Privy Council vs. Cabinet in Japan

Courtesy Reuters

WITHIN the last two years the Japanese Privy Council has twice opposed acts of the Cabinet which enjoyed the general support of the Japanese nation. In one case it compelled the Government to repudiate its signature of the clause "in the name of their respective peoples" in the Pact of Paris; in the other it embarrassed the Government by prolonged discussion of its procedure in the signature of the London Naval Treaty. In the former instance a Seiyukai cabinet was the object of attack, in the latter the ministry was Minseito. The Privy Council is no respecter of persons other than the Emperor.

The criticisms of the Privy Council which are voiced almost daily in the Japanese press are part of the aftermath of the manhood suffrage act, but the cue to their current intensity may be found in the extraordinary popularity enjoyed by the Minseito ministry, particularly the confidence generally exhibited in Premier Hamaguchi and Foreign Minister Shidehara. Hamaguchi, a powerful figure in his own right, is a courageous standard-bearer of the principle of parliamentary government. The people of Japan relish the leadership of a fighter; and although they are essentially conservative, the acquaintance with world affairs which they are gaining from the newspapers is influencing them in favor of the internationalist point of view. In recent controversies the Cabinet has been upholding this view against the Privy Council.

Liberalism is always relative to other circumstances. In the Japanese elections of 1930 (even making due allowance for Home Minister Adachi's cleverness as election manager) the landslide which overwhelmed what non-partisan critics rated as "the worst government Japan ever had" was an expression of liberalism. Home Minister Suzuki, in engineering the 1928 election for the Seiyukai, had been no less clever than Adachi and had enjoyed as great financial resources, but he had failed to secure more than a bare plurality. In 1930 the voters changed to a leadership which they believed to be more progressive and more in harmony with the trend of

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