John Bingham on Japan (1895)

Bingham was our Ambassador to Japan from 1873 to 1885, and I recently came across this prophetic comment that he made to a Cincinnati newspaper after his retirement:

“I doubt very much whether Japan can realize the present anticipations of her future prosperity if she persists in a career of military and unjustifiable territorial aggression.  That’s always a risky experiment, and rarely comes to good.”

I’m still trying to figure out if Bingham’s work as a diplomat sheds any light on his prior career.

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2 Responses

  1. A.J. Sutter says:

    By “prophetic” are you suggesting that Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution limiting military activity is the source of Japanese prosperity?

    Are you instead saying that Japan has not come to good?

    Or are you furthering the contemporary trend to read what happens in Japan as an allegory about, and as an anticipation of events in, the US?

  2. Rod Armstrong says:

    Bingham was a “Radical Republican” as a Congressman from Ohio, and the principal author of the 14th Amendment. He lost his seat in 1872, and Grant appointed him as Minister to Japan in 1873. He was unsuccessful in getting the appointment shifted to Mexico, but after coming to Japan apparently fell in love with the country. He was an Anglophobe and deplored what he saw as the bullying of the Japanese by Great Britain under the terms of the “unequal treaties” that provided for extraterritoriality for foreigners in Japan and deprived Japan of control over her own tariffs. He served as Minister for twelve years fighting all the while for treaty revision (with limited success). His tenure through 1885 was longer than any other chief of mission we have had in Japan; the post-WWII record was ten years by the late Mike Mansfield.

    Bingham’s regard for the sensibilities of the rising Japan of the late 19th century has left him with a high reputation in Japan. The remarks quoted above are prophetic of Japan’s failed imperialism that left her defeated and devastated in 1956.

    I would love to get a cite to the newspaper and date of the quote.