Everywhere the course of human civilization has been shaped by the same evolutional law; and as the earlier history of the ancient European communities can help us to understand the social conditions of Old Japan, so a later period of the same history can help us to divine something of the probable future of the New Japan. It has been shown by the author of La Cite Antique that the history of all the ancient Greek and Latin communities included four revolutionary periods.* The first revolution had everywhere for its issue the withdrawal of political power from the priest-king; who was nevertheless allowed to retain the religious authority. The second revolutionary period witnessed the breaking up of the gens or (Greek genos). the enfranchisement of the client from the authority of the patron, and several important changes in the legal constitution of the family. The third revolutionary period saw the weakening of the religious and military aristocracy, the entrance of the common people into the rights of citizenship, and the rise of a democracy of wealth, - presently to be opposed by a democracy of poverty. The fourth revolutionary period witnessed the first bitter struggles between rich and poor, the final triumph of anarchy, and the consequent establishment of a new and horrible form of despotism, - the despotism of the popular Tyrant.
[*Not excepting Sparta. The Spartan society was evolutionally much in advance of the Ionian societies; the Dorian patriarchal clan having been dissolved at some very early period. Sparta kept its Kings; but affairs of civil justice were regulated by the Senate, and affairs of criminal justice by the ephors, who also had the power to declare war and to make treaties of peace. After the first great revolution of Spartan history the King was deprived of power in civil matters, in criminal matters, and in military matters: he retained his sacerdotal office. See for details. La Cite Antique, pp, 285-287.]
To these four revolutionary periods, the social history of Old Japan presents but two correspondences. The first Japanese revolutionary period was represented by the Fujiwara usurpation of the imperial civil and military authority, - after which event the aristocracy, religious and military, really governed Japan down to our own time. All the events of the rise of the military power and the concentration of authority under the Tokugawa Shogunate properly belong to the first revolutionary period. At the time of the opening of Japan, society had not evolutionally advanced beyond a stage corresponding to that of the antique Western societies in the seventh or eighth century before Christ. The second revolutionary period really began only with the reconstruction of society in 1871. But within the space of a single generation thereafter, Japan entered upon her third revolutionary period. Already the influence of the elder aristocracy is threatened by the sudden rise of a new oligarchy of wealth, - a new industrial power probably destined to become omnipotent in politics. The disintegration (now proceeding) of the clan, the changes in the legal constitution of the family, the entrance of the people into the enjoyment of political rights, must all tend to hasten the coming transfer of power. There is every indication that, in the present order of things, the third revolutionary period will run its course rapidly; and then a fourth revolutionary period, fraught with serious danger, would be in immediate prospect.
Consider the bewildering rapidity of recent changes, - from the reconstruction of society in 1871 to the opening of the first national parliament in 1891. Down to the middle of the nineteenth century the nation had remained in the condition common to European patriarchal communities twenty-six hundred years ago: society had indeed entered upon a second period of integration, but had traversed only one great revolution. And then the country was suddenly hurried through two more social revolutions of the most extraordinary kind, - signalized by the abolition of the daimiates, the suppression of the military class, the substitution of a plebeian for an aristocratic army, popular enfranchisement, the rapid formalism of a new commonalty. industrial expansion, the rise of a new aristocracy of wealth, and popular representation in government! Old Japan had never developed a wealthy and powerful middle class: she had not even approached that stage of industrial development which, in the ancient European societies, naturally brought about the first political struggles between rich and poor. Her social organization made industrial oppression impossible: the commercial classes were kept at the bottom of society, - under the feet even of those who, in more highly evolved communities, are most at the mercy of money-power. But now those commercial classes, set free and highly privileged, are silently and swiftly ousting the aristocratic ruling-class from power, - are becoming supremely important. And under the new order of things, forms of social misery, never before known in the history of the race, are being developed. Some idea of this misery may be obtained from the fact that the number of poor people in Tokyo unable to pay their annual resident-tax is upwards of 50,000; yet the amount of the tax is only about 20 sen, or 5 pence English money. Prior to the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a minority there was never any such want in any part of Japan, - except, of course, as a temporary consequence of war.