Littell's Living Age/Volume 151/Issue 1949/The People's Rights in Japan

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The People’s Rights in Japan — The Western proverb says, “Heaven helps him who helps himself,” which is very true, so self-help is the way by which one can secure almost anything. A man cannot get a cupful of food in idleness, nor can he obtain the knowledge of a letter in sluggishness. When this is true even in these small matters, how much more does it hold good when we desire to attain and secure immense riches, or everlasting fame? If a man possesses industry and courage, it is not impossible for him to accumulate great wealth, as in the case of To (an ancient Chinese who attained great riches), nor is it difficult to secure everlasting fame, as in the case of the Saint (Confucius) and the sages of antiquity. Then, advance brethren, and secure them! Why do you not dare the issue? We must first seek and secure a means by which the riches or the fame, when once acquired, can be safely preserved; thus securing the fruits of perseverance and courage. What would be the means? They are the rights of the people which, if permanently obtained, riches once acquired will not be lost by injustice, nor will fame once obtained be tarnished by wrong. In fine, all things will be perfectly secured to those who procure them by labor and courage. A nation can only fully appreciate industry and valor when in possession of the inherent rights of the people. Therefore Europeans and Americans labored to secure these rights, even by sacrificing their lives and properties, because their liberty was dearer to them than life, and more precious than property. What a man covets eagerly is often clutched tenaciously by the possessor. This fact must be well considered. The fruitlessness of violent measures to obtain the rights of the people is fully illustrated in the histories of foreign countries; among which England and France are the most conspicuous. Our earnest advocates of the people’s rights will do well to consider what would be gained and what lost from the histories of those two nations, and consider the measures which they may resort to under varied circumstances. Deep meditation, calm patience, and determined courage, will all contribute towards the final acquisition of our rights. Go on, go on, and try to secure them! Yet, let our leaders take for their mirror the bright examples mentioned in the English and French histories, which are not only useful to us, but to all in similar circumstances.