Mr. Blount to Mr. Gresham.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that about noon on the 29th ultimo the Rush anchored at Honolulu. I was immediately met by the American minister, Mr. Stevens. He informed me that the annexation committee, which came on board with him, had rented one of the most eligible residences in the city for my use; had provided servants, among others an American steward, and a carriage and horses, etc., for my use. I could pay whatever I wanted to for it, from nothing up. He urged me very strongly to accept the proposed arrangement.
I replied to him that I could accept no favors at the hands of any parties in the islands, and that I should immediately go to a hotel.
The annexation committee then came up and insisted that I should take the accommodations which they had seen fit to provide on the terms already indicated by the American minister. I again declined, stating that I should resort to a hotel and make my arrangements there.[Page 471]
At this time there was an immense collection of natives on shore, men, women, and children, evidently in a state of joyous expectation.
One of the annexation committee said to me: “When you reach the shore the natives will desire you to take their carriages and allow them to escort you to your hotel.” This was said with anxiety. I replied: “I shall go to my hotel in my own carriage.”
Soon after this a Mr. Robertson appeared on the scene as the Queen’s ex-chamberlain, to request that I would accept her carriage to convey me to my hotel. I returned thanks to her, but stated that I would use my own conveyance.
On Thursday, March 30, at 4 o’clock in the evening, in company with the American minister, I called on the President of the Provisional Government. I communicated to him the friendly disposition of our Government towards his and towards the Hawaiian people. I assured him of its purpose to avoid any interference with the domestic concerns of the islands unless it became necessary to protect the persons and property of American citizens. I then offered my letters of credence, which were accepted by President Dole, accompanied with expressions of great friendship for my Government and confidence in myself.
The Daily Pacific Commercial Advertiser of March 31, 1893, reports the proceedings of the Hawaiian Patriotic League, from which the following is taken: “Mr. Joseph Nawahi, one of the speakers, said that all Hawaiians were in favor of monarchy, and then he asked his hearers if they wanted their queen to be restored. They all answered ‘yes,’ as a matter of course. He then went on to say that the Commissioner was sent here to feel their pulses, and for all Hawaiians to ask him for a return of the old order of things. He told the people to show by their actions that they did not want annexation, and as a greater power than the Government had arrived among them, a memorial would be read without fear of arrest.”
The resolutions adopted by the meeting are as follows:
Whereas His Excellency Grover Cleveland, President of the United States of America, has honored the Hawaiian Nation by sending to us the Hon. James H. Blount as a special commissioner, to find out the true wishes of the Hawaiian people as to the proposed annexation of their country to their great friend the United States: Therefore, we, the people of the Hawaiian Islands, in mass meeting assembled, take this mode of submitting our appeal and expression of our unanimous wishes to the people of our great and good friend the Republic of the United States of America, with whom we always entertained the most cordial relation, whom we have learned to look upon as our patrons and most reliable protectors, and in whose honor, integrity, and sense of justice and equity we have ever confidently relied for investigation into the grievous wrongs that have been committed against us as a people, against the person of our sovereign and the independence of our land;
And while we are anxious to promote the closest and most intimate political and commercial relations with the United States, we do not believe that the time has yet come for us to be deprived of our nationality and of our sovereign by annexation to any foreign power;
And, therefore, we do hereby earnestly and sincerely pray that the great wrong committed against us may be righted by the restoration of the independent autonomy and constitutional government of our kindgdom under our beloved Queen Liliuokalani, in whom we have the utmost confidence as a conscientious and popular ruler.
Previous to this, accompanied by Mr. Stevens, the American minister, I had called upon the President of the Provisional Government and briefly stated the friendly disposition of our Government towards the Hawaiian people. Care had been taken on this occasion to avoid any reference to the use of the American troops. It had seemed to me up to the action of the aforesaid meeting that it would be wise to take a few days to ascertain the situation of affairs before causing the troops’ to be removed to the vessels and the ensign hauled down.[Page 472]
A Major Seward called on the morning of March 31, desiring to know when it would be convenient for me to receive a committee from the mass meeting of the preceding evening, which desired to present the resolutions adopted. It was quite clear that in the mind of that assemblage, there were apprehensions that I was here vested with power to reinstate Queen Liliuokalani.
The reception of a committee so avowedly hostile to the existing Government raised a question as to whether this would consist with a recognition of existing authority and the policy of noninterference. The messenger was informed that the subject would be taken into consideration and that he might call at 2 o’clock of the same day for my reply.
Very soon after his departure I called on President Dole, and called his attention to the meeting and resolutions. I said that, under existing circumstances, I deemed it proper at once to say to him that I should cause the ensign of the United States to be hauled down, and the troops ordered on board their respective vessels. I informed him further that they would be used only to protect the persons and property of American citizens, and that our Government would not acquiesce in the interference by any other Government in the establishment or maintenance of any form of Government on the islands. He desired to know when the troops would be removed and the ensign hauled down. I replied, to-day or to-morrow. He expressed a preference that it should be done on the morning of the following day, April 1. To this I agreed. I asked if he was satisfied he could preserve order when our troops were withdrawn. To this he replied that he had no doubt of it He added that when the troops were first furnished they could not have gotten along without their aid. He was given to understand that this question was not intended as a guide to me in the removal of the troops, but simply to ascertain whether disorders were likely to occur.
Soon afterwards the following order was issued to Admiral Skerrett:
Honolulu, March 31, 1893.
Sir: You are directed to haul down the United States ensign from the Government Building, and to embark the troops now on shore to the ships to which they belong.
This will be executed at 11 o’clock on the 1st day of April.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Special Commissioner of the United States.
Rear Admiral J. S.
Commanding Pacific Squadron.
On the afternoon of this day (March 31) I informed the messenger of the mass meeting that I would receive them at 4 o’clock on the following day. This was done in order that when the committee called, the ensign would have been hauled down and the troops ordered aboard of their vessels, and I could state freely to the committee that it was not my purpose to interfere in their domestic concerns; that the United States troops would not be used to maintain or restore any form of government, but simply to protect the persons and property of American citizens. This reply I hoped would allay any action on the part of the people based on erroneous impressions as to my future conduct.
On the night before the flag was taken down, the American minister came to me with a Mr. Smith, correspondent of the San Francisco Chronicle, whom he introduced as a gentleman of intelligence and high character desiring to make an important communication to me. This gentleman claimed to know that it was the purpose of the Japanese commissioner, who had learned that the American flag was to be hauled [Page 473]down and the troops sent on board their respective vessels, to enter Honolulu with troops for the purpose of restoring authority to the Queen.
This story was credited by the American minister, who urged that I should not take down the flag until diplomatic intercourse between the Government of the United States and the Government of Japan should determine the correctness of this information.
Very little observation had satisfied me that all sorts of rumors arise in this community almost every hour, and are credited without reference to the probabilities.
Conscious of the power and policy of our own Government in these islands, and that of these the Japanese Government was well informed, I maintained my purpose to insist upon the order to Admiral Skerrett.
At 4 o’clock on Saturday, April 1, a committee, consisting of nineteen members, very intelligent, respectable half-castes, called at the headquarters of the commission. The spokesman, Mr. John E. Bush, stated that at the mass meeting of the natives resolutions had been adopted which they desired to present to me to be transmitted to the President of the United States. He declared the high esteem and affection his people had for the people of the United States, and spoke of the friendly disposition our Government had always manifested towards them. He said that up to my arrival the people had borne patiently the existing condition of things, trusting in the disposition of the American Government to do absolute justice by them. I replied that he did not misinterpret the kindly feeling of the Government and people of the United States for all classes of citizens in these islands. I said I would accept their resolutions in no other sense than as I would any other fact to be communicated in the way of information to the President of the United States; that I could not discuss with them the objects of my mission, nor the purposes of my Government. To this, response was made by Mr. Bush, that this was all they could reasonably expect.
I append herewith a copy of a letter, marked Inclosure 1, from Admiral Skerrett, containing a statement of the circumstances attending the hauling down of the ensign and the removal of the troops.
I also append a copy of a letter from Capt. Hooper, of the Rush (Inclosure No. 2), a very intelligent gentleman, whom I had asked to be present on the occasion and report the circumstances.
Mr. Parker, the last secretary of state under the late Queen, a half-caste of wealth and intelligence, called on Monday morning, April 3. In his conversation he stated that he and other leaders of the Kanaka population, loyal to the Queen, had been very active in impressing upon their followers that the lowering of the flag and the withdrawal of the troops must be accepted by them without any manifestations of their opinions or feelings.
On Sunday, April 2, I called on the American minister. While there he related that he had had a conversation with the Japanese minister, and satisfied him that our Government would not consent to Japanese interference in these islands. I was glad to find that he himself was not suffering from any apprehensions over the flag incident.
The American minister and consul-general seem to be very intense partisans for annexation. I do not yet see how they will embarrass me in the purposes of my mission. While they seemed to give out the impression that the troops will be brought back here in the event of trouble, my presence discredits the authority of their statements. I have uniformly stated that the troops would only be used for the purpose [Page 474]of protecting the property and persons of American citizens; that I could not tell in advance what specific contingency would justify me in doing so. At this time I think I may pursue all my inquiries in the midst of peaceful surroundings.
Since my arrival visitors are constantly calling upon me and Mrs. Blount. It appears to be a manifestation of regard on the part of all classes of political opinion and of all races towards the Government of the United States. Most of my time has been occupied in this way. I do not know that it could have been employed more usefully. I think I shall cautiously but surely find my way to the political feeling of all classes. I shall commence soon to make inquiry in regard to the various questions naturally arising in connection with the relations of the United States to the Hawaiian Islands from persons whose opinions I shall have decided are of any valuable significance.
I feel assured that I can successfully ascertain much valuable information in this way.
I have, &c.,
Special Commissioner of the United States.