Mr. Hubbard to Mr. Bayard.
Tokio, January 13, 1888. (Received February 9.)
Sir: I have the honor herewith to transmit to the Department of State copies of “Imperial Ordinance No. 75,” embodying certain amendments and alterations in the “Newspaper Regulations” of this Empire. While the Government has by the Imperial rescript issued on the 25th December, 1887 (forwarded to the Department in my dispatch No. 419), strengthened its powers against political agitators, they have almost contemporaneously, to a large and gratifying extent, struck the fetters [Page 1065] which bound the press, and thus widened the sphere for usefulness and power of this great promoter of civilization and just government. The punishments for the violation of certain articles (to wit, articles 1, 3, 4,16,17, and 18) of the former press regulations have all been reduced, being in most cases for the same denned offenses only about half as severe as formerly imposed. In some cases the reduction of punishments are even greater than that just designated. In article 31, for example, for the publication of articles tending to disturb the present form of government, the punishment has been reduced from imprisonment for from one to three years and a fine of from 100 to 300 yen to imprisonment for from two months to two years and a fine of from 50 to 300 yen. In this connection it is also gratifying to observe that the old article of the press regulations which prohibited the proprietor, editor, or printer of any newspaper which had been suppressed from acting in a similar capacity for two years has been entirely expunged, as well as several other articles of the old repressive rules imposing seemingly harsh and onerous punishments.
Taken as a whole, these new regulations in liberality are far in advance of the old ones and as such deserve and will receive the earnest welcome of all the treaty powers. It is a decided step to the front and towards what we are pleased to call the “liberty of the Press,” as defined in England and America. While this step may seem to be, and in fact is, hesitating and timidly cautious, when viewed from the standpoint of the great English-speaking countries, yet appreciating as we should the difficulties under which this Government has labored, and the courage with which it has cut loose from the traditions of ignorant superstitions and the tyranny of feudal days in its wonderful strides toward higher national standards, and what real and unprecedented advances have been made within the past one-third of a century—a mere moment of time compared with the centuries of progress and ripening civilization of western nations—when these and other obvious conditions are regarded, the promulgation of such an imperial ordinance enlarging the liberties of the press may properly be welcomed as the harbinger of a brighter day for the people and the Government of the Empire.
I have, etc.,