Chitsuroku-shobun (Abolition Measure of Hereditary Stipend) (秩禄処分)
Chitsuroku-shobun was a policy of complete abolition of hereditary stipend implemented by the Meiji government in 1876. Chitsuroku was a collective name for two stipends, Karoku which was paid to nobles and feudal lords in hereditary and Shotenroku which was paid to people who rendered distinguished services for the Meiji Restoration.
Financial affairs during the early Meiji period
The 15th shogun, Yoshinobu TOKUGAWA carried out Taisei Hokan (the policy of returning power to the emperor) in 1867, and Bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) was overthrown, and then the Meiji government was established in compliance with the Restoration of Imperial Rule. The Meiji government suffered from a financial problem from the beginning due to a cost of the Boshin War which they fought against former retainers of shogun, and they could secure a right of owning land of only 800 koku (Japanese unit of volume, and 1 koku was defined as enough rice quantity to feed one person for one year) out of Japan's entire land, 3,000 koku. Moreover, they could not secure enough force strength to bear down on feudal lords, so they had to allow feudal lords to continuously rule their domains.
The feudal political system during the Edo period was organized and maintained based on the stipend system in which a domain lord gave hereditary stipends to his vassals, but even after the Meiji period, this hereditary stipend was succeeded as Karoku and paid to samurai warriors. In 1869, the Meiji government spent a total of 745,750 koku plus 203,376 ryo (Japanese currency unit) to pay Shotenroku, a special privilege for people who rendered distinguished services for the restoration, and payment of Karoku, stipends paid to nobles and samurai warriors, accounted for more than 30% of government's total expenditure.
The Meiji government had to proceed a reform of the stipend system so as to secure enough finances for other reforms such as centralization of power. According to the idea of equality of all Japanese people, samurai warriors' privileges should be abolished, and their sense of perquisite was a bottleneck in military reforms.
The government announced implementation of reforms to samurai warriors of every domain, and made them report their financial condition. Job titles and laws of all domains were unified, and the title of the warrior class was changed to "Shizoku". After Hanseki-hokan (the reform of returning lands and people to the emperor) was implemented under the leadership of Toshimichi OKUBO and Takayoshi KIDO (Kogoro KATSURA) in 1869, the government became a distributor of Karoku, and the stipend system was controlled by the Ministry of Finance. In 1870, the government carried out a reform of the stipend system for nobles.
Argument on reforms of the stipend system by Rusu-seifu (the government while head officers were away)
After the government implemented Haihan-chiken (abolition of feudal domains and establishment of prefectures) in April, 1871, the traditional feudal domain system was abolished and feudal lords were controlled by the government. In October, the Iwakura Mission was dispatched for the purpose of revising unequal treaties which Japan had signed with foreign countries at the end of the Edo period, and the reform of stipend was implemented by Rusu-seifu. The Vice-minister of Finance, Kaoru INOUE handled the issue of the stipend reform on behalf of the minister of finance, Toshimichi OKUBO, and he suggested a drastic reform plan while he was proceeding a land-tax reform. INOUE's reform plan was reported by the Junior Assistant Minister of Finance, Kiyonari YOSHIDA to OKUBO and the Vice-minister of Industry, Hirobumi ITO, but Tomomi IWAKURA and Takayoshi KIDO did not agree with ITO's plan because it was too drastic, and they ended discussion on his plan. On the other hand, Rusu-seifu made a list of stipend recipients in 1871, thus integrating the stipend payment system, which had been multifactorial.
Some people were opposed to the policies of Rusu-seifu including reforms of the stipend system, and peasant uprisings occurred in many places. In Rusu-seifu, a former feudal retainer of Satsuma and a councilor, Takamori SAIGO and his supporters asserted Seikanron (an opinion to dispatch troops to Korea), and some members of Rusu-seifu insisted that the stipend system should be maintained to conciliate the warrior class, thus preventing the Satsuma warriors from exploding. In January, 1873, a conscription system was enforced, and due to this new system, necessity of the stipend system was gone.
The reform of the stipend system under the OKUBO cabinet.
In the same year, the Mission came back to Japan, and SAIGO and the administrator of Ministry of Justice, Shinpei ETO resigned from their post due to the political upheaval of the 6th year of Meiji triggered by Seikanron. After such a political turmoil was concluded, the government started an argument on the reform of the stipend system again in November, and proposed a new tax which would be imposed upon Karoku as a transitional measure until complete abolition of the stipend, and a Karoku returning system which was conceived by Shigenobu OKUMA. IWAKURA and ITO insisted that further careful argument was required, and KIDO was opposed to the reform, but the government decided on a concrete plan. In December, the government argued this issue again, and issued an edict of Dajokan (Grand Council of state). The government also established a policy that enabled the issuance of government bonds, which would be supplied to Karoku recipients according to their stipend amount if they voluntarily refunded their stipend.
The government tried to win understanding of the worrier class by determining the amount of the tax on Karoku depending on ranks of Karoku, and assuring that collected money would be used as military funds. Karoku refunding system was a system in which the government gave funds for starting business or farming to the warrior class who had refunded their Karoku voluntarily, and the government tried to make the warrior class be engaged in a job and boost economical efficiency. This policy was accepted by most of the people, but some people disagreed with a usage of tax money, and some complained about a flat tax amount which ignored regional disparities, and some were afraid of social disruption caused by warriors who failed in getting a job.
After the land-tax reform, farmers had to pay tax by cash, some prefectures started to pay Karoku by cash instead of rice quantity, and fluctuation of rice price caused social chaos and frustration of people. The government issued an edict of Daijokan No.138 on September 7, 1875 which enforced a change of a payment method of the stipend into by cash. Subsequently, OKUMA persuaded the Grand Minister, Sanetomi SANJO to agree with proceeding Chitsuroku-shobun. Despite KIDO's opposition, OKUMA issued an edict of Daijokan No.108 on August 5, 1876 which enforced complete abolition of the stipend and an issuance of Kinroku-kosai Shosho Jorei (regulation of Kinroku government securities) for introducing Kinroku government securities. Following this edict, hereditary stipends were converted into money amount (the original amount of Kinroku [stipend in cash]) according to a tax amount of each prefecture in 1875. And based on this exchange rate, amounts of the public bond was decided and a change to the public bond system was forcibly exercised from the next year.
Shizoku no hanran (revolts by former samurai warriors) and Shizoku jusan (a policy which helped former warriors get a job)
Like peasant uprising caused by the land-tax reform, revolts by former samurai warriors, such as Shimpuren-no-ran War (turmoil of Shimpuren, a dissatisfied warrior group) and the Seinan War (1877), were led by former warriors who suffered from drastic reduction of their income caused by Chitsuroku-shobun. However, some people insists that most of the former warriors who joined the revolts had criticized the government since before the issuance of the public bond, and their reason for joining the revolts was not Chitsuroku-shobun. As a remedy for former warriors, the government implemented a policy of Shizoku jusan, and launched development of Hokkaido by ex-legionary.
But still, after Chitsuroku-shobun, samurai warriors had to struggle against hard living. The per-diem rate of interest of Kinroku government securities is said to have been only one third of the lowest wages of workers in Tokyo (in case of a bond for lower-class warriors, which bore an interest of 7% per year), and many former warriors had to sell their bonds to cover living expenses. An report issued by Tottori Prefecture in 1882, which said that 90% of all the former warriors had already sold their public bonds, verified this fact. According to the statistics in 1883, only 37.6% of about 418,000 former warriors could become a government employee (including a military man) or an eligible voter who could vote for prefectural assemblies (person who could pay tax of more than 5 yen). In other words, two third of all the former warriors were ruined.