Report upon the official relations of the United States with the Hawaiian Islands from the first appointment of a consular officer there by this government.
On September 19, 1820, Mr. John C. Jones was appointed to reside at the Sandwich Islands in the capacity of “Agent of the United States for commerce and seamen.” To those functions there was added, as the duty of the agent, a general supervision of American interests in the islands concerning the status of which he advised the Department from time to time. Other official information touching these interests, and events then current there, was occasionally afforded by officers of the Navy, on visiting vessels, whose instructions permitted their friendly intervention in such affairs of the country as they might with propriety regard as of importance to this Government.
In consequence of instructions in May, 1825, to Commodore Hull, U. S. Navy, in command of the Pacific squadron, then at Callao, Thomas ap Catesby Jones, commanding the U. S. S. Peacock, was sent the following year to Honolulu on a visit of friendly inspection, to relieve the native authorities of the annoyance occasioned by deserters from American vessels in the islands, and to endeavor to adjust certain claims of American citizens there resident. The objects of this visit were successfully accomplished, and Capt. Jones negotiated a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with the King, which was signed December 23, 1826. This was the first treaty formally negotiated by the Hawaiians with any foreign power, and although it was never ratified by this Government, certain of its stipulations appear to have embodied friendly views and purposes of the United States which were considered morally binding by both parties. (A copy of the treaty will be found in Appendix—.
In 1829, Capt. Finch, commanding the U. S. S. Vincennes, visited the islands as the bearer of presents and a letter, dated January 20 of that year, from the Secretary of the Navy, on behalf of the President. In that letter Mr. Southard said:
The President anxiously hopes that peace and kindness and justice will prevail between your people and those citizens of the United States who visit your islands, and that the regulations of yonr government will be such as to enforce them upon all.
Our citizens who violate your laws or interfere with your regulations violate at the same time their duty to their own Government and country, and merit censure and punishment.
From time to time thereafter naval vessels of the United States visited Hawaii and intervened in a friendly way in their affairs. Among them the United States frigate Potomac, with Commodore Downs, touched at Honolulu soon after the deportation, in December, 1831, of the Roman Catholic priests who had been introduced into the country in 1827 by the French, and that officer interceded successfully in behalf of some of their converts, who were undergoing persecution at the hands of the native Government. These persecutions were not [Page 9]finally arrested until 1839, in July of which year the French frigate L’ Artémise, Laplace, commander, visited there. Laplace propounded several demands for the adoption of measures for the protection of the Catholics and offered a treaty of commerce, etc., threatening in the event of noncompliance with the demands and nonsignature of the treaty by the Hawaiian authorities to proceed forthwith to hostilities. The American consul was notified by Laplace at the same time that the American Protestant clergy would be treated as a part of the native population when hostilities should begin, he regarding them as the instigators of the alleged insults to France. The treaty, however, was signed by the premier, in the King’s name, and violence was averted.
Under the provisions of article vi of this treaty intoxicating liquors were introduced. (Appendix.)
At about the same time the British consul, Mr. Charlton, who had long been at odds with the native Government, left to present, en route to London, certain personal claims and complaints to the British naval force on the South Pacific station. Already his representations had secured the violent intervention of Lord Edward Russell, commanding H. B. M. S. Acteon, and that officer had “negotiated a treaty” under the guns of his ship, which was signed November 16, 1836. (Appendix.)
Charlton did not return, but the result of his errand was the visit in February, 1843, of Lord George Paulet, commanding H. B. M. S. Carysfort, who seized the islands in the Queen’s name and forced from the King, Kamehameha III, a deed of cession, which was pathetically proclaimed by the unfortunate monarch on the 25th of that month. The Government was immediately put in commission by a proclamation of Lord George, he and (in the King’s absence) the King’s deputy, Mr. Judd, with others, being of the commission. On the 11th of May Mr. Judd resigned, after a protest against some of the acts of the commission, and thus withdrew the King from all further participation in their course. The remaining members of the commission continued to administer the Government and to perform various sovereign functions. Among others, they raised a native regiment, which they called “The Queen’s Own,” but which they armed and equipped at the expense of the Hawaiian treasury, and the officers of which they, of course, required to make oath of allegiance to the British Queen.
Commodore Kearney, U. S. Navy, on board the U. S. Frigate Constellation, arrived on the 11th of July, and promptly protested against the King’s deed of cession, and also against the acts of the commission wherein the rights of American citizens had suffered in any degree. The King returned to Honolulu on the 25th of July, and on the 26th Rear-Admiral Thomas, R. N., entered the harbor on board H. B. M. S. Dublin, from Valparaiso. After friendly conferences between the King and the admiral, an agreement was signed, the Hawaiian flag was restored on July 31, 1843, and Lord George Paulet’s act of seizure disavowed. (Appendix.)
In this relation Mr. Fox, in a note of June 25, 1843, to Mr. Upshur, used the following language:
I am directed by the Earl of Aberdeen to state to you, for the information of the Government of the United States, that the occupation of the Sandwich Islands was an act entirely unauthorized by Her Majesty’s Government; and that with the least practicable delay due inquiry will be made into the proceedings which led to it. (Appendix.)
[In an ingenious (but not ingenuous) plea of defense against the claim of the King for compensation and reimbursement, the Earl of Aberdeen satisfied himself that no such claim could be entertained by Great Britain. He regarded the seizure by Lord George Paulet as not “forcible”.—History Hawaiian Islands, Jarves.]
The indirect causes of this outrage were complicated, but of assisted and persistent growth. From the early days of foreign interests and immigration in Hawaii the American element had predominated. The contention of the two principal European nations sending ships into the North Pacific—England and France—for supremacy in the islands was hampered by this fact. The remedy adopted by the French was the introduction of a rival religion. It was the belief of the British consul that American influence might thus be broken, and the field left clear for a settlement of the question of ultimate sovereignty between the two powers, whose policy in that part of the world was one of conquest or colonization. The native sentiment turned toward that people by whom their independence had been first virtually acknowledged. The treaty negotiated by Capt. Jones had been the first actual recognition of their autonomy. For while that treaty had not been formally ratified, it had been observed as morally binding. The United States had manifested towards the Hawaiians a spirit of goodwill, and had maintained an attitude of neighborly respect in all official relations. The visits of their naval vessels had been generally helpful and encouraging; the purposes of their immigrants had been generally civilizing and progressive. By the policy of the French and English the Americans were thrust into a position of defense alongside of the native population, and threatened with a share of the punishment to be visited upon the government for the fancied insults and wrongs suffered by the people of those two nations.
But a short time before the event just recited, William Richards, a clergymen, and Timoteo Haalilio, of the King’s suite, the first embassy from Hawaii, had left for the United States, thence to proceed to England and France, upon the errand of securing recognition of the independence of their government. Mr. Richards had been formerly sent to this country in 1836 by the King to secure, if possible, the service of some American eminent in public life as advisers to the chiefs; but his mission had been unsuccessful.
The embassy having arrived at Washington addressed a communication to Mr. Webster on the 14th of December, 1842, setting forth the situation of affairs in the Hawaiian Islands, reciting the progress of the people in the paths of civilization; their aspirations, and the necessity that demanded the formulation by the King of some definite foreign policy, and the assumption by his government of diplomatic relations with other powers.
Mr. Webster answered them on the 19th, declaring in the name of the President recognition of the independence of the Hawaiian Government and the sense of the United States that no interference with the King by foreign powers should be countenanced. He pointed out the interest of the American people in the islands and the reasons for such interest, and added that in so obvious a case the President did not regard a formal treaty or the establishment of formal diplomatic relations as then necessary. He concluded with the assurance that not improbably the correspondence would be made the subject of a communication to Congress, and be thus officially made known to the Governments of the principal commercial nations of Europe. The President communicated the correspondence to Congress on the 30th of December, with a special message declarative of his policy. (Appendix.)
This recognition of Hawaiian independence was, as we shall see, afterwards confirmed by Mr. Calhoun.
Proceeding to England the Hawaiian ambassadors were finally successful [Page 11]in London in securing, on the 28th of November, 1843, a convention between France and Great Britain, engaging them “reciprocally to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state, and never to take possession, either directly or under title of protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.” (Appendix.)
This convention did not, however, guarantee the autonomy of the islands as against any third power, nor did it contain any expression of opinion on that point similar in spirit to Mr. Webster’s declaration of the preceding December. Its intention seems to have been simply reciprocally to bind those two powers to do one thing—that is, “to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state”—and to refrain from doing another thing—that is, “never to take possession,” under any pretext, “of any part of the territory of which they are composed.”
In consequence of the recommendation contained in the message of President Tyler, of December 30, 1842, Congress made an appropriation for the compensation of a diplomatic officer from this Government to the Sandwich Islands, and on March 3, 1843, Mr. George Brown, of Massachusetts, was appointed commissioner. Mr. Brown arrived at Honolulu in October following, and, on the 30th of that month, presented his credentials, with an address to the King, in which he asked in behalf of the citizens of the United States favorable and impartial treatment, at the same time assuring the monarch that this Government had no wish to secure for itself or its citizens any exclusive privileges. The King, answering, said upon this point:
You may assure your Government that I shall always consider the citizens of the United States as entitled to equal privileges with those of the most favored nation. (Appendix.)
Unfortunately, soon after Mr. Brown’s arrival—by the latter part of the following August—a cause of serious difference arose between him and the King’s Government in the case of John Wiley, an American citizen, who had been arrested charged with the commission of a crime or misdemeanor, and to whom trial by jury had been denied by the local governor.
The treaty with France, above alluded to as secured by Capt. Laplace at the mouth of his guns, contained a stipulation (Article vi) that—
No Frenchman accused of any crime whatever shall be judged otherwise than by a jury composed of foreign residents, proposed by the consul of France and accepted by the Government of the Sandwich Islands.
On the 12th of February, 1844, a convention with Great Britain had been entered into by the King’s Government which contained (Article iii) the same provision in identical phrase, mutatis mutandis. This treaty had been secured very much after the fashion observed by Laplace. Within less than one year before its signature the islands had been seized by Great Britain and had been adequately advised of the power of England. The King’s embassy was still absent, and the newly arrived British consul-general had communicated the fact that he was without discretion to alter terms. The treaty was itself, in still other respects, objectionable to the American commissioner by reason of apparent discrimination in favor of England and against the United States, and it had already been the subject of an earnest protest on his part. And now, there being no treaty with the United States, the King’s promise made in his speech to that commissioner, as he understood it, had been ignored by advice of the attorney-general—an American citizen—a lawyer of New York, of the name of John Ricord, who had been invited to [Page 12]accept the office and had gone to Hawaii and there become naturalized for the purpose. The dispute over the treaty and the Wiley case together created a situation of affairs that resulted in a request from the King for the recall of Mr. Brown (whose conduct was, however, approved by this Governtment) and the appointment of Mr. Ten Eyck. (Appendix.)
But in the meantine, on the 6th of July, 1844, the King’s commissioners, having returned to this country from Europe, received a communication from Mr. Calhoun confirming the “full recognition on the part of the United States of the independence of the Hawaiian Government” They left for Honolulu in November.
On March 26, 1846, two general conventions were entered into—one by France, the other by Great Britain—identical in terms and equally to be substituted for all preexisting agreements made by those Governments with the King. These conventions modified the jury clauses and Article vi of the Laplace treaty, governing the importation of intoxicating liquors. Juries were to be composed of native or foreign residents proposed by the consul (English or French) and accepted by the Hawaiian Government, and duties were allowed within the prohibitory limit upon ardent spirits. These conventions do not, however, seem to have recognized the complete independence of the King. (Appendix.)
On the 19th of the following October a treaty with Denmark was concluded at Honolulu, containing the favored-nation clause; and this compact appears to be the first of its kind conveying unrestricted and ample acknowledgment of Hawaiian independence. (Appendix.)
Mr. Ten Eyck’s instructions had included a charge to negotiate a treaty upon the basis of that existing between the Government of the islands and Great Britain at the time of his appointment. The unacceptability of the jury clause in that instrument and the desire of the Hawaiian King to secure its modification rendered it unwise to insist upon a similar article in any new convention. The authority of Mr. Ten Eyck had not been limited to the negotiation of an identical agreement, and he seems therefore to have persisted unwisely in urging the inclusion of the objectionable provision. This error was pointed out to him by Mr. Buchanan in an instruction of June 18, 1847, but seemingly without result. Much correspondence occurred between the King’s minister and the American commissioner, and several projects of treaties were ineffectually submitted by the latter. Pending these negotiations the disadvantageous position of the United States, in the absence of a treaty, was emphasized by each new agreement successfully negotiated by other governments. Meanwhile the commissioner became indiscreetly (with American claimants) involved in serious differences of opinion with the Government of Hawaii, respecting the rights of American residents, and his attitude became finally one of hostility. There was the repetition of the old story, told so many times in such quarters of the globe, personal and commercial difficulties involving consuls and diplomatic agents alike, conflicting interests among foreigners of two or three nationalities, rival factions, complicated quarrels, and, so far as practicable, general disregard of native rights by each and all. Mr. Ten Eyck was roundly rated by Mr. Buchanan in an interesting dispatch of considerable length and some tartness, dated August 28, 1848, from which there will be occasion to make several extracts. Mr. Ten Eyck resigned in September, 1848, and Mr. Charles Fames was appointed January 12, 1849. (Appendix.)
On the 8th of January, 1848, a treaty with Hamburg was concluded by the King’s minister for foreign affairs, and later in the month an [Page 13]agreement touching consular notices under the Danish and Hamburg treaties was reached. But it was not until October 22, 1849, that a treaty with this Government was finally signed at San Francisco by Mr. Fames and Mr. Judd. (Appendix.)
Mr. Eames, en route to Honolulu, had met Mr. Judd, the King’s commissioner, en route to Washington, at San Francisco, and there together they had agreed upon an instrument of a general character. The treaty, in the English and Hawaiian languages, reached the Department of State on the 8th of December. But, in the meantime, the Hawaiian Government had appointed Mr. James Jackson Jarves, then in this country, a special commissioner to negotiate a treaty, and he met Mr. Clayton, appointed on behalf of the United States, at Washington in the same month. They agreed upon terms and signed a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation, and for extradition of criminals, December 20, 1849. Ratifications were exchanged at Honolulu the 24th of August, following, and the treaty was proclaimed—the first perfected treaty between the two powers—November 9, 1850.
This convention did not differ materially from the treaties negotiated by this Government with other nations for similar purposes. The treaty is still in force except so far as modified by later conventions. (Appendix.)
In 1849 disputes between the French consul and the native authorities respecting the convention of 1846 brought about another seizure of the islands by the armed forces of France, which became the occasion of the dispatch of very explicit instructions from the American Secretary of State. After a preliminary diplomatic skirmish between the French naval commander, Admiral de Tromelin, and the King’s minister for foreign affairs, Mr. Wyllie, the admiral formulated his demands in an ultimatum, and upon its nonacceptance the naval force under his command, on the 25th of August, 1849, took military possession of the fort, the Government offices, and of the custom-house, and seized the King’s royal yacht and several other vessels belonging to private persons. Official news of this proceeding reached the United States December 10, 1849, from Mr. Ten Eyck. (Appendix.)
The French continued in possession of the fort and public buildings until the 4th or 5th of September, dismantled the fort, and destroyed considerable public property, but did not haul down the Hawaiian flag. Upon the exercise of this restraint they depended for the argument that they had not acted in contravention of the agreement with England of 1843. (Appendix.)
Mr. Judd was appointed by the King as commissioner to England, France, and the United States, it appears, with pretty full powers to make some adjustment of this last difficulty. It was rumored that he was not limited even from cession of the kingdom either to England or the United States. His negotiations with the French minister for foreign affairs having proved fruitless he reached the United States on his way home in the spring of 1850, and in conjunction with Mr. Jarves solicited the good offices of this Government in the settlement of the dispute with France. They were promptly accorded by the President, through the Secretary of State, in a note of June 3, 1850, and instructions in conformity therewith were sent to Mr. Rives at Paris. Negotiations dragged and chances of settlement seemed to recede until on the 11th of March, 1851, Mr. Severance, the commissioner of the United States at Honolulu, reported the fact that a deed of cession of the kingdom to the United States had been drawn, submitted to him, sealed, and delivered to him on the afternoon of the same day by two of the [Page 14]King’s ministers. This instrument was the consequence of the King’s apprehension excited by the hostile attitude of France. It bore the following inscription in the Hawaiian language:
The King requests the commissioner of the United States, in ease the flag of the United States is raised above the Hawaiian, that he will open the inclosed and act accordingly.
The terms of this deed provided that the kingdom should be held by the United States until a satisfactory adjustment of the dispute with France, and, failing that end within a reasonable period, should be permanently transferred to them. (Appendix.)
Answering Mr. Severance’s series of dispatches on this subject, Mr. Webster, on the 14th of July, 1851, said:
The Navy Department will receive instructions to place and to keep the naval armament of the United States in the Pacific Ocean in such a state of strength and preparation as shall he requisite for the preservation of the honor and dignity of the United States and the safety of the Government of the Hawaiian Islands.
In a confidential dispatch of the same date Mr. Severance was directed to return to the Hawaiian Government the deed of cession placed in his hands. (Appendix.)
The subject of annexation was not, however, abandoned in the correspondence by reason of Mr. Webster’s dispatch. Mr. Marcy, writing to Mr. Gregg, then United States commissioner there, on the 4th of April, 1854, discussed the question fully, and authorized the negotiation of a treaty for the purpose, the terms of which he indicated. On the 11th November following, a draft of a treaty acceptable to the King was received with Mr. Gregg’s dispatch No. 52 of September 15, 1854. (Appendix.)
Stipulations were drawn in this treaty for annuities aggregating three times the sum offered for that purpose by Mr. Marcy, and for the admission of the Kingdom as a State of the Union. These provisions were objected to by this Government, but before any conclusion was reached the King, Kamehameha III, died, and was succeeded in February, 1855, by a prince who held views unfavorable to the project, and so the treaty failed. (Appendix.)
In 1855, on the 20th of July, a treaty of reciprocity was concluded at Washington by Mr. Marcy and Judge Lee, the King’s commissioner; but, although the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs appears to have been favorable to it, ratification failed, it is said, by reason of the pressure of more important and absorbing questions. (Appendix.)
Correspondence for several years following this incident is chiefly concerned with claims, complaints, and matters of routine. In 1863 the rank of the diplomatic officer of this Government was raised to that of minister resident, and James McBride, of Oregon, was appointed to that office. The conduct of the civil war so far diverted attention from Hawaiian affairs that consideration of the subject of a desired treaty of reciprocity was obliged, by Mr. Seward’s engagements, to be deferred to a more tranquil period, and until the results of English and Southern influence there, exerted during the civil war in the United States against this Government, should be overcome. There are occasional references to annexation. (Appendix.)
In December, 1866, Queen Emma, queen dowager of Hawaii, visited the United States on her way from England to Honolulu.
On the 1st of February, 1867, Mr. McCook, our minister at Honolulu, was instructed that it was the desire to revive the subject of the reciprocity treaty of 1855, but upon terms more liberal to the United [Page 15]States. Accordingly, on the 21st of May following, Mr. McCook, on behalf of the United States, and Mr. Harris, on the part of the Hawaiian Government, concluded a treaty of reciprocity at San Francisco, which received the approval of the President, but failed of ratification by the Senate. (Appendix.)
In a private note of June 7,1867, Mr. McCook adverted to the subject of annexation, and asked leave of absence to visit the United States the following November, when the reciprocity treaty might be expected to become the subject of consideration in the Senate. This leave was granted by Mr. Seward, who thus instructed Mr. McCook:
You are at liberty to sound the proper authority on the large subject mentioned in your note, and ascertain probable conditions. You may confidentially receive overtures and communicate the same to me.
I will act upon your suggestion in that relation in regard to a party now here.
Mr. Seward’s “large subject” was annexation, and Mr. Seward’s “party now here” was the Hawaiian minister to this country, Mr. C. C. Harris. (Appendix.)
It is probable that a conference was held on the subject by Mr. Seward and Mr. Harris, but notes of it do not appear. On the 12th of September, however, Mr. Seward, writing confidentially to Mr. McCook, said:
Circumstances have transpired here which induce a belief that a strong interest, based upon a desire for annexation of the Sandwich Islands, will be active in opposing a ratification of the reciprocity treaty. It will be argued that the reciprocity will tend to hinder and defeat an early annexation, to which the people of the Sandwich Islands are supposed to be now strongly inclined.
He advised the minister to remain at Honolulu and abandon his earlier plan to visit Washington, and he added—
That if the policy of annexation should conflict with the policy of reciprocity, annexation is in every case to be preferred. (Appendix.)
During the spring and summer of 1867 some apprehension was created in the mind of the King by the presence in Hawaiian waters of the U. S. S. Lackawanna, Capt. Reynolds. This was based upon the fact that the commanding officer had been formerly a resident in Hawaii and was interfering, or had the purpose to interfere, in political affairs. It is not impossible that the King’s minister for foreign affairs, de Varigny, was really responsible for the royal apprehensions. The presence of the ship delayed ratification of reciprocity, and it was not until after her departure that the King convened the legislature to consider the subject.
His Majesty stated to me [writes Mr. McCook] that he would like to discuss its [the treaty’s] provisions with me, but did not deem it consistent with his dignity, etc., to enter into any such discussion while the Lackawanna remained here; I will do His Majesty the justice to say that I do not believe this idea was an original one, but was suggested to, and forced upon him by his ministers, they hoping that the Lackawanna could not, or would not leave, and that this might prove an insuperable obstacle to the ratification of the treaty. (Appendix.)
The treaty was ratified July 30, 1867. Our own Senate had received the treaty early the same month; it was reported in February, 1868, but was not finally acted upon until June 1st, 1870, when it was rejected. (Appendix.)
Very soon after his ratification of the reciprocity treaty the King sent a commissioner to Japan to negotiate a commercial treaty. This project the American minister at Honolulu earnestly antagonized, upon the ground that such a treaty would deflect trade from the United States and encourage English competition. (Appendix.)[Page 16]
A second time inviting the attention of the Senate to our own com pact with Hawaii, President Johnson said, December 9, 1868:
It is known and felt by the Hawaiian Government and people that their Government and institutions are feeble and precarious; that the United States, being so near a neighbor, would be unwilling to see the islands pass under foreign control. Their prosperity is continually disturbed by expectations and alarms of unfriendly political proceedings, as wellborn the United States as from other foreign powers. A reciprocity treaty, while it could not materially diminish the revenues of the United States, would be a guaranty of the goodwill and forbearance of all nations until the people of the islands shall of themselves, at no distant day, voluntarily apply for admission into the Union. (Appendix.)
During the last mentioned year the subject of annexation continued to appear as an important feature of the correspondence from time to time, and on April 14 a letter to Mr. R. P. Spaulding, a member of Congress, from his son, Mr. Z. S. Spaulding, in charge of the United States legation, reported the projected organization of an active annexation party in Honolulu, and the prevalence of such a sentiment in the Kingdom. Mr. Seward was again obliged to defer immediate consideration of the subject by reason of the administration’s absorption in domestic affairs relating to reconstruction. (Appendix.)
In 1868 a remonstrance was made by the United States representative at Honolulu on the subject of the importation of coolies into the islands, and a resolution of the Senate of the United States, describing the traffic in human beings, already substantially extirpated, as abhorrent to the spirit of modern international law and policy, and to the advanced sentiment of the great civilized powers, was brought to the attention of the Hawaiian Government. This intervention, however, was not effectual to stop or even moderate the business in the face of British and other influences, and the trade continued a threatening danger to the Kingdom. (Appendix.)
In February, 1871, Mr. Pierce, our minister at Honolulu, wrote recommending the subject of annexation to the attention of the President, and President Grant transmitted this most interesting dispatch to the Senate, confidentially, with a message soliciting the views of that body upon the matter. This message and dispatch are of so much interest and importance that it is deemed best to present the executive document in toto in this place.
[Confidential. Executive B. Forty-second Congress first session.]
message of the president of the united states, transmitting a copy of a dispatch relative to the annexation of the hawaiian islands, addressed to the department of state by henry a pierce, minister resident of the united states at honolulu.
April 7, 1871.—Read and, with the dispatch referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, ordered to be printed in confidence for the use of the Senate.
To the Senate of the United States:
I transmit confidentially, for the information and consideration of the Senate, a copy of a dispatch of the 25th of February last, relative to the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands, addressed to the Department of State by Henry A. Pierce, minister resident of the United States at Honolulu. Although I do not deem it advisable to express any opinion or to make any recommendation in regard to the subject at this juncture, the views of the Senate, if it should be deemed proper to express them, would be very acceptable with reference to any future course which there might be a disposition to adopt.
U. S. Grant.
Washington, April 5, 1871.[Page 17]
Mr. Pierce to Mr. Fish.
Legation of United States at Hawaiian Islands, Honolulu, February 25, 1871.
Mr. Henry A. Pierce to Secretary of State.
Subject: Annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the territory of the United States.
Abstract: United States Government recommended to again consider the subject—Prevailing opinion thereon—The choice and will of Hawaiian people will be manifested on the death of their king, if approved of by the United States Government—Puritan and democratic tendencies of the Ha waiians—Fifteenth amendment, Constitution of the United States—Native population rapidly disappearing—Leaving their country to foreigners—Reasons given for the acquisition of these islands by United States—Lord Palmerston’s opinions on the question—Sound and prophetic historical incidents in Hawaiian history.
Legation of the United States of
Honolulu, February 25, 1871.
Sir: Impressed with the importance of the subject now presented for consideration, I beg leave to suggest the inquiry whether the period has not arrived making it proper, wise, and sagacious for the United States Government to again consider the project of annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the territory of the republic. That such is to be the political destiny of this archipelago seems a foregone conclusion in the opinion of all who have given attention to the subject in this country, the United States, England, France, and Germany.
A majority of the aborigines, Creoles, and naturalized foreigners of this country, as I am credibly informed, are favorable, even anxious for the consummation of the measure named.
The event of the decease of the present sovereign of Hawaii, leaving no heirs or, successor to the throne, and the consequent election to be made by the legislative assembly of a king, and new stirps for a royal family, will produce a crisis in political affairs, which, it is thought will be availed of as a propitious occasion to inaugurate measures for annexation of the islands to the United States, the same to be effected as the manifest will and choice of the majority of the Hawaiian people; and through means proper, peaceful, and honorable.
It is evident, however, no steps will be taken to accomplish the object named without the proper sanction or approbation of the United States Government in approval thereof.
The Hawaiian people for fifty years have been under educational instruction of American missionaries, and the civilizing influences of New England people, commercial and maritime, Hence they are Puritan and democratic in their ideas and tendencies, modified by a tropical climate. Their favorite songs and airs are American. Sherman’s “Marching Through Georgia” and John Brown’s Soul is Marching On,” are daily heard in the streets and in their schoolrooms. The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States has made the project of annexation to our Union more popular than ever, both here and in the United States.
The native population is fast disappearing; the number existing is now estimated at 45,000, having decreased about 15,000 since the census of 1866. The number of foreigners in addition is between 5,000 and 6,000, two-thirds of whom are from the United States, and they own more than that proportion of foreign capital, as represented in the agriculture, commerce, navigation, and whale fisheries of the kingdom.
This country and sovereignty will soon be left to the possession of foreigners, “to unlineal hands, no sons of theirs succeeding.” To what foreign nation shall these islands belong if not to the great Republic? At the present those of foreign nativities hold all the important offices of Government and control legislation, the judiciary, etc. Well disposed as the Government now is toward the United States and its resident citizens here, in course of time it may be otherwise, as was the case during our civil war.
I now proceed to state some points of a more general character, which should influence the United States Government in their decision of the policy of acquiring possession of this archipelago, their geographical position occupying, as it does, an important central, strategical point, in the North Pacific Ocean, valuable, perhaps necessary, to the United States for a naval depot and coaling station, and to shelter and protect our commerce and navigation, which in this hemisphere is destined to increase enormously from our intercourse with the 500,000,000 population of China, Japan, and Australia. Humbolt predicted that the commerce on the Pacific would, in time, rival that on the Atlantic. A future generation, no doubt, will see the prophecy fulfilled.
The immense injury inflicted on American navigation and commerce by Great Britain in the war of 1812–1814, through her possessions of Bermuda and other West [Page 18]India Islands, as also that suffered by the English from French privateers from the Isle of France, during the wars between those nations, are instances in proof of the necessity of anticipating and preventing, when we can, similar evils that may issue from these islands if held by other powers. Their proximity to the Pacific States of the Union, fine climate and soil, and tropical productions of sugar, coffee, rice, fruits, hides, goat-skins, salt, cotton, fine wool, etc., required by the West, in exchange for flour, grain, lumber, shooks, and manufactures of cotton, wool, iron, and other articles, are evidence of the commercial value of one to the other region.
Is it probable that any European power who may hereafter be at war with the United States will refrain from taking possession of this weak Kingdom, in view of the great injury that could be done to our commerce through their acquisition of them?
It is said that at a proper time the United States may have the sovereignty of these islands without money and without price, except, perhaps for purchase of the Crown and public lands, and moderate annuities to be given to the five or six high chiefs now living with uncertain claims as successors to the Crown.
His Hawaiian Majesty, although only in his forty-first year, is liable to a sudden decease, owing to frequent attacks of difficulty in breathing and danger of suffocation from congestion caused by obesity. His weight is 300 pounds. He is sole survivor of the royal race of Kamehameha; unmarried, no heir, natural or adopted; possessess the constitutional prerogative of naming his successor, but it is believed he will not exercise it, from a superstitious belief his own death would follow immediately the act.
Prince Alexander and Lott Kamehameha (the former subsequently became the fourth Hawaiian King and the latter the fifth) and Dr. G. P. Judd, my informant, visited England in 1850 as Hawaiian commissioners.
Lord Palmerston, at their interview with him, said, in substance, “that the British Government desired the Hawaiian people to maintain proper government and preserve national independence. If they were unable to do so, he recommended receiving a protectorate government under the United States or by becoming an integral part of that nation. Such,” he thought, “was the destiny of the Hawaiian Islands arising from their proximity to the States of California and Oregon, and natural dependence on those markets for exports and imports, together with probable extinction of the Hawaiian aboriginal population and its substitution by immigration from the United States.” That advice seems sound and prophetic.
The following historical events in relation to these islands are thought worthy of revival in recollection:
February 25, 1843.—Lord George Paulet, of Her Britannic Majesty’s ship Carysfort, obtained, by forceful measures, cession of the Hawaiian Islands to the Government of Great Britain, July 31, 1843. They were restored to their original sovereignty by the British Admiral Thomas.
November 28, 1843.—Joint convention of the English and French Governments, which acknowledged the independence of this archipelago, and reciprocally promised never to take possession of any part of same. The United States Government was invited to be a party to the above, but declined.
August, 1849.—Admiral Tromelin, with a French naval force, after making demands on the Hawaiin Government impossible to be complied with, took unresisted possession of the fort and Government buildings in Honolulu, and blockaded the harbor. After a few weeks’ occupation of the place, the French departed, leaving political affairs as they were previous to their arrival.
January, 1851.—A French naval force again appeared at Honolulu, and threatened bombardment and destruction of the town.
The King, Kamehameha III, with the government, fearing it would be carried into effect, and in mortal dread of being brought under French rule, similar to that placed by the latter over Tahiti, of the Society Islands, executed a deed of cession of all the Hawaiian Islands and their sovereignty forever in favor of the United States of America.
The document, in a sealed envelope, was placed in charge of Mr. Severance, United States commissioner here, with instructions to take formal official possession of the soil of these islands on occasion of the first hostile shot fired by the French. On learning the facts, the latter desisted further aggressive acts, and departed from the country.
Since that period the French authorities have pursued a conciliatory course in their relations with the Hawaiian Government, and fully of opinion, it is said, that a secret treaty exists between the United States Government and that of Hawaii, by which these islands pass into the possession of the former in case of aggressions made upon them thereafter by any hostile powers.
In 1854 the administration of President Pierce authorized the United States commissioner, Mr. Gregg, to negotiate a treaty with the Hawaiian authorities for the cession of the sovereignty of these islands to the United States; but Mr. Gregg succeeded [Page 19]only in obtaining a protocol for a treaty, by which the United States were to extend a protectorate government over them. The matter in that form did not meet with ths approval of Mr. Secretary Marcy, and further negotiations ceased.
I omitted to state in proper sequence that the deed of cession of 1851 was, by order of the Secretary of State, Mr. Webster, returned to the Hawaiian Government.
In conclusion, I herewith inclose “Annual Review of the Agriculture and Commerce of the Hawaiian Islands for the year 1870,” published by the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, February 25, 1871. Additional copies will accompany my dispatch No. 102. Permit me to refer you to a lithographic map, published in 1867 by United States Bureau of Statistics, as showing in convenient form the relative position of these islands to the continents of America, Asia, etc.; also, steamship lines radiating therefrom.
With great respect, your obedient, humble servant,
Henry A. Pierce.
Hon. Hamilton Fish,
Secretary of State, Washington, D. C.
The failure from time to time to solve their difficulties by annexation served to continue a lively consideration of the subject of reciprocity as the second best solution; but the growing interests of the sugar States during nearly all of the first decade after the civil war were of sufficient influence to obstruct successfully any favorable consideration of such a treaty by this Government. The situation was frankly stated by Mr. Fish in an instruction of considerable length and importance on the 25th of March, 1873, in which, turning from reciprocity to annexation, always a question “full of interest,” he said:
The position of the Sandwich Islands as an outpost fronting and commanding the whole of our possessions on the Pacific Ocean, gives to the fat are of those islands a peculiar interest to the Government and people of the United States. It is very clear that this Government can not be expected to assent to their transfer from their present control to that of any powerful maritime or commercial nation. Such transfer to a maritime power would threaten a military surveillance in the Pacific similar to that which Bermuda has afforded in the Atlantic—the latter has been submitted to from necessity, inasmuch as it was congenital with our Government—but we desire no additional similar outposts in the hands of those who may at some future time use them to our disadvantage.
The condition of the Government of Hawaii and its evident tendency to decay and dissolution force upon us the earnest consideration of its future—possibly its near future.
There seems to be a strong desire on the part of many persons in the islands, representing large interests and great wealth, to become annexed to the United States. And while there are, as I have already said, many and influential persons in this country who question the policy of any insular acquisitions, perhaps even of any extension of territorial limits, there are also those of influence and of wise foresight who see a future that must extend the jurisdiction and the limits of this nation, and that will require a resting spot in the midocean, between the Pacific coast and the vast domains of Asia, which are now opening to commerce and Christian civilization.
We are not in possession of information sufficiently accurate, and possibly not sufficiently extended, with respect to the population, trade, industry, resources, and debt, etc., of the Hawaiian Islands to decide the policy which must soon be considered with respect to the relations they are to maintain toward this Government.
You will, therefore, at the earliest date practicable, furnish me with full and accurate information upon the several questions above alluded to, and also as to the relative condition of the islands at this time, with respect to each question as compared with former periods.
If there be official documents or reports as to trade, population, debt, etc., you will obtain and transmit them.
Should occasion offer, you will, without committing the Government to any line of policy, not discourage the feeling which may exist in favor of annexation to the United States; and you will cautiously and prudently avail of any opportunity that may present of ascertaining the views of the Hawaiian authorities on this question, and if there be any idea entertained in that direction among those in official position, you will endeavor to sound them and ascertain their views as to the manner, and the terms and conditions on which such project could be carried into execution.
On the 3d of February, 1874, the King, Lunalilo, died without having named his successor, and the legislative assembly, called together by [Page 20]the cabinet, proceeded to the election of a monarch. The excitement incident to this event, the threats of violence by the contending factions of the populace, and the danger of revolution or anarchy required the intervention of the naval forces of foreign powers in Hawaiian waters, the militia being unreliable in the circumstances. The British commissioner had invited the American minister to join him in effecting measures to preserve order, but this invitation was very properly declined by Mr. Pierce. On the 12th, in consequence of an assault by a mob of Queen Emma’s adherents on the legislative committee attempting to announce to David Kalakaua his election to the throne, and an attack upon the Government buildings, the Hawaiian minister for foreign affairs appealed to Mr. Pierce to secure the landing of a sufficient force from the United States ships Tuscarora and Portsmouth to defend the authorities and suppress the rioters. The force was landed, at the request of the American representative, and placed in charge of the court-house.
Shortly after—within a few minutes—a force of sailors and marines from H. B. M. S. Tenidos went ashore under command of the executive officer of the vessel and the captain of the marines, without invitation from the Hawaiian authorities or orders from the commanding officers of their ship. They proceeded to disperse the lawless crowd about the residence of Queen Emma—the rival of Kalakaua for the throne—and thence marched to occupy the barracks, where they remained for eight days. This incident was afterwards accommodated by an antedated note, formally requesting their intervention. On the 20th these naval forces returned on board their respective vessels. (Appendix.)
In the autumn of 1874 King Kalakaua visited the United States on the U. S. S. Benicia, and, remaining several weeks, was during that time shown many friendly attentions by this Government. The U. S. S. Pensacola was placed at his disposal for the homeward voyage. One of the principal objects of this visit was the desire of the King to promote negotiations of reciprocity with the United States. It is noteworthy that this visit of the King was opposed by the English and French commissioners, as reported by Mr. Pierce October 12, 1874. (Appendix.)
The King before leaving Hawaii had appointed Mr. Allen and Mr. Carter commissioners to negotiate a reciprocity agreement, and, greatly to the delight of his people, the treaty was signed at Washington January 30, 1875. It contained a schedule which, to be made effective, required an act of Congress in ratification of the customs dues fixed thereby, and a proclamation of the fact. The treaty went into effect by this proclamation September 9, 1876. (Appendix.)
Some difficulty was encountered with Great Britain by reason of the “parity” or “favored nation” clause in the treaty of 1852 between that power and Hawaii; and Germany was also at first disposed to take a view similar to the English in that respect. But the German claim was successfully contested by Mr. Carter, appointed to arrange the matter with those two Governments, and the construction given that clause by the United States agreed to substantially. Much correspondence followed the expression of England’s views on the subject, and a compromise was proposed fixing a duty of 10 per centum on British importations of the articles in the free schedule of our treaty. This proposition was not accepted by Mr. Carter, and was withdrawn; but in the discussion of the matter in the Hawaiian Legislature a majority of the committee on foreign relations reported not only in its favor, but [Page 21]in favor of the original claim of the British Government to the enjoyment of privileges equal to those granted the United States. The controversy led to a change of ministry, and finally to an admission by the King’s minister of the claim of this Government to exclusive privileges, and a pledge to hold the treaty, so interpreted, inviolate. This episode involved an “annexation scare” as against the United States, touching which Mr. Evarts thus instructed our minister, Mr. Comly, August 6, 1878:
You will endeavor to disabuse the minds of those who impute to the United States any idea of farther projects beyond the present treaty. (Appendix.)
From time to time during the ensuing three years questions of interpretation of articles on the schedule and of the customs provisions of the treaty, and some involving attempted or apprehended frauds arose, several of them complicated by claims of Great Britain under the stipulations of the Anglo-Hawaiian treaty of 1852, and by the influence of British residents. All these questions were, however, satisfactorily determined without resort to any other mode of arrangement than the usual diplomatic method, by notes. A domestic scandal, involving almost the entire Government, followed, resulting in rapid changes of ministers and a hasty request for the recall of foreign representatives, including Mr. Comly. This request was, however, itself recalled promptly after the last change of cabinet on account of this particular crisis, and a more agreeable state of affairs brought about. The details of these incidents are, however, hardly worthy of any notice, as they serve chiefly to establish the disreputable character of certain of the King’s advisers at the time, to verify charges of general corruption in the legislature, and point to influences at work against an extension of our reciprocity treaty.*
The same year the good offices of this Government were solicited by the Hawaiian Evangelical Association, in the suppression of the liquor traffic, by the enforcement of Chief Lebon’s ordinance in the Ralik Islands. Mr. Evarts, on November 13, 1880, instructed Mr. Comly, and Mr. Dawson, the United States consul at Apia, also, to make efforts to secure some suitable person to act as consular agent of this Government in the Raliks. (Appendix.)
The good offices of this Government were enlisted also in the negotiation of a treaty between Hawaii and Japan, and its approval of such a convention sought by the king’s minister for foreign affairs.
In June, 1881, Mr. Comly reported the persistent effort of Great Britain to derive benefit or advantage from the parity clause of the Anglo-Hawaiian treaty of 1852, through the reciprocity treaty with the United States, by way of pushing claims based upon that clause pending its termination by notification. He wrote:
I do not propose to trouble the Secretary of State with a repetition of my arguments intended to show the inadmissible character of this claim, and showing also that in 1855, when a reciprocal treaty with the United States was pending, the then British Commissioner here (Gen. Miller), acting under direct instructions from Lord Clarendon, literally “gave away” the whole case as to this present claim. He says: “Great Britain can not, as a matter of right, claim the same advantages for her trade, under the strict letter of the treaty of 1852.” (Quoted more at length and in his own words in my dispatch No. 13.)
For the convenience of the Secretary of State I present a brief itinerary of the progress of this claim up to date, as I understand it:
- Immediately after the reciprocity treaty went into effect, Maj. Wodehouse, the British Commissioner, peremptorily notified the Hawaiian Government that “Her Majesty’s Government can not allow of” any discrimination against British products [Page 22]as in favor of American, and that British importers would claim under their treaty, for British products, equality with American products, under the American reciprocity treaty. A long diplomatic correspondence followed, in which I was frequently consulted in a friendly way by the Hawaiian minister, and was notified from time to time by Maj. Wodehouse of his proceedings. I have uniformly insisted that it would be a violation of the reciprocity treaty to allow the same privileges to British or any other products with those of the United States—privileges purchased by reciprocity advantages beyond the power of any other nation to concede. I have also insisted that it would amount to a violation of the sovereignty of this Kingdom for Great Britain to assume to dictate to the Hawaiian Government what differential rate of customs should be levied upon British goods as compared with those of other countries, taxation being an incident of sovereignty.
- Finding that the British Government insisted upon its claim, the Hawaiian Government gave one year’s notice (under the seventeenth article), terminating the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles of the Anglo-Hawaii an treaty of 1851–’52. (This would take effect July 3, 1878.)
- This was resented by the British Government as “unfriendly” action.
- Mr. Henry A. P. Carter was sent as Hawaiian envoy to England to settle the dispute. Major Wodehouse, alarmed by threats of annexation to the United States rather than submit to the demands of Great Britain, accompanied Mr. Carter to San Francisco, where he applied for and received telegraphic leave from Lord Derby to proceed to England with Mr. Carter.
- In London Lord Derby proposed to Mr. Carter that England would drop the whole matter if the Hawaiian Government would withdraw its denunciation of the fourth, fifth, and sixth articles, and would attach the free schedule of the American treaty to an agreement that none of the articles in that schedule should be taxed more than 10 per cent if British product rejected. (My dispatch No. 43 is full on this and subsequent points.)
- The notice of discontinuance was withdrawn as to all but first paragraph of fourth article.
- In legislative assembly of 1878, a large and noisy party of British sympathizers attacked the Government severely and threatened the reciprocity treaty so seriously that I wrote a note of warning and protest to the minister of foreign affairs (appears as inclosure No. 4 with my dispatch No. 43) which was subsequently approved by Mr. Evarts Secretary of State.
- The Hawaiian treaty was amended substantially as suggested by Lord Derby (10 per cent ad valorem horizontal). It was supposed that this would end the matter of the British Claims, but
- About the beginning of the present year, Mr. Theo. H. Davies, acting British consul-general, a merchant doing large business here and one of the claimants, wrote (unofficially) to the minister of finance on behalf of the claimants, demanding a refund of duties paid under protest pending the termination of the first clause in the fourth article of the British treaty.
- The minister of finance referred the claimants to the Hawaiian courts.
- The British commissioner then made official demand for diplomatic (executive) settlement.
The Hawaiian minister informed Major Wodehouse that he would lay the matter before cabinet council.
The minister of foreign affairs informed Major Wodehouse that the action of the minister of finance was sustained by cabinet council, and that the claimants were remanded to the courts accordingly.
- Major Wodehouse replied that he could not accept that form and would report to his Government for further instructions.
- The Hawaiian minister wrote a brief note, simply acknowledging Major Wodehouse’s note without comment.
- Major Wodehouse wrote a severe reply, complaining that the Hawaiian minister had omitted to say that he would give due consideration to Major Wodehouse’s note, or words to that effect.
- I am informed by a member of the cabinet that the minister (Mr. Green) will make a brief and dignified protest against the tone of Major Wodehouse’s note, and will say (substantially) that, Major W. having been already fully notified that the matter had been considered by His Majesty’s Government and the claimants referred to the courts, and he himself having notified the Hawaiian Government that he had referred the matter to the British secretary, then, in that case, there was nothing further to consider at present, and Major Wodehouse’s complaint was without foundation.
Here the matter rests.
This dispatch drew from Mf. Blaine, June 30, 1881, an explicit instruction setting forth the views of this Government as to the impossibility [Page 23]of a grant by the Hawaiian Government of any of the privileges exclusively given the United States by the treaty of 1875 without a violation of that treaty. He said:
You will add that, if any other power should deem it proper to employ undue influence upon the Hawaiian Government to persuade or compel action in derogation of this treaty, the Government of the United-States will not be unobservant of its rights and interests and will be neither unwilling nor unprepared to support the Hawaiian Government in the faithful discharge of its treaty obligations. (Appendix.)
The revival of the subject of coolie immigration from British India and an expression of the views of the British commissioner at Honolulu respecting the means by which such immigration should be promoted and such immigrants protected and controlled, together with a resuscitation, by Major Wodehouse, of the Lackawanna incident, and the adhesive character of the British claims arising from the reciprocity treaty, were together the moving cause of considerable correspondence designed to instruct the United States minister very fully respecting the established and continued policy of this Government. On December 1, 1881, Mr. Blaine said:
It [this Government] firmly believes that the position of the Hawaiian Islands as the key to the dominion of the American Pacific demands their benevolent neutrality, to which end it will earnestly cooperate with the native Government. And if, through any cause, the maintenance of such a position of benevolent 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. (Appendix.)
In 1883 the Government of the United States was invited to concur in a protest by the Hawaiian Government against the extension of their respective territories by Great Britain and France in Polynesia, by annexation of the New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands, and adjacent groups. Mr. Frelinghuysen on December 6, 1883, declined to concur, because, as he wrote, “while we could not * * * view with complacency any movement tending to the extinction of the national life of the intimately connected commonwealths of the Northern Pacific, the attitude of this Government towards the distant outlying groups of Polynesia is necessarily different;” and he added that the President “does not regard the matter as one calling for the interposition of the United States, either to oppose or support the suggested measure.” (Appendix.)
In the same year the reciprocity treaty between the United States and Hawaii reached the limit of its duration, subject to twelve months’ notice from either power to the other of its desire to terminate the compact. Negotiations looking to the extension of this agreement were set on foot by the Hawaiian Government and the project was discussed in Congress and in the diplomatic correspondence with the ultimate result of a convention of renewal, etc., concluded December 6, 1884, at Washington, in three articles, of which Article i renewed the treaty for a period of seven years and Articles ii and iii provided, respectively:
His Majesty the King of the Hawaiian Islands grants to the Government of the United States the exclusive right to enter the harbor of Pearl River, in the Island of Oahu, and to establish and maintain there a coaling and repair station for the use of vessels of the United States, and to that end the United States may improve the entrance to said harbor and do all other things needful to the purpose aforesaid.
The present convention shall be ratified and the ratifications exchanged at Washington as soon as possible.
The convention was not however ratified and proclaimed until November, 1887, owing to considerable opposition to the extension of the original compact by the sugar interests of this country and further discussion of the subject in Congress. The extension of the treaty and the Pearl River Harbor cession were also opposed by Great Britain as the general policy of that Government. (Appendix.)
In May, 1873, Gen. Schofield, under confidential instructions from the Secretary of War, made a full report upon the value of Pearl River Harbor as a coaling and repair station, recommending its acquisition, and later he appeared before a committee of the House of Representatives to urge the importance of some measure looking to the control of the Sandwich Islands by the United States. (Appendix.)
The question of connecting the islands by cable with Australia and the United States was presented to this Government by our minister in August, 1884, by his report of proposals of the Australasian Cable Syndicate in relation to the laying of an ocean cable from Brisbane to San Francisco, via Honolulu. This syndicate secured the introduction and passage of an act by the Hawaiian legislature providing a subsidy of not more than $20,000 for a period limited to fifteen years. Owing to the failure to secure landing privileges at San Francisco before 1886 this act was then amended so as to provide for the landing of the cable at any other port or place on the North American continent, presumably in the interest of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s telegraphic system. While the sentiment in the islands favored a terminus in the United States, the project of Mr. Coote, a British subject, was a terminus in British Columbia. Further legislation on the subject drew from the British commissioner a protest against the granting of exclusive privileges to any persons for the landing of a cable from any British territory on any of the Hawaiian Islands and the assertion on the part of the King’s Government of their right to control the matter as they believed best. In 1891–’92 a cable survey was made by the U. S. S. Albatross, of the Fish Commission, and lines of sounding were run from the Californian coast, Salinas Landing, Monterey Bay, to Honolulu.
In 1886 a bill was passed by the legislature and approved by the King to negotiate a loan of $2,000,000 and pledge the revenues of the Kingdom for its repayment. An English syndicate had the matter in charge. Its objects were the liquidation of certain outstanding bonds and the prosecution of domestic improvements. The loan under such conditions was successfully opposed by this Government under the exclusive privileges granted the United States by the reciprocity treaty. (Appendix.)
Early in 1887 the subject of a proposed treaty of political alliance or confederation between the Hawaiian and Samoan Kings was brought to the attention of this Government with a view to its advice and its approval of the project; but Mr. Bayard pointed out the inexpediency of such a compact and withheld approval. (Appendix.)
On the 23d of December, 1887, the minister of Great Britain at Washington handed the following memorandum to Mr. Bayard:
Washington,December 23, 1887.
England and France by the convention of November 28, 1843, are bound to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state and never to take possession, either directly or under the title of a protectorate or any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.
The best way to secure this object would, in the opinion of Her Majesty’s Government, be that the powers chiefly interested in the trade of the Pacific should join in making a formal declaration similar to that of 1843 above alluded to, and that the [Page 25]United States Government should, with England and Germany, guarantee the neutrality and equal accessibility of the islands and their harbors to the ships of all nations without preference.
To this communication Mr. Bayard replied:
Department of State,
Washington, February 15, 1888.
Dear Sir Lionel: After reading the memorandum of Lord Salisbury in relation to the Sandwich Islands, it does not occur to me that I can add anything to what I stated to you orally in our interview on the 23d of December last, when yon first sent it to me.
I was glad to find that you quite understood and had conveyed to your Government the only significance and meaning of the Pearl Harbor concession by the Hawaiian Government, as provided in the late treaty of that Government with the United States, and that it contained nothing to impair the political sovereignty of Hawaii.
The existing treaties of the United States and Hawaii create, as you are aware, special and important reciprocities, to which the present material prosperity of Hawaii may be said to owe its existence, and by one of the articles the cession of any part of the Hawaiian territory to any other government without the consent of the United States is inhibited.
In view of such existing arrangements it does not seem needful for the United States to join with other governments in their guaranties to secure the neutrality of Hawaiian territory, nor to provide for that equal accessibility of all nations to those ports which now exists.
I am, etc.,
T. F. Bayard.
The chief and immediate motive of Great Britain in this correspondence is not evident; but it is obviously to be discovered in certain closely anterior events, sufficiently well known at the time. But a little while before an understanding had been reached between England and Germany relative to a division of a great area of the Pacific Ocean; the attitude then lately assumed by this Government respecting Samoan affairs had perhaps been the cause of some surprise and, it may be, a little apprehension in this direction on the part of Her Majesty’s Government, and the frankness with which we shall see the British consul-general in Hawaii cautioning the King’s Government against any exclusive concession of a naval station to any foreign power is no less useful a hint of the design of Sir Lionel West. The causes, then, of this step were complicated; jealousy of the United States led to the inclusion of this Government in a project for an agreement prompted by jealousy of Germany, and France was relegated to the convention of 1843 by force of more pressing circumstances.
While Mr. Bayard, in February, 1888, was writing his answer to Sir Lionel, the British commissioner at Honolulu, formally protested against the grant to the United States of the exclusive use of Pearl River Harbor as a coaling and repair station, by Article II of the supplementary convention extending our reciprocity treaty, and argued that the Hawaiian Government was estopped from this action by the provisions of Article II of the King’s treaty with Great Britain, granting to vessels of war liberty of entry to all harbors to which such ships of other nationsare or may be permitted to come.” And he said:
Under instructions from Her Majesty’s Government I have already pointed out to the Government of His Hawaiian Majesty that the acquisition by a foreign power of a harbor, or preferential concession in the Hawaiian Islands, would infallibly lead to the loss of the independence of the islands; but this consideration has not prevented His Hawaiian Majesty’s Government from proceeding to the ratification of the supplementary convention with the United States, and although Her Majesty’s Government are informed that by an exchange of notes between the Hawaiian minister at Washington and Mr. Bayard it is declared that the article in question [Page 26](No. ii) does not subtract from Hawaiian jurisdiction; that it gives no right of property in the harbor or cession of territory; that no exclusive right is conferred commercially, and that it terminates with the original treaty of 1875, whenever notice of such a termination is given. (Appendix.)
The question was ably treated by the Hawaiian minister for foreign affairs, and the privileges granted this Government clearly defined. (Appendix.)
On the 30th of July, 1889, an insurrection was set on foot by Robert W. Wilcox and Robert Boyd, two half-caste Hawaiians, who, on the afternoon of the same day, together with their adherents, about 100 in number, were defeated. The ringleader, with about 60 of his followers, was imprisoned. About 70 sailors and marines from the U. S. S. Adams, then in the harbor, were landed by permission with a machine gun to protect life and property at the legation and in the city, and their appearance on the streets had a favorable effect on the populace. Remaining over night, quartered at the armory, they returned on board the next morning when tranquility was restored. (Appendix.)
A dispute between the King and the cabinet, of a constitutional scope, was decided by the supreme court, against the King, just after the attempt at revolution; audit was determined that his signature was subject to the direction of the cabinet whenever required on public documents, and that the Government in all its departments must be conducted by that council. This controversy received the attentive consideration of all the foreign representatives, and its termination, as recited, appears to have been accepted with general satisfaction.
On the 20th of March, 1890, Mr. Blaine wrote inviting the King of the Hawaiian Islands to participate in the International American Conference, then in session at Washington. This invitation was extended in pursuance of a resolution of Congress adopted upon the President’s recommendation. In consequence of the adjournment of the Conference sine die before Mr. Carter, the delegate from Hawaii, could present his credentials, he did not participate in its deliberations. Upon Mr. Blaine’s invitation, however, Mr. Carter, on the 28th of April, after the adjournment, announced his appointment as delegate and expressed his regret at its arrival too late to permit his attendance on the Conference; but at the same time signified the probable accession of his Government to its conclusions.
In December, 1890, Kalakaua, the King, arrived in the United States on a friendly visit, and died at San Francisco, January 20, 1891. His body was returned to Honolulu on board the U. S. S. Charleston, the flagship of Rear-Admiral Brown, which arrived in that, harbor January 29; whereupon the Princess Liliuokalani, regent during the King’s absence, was proclaimed Queen. (Appendix.)
Considerable doubt and fear seem to have prevailed with the better element of the people in regard to the course of the new Queen, as the matter is reported by Mr. Stevens. On the 22d of February, 1891, he wrote:
The present ministry has been but a few months in office and the best men of the islands, including nearly all the principal business men, wish the present ministry to remain, who, by the present constitution, are chiefly independent of the Crown, and can not be removed except by impeachment or by the votes of the legislature. Under her extreme notions of sovereignty and the influence of her bad advisers, the Queen is trying to force the resignation of the ministers and to get a cabinet composed of her tools. So far the ministers have refused to resign, and the best public opinion increases in their support. Should the supreme court sustain the right of the ministers, which is very clearly and strongly intrenched in the constitution, the ministers will be supported by such a united determination of the business men and other better citizens of the islands as will force the [Page 27]Queen to yield. If she should still persist and attempt to form a ministry of her own, without the consent of the legislature, she will surely imperil her throne. She is well known to be much more stubborn in character than her brother, the late King, but my present belief is that she will finally yield to the legal and other legitimate forces operative against her present course and place herself in the hands of the conservative and respectable men of the country as the only way to retain her throne.
Early in the spring of 1891 the supreme court decided that the Cabinet of the late King ceased to have legal existence at his death. A new Cabinet was appointed which seemed to give general satisfaction and somewhat to allay earlier apprehensions touching the probable course of the Queen. Mr. Stevens, however, expressed some lack of faith in the minister of finance.
In September, 1891, Mr. Stevens wrote that the prince consort, husband of Queen Liliuokalani, a native of New York and strongly American in his sympathies, had died August 27, 1891.
At the same time the minister reported a project for a revision of the reciprocity treaty between this Government and Hawaii, prompted by the removal of the tariff on sugar, which materially, if not vitally, affected the principal interests of the islands. Late in 1891, Mr. Mott Smith was appointed a special envoy to the United States to negotiate such an agreement, and a legislature favorable to the treaty was elected in February, 1892.
In a confidential communication of March 8, 1892, Mr. Stevens reports revolutionary plans to be held in check solely by the presence of an United States naval vessel, and describes a very general sentiment of hostility to the succession of the “half English” heir to the throne—at the time being educated in England—and a growing inclination among all classes towards annexation to the United States. (Appendix.)
Mr. Stevens’s dispatches continue to be of the same tenor. The subjection of the queen to the influences of a half-caste Tahitian of the name of Wilson, and marshal of the Kingdom, since soon after her accession, continued to excite considerable dissatisfaction, and revolutionary schemes were rife throughout the year. The attitude of the Queen and her immediate entourage was one of arrogance. Late in August or early in September the cabinet was voted out, and a deadlock followed between the Queen and the legislature. The new cabinet was objectionable to the better elements, but a vote of want of confidence sufficiently decisive to bring on the crisis was not secured until the 17th October. The minister said in his dispatch of October 19, 1892, on the situation—
My present impression is, that the Queen and her faction will have to yield. Otherwise the entire overthrow of the monarchy could not be long delayed.
In his No. 74, of November 20, Mr. Stevens gave a full statement of the financial, agricultural, social, and political condition of the islands, and said:
One of two courses seems to me absolutely necessary to be followed: Either bold and vigorous measures for annexation or a “customs union,” an ocean cable from the Californian coast to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor perpetually ceded to the United States, with an implied but not necessarily stipulated American protectorate over the islands.
Reports to the Secretary of the Navy—especially those beginning with one from Rear-Admirl Brown, dated September 6, 1892—corroborated the American minister’s accounts and forecasts of events in Hawaii until, on the 28th of January, telegraphic news was received from both sources of the accomplishment of a peaceful revolution at Honolulu and the dethronement of the Queen. (Appendix.)[Page 28]
The correspondence examined in the preparation of this report indicates the general policy of this Government towards the Hawaiian Islands to have been, from 1820 to 1893, one of close friendship and protection, prompted by a desire for the welfare and autonomy of the islands and a careful preservation of American rights and territory on this continent. The active intervention of foreign powers in the affairs of Hawaii is shown to have been uniformly regarded with distrust, and a determined attitude against it seems to have been frankly assumed whenever occasion called for an expression of purpose upon the subject from the United States. This view of the common interests of the two countries several times contemplated annexation as a necessity under apprehended foreign encroachment at Honolulu, and once, if not more than once, as the positive policy of this Government—notably in the administration of President Pierce.
Chief, Bureau of Bolls and Library.
[The narrative of events from the 17th of January, 1893, is continued in the report accompanying the President’s message of February 15, 1893, sending to the Senate the treaty concluded and signed at Washington, February 14, 1893, by the Secretary of State of the United States and the representatives of the Provisional Government of the Hawaiian Islands.]
- See Mr. Comly’s 113, 121, and 122; and Mr. Evart’s 76 and 78.↩