HERBERT SPENCER'S ADVICE TO JAPAN
Some five years ago I was told by an American professor, then residing in Tokyo, that after Herbert Spencer's death there would be published a letter of advice, which the philosopher had addressed to a Japanese statesman, concerning the policy by which the Empire might be able to preserve its independence. I was not able to obtain any further information; but I felt tolerably sure, remembering the statement regarding Japanese social disintegration in "First Principles" (section 178), that the advice would prove to have been of the most conservative kind. As a matter of fact it was even more conservative than I had imagined.
Herbert Spencer died on the morning of December 8th, 1903 (while this book was in course of preparation); and the letter, addressed to Baron Kaneko Kentaro, under circumstances with which the public have already been made familiar, was published in the London Times of January 18th, 1904.
FAIRFIELD, PEWSEY, WILTS,
Aug. 26, 1892.
MY DEAR SIR, - Your proposal to send translations of my two letters* to Count Ito, the newly-appointed Prime Minister, is quite satisfactory. I very willingly give my assent.
[*These letters have not as yet been made public.]
Respecting the further questions you ask, let me, in the first place, answer generally that the Japanese policy should, I think, be that of keeping Americans and Europeans as much as possible at arm's length. In presence of the more powerful races your position is one of chronic danger, and you should take every precaution to give as little foothold as possible to foreigners.
It seems to me that the only forms of intercourse which you may with advantage permit are those which are indispensable for the exchange of commodities - importation and exportation of physical and mental products. No further privileges should be allowed to people of other races, and especially to people of the more powerful races, than is absolutely needful for the achievement of these ends. Apparently you are proposing by revision of the treaty with the Powers of Europe and America "to open the whole Empire to foreigners and foreign capital." I regret this as a fatal policy. If you wish to see what is likely to happen, study the history of India. Once let one of the more powerful races gain a point d'appui and there will inevitably in course of time grow up an aggressive policy which will lead to collisions with the Japanese; these collisions will be represented as attacks by the Japanese which must be avenged, as the case may be; a portion of territory will be seized and required to be made over as a foreign settlement; and from this there will grow eventually subjugation of the entire Japanese Empire. I believe that you will have great difficulty in avoiding this fate in any case, but you will make the process easy if you allow of any privileges to foreigners beyond those which I have indicated.
In pursuance of the advice thus generally indicated, I should say, in answer to your first question, that there should be, not only a prohibition of foreign persons to hold property in land, but also a refusal to give them leases, and a permission only to reside as annual tenants.
To the second question I should say decidedly prohibit to foreigners the working of the mines owned or worked by Government. Here there would be obviously liable to arise grounds of difference between the Europeans or Americans who worked them and the Government, and these grounds of quarrel would be followed by invocations to the English or American Governments or other Powers to send forces to insist on whatever the European workers claimed, for always the habit here and elsewhere among the civilized peoples is to believe what their agents or sellers abroad represent to them.
In the third place, in pursuance of the policy I have indicated, you ought also to keep the coasting trade in your own hands and forbid foreigners to engage in it. This coasting trade is clearly not included in the requirement I have indicated as the sole one to be recognized - a requirement to facilitate exportation and importation of commodities. The distribution of commodities brought to Japan from other places may be properly left to the Japanese themselves, and should be denied to foreigners, for the reason that again the various transactions involved would become so many doors open to quarrels and resulting aggressions.