Ōkubo Toshimichi (1830–1878) emerged as the dominant figure of the Meiji oligarchy in November 1873. He retained that uneasy position until his death under his assassins' swords on May 14, 1878. During the four and one-half year interval Ōkubo served Japan well, although the fact of his assassination and public reaction to it revealed that he was anything but a popular figure in his lifetime. As Home Minister (Naimukyō) during most of that period, he advanced the process of political centralization substantially and channelled state energies and resources into economic development. Authoritarian political techniques inherited from the feudal past enabled him to force the pace of modernization for his country.

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