Saionji Kimmochi was often called the last bulwark against complete usurpation of power in the civil government by the Japanese military in the early and middle 1930's. As the last of the Genrō he represented also leadership which had developed in the Meiji period centering in a small group of able men who carried Japan from isolation to intimate involvement in world affairs. Not as well known is Saionji's role in the Meiji period; its study brings rewarding insight into the pattern of leadership and the development of political life during those years. It is the purpose of this paper to describe Saionji's background and to analyze his role in the movement for popular rights and a constitution which culminated in the issuance of the Imperial Rescript of October 12, 1881, the Rescript which promised a constitution and the establishment of a parliament.

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