No. 398.
Mr. Comly to Mr. Blaine.

[Extract.]
No. 189.]

Sir: I have had occasion frequently to report to the Secretary of State the discomfort felt by the British commissioner and other residents here, on account of the predominance of United States influence and interests in the Hawaiian Islands.

[Page 628]

The watchfulness of the commissioner to find means of undermining this influence and fostering British interests has been constant, and for the most part praiseworthy, and has not interfered with our personal relations further than to put them upon a general basis of perhaps exaggerated consideration and courtesy.

* * * * * * *

The subject of cooly immigration from British India is one that I have had occasion to speak of as one of great and increasing danger to both Hawaiian and American interests.

There has been a systematic and indomitable struggle to force the Hawaiian Government into a convention for the importation of East Indian coolies, so as to give the English a separate judicature, and furnish innumerable opportunities for meddlesome interference with the internal affairs of this government.

There is a constant stream of newspaper publication—especially in the native papers—on this question, urging it upon the King, and bitterly assailing his ministers for their conservative course in the matter.

“The United States has given us the reciprocity treaty—why should we not allow Great Britian to give us labor?”—is the way it is put.

The British commissioner busies himself personally in stirring up the partisans of his side, and full page broadsides are written for the native papers by the Hon. Godfrey Rhodes, late president of the legislative assembly. The Hon. Archibald Scott Cleghorne, a scotch brother-in-law of the King, is kept in a state of excitement on the same subject by Major Wodehouse. Indeed, it is one of our advantages in the position that he is so, as the King is always happy to disoblige his brother-in-law.

Just now, while the King is abroad, with a special view to securing immigration, a supreme effort is being made to force action, and there does seem to be cause for apprehension that something may be done.

The newspapers of last week state that the British Government, while the King was in London, offered him a convention for the emigration of coolies to the Sandwich Islands, but stated to His Majesty that “of course, they must be accompanied by a British protector, the same as in case of emigration to British or other colonies.”

This “protector” tries all cases of disputes arising among the coolies themselves, and also between coolies and citizens of the country where they reside; and cases of appeal from his judgment go, not to the courts of the country, but to the British consul or diplomatic representative.

I have been diligent in steadily keeping this in mind of all the different ministers the different changes have brought into power, and have generally received assurances that the islands should never be put under an alien judicature, in this insidious manner.

The matter has assumed a character of such grave importance, in view of what may have been initiated by the King while in London, that I am earnestly desired by one of the King’s ministers (who personally knows Mr. Secretary Blaine) to ask the Secretary as a favor personally to give a hint to the King, should a favorable opportunity offer during his visit in Washington, in order that he may be made to see the danger of introducing such an element into the affairs of his government. I am assured that the King has a great respect for the honorable Secretary of State, and will listen attentively to any observations en passant from that quarter.

The British commissioner has also skillfully taken hold, in the same connection, of the matter which I have treated in the private letter to Captain Gillis, a copy of which is made inclosure No. 1 with this dispatch. The original I have taken the liberty of sending direct to Captain [Page 629]Gillis, as it would lose fourteen days in going through the State Department and return.

The British claims arising out of the reciprocity treaty are still held over the head of the Hawaiian Government, as a menace and reminder of English power. The English commissioner is probably waiting instructions for his next step in the business.

Meantime I have verbally conveyed to the Hawaiian minister of foreign affairs the spirit of the instructions received from the Secretary of State, in Nos. 102 and 105, with the best of my skill, assuring him that there was no lack of confidence in the intention of Hawaii to strictly observe the stipulations of the reciprocity treaty; and that the honorable Secretary of State concurred in the opinion that the claim of Great Britain for the same privileges under the treaty with the United States was wholly inadmissible.

Both the minister of foreign affairs and the minister of the interior (Mr. Green and Mr. Carter) desired me to express their thanks to the Secretary of State, in terms of unusual warmth and gratification, for an intimation so important and assuring.

I am, &c.,

JAMES M. COMLY.
[Inclosure in No. 189.]

Mr. Comly to Capt. J. H. Gillis.

Private.]

My Dear Captain: There has been, I find, an amount, of grave and statesman-like speculation going on in the heads of the government here as to why the Lackawanna did not return the royal salute the evening when her royal highness, the princess regent, left on the Likelike for a “royal progress.” I never knew until yesterday morning that the salute had not been returned, having been quite ill and confined to my bed that day. Yesterday morning one of the ministers told me that the British commissioner had an intrigue on hand to persuade the government, and especially the regent, that there was an annexation project in petto, behind all the talk in the American newspapers about the King desiring to sell the island. Major Wodehouse pointed to the failure to return the royal salute as confirmatory of this view, and frightened the poor princess so badly that she lives in terror of seeing the American flag float over the islands before her brother can get back here.

Now, all this will doubtless seem very foolish to you, as it does to me. But I found from the assurances by ministers yesterday that the British commissioner had actually worked upon the fears of the princess so far that she was corresponding with him direct, and receiving assurances of British protection, in case the wicked United States proceeded to extremities in this extraordinary business. The ministers are very much afraid she has compromised herself and the kingdom by the notes she has written, and which none of them have seen.

I told them there was no political significance whatever in your failure to return the salute and no discourtesy intended. I reminded them that there was nothing but an informal suggestion, or mere verbal mention of the fact that the princess was going, &c., made by Governor Dominis to you in my presence; and that in the pressure of other matters a thousand things might have occurred to put the matter out of your mind, as you had no written or official notice from Governor Dominis or anybody else. I was requested to see the princess and calm her apprehensions, which had been worked upon by the British party and by Mr. Walter Murray Gibson until she was in a condition to do something foolish and dangerous to American interests. I promised, also, to write to you, asking you to make a statement assuring all concerned that I was sure it was through some inadvertence, entirely without significance, that the salute had failed, as I felt sure you had intended to meet the suggestion of Governor Dominis.

I called at the palace and at Washington Place to see the princess, but she was not in. I have entirely pacified all the rest, and shall be able to call “my colleague” to [Page 630]account very soon, I hope, for the rash manner in which he has been handling the American name. It is all very well for him to play the role of sympathizing friend, but he must not make unfriendly representations as to the intentions of the United States, in order to give himself a chance to console and protect the desolate victim of our rapacity.

Please remember me to such of your officers as remember us pleasantly. I was deeply moved to hear of the bad news you received the day you left, which I did after your departure. I hope you may find in the society of your family all the consolation possible under such a loss.

Very sincerely, yours,

JAMES M. COMLY.