Mr. Daggett to Mr. Frelinghuysen.
Honolulu, September 20, 1882. (Received October 9.)
Sir: I have the honor to submit to you a few general observations concerning the political situation in these islands, and beg that they may be accepted less as the convictions of mature inquiry than as conclusions impressed by a brief residence here, conversations with representative men who assist largely in creating public opinion and in shaping political events.
The legislature of the kingdom adjourned some days before my arrival here. It seems to have been under complete native control; but this should be matter of little surprise, when it is considered that the natives numerically outnumber the white Americans and Europeans in the islands almost ten to one, and that the ballot is given only to native-born and naturalized citizens.
In electing members to the last legislature, two motives at least seem to have inspired the natives in securing control of that body. One was that a loan might be effected, and the necessary appropriations of public money made for the coronation ceremonies, now fixed for the 12th of next February; and the other was a desire to repeal the law, which has been long in force, prohibiting the sale of all intoxicating liquors to the natives. They claim that the law was many years ago enacted through what they call the missionary influence—an influence, I may remark, which for a long period shaped the legislation, and to a very considerable extent controlled the government of these islands, but which is now giving way before changed conditions and increased and constantly increasing commercial activities impatient of restraint. They also claim that the law has been to them a grievous humiliation, inasmuch as under it not only the humble native citizen, but native born ministers of state and other high officers of the kingdom, have been denied social and other privileges accorded to all others.
This law was finally repealed during the last legislature, and on and after the 1st of next month liquors may be sold to natives under certain restraints. I do not think the privilege will be greatly abused. The natives of these islands are a singularly tractable, light-hearted, non-combative, and law-abiding people, and, unlike the North American Indian and other meat-eating natives of colder climates, do not generally crave alcoholic stimulants.
The repeal of the liquor law, the voting of appropriations for the coming coronation ceremonies, and the authorization of a national loan of two millions of dollars may be regarded as the three most important measures of the last legislature. It is in connection with these that complaint of the opposition finds loudest utterance.* * *
The coronation expenses, I do not think, will exceed $50,000, unless the legislature should be convened in extra session, as is contemplated, which would result in an additional expense of perhaps $30,000. I am led to believe that His Majesty may be induced to forego the assemblings of the legislature. Should this be tile case, the expenses of the ceremony—already too far advanced in preparation to be indefinitely deferred without humiliation—will find partial compensation in a temporary increase in trade, and the general gratification of the native population.
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The two-million loan, it is claimed, was not a necessity; but, as the entire amount is specifically devoted to the encouragement of immigration, to agriculture, to the construction of railways, to public buildings, and to internal improvements generally, it has something of a claim upon public approval. There can be little question, however, that the loan was authorized by a native legislature with the incentive and full knowledge that the burden of its payment would fall largely upon American and other foreign property-owners in the kingdom.
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Taxation is light the laws are well administered; life and property are as secure here as in any part of the civilized world; and with the advantages of the reciprocity treaty the general business of the island is fairly prosperous.
I have, &c.,