Great Prison of Ansei (1/2)Large-scale repression by Naosuke Ii

Great prison of Ansei

Great prison of Ansei

Article category
case file
Incident name
Great Prison of Ansei (1858-1859)
Related castles
Edo castle

Edo castle

From 1858 to 1859, during the turbulent period at the end of the Edo period when the Edo shogunate was shaken by the opening of the country and the expulsion of foreigners, Naosuke Ii, the chief elder of the Edo shogunate, suppressed anti-shogunate forces. Great prison.” More than 100 people were targeted in this incident, including patriots such as Nariaki Tokugawa, the lord of the Mito domain known as the Joi faction, his son Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu (Tokugawa Yoshinobu), and Shoin Yoshida, as well as members of the imperial family and court nobles. was suppressed. Naosuke's harsh oppression continued until he was killed in the Sakuradamongai Incident, which was a major turning point for the Meiji Restoration. This time, I will explain the Great Prison of Ansei in an easy-to-understand manner.

Background of the Great Ansei Prison ①: Shogun Successor Problem

Since the arrival of Perry's black ship on June 3, 1853, various foreign missions have visited Japan. The Edo shogunate, which had been closed to the rest of the world for a long time, was at the mercy of the movements of other countries to open up their countries. What happened to the shogun who was supposed to lead the shogunate in such a situation?The 12th shogun, Tokugawa Ieyoshi, passed away at the age of 61 on June 22, 1966, just after Perry's arrival.

Tokugawa Iesada succeeded him as the 13th shogun. He was the husband of Keiko Fujiwara, also known as ``Tenshōin Atsuhime,'' who was a sickly man and some say he suffered from cerebral palsy. Iesada was married to two women before Keiko, but they had no biological children. For this reason, factional disputes arose over succession issues even while the shogun was in office.

There are two candidates to become the next shogun after Iesada. Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu, who was also a candidate for the 13th shogun, and Tokugawa Yoshifuku, the lord of the Kii domain whose lineage was closest to that of the shogun family. Known as a wise man, Yoshinobu Hitotsubashi was supported by his father, Nariaki Tokugawa, the lord of the Mito domain, Nariaki Shimazu, the lord of the Satsuma domain, Yoshinaga Matsudaira, the lord of the Echizen domain, and Toyonobu Yamauchi, the lord of the Tosa domain, and was known as the ``Hitotsubashi school.'' . If anything, Tozama Daimyo are the main ones. Masahiro Abe, an elder statesman, also supports their efforts.

On the other hand, those who supported Tokugawa Yoshifuku were the Fudai daimyo and members of Ooku, such as Naosuke Ii, the lord of the Hikone domain, and this group was called the ``Nanki (referring to Kishu) faction.'' Each faction had a different stance toward foreign countries, with the Hitotsubashi faction mainly being an open-country faction and the Joi faction, and the Nanki faction mainly being a moderate faction with a conservative attitude toward foreign countries. The Nanki faction placed great emphasis on the Tokugawa shogunate system, which lasted for over 200 years, and held the political leadership.

In 1858, when Iesada's health worsened, Keifuku was chosen as his successor. This is a victory for the efforts of Naosuke and the Nanki faction! It is often thought that Iesada himself had chosen Yoshifuku, not Yoshinobu, as his successor, and it seems that the elders agreed with this.

Originally, Iesada and Yoshinobu were close friends who competed to become the 13th shogun. Iesada also had a bruise around his eyes because he contracted smallpox when he was a child. Yoshinobu, on the other hand, was said to be a beautiful young man who was popular in Ooku. A samurai's memoir from that time even says that Iesada thought, ``Yoshinobu was more handsome than I was, which made me angry.''

Background of the Great Ansei Prison ②: What to do about external relations

An issue that occurred around the same time as the issue of succession to the shogun was what to do about relations with foreign countries. In March 1854, the shogunate concluded the Treaty of Peace and Amity with the United States and opened the country. Subsequently, it concluded similar treaties with Great Britain, the Russian Empire, and the Netherlands. At this stage, there were only a limited number of ports available to foreigners, and although the ports were open, trade was not permitted.

It was the U.S. Consul General, Townsend Harris, who made in-depth demands on this trade. Harris visited Edo Castle in October 1857, handed a letter of state to Iesada, and strongly appealed for the start of trade with the United States. Seeing Harris's strong stance, the shogunate began negotiations with Shimoda Magistrate Kiyonao Inoue and Metsuke Tadashin Iwase as full authority. After 15 rounds of negotiations, an agreement was reached, and Masayoshi Hotta, the senior councilor at the time, went to the Imperial Court to seek permission from Emperor Komei.

It seems that there was an opinion within the shogunate that ``the Emperor's charter was not necessary,'' but the shogunate also cooperated with the imperial court at the time of the Treaty of Peace and Amity between Japan and the United States, and the shogunate, led by Tokugawa Nariaki, had a theory of expulsion. There were some daimyo who advocated this, and it seems that they sought a royal charter because they wanted a decisive factor that could bring their opinions together. The shogunate believed that it would receive imperial permission, just as it did during the Japan-US Treaty of Peace and Amity.

However, in March 1858, when Kanpaku Naotada Kujo submitted a proposal for a treaty to the Imperial Court, 88 court nobles, including Tomomi Iwakura, strongly objected. They sat down and protested (the 88 courtiers incident).

Also, Emperor Komei, who was known to hate foreign countries, allowed ``harmony and friendship'' as a trend of the times, but did not allow ``commerce.'' It is said that there was a strong push behind the scenes from Nariaki Tokugawa, an expulsionist. The Emperor continued to oppose the idea and asked the shogunate to once again hold a debate with the feudal lords. In the end, Masamutsu Hotta was unable to obtain a royal charter, and ultimately had to take responsibility and resign as Roju after the trade treaty was signed.

What's interesting here is that Masayoshi Hotta was actually a Hitotsubashi fan. ``Wouldn't he have been in conflict with Tokugawa Nariaki over the Joi issue?'' However, Masamutsu decided that in order to obtain imperial permission, he should promote Yoshinobu, who was popular with the imperial court, and switched from the Nanki faction to the Hitotsubashi faction. was doing. The Hitotsubashi faction, on the other hand, tried to help Masayoshi and get closer to the imperial family, saying, ``In order to conclude a trade treaty, an intelligent person should inherit the shogunate, and Yoshinobu Hitotsubashi should become the next shogun.'' . However, the Emperor opposed it, and everything came to nothing.

Behind the scenes of “concluding a commercial treaty without a royal license”

While the Hitotsubashi faction suffered damage, in April 1858 Naosuke Ii of the Nanki faction became Tairo. Tairo is a temporary position in the Shogunate and is the highest position placed above Roju. He was the de facto head of the shogunate, especially when Iesada was unable to function due to poor health.

Naosuke is famous for ``concluding the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Commerce without the Emperor's approval.'' However, Naosuke was actually against concluding a treaty without royal permission. But the times don't allow it. Harris put pressure on the shogunate based on the world situation at the time.

In fact, around this time, Britain, France, and the Qing Dynasty were in the middle of the Second Opium War (Arrow War, 1856-1860) in China. Using the example of the Second Opium War, which was a war to promote colonization by the Qing Dynasty, Harris advocated forging an alliance with the United States in order to avoid being invaded by Britain and France.

In the meantime, the Arrow War will enter a temporary truce. At this point, Harris emphasized that, ``Before Britain and France invade Japan, we should conclude a trade treaty with the United States.'' Many members of the Shogunate, led by Tadatsu Matsudaira, a pro-national rochu, were anxious to conclude a trade treaty as soon as possible.

However, Naosuke opposed the treaty until the very end, citing the need for a royal charter, saying, ``No treaty should be concluded without the permission of the Emperor.'' He ordered Kiyonao Inoue and Tadashin Iwase, who were in charge of negotiations, to postpone the conclusion of the treaty as long as possible, but on the other hand, when they asked, ``If it is absolutely unavoidable, can we conclude a treaty?'' He also answered, ``If it is unavoidable, we will not do so.''

On June 19, 1858, the two negotiators met Harris, and the Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Commerce was concluded without the Emperor's approval. It is said that he succumbed to Harris's bluff-laced threats, or that he concluded the treaty on a whim, but either way, Naosuke must have been shocked when he heard this news. Although Naosuke did not take the lead, he was the one in charge. Because of this, Naosuke even considered resigning as Tairo, but was stopped by those around him who feared that the Hitotsubashi faction would make a comeback.

Great Prison of Ansei ①: The daimyo's restraint is the beginning of everything

Naosuke Ii decided not to resign and began to suppress the Hitotsubashi faction and others who opposed his policies. This was a series of events known as the ``Ansei Great Prison''. On June 24, 1858, Matsudaira Yoshinaga visited Naosuke's mansion and criticized the signing of the treaty without royal permission, and also mentioned the issue of succession to the shogun. In addition, he went to Edo Castle with Nariaki Tokugawa, his eldest son Yoshiatsu Tokugawa, and Yoshikatsu Tokugawa, the lord of the Owari domain, and criticized and questioned Naosuke and the roju.

The article on Ansei no Taigoku continues.

Naoko Kurimoto
Writer(Writer)I am a former travel industry magazine reporter. I have loved history, both Japanese and world history, since I was a child. I usually enjoy visiting temples and shrines, especially shrines, and often do ``pilgrimages to sacred places'' themed around historical figures. My favorite military commander is Ishida Mitsunari, my favorite castle is Kumamoto Castle, and my favorite castle ruins is Hagi Castle. My heart flutters when I see the ruins of battle castles and the stone walls of castle ruins.
Japanese Castle Photo Contest.03