Letter from General Whitney to Mr. Shirasu, dated 16 February 1946, answering "jeep way letter"

Letter from General Whitney to Mr. Shirasu, dated 16 February 1946, answering "jeep way letter"

16 February 1946.

Dear Mr. Shirasu:

I am in receipt of your letter of the 15th and appreciate your frank statement concerning the reaction of Dr. Matsumoto and his colleagues to the proposed new constitution which I submitted to the meeting of ministers at the Supreme Commander's direction on the 13th.

As I told you when we met in this headquarters on the afternoon of that same day, I am delighted that Dr. Matsumoto is in full agreement with the objectives sought in the referenced document. It discloses that he is guided by a quality of far sighted statesmanship of which the Japanese people are in urgent need during this period of their history. It remains to be seen whether he and his colleagues have, in addition, the moral courage faithfully and aggressively to sponsor the reforms concerning which they thus have no quarrel -- whether they themselves are destined now to champion these rights and liberties which they agree with the Supreme Commander must be bestowed upon the people if, upon the disastrous errors of the past, is to be erected a new and enlightened Japan charted to the path of peace and dedicated to upholding the rights of man in the fraternity of nations -- or whether they must yield to others who do possess those necessary qualities of leadership.

I quite understand your graphic portrayal of the distinction in the manner in which your countrymen and mine traditionally approach a common objective -- possibly more than to all else, to that distinction may be charged Japan's present plight -- but Dr. Matsumoto and his colleagues appear completely to lose sight of the fact that in the attainment of that common objective sought by constitutional reform, those who sponsor the principles as stated by the Supreme Commander in his referenced document do so with his firm support, which in turn elevates the sponsorship well above party or other local political considerations. With that support they can be assured that the objectives may be reached promptly and directly, and without either adverse effect upon the orderly processes of civil government nor dislocation in the lives of the people. That the Diet would receive the instrument in the manner you suggest if it bear the stamp of joint approval both by the Government and the Supreme Commander is unthinkable.

The Supreme Commander, in full appreciation of the traditional place which the Emperor occupies in the hearts of the people, has precisely sought by the instrument to leave both himself and his dynasty in a position of dignity, honor and respect, while at the same time placing the ultimate political power in the hands of the people where we all agree it inevitably must rest. It is to ensure that these objectives are understood by the people that the Supreme Commander is determined that they be fully informed of the political reforms which they of right may expect, prior to the next general elections -- that the new Diet may assume its responsibilities with their full opportunity of expression thereon.

The document in reference is by its terms clear and succinct and susceptible to no misunderstanding. While the Supreme Commander is not dogmatically opposed to minor changes in the language used or procedure provided, the better to bring it within the understanding of and application by the Japanese people, he will not compromise it -- either in principle or basic form. He will not yield to unnecessary delay.

As I stated to the ministers on the 13th, the Supreme Commander through that document not only provides for the Japanese people those fundamental human rights which in the growing consciousness of mankind are now demanded by all peoples, but by the same instrument affords Japan, a nation in the agony of defeat, an opportunity to assume moral leadership among other nations of the world.

On the other hand it must be realized that the matter of constitutional reform in Japan is not confined to the exclusive interest of the Japanese people or even to them jointly with the Supreme Commander, but rather is it the opinion of the world which must be fully satisfied before the Allied Powers will release their complete control over Japan. In the final analysis, unless this issue is met forthrightly by the Japanese Government or the Supreme Commander himself takes action, it is quite possible that a constitution might be forced upon Japan from the outside which would render the term "drastic", as used by you in your letter to describe the document submitted by me on the 13th, far too moderate a term with which to describe such new constitution -- a constitution which well might sweep away even those traditions and structures which the Supreme Commander by his instrument makes it possible to preserve.

Again let me thank you for the spirit which prompted the frank expressions contained in your letter of the 15th.

Faithfully yours,
Brigadier General, U.S. Army.

Mr. Jiro Shirasu,
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