JAPANESE HISTORY. 181 But, practically, the governing power was gradually usurped by the great military barons, and in 1603 passed definitely into the hands of the Tokugawa family. Thereafter, for over 250 years, the succes­sive heads of this house, like the Mayo1·s of the palace of the Merovingian dynasty, ruled the country under the title of Shogun. The Shogun was but one of a number of military chieftains or barons, equal in rank but of unequal possessions and power, called daimio, who had acquired their lands by the sword, and whose vassals, the samurai, constituted the mili­tary class. Prior to 1603 the country had been devas­tated by the struggles of these great feudal lords for supremacy; but with the accession to power of the Tokugawa family began an era of peace, which lasted till the restoration of the Mikado in 1868-69. In this second period, then, we have a nominal sovereign, the secluded Mikado; an impoverished nobility, the kuge, of about one hundred and fifty families; the military barons or daimio, two hundred and sixty­eight in number, enjoying independent authority within their own dominions, but acknowledging by certain acts the supremacy of the Shogun, in whose government they shared; the samurai, four hundred thousand families of military retainers, devoted to the chiefs from whom they received their pensions; and finally the heimin, a vast population without social or political rank, the laboring classes of the empire. Towards the close of this period the power of the shogunate began to wane, not through any effort of the J'\.1ikado to resume the direction of public affairs, but through jealousy of the Shogun on the part of the daimio and the irritation caused by his interference in the internal affairs of their respective principali-