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The Great Republic by the Master Historians
The Annexation of Hawaii
by Bancroft, Hubert H.


[The history of the Polynesian islands, which Captain Cook named in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, is an extraordinary example of the transforming powers of modern civilization. Physically, the natives were splendid specimens of humanity, morally they ranked below other races who were their intellectual inferiors. After Captain Cook's visit the natives quickly developed modern ideas. First they paid the white man homage as if to a god, afterwards they killed him, though the religious leaders continued to venerate his bones. A powerful chief, Kamehameha, became king by conquering the chiefs of the lesser islands, making Hawaii the seat of power from the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Kamehameha encouraged the visits of ships from England and other countries. The voluptuous charms of the women of Owhyee, as the name of the island was at first written, the beauty of the scenery, and its salubrious climate, soon made it a favorite stopping place. The king gladly traded with the foreigners, and welcomed American and English missionaries, to whose labors the present high level of native civilization are mainly due. Cannibalism was discontinued, the licentiousness that used to prevail has been minimized, education soon began to show good results and the people were not slow to avail themselves of every advantage offered. Nevertheless the race Captain Cook introduced to civilization is doomed to extinction. The sins of their ancestors have been slowly but surely sapping the vitality of the later generations. The colony of hopeless lepers tells a pitiful tale, the barbarian cannot fight against the law which awards the future to the fittest among men and nations.

For many years the Hawaiian Islands have been drifting by natural law under the American flag. The transformation of semi-savages into a remarkably progressive people was mainly accomplished by the efforts of American missionaries early in the century, who taught the growing generation to read and write, and become proficient in the domestic arts. Former customs have rapidly died out before the march of American civilization. To all intents and purposes Honolulu has been an average American city for a quarter of a century past.

The inhabited islands of the group are eight in number, and their total area in square miles is rather more than that of Connecticut. They are Hawaii, the largest, and the one on which the great volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, are situated; Maui Kauai; Molokai, famous for its leper settlement; Lanai; Kahulawi; Niihau, and Oahu, on which is Honolulu, the capital and principal city. The area of Hawaii island is 4,210 square miles, and the total area is 6,740 square miles.

The first discoverers were Spaniards in the sixteenth century. When visited by Captain Cook in 1778 the native population was about 200,000. The natives are dying out at a rapid rate, the last census, that of 1896, putting the total at 31,019, out of a total of 154,000. The total in 1866 was only 63,000. Besides the 31,019 Hawaiians there were in the islands 8,485 part Hawaiians, 24,407 Japanese, 21,616 Chinese, 15,191 Portuguese, 5,260 Americans, 2,257 British, 1,432 Germans and 1,534 of other nationalities -- a total population of 109,020, of whom 72,517 are males. Divided in respect to occupation, agriculture accounts for 7,570, fishing and navigation 2,100, manufacturers 2,265, commerce and transportation 2,031, liberal professions 2,580, laborers 34,437, miscellaneous pursuits 4,310, without profession 53,726.

Honolulu is 2,089 miles from San Francisco, a voyage of five and a half days.

In both the census of 1890 and that of 1896 the pure Hawaiian percentage of survivors was the lowest of all nationalities represented in the islands. An encouraging outlook for the Hawaiians exists in the fact that out of 6,327 owners of real estate in 1896, 3,995 were pure Hawaiians and 772 part Hawaiians. The facts are significant as showing the ownership of homes by so large a number of pure Hawaiians and the evident tendency of the race to acquire homesteads.

The total valuation of real and personal property in Hawaii subject to ad valorem assessment in 1900 was $97,491,584. The receipts from taxes are estimated at $1,341,650.

The commerce of Hawaii is shown for the period between January 1 and June 14, 1900, as follows: Imports, $10,683,516; exports, $14,404,496; customs revenues, $597,597. With the exception of the production of sugar, rice, fire-wood and live stock, and the promotion of irrigation, the development of the natural resources of the Hawaiian Islands is stated to have scarcely begun.

The present aggregate area of public lands is approximately 1,772,713 acres, valued at $3,569,800.

The grand argument for annexing these islands was the fact that possession of Hawaii will "definitely and finally secure to the United States the strategical control of the North Pacific."

Of seven trans-Pacific steamship lines plying between the North American continent and Japan, China, and Australia, all but one call at Honolulu. When a canal is made either at Panama or Nicaragua, practically all of the ships that pass through bound for Asia will be obliged to stop at Honolulu for coal and supplies.

The problem of labor perplexes the local authorities. Chinese and Japanese field laborers threaten to increase too rapidly for the welfare of the people. The question of self-government was taken up by Congress soon after the annexation by a joint resolution of Congress, July 6, 1898. Queen Liliuokalani had been deposed and a republican administration set up in place of the monarchy, but the American flag was allowed to float over the islands, despite the petitions of the people.

The President appointed a commission in July, 1898, consisting of Senators Cullom and Morgan, Representative Hitt, with President Dole and Justice Frear, of Hawaii, to investigate and report on the form of local government most desirable. Their recommendations were not acted upon by Congress for over a year, chiefly because they contained provisions for granting to Hawaii a delegate in Congress, as allowed to our Territories. It was objected that this would lead to the admission of Hawaii as a State. The labor problem was the source of other objections. The Supreme Court of Hawaii had stopped the immigration of Chinese into the island. After prolonged discussion an act providing a government "for the Territory of Hawaii" was signed by the President on April 30, 1900.

Section 3 of the Act declares that "A Territorial Government is hereby established over said Territory, with its capital at Honolulu, on the Island of Oahu." All persons who were citizens of Hawaii August 12, 1898, are declared to be citizens of the United States. The Constitution, except as in the act otherwise provided, and the laws of the United States not locally applicable, shall have force and effect in the Territory. The Constitution of the Republic of Hawaii and its laws which are not in conflict with the Constitution and laws of the United States shall continue in force, except a large number which are repealed, and those remaining are subject to repeal by the Legislature of Hawaii or the Congress.

General elections, beginning in 1900, were provided for, also the election, qualifications, powers, and duties of members of the Legislature.

The Legislature shall be composed of two houses - the Senate of fifteen members, to hold office four years, and the House of Representatives of thirty members, to hold office two years. The Legislature will meet biennially, and sessions are limited to sixty days.

The executive power is lodged in a Governor, a Secretary, both to be appointed by the President and hold office four years, and the following officials to be appointed by the Governor, by and with the consent of the Senate of Hawaii: An Attorney-General, Treasurer, Commissioner of Public Lands, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Superintendent of Public Works, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Auditor and Deputy, Surveyor, High Sheriff, and members of the Boards of Health, Public Instruction, Prison Inspectors, etc. The duties of these officials are defined in the act. They hold office for four years, and must be citizens of Hawaii.

The judiciary of the Territory is composed of the Supreme Court, with three judges, the Circuit Court, and such inferior courts as the Legislature shall establish. The judges are appointed by the President. The Territory is made a federal judicial district, with a District Judge, District Attorney, and Marshal, all appointed by the President. The District Judge shall have all the powers of a Circuit Judge.

The election of a Delegate in Congress is provided for, and the Territory is made an internal revenue and customs district.

Provision is made for the residence of Chinese in the Territory, and prohibition as laborers to enter the United States as follows:

Sec. 101. That Chinese in the Hawaiian Islands when this act takes effect may within one year thereafter obtain certificates of residence as required by "An act to prohibit the coming of Chinese persons into the United States," approved May 5, 1892, as amended by an act approved November 3, 1893, entitled "An act to amend an act entitled 'An act to prohibit the coming of Chinese persons into the United States,' approved May 5, 1892," and until the expiration of said year shall not be deemed to be unlawfully in the United States if found therein without such certificates: Provided, however, That no Chinese laborer, whether he shall hold such certificate or not, shall be allowed to enter any State, Territory, or district of the United States from the Hawaiian Islands.

It was provided that the act should take effect June 14, 1900.

The regulation of the traffic in alcoholic liquors is left to local option.

The qualified voter must be able to speak, read, and write the English or Hawaiian language, and must have lived one year in the Territory.

The peculiar conditions of the labor question, which, in view of the liberal provisions in the matter of the suffrage, is likely to continue a trouble for a long time to come, are set forth in the following extract from a report by W.W. Taylor, Secretary of the Bureau of Immigration in Hawaii.]

"The ordinary manual work on a plantation is performed by unskilled labor, which may be divided into two classes - contract and free.

"Contract labor, consisting of Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Italian, Hungarian, Hawaiian and others, is held under contract for three years when coming direct from foreign countries under agreement, and for the same or a shorter period when contracting after a previous sojourn in this country.

"Free labor, consisting of the same nationalities mentioned above, is employed by the day or month, without contract, and has come into the country as free labor or has fulfilled a previous three-years' contract and is then free to work where employment may be obtained.

"This free-labor contingent is a fluctuating and uncertain quantity - here to- day and there to-morrow - working at will, and seeking the places where most favorable conditions and highest wages are in vogue. The laborers receive higher pay than contract men, but may be discharged at a moment's notice, and the plantation owes them nothing but shelter and wages for work done.

"The contract man occupies quite a different position with reference to his employer. He is assured of steady work at a fixed sum per month. He can claim and receive not only unfurnished lodging for himself and family, but fuel, water, taxes paid, medical attendance and certain other privileges; and for this he must work, when able, a certain number of days per month, wherever it pleases the employer, and fulfil in other respects the terms of his contract.

"When contract laborers are needed from abroad, application is made to the government for permission to import laborers of the desired nationality. If permission is granted, the order to recruit them is given to immigration companies authorized by law, who employ recruiting agents in the localities whence the men are to be drawn. These companies are then responsible for the delivery of the required number of men to the final employer.

"In obtaining European labor the planters have the benefit of the authority, forms and official connection of the board of immigration; and, while all expenses are met by the planters in the first instance, afterwards a sum, not to exceed $130 for each family, is paid by the government to cover recruiting expenses and passage of women and children accompanying the immigrants. In this case the immigrant contracts with the board of immigration and signs his agreement before the Hawaiian consul at the port of departure in his own country. In this case, also, steerage passage, food and medical attendance are furnished free to his destination, and oftentimes a money advance is given - this to be repaid in small monthly installments. The board of immigration assigns these laborers to their several employers, and they are at no expense until they reach their field of labor.

"The quarters furnished by the plantation are grouped together in camps, located with reference to convenience to work, and for the most part with regard to drainage and sanitary conditions.

"The kind of building varies with the class of labor. European labor has for a family, or for two single men, two rooms in a four-room cottage. Chinese, being single men, are housed in barracks with from six to forty men in a room. Single Japanese are often provided for in the same way - sometimes, however, only two occupying the same room. Married Japanese are furnished with a small room for each family.

"These houses are rough frame buildings, shingle or iron roofed, with covered porches six feet wide, extending their whole length. All lately erected buildings are well raised from the ground. Most have walls eight to ten feet high from floor to roof-plate. The height of ridge-pole above this is from four to six feet. Beneath the roof there is no ceiling, and when divided into rooms these are all open at the top, with a clear space above from end to end of the building. Cottages have partitions reaching to the roof. All walls are whitewashed. Often the space between the rafters above the roof-plate is left open for ventilation.

"These quarters furnish only a shelter and a place of rest. Nothing more is attempted. In barracks where many single men are collected a platform six to eight feet wide and raised two feet above the floor runs the length of the building, and each man has about three feet in width of space for himself to sleep on. The floor space is common property. Again, tiers of shelves three feet wide along the sides of the room, sometimes three or four tiers high, with some slight, low partitions, give about three by six feet for a man.

"In the family rooms is a platform two feet above the floor taking up about two- thirds of the floor space. On this the family sleep and live when at home. The above is for the Japanese. The European cottages are often supplied with rude box bedsteads and perhaps a table and bench. All else must be furnished by the laborer. Generally a piece of straw matting serves for a mattress, a blanket or quilt for covering and a hard neck rest, common to Japan and China, answers for a pillow. Mosquito nettings are a necessity and are found everywhere. The European fills a tick with hay, and a pillow of the same with a blanket convinces him that this is all that a healthy man needs for a bed. Comforts and conveniences very with the ambition and tastes of the laborer, and are of course measured generally by the length of the purse.

"Contract laborers are expected to do agricultural and mill work. The former comprises clearing land, cutting wood and brush, grubbing out roots, moving rocks and brush, teaming and plowing, care of horses, ditching, hoeing, irrigating, fertilizing, planting, stripping and cutting cane, loading and unloading cane cars and any other necessary farming operations. In and about the mill they are occupied in feeding the cane carriers and furnaces, tending any of the mill machinery, handling sugar, loading cars, etc.

"From the contract-labor class the carpenter, blacksmith, engineers and sugar boilers select their assistants, and these, as they learn and become competent, obtain higher wages and often command from $30 to $60 per month.

"When the profit-sharing system is in practice contract men, if deserving, are allowed to take these special contracts and have made from $25 to $35 per month. In a few places men have been allowed to take small pieces of land and cultivate them at their leisure. In order to do this, they are compelled to work early and late, Sundays and holidays, and the mill buys the cane at a fixed rate per pound.

"Between one-third and one-half of the women work in the field and about the mill at the lighter kinds of labor. There is no compulsion. They have many ways of earning money in the camp.

"The number of hours is settled in the contract, being usually ten hours in the field and twelve in the factory.

"The day begins at an hour varying with the season, taking advantage of the light in the early morning. A rising bell or whistle wakes the men at, say, 4:30 a.m. At 5:30 they are ready to proceed to the field, and at 6 o'clock the work- day commences. From 11:30 to 12 noon there is an intermission for lunch in the field; then they work till 4:30 p.m.

"The mill man begins at 5:30 a.m. and is relieved by the night shift at 6 p.m. Overtime is paid for at a contract rate. In some cases time is counted from the time of departure for the field.

"Wages vary according to the supply of labor, and in many instances are governed by the price of sugar. The contract price is now $15 per month for oriental and $18 for European laborers. Old contracts call for only $12.50 for oriental; but in most cases a $2.50 bonus is given to these latter, conditioned on good behavior. Women receive $7.50 to $10 per month. Only actual time spent in labor is paid for. A man receives no pay for enforced idleness, whether caused by sickness or anything else. A plantation official, called a timekeeper, keeps strict account of working time and the pay-roll is made out from his report.

"Generally the wages are paid on a fixed and convenient day between the 3d and 15th of every month, for the previous calendar month. The individual presents his identifying tag and receives the amount that is to the credit of that number.

"Whether in the field or in the mill the men work in gangs varying in number and supervised by an overseer, who directs their work, corrects mistakes, instructs the ignorant and stimulates the lazy. He leads them out in the morning and gives them the signal for cessation at the proper times. The overseers are generally white men, and a successful one must be patient, firm, fair, energetic and judicious. Often he is timekeeper and always a monitor. The character of the overseer frequently determines whether there is contentment or trouble among the laborers.

"Force, in constraints, is not allowed and is fast giving place to other methods. Tact, a withdrawal of privileges and recourse to legal fines and imprisonment are the means used. Rewards for good behavior are not uncommon."

The total number of laborers is reported at 35,987, of whom 20,641 were contract and 15,346 day laborers. According to nationality they are divided as follows: Japanese, 25,654; Chinese, 5,969; Portuguese, 2,153; Hawaiians, 1,326. They are divided according to sex thus: Men, 33,201; women, 2,534; minors, 252.

The skilled laborers number 2,019, divided according to race: Americans, 405; Hawaiians, 219; British, 252; Germans, 218; Portuguese, 305; Scandinavians, 71; Austrians, 16; Japanese, 416; Chinese, 94; other nationalities, 23.

The President appointed Sanford B. Dole, ex-President of the Hawaiian Republic, to be Governor of the Territory of Hawaii.

[A highly important discussion arose over the legal interpretation of the status of Hawaii under its new government with respect to this country. The difficulty arose on similar grounds to those stated in the section on Porto Rico, and the cases went up to the Supreme Court in January, 1901. The particular point in that case was on the right to exact customs dues. The New York and Porto Rico Steamship Company also raised the question of pilotage, claiming exemption from pilot-boat charge in New York harbor on the ground that Porto Rican ports had ceased to be foreign. Another case was one covering the entry of goods from Hawaii, consisting of whiskey, brandy and jam, at the customhouse at New York on April 26, 1900, and was the only Hawaiian case in the list. Duty was assessed under the provisions of the Dingley law. The importers protested against collection of duty on the ground that the Hawaiian Islands were a part of the United States; that the provision of the annexation resolution, which continued the customs laws of the Republic of Hawaii in force until Congress should legislate, was unconstitutional.

In his argument for the government, the Solicitor-General asserted that it was obviously the intention of Congress as soon as practicable to treat the territory as part of the United States for legislative purposes, so that the revenue and commercial laws which apply in the United States should operate there. But before these laws could be put in operation in the Hawaiian Islands it is necessary that a period of preparation should intervene after the passage of the resolution of annexation. It is obvious that if the resolution of annexation immediately abrogated the customs laws of the islands the territory would have been left without any customs law, open to the ships of the world. If, then, the resolution of annexation threw open the ports of Hawaii to the world, at the same time, according to the contention of opposing counsel, it threw open the ports of the United States to ships coming from Hawaii.

The Solicitor-General argued that this sort of the should not be permitted, and he expressed the opinion that if Congress had believed that such a consequence would ensue, the resolution of annexation would not have passed when it did, not until arrangements could have been made to put in operation customs and commerce regulations immediately. He called attention to the act of annexation, saying that it did not make the Hawaiian Islands a part of the United States, but a part of the territory of the United States. "It is," he said, "obvious that territory annexed or ceded to the United States becomes a part of the territory of the United States, but does not become 'part of the United States' either in a constitutional or legislative sense until Congress shall so determine."

It was not until the passage of the act of April 30, 1900, that the islands became a part of the United States for customs purposes by the extension of our laws to them.

In the discussion of the Hawaiian question the opponents of annexation made much of the argument that the acquisition of the islands would involve this country in immense expenditures for fortifications and naval defense. Mr. Schurz contended that the annexation of Hawaii would present to hostile powers a vulnerable point such as it is inadvisable to present to any foreign nation which may wish us ill.

"The Hawaiian Islands are 2,000 miles distant from our nearest coast. If we acquire them we cannot let them go again without great humiliation, for, after all that has happened, they will appear as an especial object of our desire, to be held at any cost. In their present unfortified condition they would be an easy prey to any hostile power superior to us in naval force. But even if well fortified, their defense would oblige us to fight on a field of operations where the superiority of our land forces would be of no avail, unless we had a navy strong enough to protect the communication between our western coast and Hawaii against any interruption. Our situation would be somewhat like that of Russia during the Crimean war. The allied armies would have had little, if any, chance of final success had they attempted to invade the interior of Russia. But, forcing Russia to a fight at an exposed point, the communications of which with the interior of the empire were at that time so imperfect as seriously to impede the use of Russia's vast resources, they succeeded in forcing Russia to submit to a humiliating peace. For similar reasons the possession of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States would not serve to deter a foreign power from attacking us, but rather be calculated to invite attack, for it would offer to a foreign enemy the possibility, not now existing, of forcing us to a fight on ground on which we cannot bring the superiority of our resources into play, and of gaining by a rapid stroke at the beginning of a war an advantage extremely embarrassing to us. In this respect, we shall by annexing Hawaii simply acquire a vulnerable point.

"It may, indeed, be said that, if annexed, Hawaii would not remain in an unfortified state. That is true. But, as the history of our harbor and coast defense shows, it will require years to put those distant islands into a reasonably secure condition. And then it will require a big war fleet to make those fortifications really tenable, and to keep the communication between Hawaii and our continent safely open in case of war. Such a big fleet we can build, too. We can do all these things. If the people are willing to pay the bills and to endure the effects to that sort of policy, we can do this, and much more. But is not the really important question whether as a sensible people we should do it? Should we adopt a policy obliging us to do it, instead of maintaining the safe ground on which we now stand?"

So far as the commercial advantages promised by the annexationists, the coaling stations, etc., are concerned, it was argued that these benefits might have been had without annexation just as well as with it.

In the North American Review, Mr. Arthur C. James sets forth on the other side of the question what he conceives to be certain advantages of annexation.

He states that before his visit to Hawaii he was strongly opposed to annexation, but that he returned to this country an ardent annexationist. He has become convinced that the Hawaiian Islands would bring to the United States great commercial and industrial advantages. They are situated in the most fertile part of the world, and are capable of producing all the sugar and coffee that this country can consume, besides large quantities of rice and tropical fruits. They have three excellent harbors, and would control the cable communication of the Pacific. Even more significant than the commercial importance of Hawaii is her strategic position in relation to the protection of the Pacific coast of the United States, and this Mr. James regards as another reason why we should desire annexation. To the objection that annexation would be a radical departure from our traditional policy Mr. James replies by citing the cases of Alaska, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, California, and other States, whose value at the time of their annexation was less apparent than is Hawaii's value to-day. Even now Alaska is farther away and less accessible than Honolulu.

To the question, "Have the natives been consulted?" Mr. James replies:

"No, but were the American Indians consulted in the early days here, or the natives of Alaska in later times? The natives have proved themselves to be incapable of governing and unfitted for the condition of civilization, as is shown by their rapid decline in numbers and their inability to adapt themselves to changed conditions; and the importance of their supposed opinions on annexation has been greatly exaggerated. Numbering 500,000 in the time of Captain Cook, they are now reduced to about 30,000, and occupy much the same relation to the white population as our Indians do here. Indolent and easy- going, they are perfectly content with any form of government which allows them to sun themselves, bedecked with flowers. This view is borne out by the failure of the recent mass-meeting in Honolulu, organized solely for the purpose of proving that the native Hawaiians are actively opposed to annexation. It is natural that the white man should become the governing power; and in the exercise of this power it is equally natural that he should wish to turn over his territory to a strong civilized nation for protection and advancement, since, if they rely solely on their ability to defend themselves, it is impossible for the islands to maintain their independence for any length of time."

The question is, to what country shall Hawaii be annexed - to Japan, to England, or to the United States? Annexation to one or the other is inevitable.

That the mixed character of the Hawaiian population is a real drawback Mr. James admits, but the difficulties, he holds, are not insuperable.

"The Chinese are not yet dangerous. Their numbers are large; but they are a peaceable people, without cohesion, and would give no more trouble than the same race does in our Western States, where the battle has been fought and the question is now practically settled. If annexed, they would be readily amenable to our laws. The Japanese element is by far the most serious difficulty. Since the war with China these people have become exceedingly arrogant and self- assertive, and the spirit of national aggrandizement extends from the Mikado to the lowest coolie. From the standpoint of the Japanese, this spirit may be most commendable, but it will have to be firmly met by the United States when our own interests are at stake. The Portuguese are a harmless element. I can see no reason why we should not expect people of the Anglo-Saxon or German race to become dominant, not only in power, but also in numbers, as soon as the question of government is finally settled."]

Mr. Townsend, Inspector-General of Schools in Hawaii, stated in an article we are unfortunately unable to identify, that as plantation laborers the Portuguese were entirely satisfactory when first they arrived. They numbered over 15,000 in 1896, but most of them took to the mechanical crafts and many are now prosperous overseers, merchants and property owners.

Mr. Townsend admits that some of the objections urged against the Chinese population have validity, but he believes that as a rule the Chinese of Hawaii are superior to those of California, while economic conditions are essentially similar. The Japanese are more troublesome. The objection to them, however, is not that they are Japanese, but that so large a percentage of them is of the lower classes. Have not similar complaints against the immigrants coming into the United States from Europe resounded for the past twenty years? And are not such complaints well founded? The Japanese are reasonably industrious and well disposed. As a class they are law-abiding, though individuals of this nationality commit a fair percentage of our crimes. Yet the officers of the law have never encountered any serious resistance to their authority at the hands of the Japanese. Sudden outbursts of temper have caused a number of them to commit the most serious crimes during the past year. These crimes have been directed against their own countrymen, and in most instances have been attributable to the disparity of the sexes, there being four times as many men as women. In all such cases the law takes its even course, being scarcely resisted by the criminal himself and never meeting with any organized resistance on the part of the Japanese. Men sleep in safety of property and person in houses unlocked, and women travel unattended and without fear in every district of the islands.

The Americans, British, Germans, and Norwegians who constitute the remainder of the population number only about 7,000 men, women and children, of whom 2,200 are of island birth. These people control the destinies of Hawaii.

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