Mr. Merrill to Mr. Blaine.
Honolulu, August 1, 1889.
Sir: I have the honor to inclose a very full account, from the “Bulletin” of Honolulu, of an attempt made on the 30th ultimo, by about 100 half castes and natives, under the leadership of Robert W. Wilcox and Robert Boyd, two half-caste Hawaiians, to overthrow the present Government of Hawaii and depose the King.
This is supposed to be their purpose, although their exact intention is not yet fully known.
About 6 o’clock a.m. a message from the King informed me that an armed party, led by Mr. Wilcox, was in possession of the palace grounds, and soon thereafter it was learned that insurgents were in charge of the building containing the Government offices.
As soon as possible I had communication with Commander Woodward of the U. S. S. Adams, and at once all necessary preparations were made to land a force, if found necessary for protection of the people and property interests.
Soon thereafter I met His Majesty’s minister of foreign affairs, who informed me that a cabinet council would be held forthwith.
Soon after the news of the affair became generally known, the British, Portuguese, and French commissioners called at the legation, and while comparing information regarding the situation, Mr. Damon, the newly appointed minister of finance, arrived and stated that it was the desire of His Majesty’s ministers to meet the foreign representatives at once. It was deemed advisable to comply with this request without delay. On meeting the ministers they stated that they desired to fully inform us of their contemplated action in the present emergency, and that they had determined to occupy the tops of the buildings commanding a view of the palace grounds with sharpshooters, for the purpose of preventing the use of the cannon which were known to be in the possession of the insurgents inside the walls inclosing the palace grounds, gradually surround and finally dislodge them with other forces.
After learning the intention of the Government to operate at once with an armed force, I suggested the propriety of Mr. Damon, one of the members of the cabinet who speaks the native language fluently, endeavoring to communicate with Mr. Wilcox, the leader of the insurgents, and ascertain if possible the cause of his action and what his demands were, [Page 283]if any; then, if Mr. Damon failed, that the representatives of foreign powers endeavor to obtain an interview with Wilcox, and by their good offices effect a peaceful settlement if possible.
This was cordially agreed to by all, and the representatives withdrew with the understanding that Mr. Damon would inform us of the result of his mission. In about one half hour Mr. Damon reported to me at the legation that Mr. Wilcox refused to receive any communication from him whatever, and that while he was seeking to communicate with him firing commenced; he deemed it not only imprudent, but suicidal for anyone to attempt to approach the palace grounds on a peace mission.
At this juncture, as the report of small arms and cannon came from the palace grounds and immediate vicinity quite rapidly, and as many with alarm were coming to the legation, I at once requested Commander Woodward to send to the legation a body of marines, which request he promptly complied with.
The appearance of the marines on the streets and at the legation had a very favorable effect on the populace. Soon the report of the large guns ceased by reason of the inability of the insurgents to operate them in the presence of the fire of the sharpshooters on the tops of the surrounding buildings.
The “bungalow” mentioned in the newspaper account and into which the insurgents retreated is a frame building situated in the corner of the palace grounds, sometimes used by the King as a dwelling and for offices.
The palace square comprises about 4 acres, situate two blocks from the central business part of the city, and is entirely inclosed by a concrete wall about 8 feet high, while the King’s palace is situated in the center of the square.
In the afternoon, and as soon as I ascertained from one of the cabinet ministers that an attempt would be made to dislodge the insurgents from the “bungalow” before dark by the use of dynamite, and as there were large crowds of people congregated on several streets, I deemed it advisable to ask for the landing of the remainder of the forces from the Adams before dark as a precautionary measure in the event any assistance to preserve order might be required, and to be immediately available in the event a conflagration should start. In this matter Commander Woodward fully agreed, and by permission of the minister of foreign affairs the forces landed about 5 o’clock p.m. Early the following morning all the men belonging to the Adams returned to the ship.
The members of the cabinet and many prominent residents expressed much commendation of the prompt landing of the men, and remarked upon the very salutary effect their presence seemed to have among the people on the streets.
The U. S. S. Adams was the only naval vessel in port. The British ship Espiegle recently left under sealed orders on a cruise south.
This disturbance at this time was wholly unexpected by the Government officials as well as nearly every prominent resident.
Although for several weeks it was known that Wilcox was endeavoring to draw around him as many disappointed native political aspirants as possible, yet it was recently ascertained on what seemed very reliable authority that no overt acts would be committed prior to the next general election in February, when it was thought the present ministers would be defeated at the polls.[Page 284]
However, the success of the Government in subduing the insurgents, it is thought, will draw some to its support, and the general feeling is that the Government will be strengthened by the result of the conflict.
Immediately after the surrender of the insurgents the city was quiet and still remains so, while business is being transacted as usual. As to the exact number of the insurgents it is difficult now to determine, as some deserted in the early morning. About 80 prisoners were secured. No serious casualties occured except to the insurgents.
In order that you may be promptly informed of the principal facts a week in advance of the regular mail, I will forward by the steamer leaving here to-morrow a telegram, to be wired from San Francisco, of which the following is a copy:
On July 30 unsuccessful attempt by about 100 half-castes and natives to overthrow Government and depose King. Insurrection suppressed by Hawaiian Government without foreign aid. Six insurgents killed, 12 wounded. Order restored same day. Men from U. S. S. Adams landed by permission, to protect lives and property if found necessary; afterwards returned to ship.
Before sealing this dispatch I shall inclose clippings from newspapers giving latest intelligence, but will be unable to properly paste and arrange them.
Trusting my action may merit the approval of the Department,
I have the honor, etc.,