No. 222.
Mr. Peirce to Mr. Fish.

No. 148.]

Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith printed copy of His Hawaiian Majesty’s speech, delivered to the legislative assembly at its opening on the 30th ultimo, and marked No. 1. Also, marked No. 2, newspaper slips from the Pacific Commercial Advertiser of the 4th instant, giving an account of the ceremonies which took place on the above occasion, together with an article on “Political Reform,” interesting as showing the direction which the opponents of the present government are taking in their assaults upon it. The mass of natives, as well as naturalized foreigners, have never been reconciled to the act of the ruling sovereign in arbitrarily setting aside the constitution of 1852 and substituting that of 1864, a revolutionary proceeding that is likely to react upon him at some future time.

I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 60, covering one from Hon. Secretary Boutwell in relation to the abrogation of certain articles of the treaty of 1857 between Hawaii and France.

With respect, &c.,


(Inclosure 1.)

His Majesty’s speech at the opening of the legislative assembly, April 30, 1872.

Nobles and Representatives: At the opening of the legislative assembly o, 1870 I commended to its attention foreign and inter-island steam communication, and the assembly of that year responded by making liberal appropriations. The means placed at the disposal of my government for these purposes have been used as it was intended. The report of my minister of the interior will show you the gratifying fact that steam communication between the islands is likely to be self-supporting, and will encourage the hope that the public necessity will call for an increase of that service at an early [Page 481] day. Steam communication with the coast of America and with the New Zealand and Australian colonies seems now to he firmly established, and I have not a doubt that the money devoted by us to this object will be found to be wisely expended.

During the last two years agriculture has repaid handsomely those who have pursued it with courage, diligence, and enterprise. It is the life of the nation, not only from its profitable returns, but as tending directly to the increase of the population, and the prolongation of vigorous life. I therefore hope that you will not neglect to further its interests by every means in your power. But, while giving your earnest consideration to it, I trust that every other interest will receive likewise its share of your attention.

Our relations with foreign governments continue to be of the most friendly nature. Since the adjournment of the last legislative assembly I have concluded a treaty of amity and commerce with His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, the text of which will be laid before you. The treaty of reciprocity, which was at the last session of this body before the Senate of the United States, failed to receive the number of votes necessary for its ratification. I have directed notice to be given of my desire for the termination of those articles of the treaty with France, signed at Honolulu October 29, 1857, which it is agreed by the 26th article of that treaty may cease to have effect after one year’s notice. This will leave you free to make such changes in the tariff as you in your wisdom may think proper.

The report of my minister of finance will present to you most gratifying evidence of the good condition of our finances.

The interests of the cause of education have never been more thoroughly attended to, and the results of that attention have been most encouraging.

Justice has been administered equally and impartially to all. Peace, contentment, and prosperity have reigned within our borders.

All the works which have been undertaken and completed, as well as those which are now projected for the public benefit, have had and do have my most hearty concurrence, and I therefore commend to you most earnestly the recommendations of my ministers in this respect.

It is my painful duty to inform you that the widow of my predecessor, His late Majesty Kamehameha III, deceased at her residence in Honolulu September 20, 1870.

Representatives: It is with great pleasure that I see among you so many who in former years have had experience in legislative business, and who, by their return to this assembly, give evidence that the people have the same confidence in their experience which I myself entertain.

Nobles and representatives: I pray, most humbly and heartily, the King of kings so to rule your councils that everything may be ordered for the public good; and with this prayer I commend the interest of our country to your wisdom, patriotism, and fidelity, in which I have unfailing reliance.

We do now declare the legislature of the kingdom opened.

[From the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Saturday, May 4, 1872.]

opening of the legislative assembly.

The legislature of the kingdom, convened by royal proclamation dated the 27th of February last, met at the court-house on Tuesday last, at 12 o’clock noon, in the supreme court-room of the court-house. A large concourse of ladies and gentlemen filled the hall outside the bar of the house. As His Majesty left the palace in the state coach, under escort of the Hawaiian cavalry, Major Judd, the battery on Punch-Bowl, and Her Britannic Majesty’s sloop-of-war Scout, fired royal salutes. On the arrival of the royal cortege at the court-house the troops drawn up in line presented arms, the band played the national anthem, and His Majesty, accompanied by the chief justice and his ministers, proceeded to the legislative hall, where, after reading of prayer by the venerable Archdeacon George Mason, the assembly for 1872 was formally opened by His Majesty in the following gracious speech.

[From the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, May 4, 1872.]

political reform.

In the present condition of Hawaiian politics it is a difficult and somewhat delicate operation to criticise with absolute freedom and impartiality matters pertaining to our civil service. Allowing, for the sake of argument, that the royal proclamation, which overrode the constitution in 1864, is entitled to respect as a legitimate constitution, [Page 482] we, the people, who are to yield it our allegiance, are placed in a situation both perplexing and demoralizing. The age is past when men can he expected to change their political opinions at the command or whim of rulers. We may have accepted the old constitution honestly, adhered to it affectionately, and have seen it superseded with regret; and it may be impossible for us to accept the somewhat different principles of the present—yes, call it—constitution. This makes us malcontents, and what expression we may give to our political feelings revolutionary. Or we may gradually become convinced by suitable arguments and circumstances, and by the gentle influence of time; the great healer, that the present—well, yes—constitution is the best thing possible, all things being considered, and that the old one was behind the times, and unfit for an enlightened and high-minded administration. And we may enthusiastically and devotedly commit ourselves to the present condition of things, and swear by the constitution to our last dollar; and then it may happen in the ordinary course of events that our conscientious rulers, for reasons satisfactory to themselves, shall publish some quiet morning a new constitution, containing principles diametrically opposed to the present, and declaring the preceding one to be “hereby canceled;” which ingenious bit of administrative tactics will, of course, bring upon the late strong patriots the awkward dilemma between a hasty and humiliating political conversion and remaining suspected plotters and malcontents. Or a new administration may arise, who shall restore the constitution of the last two reigns; which political retrogression would place certain individuals in circumstances too painful for us to dwell upon. So that whatever may happen, under that article of our present interesting political creed, which places the constitution of the state in the position of a cabinet minister, or a member of the privy council, to wit, “to hold office at the king’s pleasure,” the results are sure to be inconvenient to somebody. And whoever freely discusses these subjects in a public way is likely to be regarded as an extreme radical, a Jacobin; or if his views happen to be politically orthodox now, they may be quoted against him with damaging effect under the next act of the civil drama.

With these possible difficulties before us, and in spite of them, we wish to use our privilege of free discussion, and give a short space to the suggestion of certain reforms much needed in the government; this in answer to those who accuse us of being willing to cause trouble, by publishing our imperfections, without at the same time furnishing or proposing any remedy. But, in truth, it is much easier to discover faults than to cure them. Our country and sovereign, at the beginning of the present reign, surrounded by weak, incompetent, and ignorant advisers, were led into mistakes which have resulted in a situation almost hopelessly discouraging. It is hard to know what to do first, which way to turn. We are entangled in a political morass, are badly mired in it, and are sinking instead of rising. The government has become unpopular, and consequently weak.

As our chief political losses have come upon us through the present constitution, we naturally look to the right of amendment thereto, graciously granted in its articles, for our remedy. Article 80 provides that “Any amendment or amendments to this constitution may be proposed in the legislative assembly, and if the same shall be agreed to by a majority of the members thereof, such proposed amendment or amendments shall be entered on its journal, with the yeas and nays taken thereon, and referred to the next legislature; which proposed amendment, or amendments, shall be published for the three months previous to the next election of representatives; and if in the next legislature such proposed amendment, or amendments, shall be agreed to by two-thirds of all the members of the legislative assembly and be approved by the King, such amendment or amendments shall become part of the constitution of this country.”

The words which we have emphasized give to an otherwise cumbersome and somewhat impracticable provision an atmosphere of levity and nonsense of the most masquerading type. Of course this method is useless in regard to any reform that the King may object to, while as to changes that he may favor, it would be much the best and cheapest way for him to amend by royal order, which under our present civil creed is perfectly consistent and regular, and so save the two years’ delay.

The chief subjects of reform are, first, to restore the legislature to its legitimate arrangement of nobles and representatives, sitting and voting separately, each having a negative on the other; second, to restore the absolute independence of the judiciary by repealing article 65 of the constitution. The restoration of the legislature to its two-house form was attempted in the session of 1868. Mr. Wilder brought in a resolution to this effect, which was well supported by minority composed of the best intelligence of the house, S. G. Wilder, A. F. Judd, H. R. Hitchcock, C. R. Bishop, and C. J. Lyons, speaking in its favor, while Messrs. Nahaku, Hopu, Koakauw, Mahelona, Kaukaha, and Rhodes spoke against it. Perhaps the best argument made on this side of the question was one launched by Mr. Rhodes, who was opposed to the amendment, because the constitution as it was, strenghtened the ministry, and under the then circumstances they needed strength. Unfortunately for us, this argument may be urged with as telling force now as then. The motion was lost by a vote of twenty-eight to ten. [Page 483] This is a matter of the highest importance to the nation and to each individual in it, and on which depends the existence of our civil liberty and self-government.

In regard to the independence of the judiciary, it needs no argument to show that to put into the hands of the Executive the power of suggesting reasons—they may be private, personal, social or political—for removing the judges from office, is a most dangerous blow to the highest welfare of the state. The supremacy of law must be guarded intact, or law and justice will be driven from us.

There are many other features of the constitution that are so utterly bad, and there is so much left out that ought to appear in every bill of rights, that if amendment was a practical thing, nothing better could be done than to amend by repealing the whole eighty articles in one motion in favor of a real bill of rights, which should recognize equal rights, the sovereignty of the people, and a government of three estates.

It seems clear that, however great is the need of reform, the way to it is rendered practically inaccessible by despotic limitations against civil liberty. Even if the steps were more available, such is the undue influence of the Grown in the government, that it does not seem very probable that important changes could be effected in the present state of political intelligence among the Hawaiians. It is not probable that the present constitution can survive even for a single generation; there is a certain constitutional weakness about it which renders such a conclusion imperative. Whether the Hawaiian government will be able to survive it, is a question whose solution is dependent upon the length of time that that decree of despotism continues to sap its strength and stand for its fundamental law.