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It is not intended to burden this article with statistics : enough has been cited to demonstrate the remarkable progress which the Hawaiian Islands have made in civilization and material prosperity, a progress so substantial and promising, that it may well stimulate the sanguine expectations of those who have faith in the destiny of the human family, and who confidently look for similar results amongst the native races in Africa and other parts of the world, which are at present backward in civilization.
But for the moment a cloud has overshadowed this fair prospect. What Americans have so well done, Americans are now apparently seeking to undo. Asa Thurston was one of the original missionaries who covered himself with glory in the cause of human progress.
Lorrin A. Thurston (a descendant of this great progenitor) is now in Washington, with four other delegates, seeking the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands by the United States, and this mainly on two grounds :-“the monarchy is effete and corrupt, and the people are incapable of selfgovernment.” The work accomplished with so much heroic and patient self-sacrifice during the past 75 years is alleged to have been in vain. The native Queen and her subjects, who were taught the lessons of peace and good-will on earth, and the golden precept of doing as they would be done by, have been, suddenly and without notice, confronted and overawed by the armed forces of a powerful foreign State, with which the Queen has always been in friendly
The sovereign is summarily deposed, and the independence of the kingdom is threatened with extinction.
The spectacle would be a sad one, and the ardent friends of human progress might well despair, if the grounds upon
which these acts have been based, were capable of substantial verification.
The Queen, since her accession to the throne two years ago, has won golden opinions from all classes of people : some of those who have just assisted in her deposition had
spoken and written, but very recently, in glowing terms, of her wisdom, sagacity and popularity. The graceful pen of Sir Edwin Arnold, who has but just returned from a visit to the Islands, thus describes her whilst referring to the situation in which she is now placed.
" When illinformed people write of Queen Liliuokalani as if she were some barbarian princess, and venture upon what is meant for pleasantry, over the particulars of her dignified protest against the rebellion and her last efforts to check it, dressed in her robes of State with a coronet on her head, it is well to remark that a more refined graceful Christian lady does not live than the Hawaiian sovereign. Queen Liliuokalani is as real and true a royal lady, in spirit and education, as the courts of Europe could furnish. She is as much and as solemnly the rightful sovereign of the Sandwich Islands as any monarch in Europe of his dominions. This armed coercion of herself and her people and the act of retirement forcibly wrung from her must find very different and very much better pleas to justify them than any which have yet been made public.”
It is alleged that the Queen desired to encroach upon the rights of her people and to deprive them of their political privileges by the attempt to promulgate a new constitution. But this charge has not yet received any satisfactory definition. It is hardly reasonable to suppose that a sovereign possessed of no armed force beyond a handful of men as a body-guard, and dependent entirely upon the good-will of her subjects, should make so insane an attempt, or that, if made, it should not have been resented and put down by a truly popular rising. What really happened seems to point to an opposite conclusion. A section of the community, numerically small but powerful in position and influence, were dissatisfied with certain closing acts of the legislature ; and thereupon they appear suddenly to have determined on seeking annexation by the United States, as a ineans of carrying out a favourite project, which had long been in the air. A United States
man-of-war at that time in port, conveniently furnished an armed force, which assisted or at least protected the move
The Queen was deposed, the population overawed, and a provisional government established. Martial law was proclaimed, and the writ of Habeas Corpus suspended. A steamer was chartered and five gentlemen were promptly despatched to Washington, with the object of tendering the Islands to the United States. It is remarkable that no popular expression of opinion was sought upon this momentous policy so pregnant of consequences, either from the representatives of the people then assembled in Honolulu, or from the inhabitants of the neighbouring islands, which form a part of the Hawaiian Archipelago, and which in area and population exceed the island of Oahu, on which the capital is situated. From some of these adjacent islands significant protests are already coming in, which even under the suspension of the customary safe-guards for criticism and freedom of speech, seem likely to gather strength.
It is our duty to examine if there do not exist causes, other than those that have been alleged, which underly and go to the root of this startling movement; and in doing this it is not necessary to attribute to its promoters sinister motives :-indeed, the high character of those who are at the head of the annexation party forbids such an assumption.
The prosperity which, up to 1891, was enjoyed in so remarkable a degree by the Hawaiian Islands was due mainly to the operation of a Reciprocity treaty with the United States first entered into in 1876 and since renewed with conditions varying, but always favourable to Hawaii.
For fourteen years the sugar produced in the Hawaiian Islands was allowed to pass into the United States free of duty, whilst similar sugars from other countries paid a duty of from $40 to $50 per ton. This was practically a bonus to that extent to the Hawaiian planters, given to them, no doubt, because American capital, enterprise and ownership largely predominated in the production of this staple of Hawaii. So far as it was in the power of its people, Hawaii gave to the United States reciprocal advantages, even to the granting of a harbour situated close to Honolulu, to be used by the United States as a coaling and naval station for its war-ships. The advantages which accrued to the Hawaiian Islands were exceedingly valuable :--the production of sugar was stimulated to a phenomenal degree. In 1876 the Hawaiian export of this staple amounted to 13,000 tons, which rapidly increased until, in 1890, it amounted to the enormous total of 130,000 tons, all of which found a ready and profitable market in the United States. It may be remarked that the benefits which this treaty conferred were not exclusively on one side. The United States reaped some substantial advantages also ; the products and manufactures of America, with few exceptions, were equally admitted into the Hawaiian Islands free of duty. The trade and shipping of the port of San Francisco were greatly stimulated in consequence of this large interchange of products between the two countries. A considerable portion of the wealth gained in Hawaii found its way to the United States, both in dividends on plantation stock held there, in the purchase of machinery and supplies for plantation purposes, and in payment of many other articles of consumption. In the end, about 92 per cent. of the entire import and export trade of the Hawaiian Islands passed to the United States.
But the McKinley tariff came to blight the prospect. One of its provisions abolished the duties on all sugars entering the United States ; and this at once deprived Hawaii of its exclusive advantage. As the price of sugar in America naturally declined to the extent of the duty which had previously been paid, the Hawaiian planters found themselves obliged to accept $50 per ton for sugar which they had previously sold at $100 per ton more or less. So sudden and serious a shrinkage of value, estimated in a single year at £1,300,000 or about one-half the value of the entire crop, could not be borne without considerable suffering and pecuniary difficulty. Many plantations were compelled to cease operations, and others struggled on unprofitably. The injury done to this predominant industry more or less affected every other. Trade of all kinds suffered. Merchants, bankers, artisans, and agricultural labourers all seriously felt the general depression.
The abolition of the duty on sugar in the United States called for compensation to the domestic producer of this article. The sugar planters in Louisiana and the cultivators of beet sugar in the western states demanded protection against the free import of foreign sugar raised under more economical conditions. This was granted in the form of a bounty of two cents per lb. (equal to $40 per ton) to all American producers of sugar. It was reasonably expected for a time that some compensation would also be granted to the Hawaiian Islands for the serious loss they suffered, through no fault of theirs and in violation of the beneficial provisions of the treaty. It would doubtless have been just, if this point had received fair consideration. But in working out its own economic policy the govern. ment of the United States seemed to have become oblivious of the existence of Hawaii ; and during the two years from the passing of the McKinley bill, the gloom deepened in the Hawaiian Islands, without any apparent prospect of relief.
In these circumstances what more natural for the Hawaiian planters than to look to annexation by the United States as a panacea for the evils which had come upon them? Once annexed to the United States, the bounty granted to the domestic producers of sugar would be equally theirs. Many other advantages too, might be expected to follow. The Hawaiian public debt, which, small as it is, had in adverse times become burdensome, would be transferred to the broad shoulders of “Uncle Sam.” American capital would flow to the islands; property in which they were largely interested would presumably rise in value ; and a form of government with which Americans were in sympathy would prevail.