Mr. Stevens to Mr. Blaine.

No. 3.]

Sir: There is at the present time a lively interest among the Hawaiian citizens in regard to proposed changes in the treaty relations between the United States and these islands. By some means, as to which I have not accurate information, a draft of a new treaty found its way into the newspapers here hostile to the present ministry. This has caused an earnest discussion of the subject involved in the public journals and in private and commercial circles. This has led the cabinet to deem it expedient to publish a correction of false impressions and to express its real opinion as to the necessity and terms of a new treaty. I inclose a copy of the statement of the minister of foreign affairs, which has been published in the papers here.

The facts, so far as they have come to my observation, lead me to conclusion that the chief opposition to the proposed new treaty arises from partisan opposition to the present ministry and from the representations [Page 293] of the English and French diplomatic agents, who have already called on the minister of foreign affairs to present their objections, which fact seems to have disturbed the ministry very little. I am much impressed by the strong American feeling pervading the best portion of the population, and which is especially manifest among the men of business and property. There is no doubt that “reciprocity” is doing much to Americanize these islands and to bind them to the United States.

I have, etc.,

John L. Stevens.
[Pacific Commercial Advertiser.]

Reply of the cabinet—A full explanation of the Government position in regard to the treaty question.

The following is a copy of the reply of the cabinet delivered to the native mass-meeting committee Friday:

Messrs. A. Rosa, J. L. Kaulukou, J. F. Colburn, and others:

Gentlemen: As a committee representing a public meeting of Hawaiian citizens you have asked from His Majesty’s ministers certain information concerning their action in regard to the relations between this country and the United States of America.

Feeling that it is the right of the people to know the policy of the administration, the ministers take pleasure in informing you that they have for a long time had under consideration the practicability of extending our treaty relations with the United States so as to enhance and increase both the commercial and political benefits which the two countries now enjoy by reason of existing treaties.

As the result of nearly a year’s consideration of this subject by the Cabinet, our minister resident at Washington has been instructed to ascertain whether the Government of the United States is willing to entertain propositions looking to the end above indicated, and, should he find such willingness to exist, he is instructed to open negotiations with that Government for the conclusion of a treaty which will effect the purposes hereunder indicated.

This statement of the present status of the subject renders it unnecessary to say that no proposition has been made or accepted by the United States and that no treaty has been submitted to His Majesty for signature.

The reasons which have moved the cabinet to adopt the course above indicated are numerous, and while an exhaustive enumeration and discussion of such reasons would exceed the scope of the present reply, a summary of the more salient among them is as follows:


The history of our staple products during the past thirteen years has demonstrated how essential to our commercial prosperity are the advantages secured to us by the existing treaty.

The development of our export trade from $2,241,041 in 1876 to $11,707,598 in 1888, during the life of that treaty, with its attendant advantages to all our citizens and residents, are witnesses of its stimulating effect upon our industries and commerce, and its beneficent influence upon our national welfare, and are fresh illustrations of the principle that no great material advantage can be enjoyed by any class dependent upon labor without the entire community partaking of such benefits.

By the terms of the existing reciprocity treaty with the United States, notice of termination within one year thereafter may be given in five years from now.

The interval between 1883 and 1887, during which time the treaty was subject to termination upon a year’s notice, illustrated the evil effects to our commercial well-being of a dependence from year to year for the continuance of our treaty relations upon the uncertain humor of the American Congress.

The uncertainty involved has an unsettling effect upon capital and is detrimental to the making of large permanent investments, many of which now contemplated requiring heavy preliminary expenses.

With only the certainty of a five years’ continuance of the treaty, the experience of the recent past in mind, and the strong probability that renewed and strenuous efforts will be made by our opponents in the United States to terminate the treaty at the end of the five years, it is the part of wisdom to prepare in the day of prosperity for the days that are to follow.


At the last session of the United States Congress there was developed a strong movement looking to the reduction of sugar duties and the payment of bounties, upon sugar of American production.

The effect of this would be to discriminate against Hawaiian sugars in favor of American, and materially reduce to us the value of the existing treaty without any corresponding benefit.

We believe it to be the duty of the Hawaiian Government to endeavor to secure the placing of our products upon the same basis as American products in respect of bounties and privileges.


The existing treaty is limited in its extent. A large number of American products still pay duties in the Islands, while the products admitted by the treaty free of duty into the ports of the United States are practically limited to sugar, rice, bananas, hides, and tallow.

There are many articles which might be profitably produced here, upon lands which are not available for products now admitted under the treaty, were there a market for them.

If a mutual agreement can be arrived at whereby the products of either country can be admitted free into the other, a great stimulus will be given to new industries in the Islands, resulting in an increase of exports and of domestic and foreign shipping; the bringing into cultivation and increasing in value of many lands now waste; the consequent improvement in all departments of business, and a corresponding benefit to the United States by the increase in our imports to meet the necessary increased consumption by our people.

We believe that the additional value which each country would receive would many times over compensate them for the loss of the duties now levied.

The Hawaiian Islands are now the only group in the Pacific which is wholly self-governing. Our situation is peculiar. We have no military or naval strength of our own to maintain our autonomy against the pettiest naval power; and we have to-day no guarantee of our continued independence as against any foreign nation other than the sufferance or the mutual jealousies of the great powers.

Within the last few years the police of annexation has prevailed among the European nations interested in Polynesia, which has resulted in the rapid absorption of nearly all the Pacific islands.

Within the year last past we have seen Samoa lose her position as a self-governing state. The acts of her Government are now subject to the approval of the Governments of the United States, England, and Germany, and had it not been for the good offices of the United States Government the probability is that she would have ere now been annexed by one or more European nations.

Within the past year the question of the disposition and absorption of the Hawaiian Islands, as well as of Samoa, has been the subject of serious consideration by certain of the nations interested in the Pacific.

The cabinet are of the opinion that the interests of this country, and of every race and industry resident or located therein, will be best served by the continuance of its present independent state, free from any protectorate or control on the part of any foreign government.

It is, and ever will be, the endeavor of the present administration to not only unqualifiedly maintain this status, but to obtain such assurances and guarantees thereof as will remove the question from the debatable politics of the world.

It has long been the custom of European nations to form alliances with neighboring countries for purposes of defense, safety, and commercial exchange. The time has, in the opinion of the cabinet, arrived when we should follow a precedent so well established and form an alliance with some great nation. If an alliance of this character is desirable it should be in the direction where our greatest interest lies.

The proximity of the United States, the cordial friendship which has been from the commencement of our civilization a marked characteristic of our relations with the American people, and the extensive commercial exchanges which are the result of such relations, point inevitably to that great country as our best friend, our most valuable commercial colleague, and our natural political ally.

Animated as we are by the desire to strengthen and extend the commercial ties which have done so much for our national prosperity, and to secure the safety and perpetuation of our institutions by an alliance whereby we shall have the positive and efficacious guarantee of a strong friend against interference by itself or others with our perfect autonomy, independence, and sovereignty, we have instructed our representative at Washington to ascertain if the United States would be willing to negotiate with us a convention whereby the following objects may be secured:

  • First. To continue in force all treaties and conventions now existing between the two nations, until they shall find it mutually advantageous to abrogate or modify such treaties or conventions, or any of them.
  • Second. That all products of either country which are by virtue of the reciprocity treaty admitted free of duty into the other country shall be treated in respect of bounties paid, exemptions or immunities, and in all other respects, as if such other articles were of the growth, produce, or manufacture of the country into which they are so admitted.
  • Third. To provide for the entry into either of the two countries, without payment of duty, of all products of the other, excepting, however, opium, spirituous liquors of more than 18 per cent alcoholic strength, and all articles prohibited by law in either country.
  • Fourth. A positive and efficacious guarantee by the United States Government of the perfect independence and autonomy of the Hawaiian Government in all its dominions, and its right of sovereignty over such dominions.

To enable the United States Government to do this without danger of complication with other powers, we do agree not to negotiate treaties with other nations without the knowledge of the United States Government.

The cabinet, for more than a year, has studied carefully many reasons for and against the points submitted for negotiation, and has taken counsel with others, both connected and unconnected with the Government, and has considered various propositions and suggestions, some of which have been approved and some disapproved.

Any statements of objects or intentions, and any purported draft of a treaty stating more or other than is above indicated, which may have been published, are unfounded and incorrect.

The ministers are strongly and unanimously of the opinion that the accomplishment of the objects above indicated will tend to greatly increase the material prosperity of the country and perpetuate the independence of Hawaii and the sovereignty of His Majesty and his successors over all his dominions.

I have the honor, on behalf of the cabinet, to remain

Your obedient servant,

Jona. Austin,
Minister Foreign Affairs.