Letter from Douglas MacArthur to Prime Minister dated 25 February 1947

Tokyo, Japan
25 February 1947

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

I have carefully considered your letter of December 27th in which you request reconsideration of the instruction conveyed by General Whitney to the Minister of Justice on December 20th that Articles 73 and 75, as well as Articles 74 and 76, of the Penal Code be abrogated. In your letter you submit three reasons for the retention of these articles: first, the position of the Emperor under the new Constitution; second, the position of the Imperial family in relation to ordinary individuals; and third, the special provisions which you assert exist in a monarchy such as England for the protection of the King.

As to your first point, it would appear that to consider an act of violence against the person of the Emperor as "of a character subversive of the State" would be undesirable and inconsistent with the spirit of the new Constitution. As the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people, the Emperor is entitled to no more and no less legal protection than that accorded to all other citizens of Japan who, in the aggregate, constitute the State itself. To hold otherwise would violate the fundamental concept, clearly and unequivocally expressed in the new Constitution, that all men are equal before the law, with the necessary implication therefrom that no individual, whatever his position, shall be vouchsafed judicial safeguards denied the ordinary citizen, the ultimate repository of all State authority.

The respect and affection which the people of Japan have for the Emperor form a sufficient bulwark which need not be bolstered by special provisions in the criminal law implying suzerainty. The former concept of a peculiar Japanese national ethic distinctly differing from universally recognized ethical principles was repudiated by the Emperor himself in his Rescript of January 1st, 1946,eschewing the myths and legends from which this concept was created.

As for your second point, I feel that there is even less basis for rationalizing a special position for other members of the Imperial family. The elevation of these members to a higher status under the law could only be construed as a discrimination based upon family origin, the essence of which is repugnant to the emergence of a free and democratic society.

As for your third point, there is no statutory provision in British law comparable to Articles 73 and 75 of the Japanese Penal Code. In fact, under the statute of 5 and 6 Victoria, Chapter 61,assault upon the British Monarch is punishable as a misdemeanor. Although, the ancient Statute of Treasons, ordained prior to representative government during the reign of Edward III, took a more serious view of violence against the King's person and, because a mediaeval sovereign then embodied in his person all the powers of state, included such acts of violence within the crime of treason. This six hundred year old statute, last revised a century ago, is a remnant of and derived from the age of Germanic feudalism and there is no record of its modern application, nor is there the slightest analogy to the situation now existing in Japan.

Furthermore, the experience of the United States, where there has never existed any such special safeguards, demonstrates the adequacy of general legislation to punish crimes against even the head of the State. In all instances in American history where violence has been attempted or perpetrated against the person of the President of the United States, even though death has resulted, prosecution of offenders has proceeded under no special statute but in accordance with the general law of the State having jurisdiction.

Now that sovereignty is vested in the Japanese people and, as in the United States, there is no other sovereign, retention of Articles 73 and 75 of the Penal Code relating to "acts of violence against the person of the Sovereign" would be an anachronism. It would at once provoke scepticism both among the peoples of the Allied world and the people of Japan as to the good faith embodied in the new concept underlying the constitutional provision for sovereignty.

In view of the fact that the Japanese Penal Code provides the death penalty for murder and severe penalties for acts of violence against persons, the dignity of human life and the inviolability of the character and person of the individual are fully recognized. It follows that all articles of the Penal Code relating to crimes against the Imperial House are surplusage and should be eliminated by appropriate Ordinance.

Sincerely yours,


The Prime Minister of Japan,

以下は上記文書の日本語訳です。「吉田茂=マッカーサー往復書簡集:1945-1951」袖井林二郎編訳. 法政大学出版局(2000)から転載しました。


日本国総理大臣 吉田茂殿










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