honored one, I offer this comment with grave regret that it shall even be received, for in his Excellency's well intentioned attempt to seek the advice of the more sagacious residents of Kyoto and Edo, he is playing into the hands of the barbarians whose own societies are marked with the spilled blood of noble rulers, instigated when words of dissent were expressed in writing. The Americans, whose black ships now dot the horizon in the Bay of Uraga, are presently ruled by the descendents of that generation that penned a doctrine of disloyalty and dissent in their effort to justify the chaos that gave them advantage in their homeland.
The subject before us is not one that should be given over to public scrutiny. This consideration of proper course is not an entertainment, not an exercise of intellect, as over time became the case of the Forty-seven Ronin. In inviting all factions to put forth their thoughts, his Excellency has asked them to take the whetstone to their swords. And once these swords are sharpened, will they peacefully be placed back in their scabbards without proving their keenness?
To open or not open our borders, our ports, and our coffers to the advances of the western barbarians is now a point past consideration. The influence of the west is already upon us; for in inviting dissent, for in allowing unrest to foment, we have taken their customs as our own. Idle thoughts, political pontifications passed while drinking saki are quickly forgotten when the sun rises in the morning. Words spoken bind no man to one ideology or another, but to put them to paper with official seal, makes those words now part of one's honor.
I do not believe that the great Tokugawa emperors in their vision of perpetuity saw their descendents as becoming a nation of quarreling shopkeepers. Back in the early days of peaceful times there was not always abundance. Yes, when the poor are hungry, they are discontent, but in the old days their discontent was with the heavens for failing to give the crops sufficient sun, was with Mt. Fuji for blocking the rain-laden clouds. Today, the unfortunate don't seek redress from the heavens, but blame his Excellency and the others of our class for their empty bellies.
It is absurd to think that entertaining Perry as our equal and entering in trade alliances will abate the hunger of our peasants. It is hard for me to imagine that if these westerners had such bounty within their own borders they would they be willing to risk life and limb to take what resources we have, which by all accounts they must realize are not enough for our own people. Once the canon of the western ships open fire, will we be more likely to band together to fight the barbarians, or will we be more like weak children in the face of a bully -- far more willing to fight among ourselves instead, while the barbarians laugh at what they have wrought?
His Excellency should not think that even the samurai are of one mind. While the loudest voices belong to those who urge our adoption of western ways, they may not represent the majority whose sense of decorum forbids their open dissent. There are many who would fall on their swords before they would use those swords to shear their topknots.
The fact is that our choice has already been made; our borders if not open are porous. The great age of peace has passed. We should thank divine heaven that two centuries of peace and prosperity with little interruption were ours. At the same time we should recognize that such wasn't the natural order, but an aberration that must sadly pass, as all that is ordered ultimately falls to chaos. No longer can we think about preserving what was or returning to what is no more, but must salvage what we can. This means finding ways to unify the people of our lands, restore the social order so that the blood of our most noble rulers and samurai do not become tainted by reckless congress so as to produce a nation of bastards who are neither one thing nor the other. We cannot pick and chose those things western which we admire and eschew the rest. In adopting any one thing western we tell of our sense of inferiority. In coveting those western instruments that measure time, we offer evidence of dissatisfaction with the old way of orienting our day to the rising and setting sun. In admiring their ships with their giant hulls for plunder, we are admitting to the inadequacy of our way of self-reliance
Though the honorable Tokugawa Chikusai of the province of Ise be of the merchant class, he has written with the intelligence of one who has both feet on the earth, and what fault I can find with him has more to do with the class he represents, rather than the stratagems he offers which are steeped in the wisdom of Sun Tzu. He is motivated not by a quest for power but like all of his class the desire for riches, and he sees more advantage to him in a stable and strong Japan, rather than as a plunderer taking advantage of chaos.
We have not the military might to engage the foreigners, barely have we enough to squelch any rebellion of the peasants, as we have seen. Tokugawa Chikusai is of the mind that in ten years we can build our forces to be equal to that of the Americans or the Russians who pose the most immediate threat, --the Europeans being busy in asserting their wills in other lands. We can expect that once the Europeans have their fill of naval adventure, they will again turn their attention on America to reclaim that which was theirs, before they seek to invade our borders. For though the British seem to be having their way with China and India, the cost to them can't help but bring to question the value of their conquest. The Russians I fear provide the greatest threat as they have built such a fierce naval force that we can no longer expect the Dutch to hold them in check. Chikusai suggests that our own efforts at trade shall provide enough wealth to build our defenses. I do not clearly see this, but as he is one who has made his fortune dealing in such matters of the world, I would defer to the wisdom of his assumption.
Let us invite the foreigners in as if they were welcome guests; let us invite them in while they still feel that they must obey our rules of etiquette. Let us offer them assistance as they might need and let us fill the hulls of their ships with what goods they find value. It is not our land that they seek, but the produce of our people. The American, Perry is not a young warrior who swells his chest because he wishes to take our women and be bowed to as a conquering lord. He does not wish to adorn his masts with the heads of our samurai. He will be satisfied to return home and boast that he cast out the rule of sakoku, that the Japanese opened their doors to him. Let us not give them the chance to measure the power or the weakness of our resistance by our inciting hostile action. Let them who live such volatile lives continue to wonder how it is that for 200 years our borders have not been compromised. Let us act with a sense of willingness rather than one of submission, that we may be regarded as a player in the game rather than a game piece to be manipulated.
But let us not proceed in any reckless wholesale fashion. Instead let us appease them a piece at a time as we appeased the Dutch by opening the port of Nagasaki. Let us yield and graciously open Hakodate and Shimoda to the American Perry, as his superior guns will open them by force at any rate. Let us not engage in foolish acts of subterfuge as others have suggested. These are battle-hardened sailors who as Tokugawa Chikusai says, could teach us a thing or two about trickery and violence. They will not allow us on the strength of pretext to wet down their gunpowder, nor grow lax enough if we ply them with saki and manly diversions to allow us to rout them and burn their ships.
Let us take advantage of the length of time allowed us through this process of appeasement and the months required to cross and re-cross the ocean to reunify our people, to make all who are our nation realize that our people divided are vulnerable to even the weakest of predators, that our people divided have as much to fear from vultures as we do from…