Abstract

Ever since its first draft was written by a small group of Americans and presented to the Japanese Government in February, 1946, the present constitution of Japan has been a source of political controversy. Even under “normal” circumstances the enactment of a new constitution in modern democratic societies is almost certain to exhume and revivify all sorts of latent political conflicts and to add to these its own measure of new dissensions. Controversy is even more probable in the case of a constitution drafted by aliens and conquerors for a nation completely subject to their occupation and control and, in the Japanese case, the nature of the document itself still further increased this probability. The American-authored constitution of 1947 was in spirit and provisions almost a complete inversion of its predecessor, the Meiji Constitution of 1889. Where the latter did its brilliant best to protect the legal and political heartlands of the imperial system and a traditionally oligarchic and authoritarian form of government against popular encroachments, the former uniformly espoused concepts and institutions that are among the world's most democratic and progressive. It is difficult to conceive of two modern constitutions more diametrically opposed in spirit and in basic mechanics. The new constitution thus labored under the dual handicaps of alien authorship and of a radical departure from the traditionally ascendant norms and institutions of Japanese politics. It provided ample substance for bitter controversy.

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