ULUKAU: THE HAWAIIAN ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
Kikokikona Hawaiʻi
Help
Book | Hardcopy | Search | Contact
Chap. 14 End of the Gibson Regime (Pages 344-372)
< previous chapter       next chapter >
[ Original Images ]   [ Detach Text ]   [ No Highlighting ]

The text given here is complete but in a rough layout. Use the text to quickly check the page and then view the original page for the correct layout.

 

Chapter 14

End of the Gibson Regime

IN SEVERAL PRECEDING chapters an account has been given of the political developments, legislation, and conduct of the government while it was dominated by Walter Murray Gibson. The chapters and relevant material in other parts of the book provide the general factual background of the Revolution of 1887. The present chapter will deal with the inception, organization, and growth of the movement for a reformation of the government, will summarize the charges that were made against the Gibson cabinet and the king, and describe the events of the last week of June and the first week in July, 1887, which ushered in a new government with a Reform Cabinet and a drastically amended constitution.

THE STORM GATHERS

Although the opposition to the Gibson administration suffered a setback in the election of 1886 and was therefore handicapped during the legislative session of that year, the means by which the administration had achieved its electoral victory, the policies espoused by it, and the use made of its strength both in and out of the legislature furnished much ammunition to the opposition party and contributed to the growth of opposition sentiment in the community during 1886 and the first half of 1887. The feeling of dissastisfaction with the government and the desire for a change was shared by haoles of all nationalities and by some native Hawaiians. It found sharply pointed expression in the legislative debates, which were fully reported in the newspapers along with editorial comments and numerous letters from interested readers. After the adjournment of the legislature, attacks on the administration continued in the opposition newspapers, increasingly bitter as government policy

344

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME     345

developed, especially in regard to the London loan, military organization, the opium license affair, and the mission to Samoa.

In the forefront of the opposition newspaper brigade was the long established Hawaiian Gazette which sprinkled many paragraphs of biting sarcasm and ridicule here and there in its long columns of small type, and printed some things which, even if true, might better have been left unsaid. The Daily Bulletin in this period used a more sober, analytical, and philosophical mode of attack, but struck hard blows. A third, short-lived newspaper, the Daily Herald, added its voice to the chorus of opposition. After the break with Spreckels and the exit from the cabinet of his special partisans, Creighton and Dare, the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, under the editorship of Creighton, took advantage of its newfound independence and turned a critical eye upon the administration party and some of its doings, such as the opium license law, the London loan, the Samoan mission, the Hale Naua Society,* and the act for a native Hawaiian board of health, under which licenses were to be granted for the practice of native medicine.1 The Advertiser joined the Bulletin and the Hawaiian Gazette in denouncing the hula as it was being practiced, exhibited, and patronized during this period.2 The editors of all

* The Hale Naua Society was a secret order established in the fall of 1886 under the presidency of King Kalakaua. According to the preamble of its constitution, "The foundation of the Hale Naua is from the beginning of the world and the revival of the Order was . . . in the month of Welo (September), on the night of Kane, in the reign of His Majesty Kalakaua I., the 825th generation from Lailai, or 24,750 years from the Wohi Kumulipo (the beginning) and Kapomanomano (the producing agent), equivalent to 40,000,000,000,024,750 years from the commencement of the world and 24,750 years from Lailai, the first woman, dating to the date of present calendar, the 24th of September, A.D. 1886." Article I of the constitution reads: "The object of this Society is the revival of Ancient Science of Hawaii in combination with the promotion and advancement of Modern Sciences, Art, Literature and Philanthropy." (Constitution and By-Laws of the Hale Naua or Temple of Science Ancient Secret Society of the Order of Nauas, or Order of the Temple of Science [San Francisco: The Bancroft Company printers. 1890]). A petition for a license for this society was presented to the Privy Council by J. L. Kaulukou and others on Nov. 6, 1886; five days later, despite an adverse committee report, the council voted to grant the license. An editorial in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Nov. 15, 1886, strongly condemned this action as "a retrograde step" and said it was "a most unwise and impolitic act to give legal sanction to this society, considered only upon grounds of national polity." Street corner gossip about the society was scandalous in the extreme and was believed by many people. Records of the society presently existing in AH are innocent enough, but do provide some grounds for ridicule. Miss Martha Beck-with (The Kumulipo: A Hawaiian Creation Chant [Chicago, 1951], p. 29) makes the following reference to this society: "The king [Kalakaua] sought to revive interest in old tradition. A society was formed, and proof of such [noble] ancestry was demanded for membership. The printing of the Kumulipo seems to have come as one result of this movement back to old court practices and the ancient clash of rank between the sons of Keawe."

 

346       THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

these newspapers (Alatau T. Atkinson of the Gazette, Walter Hill of the Bulletin, Daniel Logan of the Herald, and Robert J. Creighton of the Advertiser)* were British nationals.

Another literary weapon used against the Gibson administration was burlesque and balladry in printed pamphlets which circulated through the community.3 Three of these may be noted. The first was Vacuum. A Farce in Three Acts, a slight pamphlet of sixteen pages. Though it bears neither the name of the author nor the date of issue, it is definitely known to have been written by Sanford B. Dole,4 and was published late in 1885. The title was evidently intended to suggest the state of mind of the king (Skyhigh, Emperor of the Coral Reefs and Sand Banks of the Blue Big Sea) and his ministers (Palaver, Cockade, Calabash, and Picnic, identified as W. M. Gibson, C. T. Gulick, John Kapena, and Paul Neumann).5

A more pretentious skit, The Grand Duke of Gynbergdrinkenstein, was published on December 4, 1886. This is a burlesque in three acts written in verse in the general style of comic opera and "Respectfully Dedicated to the Public of the Duchy." The main characters of the play are not hard to identify; besides the Grand Duke they are his minister of state Nosbig (Gibson); his law adviser Foolscap (J. L. Kaulukou); three equerries, Major Borrow Barker (Sam Parker), Major de Horsey Cornbin (W. H. Cornwell), Major Heep Savey (A. B. Haley); and millionaire Herr Von Boss (Claus Spreckels).6 Published anonymously, The Grand Duke is believed to have been written by Alatau T. Atkinson or Edward William Purvis or by the two in collaboration. The burlesque acquires significance from the fact that British Commissioner Wodehouse sent copies of it to the Foreign Office in London with the comment that it "contains a true description of the character of the King, His Prime Minister Mr. Gibson, and of Mr. Spreckles. It is written by one who has had the best opportunities of observing." Wodehouse added that his colleagues were sending copies

* As of June 1, 1887, the ownership of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser changed hands. Creighton stepped out, and the paper became, in Gibson's words, "a semi-official organ of the Government." Gibson to Carter, personal and confidential, June 6, 1887; Pacific Commercial Advertiser (daily), June 2, 1887.

Edward William Purvis was vice-chamberlain of the royal household under Chamberlain Charles H. Judd. When Judd was dismissed from office at the end of August, 1886, Purvis resigned from his position. Purvis to Ratard, Oct. 2, 1886, copy in my possession.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME      347

to their respective governments "as giving, in their opinion, an excellent picture of the situation."7

A sort of companion or sequel to The Grand Duke, and of greater literary merit, if any of these productions can be said to have literary merit, is a pamphlet entitled Gynberg Ballads. It contains eight pieces in verse, each illustrated by one or more cartoons in color. The ballads are a satirical take-off on various features and incidents of the Kalakaua-Gibson regime. On good authority, both the ballads and the illustrations are attributed to Purvis, but Atkinson had a hand in their publication. The pamphlet was printed in San Francisco and when the shipment of 900 copies, consigned to Atkinson, arrived in Honolulu, May 13, 1887, a clumsy legal attempt was made to prevent or delay their circulation, but they went on sale a few days later.8

The obvious purpose of all this propaganda was to convince the public that the administration of the kingdom was not only corrupt and unworthy of trust, but also ridiculous. But the force which contributed the most to bringing the Gibson regime tumbling down was produced and wielded by an organization known as the Hawaiian League, assisted by the Honolulu Rifles.

THE HAWAIIAN LEAGUE

The Hawaiian League was a secret organization formed about the beginning of 1887.9 The idea from which it developed was first expressed by one of the physicians of Honolulu, Dr. S. G. Tucker, in a conversation with Lorrin A. Thurston on December 26, 1886. Tucker suggested the formation of an organization strong enough to demand and secure reform in the government and a limitation of the powers of the king so that he would reign but not rule as he had been doing in recent years. Thurston liked the idea and talked about it with several other men, among whom he mentions W. A. Kinney, S. B. Dole, P. C. Jones, W. R. Castle, W. E. Rowell, C. W. Ashford, Major H. M. Benson, A. T. Atkinson, Dr. G. H. Martin, and Dr. N. B. Emerson.* The subject was discussed in a number of small gatherings; finally a general

* All of the twelve men mentioned above are among the first fourteen on the record of members of the League. Number 12 on that record is H. Riemenschneider; number 13 is C. Furneaux. All of these men were prominent residents of Honolulu. On February 1, 1887, Thurston and Kinney became associated in law practice with W. O. Smith (who did not become a member of the League); prior to that date, Kinney was a law partner of Arthur P. Peterson.

 

348          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

meeting was held, some time in January, and the Hawaiian League was organized by the adoption of a constitution,10 which had been drafted by Thurston, and by the election of officers. No minutes of meetings seem to have been kept and it is not known who the officers were.

Active direction and management of the business of the League was delegated to an executive committee of thirteen members, commonly referred to as the "Committee (or Council) of Thirteen." The exact make-up of this committee was a fairly well-guarded secret; it is known, however, that there were occasional changes in its composition, and it is believed that most of the men listed above were among its first members.

During the early part of 1887, the efforts of the executive committee were directed mainly to recruiting members for the League. Thurston, who kept the list of members, states that by the latter part of May some 189 persons had joined; a month later the number was 342; shortly thereafter, when enrollments ceased, there were 405 names on the list and the total membership did not much exceed that figure.11 It was a haole organization; there are no identifiable Hawaiian names on the roll, but there were a few members of part-Hawaiian ancestry. The membership included a large number of well-known, representative members of the island community — "solid citizens" — but, as in all movements of this kind, some persons went into it for whatever personal advantage it might be to them, and a few no doubt from sheer love of adventure. All, however, took an oath to do all in their power to advance the cause for which the League was organized.

The objective of the League, as stated in section two of its constituition, was "Constitutional, representative Government, in fact as well as in form, in the Hawaiian Islands, by all necessary means." Within the League there developed a radical wing and a conservative wing. The radicals favored abolition of the monarchy and the setting up of a republic; some of them wished to go further and seek annexation to the United States.* The conservatives, on the other hand, favored retention

* Volney V. Ashford, not a very reliable witness, wrote to Commissioner J. H. Blount on March 8, 1893: "The plan of the movement of 1887 . . . embraced the establishment of an independent republic, with the view to ultimate annexation to the United States." House Ex. Doc, 53 Cong., 2 sess., no. 47, p. 203. But S. B. Dole, in his well-known letter of December 23, 1893, to Minister A. S. Willis, said that the revolution of 1887 "was not an annexation movement in any sense, but tended toward an independent republic, but when it had the monarchy in its power, conservative councils prevailed, . . ." At a later time, W. R. Castle

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          349

of the monarchy, but wanted a change of ministry and a drastic revision of the constitution of the kingdom; for them a republic was a last resort, in case the king refused to agree to the reforms demanded. There is little doubt that the idea of a republic was seriously considered in meetings of the League. Among the Thurston papers in the Public Archives of Hawaii there is a draft, in his handwriting, of a proclamation abolishing the monarchy and establishing a "Republic of Hawaii"; with this is a draft, also in Thurston's handwriting, of "Order Number One" of the Council of State of the Republic, containing provisions for its temporary administration. Both of these documents promise that a constitution for the Republic will be drawn up and promulgated as soon as possible.* Endorsements indicate that these papers were drafted in May, 1887. In point is the statement by Clarence W. Ashford: "The purposes [of the League] were, in brief, such a reformation of governmental conditions in Hawaii as should supplant the then outworn Constitution of Kamehameha, and introduce in its stead either a more liberal Constitution under monarchial institutions, or a Republic."12

The leaders of the Hawaiian League believed, with good reason, that Kalakaua would not willingly agree to make the reforms desired by them and that a show of force would be required to convince him of the necessity for a change. Steps were therefore taken to provide the members of the League with guns and ammunition.13 Local stocks of such goods were bought up and Honolulu merchants ordered additional supplies from San Francisco and Sydney. The San Francisco Chronicle

wrote, "There was a very strong element in the league determined to bring about annexation to the United States, but prior to the mass meeting which finally resulted in a revolution, . . . this annexation element, after a long and very bitter discussion, was defeated and the Hawaiians, meaning thereby those of Hawaiian birth, parentage and affiliation, procured a promise on the part of the league that its attempts would be confined to a reformed Hawaiian government, under sufficient guaranties to insure responsible and safe government." Quoted in A. D. Baldwin, A Memoir of Henry Perrine Baldwin 1842 to 1911 (Cleveland, 1915), pp. 55-56. The strong support given to the 1887 movement by the British residents of Hawaii is good evidence that the idea of annexation was not a major factor in it.

* W. D. Alexander, in his Kalakaua's Reign: A Sketch of Hawaiian History (Honolulu, 1894), p. 40, and in a private letter dated July 25, 1887, Liliuokalani, Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen, p. 182, and Thomas M. Spaulding, Cabinet Government in Hawaii 1887-1893 (University of Hawaii Occasional Papers, No. 2, Honolulu, 1924), p. 6, all state that a constitution for a republic had been drafted, but I believe this is incorrect. What had been drafted were the Proclamation and Order mentioned in the text. Alexander's sketch here cited is a reprint of the statement written by him for Commissioner J. H. Blount in 1893. Professor Alexander was away from Oahu from June 28 to July 16, 1887. He joined the League after the latter date.

 

350          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

on June 22, 1887, reported that custom house records showed abnormally large shipments of firearms to Hawaii during the past few days; it enumerated about nine hundred rifles and large quantities of ammunition shipped to Honolulu firms, the largest consignments being to E. O. Hall & Son, Mrs. Thomas Lack,* and Castle & Cooke. Honolulu newspapers published numerous items on this subject.14 The Hawaiian League also effected some sort of alliance with the "Honolulu Rifles," and that volunteer component of the armed forces of the kingdom became a potent instrument of the reform movement.

THE HONOLULU RIFLES

The Honolulu Rifles company was organized in the spring of 1884 by a group of men reported to be "interested in the formation of a semi-military and social organization." It had the approval of the cabinet and of Kalakaua, who suggested the name for the company, and it became one of the recognized volunteer military companies of the kingdom.15 It was an all-haole company, and made its first public appearance on April 26, 1885, by sending a sergeant's squad to do guard duty at the residence of Queen Emma after the death of that noble lady.16 The early enthusiasm soon waned and the Rifles attained relatively little prominence or importance until after Volney V. Ashford was elected captain on July 28, 1886.17

Ashford was a Canadian who came to Hawaii about the beginning of 1885, was granted letters of denization by the king on February 11, was admitted to the bar soon after that date, and became a partner of his younger brother Clarence W. Ashford in the practice of law. He had had extensive and varied military experience both in the United States, where he served in the Union army during the Civil War, and later in

* Mrs. Thomas Lack was proprietor of what must have been an unusual store. According to one of her advertisements, she sold shotguns, rifles, and all kinds of firearms and ammunition, sporting goods, sewing machines, thread and Corticelli silk, corsets, dress patterns, and materials for fancy work. Hawaiian Gazette, July 12, 1887.

There had been an earlier volunteer company of the same name composed of haoles and part-haoles, but it had been disbanded after the election of Kalakaua as king. Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Feb. 21, 1874.

Clarence W. Ashford was also born in Canada, where he received his early education. He graduated from the law school of the University of Michigan in 1880, then practiced law for a year in Michigan and a year in California before coming to Hawaii, where he arrived on January 25, 1883. He received letters of denization from the king on July 10, 1883.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          351

the Canadian army, in which he rose to the rank of captain.18 Ashford was an excellent drillmaster. Following Upton's system of infantry tactics19 (the standard adopted for the United States Army), he brought his little company up to a high state of proficiency, which called forth complimentary remarks from the newspapers and from the king. In the military drill competition among the several volunteer companies that was a feature of the celebration of Kalakaua's fiftieth birthday, the Honolulu Rifles won the prize.20

The Rifles gained recognition as part of the social life of the community. An exhibition drill and dance given by them on March 25, 1887, was described as a "brilliant success"; the guests included the king, General Dominis and staff, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, the privy council, legislature, and a large number of ladies and gentlemen. Following the smartly executed drill, the king, on behalf of the wives of members of the company, presented to the Rifles a splendid Hawaiian flag, assuring them that, "as your King, I confide in your patriotism and courage, and shall hope to see many an honorable record inscribed upon the flag I now present." In accepting the national ensign, Captain Ashford testified to the pleasure of the Honolulu Rifles on receiving it "through the hands of Your Majesty, whose friendship to the Rifles is known and appreciated by everyone of us," and he referred to the flag as "this beautiful emblem of the unity of many peoples who, blended together on a benignant basis of political and race equality, combine to form the Kingdom of Hawaii, of which Your Majesty is the honored Sovereign."21

During the winter and spring of 1886-87 the newspapers printed frequent items about activities of the Honolulu Rifles and additions to its ranks.22 On January 27, at the request of the military authorities, the Rifles membership adopted a resolution declaring itself to be a volunteer military company subject to the provisions of the legislative act of October 1, 1886, "to organize the military forces of the kingdom."23 By the end of March the organization had a hundred members, and it was then divided into two companies, A and B, forming a battalion. Captain Ashford was elected major to command the battalion.24 Early in April, Portuguese residents formed a military company which, after some instruction and training, became, on May 25, company C of the Honolulu Rifles. Major Ashford was elected lieutenant colonel to command the enlarged battalion.25 At the end of June, therefore, when the political

 

352          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

crisis came to a head, the Honolulu Rifles consisted of a battalion of three companies commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Volney V. Ashford. The membership of the battalion probably did not exceed two hundred men.

Besides the Rifles, there were five volunteer companies (King's Own, Queen's Own, Prince's Own, Leleiohoku Guard, Mamalahoa Guard) made up of Hawaiians and part-Hawaiians. The volunteer companies and the regular troops (King's Household Guard) comprised the military force of the kingdom. Over it, according to the act of 1886, there was a commander-in-chief with the rank of lieutenant general. John O. Dominis had been appointed to this position.* The volunteers were subject to call for active service when needed.

At what time and by what process the Honolulu Rifles became a military arm of the Hawaiian League it is impossible to determine with any degree of certainty. Thurston, in his account of the League, says that "V. V. Ashford, who had a decided military bent, was appointed by the executive committee to organize the military forces, and was made colonel of the Honolulu Rifles, . . . It was expanded into three or four companies, . . . The officers were league members."26 The first part of this statement is incorrect if it means, as it seems to say, that Ashford was appointed by the executive committee of the League to command the Honolulu Rifles, for Ashford was commander of the Rifles before the Hawaiian League came into existence. Furthermore, the officers of the volunteer military companies were elected by the members of those companies and received their commissions from the king. Dole's statement is more in accord with the known facts: "A military organization of volunteers, young men of Honolulu, in several companies, a growth from the original Honolulu Rifles, was won to support the league, the commander, Colonel V. V. Ashford, becoming an enthusiastic advocate of its plans."27 In all probability it was not a mere coincidence that the rapid expansion of the Honolulu Rifles occurred simultaneously with that of the Hawaiian League.

* According to the constitution of the kingdom (art. 26) the king was commander-in-chief of the military forces. The act of 1886 made him supreme commander with title of Generalissimo. The act of 1886 was later declared unconstitutional, but it was in effect at this time.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          353

POSITION OF ADMINISTRATION DETERIORATES

While the instruments for the shaping of a new order were thus being made ready, the position of the Gibson administration was steadily deteriorating. The deterioration began in the latter part of 1886, caused by actions of the legislature described in an earlier chapter, the angry quarrel with Spreckels, and a strong reaction against the financial policy of the government and the mission to Samoa. In mid-March, British Commissioner Wodehouse wrote in an official dispatch: "In view of the wide-spread and deeply seated feeling of dissatisfaction, amounting almost to hostility, with the manner in which the Government of this country is now carried on, it seems to me that a crisis must arrive before long."28

During the winter, ugly rumors of bribery in connection with the granting of the opium license circulated through the community and were reported in the newspapers.29 Vague at first, these rumors gradually became more specific. Their purport was that a henchman of the king, one Junius Kaae, recently appointed (October 30, 1886) by the king as registrar of conveyances, had inveigled a Chinese rice-planter named T. Aki into making a "present" of $75,000 ($71,000 actually paid) to the king, in consideration of which he was to receive the opium license authorized by the legislature of 1886; but then another Chinese gentleman made a larger "present" and received the license. Aki demanded but failed to obtain the return of his money, and the story was then set forth in a series of twelve affidavits by Aki and others who were associated with him or were familiar with details of the affair. The Hawaiian Gazette on May 17, 1887, published a synopsis of the story revealed in the affidavits.

Five weeks earlier, Commissioner Wodehouse had informed his government about this serious charge against the king, "the truth of which," he said, "no one hardly doubts," and he added, "Great indignation is felt at the transaction."30 On May 31, American Minister George W. Merrill forwarded to the secretary of state in Washington a complete copy of the twelve affidavits (sixty-four pages). He reported that the public generally credited the statements, but added: "Although no denial of the charges has been made public yet in a conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs he informed me the King denied having any connection with the matter." Merrill mentioned the Hawaiian Gazette's May 17, publication of the story, since which time he said "public

 

354          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

feeling has been intense against the King while the daily press has been outspoken in denouncing the King, the Ministry and nearly all the officials throughout the Kingdom. Among the people, foreign residents especially, there has been aroused a feeling that a change must soon occur from the highest to the lowest official. Of late I have heard it remarked that no change would be satisfactory unless it was one deposing the King, changing the Constitution and adopting a republican form of government."31 But Merrill wrote that he had, with Americans, "quietly counseled moderation and the adoption of peaceful measures as the best method of bringing about a proper administration of affairs."32

Concurrently with the unfolding of the opium license story went the development of the Kaimiloa affair described in an earlier chapter. On the night of May 16-17 occurred the disgraceful drunken brawl of the officers of that government training ship just before its departure for Samoa. Minister Merrill referred to this incident in one of his dispatches and remarked: "The purchase, fitting up and the cruise of the 'Kaimiloa' has been generally regarded as unnecessary, unwise and extravagant while the mutinous conduct of the Officers . . . gave rise to many uncomplimentary comments and denunciations of those connected in any way, with what is known as the Samoan policy of Hawaii."33

As the dispatches of Merrill and Wodehouse suggest, the dissatisfaction with and denunciation of government policies and government officials became increasingly severe during the spring of 1887; the demands for reform became louder and more insistent. The fact is abundantly illustrated in the columns of the local newspapers, and while there is no need to labor the point a few of the comments may be noted. The Pacific Commercial Advertiser spoke in a regretful tone about "What Might Have Been"; it noted the discontent in the community but said there was no use crying over spilt milk. "It is full time now to turn over a new leaf and unite in promoting the common good. . . . What might have been may yet be, and the Hawaiian Islands become a model of contented prosperity and progress."34 The Bulletin published editorials under such headings as "A New Deal Wanted," "The Man We Want" ("an intelligent, conscientious, and patriotic Legislative body, and an Executive of similar character"), "Our Constitution" ("it needs doctoring by an intelligent legislature"), "The People's Position and Demands."35 The editor compared the government of Hawaii with that of Great Britain and plainly hinted that the status of Hawaii's sovereign

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          355

should be similar to that of the English sovereign — he should reign, but not rule.36 The Hawaiian Gazette, most outspoken in criticism, commented in one issue that "one of the most significant, as well as the most hopeful of the signs of the times, is the drawing together of all classes of the community, of the thinkers and the workers. All seem to be united upon one great point and that is that an end must come to the present era of extravagance, corruption and incompetence."37

One illustration of the "drawing together" noted by the Gazette was the rapid growth of the Hawaiian League and the Honolulu Rifles. At the same time, in what appears to have been a concerted movement, the British, American, and German residents drew up petitions to their national representatives in Honolulu, setting forth the grievances under which they labored. The petitions amounted to a detailed charge of incompetence, extravagance, and maladministration of the government by the king and his ministers. They cited the increasing burden of taxation, expansion of the public debt, and misapplication of funds contrary to statutory requirements; the king's interference in elections and his improper influence over the legislature; "the most unscrupulous attempts to arouse in the native mind a feeling of jealousy of and hostility to foreigners"; "a perfectly criminal relaxation" of the laws relating to leprosy, thereby endangering the life and health of the people; a shameful neglect of roads, harbors, and other public works. The American petitioners expressed a wish that Minister Merrill would "so present our cause as to induce the United States Government either independently or otherwise to secure a just, economical and faithful administration of public affairs." The British petition contained a similar appeal to Commissioner Wodehouse.38 There is no reason to believe that any of the governments appealed to would have ventured to interfere in the internal politics of Hawaii, but in any case replies to the petitions were rendered superfluous by the succeeding course of events.

As public feeling in the community intensified during May and June the controversy between conservatives and radicals within the Hawaiian League became more acute. On the basis of information which came to him later, Merrill reported that "as new members were admitted new and more revolutionary ideas permeated the organization until at last the extremists were in the ascendency and it required all the exertion possible of the more conservative element to hold matters in check. Many favored dethroning the King, framing an entirely new Constitution,

 

356          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

proclaiming a republic."39 Assassination of the king was proposed by one of the more radical members (Volney Ashford, according to Thurston's account),40 but this vicious suggestion was promptly rejected, and a more moderate course of action was decided upon — exercise of the right of assembly and petition guaranteed by the constitution of the kingdom. The calling of a mass meeting, as had been done in 1880, and the drawing up of a statement of grievances and formal demands to be presented to the king were strongly advocated by W. R. Castle and the Reverend Dr. C. M. Hyde in letters to the Hawaiian Gazette.41 In this way, it was hoped, the king would be brought to understand the seriousness of the situation and would be given an opportunity to put into effect appropriate measures of reform.

Unfortunately for the government during this critical period, the prime minister, on whom almost the whole burden of administration rested, was a sick man; he was already in the grip of the disease which caused his death less than a year later. As early as February, J. S. Webb, who as secretary of the Foreign Office was Gibson's right hand man, wrote in a personal letter: "Mr. Gibson is by no means well. When I took him the Samoan dispatches . . . last evening his throat was bothering him his cough very bad so that he actually groaned over the effort of sitting up and reading the letters and signing them. I am sorry to note that he has more & more on his hands everything important connected with the Finance and Interior departments [because of the incapacity of the ministers of finance and interior]. . . . This grumble simply means that the business of the Government is comparatively neglected — on Mr. G's own confession."42 On June 10, Gibson wrote in his diary: "The tempest seems to be rushing to climax. . . . Had I been in good health perhaps I might have prevented some of these disasters but my poor body cannot keep up with mind or spirit. I am weary, languid, listless, oh, so weary."43

THE STORM BREAKS

Nevertheless, it appears that, until about the last week of June, both the king and Gibson believed they could ride out the storm. They had long since become inured to the newspaper attacks upon the administration. During the spring of 1887 they received some inklings of the more serious opposition that was developing. On May 23, the cabinet council, "In view of certain rumors of movements in the Kingdom of a

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          357

seditious character Resolved that the Secretary of War and of the Navy [Gibson] and the Attorney General [Rosa] be authorized to make such preparations in their departments as may be deemed necessary for the preservation of the peace of the country."44 Accordingly, some steps were taken to prepare the palace and government buildings to withstand an attack which must have been seen as a possibility in view of the alarming rumors and the large importation of arms and ammunition.45 On June 26, the cabinet council took note of "seditious and defamatory language in public newspapers affecting His Majesty's honor and dignity," and authorized the attorney general "to commence proceedings for the prosecution of parties who have defamed the royal name."46 But it was too late for such proceedings.

On the following day, June 26, Gibson wrote in his diary: "Increased rumors that an armed league is being formed to oust the Government." On June 27: "Assurances of a widespread and dangerous organization to subvert the Government." On June 28: "Meeting of Ministers at 1 a.m. Resigned our offices. Hope our resignations will quiet the public feeling. The king much alarmed."47 One little-known but very important incident, not mentioned by Gibson or other writers, is related in one of the official dispatches of American Minister Merrill. After telling of the rising tide of opposition to the administration and of the rumors that filled the town, Merrill continued:

In the meantime I was informed that several reliable citizens had interviewed His Majesty counseling a change of Ministry but that he was determined and intent on retaining Mr. Gibson and his colleagues.

Finally on Monday June 27 at 9 O'clock p.m. His Majesty sent for me and I at once went to the Palace and was conducted to a room where I found the King alone.

He at once informed me why he had asked me to visit him by saying: "Mr. Merrill I have sent for you to ask your advice, unofficially but as a friend, concerning the present political situation and I desire you to acquaint me with your ideas of the cause of the excitement and what is best to be done."

I at once informed him that there were loud complaints against the manner in which the public funds were being expended, that instead of being expended on necessary internal improvements, such as dredging the harbor, repairing roads and bridges, they were being expended in the purchase and repair of a training ship and equipping her for an unnecessary expedition, the sending a Mission to Samoa and maintaining unnecessary agents in foreign Countries.

I also informed him that from my observation, of late, there was great unanimity in the demand for the removal of his present Cabinet and the substitution of men well known in the Community and in whom the people had confidence, that there was much complaint among the people on account of the belief which was prevalent that His Majesty interfered with the actions of his Cabinet in all matters directly or indirectly effecting the revenues — especially in political elections, appointments and Legislative action, therefore there was much unanimity

 

358          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

among the tax payers that the Cabinet should be left to act independently and made responsible to the people direct.

I informed him that I believed the retention of the present Ministry was daily intensifying the people and that, since he had frankly asked my opinion, I thought it was better for many reasons to heed the voice of the people especially those who were paying the taxes, had accumulated wealth in the country and were directly interested.

In fact I conversed with him for about one hour upon the foregoing and kindred subjects to which he listened with much apparent interest and when I rose to leave he remarked that it was now about 11 O'clock and that I would hear of changes in the Cabinet within 12 hours.

On the following morning June 28th I received information that Mr. Gibson and all the Cabinet had resigned.48

The king acted swiftly. After his interview with Merrill, he immediately, in the middle of the night, summoned his cabinet ministers and obtained their resignations.49 In the early daylight hours of June 28 a report of the resignation or dismissal of the Gibson cabinet circulated through the city. Later in the day the report was published, without confirmation, in the Hawaiian Gazette and the Daily Bulletin. The resignation was announced officially in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser of June 29 along with the text of Gibson's letter to the king, in which he expressed the hope that "my retirement from office will enable Your Majesty to organize a Government that will harmonize the various interest of the Kingdom, and unite all influences in support of the Throne and of Hawaiian Independence."

Apparently the king and Gibson believed, or at least hoped, that a change of ministry including the latter's removal from the government would be enough of a concession to quiet the clamor for reform. It was an erroneous idea, as they very soon learned. In reference to the reported resignation of the cabinet, the Bulletin said that a mere change of ministry was not enough. "We are not in the humor to accept any compromise that will allow an opening for a reproduction in the future of what we have had too much of in the past. A real, complete, thorough change . . . is what the intelligence and respectability of the country want. . . . Moreover, there must be a positive and undeniable guarantee of its continuance. The King must be prepared to take his own proper place, and be content to reign without ruling. We want capable, responsible Ministers, not irresponsible clerks."50 The Hawaiian Gazette spoke in similar fashion.51

On June 28 the steamer Australia arrived from San Francisco with a large quantity of rifles and ammunition, previously mentioned as having been shipped from San Francisco, consigned to E. O. Hall & Son, Mrs.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          359

Thomas Lack, and Castle & Cooke. They were placed on sale the next morning and it was reported that "for several hours a regular run was kept up on the deadly weapons."52 On the twenty-ninth also there appeared, in notices posted throughout the city of Honolulu and in a display advertisement in the evening Bulletin, a call for a public meeting to be held at two o'clock on June 30. Purpose of the meeting: "To take into consideration the present mal-administration of Public Affairs, and to consider means of redress." The call is understood to have been issued by the executive committee of the Hawaiian League, which also arranged the program for the meeting. The same issue of the Bulletin noted that the palace gates had been barricaded. There were rumors of efforts to organize a coalition cabinet and it was reported without any official confirmation that the king had called upon W. L. Green to form a cabinet.53

Before noon on June 30, because of the existing state of public excitement and in view of the meeting to be held that afternoon, the Honolulu Rifles were called out "to protect the Government buildings in case of emergencies, and to keep the peace." This was done at the request of the king and by order of the acting governor of Oahu.54 It was also in accord with the plans of the Hawaiian League, as Judge Dole explains; after mentioning the call for the mass meeting, he says: "At this juncture, it became desirable, if arrangements could be made, that the volunteer companies [i.e. the Honolulu Rifles] be under arms and in control of the town. Of course such action, without authority, would be a revolutionary step. Fortunately, while it was under consideration, the authorities, recognizing the day to be one of possible unrest, ordered the companies out, which relieved the situation for the time being: while the troops were patrolling the streets under nominal orders of the government, they were actually under orders of the league, until the crisis was over."55

The public meeting was held in the armory of the Honolulu Rifles, located on the corner of Beretania and Punchbowl streets. Stores were closed, business came to a halt, and by 2 o'clock the armory was filled to capacity. Across the street facing the entrance, the Honolulu Rifles, uniformed and armed, were drawn up in line.* The meeting was called to order by S. B. Dole, who nominated P. C. Jones as chairman. The

* A squad of the Rifles had been detailed to guard the government building Aliiolani Hale.

 

360          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

latter, on taking charge of the meeting, spoke of it as "the largest and most important meeting that has ever assembled in this city. We have," he said, "assembled in a constitutional manner, . . . We are here for the purpose of asking for good government, a thing we have not had, but which we earnestly desire." He called upon L. A. Thurston to read a set of resolutions which had been prepared. After a short preamble, the resolutions made the following requests of the king:

First — That he shall at once and unconditionally dismiss his present Cabinet from office, and we ask that he shall call one of these persons, viz: William L. Green, Henry Waterhouse, Godfrey Brown or Mark P. Robinson to assist him in selecting a new Cabinet, which shall be committed to the policy of securing a new constitution.

Second — That Walter M. Gibson shall be at once dismissed from each and every office held by him under the Government.

Third — In order, so far as possible, to remove the stain now resting on the throne, we request of the King that he shall cause immediate restitution to be made of the sum, to wit: Seventy-one thousand dollars ($71,000), recently obtained by him in violation of law and of his oath of office, under promise that the persons from whom the same was obtained should receive the license to sell opium, as provided by statute of the year 1886.

Fourth — Whereas, one Junius Kaae was implicated in the obtaining of said seventy-one thousand dollars ($71,000), and has since been, and still is retained in office as Registrar of Conveyances, we request, as a safeguard to the property interests of the country, that said Kaae be at once dismissed from said office, and that the records of our land titles be placed in hands of one in whose integrity the people can safely confide.

Fifth — That we request a specific pledge from the King —

(1) That he will not in future interfere either directly or indirectly with the election of representatives.

(2) That he will not interfere with or attempt to unduly influence legislation or legislators.

(3) That he will not interfere with the constitutional administration of his cabinet.

(4) That he will not use his official position or patronages for private ends.

The resolutions further named a committee of thirteen to present the requests to the king, giving the latter twenty-four hours in which to reply, and authorized the committee to call another meeting if the king proved to be obdurate.

After the reading of the resolutions, Charles R. Bishop read a letter which he had received from the king a short time before, at one o'clock. The king wrote: "Reposing especially confidence in your loyalty and sound judgment as a councillor, and knowing your regard for our people, we are moved to call the Hon. W. L. Green to form a Cabinet and a Ministry which he may select, and will be acceptable to the respectable and responsible majority of our people, will be welcome to us; and any guarantees which may be reasonably required of us under the Constitution

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          361

and laws of our Kingdom will be at once conceded to such Administration." Following the reading of the king's letter, W. L. Green was called to the speaker's platform. He explained that he knew nothing about the king's letter; he referred to an earlier mass meeting in Honolulu (1883) and said he "considered that their united attitude to-day was one which would teach His Majesty that he must turn over a new leaf, and see that this country is governed as a constitutional monarchy." He added that "if he should be called upon to head a Ministry it should be one pledged to the common good, and which would carry out the resolutions" of this meeting.

Other speeches followed — about a score of them — which dwelt on the points that the existing government was bad, a condition for which the king was responsible; that there must be a radical change in the administration; that there must be a new constitution that would contain safeguards for the rights of the people and put a limit to the powers of the king. S. B. Dole cited two provisions of the constitution: first, "The King conducts his Government for the common good"; and second, that all men were allowed to assemble to consult upon the common good. He then said: "We have a right to be here, and we have assembled according to law; but we would not be here today if the King had conducted the Government for the common good; he has not done so. This meeting has come together to consider the public interests, and is composed of men who are determined to have good government." C. R. Bishop remarked, "we have found out within the last few years that our constitution is defective, partly on account of bad advice to the king but largely upon his own account. The king has encroached on our rights. We have had very few mass meetings, but when we have one like this I believe it means either a new constitution or one with material reforms, which I am sure we shall have."

L. A. Thurston and some others touched upon the question of how a new constitution should be obtained, whether by action of the legislature, as provided in the existing constitution, which would take at least a year, or by some shorter and more direct process. It was evident from the temper of the mass meeting that a great majority of its members favored getting the new constitution in the quickest way possible. The only note of dissent was sounded by Paul Isenberg who "said that on many points he agreed to these resolutions, but as far as the new constitution was concerned he was somewhat doubtful. Let it be done

 

362          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

legally. . . . It would not be legal unless carried by the legislature." Someone in the audience asked, "What Assembly gave us our present constitution?" Isenberg's views received no support.*

Alexander Young, manager of the Honolulu Iron Works, noted that "Some had counselled them to wait; but he said wait not, strike the iron while it is hot. . . . He was not a lawyer, and could not tell whether we could have a Constitution in five minutes; but necessity was the mother of invention, and we must get it as soon as possible." Cecil Brown declared: "We want, then, a new constitution. We want the King to think of the public good, not of personal ends. We have just seen the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, and if Kalakaua would follow her example, he might reign as long." E. M. Walsh, a Maui plantation manager, said he "believed it would be wise to change the constitution. He did not know the best way of doing it, but in view of the consummate skill which had brought this movement forward, he was ready to leave it to the thirteen gentlemen to see that it was done right." The last speaker was Clarence W. Ashford, who came onto the platform in the uniform of a lieutenant of the Honolulu Rifles, and advocated getting the new constitution immediately. While he was speaking, the Rifles marched into the hall to hear the speech of their comrade.

A motion was made for adoption of the resolutions and when put to a vote it was passed by a resounding chorus of "ayes"; not a voice was raised in opposition. As the meeting closed, Chairman Jones stated that he had been requested to say that Mr. Gibson had sent for a squad of the Honolulu Rifles to go down to his house and protect him from the Hawaiians.

The committee, headed by Paul Isenberg, went immediately to the palace and handed the resolutions to the king. He stated that he was willing to give an answer offhand, but the committee, in accord with

* Thurston in his Memoirs, pp. 145-147, says that H. P. Baldwin joined Isenberg in opposing the immediate promulgation of a new constitution, but I believe this is an error. The contemporary full accounts published in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Hawaiian Gazette, Daily Bulletin, and Sketch of Recent Events make no mention of any speech by Baldwin, and do not list him among the prominent persons at the mass meeting. This is good evidence that Baldwin was not present. It seems clear that Thurston's usually excellent memory went astray at this point and caused him to introduce into his report of the mass meeting of June 30, 1887, a garbled account of a speech made by Baldwin in the mass meeting of January 16, 1893, and the reaction to it.

From the several accounts it appears that Lieutenant Colonel Volney V. Ashford was not present at this mass meeting, either inside the armory or outside with the Rifles. A possible reason for this will be mentioned later.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          363

their instructions, left the document with him and said they would expect a reply in writing.56 The reply was not forthcoming until the following afternoon, and in the meantime there were some important developments.

Honolulu was always prolific of rumors. One rumor which circulated during the evening of June 30 was to the effect that Gibson was going to leave the kingdom, clandestinely. "In order to prevent any such undertaking squads of citizens undertook the surveillance of his residence and the city front. He did not leave his house."57

On Friday, July 1, the steamer Mariposa, an early morning arrival from Sydney en route to San Francisco, brought seven cases of firearms, five consigned to G. W. Macfarlane & Company and two to Mrs. Thomas Lack. The news quickly spread through the city, and since Colonel G. W. Macfarlane was a member of the king's staff, suspicions were aroused. Lieutenant Colonel Ashford called out the Honolulu Rifles and by his direction, acting, as he said, "under general instructions to take any action tending to preserve the public peace" — though he did not say from whom he received the instructions — the cases of arms were seized and taken under guard to the Pacific Navigation Company's warehouse; later in the day they were removed to the government building. The arms consigned to Macfarlane & Company were found to be small smooth-bore guns of the type used by Chinese to drive birds from their rice fields; they were imported for that purpose. The company disclaimed any intention of importing rifles.58

Later in the morning, after the firearms seizure, Lieutenant Colonel Volney Ashford with a squad of the Honolulu Rifles went to Gibson's residence, took him and his son-in-law Fred Hayselden into custody, and escorted them to the warehouse of the Pacific Navigation Company at the foot of Nuuanu Avenue, where they were held under guard in a sail loft for several hours. Threats to hang Gibson were made by Lieutenant Colonel Ashford and other noisy radicals, but any such purpose was promptly vetoed by the executive committee of the Hawaiian League. There were some threatening demonstrations against Mrs. Hayselden, Gibson's daughter Talula, but she was allowed to visit her father and husband while they were held in custody.59

From a study of the available evidence, it is quite clear that for a while during the evening of June 30 and the morning of July 1 there was a virtual lapse of regularly constituted authority, and the effective

 

364          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

control of the city of Honolulu was in the hands of the Honolulu Rifles who were acting theoretically, but not always in fact, under the direction of the executive committee of the Hawaiian League.

The occurrences during the morning of July 1 were very disturbing to the king, who took the course of consulting the foreign national representatives accredited to his government. American Minister Merrill wrote of the meeting:

About twelve o'clock . . . His Majesty sent for the British, French, Portuguese and Japanese Commissioners and myself to meet him at the Palace.

When all had assembled His Majesty, evidently being much alarmed, stated that an armed force had recently arrested a late member of his Cabinet, Mr. Gibson, and as armed men were patrolling the streets, and not knowing what the next act might be, he desired to place the control of the affairs of the Kingdom in our hands.

This offer we informed him could not be accepted and it was the desire of all the representatives of other powers that he should maintain himself in authority and as he informed us that he had agreed to the wishes of the people, expressed at the Mass Meeting the day previous, and would shortly so inform the Committee in writing, we advised him to at once authorize Mr. Green, if he was the person selected, to form a Ministry when it was believed affairs would assume a quiet attitude.

We immediately retired and, passing down to the central portion of the city, assured the people that the King had acceded to their request and was now forming a Ministry with Mr. Green as Premier and no necessity for further excitement existed.60

British Commissioner Wodehouse, who was always inclined to take an alarmist view of things, thought the situation at this time was "critical in the extreme. Both parties were armed and were ready for a struggle. The Palace was strongly fortified, . . . could not have been taken without great loss of life. Had therefore His Majesty not placed Himself in our hands unreservedly, bloodshed must have ensued, and as the demands made [by the mass meeting], were, in our opinion, not unreasonable, we had no hesitation in advising Him to comply with them. It was of course easier for the King to yield to us than to the Committee of Citizens."61

Following this conference, the king quickly completed, signed, and sent to the committee his reply to the resolutions of the mass meeting. After expressing his "gratification that Our people have taken the usual constitutional steps in presenting their grievances," he wrote:

To the first proposition contained in the resolutions passed by the meeting, . . . we reply that it has been substantially complied with by the formal resignation of the Ministry, which took place on the 28th day of June, and was accepted on that date, and that we had already requested the Hon. W. L. Green to form a new Cabinet on the day succeeding the resignation of the Cabinet.

To the second proposition, we reply that Mr. Walter M. Gibson has severed all his connections with the Hawaiian Government by resignations.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          365

To the third proposition, we reply that we do not admit the truth of the matter stated therein, but will submit the whole subject to Our new Cabinet and will gladly act according to their advice and will cause restitution to be made by the parties found responsible.

To the fourth proposition, We reply that at Our command Mr. Junius Kaae resigned the office of Registrar of Conveyances on the 28th day of June, and his successor has been appointed.

To the fifth proposition, We reply that the specific pledges required of Us are each severally acceded to.62

At about the same time — midafternoon of July 1 — King Kalakaua accepted the slate of ministers presented to him by W. L. Green and signed their commissions; they were sworn in immediately and took over the administration of the government. The new cabinet was composed of William L. Green, minister of finance; Godfrey Brown, minister of foreign affairs; Lorrin A. Thurston, minister of the interior; Clarence W. Ashford, attorney general. All except Thurston were of British origin. Merrill wrote that the American merchants considered the cabinet a satisfactory one.63 It is certain that the appointment of Thurston and Ashford was very distasteful to the king; but a few days later, in a short letter to his sister Liliuokalani, he remarked: "Both Thurston and Ashford have made necessary apoligize [sic]for their former conduct towards me. So we are now in full sympathy, and I think we can get along together."64

Immediately after their induction into office, the new ministers took steps to place the detention of Gibson and Hayselden on a more regular legal basis. The two men were taken by their military guards to Gibson's residence and there turned over to the civil authorities, who at once arrested them on warrants charging embezzlement of public funds. They were then conducted to the station house where the charges against them were entered on the record. Under the law the accused men could not be released on bail, but with the approval of Attorney General Ashford they were permitted to return to Gibson's house where they remained under police surveillance. A military guard was also kept around the house until the following afternoon.65

On July 5 there was a flurry of excitement caused by reports that Gibson and the king were in communication and that the latter was preparing for a coup d'etat. The Honolulu Rifles were called out. Commissioner Wodehouse and Minister Merrill busied themselves in quieting the excitement, which on investigation they found to be without any cause so far as the king was concerned. The Rifles were sent home, but Gibson and Hayselden were removed to a more secure place, the

 

366          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

Oahu jail, where they remained until their case was disposed of. The two defendants were arraigned in the police court on the morning of July 6 and the case was put over until Monday, July 11. On the evening of that day, the charge of embezzlement against them was nol-prossed by Attorney General Ashford on the ground that there was no evidence to detain them. The Hawaiian Gazette reported that a "thorough examination of their books and papers failed to substantiate the charges under which they were arraigned." They were accordingly discharged from custody.66

Being a free man once more after a somewhat harassing experience, Gibson decided to visit California for the purpose of recruiting his health. About midday of July 12 he boarded the brigantine J. D. Spreckels and departed for San Francisco.* It was reported that he would be absent from the kingdom for about two months. In San Francisco his health failed to improve. He entered St. Mary's Hospital and underwent a minor surgical operation. He was suffering from tuberculosis and his condition steadily worsened. He died on January 21, 1888. Gibson had become a Catholic and the day after his death a requiem pontifical mass for the repose of his soul was celebrated in St. Mary's Cathedral. His body was embalmed and returned to Hawaii for burial. On February 18 the remains lay in state at his former residence and thousands called to pay their respects and express their aloha for the late premier. On Sunday, February 19, a solemn and impressive funeral service was conducted in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace by Bishop Koeckemann and clergy of the cathedral.67

CONSTITUTION OF 1887

The first important duty of the Reform Cabinet was to secure a new constitution, a task to which it was committed by the resolution of the mass meeting of June 30, to which the king had assented. The actual

* In San Francisco, Gibson was interviewed by a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, who quoted him as saying that "As for himself, he thought the Constitution [of 1887] was a good one in the main. There were some things probably which the Legislature might see fit to change in the future, but taken as a whole, Mr. Gibson thought it an able, well-constructed document." Regarding the new cabinet, "Mr. Gibson said that the members were all gentlemen for whom he had the highest respect and esteem. They all called upon him while he was under arrest and were most polite and kind. . . . They are safe, conservative men and he thinks the kingdom will prosper under their guidance." San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 7, 1887.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          367

drafting of the constitution appears to have been done by a committee of the Hawaiian League made up of members who were, as Dole says, "by common opinion, assigned to the task."* The work was begun on Friday evening, July 1, and was carried on day and night until about noon of Wednesday, July 6, by which time the document had been completed, printed, and a copy engrossed for signature by the king. The committee submitted it to the cabinet, by whom it was approved; the ministers then, about four o'clock in the afternoon, went together to the palace and submitted the constitution to the king for his signature and oath thereto.68

Attorney General Ashford later wrote a graphic account of this meeting of the cabinet with the king in regard to the constitution. "The document was read to His Majesty, who listened in sullen, and somewhat appalling silence. And then came a general silence, followed by an inquiry from Mr. Green, whether His Majesty approved and would sign the document. This was the signal for the opening of argument, which proceeded until about sundown of that long summer day. The King argued, protested, inquired as to the effect of certain phases of the changes made . . . and for considerable periods appeared to be gazing into space and weighing the probabilities of success in the event of a refusal to comply with the reforms demanded by the Cabinet and embodied in the instrument presented for his signature." Finally, however, the thundercloud which had rested on the king's brow vanished and his "sullen and forbidding countenance . . . dissolved into a smile, as sweet as seraphs wear, as, with apparent alacrity, the King reached for a pen and attached his signature to that instrument whereby he was reduced from the status of an autocrat to that of a constitutional Sovereign." The chief justice was called in, and the king and the cabinet ministers took the oath to support the new constitution.69

* In AH, W. O. Smith Collection, there are two printer's proofs of drafts of the Constitution of 1887, one being an early version, in the margins of which are penciled many alterations; the other is a near-final version, and on the back of it is an endorsement reading in part: "Persons chiefly engaged in drawing up the constitution were — L. A. Thurston, Jonathan Austin, S. B. Dole, W. A. Kinney, W. O. Smith, Cecil Brown, Rev. [W. B.] Oleson, N. B. Emerson, J. A. Kennedy, [John A.] McCandless, Geo. N. Wilcox, A. S. Wilcox, H.Waterhouse, F. Wundenberg, E. G. Hitchcock, W. E. Rowell, Dr. [S. G.] Tucker, C. W. Ashford."

Thurston, in his account of this incident, says that when the cabinet read the new constitution to the king, "He listened attentively; without question or objection, he signed." Memoirs, p. 153. I feel sure that this statement by Thurston is incorrect. I cannot believe that Ashford's account, which was read before the Hawaiian Historical Society, was a mere invention of his imagination. The daily

 

368          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

On the following day, July 7, Kalakaua signed a proclamation setting forth that he did on July 6 abrogate the Constitution of 1864, "being moved thereto by the advice of my Cabinet Council; and in pursuance of such advice did sign, ordain, and publish a new Constitution."70 On the same day, July 7, the new constitution was promulgated. "The Marshall, accompanied by several policemen, rode through the streets of Honolulu, distributing the document, and proclaiming it to be the fundamental law of the land."71

The Constitution of 1887 was a revision of the constitution of 1864, just as the latter was a revision of the constitution of 1852. In the revision, the main objects sought were to take from the king the greater part of the power exercised by him under the constitution of 1864 and to make him in effect a ceremonial figure somewhat like the sovereign of Great Britain; to place the executive power, as a practical matter, in the hands of a cabinet appointed by the king but responsible to the legislature; to change the character of the legislature by making the nobles as well as the representatives elective, by redefining the qualifications of nobles, representatives, and electors, and by making it less easy for the king to exercise a personal influence over members of the legislature. For the latter object, it was provided (article 20) that no executive or judicial officer or employee of the government could be elected to the legislature, and that no member of the legislature could be appointed to any civil office under the government except that of a member of the cabinet.

In the parts of the constitution relative to the executive branch of the government, very important changes were made. The king's authority as commander-in-chief of the military forces (article 26) was modified by a new clause providing that "no military or naval force shall be organized except by the authority of the Legislature." In article 31, the sentence "To the King belongs the Executive power," was made to read "To the King and the Cabinet belongs the Executive power"; and a new article (78) was inserted as follows: "Wherever by this Constitution any Act is to be done or performed by the King or the Sovereign, it shall, unless otherwise expressed, mean that such Act shall be done and

Pacific Commercial Advertiser, of Thursday morning, July 7, contains the following report: "Shortly after 4 o'clock Wednesday afternoon a draft of the New Constitution was placed before the King. At 6 o'clock, in the presence of his Ministers, His Majesty signed it." The interval here indicated would afford ample time for the discussion and argument described by Ashford.

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          369

performed by the Sovereign by and with the advice and consent of the Cabinet." The clause "the Kingdom is His" was deleted from article 34. The king's right to appoint the cabinet ministers was left unchanged, but the right to arbitrarily dismiss them was taken from him and it was provided (article 41) that the ministers could be removed "only upon a vote of want of confidence passed by a majority of all the elective members of the Legislature, or upon conviction of felony." The ministers had previously held seats, ex officio, in the legislature, with the right to vote; now it was provided (article 42) that they had the right to vote "except on a question of want of confidence in them." Up to this time the king's right to veto bills passed by the legislature had been absolute; the new constitution provided (article 48) that the veto might be overridden by a two-thirds vote of all the elective members of the legislature. Under this constitution (article 82), any amendment of it was the exclusive prerogative of the legislature; the king's approval of constitutional amendments was no longer required.

A radical change was made in the composition of the legislature, especially in regard to the nobles. It was provided that there should be twenty-four nobles, whose term of office should be six years, and each of whom must be a subject of the kingdom at least twenty-five years of age, who must have resided in the kingdom three years, and must own taxable property of an unencumbered value of $3,000 or have an income of at least $600 per annum;* they were no longer to be appointed by the king but were to be elected.

The number of representatives in the legislature was fixed at twenty-four. A representative must be at least twenty-one years of age; be able to read and write either the Hawaiian, English, or some European language, and to understand accounts. There was also a residence requirement and a small property or income qualification.

The privilege of voting was no longer restricted to subjects of the kingdom, but was extended to all male residents of Hawaiian, American, or European birth or descent, at least twenty years of age, who had paid their taxes, who took an oath to support the constitution and laws, and who could read and write either the Hawaiian, English, or some European language. To vote for representatives, a person must also

* Oddly enough, perhaps by an oversight, no educational qualification was prescribed for nobles, though such a qualification was prescribed for all voters and for representatives in the legislature.

 

370          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

have been domiciled in the kingdom for one year immediately preceding the election. To be eligible to vote in any election for nobles, a person must have resided in the country for at least three years, and must own "taxable property in this country of the value of not less than three thousand dollars over and above all encumbrances, or shall have received an income of not less than six hundred dollars during the year next preceding his registration for such election." It was provided, however, that the residence and educational qualifications required of voters, as stated above, should not apply to persons residing in the kingdom at the time of the promulgation of this constitution if they registered and voted in the first election held under it.

No change of any importance was made in the part of the constitution relating to the judiciary.72

It will be seen that under this constitution the privilege of voting was extended under certain conditions to alien residents of American or European birth or descent, but not to those of Asiatic birth or descent. It will also be noticed that the constitution created two classes of voters: (1) those who could vote only for representatives; and (2) those who could vote for both representatives and nobles. From the latter class many of the native Hawaiians were excluded by the high property qualification. While these provisions did not actually take away from the native Hawaiians any right or privilege they had previously enjoyed (save the possibility, so far as a few of them were concerned, of appointment as nobles), yet the voting privileges extended to resident aliens gave to the haoles as a group a greatly increased power in the government and reduced the Hawaiians to a position of apparent and, for a while, actual inferiority in the political life of the country. This was, during the next few years, one of the principal grounds of objection to the Constitution of 1887 and of efforts to amend or displace it.

Another objection to this constitution, from the Hawaiian standpoint, was the drastic reduction of the powers of the sovereign, to whom were left only two important powers that he could exercise independently of the cabinet: (1) the veto on legislation, which could be overridden only by a two-thirds vote of the legislature; and (2) the appointment of each of the cabinet ministers.

A third ground of objection to the constitution as a whole was the manner in which it was brought into existence. It was dubbed the "Bayonet Constitution." Some people said that as force had been used

 

END OF THE GIBSON REGIME          371

to secure this constitution, so force could be used again to secure another one. Others asserted that the constitution was invalid because it was extorted from the king by force; but a little reflection on the course of world history and such an example as Magna Carta showed that this was not a sound argument.

The sponsors of the Constitution of 1887 recognized the irregular and revolutionary character of the process by which it was obtained; they justified it on the score of necessity. Attorney General C. W. Ashford was asked by a correspondent of the New York Herald if he considered the adoption of the new constitution a perfectly regular proceeding. "No," he answered, "I cannot say that I do; but what other method could we pursue? If the New Constitution had been submitted to the Legislature it would simply mean that at the end of two years the King would say 'This does not suit me,' and kill it by absolute veto. There was only one way to proceed, and that was to arbitrarily force the King into giving us a better form of government."73 The editor of the Friend, the Reverend S. E. Bishop, who was a member of the Hawaiian League, published a long editorial article on "The Hawaiian Revolution," in the course of which he said: "This Constitution is held to possess at least equal validity with the one before it, which proceeded entirely from the arbitrary will of Kamehameha V. . . . At any rate, it was firmly believed by those who secured the new Constitution, that it was impossible to obtain the necessary changes by tardy legislative processes, that immediate results must be secured or none."74 L. A. Thurston touched briefly on this subject in his account of the Revolution of 1887: "An allegation has been made that the 1887 constitution was not legally enacted . . . Unquestionably the constitution was not in accordance with law; neither was the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. Both were revolutionary documents, which had to be forcibly effected and forcibly maintained."75

Chief Justice Albert Francis Judd, in a sworn statement in 1893, wrote: "The justices of the Supreme Court were kept in ignorance of the league which resulted in obtaining from Kalakaua the constitution of 1887. Just before its promulgation Justice Preston and myself were invited to assist in its revision, which we consented to do under a written protest that we did not approve of the method of its promulgation as being unconstitutional."76 On another occasion, in his charge to the jury in one of the treason trials of 1889, Judge Judd said: "The King cannot,

 

372          THE HAWAIIAN KINGDOM, 1874–1893

except as a coup d'etat, abrogate a constitution and give a new constitution. I think it is proper for me to say . . . that the constitution of 1887 only became a de jure constitution by general acquiescence. It was the de facto constitution because the King executed it on the advice of his Ministers and it became a de jure constitution because all the officers of the government swore to it, and all those who voted at the elections swore to support it, and it thus became the general law of the land."77

 


Look up any word by double-clicking on it.
Copyright © 1967, 2014 by University of Hawaiʻi Press, which is solely responsible for this product.
This site is made possible by the support of University of Hawaiʻi Press‚ the Department of Education‚ and Ulukau's other supporters.
Computer Issues | More information