Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Law > 183. Hirobumi Itō

183.  Hirobumi Itō (1841-1909).  Teikoku kenpō, Kōshitsu tenpan gige [Commentaries on the Constitution of the Empire of Japan and Imperial ordinance]. Tokyo: Kokka Gakkai, 1889. Arthur W. Diamond Law Library, Toshiba Library for Japanese Legal Research

The Constitution of the Empire of Japan, Japan's first constitution, was promulgated in 1889, after two decades of careful studies on the constitutions of the United States and Europe, in particular that of Germany. With this constitution Japan was to set forth the foundation of a modern state. However, the articles concerning the emperor and the state were still deeply rooted in Japan's old Shinto tradition. The Emperor is sacred and inviolable (Article III). The Emperor is the head of the Empire, combining in himself the rights of sovereignty, and exercises them, according to the provisions of the present Constitution. (Article IV). Hirobumi Itō, who became the first prime minister of Japan in 1885, played a leading role towards the adoption of this monarchism. In this commentary wrote Itō, "The Sacred Throne of Japan is inherited from Imperial Ancestors, and it is to be bequeathed to posterity; in it resides the power to reign over and govern the State" (Itō, Miyoji, tr.Commentaries on the Constitution of the Empire of Japan). After the promulgation of the constitution, Kotarō Kaneko, a graduate of Harvard Law School and one of the draftsmen of the constitution, visited with the translated edition prominent legal scholars in Europe and the United States, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. The reactions were generally positive and approving. The Toshiba Library also houses the translated edition.

Gift of the Family of Justice Jiro Tanaka, 1982

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