As was the case in the Philippines, the APA experience in Hawaii developed as a direct consequence of America’s imperial ambitions. American colonists and missionaries gradually usurped power from the Polynesian people native to the Hawaiian Islands who suddenly found their way of life divorced from the economic strength of the country. The new economy in Hawaii centered on the cultivation and refinement of sugar, run by white, non-native businessmen. Native Hawaiians began referring to these Caucasian colonials as haoles, loosely meaning “foreigner” in the Hawaiian language. The plantations, in turn, attracted immigrants from the other side of the Pacific, principally Japanese and Chinese contract laborers. What followed was a fight for power and security among four groups under the shadow of the United States: monarchs, Native Hawaiians, the sugar companies, and immigrants.
The Hawaiian Islands had long been a convenient port of call for American whalers, seal hunters, and traders to China. Since the 1820s, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had sent Protestant missionaries from New England, many of whom eventually settled permanently in Hawaii. The missionaries’ successes led the board to proclaim the islands Christianized and to turn over control of the missions to the locals. American settlers soon turned their energies from missionary work to profiteering and invested heavily in sugar cultivation. Hawaiian monarchs provided favorable land grants. By 1870 these American descendants had become the “Big Five” sugar companies: Ladd & Company, H. Hackfeld & Company, C. Brewer & Company, Castle & Cooke, and Alexander & Baldwin.181
The United States began exercising direct influence over the Hawaiian monarchy with the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. In exchange for exclusive use of Pearl Harbor near Honolulu, Hawaiian sugar would enter U.S. markets under favorable tariff rates. Sugar was suddenly the islands’ premier crop, and revenue more than tripled, from $1.3 million in 1876 to $4.3 million in 1880.182 This economic explosion granted the Big Five enormous leverage, leverage that they parlayed into a political revolution in 1887.
On June 30, 1887, an organization of haole lawyers and sugar planters, accompanied by an armed militia and led by attorneys Sanford B. Dole and Lorrin Thurston, forced King Kalakaua to sign a new constitution radically restructuring the Hawaiian government. The so-called “Bayonet Constitution” sharply restricted the powers of the monarchy and limited suffrage to property owners, which had the effect of disenfranchising most Native Hawaiians. New political parties emerged in the revolution’s wake. Businessmen, missionaries, and planters rallied to the Reform Party while Native Hawaiians who met the voting requirements organized the National Reform Party in opposition.183
The assertion of haole influence changed the career trajectory of a young military student, Robert W. Wilcox. The government recalled Wilcox, a Native Hawaiian, from an exchange program in Italy, and he returned to Honolulu without a promised prestigious military appointment. In frustration, Wilcox turned to the more radical elements of the National Reform Party. Party conspirators plotted to force King Kalakaua’s abdication in favor of his sister, Liliuokalani, who Native Hawaiians believed would show a firmer hand against the haole government. Following a brief self-imposed exile in San Francisco in 1888 in fear of reprisal, Wilcox and his coconspirators moved forward with their plan on July 30, 1889. Relying on his military training, he marched roughly 150 men on Iolani Palace only to find the palace closed and the King spirited away. After hours of being holed up in a nearby bungalow under bombardment from the Royal Guard, Wilcox and his followers surrendered. First charged with treason, they were tried for conspiracy. A Native-Hawaiian jury found the defendants not guilty.184
That fall protectionist Republicans gained control of the U.S. Congress. Hawaiians viewed this development nervously, since the sugar trade with the United States funded three-fourths of the kingdom’s imports and almost all of its exports.185 Their fears proved to be well founded in 1890, when Congress passed the McKinley Tariff, named after its author, House Ways and Means Chairman William McKinley of Ohio. It eliminated all duties on raw sugar, effectively dismantling the special trade status Hawaii had enjoyed since 1875. Hawaiian diplomats raised objections to no avail. Haole officials began discussing the possibility of becoming either an American protectorate or being fully annexed by the United States. Both alternatives provoked opposition from Native Hawaiians.186
Rise of the Republic
The turmoil only increased when King Kalakaua died in January 1891. Queen Liliuokalani took the throne in the throes of an economic depression, determined to restore the power of the monarchy and Native Hawaiians. She surrounded herself with fellow royals, including 19-year-old Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, a ward of King Kalakaua incorporated into the royal line. Known primarily as Kuhio, the young prince took on greater responsibilities when he became one of the queen’s unofficial advisers after her husband died barely seven months into her reign.
Queen Liliuokalani’s first opportunity to consolidate power and reverse the Bayonet Constitution arrived in the 1892 elections. However, Native Hawaiians split between the queen’s National Reform Party and the more radical Liberal Party, which counted Wilcox among its members, while the planters’ Reform Party held a plurality of seats. Liliuokalani desperately sought to appoint and maintain a new government, but the three parties refused to establish a stable partnership. No one party held a majority, leaving the situation, in U.S. Minister John Stevens’s word, “feverish.”187
During this time, anxious planters secretly formed the “Annexation Club” and contacted Stevens to gauge America’s interest in taking on Hawaii as a territory. The club then sent Lorrin Thurston to Washington under the guise of arranging Hawaii’s exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair. He met with Secretary of State James G. Blaine and the chairmen of the House and Senate Foreign Affairs Committees to assess U.S. reactions to a potential rebellion against Liliuokalani. Blaine assured Thurston the United States would welcome any Hawaiian annexation request. The haole planters were not alone in their dissatisfaction, however. Wilcox and other Native Hawaiians from the Liberal Party formed the Equal Rights League, also seeking annexation, abolition of the monarchy, and the democratic empowerment of the Native-Hawaiian people.188
Liliuokalani gave the annexationists the excuse they needed when she ended the 1892 legislative session by attempting to install a new constitution more favorable to Native Hawaiians. The Annexation Club reacted first and swiftly proclaimed itself a “Committee of Safety.” The committee reached out to Minister Stevens and secured a promise of American military aid. With the support of American troops landing in Honolulu, the committee launched its revolution on January 15, 1893. Sanford Dole, who had since ascended to the Hawaiian supreme court and the queen’s privy council, was offered and accepted the presidency of the provisional government. Liliuokalani’s ministers met to discuss the crisis with the resident diplomats who advised them to avoid using force against the rebels. When two of the ministers met with Stevens, he refused to provide any assistance to the government. Working as a clerk at the government building, Prince Kuhio dutifully followed Dole’s orders to send the letters out announcing the end of his own family’s reign. Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s final monarch, surrendered peacefully just after sunset.189
In one of the provisional government’s first actions, Dole petitioned Stevens for American protection in the event of an uprising of Asian laborers and migrants who represented a sizable portion of the islands’ population. U.S. flags flew over public buildings for weeks after the American minister assented to the request. The provisional government declared martial law to maintain order and appointed a delegation, including Lorrin Thurston, to negotiate a treaty of annexation in Washington, DC. The envoys arrived in early February 1893. Negotiations progressed quickly after Hawaiians assured State Department officials that they held no interest in statehood, which would enfranchise the Native-Hawaiian population and potentially interfere with the recruitment of migrant laborers from Japan and China. The treaty was signed on February 14, 1893, and quickly went to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for consideration.190
All hope of immediate annexation evaporated once President Grover Cleveland took office two weeks later. A Democrat wary of angering his base in the Jim Crow South, Cleveland repudiated the protectorate status Stevens had arranged, halted progress on the annexation treaty in the Senate, and arranged for House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman James Blount of Georgia to investigate conditions in Hawaii before moving forward. Blount blasted Stevens’s involvement in the rebellion and predicted the Hawaiian republic would not last long. “The undoubted sentiment of the people is for the Queen,” he wrote, “against the Provisional Government and against annexation.”191
Cleveland’s administration promptly replaced Stevens as the U.S. minister to Hawaii with Albert S. Willis. Willis apologized for the “reprehensible conduct of the American minister and the unauthorized presence on land of a military force of the United States” and urged Liliuokalani to accept amnesty for the members of the committee of safety. The queen, believing the United States had finally come to its senses and would back her return to power, initially insisted “such persons should be beheaded and their property confiscated to the government” before Willis managed to talk her down.192 Willis then met with Dole, who flatly stated the provisional government would only give way to the queen if compelled by force. Dole further insisted erroneously that, by signing the February treaty, the United States had formally recognized Dole’s administration as the legitimate government of the islands.193
With annexation stalled, the provisional government proceeded to draft a constitution. On July 4, 1894, the government declared itself the new Hawaiian republic, but discriminatory policies belied its true nature. Foremost among these was the full disenfranchisement of Native-Hawaiian and Asian laborers. The constitution of 1894 set up a tiered set of qualifications for voters who would elect the new Hawaiian bicameral legislature. Hawaiian house elections required voters to be males at least 20 years old, to speak English or Hawaiian, pay taxes, and hold at least one year’s residency. Hawaiian senate voters had the same requirements, but residency was increased to at least three years and a net property worth of at least $3,000 or an income of $600 was required. The constitution also excluded royalists from the voting rolls, leaving just 2,700 people able to vote in elections. Wilcox briefly worked with the provisional government, but quickly realized the haole bureaucracy held no position for him and returned to the role of agitator.194
In the last days of 1894, Wilcox joined Kuhio and other royalists to plot a counterrevolution that would restore Liliuokalani to the Hawaiian throne. With the deposed monarch’s blessing, the conspirators smuggled arms into Honolulu and launched their revolt in the dusk hours of January 6, 1895. The republic had been informed of their plan, however, and Dole once more declared martial law on the islands. The royalist plot was scuttled within 36 hours after only scattered resistance. By January 10, the rebels had been caught and jailed, including Wilcox and Prince Kuhio.195 Sentences ranged from a year of hard labor for the prince to death for Wilcox. Dole eventually commuted Wilcox’s sentence to hard labor and offered a full pardon in 1898.196
Annexation and Transition
Despite this unrest, the Hawaiian republic continued to lobby for annexation in the hopes of boosting their flagging sugar trade. A path to annexation opened following the presidential election of Ohio Governor William McKinley in 1896. The Republican Party platform specifically called for U.S. control over the Hawaiian Islands. On June 16, 1897, McKinley sent a new treaty to the Senate for approval, but intense protests from the Japanese government shone a spotlight on the heavy presence of Asian contract laborers working Hawaii’s sugar plantations. Progress on the treaty stalled, and the Senate adjourned on July 24 without acting on it. It became apparent that American fear over the ballooning population of Asian laborers on the islands would prove to be the greatest hurdle to Hawaiian annexation.197
Asian immigration to the Hawaiian Islands began in 1852 when the first ship from South China arrived in Honolulu Harbor laden with contract laborers for the sugar plantations. Among the early immigrants from China were relatives of future Senators Daniel K. Akaka and Hiram L. Fong, whose father, Sau Howe Fong, was recruited by a family member working for one of the Big Five sugar companies. The elder Fong’s experience reflected the experiences of many Chinese immigrants in Hawaii. After finishing his contract in 1877, he found work at a fertilizer plant. Initially hired for five years, Chinese immigrants often settled their families in the islands once their contracts ended.198
By the 1880s, the sugar companies began importing Japanese laborers to balance against the growing Chinese population. The families of future Senators Daniel K. Inouye and Spark M. Matsunaga immigrated during this time, initially working the rich sugar fields of Maui. The Japanese government actively encouraged these first-generation Japanese emigrants, or issei, to agree to three-year contracts their government had negotiated with Hawaiian officials and sugar growers. Contrary to the United States and unlike the recruitment of Chinese laborers, Hawaii encouraged Japanese women to emigrate under the belief that family life would cool unrest. While this accomplished the plantations’ desired goals of maintaining stability among the labor force, it led Japanese immigrants to follow the examples of their Chinese predecessors and raise families on the island rather than return to Japan, as both governments had envisioned. New minority communities sprang up as a result and created tightknit blocs of individual ethnic Asian minorities. Because of the importation of cheap Japanese labor, Hawaiian plantations increased production while Japanese emigration companies thrived and reinvigorated the Japanese economy. Roughly 30,000 Japanese contract laborers had poured into Hawaii by 1894.199
Dole’s government attempted to address the influx of Japanese laborers in 1897 when they turned back three ships with more than 1,000 Japanese immigrants aboard. The Japanese government responded by sending its warship Naniwa to Honolulu Harbor, causing the McKinley administration to dispatch the U.S. Navy to Hawaii as well, while U.S. Secretary of State John Sherman mediated the Japanese immigration issue. The increasingly martial Japanese government viewed Hawaiian annexation as an attempt to avoid renegotiating the highly profitable contract labor agreement between the two nations. Japanese diplomats protested to the United States, but Secretary Sherman more or less lied to Japanese diplomats that no annexation was contemplated. “It is the white race against the yellow,” one Honolulu newspaper opined. “Nothing but annexation can save the islands.”200
To that end, the Hawaiian legislature unanimously approved the annexation treaty on September 6, 1897. Later that month, a joint congressional delegation favoring annexation visited Honolulu. Hawaiian royalists presented evidence before the delegation that many Native Hawaiians opposed annexation, which gave the members pause.201 Following another push by President McKinley in his annual message on December 6, Secretary Sherman succeeded in his efforts to remove the Japanese government’s protest to the treaty and provided assurances that Japan would suffer no discrimination from an annexed Hawaii. The Senate launched into debate, and then progress came to a sudden halt when the USS Maine exploded in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, precipitating military conflict between America and Spain.
When the War of 1898 began in late April that year, events moved quickly and brought the Hawaiian Islands to the nation’s attention with a new urgency. The destruction of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay in early May made the Pacific Ocean an important component of the war. Hawaii suddenly became a key way station for the U.S. military as it provided supplies for U.S. troops to capture Manila and to hold the Philippines. The annexation of Hawaii had been revived mere months after its sudden demise.202
Representative Francis Newlands of Nevada introduced H. Res. 259 to annex Hawaii on May 4, 1898, and the House debated the resolution a month later, from June 11 to June 14. Champ Clark of Missouri opposed annexation because, in his view, Native Hawaiians could not become Americans. He dismissed them as “a lot of non-descript Asiatico-Polynesian ignoramuses.” And he ended his speech with a warning about a future he wanted to avoid: “How can we endure our shame when a Chinese Senator from Hawaii, with his pigtail hanging down his back, with his pagan joss in his hand, shall rise from his curule chair and in pigeon [sic] English proceed to chop logic with George Frisbie Hoar or Henry Cabot Lodge? O tempora! O mores!”203
While Champ Clark’s racial prejudices were widely shared, Hawaii’s key position in the Pacific carried the day. “We owe the most solemn duty to reciprocate this friendly spirit,” said Representative John Mitchell of New York, “and see that no possible harm shall come to them by reason of it.”204 When the House debated and voted on Newlands’s resolution on June 15, 1898, it was approved, 290 to 91. Once Congress had decided to annex Hawaii by joint resolution rather than by treaty, Senate passage was certain. The Senate, having considered similar legislation several times over, wasted little time deliberating and approved the resolution, 42 to 21, on July 6. The President signed H. Res. 259 into law the next day.205
The Newlands Resolution authorized an interim government co-managed by the U.S. Army and Hawaiian republic leaders until Congress could set up a more permanent territorial government. Likewise, a commission was set up to recommend to Congress the legislation necessary to govern the islands. It included two Senators and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Hawaiian president Sanford Dole and Hawaiian supreme court justice Walter Frear, both haoles, rounded out the commission. Dole quickly set about persuading Congress to adopt discriminatory portions of the Hawaiian republic’s constitution for the territory. For example, property qualifications were specified for legislators and senate voters, Asian citizens of the republic would not become U.S. citizens, and the territorial governor would appoint territorial judges. But Congress balked, and no territorial bill passed either chamber before the 55th Congress (1897–1899) concluded in early March 1899.206
Congressional indifference in the 56th Congress (1899–1901) allowed Wisconsin Senator John C. Spooner to strip out the property qualifications and insert an independent judiciary in the commission’s bill.207 President McKinley signed the resultant Hawaiian Organic Act into law on April 30, 1900. Like former territorial legislation, the Organic Act set aside the territorial governor, secretary, and judges as presidential appointments subject to Senate confirmation. McKinley obligingly nominated Sanford Dole as Hawaii’s first territorial governor. The bill also created an elected bicameral legislature and provided for the election of a Territorial Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.208 Though appointed officials retained considerable power over local politics, these changes ultimately restored Native Hawaiians as a majority of the electorate.
An extension of U.S. citizenship to all Hawaiian citizens notably excluded Asian laborers, who accounted for nearly 60 percent of the islands’ population. At the time, U.S. law excluded Asian immigrants from becoming naturalized citizens, meaning that only those children born to Asian immigrants after annexation would gain citizenship. The act further required island-born Asians to produce a Hawaiian birth certificate before traveling to the U.S. mainland, but immigration officials implemented this section of the act by further requiring a creditable witness who had “seen the claimant at various times during his life.”209
Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians asserted their renewed political power. The Organic Act went into effect in June 1900 and provided just enough time to hold the election for the first Territorial Delegate. While haoles adopted the political parties of their new nation, Native Hawaiians merged two patriotic leagues into the Hawaiian Independent Party (HIP) and demanded “Hawai‘i for the Hawaiians” and “Equal Rights for the People.” Robert Wilcox headed the HIP ticket. Wilcox distanced himself from the anti-haole tactics of the HIP’s radical wing, and the party changed its name to Home Rule. When Democrats nominated Kuhio’s older brother, David Kawananakoa, rumors swirled that Wilcox might withdraw his candidacy to avoid splitting the Native-Hawaiian vote. Unnerved, Wilcox hardened his rhetoric and lashed out at the haoles who had oppressed Native Hawaiians. He vowed to work toward the removal of Dole as territorial governor and staged rallies to highlight haoles imperialism.210 Wilcox’s demagoguery bore fruit, and on November 6, 1900, he captured a narrow plurality of the votes to become Hawaii’s first Delegate to Congress.
Creating a Legal Identity
Of the 10 Hawaiian Delegates to the U.S. Congress who served between 1900 and 1959, half were Native Hawaiian: Robert Wilcox, Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole, William P. Jarrett, Victor S. (Kaleoaloha) Houston, and Samuel Wilder King. Together, these Delegates represented the islands in Congress for more than two-thirds of the period between annexation and statehood. These Native Hawaiians represented three different parties but wrestled with similar insular concerns. Arriving in Washington, most struggled to adjust to life on the mainland, and all faced congressional colleagues who knew little about the Hawaiian Islands. Granted floor privileges and the ability to introduce legislation, Hawaiian Delegates were nevertheless left without a vote and had to rely on personal relationships and lobbying efforts to cajole Congress into providing aid for the territory.
Robert Wilcox made a rough start of Hawaii’s early congressional efforts when he failed to stir much sympathy in Washington, DC. During his tenure as a member of the Home Rule Party, he was unable to caucus with either Republicans or Democrats. He wound up on the Private Land Claims and Coinage, Weights, and Measures Committees; neither were plum assignments. Additionally, his anti-haole campaign and unsteady English hindered his effectiveness.211
When Prince Kuhio returned from an extended wedding honeymoon in 1901, he threw himself into Home Rule politics. However, the prince never felt entirely comfortable with the party’s anti-haoles rhetoric or Wilcox’s tightfisted control. After a disastrous party convention resulted in a walkout of half of the Home Rule delegates, Kuhio entertained Republican outreach. Former Nebraska Senator John M. Thurston nudged Kuhio to the Republican Party with a line at the state convention: “You might as well send a frog to chipper at the doors of the Court of St. James for what you want as to send to Washington a Delegate who is not one of or in harmony with either of the two great political parties.”212 Kuhio’s compromise with Republican business interests proved to be successful; he defeated Wilcox in the 1902 election and became Hawaii’s second Delegate. Wilcox’s Home Rule Party did not long survive his troubled House career, and Native Hawaiians quickly split between Republicans and Democrats.
In many ways, Kuhio set the tone for Hawaiian Delegates. He sought to correct congressional misconceptions about the islands through both formal and informal means. Like Wilcox, the prince made few floor speeches and did most of his work in committees, frequently testifying at length. Unlike Wilcox, Kuhio maintained far more confidence among his peers after years spent as an equal in foreign courts. Kuhio’s successors continued this trend and acted more often as ambassadors than empowered legislators.
Kuhio quickly learned the depth of Members’ ignorance regarding the islands while attempting to secure funding to repair lighthouses in the territory. Bounced back and forth between the territorial lighthouse board, the Navy Department, the Appropriations Committee, and Speaker Joe Cannon, Kuhio discovered belatedly that some officials incorrectly believed that Hawaii was ineligible for federal funds.213
After the prince’s eye-opening experience with the lighthouse board in late 1903, Kuhio took a new approach to educating his colleagues about Hawaii. He embraced his home’s reputation as an exotic paradise among the Capitol Hill elite and sought to use that curiosity to his advantage. Kuhio and his wife purchased property near Pershing Square in the District of Columbia and transformed it into a social hotspot. Officials gambled, drank, and enjoyed dinner parties while Kuhio pontificated on the splendor and importance of the islands.214
The prince extended his educational campaign to sponsored tours of the islands beginning in 1907. These semiannual excursions often attracted funding from Hawaiian businesses and the territorial legislature itself. Members brought their families and enjoyed the full hospitality of the islands. These tours generally led to increased attention to Hawaiian needs back in Washington, DC. “I do not hesitate to say that I believe that the American congress will do a great deal for you this next session,” Representative William Wilson of Illinois wrote to Kuhio after the 1915 tour. “I think you will find that the trip was of great benefit to you in that respect, as it was to us in every way.”215
Kuhio’s successors faced similar misapprehensions about Hawaii’s status under the Organic Act. In the 71st Congress (1929–1931), Victor Houston struggled to extend provisions for federal highways that the Bureau of Public Roads had withheld for eight years because the territory had not been explicitly mentioned in the law.216 William Jarrett wrestled with the strictures of the Organic Act throughout his tenure. He repeatedly testified before committees that, under the act, the territorial legislature required congressional approval to fund even basic governmental services like housing assistance and park management.217 Samuel Wilder King continued to malign the act’s obstruction in 1940 when Congress failed to approve reapportionment on the islands, leaving the territorial legislature under the control of Oahu’s more cosmopolitan delegates.218 Houston and King benefited from military contacts gained during their service in the U.S. Navy, and King in particular leaned on them to open wider avenues for lobbying in DC.219
Delegates continued to do much of their work in committees. The five Native-Hawaiian Delegates served on 13 standing committees, and all but Wilcox shared four in common: Agriculture, Military Affairs, Post Office and Post Roads, and Territories. These assignments represented the primary areas of concern for Hawaii. Jarrett, Houston, and King also served on the Committee on Public Lands, which gained much greater importance after Kuhio’s signature piece of legislation, the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, creating a homesteading program for Native Hawaiians on 200,000 acres of the former royal holdings. Delegates relied on these committee assignments to protect Hawaiian sugar, increase funding for military installations, improve infrastructure, and defend the rights of Hawaii’s territorial government.
Early Hawaiian Delegates like Wilcox and Kuhio faced much greater political pressure on the islands. Both traveled to and from the mainland frequently in order to shore up support in a still uncertain political environment. Their greatest concerns were filling in the gaps the Organic Act had left behind. Wilcox clarified the terms of territorial senators and sought to transfer to the federal government the administrative responsibility for a community on the island of Molokai where people living with leprosy had been quarantined, a decision that likely cost him his seat after a visiting Congressman implied the United States would seek to relocate the residents upon taking control. In contrast, Kuhio drew federal attention to what had inspired annexation in the first place: the strategic position of the islands in the Pacific. He brought jobs and federal money to Hawaii to expand U.S. military resources. As a Republican, the prince also prioritized the economic concerns of his party’s wealthy haole elites, most notably shipping concerns and protection of the sugar industry. Hawaii had been incorporated with the clear eventual goal of statehood, but Hawaiian businesses led by the Big Five and political elites were far more concerned with solidifying the status quo in the territory’s early years.220
Where Kuhio began to diverge from his Republican bosses was in the “rehabilitation” of the Native-Hawaiian people. After years of haole control over nearly all facets of life during the republic, the economic strength of Native Hawaiians had waned considerably.221 A homesteading program had been in the minds of Hawaiians since before the Organic Act. Wilcox had championed a similar program that aimed to benefit all Hawaiians, though that bill ultimately went nowhere. When Kuhio introduced the Hawaiian Rehabilitation Bill in April 1920, he presented it in testimony as “the first opportunity given to a poor man.” Kuhio’s version of homesteading was intended as a solution to what he saw as his people’s decline.222
Kuhio intended to use the former Hawaiian Crown lands for this new homesteading program quickly renamed the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. The Crown lands had long been a preoccupation of Kuhio. Until her death in 1917, Queen Liliuokalani pressured Kuhio to help her reacquire the lands ceded first to the republic and then to the American government. The prince dutifully made requests, but Congress and the territorial legislature held the lands under leases until 1920 and continually denied the claims. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act took advantage of the leases’ expirations to set aside 200,000 acres for 99-year leases to homesteaders who qualified as at least half Native Hawaiian. The bill, as passed, had many flaws. Successful lobbying by the Big Five ensured that the best lands were retained for sugar plantations, and the arbitrary nature of the Native-Hawaiian requirement meant that new generations often had trouble holding on to their family’s land.223
The power of the sugar industry loomed large over the territory’s politics. The mere threat of tariff reform effectively ended the career of Hawaii’s first Democratic Delegate, William Jarrett. By that time, Republicans had controlled the House of Representatives since 1919 with no sign of waning. Mainland interests itched to strengthen tariffs, a hallmark of the Republican platform, in order to protect American crops and products. As a Democrat, Jarrett did not devote much effort to maintaining the Big Five’s unique place in the American economy. Well liked, but politically inexperienced, Jarrett found himself a victim of this blind spot in 1926 when Republicans ran Victor Houston, another political newcomer, against him. Only a Republican, the party insisted, could properly preserve the islands’ economic interests in the face of certain tariff legislation.224
Republicans spent a great deal of time attending to the concerns of the sugar industry, particularly the constant labor shortages. By 1900 the Japanese population on the islands was roughly 60,000; 40,000 more arrived in the seven years after annexation. A significant number of these immigrants were women, which led to more permanent issei settlement in Hawaii. Planters faced with the abolition of the contract labor system after annexation encouraged family emigration to keep laborers living and working on the plantations. This new system culminated in the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1907 between the United States and Japan, in which Japan restricted emigration to the United States, but retained a loophole for the immediate relatives of immigrants already living there. The loophole resulted in more female and family migration and crystalized the permanent settlement of Japanese laborers in Hawaii.225
Native Hawaiians like Kuhio openly derided the Japanese population as “un-Americanizing the territory.” Some of this unease developed due to Japan’s rapid militarization and its tendency to engage in gunboat diplomacy. With the United States seemingly uninterested in building a Pacific defense on the foundation provided in the wake of the Spanish-American War, Hawaiians worried about Japan and the numerous emigrants the nation sent to the islands. Native Hawaiians and haoles alike feared the Asian majority likely to arise when the second generation of laborers, entitled to citizenship by birth after annexation, at last gained the vote. Kuhio responded to these fears by combating U.S. objections to importing Chinese immigrants whom the prince viewed much more favorably. The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act also prevented Japanese people from working on federal construction projects. The efforts of Hawaiian politicians paralleled what was occurring on the mainland, which led to complete Japanese exclusion in the Immigration Act of 1924.226
The immigration debate hardly ended there. Faced with a prohibition on Japanese immigration, Hawaiian planters once more had to seek other sources for their labor needs, which they found in another American possession: the Philippines. But not even this American territory was immune to the widespread concerns over Asian immigration, and in 1930 Delegate Victor Houston was forced to testify before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization to retain a loophole for Hawaii against any immigration restrictions on Filipinos. It was not Houston who won the loophole, however, but the powerful sugar lobby that had co-opted Kuhio’s homesteading legislation. In his defense of that loophole, Houston offered rousing testimony about the multicultural society on the islands, calling them “a real melting-pot” that “is working and may possibly serve as an example to the rest of the world.”227
Indeed, despite simmering racial tension on the islands, Hawaii’s racial conflicts were typically rather muted in comparison to conditions on the mainland. Asian labor was vital to the territory’s key industry, and many Japanese and Chinese immigrants actively invited and encouraged assimilation to American cultural norms. Many converted to Christianity, and second generations moved on from the sugar plantations to more industrial and professional careers. The Pan-Pacific Union (formerly Hands Around the Pacific) arose to represent Asian laborers and address racial concerns on the islands.228 These concerns took on a new and dangerous form beginning in 1931 in response to an explosive legal case that threatened not only racial violence, but the territory’s very sovereignty.
The Massie Affair and the Jones–Costigan Act
On the night of September 21, 1931, a white woman named Thalia Massie, the wife of U.S. Navy Lieutenant Thomas Massie, was attacked after leaving a party alone. Badly beaten—her jaw had been broken—she told police that a gang of “local boys” had forced her into their car, driven to a field, and there had beaten and raped her. Honolulu police charged five young men—two Japanese, two Native Hawaiians, and one Chinese Hawaiian—after Thalia Massie identified four of the men as her attackers. A sensationalized trial followed in which stories headlined on the mainland constantly shifted and evidence remained sparse. The jury, largely made up of Native Hawaiians and Asian Americans, was unable to come to a verdict. A mistrial was declared in early December.229
The trial’s outcome infuriated haole and military families on the islands. The lurid accusations of the trial put Hawaii under a microscope. One of the suspects was abducted and beaten by sailors days after the trial ended. Events escalated further when Honolulu police stopped a car carrying Lieutenant Massie, his mother-in-law, and two sailors on January 8, 1932. They had abducted and murdered one of the suspects and were on their way to toss the body into the sea. Famed attorney Clarence Darrow defended Lieutenant Massie and his coconspirators at trial, but the court adjudged all four guilty of manslaughter and sentenced them to 10 years of hard labor. Fearing an uproar from the mainland, Delegate Houston urged territorial Governor Lawrence Judd to pardon the perpetrators. Judd obliged and commuted their sentences to a single hour spent in his office, at the conclusion of which the defendants fled Hawaii and the case ended. Houston’s involvement cost him the following election when Democratic opponent Lincoln McCandless portrayed his action as meddling and “an act of treachery to the Hawaiian race.”230
The combined series of events prompted a violent storm of emotion and denunciation from Hawaiians, the mainland press, the Navy, and—most ominously—the U.S. Congress. Many on Capitol Hill now pictured Hawaii through this racialized lens, concerned that the territorial government remained helpless to protect white inhabitants. More than one Representative responded by proposing territorial reorganization, and a Senate resolution (S. Res. 134) requested a Justice Department investigation of the islands’ law enforcement efforts. In the resultant hearing, the Justice Department suggested an end to the residence requirement for appointed officials in Hawaii. No immediate change was forthcoming, but the issue did not go away.231
Upon entering office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt requested the residence requirement be lifted for the territorial governor, and Representative John Rankin of Mississippi, who opposed statehood for Hawaii, immediately introduced a bill (H.R. 5767) to that effect. Hawaiians panicked when the Rankin bill passed the House in early June. Governor Judd appointed a three member Home Rule Commission to lobby against the bill in Washington. Notable among them was former naval officer Samuel Wilder King. Rankin’s bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate after a protracted filibuster. The callous,offhand manner in which Hawaiian politics were treated convinced King that the territory must seek statehood, and he pursued the Delegate seat in 1934 with that idea as his platform.232
The final major obstacle to a unified Hawaiian approach to statehood—the Big Five sugar companies—was removed after passage of the Jones–Costigan Act (H.R. 8861) of 1934. In the depths of the Great Depression and under immense pressure from mainland agricultural lobbies, Congress greatly reduced sugar quotas for Hawaii relative to the states. The issue became compounded when the Agriculture Department used outdated figures to set Hawaii’s quota lower than it would have otherwise been. The new quota had an almost immediate effect. Sugar production in the islands dropped by 8 to 10 percent and farmers abandoned thousands of acres of fields. Perhaps more worrisome for the future of the territory, the Jones–Costigan Act set a troubling precedent by classifying Hawaii as a “foreign” market for the purpose of future reductions.233 The Big Five’s lobbying arm, the Hawaiian Sugar Planters’ Association (HSPA), alleged unconstitutionality and unsuccessfully challenged the legislation in court. The Big Five had long relied on this lobbying network and often bypassed the elected Delegate whenever he proved to be inconvenient. After Jones–Costigan, the HSPA met and agreed that only statehood could guarantee equal economic privileges.234
Hawaiian Statehood: Gradually, Then Suddenly
Though the Organic Act had originally been intended to place Hawaii on a path to eventual statehood, few people in positions of power actively sought to speed that process along in the early days of the territory. For the most part, Hawaiians remained content for more than 30 years to work within the political structure provided. Territorial Governor Sanford Dole paid lip service to statehood in his 1900 inaugural address. The territorial legislature passed resolutions between 1903 and 1917 requesting permission from Congress to hold a constitutional convention, but these proposals had neither the backing of the powerful sugar industry nor the enthusiasm of a majority of the voting population. While both of the territory’s political parties included statehood in their platforms, neither party advocated for it immediately.235
Delegate Kuhio promised to offer legislation for statehood as early as 1910 but did not put forward the first statehood proposal until 1919. It received no support from the HSPA and quietly died in the Committee on Territories. In 1927, when asked about statehood, Sanford Dole’s longtime ally, Honolulu Advertiser publisher Lorrin Thurston, responded, “Hawaii needs statehood as much as a cat needs two tails.” Victor Houston appeared to genuinely support statehood when he proposed it in 1931, but his bill drowned amid the deluge of bad press surrounding the Massie affair. When Houston offered his bill on December 9, 1931, three days after the mistrial in the Massie case, Congress had practically ruled out statehood.236
Only after the twin crises of the Massie affair and the Jones–Costigan Act did the territory galvanize behind the statehood movement. Fresh from his lobbying efforts against the Rankin bill, Samuel Wilder King successfully campaigned for Delegate on a platform of achieving statehood for the islands. Later, as Delegate, he openly discussed his wish to one day become the state of Hawaii’s first governor. King included a petition for statehood among his first bills in 1935. This bill differed from previous efforts by having the full monetary and lobbying support of the HSPA. Congress took note, and that autumn a subcommittee from the Committee on Territories held public hearings across the islands. Representatives of the Big Five readily admitted before the committee that their change of heart rested upon economic concerns. Much of the testimony compared Hawaii favorably in terms relative to states already in the Union, citing the territory’s economy, size, population, and tax contribution. President Roosevelt, who had visited the territory in 1934, announced his opposition to statehood just as the hearings got under way. The committee ultimately agreed to forego further action.237
King immediately reintroduced his statehood bill in the 75th Congress (1937–1939). In addition, he worked with Senator Tydings to form a high profile Joint Committee on Hawaii to more comprehensively study the territory’s fitness for statehood.238 The territorial legislature appropriated $20,000 for Hawaii’s Equal Rights Commission (a statehood group created by the territorial legislature in 1935) to prepare for the hearings. Though supporters of statehood again rushed to plead their case before the joint committee, opponents voiced their own concerns. Native-Hawaiian dissenters were particularly worried that statehood would only allow further centralization of power under the Big Five. Most arguments against Hawaiian statehood, however, pointed to the large Asian population on the islands that opponents insisted could never be “truly thoroughly, fundamentally, and unequivocally American,” especially given their suspect loyalties, insular communities, and tendencies to vote in a bloc.239
The joint committee did not offer statehood proponents their desired result. Representative Rankin, now the leading opponent of Hawaiian statehood, led the minority’s report in recommending that statehood be postponed indefinitely in light of the islands’ Japanese population and the increasing military aggression of Japan on display in the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War. The official report agreed that some postponement was necessary and cited “the present disturbed condition of international affairs” in Asia as a major reason that caution was necessary.240
Additionally, the Joint Committee on Hawaii determined that Congress could not act further on statehood until “the sentiment of the people” could be established.241 King pressed the territorial legislature for a plebiscite on statehood, which it authorized in 1939 for the following November. The legislature then placed the Equal Rights Commission, in coordination with the HSPA, in charge of the statehood campaign. Taking Congress’s fears over Japan into consideration, the commission changed its campaign from immediate statehood to eventual statehood. The question “Do you favor statehood for Hawaii?” was vaguely worded and allowed for equivocation, much to King’s dismay. A Japanese diplomat sowed further unrest by characterizing Hawaiian Japanese as “all determined to undergo great sacrifices for Japan during the present uneasy condition.” Just before the plebiscite King denounced as un-American any opposition due to prejudice against Japanese Americans.242
The plebiscite passed with 67 percent of voters favoring statehood, far from the resounding 80 percent King and other statehood proponents had hoped for and predicted. Furthermore, the vague wording and shifting campaign of the Equal Rights Commission meant that little could be done with the result.243 King did what he could to address concerns of Japanese citizenship: passing a bill to naturalize all women born prior to Hawaiian annexation.
The next step toward statehood came into focus following a handful of nationwide surveys conducted during this period. Fortune magazine found in 1939 that “fewer people in the U.S. were willing to go to war to defend the Hawaiian Islands … than Canada,” and a 1941 Gallup poll reported 48 percent of Americans favored statehood for Hawaii. For statehood advocates, these results suggested that the American people needed to become better educated on Hawaiian issues.244
Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, put all concerns of statehood on hold. The islands fell under martial law. King ceased agitating for statehood and instead spent much of his time traveling back and forth between Hawaii and Washington, DC. He defended the rights of Japanese Americans in the territory and urged restraint for the military government.245 In Hawaii, many Asian Americans put politics on hold to enlist in the war effort and combat anti-Asian sentiment. Future Senator Hiram Fong, a Chinese American who had won election to the territorial legislature in 1938, forfeited his candidacy for re-election in early 1942 to serve in the U.S. Army Air Force as a judge advocate.246 Delegate King likewise abandoned his plans to campaign for a fifth term and rejoined the U.S. Naval Reserve as a lieutenant commander. “I cannot remain in civil life when the training I received as a naval officer may better serve our country’s present needs in active service,” King declared in a radio address to the island.247
Following the conclusion of World War II, King returned to his advocacy of statehood. He served as president of the constitutional convention in 1950, and in 1953 he secured President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s appointment to the territorial governorship. Hawaii had changed considerably after World War II, however, and King found himself a Republican governor dealing with a highly contentious Democratic territorial legislature. The Democratic revolution of 1954 swept into politics the generation of nisei (the American-born children of Japanese immigrants) like Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga, veterans fresh from GI Bill–funded educations and eager to exert their political influence. In fact, Japanese Americans controlled half the seats in the legislature.248 King’s struggles with the legislature ended with his resignation in 1957. He died two years later, barely five months before Hawaii finally attained statehood in August 1959.
181H. Brett Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory, 1898–1959 (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1999): 4–5.
182Herring, From Colony to Superpower: 262; Campbell, Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 69–70.
183Gavan Daws, Shoal of Time: A History of the Hawaiian Islands (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1968): 261–262.
184Ernest Andrade Jr., Unconquerable Rebel: Robert W. Wilcox and Hawaiian Politics (Niwot: University Press of Colorado): 55–63; Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 62; Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory: 6.
185Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 35.
186Ibid., 45–46; Daws, Shoal of Time: 261.
187Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 180.
188Herring, From Colony to Superpower: 297; Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 181–182; Helena G. Allen, Sanford Ballard Dole: Hawaii’s Only President, 1844–1926 (Glendale, AZ: Arthur H. Clark Company, 1988): 182; Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: 107.
189Daws, Shoal of Time: 272–275; Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 184–185; Allen, Sanford Ballard Dole: 190.
190Daws, Shoal of Time: 276–277; Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 186–187; Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 20.
191Roger Bell, Last Among Equals: Hawaiian Statehood and American Politics (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1984): 27; Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 186–187.
192Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 188–189.
193Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 21; Daws, Shoal of Time: 279.
194Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory: 25; Bell, Last Among Equals: 29; Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: 125–27.
195Lori Kamae, The Empty Throne: A Biography of Hawaii’s Prince Cupid (Honolulu, HI: TopGallant Publishing, 1980): 80–87; Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: 150–161.
196“Robert W. Wilcox,” Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, 1774–Present, http://bioguide. congress.gov/scripts/biodisplay.pl?index=W000459; A. P. Taylor (Librarian of the Archives of Hawaii), “Biographical Sketch of Robert William Wilcox,” Box 174, Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress Research Collection, Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives.
197Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 37; Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 230–232.
198Tin-Yuke Char and Wai Jane Char, “The First Chinese Contract Laborers in Hawaii, 1852,” Hawaiian Journal of History 9 (1975): 128–134; Michaelyn Pi-Hsia Chou, “The Education of a Senator: Hiram L. Fong from 1906 to 1954” (PhD diss., University of Hawaii, 1980): 50–51.
199Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: 24–26, 45; Ichioka, The Issei: 40, 48.
200Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 232–234; quotation in Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 38.
201Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 235.
203Daws, Shoal of Time: 290.
204Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 290–291.
205Bell, Last Among Equals: 34; Campbell, The Transformation of American Foreign Relations: 294; 30 Stat. 750 (1898).
206William Adam Russ Jr., The Hawaiian Republic (1894–1898) And Its Struggle to Win Annexation (Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna Press, 1961): 370; Ralph S. Kuykendall and A. Grove Day, Hawaii: A History, From Polynesian Kingdom to American State, rev. ed. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1961): 194–195.
207Dorothy Ganfield Fowler, John Coit Spooner: Defender of Presidents (New York: University Publishers, 1961): 241–243.
208Pratt, America’s Colonial Experiment: 181–182; Bell, Last Among Equals: 41; Stathis, Landmark Legislation: 149; Hawaiian Organic Act, 31 Stat. 141 (1900).
209Bell, Last Among Equals: 39; quotation in Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory: 200.
210Tom Coffman, The Island Edge of America (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2003): 9; Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: 194–196.
211Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: 230–232.
213Kamae, The Empty Throne: 114–115.
214Ibid., 112, 122; Barbara Bennett Peterson, “Kuhio,” American National Biography, vol. 12 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999): 944.
215Kamae, The Empty Throne: 128, 158; Roderick Matheson, Congressional Visit to Hawaii: 1915 (Honolulu: Advertiser Press, 1915): 3–14.
216Hearings before the House Committee on the Territories, Payment to Hawaii of Federal Road Funds, 71st Cong., 3rd sess. (20, 22 January 1931): 1–20.
217Hearing before the House Committee on the Territories, Land Patents, Territory of Hawaii, 68th Cong., 1st sess. (31 March 1924): 2; House Committee on Public Lands, To Repeal the First Proviso of Section 4 of an Act to Establish a National Park in the Territory of Hawaii, 68th Cong., 1st sess., H. Rept. 442 (1924): 1–2.
218Congressional Record, Appendix, 76th Cong., 2nd sess. (2 April 1940): 1816–1821.
219“Samuel W. King to Arrive Soon From Hawaii,” 1 December 1934, Washington Post: 13.
220Andrade, Unconquerable Rebel: 226; Bell, Last Among Equals: 44–45.
221Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory: 143–144; Daws, Shoal of Time: 296–297.
222H.R. 3090, 57th Cong. (1901); Hearing before the Senate Committee on Territories, Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, 66th Cong., 3rd sess. (14 December 1920): 128.
223Kamae, The Empty Throne: 129–130, 197; Daws, Shoal of Time: 297–299.
224“Hawaii Goes Republican,” 29 November 1929, Christian Science Monitor: 13; Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory: 51.
225Daws, Shoal of Time: 304; Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: 46, 50; Ichioka, The Issei: 71–72.
226Hearing before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Labor Problems in Hawaii, 67th Cong., 1st sess. (7 July 1921): 448, 451–453; Hearing before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Relative to Chinese Immigration into Hawaii, 65th Cong., 2nd sess. (17 January 1918): 1–3, 48–49; Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, Public Law 67-34, 42 Stat. 108 (1921); Coffman, The Island Edge of America: 32.
227Hearings before the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Exclusion of Immigration from the Philippine Islands, 71st Cong., 2nd sess. (10–12 April, 7–8 May 1930): 238–248, quotation on p. 245; Bell, Last Among Equals: 56.
228Coffman, The Island Edge of America: 33–36; Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: 169–179.
229John S. Whitehead, Completing the Union: Alaska, Hawai‘i, and the Battle for Statehood (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2004): 21–22; Daws, Shoal of Time: 323.
230Russell Owen, “Judd Frees All in Massie Case,” 5 May 1932, Boston Globe: 1; Whitehead, Completing the Union: 23; Daws, Shoal of Time: 323–328; quotation in “Democrats Sweep Hawaiian Elections,” 10 November 1932, New York Times: 13.
231Kuykendall and Day, Hawaii: A History: 221–222; Daws, Shoal of Time: 330; Whitehead, Completing the Union: 26.
232Bell, Last Among Equals: 58–60.
233Melendy, Hawaii: America’s Sugar Territory: 224–225; Daws, Shoal of Time: 332.
234Bell, Last Among Equals: 60–61.
235Ibid., 44–45, 56–57; Daws, Shoal of Time: 333.
236“Hawaii Would Enter Union,” 9 July 1910, New York Times: 1; Bell, Last Among Equals: 45; quotation in Whitehead, Completing the Union: 28; Daws, Shoal of Time: 333.
237Ibid., 333–334; Bell, Last Among Equals: 62–64; Whitehead, Completing the Union: 30.
238Congressional Record, House, 75th Cong., 1st sess. (21 August 1937): 9624–9627.
239Bell, Last Among Equals: 64–65.
241Edward C. Krauss, “Statehood for Hawaii?,” 20 March 1938, Los Angeles Times: A4.
242Whitehead, Completing the Union: 30; Bell, Last Among Equals: 67–72.
243Bell, Last Among Equals: 73–74.
244Public Law 76-694, 54 Stat. 707 (1940); Whitehead, Completing the Union: 15.
245Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: 383.
246Chou, “The Education of a Senator: Hiram L. Fong from 1906 to 1954”: 409–417, 429–443.
247Congressional Record, Appendix, 77th Cong., 2nd sess. (29 October 1942): A3845; “King, Hawaii Delegate, Won’t Seek Reelection,” 9 October 1942, Washington Post: B17.
248Daws, Shoal of Time: 380.