right doctrine, so that they may change the government of the country, and obtain possession of the land. This is the germ of great disaster, and must be crushed....

"Japan is the country of the gods and of the Buddha: it honours the gods, and reveres the Buddha.... The faction of the Bateren1 disbelieve in the Way of the Gods, and blaspheme the true Law, violate right-doing, and injure the good.... They truly are the enemies of the gods and of the Buddha.... If this be not speedily prohibited, the safety of the state will assuredly hereafter be imperilled; and if those who are charged with ordering its affairs do not put a stop to the evil, they will expose themselves to Heaven's rebuke.

"These [missionaries] must be instantly swept out, so that not an inch of soil remains to them in Japan on which to plant their feet; and if they refuse to obey this command, they shall suffer the penalty.... Let Heaven and the Four Seas hear this. Obey!" 2


It will be observed that there are two distinct charges made against the Bateren in this document, — that of political conspiracy under the guise of religion, with a view to getting possession of the government; and that of Intolerance, towards both the Shintō and the Buddhist forms of native worship. The intolerance is sufficiently proved by the writings of the Jesuits themselves. The charge of conspiracy was less easy to prove; but who could reasonably have doubted that, were opportunity offered, the Roman Catholic orders would attempt to control the general government precisely as they had been able to control local government already in the lordships of converted daimyō. Besides, we may be sure that by the time at which the edict was issued, Iyéyasu must have heard of many matters likely to give him a most evil opinion of Roman Catholicism: — the story of the Spanish conquests in America, and the extermination of the West Indian races; the story of the persecutions in the Netherlands, and of the work of the Inquisition elsewhere; the story of the attempt of Philip II to conquer England, and of the loss of the two great Armadas. The edict was issued in 1614, and Iyéyasu had found opportunity to inform himself about some of these matters as early as 1600. In that year the English pilot Will Adams had arrived at Japan in charge of a Dutch ship. Adams had started on this eventful voyage in the year 1598, — that is to say, just ten years after the defeat of the first Spanish Armada, and one year after the ruin of the second. He had seen the spacious times of great Elizabeth — who was yet alive; — he had very probably seen Howard and Seymour and Drake and Hawkins and Frobisher and Sir Richard Grenville, the hero of 1591. For this Will Adams was a Kentish man, who had " serued for Master and Pilott in her Majesties ships...." The Dutch vessel was seized immediately upon her arrival at Kyushu; and Adams and his shipmates were taken into custody by the daimyō of Bungo, who reported the fact to Iyéyasu. The advent of these Protestant sailors was considered an important event by the Portuguese Jesuits, who had their own reasons for dreading the results of an interview between such heretics and the ruler of Japan. But Iyéyasu also happened to think the event an important one; and he ordered that Adams should be sent to him at Osaka. The malevolent anxiety of the Jesuits about the matter had not escaped Iyéyasu’s penetrating observation. They endeavoured again and again to have the sailors killed, according to the written statement of Adams himself, who was certainly no liar; and they had been able in Bungo to frighten two scoundrels of the ship's company into giving false testimony.3 "The lesuites and the Portingalls," wrote Adams, "gaue many euidences against me and the rest to the Emperour [Iyéyasu], that we were theeues and robbers of all nations, and [that] were we suffered to liue, it should be against the profit of his Highnes, and the land.” But Iyéyasu was perhaps all the more favourably inclined towards Adams by the eagerness of the Jesuits to have him killed "crossed [crucified]," as Adams called it, "the custome of iustice in Japan, as hanging is in our land." He gave them answer, says Adams, "that we had as yet not doen to him nor to none of his lande any harme or dam--mage: therefore against Reason and Iustice to put vs to death."... And there came to pass precisely what the Jesuits had most feared, — what they had vainly endeavoured by intimidation, by slander, by all possible intrigue to prevent, — an interview between Iyéyasu and the heretic Adams. "Soe that as soon as I came before him,” wrote Adams, "he demanded of me of what countrey we were: so I answered him in all points; for there was nothing that he demanded not, both concerning warre and peace between countrey and countrey: so that the particulars here to wryte would be too tedious. And for that time I was commanded to prison, being well vsed, with one of our mariners that cam with me to serue me." From another letter of Adams it would seem that this interview lasted far into the night, and that Iyéyasu’s questions referred especially to politics and religion. “He asked," says Adams, “whether our countrey had warres? I answered him yea, with the Spaniards and Portugals — beeing in peace with all other nations. Further he asked me in what I did beleeue? I said, in God, that made heauen and earth. He asked me diverse other questions of things of religion, and many other things: As, what way we came to the country? Having a chart of the whole world, I shewed him through the Straight of Magellan. At which he wondred, and thought me to lie. Thus, from one thing to another, I abode with him till midnight."... The two men liked each other at sight, it appears. Of Iyéyasu, Adams significantly observes: "He viewed me well, and seemed to be wonderful favourable." Two days later Iyéyasu again sent for Adams, and cross-questioned him just about those matters which the Jesuits wanted to remain in the dark. "He demaunded also as conserning the warres between the Spaniard or Portingall and our countrey, and the reasons: the which I gaue him to vnderstand of all things, which he was glad to heare, as it seemed to me. In the end I was commaunded to prisson agein, but my lodging was bettered."... Adams did not see Iyéyasu again for nearly six weeks: then he was sent for, and cross-questioned a third time. The result was liberty and favour. Thereafter, at intervals, Iyéyasu used to send for him; and presently we hear of him teaching the great statesman “some points of jeometry, and understanding of the art of mathematickes, with other things.”... Iyéyasu gave him many presents, as well as a good living, and commissioned him to build some ships for deep-sea sailing. Eventually, the poor pilot was created a samurai, and given an estate. "Being employed in the Emperour's seruice," he wrote, " he hath given me a liuing, like vnto a lordship in England, with eightie or ninetie husbandmen that be as my slaues or seruents: the which, or the like president [precedent], was neuer here before geven to any stranger."... Witness to the influence of Adams with Iyéyasu is furnished by the correspondence of Captain Cock, of the English factory, who thus wrote home about him in 1614: "The truth is the Emperour esteemeth hym much, and he may goe in and speake with hym at all times, when kynges and princes are kept ovt."4 It was through this influence that the English were allowed to establish their factory at Hirado. There is no stranger seventeenth-century romance than that of this plain English pilot, — with only his simple honesty and common-sense to help him, — rising to such extraordinary favour with the greatest and shrewdest of all Japanese rulers. Adams was never allowed, however, to return to England, — perhaps because his services were deemed too precious to lose. He says himself in his letters that Iyéyasu never refused him anything that he asked for,5 except the privilege of revisiting England: when he asked that, once too often, the "ould Emperour" remained silent.


The correspondence of Adams proves that Iyéyasu disdained no means of obtaining direct information about foreign affairs in regard to religion and politics. As for affairs in Japan, he had at his disposal the most perfect system of espionage ever established; and he knew all that was going on. Yet he waited, as we have seen, fourteen years before he issued his edict. Hideyoshi's edict was, indeed, renewed by him in 1606; but that referred particularly to the public preaching of Christianity; and while the missionaries outwardly conformed to the law, he continued to suffer them within his own dominions. Persecutions were being carried on elsewhere; but the secret propaganda was also being carried on, and the missionaries could still hope. Yet there was menace in the air, like the heaviness preceding storms. Captain Saris, writing from Japan in 1613, records a pathetic incident which is very suggestive. "I gaue leaue," he says, “to divers women of the better sort to come into my Cabbin, where the picture of Venus, with her sonne Cupid, did hang somewhat wantonly set out in a large frame. They, thinking it to bee Our Ladie arid her sonne, fell downe and worshipped it, with shewes of great deuotion, telling me in a whispering manner (that some of their own companions, which were not so, might not heare), that they were Christianos: whereby we perceived them to be Christians, conuerted by the Portugall lesuits."... When Iyéyasu first took strong measures, they were directed, not against the Jesuits, but against a more imprudent order, — as we know from Adams's correspondence. "In the yeer 1612," he says, "is put downe all the sects of the Franciscannes, The Jesouets hau what priuiledge... theare beinge in Nangasaki, in which place only may be so manny as will of all sectes: in other places not so many permitted...." Roman Catholicism was given two more years' grace after the Franciscan episode.

Why Iyéyasu should have termed it a "false and corrupt religion," both in his Legacy and elsewhere, remains to be considered. From the Far-Eastern point of view he could scarcely have judged it otherwise, after an impartial investigation. It was essentially opposed to all the beliefs and traditions upon which Japanese society had been founded. The Japanese State was an aggregate of religious communities, with a God-King at its head; — the customs of all these communities had the force of religious laws, and ethics were identified with obedience to custom; filial piety was the basis of social order, and loyalty itself was derived from filial piety. But this Western creed, which taught that a husband should leave his parents and cleave to his wife, held filial piety to be at best an inferior virtue. It proclaimed that duty to parents, lords, and rulers remained duty only when obedience involved no action opposed to Roman teaching, and that the supreme duty of obedience was not to the Heavenly Sovereign at Kyōto, but to the Pope at Rome. Had not the Gods and the Buddhas been called devils by these missionaries from Portugal and Spain? Assuredly such doctrines were subversive, no matter how astutely they might be interpreted by their apologists. Besides, the worth of a creed as a social force might be judged from its fruits. This creed in Europe had been a ceaseless cause of disorders, wars, persecutions, atrocious cruelties. This creed, in Japan, had fomented great disturbances, had instigated political intrigues, had wrought almost immeasurable mischief. In the event of future political trouble, it would justify the disobedience of children to parents, of wives to husbands, of subjects to lords, of lords to shogun. The paramount duty of government was now to compel social order, and to maintain those conditions of peace and security without which the nation could never recover from the exhaustion of a thousand years of strife. But so long as this foreign religion was suffered to attack and to sap the foundations of order, there never could be peace.... Convictions like these must have been well established in the mind of Iyéyasu when he issued his famous edict. The only wonder is that he should have waited so long.

Very possibly Iyéyasu, who never did anything by halves, was waiting until Christianity should find itself without one Japanese leader of ability. In 1611 he had information of a Christian conspiracy in the island of Sado (a convict mining-district) whose governor, Ōkubo, had been induced to adopt Christianity, and was to be made ruler of the country if the plot proved successful. But still Iyéyasu waited. By 1614 Christianity had scarcely even an Okubo to lead the forlorn hope. The daimyō converted in the sixteenth century were dead or dispossessed or in banishment; the great Christian generals had been executed; the few remaining converts of importance had been placed under surveillance, and were practically helpless.

The foreign priests and native catechists were not cruelly treated immediately after the proclamation of 1614. Some three hundred of them were put into ships and sent out of the country, — together with various Japanese suspected of religious political intrigues, such as Takayama, former daimyō of Akashi, who was called "Justo Ucondono" by the Jesuit writers, and who had been dispossessed and degraded by Hidéyoshi for the same reasons. Iyéyasu set no example of unnecessary severity. But harsher measures followed upon an event which took place in 1615, — the very year after the issuing of the edict. Hidéyori, the son of Hideyoshi, had been supplanted — fortunately for Japan — by Iyéyasu, to whose tutelage the young man had been confided. Iyéyasu took all care of him, but had no intention of suffering him to direct the government of the country, — a task scarcely within the capacity of a lad of twenty-three. In spite of various political intrigues in which Hidéyori was known to have taken part, Iyéyasu had left him in possession of large revenues, and of the strongest fortress in Japan, — that mighty castle of Osaka, which Hidéyoshi’s genius had rendered almost impregnable. Hidéyori, unlike his father, favoured the Jesuits: and he made the castle a refuge for adherents of the "false and corrupt sect." Informed by government spies of a dangerous intrigue there preparing, lyeyasu resolved to strike; and he struck hard. In spite of a desperate defence, the great fortress was stormed and burnt — Hidéyori perishing in the conflagration. One hundred thousand lives are said to have been lost in this siege. Adams wrote thus quaintly of Hidéyori’s fate, and the results of his conspiracy: —

"Hee mad warres with the Emperour.... allso by the Jessvits and Ffriers, which mad belleeue he should be fauord with mirrackles and wounders; but in fyne it proued the contrari. For the ould Emperour against him pressentlly maketh his forces reddy by sea and land, and compasseth his castell that he was in; although with loss of multitudes on both sides, yet in the end rasseth the castell walles, setteth it on fyre, and burneth hym in it. Thus ended the warres. Now the Emperour heering of thees Jessvets and friers being in the castell with his ennemis, and still from tym to tym agaynst hym, coumandeth all romische sorte of men to depart ovt of his countri — thear churches pulld dooun, and burned. This folowed in the ould Emperour's daies. Now this yeear, 1616, the old Emperour he died. His son raigneth in his place, and hee is more hot agaynste the romish relligion then his ffather wass: for he hath forbidden thorough all his domynions, on paine of deth, none of his subjects to be romish christiane; which romish seckt to prevent eueri wayes that he maye, he hath forbidden that no stranger merchant shall abid in any of the great citties."...

The son here referred to was Hidetada, who, in 1617, issued an ordinance sentencing to death every Roman priest or friar discovered in Japan, — an ordinance provoked by the fact that many priests expelled from the country had secretly returned, and that others had remained to carry on their propaganda under various disguises. Meanwhile, in every city, town, village, and hamlet throughout the empire, measures had been taken for the extirpation of Roman Christianity. Every community was made responsible for the existence in it of any person belonging to the foreign creed; and special magistrates, or inquisitors, were appointed, called Kirishitan-bugyō, to seek out and punish members of the prohibited religion.6 Christians who freely recanted were not punished, but only kept under surveillance: those who refused to recant, even after torture, were degraded to the condition of slaves, or else put to death. In some parts of the country, extraordinary cruelty was practised, and every form of torture used to compel recantation. But it is tolerably certain that the more atrocious episodes of the persecution were due to the individual ferocity of local governors or magistrates — as in the case of Takénaka Unémé-no-Kami, who was compelled by the government to perform harakiri for abusing his powers at Nagasaki, and making persecution a means of extorting money. Be that as it may, the persecution at last either provoked, or helped to bring about a Christian rebellion in the daimiate of Arima, — historically remembered as the Shimabara Revolt. In 1636 a host of peasants, driven to desperation by the tyranny of their lords the daimyō of Arima and the daimyō of Karatsu (convert-districts) rose in arms, burnt all the Japanese temples in their vicinity, and proclaimed religious war. Their banner bore a cross; their leaders were converted samurai. They were soon joined by Christian refugees from every part of the country, until their numbers swelled to thirty or forty thousand. On the coast of the Shimabara peninsula they seized an abandoned castle, at a place called Hara, and there fortified themselves. The local authorities could not cope with the uprising; and the rebels more than held their own until government forces, aggregating over 160,000 men, were despatched against them. After a brave defence of one hundred and two days, the castle was stormed in 1638, and its defenders, together with their women and children, put to the sword. Officially the occurrence was treated as a peasant revolt; and the persons considered responsible for it were severely punished; — the lord of Shimabara (Arima) was further sentenced to perform harakiri. Japanese historians slate that the rising was first planned and led by Christians, who designed to seize Nagasaki, subdue Kyushu, invite foreign military help, and compel a change of government; — the Jesuit writers would have us believe there was no plot. One thing certain is that a revolutionary appeal was made to the Christian element, and was largely responded to with alarming consequences. A strong castle on the Kyushu coast, held by thirty or forty thousand Christians, constituted a serious danger, — a point of vantage from which a Spanish invasion of the country might have been attempted with some chance of success. The government seems to have recognized this danger, and to have despatched in consequence an overwhelming force to Shimabara, If foreign help could have been sent to the rebels, the result might have been a prolonged civil war. As for the wholesale slaughter, it represented no more than the enforcement of Japanese law: the punishment of the peasant revolting against his lord, under any circumstances whatever, being death. So far as concerns the policy of such massacre, it may be remembered that, with less provocation, Nobunaga exterminated the Tendai Buddhists at Hiyei-san. We have every reason to pity the brave men who perished at Shimabara, and to sympathize with their revolt against the atrocious cruelty of their rulers. But it is necessary, as a simple matter of justice, to consider the whole event from the Japanese political point of view.

The Dutch have been denounced for helping to crush the rebellion with ships and cannon: they fired, by their own acknowledgment, 426 shot into the castle. However, the extant correspondence of the Dutch factory at Hirado proves beyond question that they were forced, under menace, to thus act. In any event, it would be difficult to discover a good reason for the merely religious denunciations of their conduct, — although that conduct would be open to criticism from the humane point of view. Dutchmen could not reasonably have refused to assist the Japanese authorities in suppressing a revolt, merely because a large proportion of the rebels happened to profess the religion which had been burning alive as heretics the men and women of the Netherlands. Very possibly, not a few persons of kin fo those very Dutch had suffered in the days of Alva. What would have happened to all the English and Dutch in Japan, if the Portuguese and Spanish clergy could have got full control of government, ought to be obvious.


With the massacre of Shimabara ends the real history of the Portuguese and Spanish missions. After that event, Christianity was slowly, steadily, implacably stamped out of visible existence. It had been tolerated, or half-tolerated, for only sixty-five years: the entire history of its propagation and destruction occupies a period of scarcely ninety years. People of nearly every rank, from prince to pauper, suffered for it; thousands endured tortures for its sake  — tortures so frightful that even three of those Jesuits who sent multitudes to useless martyrdom were forced to deny their faith under the infliction;7 and tender women, sentenced to the stake, carried their little ones with them into the fire, rather than utter the words that would have saved both mother and child. Yet this religion, for which thousands vainly died, had brought to Japan nothing but evil: disorders, persecutions, revolts, political troubles, and war. Even those virtues of the people which had been evolved at unutterable cost for the protection and conservation of society, — their self-denial, their faith, their loyalty, their constancy and courage, — were by this black creed distorted, diverted, and transformed into forces directed to the destruction of that society. Could that destruction have been accomplished, and a new Roman Catholic empire have been founded upon the ruins, the forces of that empire would have been used for the further extension of priestly tyranny, the spread of the Inquisition, the perpetual Jesuit warfare against freedom of conscience and human progress. Well may we pity the victims of this pitiless faith, and justly admire their useless courage: yet who can regret that their cause was lost?... Viewed from another standpoint than that of religious bias, and simply judged by its results, the Jesuit effort to Christianize Japan must be regarded as a crime against humanity, a labour of devastation, a calamity comparable only, — by reason of the misery and destruction which it wrought, — to an earthquake, a tidal-wave, a volcanic eruption.

The policy of isolation, — of shutting off Japan from the rest of the world, — as adopted by Hidetada and maintained by his successors, sufficiently indicates the fear that religious intrigues had inspired. Not only were all foreigners, excepting the Dutch traders, expelled from the country; all half-breed children of Portuguese or Spanish blood were also expatriated, Japanese families being forbidden to adopt or conceal any of them, under penalties to be visited upon all the members of the household disobeying. In 1636 two hundred and eighty-seven half-breed children were shipped to Macao. It is possible that the capacity of half-breed children to act as interpreters was particularly dreaded; but there can be little doubt that, at the time when this ordinance was issued, race-hatred had been fully aroused by religious antagonism. After the Shimabara episode all Western foreigners, without exception, were regarded with unconcealed distrust.8 The Portuguese and Spanish traders were replaced by the Dutch (the English factory having been closed some years previously); but even in the case of these, extraordinary precautions were taken. They were compelled to abandon their good quarters at Hirado, and transfer their factory to Deshima, — a tiny island only six hundred feet long, by two hundred and forty feet wide. There they were kept under constant guard, like prisoners; they were not permitted to go among the people; no man could visit them without permission, and no woman, except a prostitute, was allowed to enter their reservation under any circumstances. But they had a monopoly of the trade of the country; and Dutch patience endured these conditions, for the profit's sake, during more than two hundred years. Other commerce with foreign countries than that maintained by the Dutch factory, and by the Chinese, was entirely suppressed. For any Japanese to leave Japan was a capital offence; and any one who might succeed in leaving the country by stealth, was to be put to death upon his return. The purpose of this law was to prevent Japanese, sent abroad by the Jesuits for missionary training, from returning to Japan in the disguise of laymen. It was forbidden also to construct ships capable of long voyages; and all ships exceeding a dimension fixed by the government were broken up. Lookouts were established along the coast to watch for strange vessels; and any European ships entering a Japanese port, excepting the ships of the Dutch company, were to be attacked and destroyed.


The great success at first achieved by the Portuguese missions remains to be considered. In our present comparative ignorance of Japanese social history, it is not easy to understand the whole of the Christian episode. There are plenty of Jesuit missionary records; but the Japanese contemporary chronicles yield us scanty information about the missions — probably for the reason that an edict was issued in the seventeenth century interdicting, not only all books on the subject of Christianity, but any book containing the words Christian or Foreign. What the Jesuit books do not explain, and what we should rather have expected Japanese historians to explain, had they been allowed, is how a society founded on ancestor-worship, and apparently possessing immense capacity for resistance to outward assault, could have been so quickly penetrated and partly dissolved by Jesuit energy. The question of all questions that I should like to see answered, by Japanese evidence, is this: To what extent did the missionaries interfere with the ancestor-cult? It is an important question. In China, the Jesuits were quick to perceive that the power of resistance to proselytism lay in ancestor-worship; and they shrewdly endeavoured to tolerate it, somewhat as Buddhism before them had been obliged to do. Had the Papacy supported their policy, the Jesuits might have changed the history of China; but other religious orders fiercely opposed the compromise, and the chance was lost. How far the ancestor-cult was tolerated by the Portuguese missionaries in Japan is a matter of much sociological interest for investigation. The supreme cult was, of course, left alone, for obvious reasons. It is difficult to suppose that the domestic cult was attacked then as implacably as it is attacked now by Protestant and Roman Catholic missionaries alike; — it is difficult to suppose, for example, that converts were compelled to cast away or to destroy their ancestral tablets. On the other hand, we are yet in doubt as to whether many of the poorer converts — servants and other common folk — possessed a domestic ancestor-cult. The outcast classes, among whom many converts were made, need not be considered, of course, in this relation. Before the matter can be fairly judged, much remains to be learned about the religious condition of the heimin during the sixteenth century. Anyhow, whatever methods were followed, the early success of the missions was astonishing. Their work, owing to the particular character of the social organization, necessarily began from the top: the subject could change his creed only by permission of his lord. From the outset this permission was freely granted. In some cases the people were officially notified that they were at liberty to adopt the new religion; in other cases, converted lords ordered them to do so. It would seem that the foreign faith was at first mistaken for a new kind of Buddhism; and in the extant official grant of land at Yamaguchi to the Portuguese mission, in 1552, the Japanese text plainly states that the grant (which appears to have included a temple called Daidōji) was made to the strangers that they might preach "the Law of Buddha” — Buppō shōryō no tamé. The original document is thus translated by Sir Ernest Satow, who reproduced it in facsimile: —


"With respect to Daidōji in Yamaguchi Agata, Yoshiki department, province of Suwō. This deed witnesses that I have given permission to the priests who have come to this country from the Western regions, in accordance with their request and desire, that they may found and erect a monastery and house in order to develope the Law of Buddha.

"The 28th day of the 8th month of the 21st year of Tembun.


“[August Seal]" 9


If this error [or deception?] could have occurred at Yamaguchi, it is reasonable to suppose that it also occurred in other places. Exteriorly the Roman rites resembled those of popular Buddhism: the people would have observed but little that was unfamiliar to them in the forms of the service, the vestments, the beads, the prostrations, the images, the bells, and the incense. The virgins and the saints would have been found to resemble the aureoled Boddhisattvas and Buddhas; the angels and the demons would have been at once identified with the Tennin and the Oni. All that pleased popular imagination in the Buddhist ceremonial could be witnessed, under slightly different form, in those temples which had been handed over to the Jesuits, and consecrated by them as churches or chapels. The fathomless abyss really separating the two faiths could not have been perceived by the common mind; but the outward resemblances were immediately observable. There were furthermore some attractive novelties. It appears, for example, that the Jesuits used to have miracle-plays performed in their churches for the purpose of attracting popular attention.... But outward attractions of whatever sort, or outward resemblances to Buddhism, could only assist the spread of the new religion; they could not explain the rapid progress of the propaganda.

Coercion might partly explain it, — coercion exercised by converted daimyō upon their subjects. Populations of provinces are known to have followed, under strong compulsion, the religion of their converted lords; and hundreds perhaps thousands of persons must have done the same thing through mere habit of loyalty. In these cases it is worth while to consider what sort of persuasion was used upon the daimyō. We know that one great help to the missionary work was found in Portuguese commerce, — especially the trade in firearms and ammunition. In the disturbed state of the country preceding the advent to power of Hidéyoshi, this trade was a powerful bribe in religious negotiation with provincial lords. The daimyō able to use firearms would necessarily possess some advantage over a rival lord having no such weapons; and those lords able to monopolize the trade could increase their power at the expense of their neighbours. Now this trade was actually offered for the privilege of preaching; and sometimes much more than that privilege was demanded and obtained. In 1572 the Portuguese presumed to ask for the whole town of Nagasaki, as a gift to their church, — with power of jurisdiction over the same; threatening, in case of refusal, to establish themselves elsewhere. The daimyō, Ōmura, at first demurred, but eventually yielded; and Nagasaki then became Christian territory, directly governed by the Church. Very soon the fathers began to prove the character of their creed by furious attacks upon the local religion. They set fire to the great Buddhist temple, Jinguji, and attributed the fire to the "wrath of God," — after which act, by the zeal of their converts, some eighty other temples, in or about Nagasaki, were burnt. Within Nagasaki territory Buddhism was totally suppressed, — its priests being persecuted and driven away. In the province of Bungo the Jesuit persecution of Buddhism was far more violent, and conducted upon an extensive scale. Ōtomo Sōrin Munéchika, the reigning daimyō, not only destroyed all the Buddhist temples in his dominion (to the number, it is said, of three thousand), but had many of the Buddhist priests put to death. For the destruction of the great temple of Hikōzan, whose priests were reported to have prayed for the tyrant's death, he is said to have maliciously chosen the sixth day of the fifth month (1576), — the festival of the Birthday of the Buddha!

Coercion, exercised by their lords upon a docile people trained to implicit obedience, would explain something of the initial success of the missions; but it would leave many other matters unexplained: the later success of the secret propaganda, the fervour and courage of the converts under persecution, the long-continued indifference of the chiefs of the ancestor-cult to the progress of the hostile faith.... When Christianity first began to spread through the Roman empire, the ancestral religion had fallen into decay, the structure of society had lost its original form, and there was no religious conservatism really capable of successful resistance. But in the Japan of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the religion of the ancestors was very much alive; and society was only entering upon the second period of its yet imperfect integration. The Jesuit conversions were not made among a people already losing their ancient faith, but in one of the most intensely religious and conservative societies that ever existed. Christianity of any sort could not have been introduced into such a society without effecting structural disintegrations, — disintegrations, at least, of a local character. How far these disintegrations extended and penetrated we do not know; and we have yet no adequate explanation of the long inertia of the native religious instinct in the face of danger.

But there are certain historical facts which appear to throw at least a side-light upon the subject. The early Jesuit policy in China, as established by Ricci, had been to leave converts free to practise the ancestral rites. So long as this policy was followed, the missions prospered. When, in consequence of this compromise, dissensions arose, the matter was referred to Rome. Pope Innocent X decided for intolerance by a bull issued in 1645; and the Jesuit missions were thereby practically ruined in China. Pope Innocent's decision was indeed reversed the very next year by a bull of Pope Alexander VIII; but again and again contests were raised by the religious bodies over this question of ancestor-worship, until in 1693 Pope Clement XI definitively prohibited converts from practising the ancestral rites under any form whatsoever.... All the efforts of all the missions in the Far East have ever since then failed to advance the cause of Christianity. The sociological reason is plain.

We have seen, then, that up to the year 1645 the ancestor-cult had been tolerated by the Jesuits in China, with promising results; and it is probable that an identical policy of tolerance was maintained in Japan during the second half of the sixteenth century. The Japanese missions began in 1549, and their history ends with the Shimabara slaughter in 1638, — about seven years before the first Papal decision against the tolerance of ancestor-worship. The Jesuit mission-work seems to have prospered steadily, in spite of all opposition, until it was interfered with by less cautious and more uncompromising zealots. By a bull issued in 1585 by Gregory XIII, and confirmed in 1600 by Clement III, the Jesuits alone were authorized to do missionary-work in Japan; and it was not until after their privileges had been ignored by Franciscan zeal that trouble with the government began. We have seen that in 1593 Hidéyoshi had six Franciscans executed. Then the issue of a new Papal bull in 1608, by Paul V, allowing Roman Catholic missionaries of all orders to work in Japan, probably ruined the Jesuit interests. It will be remembered that Iyéyasu suppressed the Franciscans in 1612, — a proof that their experience with Hidéyoshi had profited them little. On the whole, it appears more than likely that both Dominicans and Franciscans recklessly meddled with matters which the Jesuits (whom they accused of timidity) had been wise enough to leave alone, and that this interference hastened the inevitable ruin of the missions.

We may reasonably doubt whether there were a million Christians in Japan at the beginning of the seventeenth century: the more probable claim of six hundred thousand can be accepted. In this era of toleration the efforts of all the foreign missionary bodies combined, and the yearly expenditure of immense sums in support of their work, have enabled them to achieve barely one-fifth of the success attributed to their Portuguese predecessors, upon a not incredible estimate. The sixteenth-century Jesuits were indeed able to exercise, through various lords, the most forcible sort of coercion upon whole populations of provinces; but the modern missions certainly enjoy advantages educational, financial, and legislative, much outweighing the doubtful value of the power to coerce; and the smallness of the results which they have achieved seems to require explanation. The explanation is not difficult. Needless attacks upon the ancestor-cult are necessarily attacks upon the constitution of society; and Japanese society instinctively resists these assaults upon its ethical basis. For it is an error to suppose that this Japanese society has yet arrived even at such a condition as Roman society presented in the second or third century of our era. Rather it remains at a stage resembling that of a Greek or Latin society many centuries before Christ. The introduction of railroads, telegraphs, modern arms of precision, modern applied science of all kinds, has not yet sufficed to change the fundamental order of things. Superficial disintegrations are rapidly proceeding; new structures are forming; but the social condition still remains much like that which, in southern Europe, long preceded the introduction of Christianity.


Though every form of religion holds something of undying truth, the evolutionist must classify religions. He must regard a monotheistic faith as representing, in the progress of human thought, a very considerable advance upon any polytheistic creed; monotheism signifying the fusion and expansion of countless ghostly beliefs into one vast concept of unseen omnipotent power. And, from the standpoint of psychological evolution, he must of course consider pantheism as an advance upon monotheism, and must further regard agnosticism as an advance upon both. But the value of a creed is necessarily relative; and the question of its worth is to be decided, not by its adaptability to the intellectual developments of a single cultured class, but by its larger emotional relation to the whole society of which it embodies the moral experience. Its value to any other society must depend upon its power of self-adaptation to the ethical experience of that society. We may grant that Roman Catholicism was, by sole virtue of its monotheistic conception, a stage in advance of the primitive ancestor-worship. But it was adapted only to a form of society at which neither Chinese nor Japanese civilization had arrived, — a form of society in which the ancient family had been dissolved, and the religion of filial piety forgotten. Unlike that subtler and incomparably more humane creed of India, which had learned the secret of missionary-success a thousand years before Loyola, the religion of the Jesuits could never have adapted itself to the social conditions of Japan; and by the fact of this incapacity the fate of the missions was really decided in advance. The intolerance, the intrigues, the savage persecutions carried on, — all the treacheries and cruelties of the Jesuits, — may simply be considered as the manifestations of such incapacity; while the repressive measures taken by Iyéyasu and his successors signify sociologically no more than the national perception of supreme danger. It was recognized that the triumph of the foreign religion would involve the total disintegration of society, and the subjection of the empire to foreign domination.


Neither the artist nor the sociologist, at least, can regret the failure of the missions. Their extirpation, which enabled Japanese society to evolve to its type-limit, preserved for modern eyes the marvellous world of Japanese art, and the yet more marvellous world of its traditions, beliefs, and customs. Roman Catholicism, triumphant, would have swept all this out of existence. The natural antagonism of the artist to the missionary may be found in the fact that the latter is always, and must be, an unsparing destroyer. Everywhere the developments of art are associated in some sort with religion; and by so much as the art of a people reflects their beliefs, that art will be hateful to the enemies of those beliefs. Japanese art, of Buddhist origin, is especially an art of religious suggestion, — not merely as regards painting and sculpture, but likewise as regards decoration, and almost every product of æsthetic taste. There is something of religious feeling associated even with the Japanese delight in trees and flowers, the charm of gardens, the love of nature and of nature's voices, — with all the poetry of existence, in short. Most assuredly the Jesuits and their allies would have ended all this, every detail of it, without the slightest qualm. Even could they have understood and felt the meaning of that world of strange beauty, — result of a race-experience never to be repeated or replaced, — they would not have hesitated a moment in the work of obliteration and effacement. To-day, indeed, that wonderful art-world is being surely and irretrievably destroyed by Western industrialism. But industrial influence, though pitiless, is not fanatic; and the destruction is not being carried on with such ferocious rapidity but that the fading story of beauty can be recorded for the future benefit of human civilization.


1 Bateren, a corruption of the Portuguese padre, is still the term used for Roman Catholic priests, of any denomination.

2 The entire proclamation, which is of considerable length, has been translated by Satow, and may be found in Vol VI, part I, ot the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan.

3 "Daily more and more the Portugalls incensed the justices and the people against vs. And two of our men, as traytors, gaue themselves in seruice to the king [daimyō], beeing all in all with the Portugals, hauing by them their hues warranted. The one was called Gilbert de Conning, whose mother dwelleth at Middleborough, who gaue himself out to be marchant of all the goods in the shippe. The other was called Iohn Abelson Van Owater. These traitours sought all manner of waves to get the goods into their hands, and made known vnto them all things that had passed in our voyage. Nine dayes after our arriuall, the great king of the land [Iyéyasu] sent for me to come vnto him.” — Letter of Will Adams to his wife.

4 ”It has plessed God to bring things to pass, so as in ye eyes of ye world [must seem] strange, for the Spaynnard and Portingall hath bin my bitter enemies to death, and now theay must seek to me, an unworthy wretch; for the Spaynard as well as the Portingall must haue all their negosshes [negotiations] go thorough my hand," — Letter of Adams dated January 12, 1613.

5 Even favours for the people who had sought to bring about his death. "I pleased him so," wrote Adams, "that what I said he would not contrane. At which my former enemies did wonder; and at this time must entreat me to do them a friendship, which to both Spaniards and Portingals have I doen: recompencing them good for eulll. So, to passe my time to get my liuing, it hath cost mee great labour and trouble at the first, but God hath blessed my labour."

6 It should be borne in mind that none of these edicts were directed against Protestant Christianity; the Dutch were not considered Christians in the sense of the ordinances, nor were the English. The following extract from a typical village, Kumichō, or code of communal regulations, shows the responsibility imposed upon all communities regarding the presence in their midst of Roman Catholic converts or believers: — "Every year, between the first and the third month, we will renew our Shūmonchō. If we know of any person who belongs to a prohibited sect, we will immediately inform the Daikwan... Servants and labourers shall give to their masters a certificate declaring that they are not Christians. In regard to persons who have been Christians, but have recanted, — if such persons come to or leave the village, we promise to report it.” — See Professor Wigmore's Notes on Land-Tenure and Local Institutions in Old Japan.

7 Francisco Caasola, Pedro Marquez, and Giuseppe Chiara. Two of these — probably under compulsion — married Japanese women. For their after-history, see a paper by Satow in the Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, Vol. VI, Part I.

8 The Chinese traders, however, were allowed much more liberty than the Dutch.

9 In the Latin and Portuguese translations, or rather pretended translations of this document, there is nothing about preaching the Law of Buddha; and there are many things added which do not exist in the Japanese text at all. See Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan (Vol. VIII, Part II) for Satow's comment on this document and the false translations made of it.

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