Harper's Weekly Editorials by Carl Schurz/Annexing Hawaii by Joint Resolution

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The Hawaii annexation treaty lags in the Senate. The number of votes needed to make up the required two-thirds majority, it seems, will not come forth. The advocates of the scheme are now preparing to resort to the expedient of accomplishing their end by means of a joint resolution, which may be put through by a simple majority in each House of Congress. It has even been suggested that, in order to avoid the danger of being balked by dilatory tactics on the part of the opposition, the resolution should be attached as an amendment to an appropriation bill. This, however, is hardly probable. For the idea of rushing through Congress a measure of such incalculable importance as the annexation of a distant country by such a trick is so monstrous that even the most fanatical Jingo may well recoil from it.

Senator Morgan has introduced a resolution in the Senate which, in case of failure of the treaty, is to serve the same purpose in the regular course of legislation. In its averments as well as in its omissions it is characteristic of the whole movement. In view of the fact that the legitimacy of the present government of Hawaii might be questioned, it affirms “that the republic of Hawaii, established in and based upon its present constitution, is a rightful government, and has been, and still is, recognized as such by the United States of America and by other great powers, without any question by any nation of its rightful and sovereign independence; and said constitution is the true and recognized authority that fixes the measure and the distribution of the rights and powers of government in that republic while said constitution remains in force.” Now, that the present Hawaiian government is recognized by the United States and by other powers as the government de facto is true. But it is not the whole truth; and the unusual verbiage employed in the resolution to define and describe the right of that government to recognition can hardly be intended for any other purpose than to make us forget that part of the truth which in its bearing upon the annexation scheme is of the highest moral importance to the American people, namely, that in January, 1893, the native government of Hawaii was overthrown by a revolutionary movement; that this revolutionary movement was assisted by the American minister causing the commander of an American man-of-war to land a force of troops in aid of the insurgents, who were weak in numbers, and in great part aliens; that the leaders of the insurrection constituted themselves as a provisional government “to exist until terms of union with the United States of America shall have been negotiated and agreed upon”; that then in hot haste the successful conspirators — successful by the aid of our own forces lawlessly offered — presented an annexation compact to our government; that when that compact failed to be ratified by the United States, the chiefs of the revolution in Hawaii, hoping for better times, constituted a more permanent government under a republican name, which, as the only existing government, has secured foreign recognition, but which, having sprung from the annexation conspiracy of 1893, and being identified with it by its very personnel, exists only for the purpose of carrying out the original object of the plot in which officers of the United States lawlessly took an active part.

Senator Morgan's resolution affirms further “that, in conformity with the existing Constitution of the republic of Hawaii, and so long as the same is in force, the powers of government reside in and are to be exercised by the incumbents of the departments, tribunals, and offices created by said Constitution, and filled in pursuance of law, and the lawful electors under said Constitution who qualify as such by taking the oath of allegiance prescribed therein, are entitled to share in the government of Hawaii, according to the rights secured to them in said Constitution, and to the extent and in the manner therein provided, so long as the same is in force.” This again is true as far as it goes, but again it is not the whole truth; and again that part of the truth which is hidden under a heap of pompous words is the most important part to the American people in judging of the moral merits of the pending question — namely, that under the present constitution of Hawaii only a small minority of the Hawaiian people are “entitled to share in the government”; that this so-called republican government is essentially an oligarchy; that political rights are substantially restricted to the supporters of those in power, it being a notorious fact not seriously denied by anybody that if the people of Hawaii were permitted to vote on the main object for which that government exists, annexation of Hawaii to the United States, an overwhelming majority would vote in the negative. Senator Morgan has therefore every reason to point out with the severest precision that in Hawaii nobody has anything to say with regard to this matter except the “lawful electors under said constitution who qualify as such by taking the oath of allegiance prescribed therein,” which oath of allegiance substantially sanctions the revolution of January, 1893, and, by implication, the object thereof.

Having thus by his statement of Hawaiian constitutional law proved to his own satisfaction that the present Hawaiian government has the right to sell or give away its country without the assent of a majority of the people, Senator Morgan, in his resolution, proceeds thus: “And said government of the republic of Hawaii having in due form signified its consent that the Hawaiian Islands shall be annexed to and become a part of the United States of America, it is hereby enacted and declared that said cession is accepted, ratified, and confirmed, and that said Hawaiian Islands are annexed as a part of the territory of the United States of America, and are subject to the sovereign dominion thereof.”

Senator Morgan no doubt thinks that if the present Hawaiian government can be shown to have, in point of form, the right to cede, and the United States the right to take, there is nothing more to be considered than the question whether the bargain would be advantageous to the parties respectively. He simply overlooks the moral side of the transaction. It does not seem to have occurred to him that, even if the bargain were ever so profitable, there might be motives of conscience, considerations of national honor, rendering its consummation morally impossible. Had the Hawaiian Islands been voluntarily offered to us by the native government, or even had the revolutionary movement in behalf of annexation been carried through without being countenanced and aided by officers and forces of the United States, then, the assent of the Hawaiian people being obtained, the American people might be governed by mere considerations of expediency in deciding the question whether to accept or not to accept the offered territory. But when we are confronted by the universally recognized fact that the revolutionary movement in favor of annexation was wrongfully aided, if not instigated, by our own officers, and carried to success by the wrongful co-operation of our own forces; that the government offering us the Hawaiian Islands is the direct offspring of that revolutionary movement; and that, as everybody knows, an immense majority of the Hawaiian people are most earnestly opposed to annexation — we must admit that this republic can hardly accept the offer without placing itself in the attitude of a receiver of goods stolen with its connivance.

This might be brought home to doubting minds in Congress by moving for the joint resolution above quoted a substitute containing a plain statement of the facts, somewhat in this wise: “Whereas, in January, 1893, the native government of Hawaii was overturned by a revolutionary uprising which was actively aided by the minister of the United States and a detachment of United States forces landed at the minister's request from a United States man-of-war; and whereas the said revolutionary uprising was made and a provisional government set up avowedly for the purpose of effecting the annexation of Hawaii to the United States; and whereas the present government of Hawaii is the offspring of the said revolutionary movement, and is in part composed of its very leaders; and whereas the said government is essentially an oligarchy admitting only a small minority of the people to the exercise of political rights; and whereas the said oligarchy offers to transfer the sovereignty of Hawaii to the United States without the assent of the Hawaiian people, it being well known that an overwhelming majority of the Hawaiian people are opposed to such transfer — be it resolved, etc., etc.”

The truthfulness of the preamble being conceded, which it must be, as the facts recited are notorious, it may well be questioned how any American solicitous of the honor of his country can think of following it up with a resolution favoring the proposed annexation.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


Harper's Weekly Editorials by Carl Schurz - 1898-02-26 - Annexing Hawaii by Joint Resolution.PNG