Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Hawaiian Monarchy: 'Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono"


The exact date is unknown and probably will remain so forever. But sometime after the beginning of the Christian era, Polynesians first set foot on these islands. Linguistic and cultural evidence suggests that the first inhabitants came from the Marquesas group, to the north of Tahiti. During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, waves of immigrants from Tahiti overwhelmed and absorbed the original people. Since the earliest Hawaiians were likely somewhat smaller than later immigrants, they may form the basis for the legends of the menehunes, who were pictured by the later Hawaiians as hardworking elves.

Hawaii assumed importance in the east-west fur trade and later as the center for the Pacific whaling industry. Captain James Cook, the great Pacific explorer, happened upon the islands during his third voyage in 1778. Hawaii's long isolation ended at that moment. Soon, King Kamehameha the Great embarked on his successful campaign to unite the islands into one kingdom. At about the same time of the decline of the Asian fur trade Hawaii extensive sandalwood resources began to deplete in the 1830’s. Despite the circumstances, Hawaii assumed importance in the east-west fur trade and later as the center for the Pacific whaling industry.


Change came at a rapid pace, as both education and commerce assumed growing importance. The old Hawaiian culture disappeared rapidly under the onslaught of new ways, new peoples, and new diseases, to which the previously isolated Hawaiians were all too susceptible. Whaling and the provisioning of the whaling fleet brought new money to the island economy. At times, as many as 500 whaling ships wintered in Hawaiian ports, principally Lahaina and Honolulu to pick up the valuable goods that Hawaii possessed.

In 1835, the first commercial production of sugar cane began, and this crop took on ever increasing economic importance, especially after the decline of the great whaling fleets. Native Hawaiians did not take kindly to the tedious labor of a plantation worker and, in any case, the native population had been seriously depleted by disease. Thus, there began the importation of labor from Asia and the Philippines and other areas of the world. It is this varied population that gave rise to the immense variety of Hawaii's present inhabitants. Threatened constantly by European nations eager to add Hawaii to their empires, sugar planters and Americans businessmen began to seek annexation by the United States. This, too, would give them the advantages of a sugar market free of tariff duties.

Sugar was by far the principal support of the islands; and profits and prosperity hinged on favorable treaties with the United States, Hawaiian sugar's chief market, creating powerful economic ties. The plantation owners were, for the most part, the descendants of the original missionary families who had brought religion to the islands in the wake of the whaling ships. As ownership of private property came to the islands, the missionary families wound up owning a great deal of it. Hawaii has little in the way of mineral wealth, so the land was useful only for agriculture. In a day when unrefrigerated sailing ships such as Captain Matson's "Falls Of Clyde" were the only means to ship produce to the U.S. Mainland, sugar, and to a lesser extent coconuts, were the only produce that could survive the sea voyage.

Imperialistic Tactics

The American citizens themselves, the plantation owners, were rankled by the fact that the US government actually made more profits from their sugar then the plantation owners themselves did. To evade the tariff, it became necessary to the plantation owners that Hawaii cease being a separate and sovereign nation. Finally, a treaty of reciprocity was negotiated in 1875 and this brought new prosperity to Hawaii. American wealth poured into the islands seeking investment. Political control by Hawaiian royalty and the growing influence of Americans began to cause conflict. In 1887, during the reign of Lili`uokalani' s brother, King Kalakaua, a group of planters and businessmen, seeking to control the kingdom politically as well as economically, formed a secret organization, the Hawaiian League. Membership (probably never over 400, compared to the 40,000 Native Hawaiians in the kingdom) was predominantly American, led by Lorrin A. Thurston, a lawyer and missionary grandson. Their goal, for now, was to "reform" the monarchy. But what was "reform" to the Americans was treason to the people of Hawaii, who loved and respected their monarchs.

It is important to recall that, unlike the hereditary rulers of Europe, Hawaii’s last two kings were actually elected to that office by democratic vote. Kalakaua and his sister Lili`uokalani were well educated, intelligent, skilled in social graces, and equally at home with Hawaiian traditions and court ceremony. Above all, they were deeply concerned about the well being of the Hawaiian people and maintaining the independence of the kingdom. They saw no reason to relinquish their independence solely to make already rich Americans richer still. The Hawaiian League's more radical members favored the king's abdication, and one even proposed assassination. They eventually decided that the king would remain on the throne, but with his power sharply limited by a new constitution of their making. Killing him would be a last resort if he refused to agree. Many Hawaiian League members belonged to a volunteer militia, the Honolulu Rifles, which was officially in service to the Hawaiian government, but was secretly the Hawaiian League's military arm.

Kalakaua was compelled to accept a new Cabinet composed of league members, who presented their constitution to him for his signature at `Iolani Palace. The reluctant king argued and protested, but finally signed the document, which became known as the Bayonet Constitution. As one Cabinet member noted, "Little was left to the imagination of the hesitating and unwilling sovereign, as to what he might expect in the event of his refusal to comply with the demands made upon him."

The Bayonet Constitution greatly curtailed the king's power, making him a mere figurehead. It placed the actual executive power in the hands of the Cabinet, whose members could no longer be dismissed by the king, only by the Legislature. Amending this constitution was also the exclusive prerogative of the Legislature. The Bayonet Constitution's other purpose was to remove the Native Hawaiian majority's dominance at the polls and in the Legislature. The righteous reformers were determined to save the Hawaiians from self-government.

The privilege of voting was no longer limited to citizens of the kingdom, but was extended to foreign residents -- provided they were American or European. Asians were excluded -- even those who had become naturalized citizens. The House of Nobles, formerly appointed by the king, would now be elected, and voters and candidates for it had to meet a high property ownership or income requirement -- which excluded two-thirds of the native Hawaiian voters. While they could still vote for the House of Representatives, to do so they had to swear to uphold the Bayonet Constitution.

Hawaiian Resistance

In 1889, there was an uprising of the native islanders against the constitution, which had been forced on King Kalakaua two years earlier. `The last King of Hawaii, King David Kalakaua, built Iolani Palace. The seat of government of the Kingdom of Hawaii, `Iolani Palace had electricity and telephones installed several years before the White House.

The Palace remained a royal residence until Queen Lili`uokalani, the King's sister and successor, was deposed and the Hawaiian monarchy overthrown in January 1893. The queen was imprisoned in the Palace for eight months in 1895 by the unlawful Provisional Government, charged with treason for attempting to restore Hawaii’s sovereignty. The Palace served as capitol of the Provisional Government, Republic, and Territory in the State of Hawaii. At that time the Palace was vacated and restoration begun. It is now a museum under the direction of the Friends of `Iolani Palace, who continue restoration efforts. (`Iolani Palace continues to be a focal point in efforts to restore Hawaii sovereignty and independence.) The rebellion was suppressed. With Queen Liliuokalani on the throne, the Americans formed a Committee of Safety and declared the monarchy ended. Shortly, after the Republic of Hawaii was established.

On August 12, 1898, a treaty of annexation was negotiated with the United States and a formal transfer of sovereignty was made with the promise of eventual statehood. However, the fact was ignored that Hawaiians submitted a petition to the United States Congress with 29,000 signatures, as well as petitions to the Republic of Hawaii asking that annexation be put to a public vote. Hawaiians were never permitted to vote on the issue. In all, three separate Treaties of Annexation were sent to the Congress. All three failed. In the end, Hawaii was annexed by a joint resolution of the Congress. But Congress did not have the legal authority to do so, because a joint resolution of the Congress has no legal standing in a foreign country, which is what Hawaii remained, even under the provisional government.

Sovereignty of Hawaii was formally transferred to the United States at ceremonies at `Iolani Palace on Aug. 12, 1898. Sanford Dole spoke as the newly appointed governor of the Territory of Hawaii. The Hawaiian anthem, ''Hawaii Pono `I" -- with words written by King Kalakaua -- was played at the Hawaiian flag was lowered, and replaced by the American flag and "The Star-Spangled Banner." The Hawaiian people had lost their land, their monarchy and now their independence. The American plantation owners were now free of import tariffs; making it a small matter that the Hawaiian people had lost their independence along the way.

Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1900. The pattern of growth then began to accelerate even more rapidly. Hawaii remained a territorial possession of the United States for many years. The military presence illegally begun during the Spanish American war continued to grow, including the naval base at Pearl Harbor. The plantation families grew richer and richer, while the original Hawaiian people were marginalized, often homeless in their own homeland. The animosity between Hawaiians and Americans exploded into public view during the celebrated Ala Moana rape case, in which famed lawyer Clarence Darrow argued for the defense. The thin veneer of a tropical paradise, crafted for the emerging tourist industry, was shattered in moments by the anger shown on both sides.

Hawaii Becomes a State

In 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt decided that the best way to get a reluctant America into a war with Hitler was to "back door" a war by luring Japan into an attack against the United States. By cutting off oil exports to Japan, Roosevelt forced Japan to invade the Dutch East Indies, and by placing the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl, Roosevelt made an attack at Pearl the mandatory first move in any military move by Japan in any direction. The U.S. Navy set up its giant Pacific headquarters at Pearl Harbor and the Army built a huge garrison at Schofield Barracks.

The attack on Pearl Harbor marked America's entry into World War II, and Hawaii and its citizens played a major role in the conflict. The postwar period saw many rapid changes with the descendants of plantation laborers rising to the highest prominent in business, labor, and government. Following World War II, Hawaii was placed on the list of non self-governing territories by the United Nations, with the United States as trustee, under Article 73. Under Article 73 of the U.N. charter, the status of a territory can only be changed by a special vote, called a plebesite, held among the inhabitants of the territory.

That plebiscite is required to have three choices on the ballot. The first choice is to become a part of the trustee nation, in Hawaii's case that meant to become a state. The second choice was to remain a territory. And the third choice, required by article 73 of the UN Charter, was the option for independence. For Hawaii, that meant no longer being a territory of the United States and returning to being an independent sovereign nation. In 1959 Hawaii's plebiscite vote was held, and again, the United States government bent the rules. The plebiscite ballot only had the choice between statehood and remaining a territory. No option for independence appeared on the ballot as was required under the UN charter. Cheated out of their independence yet again, Hawaii proved eager to take on the full responsibilities of statehood. Under the leadership of Hawaii's last delegate to Congress, John A. Burns, the 86th Congress approved statehood and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law on March 18, 1959. Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state of the union on August 21, 1959.

The United States Admits Violations of Hawaiian Sovereignty

Many years later in 1988, a study by the United States Justice Department concluded that Congress did not have the authority to annex Hawaii by joint resolution. The ersatz annexation was a cover for the military occupation of the Hawaiian Islands for purposes related to the Spanish American war. It was not until on November 23, 1993, President Clinton signed United States Public Law 103-150, which not only acknowledged the illegal actions committed by the United States in the overthrow of the legitimate government of Hawaii, but also that the Hawaiian people never surrendered their sovereignty.

The latter is the most important part of United States Public Law 103-150 for it makes it quite clear that the Hawaiian people never legally ceased to be a sovereign separate independent nation. There is no argument that can change that fact. United States Public Law 103-150, despite its polite language, is an official admission that the government of the United States illegally occupies the territory of the Hawaiian people. In 1999, the United Nations confirmed that the plebiscite vote that led to Hawaii's statehood was in violation of article 73 of the United Nations' charter. The Hawaii statehood vote, under treaty then in effect, was illegal and non-binding. (The same is true of the Alaska plebiscite).
The Aftermath of Statehood

As of now, there are things that the Hawaiian people are forced to deal with seeing that they are a technically a state of the United States. One of the issues is the destruction of many historic landmarks, such as Walgreen’s purchasing the Kahiki to demolish it for a new drugstore. The Kahiki Supper Club is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (1997). The Kahiki is an intact example of a mid-twentieth century cultural icon, the Polynesian restaurant. Built in 1960-61, it represents the heightened interest in Polynesia following World War II. Entertainment and leisure activities focusing on or derived from the South Seas were especially popular during the 1950s and early 1960s. Movies and television shows featured the Polynesian setting, while hula hoops, luaus, surfing, and beach music allowed people from coast to coast to celebrate the South Seas culture.

As in all debates it is only fair to hear both sides. Walgreen's spokesman Michael Polzin says, "Walgreen’s has a policy against destroying historic buildings... The company just doesn't think the Kahiki makes the cut. This building is unusual, but it's not very old." The Kahiki is one of many historical landmarks being torn down because companies from the United States are starting to expand their business there. Alongside the loss of historical landmarks, there is the fact that the Hawaiian youth are losing their culture by becoming more Americanized rather than Hawaiian. Increasingly, Hawaii's venerable traditions are being replaced by inauthentic recreation of those traditions for European and mainland tourists.

- By Alexandria Martin

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