No. 338.

Mr. Merrill to Mr. Bayard .

No. 14.]

Sir: I have the honor to transmit herewith three copies of a circular manifesto, issued by his excellency Charles T. Gulick, a member of His Majesty’s cabinet and president of the board of immigration, in reference to the policy of this Government toward contract laborers.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure in No. 14.]


His Majesty’s Government are anxious to secure the successful settlement in this country of Portuguese, Japanese, and other agricultural laborers, and the legislature by its liberal appropriations, and in the discussion which occurred in regard to immigrants of various nationalties that come to settle here, has manifested a similar feeling. Expressions of public opinion, both from those specially interested in the question of plantation labor and from other classes of the community, have forcibly indorsed this desire as the expression of a sound national policy. The arrangements for securing this settlement have been perfected, but, in order to attain satisfactory results, it will be necessary that the needs and requirements and the peculiarities of the several races of men who come to this country in the hope of thereby bettering their condition should be studied by those with whom they are brought into contract as employers.

Peculiarities of race require consideration. For instance, it must be evident to all who have had occasion to employ the Japanese that they are eminently a teachable race, and that at the same time it is only by a kind and just treatment that they can be successfully dealt with. Such treatment is indeed essential to success in the management of immigrant foreign laborers generally. In view of this fact it is well that the bases of the agreements which exist between His Majesty’s Government and the several Governments interested in this subject should be clearly understood by all employers of laborers who are serving under original contracts with the board of immigration.

The understanding with the Japanese Government is that while the immigrants remain under their original contracts they are to be under the immediate guardianship of the Government, and that the planters to whom their contracts are assigned are the agents of the Government, the latter being really responsible on the original contracts at all points. This provision, which is but a definite and legal definition of the contents of the contracts themselves, will apply equally to Portuguese and all other laborers who are performing their original terms of service under contracts to which the board is a party.

From this understanding it follows that on the Government rests the duty of inquiring into, and endeavoring to settle in an amicable manner, all complaints and differences that may arise between the actual employer and the laborer. To insure the fulfillment of this duty, the Government has decided to establish under the board of immigration a special commission of inspection of Japanese laborers (of which Mr. Nakayama is at present the chief), also a special inspection of Portuguese and others, the whole system being under the direction of an inspector-general, who will receive his orders from the board of immigration. Under this arrangement the Government will be able to place inspectors and interpreters on the principal islands.

To these commissions of inspection all complaints on the part of employers of immigrant laborers are to be made. The laborers themselves will be instructed (as the Japanese have already been) to make any complaints they may have to these inspectors rather than to the representatives of their own Government, the twofold aim being to obviate the necessity of the several representatives making official complaints and also to secure the prompt settlement of all disputes that may arise between employers and employed without need of reference to the courts of law.

[Page 475]

It is indeed fully understood that the actual employers of immigrants brought here by the Government being virtually agents of the Government, arrests for breach of service contracts are not to be made without the concurrence of the board of immigration. The Government has confidence that in almost all cases the action of the several commissions of inspection will render such arrests unnecessary.

It has further been distinctly considered and determined by the Government, that no employer or overseer (luna) shall be permitted, under any circumstances (except in self-defense), to strike or lay hands upon any contract laborer who is recognized as a Government ward. This determination is made binding by agreements to this effect, actually entered into; and it is rendered all the more important when considered in the light of the sensitive nature of the Japanese race, in particular, which renders any rough handling of the laborer abortive, if intended to secure obedience. It must therefore be understood by all employers that blows or other violence used against a contract laborer, except in absolute self-defense, will be deemed suffix ground for the withdrawal of the assignment made to them of any person so dealt with.

It rests mainly with employers to make these new arrangements successful. It is only in detail that they are new. The spirit which animates this Government and the Governments of the several countries from which the immigrant laborers come is already embodied in the laws and in the settled polity of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Employers have now before them the understanding on which they hold the services of the immigrant laborers assigned to them, and if they endeavor to bring about the adjustment of all disputes which may arise with their laborers in the spirit of that understanding, they will also be acting in a spirit which will secure the cordial commendation, not only of the several Governments interested, but of all enlightened nations everywhere.

Minister of Interior and President Board of Immigration.