Discourse of Three Drunkards on Government by N. Chomin

Nakae Chomin, the author of A Discourse of Three Drunkards on Government, was born in 1847. His book was published in1887. This was at a time when Japan had prioritized modernization under the leadership of the Samurai (Meiji Government). Chomin’s book consists of a conversation amongst three people on the different views and directions that Japan ought to take. The debaters included “The Gentleman of Western Learning”, “The Champion and Nankai, acting as a mediator (Chomin 19).

The Gentleman believes in defense idealism and thus suggests the abolishment of the Military and the use of moral approaches to national security. These ideas are clearly impractical. On the other hand, the Champion advocates for the conquering of a nation, specifically in Asia or Africa, in order to strengthen Japan so that she may be able to avoid being subjected to Western powers. This suggestion is both practical and harmful as evidenced in post-war Japan. As the name suggests, the Gentleman has been greatly influenced by the western ideologies, and his ideas are about safeguarding the interests of the Western powers. At the time of writing the book, the Western powers were suggesting pacifism and diplomacy in Japan. This was however impractical given the prevailing unstable conditions. Nations were conquering other nations to strengthen themselves. Here, Chomin may be seen to have used a touch of irony since the French believed in bloodshed at the time. They were advocating for pacifism and yet their national anthem praised the martial art, indicating a possible support for war (Chomin 23).

The champion advocates for the identification of a strategic country to conquer. He represents the military ideas of Japan. The idea to conquer Japan’s neighbors is a reasonable one, considering his advocacy for military action that was paramount at the time. However, the champion ignores the possibility of intervention by other countries. His suggestion is harmful. This is confirmed when Japan wins the 1895 war against China and goes ahead to impose terms in their favor. The attempt to impose the terms leads to an intervention by Russia, Prussia and France limiting the power of Japan over China (Chomin 48).

Nankai talks about forming a trade agreement with China instead of conquering it. He is of the opinion that the Champion and the Gentlemen are excessively concerned about the acquisition of colonies. Nankai was right since Japan was far from being a potential colony. The Gentleman’s suggestion of pacifism could be seen as an expression of fear of the military potential of Japan or the protection of colonial targets of the Western powers. On the other hand, the Champion’s suggestion of military action could be seen as move to protect Japan from subordination and empower her for acquisition of colonies. Therefore, Nankai’s work satirizes the conquest contest of the Western powers and Eastern countries. Nankai sees the destructive potential of the territorial conquest of these two regions. The value of his work is increased by a confirmation of his fears. Two decades after his work, the First World War started, with Germany’s territorial greed being a substantial trigger. The Second World War also followed as a result of the conflicts of the First World War and power contests by nations. The Meiji Constitution followed in 1889, two years after Nakae’s book (Chomin 34).

The Meiji constitution was made in disagreement with the ideas of the Gentleman. The establishment of the Emperor in the Meiji constitution was in disagreement with the gentleman’s ideas of liberty and equality. Article 20 of Chapter II requires Japanese subjects to comply with military duties assigned to them. This is the opposite of the Gentleman’s suggestion about Pacifism. The above stated Meiji Constitution issues are in conformance with the ideas of the Champion. This is actually what Chomin expected. He chose the Character of the Champion to represent the Japanese ideas of military power and acquisition of more subjects. It can thus be concluded that the constitution embodied the ideas of Chomin’s book. This is because is description of the intention of the Japanese was portrayed in the Meiji Constitution. The military choice of Japan had many repercussions during the twentieth century. Although Japan was victorious in the First World War, she was valued during the treaty of Versailles. The main participants were the U.S., France, the U.K. and Japan but Japan was looked down upon (Gordon 118). Japan also failed to secure a racial equity clause in the League of Nations that resulted in the 1924 declaration by the U.S. that barred Japanese immigration. These hard feelings between Japan and the U.S. continued until the 1940’s when Japanese Military attacked U.S. navy in Port Harbor. This led to Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings that affected Japan adversely (“Constitution of The Empire of Japan, 1889,” 1- 3)

Chomin’s analysis of the political status of Japan and the forces to which the political environment was subjected was perfect. This is evidenced by the fact that Japan chose the “Champions” choice over the “Gentleman’s” choice in the Meiji constitution and the fact that Chomin’s opinion, that the Western power and Japan were being overly concerned about acquisition of subjects, was confirmed by the repercussions of the fight over colonies.

Works Cited

Chomin, Nakae. A Discourse By Three Drunkards on Government. New York: Weatherhill, 1984. Print.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.

The Meiji Constitution. “Constitution of The Empire of Japan, 1889,” Web.