Foreign Relations of the United States, 1894, Appendix II, Affairs in Hawaii
Mr. Wharton to Mr. Stevens.
Washington , September 10, 1890 .
Sir: I inclose a copy of the letter of the Secretary of the Navy and a copy of the report therewith on the serious political situation in Hawaii, which, as confirmatory of your No. 30, of the 19th ultimo, will doubtless be read with interest.
I am, etc.,
Mr. Tracy to Mr. Blaine.
Washington , September 5, 1890 .
Sir: I have the honor to inclose herewith, for your information, a copy of a communication received by this Department from Commander Felix McCurley, commanding the U. S. S. Nipsic, at Honolulu, and dated August 22, 1890, reporting the political situation of affairs at Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully,
Secretary of the Navy.
Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands , August 22, 1890 .
Sir: I would respectfully report that since the departure of the flagship Charleston from this place, on the 7th instant, the political situation has assumed a more disturbed appearance within the last several days, so I deem it advisable to report the political state of affairs immediately instead of waiting until the end of the month to do so, as is the usual custom, the cause of the disturbance being as follows:
Several days ago a petition was presented to His Majesty King Kalakana by a native delegation asking that the old constitution be revived, and the new or present constitution, formed in 1887, be abrogated; and this petition has been indorsed by the King and presented to the legislature for their consideration, and, as I have been informed by reliable authorities, that the native and bad half-white element threaten to surround the legislative chamber and coerce the members of the legislature into voting for it, so as to give a form of legality to what is otherwise not only against the present constitution, but highly inimical and dangerous to American interests.
The present constitution, formed in 1887, seems to give entire satisfaction to the majority of the prominent American and English residents at this place, including even those white people of the working classes who are prosperous and thriving, as it is of a liberal character, and favors their interest in various ways.[Page 1175]
The present constitution, formed in 1887, was, in a manner, forced on the King by a delegation of the prominent residents at this place, and as I was informed by a former minister of the late cabinet, the Hon. John Austin, that if the King had not signed the present constitution and given it his support, a Republic would have been declared, and at that time a sworn league composed of about 4,000 white men residing on the different islands were back of this movement; opposition to it would have been useless, as the respectable element were determined to have a liberal constitution or else a Republic.
The constitution that the natives and the bad half-white element (under the leadership of Mr. Bush) desire is the one just presented to the legislature and indorsed by the King for their consideration, and is somewhat similar to the old constitution existing before the present one, and is objected to strongly by the American and English element, as it in a manner gives the King absolute power to appoint the nobles of the legislature, instead of their being elected as they are at present; and also would enable the ignorant natives to control the situation through the ballot, freehold qualification being waived, all of which would be highly prejudicial to American interest.
The fact is, to form a new reactionary constitution for these Islands and restore arbitrary power to the King would not only be highly disastrous to American interest, but to the prosperity of these Islands, and the people also; but the Anglo-Saxon race here, with intelligence and civilization behind them, move irresistably forward on their march to democracy, and it is only a question of time when a more liberal government will be formed; as the sentiment is universally expressed that, should the present King die, or the new constitution be formed, giving him absolute power, go into effect, he would then be dethroned and a republic declared, and should the sworn league that existed in 1887 be reorganized they could control these Islands without any outside assistance whatever, it being composed entirely of whites, and all natives being strictly excluded.
I must mention here that the English residents at this place, although numerically much less than the Americans, have One great advantage over them, whether acting politically or otherwise, and that is, whenever there is any matter that is of advantage to them, politically, commercially, or otherwise, they bury all social or personal feeling and act together as a unit, thus giving them a great advantage over the Americans in any matter that concerns their interest.
Unfortunately for the interest of the United States the Americans here are composed of two parties or factions, between whom there seems to be no feeling of unity, socially, politically, or otherwise.
One of these factions is that composed of the old Puritanical stock, whose ideas are very rigid regarding social proprieties, observance of the Sabbath, etc., and whom, I must say, are rather intolerant of the other Americans, who may be termed the society set of these islands; and although they possess an equal degree of intelligence, brains, etc., as their more rigid brethren, they are looked upon by them as being rather frivolous and not setting a proper example to the native element, whereas they take as much interest in furthering the views of our Government as the other faction, although their strong social differences prevent them from acting together, like the English, and placing American interests at a great disadvantage whenever a question of political or commercial advantage arises between American and English interests.
Mr. C. W. Ashford, ex-attorney-general of the late cabinet, changed his politics previous to the dissolution of the late cabinet, and in doing so lost the confidence of both parties; consequently he is eliminated as a factor for producing further trouble, as he did formerly.
Mr. R. Wilcox, another great agitator, still possesses great influence among the native element, and, although lately in public speeches he advocates a quiet settlement of difficulties, he is not to be trusted.
At present the leading spirit of the disturbing element is the Hon. J. E. Bush, a member of the Legislature, but as he is not a military man therefore I do not think he would prove a successful leader in case of any disturbance, as what is termed a revolution at this place would be called a street riot in the United States, and a few hundred men led by a determined man could easily quell any such so-called revolution, and one such lesson to them would be highly beneficial to their future welfare.
Although the different representatives of the different governments here apprehend serious trouble I do not think the situation alarming as a new constitution can not be formed unless it passes the present Legislature, then it has to remain in abeyance and again be brought before the next session before going into force, and the better men of both parties being opposed to such a change I judge it will be quietly settled without resort to force.
The only trouble that may occur is that if the mob attempt to coerce the Legislature to vote for the new constitution, our minister, Hon. John L. Stevens, and the English commissioner, Maj. Wodehouse, propose to land the men from the American [Page 1176] and British vessels of war to prevent it, and think this display of force will prevent further trouble.
As regards this movement I asked the Hon. John L. Stevens if this was not interfering with the autonomy of the Government at this place, to which he replied no, not if the Government authorities request it; so as my instructions direct me to support him with the available force at my command, and as the Department of State indicates to the minister the policy to be observed, and I am directed to act in unison with him, I shall in accordance with such instructions fully cooperate and sustain him in any action he may take, deferring to his better judgment on any question that may arise regarding international law.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Commander U. S. N., Commanding and Senior Officer Present.
The Secretary of the
Navy Department, Washington, D. C.