History of Later Years
of the Hawaiian Monarchy

PART 1, CHAPTER 2

 

The Royal Veto Question

The preceding narrative ended with the revolution of 1887, which was intended to put an end to personal rule in the Hawaiian Islands, by making the ministry responsible to the people through the legislature, by taking the power of appointing the Upper House out of the hands of the Sovereign, and by making office-holders ineligible to the legislature.

The remaining three years and a half of Kalakaua'.s reign teemed with intrigues and conspiracies to restore autocratic rule.

The Reform party, as has been stated, gained an overwhelming majority of seats in the legislature of 1887, and had full control of the government until the legislative session of 1890.

During the special session, held in November, 1887, a contest arose between the King and the legislature in regard to the veto power, which at one time threatened the public peace. The question whether under the new constitution the King could exercise a personal veto against the advice of his ministers or not, was finally decided by the Supreme Court in favor of the Crown. Judge Dole dissenting.

During the succeeding session of 1888 the King vetoed a number of bills, which were all passed over his veto, by a two-thirds vote, with the exception of a bill to subsidize an experimental coffee plantation.


Conspiracies

The King's sister, the then Princess Liliuokalani, on her return from England, had charged her brother with cowardice, for signing the constitution of 1887, and was known to be in favor of the old system of irresponsible personal government.

For instruments she had not far to seek. Two of the Hawaiian youths whom Moreno had placed in military school in Italy, as before stated, had been recalled towards the end of 1887.

They had been led to expect high positions from the Gibson government, and their disappointment was extreme, when their claims were ignored. Hence they were easily induced to lead a conspiracy, which had for its object the abrogation of the constitution of 1887, and the restoration of the old regime.

They endeavored to form a secret league, and held meetings to inflame the native mind, but without much success at first.

It is said that the Household Troops were won over, and that the three chief conspirators, on one occasion, detained the King in one of the tower rooms in the Palace, and tried to intimidate him into signing his abdication in favor of his sister.

The King parleyed with them to gain time, and the affair soon came to the ears of the ministry, who had the conspirators examined, one by one, and their statements taken down. A mass of evidence was collected, which, however, was not used against them ; and the leader, Mr. R. W. Wilcox, was allowed to go to California; where he remained about a year, biding his time.

Meanwhile, a secret organization was being formed throughout the islands, and after some progress had been made, Mr. Wilcox was sent for. He returned to Honolulu in April, 1889, formed a rifle club, and began to make preparations for a counter revolution.

The meetings of the league were held in a house belonging to the Princess Liliuokalani. At the subsequent trial it was proved by the defense that the King had latterly come to an understanding with the conspirators, whose object was to restore autocratic rule.

Before light, on the morning of July 80th, 1889, Mr. Wilcox with about one hundred and fifty armed followers marched from the Princess Liliuokalani's residence in Kapalama and occupied the Government buildings and the palace grounds. No declaration of any kind was made, as they expected the 23

King, who had spent the night at a cottage near the seaside, to come up and proclaim the old constitution of 1804. The Household troops in the barracks remained neutral, and the palace was held against the insurgents by Lieut. Robert Parker, with thirty men by the King's orders. The King, who did not fully trust the conspirators, retired to his boat-house in the harbor to await results. Meanwhile the volunteer riflemen promptly turned out, and many other citizens took up arms for the Government. Patrols were set about daylight, and a cordon formed later on, so that the insurgents were isolated from the populace outside. At the request of the United States Minister, Mr. Merrill, a body of marines was landed and marched up to the Legation, on the hotel premises, where they remained during the day. The insurgents brought over four field-pieces and ammunition from the barracks, and placed them around the palace.

The Ministry drew up a written summons to them to surrender, which was served on them at the front palace gate, by the Hon. S. M. Damon but they refused to receive it. A conflict immediately commenced between them with three of their field -pieces and the Government sharpshooters, who had occupied the Opera House and some other buildings commanding the palace grounds. The result was that their guns were soon silenced, and they were driven with loss into a wooden building in the palace grounds, called the "Bungalow," where they were besieged during the afternoon. Towards night a heavy rifle fire was opened upon them from all sides, and the roof of the "Bungalow" burst in by giant- powder bombs, which forced them to surrender.

Unfortunately, this was by no means a bloodless affair, as seven of Wilcox's deluded followers were killed and about a dozen wounded. It was afterwards learned that 10,000 rounds of ammunition had been loaned by the U. S. S. Adams during the day to the Hawaiian Government.

The chief conspirators were afterwards put on trial for treason, with the result that Loomens, a Belgian artilleryman, was found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment for life, while Mr. R. W. Wilcox was acquitted by a native jury, on the theory that what he had done was by and with the King's consent. He now became a popular idol, and had unbounded influence over the Honolulu natives for a time.

The Princess Liliuokalani, however, disowned him, and denied all knowledge of the conspiracy. This deplorable affair was made the most of by demagogues to intensify race hatred. The license allowed the native press was almost incredible.


The Proposed Commercial Treaty

A project of a new commercial treaty with the United States was drawn up in the fall of 1889 by the Ministry in conjunction with Hon. H. A. P. Carter. Its terms provided for complete free trade between the two countries, the perpetual cession of Pearl Harbor to the United States, and a guarantee of the independence of the Kingdom by that power. In consideration of this guarantee, the Hawaiian Government was to bind itself to make no treaty with any foreign power without the knowledge of the Government of the United States.

By working on the King's suspicions, Mr. C. W. Ashford, the Attorney-General, induced the King to refuse to sign the preliminary draft of this treaty. The other members of the Cabinet invited him to resign, which he declined to do.

The question having been brought before the Supreme Court, it decided that the King under the Constitution was bound by the advice of a majority of his Cabinet. But the Attorney-General advised the King that this was only an ex parte decision, and encouraged him to defy the court. A copy of the proposed treaty, (including an article which had been rejected by the Cabinet, and which would have authorized the landing of United States troops in certain emergencies), was secretly furnished by the King to a native newspaper for publication, and the party cry was raised that the ministry was "selling the country" to the United States.


The Session Of 1890

On account of the circumstances mentioned above, and of dissensions in the Reform party, the combined elements in opposition elected a majority of the Legislature of 1890, and on the 13th of June, 1890, the Reform ministry went out of office on a close vote.

As the parties were so nearly balanced, a compromise cabinet, composed of conservative men, was appointed June 17th, viz., Hons. John A. Cummins, Minister of Foreign Affairs; C. N. Spencer, Minister of the Interior; Godfrey Brown, Minister of Finance; A. P. Peterson, Attorney-General.

The King at first tried to revive his old project of a ten-million loan bill for military and naval purposes, but met with no encouragement. He then published a pamphlet entitled ''A Third Warning Voice," in which he urged the establishment of a large standing army.

Another project advocated by the reactionary papers and favored by the King, was that of calling a revolutionary convention, to be elected by the voters of the lower house, to frame a new constitution, in which the foreign element should be excluded from political power. With considerable difficulty, and by the exercise of much patience and tact, this dangerous measure was defeated, and certain constitutional amendments were passed through the preliminary stage. The most important of these was one lowering the property qualification required of electors for nobles. After a stormy session of five months, the Legislature adjourned Nov. 14th, 1890, without undoing the reforms made in 1887.


Queen
Liliuokalani


Accession Of Liliuokalani

In order to recruit his failing health, the King visited California in the United States cruiser Charleston, as the guest of Admiral Brown, in November, 1890. He received the utmost kindness and hospitality, both in San Francisco and in Southern California. His strength, however, continued to fail in spite of the best medical attendance, and on the 20th of January, 1891, he breathed his last at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. His remains were removed to the Charleston with impressive funeral ceremonies, and arrived at Honolulu January 29th, where the decorations for his welcome were changed into the emblems of mourning.

In spite of his grave faults as a ruler and as a man, he had been uniformly kind and courteous in private life, and there was sincere grief in Honolulu, when the news of his death arrived.

Serious apprehensions were now felt by many in view of the accession of his sister, Liliuokalani, which, however, were partially relieved by her promptly taking the oath, to maintain the constitution of 1887. Notwithstanding her despotic ideal of government, and her past record, there were not a few who hoped that she had enough good sense to understand her true interests, and to keep her oath to the constitution.

They were destined to be disappointed. On the morning of her accession, Mr. S. M. Damon had an interview with her, in which he remarked that what was needed was a responsible ministry.

"My ministry," she replied, "shall be responsible to me," and abruptly closed the interview. She had no sooner taken the oath, than a constitutional question was raised between her and the existing cabinet. On the one side, the cabinet claimed that under the constitution no power could remove them but the Legislature. On her side it was claimed that they were the late King's cabinet, and " died with the King." This dispute was referred to the Supreme Court, which decided in favor of the Queen, Judge McCully dissenting.

This gave her an opportunity to exact conditions from the incoming ministers, and thus to secure control of the patronage of the Government.

The new cabinet appointed February 26th, 1891, consisted of Hons. S. Parker, Minister of Foreign Affairs; C. N. Spencer, reappointed Minister of the Interior; H. A. Widemann, minister of Finance; and W. A. Whiting, Attorney-General. The first condition exacted by the Queen of her appointees was that Mr. C. B. Wilson should be appointed Marshal of the Kingdom, with control of the entire police force of the islands. It was universally believed that he exercised as much influence on the administration of public affairs as any member of the cabinet. At the same time, grave charges were made against the administration of his own bureau. The Marshal's office was said to be the resort of disreputable characters, while opium joints and gambling dens multiplied and flourished. The Marshal openly associated with such adventurers as Capt. Whaley, of the famous smuggling yacht Halcyon, and the Australian fugitives from justice, who visited Honolulu in the yacht Beagle.

To put an end to this state of things, and to other evils growing out of personal government, was one of the chief objects, both of members of the Reform party and of the so-called Liberals in the elections of 1892. The death of Gov. J. O. Dominis, Aug. 27th, 1891, was a misfortune to the Kingdom, as his influence had always been exerted in favor of constitutional government.


C. W. Ashford,          John Richardson,          J. E. Bush,          J. Nawahi,          R. W. Wilcox       


The Equal Rights League

In the spring of 1892, a secret league was formed, headed by Col. C. W. Ashford, R. W. Wilcox, J. E. Bush and others, for the purpose, as they claimed, of "promoting justice and equal rights in the political government of Hawaii." Their objects included the removal of all property qualifications for election of either house, the abolition of monarchy, and ultimate union with, the United States. These measures were then advocated in a newspaper published by J. E. Bush, who afterwards became a royalist. It is stated that this league, about May 1st, numbered over three hundred "members," mostly natives and half-whites. There is good reason to believe that at the same time the Queen's party was preparing to promulgate a despotic constitution similar to that which she afterwards attempted to proclaim Jan. 14th, 1893. At first they endeavored to make use of the equal rights league, both parties being opposed for different reasons, to the Reform constitution.

Their overtures, however, having been finally rejected, the marshal proceeded on the 20th of May to arrest the principal members of the league for treason and conspiracy. The result of the subsequent trials was that all were finally discharged, but the weakness of the league was exposed, and its leaders lost much of their prestige. This revolutionary movement had not been favored by the better class of citizens, who considered it uncalled for, and who had no confidence in its leaders, most of whom are now extreme royalists. Their dream seems to have been one of an unlimited democracy in which they should hold the offices.


The Legislature Of 1892

For the purpose of this sketch it is not worth while to give the details of the eight-months' Legislative session of 1892. During the greater part of the session the leaders of the liberal party combined with the reform party, (which lacked a few votes of a majority), to break the power of the palace party, allied as it was, with the powerful opium and lottery rings. Three cabinets in succession were voted out, because they were considered to represent these latter elements, and to be in favor of retaining the marshal.

The lottery bill was introduced into the Legislature Aug. 30, 1892. A secret canvass had previously been made before any discussion of the measure had taken place, and many unthinkingly signed petitions in its favor, who afterwards regretted the act. As soon as the bill was printed, a powerful opposition sprang up against it, and it was shelved, as was supposed, forever.

A bill providing for a Constitutional convention had been killed 'early in the session. After a struggle of four months the Queen temporarily yielded, and appointed a cabinet composed of conservative men of high character, who possessed the confidence of the country; viz., Hons. Geo. Wilcox, Minister of the Interior ; Mark Robinson, Minister of Foreign Affairs ; P. C. Jones, Minister of Finance ; and Cecil Brown, Attorney-General. This cabinet distinctly declared its policy in regard to the lottery bill, as well as to "fiat" paper money and other subjects, but did not choose to act on the "burning question" of the marshalship while the Legislature was in session. Its course on this point, and the fact that the liberal party was not represented in it, so exasperated the leaders of that party that they joined hands with the lottery ring and voted for measures which they had previously denounced on the floor of the house. Near the end of the session, in the absence of six of its opponents, the lottery bill was suddenly brought up, rushed through and passed, to the surprise and horror of the community, undoubtedly by lavish bribery, only one white man voting for it. By the same voters an opium license bill was passed, and the Wilcox ministry was voted out January 12th, two days before the close of the session.

The Queen, by whose personal exertions the last measure had been carried, immediately appointed a new cabinet, three of whom had been members of former rejected cabinets, the fourth being the reputed agent of the lottery ring in purchasing Legislative votes. The liberal party leaders were ignored. The cabinet now consisted of Hons. S. Parker, Minister of Foreign Affairs ; W. Cornwell, Minister of Finance ; Arthur P. Peterson, Attorney-General ; and John Colburn, Minister of the Interior. The lottery and opium license bills were signed without further delay.

The public indignation was intense, but no revolutionary action was yet thought of. The attempted coup d'etat, which was sprung upon the country the next day, took the community by surprise, and found it entirely unprepared. There is reason, however, to believe that the plot had been deeply laid long before, t^ be executed at the close of the Legislative session.

From Liliuokalani's own published statement to Col. Blount, it appears that she drafted a new Constitution in the early part of the year 1892, and in the following October placed it for revision in the hands of A. P. Peterson, who kept it for a month. A week before the close of the session, she asked him to draft a preamble for it. She had also received assurances of support from Messrs. Parker and Cornwell.

The lottery was expected by the Queen to be a source of revenue, which would render her less dependent on loans. It was also expected that the lottery company, being outlawed in the United States, could be relied upon to oppose any movement looking towards annexation.

The passage of that bill, the removal of an upright ministry, and the unsuccessful coup d'etat of the 14th of January, were evidently all parts of one plan to destroy honest constitutional Government in Hawaii.

The story of the revolution which followed will form the subject of a separate paper.

 
     
     
 

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