to Mr. Comly.
Washington, December 1, 1881.
Sir: My late instructions, and especially that of the 19th ultimo, will have shown you the deep interest with which the United States observes the course of events in the Hawaiian Islands. The apparent disposition to extend other influences there in lines parallel to or offsetting our own must be watched with care, and met with considerate firmness.
The intelligent and suggestive character of your recent dispatches naturally leads me to a review of the relationship of the Hawaiian Kingdom to the United States at somewhat greater length than was practicable in the limited scope of my instruction of November 19. That dispatch was necessarily confined to a consideration of the immediate question of a possible treaty engagement with Great Britain which would give to that power in Hawaii a degree of extraterritoriality of jurisdiction inconsistent with the relations of the islands to the other powers, and especially to the United States.
With the abandonment of feudal government by King Kamehameha III in 1839, and the inauguration of constitutional methods, the history of the political relation of Hawaii to the world at large may very properly be said to begin. The recognition of independent sovereignty by the great powers took place soon after that act on the part of the United States, dating from 1844. Even at that early day, before the United States had become a power on the Pacific coast, the commercial activity of our people was manifested in their intercourse with the islands of Oceanica, of which the Hawaiian group is the northern extremity. In 1848 the treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo confirmed the territorial extension of the United States to the Pacific, and gave to the Union a coast line on that ocean little inferior in extent, and superior in natural wealth, to the Atlantic seaboard of the original thirteen States. In 1848–’49 the [Page 636]discoveries of gold in California laid the foundation for the marvelous development of the western coast, and, in that same year, the necessities of our altered relationship to the Pacific Ocean found expression in a comprehensive treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with the sovereign kingdom of Hawaii.
The material connection between the Hawaiian Islands and the Pacific coast of the Union was natural and inevitable. But lately admitted to the family of separate states, Hawaii was necessarily drawn into closer kinship with California, then just entering on a path of prosperity and greatness whose rapidity of development the world has never seen equaled. Hence the movements toward intimate commercial relations between the two countries which, after the progressive negotiations of 1856, 1867, and 1869, culminated in the existing reciprocity treaty of January 30, 1875, which gave to the United States in Hawaii, and to Hawaii in the United States, trading rights and privileges in terms denied to other countries.
I have spoken of the Pacific coast line given to the American Union by the cession of California in 1848, as little inferior in extent, and superior in natural wealth, to the Atlantic seaboard of the original Union. Since that time our domain on the Pacific has been vastly increased by the purchase of Alaska. Taking San Francisco as the commercial center on the western slope, a line drawn northwestwardly to the Aleutian group, marks our Pacific border almost to the confines of Asia. A corresponding line drawn southwestwardly from San Francisco to Honolulu marks the natural limit of the ocean belt within which our trade with the oriental countries must flow, and is, moreover, the direct line of communication between the United States and Australasia. Within this belt lies the commercial domain of our western coast.
I have had recent occasion to set forth the vitally integral importance of our Pacific possessions, in a circular letter addressed on the 24th of June last to our representatives in Europe, touching the necessary guarantees of the proposed Panama Canal as a purely American waterway to be treated as part of our own coast line. The extension of commercial empire westward from those states is no less vitally important to their development than is their communication with the Eastern coast by the Isthmian channel. And when we survey the stupendous progress made by the western coast during the thirty years of its national life as a part of our dominion, its enormous increase of population, its vast resources of agriculture and mines, and its boundless enterprise, it is not easy to set a limit to its commercial activity or foresee a check to its maritime supremacy in the waters of the Orient, so long as those waters afford, as now, a free and neutral scope for our peaceful trade.
In thirty years the United States has acquired a legitimately dominant influence in the North Pacific, which it can never consent to see decreased by the intrusion therein of any element of influence hostile to its own. The situation of the Hawaiian Islands, giving them the strategic control of the North Pacific, brings their possession within the range of questions of purely American policy, as much so as that of the Isthmus itself. Hence the necessity, as recognized in our existing treaty relations, of drawing the ties of intimate relationship between us and the Hawaiian Islands so as to make them practically a part of the American system without derogation of their absolute independence. The reciprocity treaty of 1875 has made of Hawaii the sugar-raising field of the Pacific slope and gives to our manufacturers therein the same freedom as in California and Oregon. That treaty gave to Hawaii its first great impetus in trade, and developed that activity of production [Page 637]which has attracted the eager attention of European powers, anxious to share in the prosperity and advantages which the United States have created in mid-ocean. From 1877, the first full year succeeding the conclusion of the reciprocity treaty, to 1880, the imports from Hawaii to the United States nearly doubled, increasing from $2,550,335 in value to $4,606,444, and in this same period the exports from the United States to Hawaii rose from $1,272,949 to $2,026,170. In a word, Hawaii is, by the wise and beneficient provisions of the treaty, brought within the circle of the domestic trade of the United States, and our interest in its friendly neutrality is akin to that we feel in the guaranteed independence of Panama. On the other hand, the interests of Hawaii must inevitably turn toward the United States in the future, as in the present, as its natural and sole ally in conserving the dominion of both in the Pacific trade. Your own observation, during your residence at Honolulu, has shown you the vitality of the American sentiment which this state of things has irresistibly developed in the Islands. I view that sentiment as the logical recognition of the needs of Hawaii as a member of the American system of states rather than as a blind desire for a protectorate or ultimate annexation to the American Union.
This government has on previous occasions been brought face to face with the question of a protectorate over the Hawaiian group. It has, as often as it arose, been set aside in the interest of such commercial union and such reciprocity of benefits as would give to Hawaii the highest advantages and at the same time strengthen its independent existence as a sovereign state. In this I have summed up the whole disposition of the United States toward Hawaii in its present condition.
The policy of this country with regard to the Pacific is the natural complement to its Atlantic policy. The history of our European relations for fifty years shows the jealous concern with which the United States has guarded its control of the coast from foreign interference, and this without extension of territorial possession beyond the main land. It has always been its aim to preserve the friendly neutrality of the adjacent states and insular possessions. Its attitude toward Cuba is in point. That rich island, the key to the Gulf of Mexico, and the field for our most extended trade in the Western Hemisphere is, though in the hands of Spain, a part of the American commercial system. Our relations, present and prospective, toward Cuba, have never been more ably set forth than in the remarkable note addressed by my predecessor, Mr. Secretary Everett, to the ministers of Great Britain and France in Washington, on the 1st of December, 1852, in rejection of the suggested tripartite alliance to forever determine the neutrality of the Spanish Antilles. In response to the proposal that the United States, Great Britain, and France, should severally and collectively agree to forbid the acquisition of control over Cuba, by any or all of them, Mr. Everett showed that, without forcing or even coveting possession of the island, its condition was essentially an American question; that the renunciation forever by this government of contingent interest therein would be far broader than the like renunciation by Great Britain or France; that if ever ceasing to be Spanish, Cuba must necessarily become American, and not fall under any other European domination, and that the ceaseless movement of segregation of American interests from European control and unification in a broader American sphere of independent life could not and should not be checked by any arbitrary agreement.
Nearly thirty years have demonstrated the wisdom of the attitude [Page 638]then maintained by Mr. Everett and have made indispensable its continuance and its extension to all parts of the American Atlantic system where a disturbance of the existing status might be attempted in the interest of foreign powers. The present attitude of this government toward any European project for the control of an isthmian route is but the logical sequence of the resistance made in 1852 to the attempted pressure of an active foreign influence in the West Indies.
Hawaii, although much farther from the Californian coast than is Cuba from the Floridian peninsula, holds in the western sea much the same position as Cuba in the Atlantic. It is the key to the maritime dominion of the Pacific States, as Cuba is the key to the Gulf trade. The material possession of Hawaii is not desired by the United States any more than was that of Cuba. But under no circumstances can the United States permit any change in the territorial control of either which would cut it adrift from the American system whereto they both indispensably belong.
In this aspect of the question, it is readily seen with what concern this government must view any tendency toward introducing into Hawaii new social elements, destructive of its necessarily American character. The steady diminution of the native population of the islands, amounting to some ten per cent, between 1872 and 1878, and still continuing, is doubtless a cause of great alarm to the government of the kingdom, and it is no wonder that a solution should be sought with eagerness in any seemingly practicable quarter. The problem, however, is not to be met by a substitution of Mongolian supremacy for native control—as seems at first sight possible through the rapid increase in Chinese immigration to the islands. Neither is a wholesale introduction of the coolie element, professedly Anglo-Indian, likely to afford any more satisfactory outcome to the difficulty. The Hawaiian Islands cannot be joined to the Asiatic system. If they drift from their independent station it must be toward assimilation and identification with the American system, to which they belong by the operation of natural laws, and must belong by the operation of political necessity.
I have deemed it necessary to go, with somewhat of detail, into the real nature of our relations toward Hawaii, in order that you may intelligently construe my recent instructions in the light of our true and necessary policy on the Pacific. It may also tend to simplify your intercourse with the native government if you are in a position to disabuse the minds of its statesmen of any belief or impression that our course is selfishly intrusive, or looks merely to the exclusive retention of transient advantages of local commerce, in which other countries seek a share. The United States was one of the first among the great nations of the world to take an active interest in the up building of Hawaiian independence and the creation of a new and potential life for its people. It has consistently endeavored, and with success, to enlarge the material prosperity of Hawaii on such independent basis. It proposes to be equally unremitting in its efforts hereafter to maintain and develop the advantages which have accrued to Hawaii and to draw closer the ties which imperatively unite it to the great body of American commonwealths.
In this line of action the United States does its simple duty both to Hawaii and itself; and it cannot permit such obvious neglect of national interest as would be involved by silent acquiescence in any movement looking to a lessening of those American ties and the substitution of alien and hostile interests. It firmly believes that the position of the Hawaiian Islands as the key to the dominion of the American Pacific demands their neutrality, to which end it will earnestly co-operate with [Page 639]the native government. And if, through any cause, the maintenance of such a position of neutrality should be found by Hawaii to be impracticable, this government would then unhesitatingly meet the altered situation by seeking an avowedly American solution for the grave issues presented.
The communication to the Hawaiian Government of the views herein expressed is left, both as to manner and extent, to your own discretion. If the treaty relations with Great Britain, of which my last instruction treats, prove to be of such a nature as to require the communication of a formal protest in the premises to the Hawaiian minister of foreign affairs, it would probably be wise for you to give him a copy of this dispatch as a just and temperate exposition of the intentions of this government, and a succinct explanation of the reasons which have induced such a protest. Even if the formal delivery hereof to the minister should not appear advisable, it would be well for you to reflect this policy in your conversations with the public men at Honolulu, who will, I am sure, find these views in harmony with the true interests of the Hawaiian Kingdom as they are with those of the United States.
I am, &c.,