By G. C. Allen
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Extra resources for A Short Economic History of Modern Japan
The issue was resented by the daimyo who feared the effect ofthe notes on their own paper money, and the general distrust of the Govemment led to a heavy depreciation in their value. At one time during 1868 the notes exchanged for specie at a discount of 55 per cent. The currency situation was, indeed, alarming; for the monetary circulation comprised not merely these new issues ofinconvertible notes, but also gold and silver coins in varying degrees of debasement-an inheritance from the Shogunate-and about 1,500 varieties of clan notes.
A blow was given to the merchants' privileges by the decrees of 1831 and 1843 which abolished all forms of guild. The immediate result ofthis step, however, was to disorganize economic life still further; for the abolition of the guilds involved the destruction of the credit system that rested on the kabu, or membership privilege. The disorganization was so serious as to compel the Government in 1851 to make some attempt to revive the guilds in a modified form. But since the number of shokunin had by then greatly increased, it was not possible to restore the monopolistic privileges which the guilds had enjoyed, and they were finally swept away during the next few years.
This progress, however, was not evenly spread; for certain groups of producers who had already been injured by the opening of the country to foreign trade, suffered further injury through the abolition of feudal institutions. 'A vast number of occupations which had hitherto been thriving had suddenly to be abandoned, and skilled labourers and artisans were thrown out of employment in thousands. 13 When the Shogun gave up his residenee at Yedo (Tokyo), this meant the withdrawal of an enormous number of retainers, both his own and those ofthe daimyo.