No. 6.
Statement of Volney V. Ashford.

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

Dear sir: I inclose herewith a review of the political situation here, from the formation of the constitution of 1887 to its attempted abrogation by Liliuokalani on January 14 last. I can scarcely say that this covers all the points discussed, or upon which you requested information, though it probably includes most of them.

There is, however, a strange circumstance which I now see I omitted, to wit, that the men, as individuals and as a class, into whose hands fell the executive offices and entire control of this movement, are those who (aside from the thick-and-thin apologists of monarchy at all hazards) have always heretofore been the bitterest enemies of those who were suspected of favoring annexation. Dole himself, though a member of the revolutionary league of 1887 and a member of the “Council of Thirteen” therein, tried his best to “throw” the whole scheme just as the supreme moment arrived. Failing in this, he resigned his place on the council and deserted the league, and tried his best to pull others out. He did manage to pull out P. O. Jones, who was also a member of the “Thirteen,” which position he resigned and deserted the league the same as Dole had done.

About the same time W. O. Smith, who, through his great personal intimacy with Dole, Jones, and others of the league, was acquainted with the general plan, and had given his adhesion to it and arranged to swear in before the council, but had deferred it several times, did come before that body. After hearing a part of the oath repeated, he drew his hand from the bible, made a contemptible, cowardly speech in favor of the continuance of monarchy, and withdrew, and never became a member of the league. Other prominent members of the Missionary party worked with all their energy against the cause. It was subsequently learned that just about the time of the withdrawal of Dole and Jones, the King, suspecting the dangerous strength of the league, made overtures, through prominent members of the Missionary Colony, to recede from certain objectionable positions he had assumed, to dismiss the Gibson cabinet, and form one from the Missionary party. The above desertions, the consequent narrow escape of the league from ruin, and the resulting enforced modification of the entire plan (as referred to in my statement) only saved the leading non-Missionary leaguers from the gallows, as we then, and always since, believed.

It is needless to say that this perfidy of that political element, at the supreme moment, convinced the non-Missionaries that treachery was the moving cause. When the demands for reform were made, under the compromise agreement, only the abject cowardice of the King and his chief advisers saved us from a bloody battle, in which, on account of delay resulting from the Missionary defection above, the King would have had an overwhelming advantage, having thereby time to fortify and strengthen his position. When the new constitution came into effect, the cabinet soon became a Missionary body, by pressure brought upon the King in making appointments to fill the vacancies of Godfrey Brown and W. L. Green, who resigned, and their whole line of official conduct to the time of their resignation, in June, [Page 682] 1890, was a series of insults and abuses to all the non-Missionary members of the league, and the filling of all the important offices of the kingdom between their brothers, the uncles and the cousins, etc., on the one hand, and the most vicious favorites of roy alty on the other.

One of these latter was C. B. Wilson, whom Thurston, as minister of interior, kept in the office of superintendent of waterworks—though he had already been proven guilty of serious embezzlements (as related in “statement”); and although Thurston, then an opponent of Gibson, had said from his place in the legislature that Gibson, by retaining Wilson in that very office, was harboring a criminal who should be breaking stones, with a ball chained to him, Thurston continued to make this vagabond his chief favorite, and it was to save him, as a member of the “Dominis conspiracy,” that he refused to-prosecute the conspirators, as heretore stated. Of course, this was with a view to control Mrs. Dominis, when she should come to the throne. Such conduct as the above helped to alienate the non-missionary whites, who had belonged to the revolutionary or “Reform” party.

So long as the Missionary party could hold all the political offices, Kalakaua, and after him Lilioukalani, were good enough, and it was only when that faction lost all hope of a prevailing influence over royalty that royalty became unbearable. During the organization of the Hawaiian Patriotic League, a year ago, one of the leading missionary politicians said to me: “Your charges against Liliuokalani are, no doubt, true; but what does it matter so long as we have the prevailing influence over her. A republic or annexation would lead to the dominance of the natives.”

This party, almost without exception, tried to hunt down all participators in the attempt against the monarchy last year. I have heard from several sources, though not able to prove it juridically, that Dole, then justice of the supreme court, was in conference with Wilson many times, advising him what course to pursue, and what line to work up against us. Finally, he was the one who issued the warrants, a thing unheard of in the Hawaiian criminal practice, our criminal eases then all originating in the police or district courts. Mr. Justice Dole not only violated this precedent, but issued the warrants, (and then tried the cases) without consultation with any of the other judges, and against the advice (to Wilson—and known to Dole, as is said) of almost every attorney in town, and on the same statement of facts as were laid before himself. During the examination which lasted (with intermissions) for three weeks, he overruled every ruling of the common law courts of the United States and England—both on points of admission and rejection of evidence, as well as of construction—against the defense, and invoked the rulings of the courts of Bloody Mary and her times, in construing the law of treason, especially as to what constituted an overt act. His hatred to any and all who favored a change from monarchy was so marked as to excite general comment. And a chain of known facts points most strongly to the conclusion, at that time very generally believed, that the discharge of most of the defendants (including myself) was in accordance with a secret understanding that Wilcox and I should not expose at the trial the complicity of the Queen and her negotiations with the league in regard to their assisting her in promulgating a revolutionary and retrogressive constitution.

Of the “Councils” who now “rule” the country under the Star Chamber process, there are only three men, at most—possibly not a single one—who are independent of the sugar ring. In fact, fifteen of [Page 683] eighteen, in addition to all the commissioners, are either entirely or in very great measure dependent upon sugar for their very existence, commercially speaking. This class has always been bitterly opposed to any ideas tending to an abolition of monarchy. The cause of their change may be correctly judged from an American point of view, but this I can not help saying, that my personal knowledge of these people refuses to admit that “Americanism” has anything to do with it; and I have the word of many of them to the effect that they would prefer England to the United States, unless the latter give them terms which will exclude the Hawaiians from the franchise, and any apparent tendency they or any of them have recently exhibited towards admission of Hawaiians to vote has been caused by the lesson they have learned as to the sentiments of people in the United States.

The natives distrust the whole missionary element, and it is very doubtful if those now at the helm can “deliver the goods,” except under some process of compulsion.

In expressing this want of confidence in the governing faction, I desire to say that it is fear for annexation, through the mismanagement of the present régime, which induces me to speak on this subject. I am, and always since my advent here, have been an annexationist, from both a Hawaiian and American standpoint. I openly spoke, wrote, and acted in favor of annexation, when annexation meant treason, and when Dole, the present President, judicially construed a discussion of the possible future necessity for the same as an “overt act.”

I hope these additional points may be of some service or interest to you as bearing on the whole case under review.

And I remain, yours truly,

Volnby V. Ashford.