Parliamentarianism as facilitating the natural order of the unity of the ethical state and society
Torio’s parliamentarianism, however, was not merely the product of the discourse on public opinion. There is a second undercurrent discernable in the language of the memorial on the Genro-in, and Torio’s thought in general, which clarifies how he was able to balance an emphasis on state policy reflecting public opinion and yet also his explicit rejection of popular sovereignty in favor for sovereignty held exclusively by the Emperor. This was the concept of naturalism, of natural law. Torio sought to turn the tables on liberal thought by redefining liberal terms, and especially the concept of natural law used initially to justify the limitation of state intervention into society and potentially opening the way to value-pluralism and
Public opinion under imperial benevolence 85 republicanism challenging the cherished place of the Emperor. Torio, in his political writings of the 1880s and 1890s, defines natural law as the universal truth of Confucian social relations and the karmic cause and effect of Buddhist law.40 The embrace of the discourse on law hinted at in his memorial on the Genro-in also likely facilitated the communication of his ideas with the aforementioned enlightenment thinkers Tsuda, a noted legal scholar, and Kato, whose social Darwinist thought had not yet matured at this stage and whose earlier political view had been grounded in a conception of natural law, albeit one very different from the conception espoused by Torio.
For Torio, a popularly elected assembly was a mechanism for the nation to conform to the natural law of the universe, which would lead to stability and happiness for the people of the realm. Public opinion served not merely to legitimate the power of the state but primarily as a necessary guide for the function of this benevolent government. Torio argued for an assembly which could integrate both of these ideals of public opinion and Confucian-Buddhist natural law. And the two ideals became axial principles providing a standard for critiquing the state as refined in his 1878 political treatise Kingly Law. Adopting a reformulated discourse on “natural law” was another way in which the conservative Torio was able to participate in the public sphere and interact and communicate with fundamentally differing viewpoints in the debate over the nature of a constitutional system appropriate for Japan. Torio used a culturally domesticated “natural law” based on “Eastern philosophy” to show a system of ethical laws must be suited to human thriving as determined by human nature and its natural passions. This was a hard truth which could not be arbitrarily manipulated by the oligarchy or the liberal parties.41
Like other advocates of the “National Essence Preservation Movement,” such as Torio’s associate, general Tani Tateki, Torio was angered by the oligarchy’s drive for nation-building and military strength at the expense of the general welfare of the people. Governance guided by natural law should conform to the ethical natural order. Yet, "civilization and enlightenment” suppressed the natural sentiments of human nature. Westernization was unnatural and may go against the needs of the people and their stability, which must be the first priority of the state. Torio used the metaphor of a river that must be allowed to flow naturally. If dammed improperly, the river can overflow in unpredictable and destructive directions, suggesting that rapid national development may be counterproductive.42
A similar concern also comes out strongly in his views of education. Torio denounced the modernizing education policy of the oligarchy geared toward rapid national development. This approach, he cautioned, sacrificed the self-realization of a person's true human nature. Education cannot impose the desires of the educators onto children. Torio argues that the people are not mere tools of the state and denounces the “for the state, we should do anything” attitude of many reformers, stating, “people are not puppets to be manipulated from above.” Education must conform to human nature and its natural sentiments and passions. To force an unnatural development would do irreparable harm to the people of the nation. Natural law reflected the natural order and served as the foundation of ethics and the standard of judging governance.43 As a result, the presentation of the fundamental principles of the constitutional state based on his understanding of natural laws also allowed Torio to justify his ideal communal ethics as the natural order to which all citizen-subjects must conform.
Torio’s development of his concept of natural law (tennen shizen no hô occurred during the prominence of liberal concepts of society during the Meiji period and can be seen as a response to liberal influenced legal thought as introduced and popularized by Tsuda Mamichi and Nishi Amane, members of the Meiroku-sha “enlightenment” society mentioned above. Tsuda and Nishi had been sent by the Tokugawa shogunal government to study under Simon Vissering at Leiden from 1863 to 1865. Central to the education received from Vissering was his concept of natural law, which Nishi described as being “rooted in man’s nature, that is why it is called natural law.”44 However, under Vissering’s influence these two legal thinkers came to promote a division between subjective morals, and governance and law. Kiri Paramore explains that Tsuda and Nishi came to argue that:
natural law ... was different to human nature, in that while human nature was a moral state that related one's own conduct, natural law related to one’s relations with others, and was therefore concerned with what was just or unjust. Morals and law were therefore divided, and the ultimate status of natural law was described by Vissering as allowing freedom to the extent that the freedom of another is not hindered. Assisting people in poverty or sickness, or saving others in danger, was “a matter of morals, not of natural law.”45
Nishi saw the liberal ideals of Vissering as consistent with early, pure Confucianism and that later schools of neo-Confucianism had erroneously sought to fuse subjective morals and law. Nishi wrote that it was the post-Zhu Xi neo-Confucians who sought to equate morality and governance, "making true one’s intention and rectifying the mind as wanting to equalize all under heaven,” a description which suited the neo-Confucian and Zen naturalism of Torio.46
By grounding his political worldview on the laws of Confucian relations, the cultivation of a human nature which intrinsically understood morality and Buddhist karmic law of cause and effect, Torio sought to legitimize a holistic conception of social law as unified with morality, uniting governance and a universal morality determined by human nature. This concern for presenting Eastern tradition as describing rational laws which explained society and were legitimately consistent with the natural world was part of broader effort in the late 1880s to prove that Confucianism and Buddhism were integral elements of “Eastern philosophy” that could hold its own against Western social and natural philosophy, and were in fact its superiors.47 Torio’s Kingly Law, in which he equates natural law with Confucianism and Buddhism, was a treatise which sought to offset the strength of liberal thought by redefining natural law not as limited government and individualistic value-pluralism, but rather as communal ethics buttressed by religious metaphysics which governed both the universe and the ideal social state.
Natural law was a reflection of laws of morality most suited to human nature. For Torio, the base of morality was the law of human interactions. Morality was the reciprocation of the two virtues of empathy and the knowledge of right and wrong.48 People are already equipped with the tools to engage in moral behavior, and these tools are found in seijô 1Ê‘B, which is human nature and its range of human emotions. A disciplined human nature can effectively harness the emotions and if the seijô of the people is correct, then the fundamental principles of morality can be achieved. The work of true “civilization and enlightenment” was the complete advancement of this empathy and knowledge implemented thr ough education.49
In his writings throughout the 1880s from Kingly Way onward, Torio sought to redefine the terms of liberalism such as freedom, autonomy, and equality to align with these Confucian and Buddhist concepts. In his Buddhist formulation, liberty and autonomy were the agency to pursue moral cultivation and the responsibility of reaping the consequences of one’s actions in the context of the laws of the universe which were most conducive to ethics and morality.50 The law was realized through action, and each individual receives the effects of these actions. According to Torio, autonomy was used to realize the law, and freedom to follow the way. The people had the right to exert themselves to fulfill their own nature and not harm others. Their obligations were to maintain their own responsibility.51 As opposed to the liberal concepts introduced by proponents of Western “civilization and enlightenment,” Torio rejected the concept of fundamental subjective differences between individuals and with it the need for the liberty explore these subjective differences in thought and values. True freedom was the ability to discover pre-set universal laws true for everyone and which guided the goals of life and the direction of self-cultivation.