Charter Oath

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The Charter Oath was an early predecessor to a Meiji Constitution, and constituted the basic policies of the new Meiji government in five points, announced on 1868/3/14.

The document was based on a draft by Kido Kôin, who composed it based on drafts by Yuri Kimimasa (1829-1909) of Echizen and Fukuoka Takachika (1835-1919) of Tosa.

In all three versions, governance was to be done by a committee of daimyô from a number of (or all) domains, and not solely or chiefly by leaders from Satsuma and Chôshû. All three also emphasized the importance of free and open discussion (kôron) over closed-door private decisions, and that officials should hold their posts only for limited terms, such that talented men could be regularly brought anew into the positions. All three also featured the idea that "high and low" (samurai and common people) work together on economic and financial matters, and that "knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to broaden and strengthen the foundation of imperial rule."[1]

Kido Kôin's final version includes among its five points that "evil practices of the past shall be discarded and [all our actions] shall follow the accepted practices of the world."[2] Historian David Lu suggests that this refers specifically to abandoning ideas of jôi ("expelling the barbarians"), but other scholars have interpreted this to refer far more broadly to a rejection of myriad facets of Japanese tradition as "backwards," in favor of a thorough Westernization of society and culture.

While the Charter Oath provided the core principles of the new government, the Seitaisho (Document on the Form of Government), pronounced two months later, provided the practical framework for implementing these ideals.


  • David Lu, Japan: A Documentary History, 306-308.
  1. Lu, 307-308.
  2. Lu, 308.