Letter from George Atcheson Jr. to Dean Acheson, Under Secretary of State dated November 7, 1945.

FILE NO. 801.1



Tokyo, Japan, November 7, 1945.

Personal and Confidential.

Dear Dean:

We are very much worried over the question of the revision of the Constitution which is obviously one of the most vitally important questions with which the American authorities have to deal. Konoye has sent Professor Takagi to us to say that several draft articles have been prepared and to ask for consultation and advice, but we have been ordered by General MacArthur not to proceed with the discussions. We learned privately that Konoye's committee, as might be expected, is taking a line in its drafting to perpetuate the imperial system in a way which in our opinion will in practice prevent the development of a really free and democratic government.

Some days ago General MacArthur asked me to draw up a statement in regard to the question of the revision of the Constitution partially for the purpose of clearing the air in the matter but primarily with a view to meeting recent Soviet and British criticism of him. He asked me to consider whether such statement should be issued by me or by him, and the implication was that he would wish me to issue it because it would thereby have a less formal character and would not be in the nature of a directive to the Japanese Government. We drew up such a statement, and I enclose a copy herewith. Subsequently, the General turned his attention to the question of answering the Herald Tribune's criticism of him. (Editorial October 31 in regard to Konoye's activities in regard to the Constitution and General MacArthur's connection therewith.)

I was heartily in favor of issuing some statement along the line of that enclosed in order that the Japanese officials concerned, the Japanese press and the Japanese public might gain some clear idea of what is wrong with the present Constitution from the democratic point of view. It is obvious to us now that General MacArthur, or his Chief of Staff and other members of the Bataan Club who act as his Privy Council or genro--wish if possible to keep the State Department out of this matter. Meanwhile, we learned from Japanese sources privately that Konoye's committee expects to have a complete draft prepared before the end of this month to submit to the Government, and it seems to me that if we are to get our ideas abroad before a draft is published with all the trimmings of imperial sanction, etc., some action toward achieving our purpose should be taken at once. For, it goes without saying, any attempt to cause correction of a draft once prepared with imperial sanction will meet with difficulties and will cause unfortunate political repercussions which can not help but militate against our long term objectives.

I accordingly suggest that a statement along the lines of the enclosed be released to the press by the Department. I am quite willing to take the responsibility of having it released as a report to the Secretary from me; in any case if the language is retained it would be recognized by Headquarters. Release will, of course, cause some irritation in Headquarters as does every pronouncement on policy matters by officers of the Department, but such irritation, I believe, is more than offset by the salutary effects such pronouncements have in reminding Headquarters and others that policy is made at home and that, after all, the making of foreign policy is centered in the Department of State. Your famous statement of September 19 or 20 did a lot of good here and continues to do good, and while it did not enhance our personal welcome, I believe that, looking back, there is no question but that it strengthened our position and made it possible for us to achieve a certain independence from the chain of command without which our job here would be almost completely empty.

I would not bother you with this if I did not regard it as an extremely important matter.

Yours sincerely,
George Atcheson, Jr.
George Atcheson, Jr.

Draft Statement to the Press Submitted to General MacArthur on November 1, 1945.


There has recently been indication in both the foreign and Japanese press of some confusion as to the American attitude toward the revision of the Japanese Constitution--a question which is now squarely before the Government and people of Japan.
I would say that the key is to be found in Paragraph 10 of the Potsdam Declaration which provides that:
"The Japanese Government shall remove all obstacles to the revival and strengthening of democratic tendencies among the Japanese people. Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established."
The American attitude is also manifest in one of the well-known ultimate objectives of United States policy in regard to Japan:

To bring about the eventual establishment of a peaceful and responsible Government which will respect the rights of other states and will support the objectives of the United States as reflected in the ideals and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The United States desires that this government should conform to principles of democratic self-government, but it is not the responsibility of the Allied Powers to impose upon Japan any form of Government not supported by the freely expressed will of the people.

This leaves no room for uncertainty as to the purposes of the Supreme Commander and the policies of the United States--they are one and the same. Reference to "principles of democratic self-government" requires no elaboration. Certainly to all Americans, and just as assuredly to many other peoples in many parts of the world, its meaning is as unclouded as the simple words of Abraham Lincoln by which Americans live--"Government of the people, by the people and for the people."
Secretary Byrnes said in his V-J Day statement, "Attitudes of mind cannot be changed at the points of bayonets or merely by the issuance of edicts."
We do not seek to impose at bayonet point any particular attitude of mind upon the Japanese or upon any people; we do not seek to impose upon the Japanese a constitution written in the American language to conform to American governmental framework. What we hope and expect is that the Japanese Government and people, who are showing desire to follow a democratic way of life, will press forward in their own best interests to a comprehensive democratic reform of the organic law of government. Before the occupation can be terminated, the Allied Powers are to decide whether our objectives have been attained; it is for us to make clear to the Japanese people now our convictions as to the basic faults of the existing order.
It is fundamental that no democratic government can exist except upon a framework of law making that government responsible to an electorate expressive of the free will of the whole nation and providing that the executive be responsible to, and derive from, the electorate or a legislative body fully representing the electorate.
It is not democratic that the House of Representatives--the only organ of the national Government which now purports to represent a portion of the people--functions in chains that are as heavy as they are short and is subject to dissolution and re-election at the dictate of higher authority; that the Cabinet is not responsible to the peoples' representatives and there is no rule under which the Cabinet must have their confidence, or fall; that the elected members of the Diet, although they purport to represent the people whose taxes support Government and its instrumentalities, do not have full control of financial and budgetary matters.
It is not democratic that all fundamental human rights should be so emasculated as to leave the people at the sorry mercy of centralized and arbitrary police interference in their daily living, or that the minds of their children should be shaped into cast-iron moulds by arbitrary centralized control of education; that non-Japanese should be excluded from even these limited restricted "rights;" that the people should be without judicial recourse for the protection of their rights against the Government; that there is no provision for impeachment or recall of high officials.
It is not democratic that a House of Peers, representing but a small and highly privileged class, should be able to thwart the wishes of the people as expressed through elected representatives; that a body such as the Privy Council, responsible neither to Diet nor people, should have power to dictate policy and over-ride the executive branch of the people's government.
It is not democratic that the military, through lack of constitutional definition of their powers, should be free of control by the people's representatives.
It is not democratic that freedom of thought and speech and religion should be strangled by enforced adherence to the idea that any human being is divine or smothered by observance of Shinto or other particular religious or pseudo-religious rites.
There cannot develop in Japan any government worthy of being called democratic unless the Cabinet is chosen with the advice and consent of, and is made responsible to, a legislative body fully representative of all Japanese men and women; unless legislative measures may be passed without governing veto by higher authority; unless the elected legislature may initiate constitutional amendments, approve or disapprove those initiated by higher authority, and require the Chief of State (if he retains this privilege)to introduce amendments put forward by the Cabinet with the approval of the legislative body; unless the Chief of State acts in important matters on the advice of a Cabinet responsible to such legislative body within the framework of law which represents the free will of the people.
In the Western world we have struggled forward a long way into the era of the common man.
The dawn of this era is spreading through the East.
We want its light to shine also on the people of the islands of Japan.
But the Japanese themselves must seek and find the light.
The great majority of the Japanese people--so long cruelly suppressed, so long inhumanly wrought into unthinking and submissive tools by the military--are still cowed and inarticulate.
It is the responsibility of the Japanese authorities to foster the rapid development among all Japanese of the spirit of democracy. And, with the aid of the people who strive to think, and in accord with the peoples' will and their best interests, it must re-form the governmental structure and cure the deformed spirit of the State which the military slave-masters in the unhappy past so successfully perverted to the mad concept of Japanese world conquest.
It is the responsibility of the Japanese Government to prove to the world that Japan will quickly heed the demands of our unsought and untold sacrifices and will emerge from the ruinous past to become both capable and deserving of membership in the new Commonwealth of Nations.
In conclusion, I again refer to the Secretary's statement:
"...Eventually we expect to see emerge in Japan a government, broadly based on all elements in the population, which will be peacefully inclined and which will respect the rights of other nations. We and our Allies shall be the judges as to whether the government which does emerge will or will not contribute to the peace and security of the world. We shall judge that government by its deeds, not by its words."
Copyright©2003-2004 National Diet Library All Rights Reserved.