Shinsengumi: Excerpt 2

The corps’ unprecedented strength was bolstered by their severe code of conduct, devised by Kondo and Hijikata. That both leaders hailed from peasant households certainly steeled their resolve to conduct themselves and their corps according to the most stoic traditions of the warrior class. Strictly prohibited were “violating the Code of the Samurai,” “quitting the corps,” “raising money for selfish purposes,” “taking it upon oneself to make accusations,” and “fighting for personal reasons.” Violation of any of these prohibitions was punishable by seppuku. Not all violators, however, were given the honor of dying like samurai. The less worthy ones were beheaded. Attached to the prohibitions was a particularly severe regulation which perhaps more than anything else accounted for the lethality of the Shinsengumi: “In case of a fight, if you do not kill your opponent you will be ordered to commit seppuku, just as if you had been wounded from behind.”