No. 5.
Statement of Volney V. Ashford.

Hon. James H. Blount,
United States Ambassador to Hawaii:

Sir: You ask me to put in writing the substance of my information to you in re Hawaiian affairs on the 3d instant. In order to fully understand the situation, it seems necessary to refer to political developments which led to the conditions existing on January 14 last past.

Since the time of King Kamehameha V, in 1864, the political status of the Hawaiian Islands was that of a constitutional monarchy with succession to legitimate heirs, failing which, the sovereign nominated his own successor, such nomination to be ratified by the majority of the nobles. Failing both these alternatives, it rested with the entire Legislature (nobles and representatives) to elect a new sovereign. This latter was the case upon the death of Lunalilo, known as the last of the Kamehamehas, in 1874. The candidates were Kalakaua and the Queen Dowager Emma, widow of Kamehameha IV. The latter was the favorite of the natives, while Kalakaua was selected by the foreign element—then chiefly American—who feared the islands would drift to England if under the rule of Queen Emma, who had spent much time in visiting that country, and was anti-American in all her sentiments.

Kalakaua was not selected for his virtues, but simply because he could be controlled. The Legislature, which was chiefly composed of natives, was bribed to vote for Kalakaua, whose election was thereby secured, but the native population created a riot which resulted in several fatal casualties and was only quelled by the intervention of British and American men-of-war’s men in port. Thus the late King began his reign, under conditions accomplished by fraud and sustained by foreign force, with the bitter hostility of the great majority of his countrymen. His extravagances and corruptions, as subsequently developed, helped him but little with the natives, who looked on him as a usurper and outside the real chief hood, while the foreign population became gradually more estranged, until the ante-revolutionary condition of 1887 stared the country in the face. But with all the King’s recklessness he was careful to keep within the letter of the law, though continually violating its spirit. He was enabled to do this from the peculiar privileges and prerogatives allowed by the then constitution.

The legislative body consisted of two so-called “houses” (though they sat together in one). Half the Legislature consisted of the “nobles,” appointed for life by the sovereign. This process, abused to favor royal lickspittles regardless of their merits, gradually changed, the general character of the house of nobles, so that the great majority of them were absolutely the creatures of the King, whose powerful influence over the majority of the representatives also, through his manipulating and distributing offices, and all kinds of public favors among them, gave him the literal ownership of the entire Legislature in pushing all his corrupt measures through Parliament, so that revolution became the only possible remedy. All government patron age was in the King’s hands, through his power of appointing and dismissing his ministers at will. Such a thing as independence of Parliament was utterly unknown; while laws were passed at the King’s nod, appropriating vast sums for such revels and indecencies as his lewd and extravagant tastes suggested; while orgies, debauchery, hulas, [Page 669] and “sounds of revelry by night,” made the neighborhood of the royal palace offensive to all but the royal debaucheés.

The plan of the movement of 1887, into which the distracted populace were thus driven, embraced the establishment of an independent republic, with the view to ultimate annexation to the United States. All foreigners, even the British, were practically unanimous in this, while the natives stood by, and said to us: “This is not our king; he is yours. You forced him upon us against our protest. Do with him as you will.” Had it not been for this passive attitude of the Hawaiians, it is doubtful if the movement of 1887 would have succeeded.

Even as it was, the movement came well nigh dismal failure by reason of the desertion of several of the “missionary” wing of the revolutionary league, when the time for action arrived. The term “Missionary” party is now used in the islands in a political sense. It consists of the early white inhabitants and their immediate descendants, who have become a family compact in religious, social, commercial, professional, and political matters, in which they are opposed to the larger part of the white population, and almost all the natives.

The missionary deserters, and the influence the deserters forced upon the balance of the league, resulted in a compromise in shape of a demand for certain political rights from the King, preliminary to actual revolt (June 30, 1887). He promised to grant the concessions demanded; and thereupon in pursuance of such promise, so wrested from him, he promulgated a new constitution (July 7, 1887), which deprived the sovereign of many prerogatives, chief of which were (1) the right to appoint nobles; (2) the power to dismiss ministers without consent of the legislature; (3) the absolute right of veto. The general franchise for representatives (composed of twenty-four members from an equal number of electoral districts), was extended to all residents, aliens included (except Asiatics), who registered within certain dates, etc., regardless of property qualifications. Twenty-four nobles were also to be elected in sets, or series, by those of the general or representative electors, who owned $3,000 worth of real estate unincumbered, or received $600 of income. Thus, the election of one-half the Legislature was put in the power of a small minority of aliens, most of whom had been enfranchised by the new constitution; for the conditions were such that very few natives had the required amount of property left, and few Hawaiians received from personal services the amount of $600 per annum. Practically all aliens, however (except Asiatics) received much more. Thus, the control of the Legislature passed to aliens, most of them without any property interests, but servants in different lines of the planting and commercial element, who all belong to the Missionary party, and were hostile to the native Hawaiians.

The nobles and representatives sat and voted together; and, though the Native party were to the revolutionary or Reform party, as four or five to one, yet the latter succeeded, by the differential franchise, in controlling, by a large majority, the Legislature returned next after the revolution. This condition naturally exasperated the Hawaiian people, while many white men took up the native cause, some from sentiments of pure justice, others as a matter of political expediency, to restore domestic contentment, yet the tremendous advantage given by conditions which enabled a small minority to elect half the Legislature clear, and gave them even chances in the election of the balance, has kept political power in the hands of the few, and the country has continued in a constant and growing state of ferment.

When the revolution of 1887 took place the ex-Queen Kalakaua’s sister [Page 670] was absent in England at the Victorian jubilee. On and after her return she evinced, on every opportunity, her disgust at the turn of affairs, and her determination to reëstablish the royal prerogatives at the first opportunity. She did not await her own succession. She eagerly accepted a proposition from friends of the then cabinet to enter into a conspiracy to force the King to abdicate. The intention of the cabinet of the day was to intimidate the King by a division in the royal family, he being then unmanageable, and continually violating the conditions of the new constitution respecting the veto, during the legislative session of December, 1887.

The object being accomplished by the submission and promised loyalty of the King, Mrs. Dominis continued the conspiracy to a point where some 300 armed conspirators, all natives, had assembled in the barracks of the royal guards (the guardsmen having already been won over) and sent a committee to the King to demand his abdication. This was in January, 1888. The King induced this committee to give him forty-eight hours to deliberate. During the intervening time the conspiracy was discovered by a Government official by the purest accident. The leaders were quietly brought one by one before notaries and sworn confessions taken which are now among the Government archives. On account of personal relations between Mr. Thurston (then minister of the interior) and some of the half-white leaders in this affair, the Government did not prosecute anyone, or even divulge the facts to the public, only insisting that Wilcox, one of the leaders, should leave the country. This was done, but events showed that the then princess immediately reëmbarked in a further conspiracy in the same direction, and which resulted in the Wilcox insurrection of July 30, 1889. Besides Wilcox, the committee who, on the occasion above mentioned, were sent by the conspirators to force the King’s abdication, were Maj. Nowlein and C. B. Wilson. The latter had been for many years notoriously one of Liliuokalani’s paramours. The former was commanding officer of the Second Battalion, Hawaiian volunteers, an organization of native Hawaiians, which was subsequently disbanded by the Government for disloyalty, disobedience, and insubordination in refusing to turn out to suppress the insurrection of 1889; and later on (until the abrogation of the monarchy) was commander of the royal guard.

Ever since the year 1887 the political record of R. W. Wilcox has been so closely interwoven with Hawaiian events that it is proper to make a passing reference to him at this point. A native of the island of Maui, of mixed Hawaiian and American parentage, his father came from the State of Connecticut, and still follows the occupation of a rancher on Maui. The young man taught school in his youth, and at 20 years of age (which is legal age in Hawaii) represented his native district in the Legislature. He was subsequently selected by the Government as one of the young Hawaiians to be sent abroad to be scientifically educated at the public expense, according to the line of policy then in vogue, and had been seven years in the best military and engineering schools of the Italian Government, and was serving in the Italian artillery as a subaltern when the revolution occurred. Thereupon our Government issued an order of recall to a number of their students abroad, and with others Wilcox returned to Honolulu in November, 1887. Being refused employment by the Government and boycotted by the “Missionary” party, he readily fell in with the ideas of the Princess Liliuokalani, as above stated.

After going to California, on the failure of the first or “Dominis” conspiracy, he sought employment as engineer in the Spring Valley [Page 671] waterworks till April, 1889, when Liliuokalani called him back to again assist her to “restore the rights of the native chiefs.” He at once responded and, arriving at Honolulu in April, 1889, took up his abode at the princess Palama residence where she herself then lived apart from her husband. Here he organized the movement, held revolutionary meetings, gathered arms and munitions, collected men for the expedition, and moved out in regular military order on the early morning of July 30, 1889, with about 100 armed men to the Government headquarters. After taking possession of the parliament buildings and palace grounds, recruits were collected by messengers hastily sent out, and by daylight (which was the first the authorities knew of the movement) he had possession of everything, with an armed force of 400 to 500 men.

In addition to this, the royal guard were all on his side, although their captain held immediate possession of the palace itself with 30 men, and with orders from the King to allow none to enter till further instructed. Kalakaua was in the conspiracy. He had joined issues with his sister (the princess), the plan being to restore, by force, the constitution of 1864. His suspicions as to his sister’s bona fides had been strongly aroused, however, and on the preceding evening they had been confirmed by some native friends, who persuaded him that Liliuokalani’s real object was to compel his abdication as soon as the act of promulgating the proposed constitution should be carried out. He thereupon, at midnight, moved from the palace to Honuakaka, his Queen’s private residence, taking 12 of the most trustworthy men of the guard, leaving 30 men at the palace, as above stated, and when the report came that Wilcox was on the move, he took refuge in his boathouse in the harbor, but a stone’s throw from the U. S. S. Adams. In this position he could avoid all chances of capture, as the only access to the boathouse was over wooden causeways of considerable length, giving him time to escape to the Adams on the least alarm. There he remained till the battle was over and the insurgents dispersed or captured.

Two days previously the King himself had taken Wilcox through the palace and barracks, and showed him the position of the cannon, reserve small arms, ammunition, etc., and on the afternoon of the 29th of July he sent word to Wilcox to move at once, as, for certain reasons connected with a quarrel which happened the day previous between the King and cabinet, in regard to the transfer of Gatling gun carriages from the royal guard to the police authorities, and which the King refused, he considered immediate action necessary. When, therefore, the expedition arrived at the palace, and Wilcox found the King had gone, leaving instructions for the guard to hold the palace subject to his further orders, he was paralyzed. However, he seized every point of vantage, posted cannon, and sent a message to the King thus: “Your Majesty: We are here, at the palace, according to the plans agreed upon;” to which Kalakaua replied: “Remain there and complete your part of the undertaking. I will be there when the proper moment arrives.” The above was developed at the subsequent trial of Loomens, a Belgian ex-artilleryman, for treason for participation in the insurrection. He was convicted, sentenced to death, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment, and was subsequently turned loose on condition he should leave the Kingdom. At the same trial the letter mentioned above, from Liliuokalani to Wilcox calling him home to “restore the chiefs, etc.,” came to light. It was discovered in a pocket of his clothing, in Liliuokalani’s house, upon search being made on the [Page 672] night of the 30th July, after the defeat of the movement and Wilcox’s capture.

After this, the princess deserted Wilcox, denied all knowledge of his plans and of the conspiracy, and showed her entire willingness that the men who had taken their lives in their hands at her solicitation should now hang. This treacherous conduct of the woman was the beginning of Wilcox’s conversion from “chief” rule to the rule of the people. His disgust for her was also heightened by her treachery to her brother, whose place she was ready at any moment to occupy by any means necessary to replace him. In fact, her conduct succeeding the failure of the Wilcox insurrection alienated many of her old-time friends, and was the beginning of her downfall in the affections of the natives. Naturally Wilcox has ever since been an advocate of annexation to the United States, although his idea was to accomplish this end by first establishing an independent republic, and proceeding as in the case of Texas.

It should be here mentioned that some 10 Hawaiians were killed in the action, or died of wounds, and as many more wounded, the above-named Loomens was the only man convicted by the courts, most of the others having been either acquitted or discharged, while a few pleaded guilty to minor charges and received light sentences. Wilcox himself, after his acquittal, became the acknowledged leader, both in and out of parliament, of the Hawaiian people, who composed the great bulk of the new Liberal party, whose shibboleth was equal civil rights. Under this as a first principle, the Liberals rolled up an immense majority of the entire vote at the general election of February, 1890, and actually secured a handsome majority of the legislature, with which they succeeded in ousting the so-called Thurston cabinet, in June of the same year. But a number of those foreigners whom the natives had elected on the Liberal ticket deserted to the “Missionary” party, and, forming a coalition cabinet, carried on the Government in a way which increased the discontent of the people, till the death of the King, in San Francisco, on January 20, 1891.

The magnificent manner in which the King—alive and dead—had been treated in America by the governments of the Republic and of the State of California, by the city of San Francisco, and by the people at large, mollified in very great measure the hereditary aversion of the Hawaiians towards American political affiliation—a feeling growing out of their dislike for the mercenary land-grabbing qualities of the “missionaries “on whom they mistakenly looked as specimens of Americanism. For although their aloha for the King was not the aloha they formerly bore to their real chiefs, yet each Hawaiian seemed to look upon the ourtesies of Americans to the sovereign as a personal compliment to himself. It was long well known that large numbers of both whites and natives had determined that Kalakaua should be the last Hawaiian monarch. But the surprise accompanying his almost tragic return completely balked any organization till his successor was nailed won, as it were. It was also well known that Liliuokalani was determined that the constitution of 1887 should be abolished, at latest, on the moment of her accession. But the same surprise had a similarly-opposite effect (if the term be allowable) upon her.

The cabinet of the day, realizing that delay would cause a movement for the abolition of monarchy on the one hand or the reestablishment of the royal prerogatives on the other, promptly went in a body to the then Princess Regent and compelled her to take the oath to the existing constitution. She has since repeatedly said that she was so taken [Page 673] by surprise that she was cowed into obedience, especially as some of the ministers threatened her that in case of refusal a republic would be at once established and she would become a political prisoner. She has further stated to friends that she would have refused and at once proclaimed a new constitution, containing all the old (and added) prerogatives, had she but received sufficient warning to prepare herself; but, even as it was, that she swore with a mental reservation. This, then, was the status of monarchy in Hawaii when Liliuokalani became Queen—a reigning sovereign who had at least twice striven to supplant her brother even at the expense, if necessary, of walking over his strangled corpse to the throne; a woman notoriously loaded with the grossest social vices, such as had contributed so largely to the late King’s downfall in 1887, but still strongly upheld by the majority of the native people, who believed her professions and promises to restore them to an equal franchise; possessed, as her friends claimed, of qualities of justice, firmness, and courage, which events proved to be but selfishness, mulishness, and savage ignorance; a hater of whites and a promoter of race prejudices; an idolatress, a kahuna worshiper, and an advocate of the most abominable methods which distinguished the ante-Christian epoch. The natives soon turned from her in disgust.

The so-called “Reform” party, consisting chiefly of the “Missionaries,” could do nothing with her. Foreigners, generally, feared and hated her. She gradually began to interfere in official appointments and Parliamentary elections, and to usurp autocratic authority in all directions. Her dismissal of Government officials and appointment of known thieves, vagabonds, and vicious ignoramuses from among her personal favorites and paramours to the most lucrative and responsible positions exasperated everyone outside her personal following. Her tour in state about the islands (as is the custom of Hawaiian monarchs upon their succession) was marked by the studied absence or the open insults of the great body of the Hawaiian people. Her retainers could not procure a supply of food from the natives and had to rely on the whites, while the hookuou, or giving of presents (an ancient Hawaiian custom), was a pitiable failure, only participated in by officials, or those otherwise dependent on royal favor. Secret leagues were formed, both among the whites and the Hawaiians, to remedy the existing conditions. Of these the Hui Hawaii Alohaaina (Hawaiian Patriotic League) was the most prominent, from the arrest of nearly one hundred of its members and their trial for treason.

I was myself a member and one of the organizers of this league, as also of a white league (under the same name), among the latter of whose members were most of those who actually “carried guns” in the overthrow of the monarchy last January. The mass of Hawaiians had by this time become possessed of a bitter hatred to the ruling dynasty. Of the most stable class of natives, the following sentiment, related to me by one who, under Kalakaua, had held in succession all the most distinguished positions in public and political life, is a sample of the then prevailing thought: “I have been trained from childhood to love and obey my alii (chiefs); no one would more gladly give his very life for them. But the days of the alii are past; they are no more; their successors are unworthy the name; my aloha for them has withered. I weep for Hawaii. The Kingdom must come to an end; and who can say what will be the best for our country—annexation or a republic?” And amid such sentiments the “Hui Hawaii Alohaaina” came into existence the 1st day of March, 1892.

[Page 674]

But before entering into the details of this league, reference may be made to some of the Queen’s official acts which had a strong bearing upon its origin and development. Though she took the oath to the constitution as above, the event proved it to be with a mental reservation, as she had claimed to her friends, and she at once laid plans to overturn it. She first refused to recognize the ministers, on the ground that they were the King’s cabinet and “died with the King”, thus voiding the constitutional provision rendering it necessary to precede dismissal by a vote of want of confidence of the legislature. Then followed several weeks of practical anarchy, political unrest, and severe business stagnation, during which the opposing parties literally slept on their arms. Finally, at the importunities of the mercantile class, who were most anxious to avoid such troubles as would ruin commerce the cabinet were induced to refer the matter to the supreme courts under a constitutional provision which permits such reference by either the sovereign or cabinet, although the opinions promulgated in such instances are not conclusive, but merely advisory. The decision went against the cabinet, on the ground that as the constitution made no provision for the contingency the cabinet died with the King and the prerogative of appointment lay with the sovereign.

The Queen’s obstinacy was caused by her determination to appoint C. B. Wilson to the portfolio of interior, where the great bulk of the public moneys are controlled and expended. This scheme was so grossly objectionable to the people, however, that, fearing a revolution if she carried it out, she selected men who were either personal friends of Wilson, or from whom she obtained a promise in advance that they would appoint Wilson to the marshalship of the Kingdom. This official had, by law, absolute command of the entire police force of the Kingdom, complete and unrestrained power in all appointments in that department, and practically controlled the administration of justice. Both his appointment and dismissal must be by the attorney-general, “by and with the advice and consent of the cabinet,” according to law passed by the revolutionary (or “reform”) legislature of 1887–’88. It was openly stated at the time that she compelled the incoming attorney-general to sign a commission for Wilson in advance, before receiving from her his own commission as a minister, though the attorney-general subsequently denied this charge on the floor of Parliament.

Wilson’s “pull” on the Queen consisted in the fact that for many years he has been her favorite paramour (she has several). He openly and in the most shameless manner assumed family relations with her years before the death of her husband; and, although himself a man with a family, he moved into the dead man’s own house and occupied his bed almost before his corpse was cold. The Queen had a private gateway cut through the palace wall immediately contiguous to her apartments in the “bungalow,” that he might alone enter by a near and more convenient way—a scandal at which even the most obtuse of the native people drew the line. The pair openly lived together in the Queen’s cottage at Waikiki (a suburb of Honolulu) during and succeeding the “sandbag” episode at the palace, just preceding the descent upon the league. This place was formerly an assignation house, built by the Queen, and openly used for that purpose, under the personal charge of her business manager, formerly her native coachman. All these and many other equally scandalous acts are matter of public notoriety at the capital, and have been aired and commented upon in scathing terms by the native press of Honolulu; but the English press [Page 675] were either gagged by the palace party or kept silent to avoid the effects of the scandal abroad.

Through the Queen’s influence over her brother (during his absolute power of official patronage) Wilson was given the superintendency of the Honolulu waterworks, though he was utterly ignorant of all theory regulating hydraulics, and the real work was necessarily done by another highly paid official. Wilson collected the water rates, however, and an investigation being demanded by a member of the Legislature of 1886, a parliamentary committee found he had stolen in the neighborhood of $16,000 from the receipts. Then through the same influence the cabinet of the day entered into a stipulation whereby the matter was compromised, Wilson repaying into the treasury $10,000. The princess paid over $5,000 of this amount in cash, and by her further influence, exerted in the same direction, prevailed on the Legislature to pass an “act of indemnity” restoring to her the $5,000 out of the public funds. To save further scandal, friends of the ministry indorsed Wilson’s notes for another $5,000 on the Government’s pledge to retain one-half of his salary till the amount was recouped, while he himself of course retained the office, although members of the Legislature, from their place on the floor of the house, expressed the opinion that he should be breaking stones on the street with a ball chained to him.

At the revolution of 1887 the fellow was a spy on both sides. Whether he gave truthful information to either is hard to say; but the King subsequently informed friends that he at least betrayed him into the enemy’s hands as soon as the revolutionary cause began to promise success. He was in the “Dominis conspiracy,” so-called, in 1888, already described, and was the man to run over his coconspirators to first reach the Government officials and betray his comrades when he suspected the plot was discovered. Unless the official documents were stolen while he and his tools were in power, there are still confessions of his own, under oath, in the Government archives, “which would hang him”—to use the words of the then minister of the interior. The particulars of this conspiracy were suppressed by the Government of the day to prevent a lowering of Hawaiian bonds then selling in London on a two-million dollar loan, and for other reasons already stated. He was in the Wilcox insurrection of 1889, but kept out of harm’s way; and it was developed at the trial of Loomens that it was he who introduced Loomens to the King, and sent him, by the King’s order, to join the conspirators.

During the Queen’s reign and his incumbency of the marshal-ship he was the absolute dictator in Hawaii. It is known that no act of importance in governmental functions transpired without either emanating from him or receiving his approval. He over and over again insulted the people, the Legislature, and the cabinet by openly commanding the Queen to disregard the premier, on behalf of the cabinet, when that minister was urging upon her the adoption, modification, or rejection of contemplated public acts. (By the way, the law recognizes no “premier,” but the Queen insisted on so calling that minister who officially communicated with her outside her meetings with the entire cabinet.) Boodle, thievery, blackmailing, bribe taking, and general disregard of the laws were alarmingly common, and gambling houses, dives, illicit liquor dens, opium joints, and the wholesale importation of that deadly drug have been positively traced to his acquiescence for monetary considerations. He kept a body guard about him, composed in part of fugitives from justice from other countries, accused of all degrees of crime. He is a half breed Tahitian, [Page 676] who, as a waif, was brought to Honolulu by an old Hawaiian sea captain. He grew up here, learned the blacksmith trade, and followed it till his physical development attracted the attention of Mrs. Dominis, who at once procured a Government office for him and advanced him as occasion offered. Though physically large, active, and well-proportioned, he is morally and intellectually of a low order—a circumstance which is true of all the ex-Queen’s favorites, and illustrates her savage tastes.

The feeling of disgust resulting from the palace scandals, as well as the general repugnance to having the laws maladministered by such notorious corruptionists and worthless paramours, combined to originate the league “to promote justice and equal rights in the political government of Hawaii” (as the oath expressed it)—the exact means being left to the development of events and the personal directions of the league leaders, to whom all swore obedience, but to include in any event the suppression of the monarchy, with close political connection with the United States as the ultimate object. Among the wrongs to be remedied was of course the differential franchise; and it was this belief of the Hawaiian leaguers that annexation would mean equal civil rights, which most strongly tended to bring the annexation view into prominence among them as the true solution of the question. At first the palace party encouraged the league. They thought to use them in the promulgation of a new constitution by throwing to them the sop of “equal rights” in exchange for their actual cooperation in the Queen’s intended coup; or at least relied on their non-interference, or perhaps upon their preventing the reform party from interfering, while the Queen’s party, supported by the royal guard and the Honolulu police (both under direct command of tools of the Queen, Nowlein and Wilson), would proclaim the instrument and set matters running thereunder.

The constitution was prepared, being identical with that which Her Majesty attempted to promulgate on January 14, so far as evidence of the latter’s contents can now be furnished. It was practically the constitution of Kamehameha V, with the added prerogative of dismissal and appointment of the supreme court at will—a project dear to Liliuokalani since long before her accession—as that body had always been regarded, both by sovereigns and people, as the bulwark against unconstitutional encroachment upon the liberties of the masses by Hawaiian monarchs. The league preferred to take chances of getting equal rights by their own methods, especially as one of their greatest complaints had been as to certain unconstitutional acts already exercised by the Queen, through her hated paramours, with the connivance of a servile cabinet—acts involving interference in official appointments and with the administration of justice. The league, however, did not at once openly quarrel with the Queen’s representatives, but “negotiated” at arm’s length, with the object of being left unmolested by the authorities, or, rather, by Wilson, who was directing the “new constitution” conspiracy, from the Queen’s side, and giving only such information to the ministers of the Government as the Queen’s party chose they should know.

The league rapidly increased in numbers, and included many of the best natives and half-whites in the country. By May 1st there were over 300 sworn members. There was a quasi-military organization, controlled mostly by ex-officers or non-commissioned officers of late native volunteer companies, or of the guard; spies reported that the leaders of the league had arranged for a large supply of arms, to be landed [Page 677] by smuggling from small craft at out-of-the-way points; the Legislature was about to meet, and it was the Queen’s plan that the new order of things must be inaugurated in time to prevent its meeting. Evidently something must be done, and done quickly. The introduction, also, of a large number of “Queen Emma” men into the league—men who were known to be hostile to the house of Kalakaua—increased the suspicions of the palace party, and Wilson instructed his spies to report the “arms” story, to compel the Government to move, as soon as he became satisfied that the league was against the monarchy. The members of the Government were strongly opposed to it at first, but succumbed to the personal pressure of Wilson and the Queen. Certain of the ministers told me this themselves, and others sent their personal friends to me to assure me of the fact. They said, in effect, “Wilson is the Queen; the Queen is absolute; we cannot control Wilson.” One member of the cabinet used those very words.

On the morning of May 19th two confidential friends of the Queen, Kanui and Kekipi, both defeated parliamentary candidates on the Queen’s side at the elections in the previous February, came to Wilcox (representing the league), and the three had a long interview. These emissaries represented that they had been authorized and instructed by Her Majesty to request his immediate presence at the palace to consult with Her Majesty in regard to the new constitution which she had prepared, and which she now held for his perusal and advice before its promulgation; further, that the time had arrived when the league must commit itself positively and irrevocably to this plan, or be considered enemies of the Crown. It is now positively known that Kanui and Kekipi came directly from the Queen’s presence when they visited Wilcox, who was taken by surprise by this ultimatum, and tried to ledge by further “negotiating,” there being special reasons why he should not at that time give a positive refusal. The Queen’s men, however, forced the game, and finally the natives and Wilcox quarreled and a definite answer being insisted upon under a threat; and, Wilcox thereupon sent to Her Majesty a positive refusal, accompanied by a defiance, upon which, being reported at the palace, warrants were immediately made out for every member of the league whom the spies had “located”—some 87 in number.

Plans were laid to attack and shoot down in cold blood the executive council of the league, who were (according to information from spies) to hold a meeting at my rooms that night. This was to be done under cover of an alleged but bogus resistance to arrest in face of warrants; and to make the thing complete, martial law was to be at once declared, and the “disturbing element,” who were not already assassinated, to be disposed of by court-martial, composed of officers of Her Majesty’s personal staff’ and the royal guard. But the league ‘had friends in the palace and at the headquarters of most of the Government departments and were from time to time informed as to what was there transpiring; so the meeting did not take place; but, instead, Wilcox and other league leaders attended a public meeting of the liberal party on that evening and denounced the Government, the Queen, and royalty in the bitterest terms. If there was basis for the “arms” story no evidence was found in the searches by the police of residences of all known to belong to the league. But the details of the first move having failed, it was still contemplated by the Queen to remove at all hazards those she considered her enemies. It is positively known that a proclamation of martial law was drafted by one of the advisers of the Queen, and passed for revision through the attorney-general’s office, and was [Page 678] carried for some days in the pocket of one of the Queen’s staff, while the authorities were busily engaged in hunting up more evidence.

The palace party calculated to stifle all necessity for such evidence as would convict in a court of justice by establishing a “military” court composed of ignorant kanaka partisans and body servants of the Queen. In this search for evidence (after the arrests) the authorities threw parties into prison without warrant or form of law, kept some without food for days, plied prisoners with promises of reward and offices if they would perjure themselves in such way as to make a “case” against the liberal leaders, and with threats of death in case of refusal, and used means to extort “evidence” of the kind they wanted in a manner which would disgrace brigands. These facts were proven at the trial by witnesses for the prosecution. But the failure of the Queen to destroy all opposition to her abominable course is due chiefly, after all, to the interference of Maj. Wodehouse, British commissioner (now minister), on my behalf, as a Canadian, by compelling the Government to try the conspirators in one of the courts of law instead of by a so-called military tribunal.

Passing over the trying period of danger and uncertainty of the legislative session, and the bitter fight of the Queen against the constitutional party, we come to the 14th of January and succeeding events, so near in time (and therefore in memory), coming down to the status in quo. The existing facts imply a Provisional Government treating with the Government of the United States for “annexation.” Now, what is annexation? It has been years discussed in this country as a possible outcome of the near future, but always on the basis that it would necessarily include equal civil rights in the management of all affairs not in their nature under Federal control—as, for instance, in Texas, or in the Territory of Arizona. There is in this country a bitter objection on the part of the majority against any unusual system such as proposed in the treaty laid before the United States Senate. This I firmly believe—and such, I feel sure, is the belief of the great majortiy—that a governing commissioner (say) from Washington would, nay, must, be influenced by the missionary party here, and that it would result in a plutocratic rule of a half dozen or dozen men of a political family compact, who came here poor to serve the cause of religion on starvation salaries, and have developed by their superior thrift into a moneyed aristocracy, owning all the valuable lands and industries of the country.

This class has always been considered the enemies of not only the native race, but of all classes denizened in the islands who are not of themselves. Their attempted monopoly of politics; their alternative subservience and hostility to the monarchy, according to their hold on office for the day; their changing to the cause of “Americanism,” or their “Hawaiian patriotism,” according to whether they are begging for differential duties, or fixing” a deal “with royalty; their contemptible airs of superiority over those not so rich as themselves; and their continually repeated efforts to grind the natives to inferior political position have alienated all classes against them. But having stolen in, like jackals, on the executive offices under the present regime, a great number of annexationists fear to openly object to their methods, lest it place the whole plan of annexation on the basis of swapping horses while crossing the stream. The commissioners arrived at San Francisro with the war cry, “Down with the Hawaiians.” This has turned nearly all Hawaiians against annexation, many hundreds of whom were formerly open and active in its advocacy. If even now assured [Page 679] that annexation would make them American citizens, as such is the case in say Texas or Arizona, they would forever abandon the thought of royalty and hail annexation with delight as the ultimate destiny of Hawaii.

Will the people of the United States, as represented in Congress or either branch thereof, permit the vast majority of the Hawaiian people to be driven by armed force into a distasteful political condition by a handful of political jackals of the missionary party, simply because the Hawaiians are poor and the other own the property? And this is prrctically the reason advanced by the commissioners. Does the action of the United States Government on the Samoan question indicate that America will use her armed forces to permit a minority of foreigners to coerce a majority of the native people; and would such a course be creditable to the American people? Would it be an exponent of the American principle of justice to the weak? But the entire question could be settled by forming a treaty which would remove the objections referred to, by interfering with no vested rights, and by giving political privileges to the rich and the poor alike. And while this might not altogether please the monopolists, an accommodation which would give equal civil rights to the Hawaiians in the management of local Hawaiian affairs is the one only which is just, beneficial, or practical from the standpoint of the future, from either the American or Hawaiian point of view.

It is not necessary to refute the arguments of that portion of the American press which opposes annexation on sentimental or economical grounds. That issue I assume to be already settled. It will be a sorry day for both America and Hawaii if annexation should now be deferred. Nevertheless, it will be a source of great grief to Hawaii and of future disgrace to the proclaimed political righteousness of the American people if the latter refuse us conditions which represent a fullness of political rights. The only hope of a condition of affairs which will make Hawaii a country in which a white man of self-respect and loving liberty can live and prosper is annexation, accompanied by an equal franchise to Hawaiians in matters of local administration.

Referring to the idea of an American protectorate, this would be bitterly repulsive to the great majority of the Hawaiian people, native and foreign, as many degrees worse, if possible, than “annexation” under the Thurston-Harrison treaty, with carpetbag government controlled by the family-compact oligarchy. It would, to our minds, mean the presence of a foreign armed force to bayonet into submission any resistance to tyranny, however great, if only perpetrated in the name of law and by the authority of the Government for the time being. It would mean the engrafting of a moneyed aristocracy into place and power, who, representing only the Missionary party, could, by their unlimited wealth, drown the cries of the people of this country from consideration of any man or body of men holding the power of review. Our appeals would not likely reach the Congress. This is the view which caused the unanimous uprising of the people against what is generally known as the “Blaine treaty” in 1889–’90.

This was a treaty drafted, as was said, by Mr. Blaine, then Harrison’s Secretary of State, and brought from Washington by H. A. P. Carter, then Hawaiian minister to the United States. A majority of the cabinet were in favor of it, and tried to force the King to sign it; but C. W. Ashford, who was attorney-general, resisted it on the aground that it contained a “troops” clause, permitting the United States to land forces to “preserve law and order,” which, he contended, [Page 680] would place in absolute power, backed by a foreign military force, any cabinet for the time being in office. The provisions of the proposed treaty having leaked out mass meetings were held, at which the entire plan was denounced by all classes, and in order to save forcible ejection by the populace the majority of the cabinet were obliged to repudiate the entire undertaking. Later development proved the whole scheme to be one for the establishment of all power in the hands of an oligarchy of the Missionary party, with practical disfranchisement to all other classes of Hawaiians, whether native or foreign. This experience satisfied everybody, including the Missionary party, that any “protectorate,” from whatever source, must be imposed upon the Hawaiian people by superior force.

Regarding the protectorate proclaimed by Minister Stevens truth compels the statement that under no rule of international law or military or other necessity was there any cause for such action. On many statements of facts not materially differing the Provisional Government was stronger on February 1st than April 1st, for at the former date all annexationists were united (if the Government’s claim is true), while at the last-named day disintegration was fast creeping in as a result of the methods pursued in relation to the annexation question—the opinion being very strong now in Honolulu that the Provisional Government have thus far thrown serious impediments in the way thereof by their treatment of the native side of the question and their mugwumpery, if not, indeed, their treachery, in official appointments. The threatening aspect of the Japanese question had not entered into the calculations, because no knowledge or suspicions existed on February 1st of the pending arrival of the Naniwa from Yokohama.

It is not the intention to herein discuss the arguments, in favor of annexation from an American standpoint; but in this connection some reference should be made to the attitude of Japan. The possibilities from that quarter, as well as the chances of an English occupation (in case annexation falls through), have no doubt been given due weight from the American side. But observation of developments on the spot has convinced most people here that the invasion from Yokohama, which commenced some seven or eight years since, was designed as a means of turning Hawaii into a Japanese colony. As long as four years ago I had written articles, which appeared in Eastern and European newspapers, pointing out the approaching danger from Japan, and outlining a trend of events which has been fully justified by developments to date.

I notice the American press has not apparently considered that any importance attaches to this question; but nothing seems more certain than this, that these islands must, upon any refusal of the United States to take advantage of the supreme moment now at hand, at once become an advance post of the empire of the rising sun and a hostile sentinel over the American Pacific coast. This is on the supposition that England would not interfere. But supposing she does interfere; what is the difference, in case the United States let go, whether Hawaii falls to a rival (and perhaps hostile; power of the old civilization or the new, when the power which dominates Hawaii will dominate the Pacific, the future home of the world’s commerce?

To revert, in conclusion, to the purely Hawaiian side of the case, monarchy is now dead, and Hawaii knocks for admission to America’s door. Give us not an oligarchy. Give us democratic government. Give us a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

I remain, yours truly,

Volney V. Ashford.