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The Old Badger Essay

1639 words - 7 pages

"The Old Badger"

A proven lawmaker, Tokugawa Ieyasu Shogun received the nickname "The Old Badger" for his contributions to the prosperity of Japan in the seventeenth century. His memoirs, entitled "Legacy of Ieyasu," advanced the society of Japan for centuries through the betterment of those who would succeed him. Esteemed twentieth-century scholars, such as George Sansom and Edwin O. Reischauer, explore the success of Ieyasu’s controversial imperial legal codes and the effects they had on the history of Japan in Makers of World History. Through the instructions of Ieyasu and the studies of today’s scholars, it can be established that Ieyasu was, conceptually, a good ruler; however, ...view middle of the document...

Ieyasu’s views of the relationship between a lord and his vassal emphasized the significance of such a respect, stating the notable lessons of the Chinese ceremonial book, Li Chi, and its lesson of the distinction between a man’s wife and his favorite concubine. Ieyasu valued the faithfulness of his subjects, especially his warriors, because he felt that any man who could not set apart the distinction between the two women could lead a great nation to its demise (75).

Ieyasu also emphasized the importance of benevolence and good personal conduct in a successful leader. He spoke of the human compassion his successors must take for their subjects, and vice versa, in order to make the country prosper:

If the lord is not filled with compassion for his people and the people are not mindful of the care of their lord, even though the government is not a bad one, yet rebellions will naturally follow. But if the lords love Benevolence, then there will be no enemies in the Empire. (72)

Like any good leader, Ieyasu valued the ideal which urges the "Supreme Sovereign of the Empire" to look upon his subjects not only as followers, but also as children from whom he must obtain support and respect in order to succeed (75). He characterized Benevolence as a distinction between inferior and superior, thus the difference between the unfaithful Tozama Daimyos or "Outside Lords" and the dependable Fudai Daimyos who were his hereditary family (76-77).

According to his third basic principle, Ieyasu stressed the importance of a set structure of vassalage. Ieyasu clarified the inferior and superior concept by stating that if a man is supported by his retainers, he has ultimate control of his country; however, he cautioned that not everyone can be a trustworthy character (72). He stressed the need for constant mobility between the fiefs of the Tozama and the Fudai, stating that this fundamental would allow his successors to control angry lords and unruly vassals merely by their unfamiliarity with their surroundings (73). Ieyasu felt that only the trustworthy should succeed the shogunate, even if the unrighteous subject is the leader’s son and successor. Along with this principle, Ieyasu gave "official stipends and rank only if they [lords] conduct themselves properly" (74).

Ieyasu’s final principle dealt with the ever-powerful role of the military, especially in the vital trading port of Nagasaki. He cautioned his successors, stating that the role of a military did not always have to end in mortal combat, but if war were inevitable, the sword should be handled correctly, for it is the soul of the warrior. According to Ieyasu, "The right use of a sword is that it should subdue the barbarians while lying gleaming in its scabbard" (73). Ieyasu also stated the importance of rulers keeping level heads and using controlled substances with extreme caution, for those who could not hold their offices responsibly should be "deprived of office and commit suicide"...

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