Mr. Blount to Mr. Gresham.
Sir: I have the honor to report that the political conditions of the Islands do not import any conflict of arms. The Government is very alert in watching every movement which threatens it. Almost any trifling assemblage of natives at night is the occasion of alarm.
The natives are favoring public order, and looking for some action on my part favorable to them. Notwithstanding the publication of my instructions, and my previous declaration that I had no power to restore the Queen, there remains in the native mind a strong faith that, owing to the interference of the American minister and the American marines, resulting in the surrender to the Provisional Government by the Queen of her forces, the United States will ultimately restore her to power.
The action of Admiral Thomas, in 1843, in restoring the Hawaiian flag is written deeply in the minds of the native people. A public [Page 550]square has been set apart and beautified in honor of his memory and action. This, and the friendly relations between our Government and that of these Islands, seems to be the inspiration of buoyant hope in their final independence.
Should this fail them, and they be left free from interference by foreign powers, the peace of to-day may change into warlike action against the existing order of things.
It can not be truthfully stated that the present peace is the result of the power of the Provisional Government.
I deem it proper at this time to indulge in some observations in relation to landed property here.
To understand the present distribution it is necessary to understand the ancient system of land tenure as well as the modern.
And now as to the first:
Each island was divided into several districts. The next subdivision is the Ahupuaa. Typically this is a long narrow strip extending from the sea to the mountain, so that its chief may have his share of all the various products of the mountain region, the cultivated land, and the sea. It was generally, though not always, subdivided into ilis, each with its own name and carefully defined boundary.
There were two kinds of ilis. The first was a mere subdivision of the Ahupuaa for the convenience of the chief holding the same, who received its revenues from his agent. The other class did not pay tribute to a chief.
The ilis were again subdivided, and many of the larger patches had individual names.
The patches cultivated exclusively for the chief were called koele or hokuone. The tenants were obliged to work for him on Fridays. In the “principles adopted by the land commission to quiet land titles,” approved by the legislative council October 26, 1846, it is stated that—
When the islands were conquered by Kamehameha I, he followed the example of his predecessors, and divided out the lands among his principal warrior chiefs, retaining, however, a portion in his own hands to be cultivated or managed by his own immediate servants or attendants. Each principal chief divided his lands anew and gave them out to an inferior order of chiefs, by whom they were subdivided again and again, often passing through the hands of four, five, or six persons from the King down to the lowest class of tenants. All these persons were considered to have rights in these lands, or the productions of them, the proportions of which rights were not clearly defined, although universally acknowledged. All persons possessing landed property, whether superior landlords, tenants, or subtenants, owed and paid to the King not only a land tax, which he assessed at pleasure, but also service, which was called for at discretion, on all the grades, from the highest down. They also owed and paid some portion of the productions of the land, in addition to the yearly taxes. A failure to render any of these was always considered a just cause for which to forfeit the lands. The same rights which the King possessed over the superior landlords and all under them, the various grades of landlords possessed over their inferiors, so that there was a joint ownership of the land, the King really owning the allodium, and the persons in whose hands he placed the land, holding it in trust.
The land taxes were really rents and went to the King as his private income. The idea of a nation or government as distinguished from the person of the King first began to be recognizedin the Constitution of 1840. When the labor tax first began to be regulated by law, every tenant was required to work one day in every week (Tuesday) for the King, and one day (Friday) for the landlord.
The long reign of Kamehameha evolved greater permanency and security in the possession of the lands.
On the accession of his son Liholiho no general redistribution of lands took place.[Page 551]
The common people were merely tenants at will, liable to be dispossessed at any time, and even to be stripped of their personal property at the will of their chiefs.
Laws were passed in 1839 and 1840 to prevent evictions without cause and the wanton seizure of the property of tenants.
The King and chiefs resolved to divide and define the shares which each held in undivided shares of the lands of the Kingdom. The following rules were noted by the privy council December 18, 1847:
Whereas it has become necessary to the prosperity of our Kingdom and the proper physical, mental, and moral improvement of our people that the undivided rights at present existing in the lands of our Kingdom shall be separated and distinctly defined;
Therefore, We, Kamehameha III, King of the Hawaiian Islands, and his chiefs, in privy council assembled, do solemnly resolve that we will be guided in such division by the following rules:
- His Majesty, our most Gracious Lord and King, shall, in accordance with the constitution and laws of the land, retain all his private lands as his own individual property, subject only to the rights of the tenants, to have and hold to him, his heirs and successors forever.
- One-third of the remaining lands of the Kingdom shall be set aside as the property of the Hawaiian Government, subject to the direction and control of His Majesty as pointed out by the constitution and laws, one-third to the chiefs and konohikis in proportion to their possessions to have and to hold, to them, their heirs and successors forever, and the remaining third to the tenants, the actual possessors and cultivators of the soil, to have and to hold, to them, their heirs and successors forever.
- The division between the chiefs or the konohikis and their tenants, prescribed by rule 2d, shall take place whenever any chief, konohiki, or tenant shall desire such division, subject only to confirmation by the King in privy council.
- The tenants of His Majesty’s private lands shall be entitled to a fee-simple title to one-third of the lands possessed and cultivated by them; which shall be set off to the said tenants in fee simple whenever His Majesty or any of said tenants shall desire such division.
- The division prescribed in the foregoing rules shall in no wise interfere with any lands that may have been granted by His Majesty or his predecessors in fee simple to any Hawaiian subject or foreigner, nor in any way operate to the injury of the holders of the unexpired leases.
- It shall be optional with any chief or konohiki, holding lands in which the Government has a share, in the place of setting aside one-third of the said lands as Government property, to pay into the treasury one-third of the unimproved value of said lands, which payment shall operate as a total extinguishment of the Government right in said lands.
- All the lands of His Majesty shall be recorded in a book entitled “Register of the lands belonging to Kamehameha III, King of the Hawaiian Islands,” and deposited with the registry of land titles in the office of the minister of the interior; and all lands set aside as the lands of the Hawaiian Government shall be recorded in a book entitled “Register of the lands belonging to the Hawaiian Government,” and fee-simple titles shall be granted to all other allottees upon the award of the board of commissioners to quiet land titles.
The division between the King and his chiefs was settled by a committee March 7, 1848. The book containing a record of this division also contains releases signed by the several chiefs to the King, of the lands they surrendered, and releases by the King to the several chiefs of his feudal rights in the land remaining to them as their shares.
These formal awards were made, after evidence of title, which could be converted into allodial title by payment of the consideration provided for in rules 6 and 7, above cited.
On the 8th of March, 1848, the King set apart for the use of the Gov-eminent the larger part of his royal domain, specified by name, and reserved the residue for himself, his heirs, and successors. On June 7, 1848, the legislative council passed an act confirming and ratifying what had been done by the King.
In 1850 most of the chiefs ceded a third part of their lands to the Government to obtain an allodial title. This was accepted by the privy council the same year.[Page 552]
The Crown lands received their designation from the cession by the King of his share, founded on rule 1, above cited, to the Government.
The Government lands were derived under rule 2 and from cession from the chiefs in 1850.
In all awards of ahupuaas and ilis the rights of tenants are reserved. The acts of August 6, 1850, and July 11, 1851, protect the common people in the right to take wood, thatch, kileaf, etc. They were also guaranteed the right to water and the right of way, but not the right of pasturage on the land of the konohiki, or chief. The right of fishing in the sea appurtenant to the land and to sell the fish caught by him was secured to every bona fide resident on land. The fee-simple title, free of all commutation, to all native tenants was secured finally by the act of August 6, 1850. The right of lords over tenants was thus ended.
Mr. W. D. Alexander, superintendent of Government surveys, defines Government lands in this language:
The great mass of the Government lands consists of those lands which were surrendered and made over to the Government by the King, Kamehameha III, and which are enumerated by name in the act of June 7, 1848. To these must be added the lands ceded by the several chiefs in lieu of commutation, those lands purchased by the Government at different times, and also all lands forfeited to the Government by the neglect of their claimants to present their claims within the period fixed by law. By virtue of various statutes, from time to time sales of these lands have taken place.
The same authority says that between the years 1850 and 1860 nearly all the desirable Government lands was sold, generally to natives. The total number of grants issued before April 1, 1890, was 3,475.
In 1850 one-twentieth part of all the lands belonging to the Government was set apart for the purposes of education. Most of these have been sold.
Mr. Alexander says: “The term ‘Crown lands’ is applied to those-lands reserved by Kamehameha III, March 8, 1848, for himself, his heirs, and successors forever, as his private property.”
Kamehameha III and his successors dealt with these as with their private property, selling, leasing, and mortgaging the same, and conveying good titles.
The supreme court held that the inheritance to the Crown lands was limited to the successors to the throne, and at the same time that the possessor might regulate and dispose of the same as his private property. Subsequently an act of the legislature made them inalienable and declared that they should not be leased for a period to exceed thirty years.
When the division of lands was determined upon the chiefs and tenants alike were required to make proofs of the lands they occupied. Failing in this, their rights were barred.
In view of the principles laid down for a division of the land, the inference is that the common people received their share of one-third. Now, what are the facts? Before this division many natives lived with chiefs and occupied no land. Others occupied small parcels for taro patches, and took fish from the waters, and thus obtained their food. These patches did not generally exceed 1 acre, and were designated as kuleanas in the native tongue. Proof of this occupation of land, had to be made before the land commission, involving such forms and proofs that the ignorant native failed in many instances to comply with the regulations, and so lost his property. These little holdings were all that they ever obtained.
The historian of land titles (quoted here as the highest authority) omits this great fact. In examining his work with him, he admits what [Page 553]I have asserted in relation to the lands assigned to the common people. This is also confirmed to me by the present minister of finance, Mr. Damon (formerly vice-president of the advisory council).
Much is said here of the natives being wasteful, and in consequence becoming landless. To my mind, when Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese cheap labor was substituted for his own and he sought employment in other avocations more remunerative and turned from these insignificant possessions, he followed only the suggestions which would have come to any person of any race.
Subsequently natives purchased Government land under a law providing for the sale of portions of them to residents in lots from 1 to 50 acres. To this I shall recur hereafter.
The lands here are designated as Crown lands, Government lands, the Bishop lands, and those owned by private parties.
The Government lands contain 828,370 acres; the Crown lands, 915,288 acres; the Bishop lands (a gift from a native, Mrs. C. R. Bishop) are devoted to educational purposes and contain 406,829 acres. The private lands amount to 1,854,018 acres. Of these Europeans and Americans now own 1,052,492; natives, 257,457; half-castes, 531,545; Chinese, 12,324 acres; Japanese 200 acres; other nationalities, none.
The Bishop lands mentioned above are included in the 531,545 acres taxed as belonging to half-castes.
Mr. Albert Loebenstein, of Hilo, Hawaii, in a conversation with me, written out and certified by him, says:
The Crown lands generally are leased to corporations for cane culture and grazing, at a very low price for a long term of years. Most of the Government lands are in the hands of sugar-planters.
He estimates the award of kuleanas to natives at about 11,000 acres. He estimates that the Government has sold 290,000 acres of land to residents, and that two-thirds of this was sold to natives, and is now owned by corporations for cane culture. He thinks the natives sold on account of their improvidence in encumbering themselves with debt.
It appears to me that, with small holdings and no right of pasturage, they could find but little opportunity for a good living on them. They are certainly engaged in labor in various employments offering a life of more comfort.
If American laborers can not compete with Chinese and Japanese contract labor it is not a sign of indolence that the Kanaka should fly from its crushing competition. It is still less so when he sees his own Government seeking cheap labor for cane-growers and enforcing its efficiency by laws intended to compel them to fulfill their contracts.
Mr. C. R. Bishop tells in his statement the simple story of the land division on which the real property of the country rests. He says a land commission was created for the purpose of giving title to all the people who had claim to lands. The King and chiefs made this division in 1847. It was agreed that the people should have their small holdings, which they occupied and cultivated since 1839. That year was fixed because it was the year in which the first draft of the constitution defining the rights of the people was made.
The principle upon which the lands were divided he states thus:
The chiefs had been given lands by former kings, by Kamehameha I, especially. They could not sell or lease them without the consent of the King and premier. There were other lands supposed to be the King’s private lands. When the division was made these lands, which he claimed were his own, were set apart and called crown lands. That was his private estate really, and the others belonged to the Government, the chiefs, and the people. The people got theirs out of the Government land, [Page 554]the King’s land, and the chiefs’ land. These were called kuleanas. The King’s lands were called Crown lands, from which he derived his support. The Government lands were for the support of the Government. The King had a right to and did sell Crown lands at his pleasure until 1864.
In the division of lands the Crown lands were large in amount, the Government received a large share, and the largest part of the remainder went to the chiefs. The Government lands are nearly sold out. The kuleanas would not average more than 2 or 3 acres. A great many natives were seamen, mechanics, fishermen, teachers, and followers of chiefs, who received no land. The children of these awardees of kuleanas generally have no land. The sugar planters derive their titles from the Government and the chiefs.
The King and the chiefs were extravagant; got into debt, and then had to pay. When they got the title to their lands these debts were paid by many of the chiefs with lan.ds. During their lifetime they got rid of a great deal of land. The plantations have come nearly altogether from the Government and the chiefs, and considerable of the land is leased from Crown lands.
Mr. Bishop’s statement, which will be duly reported, though freed from the technicalities and formalities of a trained lawyer, brings out all that is practical and vital in the origin and progress of the land system of the Hawaiian Islands.
Attention is here invited to the character of the early surveys and surveys of grants from a report made by the Surveyor-General to the legislature in 1891:
character of the early surveys.
First in order are the old surveys made under the direction of the land commission, and commonly known as “kuleana” surveys. These had the same defects as the first surveys in most new countries. These defects were, in great part, owing to the want of any proper supervision. There was no bureau of surveying, and the president of the land commission was so overwhelmed with work that he had no time to spare for the superintendence of the surveying. As has been truly said, there was little money to pay out and little time to wait for the work. Political reasons also added to the haste with which the work was pushed through, and barely completed before the death of Kamehameha III.
No uniform rules or instructions were given to the surveyors employed, who were practically irresponsible. Few of them could be regarded as thoroughly competent surveyors, while some were not only incompetent, but careless and unscrupulous. The result was that almost every possible method of measurement was adopted. Some used 50-foot chains, and others the 4-pole chain divided into links; some attempted to survey by the true meridian, others by the average magnetic meridian, while most made no allowance for local variations of the needle. There are some surveys recorded which were made with a ship’s compass, or even a pocket compass. Few of them took much pains to mark corners or to note the topographical features of the country. Rarely was one section or district assigned to one man. It is said that over a dozen were employed in surveying Waikiki, for instance, not one of whom knew what the other surveyors had done or tried to make his surveys agree with theirs where they adjoined one another. As might be expected, overlaps and gaps are the rule rather than the exception, so that it is generally impossible to put these old surveys together correctly on paper without ascertaining their true relative positions by actual measurements on the ground.
The board of commissioners to quiet land titles were empowered by the law of August 6, 1850, not only to “define and separate the portions of land belonging to different individuals,” but “to provide for an equitable exchange of such different portions where it can be done, so that each man’s land may he by itself.” This, however, was rarely done, and the kuleanas very often consist of several sections or “apanas” apiece, scattered here and there in the most irregular manner imaginable. No general rules were laid down in regard to the size of kuleanas, though mere house lots were limited to one-quarter of an acre by the act just cited, section 5. The consequence was that the responsibility was mainly thrown upon the surveyors, and there was the greatest variety of practice among them in different districts. The act above mentioned provided that fee-simple titles should “be granted to native tenants for the lands they occupy and improve.” This was differently interpreted by different surveyors, so that in fact the “kuleanas” vary from 1 to 40 acres in extent. General maps of whole districts, or even ahupuaas, exhibiting the exact location of all the different claims contained within them, were scarcely thought of, and hardly could have been made with the inferior instruments and defective methods used by most of the kuleana surveyors of that time.[Page 555]
Surveys of grants were of a similar character to those of kuleanas. Formerly it was not the policy of the Government to have Government lands surveyed as wholes, or to have their boundaries settled. Portions of Government land sold to private persons were surveyed at the expense of the purchaser. It was seldom the case that an entire “ahupuaa” was sold at once. The pieces sold were of all sizes and shapes, sometimes cutting across half a dozen ahupuaas, and were generally surveyed without reference to the surveys of adjoining land sales or awards. Hence most Government lands at the present time consist of mere remnants left here and there, and of the worthless and unsalable portions remaining after the rest had been sold. It follows that, even supposing all the outside boundaries of a Government land to have been surveyed and duly settled by the commissioner of boundaries, it would still be necessary to locate on the ground all the grants and awards contained within the land in question in order to ascertain how much of it is left. Nothing short of a general survey of the country will bring to light all these facts, will exhibit the Government lands in their true position in relation to other lands, and enable the minister of the interior as well as applicants for land to judge of their actual value. It was considerations like these which induced the then minister of the interior, Dr. Hutchinson, to institute the Government survey in 1871. An account of that survey, its objects, methods, and results, was published in pamphlet form in 1889.
Superintendent of Government Survey.
In view of the foregoing observations it appears to me that if a humane feeling towards the native population of these islands is to have place in American thought there will arise a conviction that instead of inviting immigrants from the United States or other countries to these islands in the hope of obtaining homes, whatever of lands may be used in this way are more than needed by the native population. They seem morever, to suggest that if the native has not advanced in mental and moral culture up to the highest standard it can not be denied that the policy of the Hawaiian Government in the distribution of its lands has been a great hindrance to him.
His advancement in the future under the conditions now surrounding him are by no means encouraging. If his advancement should reach the most desirable stage there will in all probability arise a discontent well calculated to unsettle any social fabric which sought to give it permanency.
It has been made to appear in official reports of the Hawaiian Government, and in magazine and newspaper articles, that the native population was dying out and would in a few years become extinct. The best opinion I can obtain here is that the death rate no longer exceeds the birth rate, but that there is a gradual increase in the native population. The extinction of the native, therefore, can no longer afford any excuse for any distribution of the land of the country on that account.
Out of a population of 40,622 natives and half-casts, 23,473 are officially reported as able to read and write. They are generally allied in their religious affiliations with the Protestant and Catholic churches.
Mr. Sereno E. Bishop, an ardent annexationist, and with an eye quick to discern all their faults, in. 1888.uses the following language:
The Hawaiian race is one that is well worth saving. With all their sad frailties, they are a noble race of men, physically and morally. They are manly, courageous, enterprising, cordial, generous, unselfish. They are highly receptive of good. They love to look forward and upward, though very facile to temptations to slide backward and downward. In an unusual degree they possess a capacity for fine and ardent enthusiasm for noble ends.
Can a Christian civilization doom such a people to annihilation by any policy of legislation?
I see in the letters from here to the New York World and Sun statements that I had expressed my own opinions in reference to political [Page 556]questions in these islands, and declaring the opinion of the President on the subject of annexation.
I send you herewith the statement of Mr. Fred. Wundenberg. He is a gentleman of excellent sense and character. It touches upon several questions with so much aptness that I have thought it perhaps might interest you.
I am, etc.,
Special Commissioner of the United States.