Privy Council (Japan)

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Established in 1888 during the Meiji Restoration, the Privy Council of Japan was intended to be a body to give independent advice to the Emperor of Japan. The 1889 Constitution assigned it to "“deliberate upon important matters of State, when they have been consulted by the Emperor.” It was abolished in the 1947 Constitution.

Article 56 of the 1889 constitution read: “The Emperor, on the one hand, maintains the supreme control of administrative affairs through the medium of the Cabinet, while on the other, he has established the Privy Council, so that in His wisdom He may have at command its assistance, and that the information He obtains may be thorough and impartial." In other words, it was deliberative while the Cabinet was operational.

"At the beginning the Japanese privy council comprised 15 councillors, all over 40, who were to advise the emperor and act as his go-between with the parliament. With prominent, influential figures on it, the council was a relatively equal body with the parliament and cabinet, and served the same elite. For example, the rival genro Hirabumi Ito and Prince Aritomo Yamagata both rotated several times between the prime ministership and the chairmanship of the privy council.

"But as the party system developed and parties delineated, the privy council, expanded to 24 members, became a rival locus of power, and was seen by the 1920s as an obstacle to the Diet and the parties strengthening their hold on government. Eventually the parties prevailed and the council’s power faded. " [1] After the February 26, 1936 Incident, a Privy Council meeting, with Hirohito in attendance, recommended quick and secret trials for the mutineers.

Once the party system ended in 1940, however, the Privy Council was sometimes useful to Hirohito. For example, they studied what Japan called the "Hull Memorandum" of 27 November 1941, arguing with Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo that it was not an ultimatum. [2]