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Many Thousands of Native Hawaiians Sign a Protest to the United States Government Against Annexation

The San Francisco Call
Thursday Morning, September 30, 1897

By Miriam Michelson

On Board Steamship Australia

Sept. 22, 1897

Now that the Australia has sailed away out of Honolulu, that wonderfully deep rainbow-colored curve of sea and sphere and sky-and all that one can see on the horizon is a dim, low cloud, which grows dimmer and dimmer-the memory of the islands is like a dream.

Those great mountains, veiled in tenderest green from cloud tipped summit to the oceans emerald edge below, the silver waterfalls tumbling from on high down into the darker blue of the deeper sea, the extravagance of foliage and of flowers, the glory of sunshine on the lava created hills and the benediction of shade in the dusky, wide ravines, beyond which rises mountain after mountain-it is all like a wonderful transformation scene, where splendor follows splendor till one is satiated with loveliness.

"Where every prospect pleases and only man is vile."

Quoted the distinguished Congressman who stood behind me on the Australia's deck.

I don't know that the distinguished gentleman alluded particularly to the Hawaiian Islander, or that mentally he made any distinction between white and brown. But his quotation is particularly apt in the present instance.For here in Hawai'i, the best beloved, the most richly endowed of all Mother natures beautiful family, the old, old struggle for Anglo-Saxon supremacy is going on.

The centuries-old tragedy is being repeated upon a stage small comparatively, but with a perfection of gorgeous setting and characters whose classical simplicity gives strength to the impersonation. The only new phase in the old drama is that this time a republic is masquerading in the despots role. The United States, founded upon the belief that a just government can exist only by the consent of the governed, is calmly making up for the bloody fifth act - preparing to take a nation's life with all the complacent assurance of an old time stage villain.

For Hawaii has not asked for annexation. There are 100,000 people on the islands. Of these not 3 percent have declared for annexation. To the natives the loss of nationality is hateful, aberrant.

It is the old battle- the white man against the brown; might against right; strength against weakness; power and intellect and art against docility, inertia and simplicity.

And the result?

"I tell the natives that work for me," said a man suffering from an acute attack of annexation mania to me, "you might as well walk out into the sea and attempt to push out the incoming waves with your two uplifted hands as to try to prevent what's coming."

"It's purely a question of conquest, I admit," he went on. "We are stronger and we'll win. It's a survival of the fittest."

* * *

The strongest memory I have of the islands is connected with the hall of the Salvation Army at Hilo, on the island of Hawai'i. It's a crude little place, which holds about 300 people, I should think. The rough, uncovered rafters show above, and the bare walls are relieved only by Scripture admonitions in English and Hawaiian:

"Boast not thy self of to-morrow."

"Without Christ there is no salvation."

As I entered, the bell on the foreign church, up on one of the beautiful Hilo hills, was striking ten. The place was packed with natives, and outside stood a patient crowd unable to enter. It was a women's meeting, but there were many men present. The women were dressed in Mother Hubbards of calico or cloth and wore sailors hats - white or black. The men were in coats and trousers of American make.

Presently, the crowd parted and two women walked in, both very tall, dressed in handsome flowing trained gowns of black crepe and braided in black. They wore black kid gloves and large hats of black straw with black feathers. The taller of the two - a very queen in dignity and repose - wore nodding red roses in her hat , and about her neck and falling to the waist a long, thick necklace of closely strung, deep red, coral-like, flowers, with delicate ferns interspersed.

This was Mrs. Kuaihelani Campbell, the president of the Women's Hawaiian Patriotic League. Her companion was the secretary of the branch at Hilo.

It was almost pitiful to note the reception of these two leaders - the dumb, almost adoring fondness in the women's eyes; the absorbed, close interest in the men's dark heavy faces.

After the enthusiasm had subsided the minister of the Hawaiian church arose. He is tall, blonde, fair-faced, three-quarters white, as they say here. Clasping his hands in front and looking down over the bowed dark heads before him he made the short opening prayer. He held himself well, his sentences were short and his manner was simple.

There is something wonderfully effective in earnest prayer delivered in an ancient language with which one is unfamiliar. One hears not words, but hopes. His feelings, not his reason, are appealed to. Freed of the limiting effects of stereotyped phrases the imagination supplies the sense. Like the Hebrew and the Latin the Hawaiian tongue seems to touch the primitive source of one's nature, to strip away the complicated armor with which civilization and worldliness have clothed us and to leave the emotions bare for that wonderful instrument, a man's deep voice, to play upon.

The minister closed and a deep murmuring "Amen" from the people followed.

I watched Mrs. Emma Nawahi as she arose to address the people. I have never heard two women talk in public in quite the same way. Would this Hawaiian women be embarrassed or timid, or self-conscious or assertive?

Not any of these. Her manner had the simple directness that made Charlotte Perkins Stetson, two years ago, the most interesting speaker of the Women's congress. But Mrs. Stetson's pose is the most artistic of poses - a pretense of simplicity. This Hawaiian woman's thoughts were of her subjects, not of herself. There was an interesting impersonality about her delivery that kept my eyes fastened upon her while the interpreter at my side whispered his translation in short, detached phrases, hesitating now and then for a word, sometimes completing the thought with a gesture."

"We are weak a people, we Hawaiians, and have no power unless we stand together." read Mrs. Nawahi frequently raising her eyes from her paper and at times altogether forgetting it.

"The United States is just - a land of liberty. The people there are the friends - the great friends of the weak. Let us tell them - let us show them that as they love their country and would suffer much before giving it up, so do we love our country, our Hawai'i, and pray that they do not take it from us.

"Our one hope is in standing firm - shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart. The voice of the people is the voice of God. Surely that great country across the ocean must hear our cry. By uniting our voices the sound will be carried on so they must hear us.

"In this petition, which we offer for your signature today, you, women of Hawai'i, have a chance to speak your mind. The men's petition will be sent on by the men's club as soon as the loyal men of Honolulu have signed it. There is nothing underhand, nothing deceitful in our way - our only way - of fighting. Everybody will see and may know of our petition. We have nothing to conceal. We have right on our side. This land is ours -- our Hawai'i. Say, shall we lose our nationality? Shall we be annexed to the United States?

"'A'ole loa. 'A'ole loa."

It didn't require the interpreter's word to make me understand the response. One could read negation, determination in every intent, dark face.

"Never!" they say, "the man beside me muttered. "Never!" they say, "No! No!" They say...

But the presiding officer, a woman, was introducing Mrs. Campbell to the people. Her large mouth parted in a pleased smile as the men and women stamped and shouted. She spoke only a few words, good naturedly, hopefully. Once it seemed as though she were taking them all in her confidence, so sincere and soft was her voice as she leaned forward.

"Stand firm, my friends. Love of country means more to you and to me than anything else. Be brave; be strong. Have courage and patience. Our time will come. Sign this petition -- those of you who love Hawai'i. How many -- how many will sign?

She held up a gloved hand as she spoke, and in a moment the palms of hundreds of hands were turned toward her.

They were eloquent, those deep lined, broad, dark hands, with their short fingers and worn nails. They told of poverty, of work, of contact with the soil that they claim. The women who presided had said a few words to the people, when all at once I saw a thousand curious eyes turned upon me.

"What is it? I asked the interpreter. "What did she say?"

He laughed. "A reporter is here." she says. She says to the people, "Tell how you feel. Then the Americans will know. Then they may listen."

A remarkable scene followed. One by one men and women rose and in a sentence or two in the rolling, broad voweled Hawaiian made a fervent profession of faith.

"My feeling," declared a tall, broad shouldered man, whose dark eyes were alight with enthusiasm. "This is my feeling: I love my country and I want to be independent -- now and forever."

"And my feeling is the same," cried a stout, bold-faced woman, rising in the middle of the hall. "I love this land. I don't want to be annexed."

"This birthplace of mine I love as the American loves his. Would he wished to be annexed to another, greater land?"

"I am strongly opposed to annexation. How dare the people of the Unites States rob a people of their independence?"

"I want the American government to do justice. America helped to dethrone Lili'uokalani. She must be restored. Never shall we consent to annexation!"

"My father is American; my mother is pure Hawaiian. It is my mother's land I love. The American nation has been unjust. How could we ever love America?"

"Let them see their injustice and restore the monarchy!" cried an old, old woman, whose dark face framed in its white hair was working pathetically.

"If the great nations would be fair they would not take away our country. Never will I consent to annexation!"

"Tell America I don't want annexation. I want my Queen," said the gentle voice of a woman.

"That speaker is such a good woman," murmured the interpreter. "A good Christian, honest, kind and charitable."

"I am against annexation -- myself and all my family."

"I speak for those behind me," shouted a voice from far in the rear. "They cannot come in -- they cannot speak. They tell me to say, No annexation. Never."

"I am Kauhi of Kalaoa. We call it middle Hilo. Our club has 300 members. They have sent me here. We are all opposed to annexation -- all! -- all!"

He was a young man. His open coat showed his loose dark shirt; his muscular body swayed with excitement. He wore boots that came above his knees. There was a large white handkerchief knotted about his throat, and his fine head, with its intelligent eyes, rose from his shoulders with a grace that would have been deerlike were it not for its splendid strength.

"I love my country and oppose annexation," said a heavy set, gray haired man with a good, clear profile. "We look to America as our friend. Let her not be our enemy!"

"Hekipi, a delegate to Moloka'i to the league, writes: I honestly assert that the great majority of Hawaiians on Moloka'i are opposed to annexation. They fear that if they become annexed to the United States they will lose their lands. The foreigners will reap all the benefit and the Hawaiians will be put in a worst position than they are to-day."

"I am a mail-carrier. Come with me to my district." A man who was sitting in the first row rose and stretched out an appealing hand. "Come to my district. I will show you 2,000 Hawaiians against annexation."

"I stand -- we all stand to testify to our love of our country. No flag but the Hawaiian flag. Never the American!"

There was cheering at this, and the heavy, sober, brown faces were all aglow with excited interest.

* * *

I sat and watched and listened.

At Honolulu, I had asked a prominent white man to give me some idea of the native Hawaiian's character.

"They won't resent anything," he said, contemptuously. "They haven't a grain of ambition. They can't feel even envy. They care for nothing except extremely simple and easy living. They have no perseverance, they have no backbone. They're unfit."

Yet surely here was no evidence of apathy, of stupid forbearance, of characters cringing.

These men and women rose quickly one after another, one interpreting the other at times, and then standing expectantly waiting his turn -- too simple, too sincere, it seemed to me, to feel self-conscious or to study for a moment about the manner of his speech, so vital was the matter to be delivered.

They stood as all other Hawaiians stand -- with straight shoulders splendidly thrown back and head proudly poised. Some held their roughened, patient hands clasped, some bent and looked towards me, as though I were a sort of magical human telephone and phonograph combined.

I might misunderstand a word or two of the interpreted message, but there was no mistaking those earnest , brown faces and beseeching dark eyes, which seemed to try and breech the distance my ignorance of their language and their slight acquaintance with mine created between us.

I verily believe that even the most virulent of annexationist would have thought these Hawaiians human; almost worthy of consideration.

* * *

The people rose now and sang the majestic Hawaiian National Hymn. It was sung fervently, a full, deep chorus of hundreds of voices. The music is beautifully characteristic, with its strong, deep bass chords to which the women's plaintive, uncultivated voices answer. Then there was a benediction, and the people passed out into the muddy street.

As I sat watching them, suddenly I heard a timid voice murmur:

"You will take this from me?"

A girl stood beside my chair, her gentle face with its dark liquid eyes smiling down upon me. She had slipped a rope -- a lei, she called it -- of gorgeous red and yellow flowers, strung, thick and close, over my head.

"But," I protested, I don't see why. I can't do anything, you know, except repeat what you say."

"It -- it is that." She hesitated, and then plunged bravely on with her broken English, she continued: "No one comes to -- to ask us . No one listens. No one cares. Your paper will speak for us -- us Hawaiians. Our voice will be heard, too. We are poor -- you un'stan? And we cannot talk your language very well. The white man have ever'thing on their side. But we are right and they are wrong."

* * *

"They are not heathens -- not cannibals, you see," said a voice behind me as I stepped upon a veranda at the pretty new hotel at Hilo.

It was Henry West, a half white whom I had seen at the meeting.

"Of course not," I answered, "who said they were."

"Why, a Boston paper -- just lately said so have you met Mr. Keakolo?"

David Keakolo and I exchanged bows. He is very dark and his hair and mustache are gray. He has a prominent nose and large, dark expressive eyes. I had noted him particularly at the meeting, for he was the one man present in a dress suit and he spoke often and animatedly. He smiled now, and said, with a profusion of gestures:

"I -- am so sorry. I -- cannot speak inglish. I can un'stan."

"Yes," went on Mr. West. "They call us savages. All kinds of names. We are not. We read and write. Yes, more of us -- comparing, you know -- read and write than in Senator Morgan's own birth State -- Alabama, is it? I am so sorry Senator Morgan did not come to Hilo with your party. If he would come here as a judge -- if he would hear both sides -- we would benefit from it. Your country has wronged us cruelly. Cleveland himself said so. What could we do when United States soldiers were landed in our streets four years ago? Let the United States right the wrong now -- let her not do more wrong."

"Would you prefer the present government to annexation?" I asked.

"The present government cannot last. They know that themselves."

"But in time supposing the islands are not annexed, do you think that the natives will be reconciled and -- and take the oath of ---"


And a quick spoken Hawaiian word and a glance from Keakolo's black eyes emphasized the negative. They turned to leave.

"We are sorry that you are going back so soon," Mr. West said with pathetic courtesy. "We should like to show you the country."

I looked after the two men as they walked down the tree-bordered path with an aching sort of sympathy. They are so weak; their opponents so strong.

* * *

I had to wait a short time to see Mrs. Nawahi's little drawing room, where I had gone to see Mrs. Campbell, the president of the Women's league, by the way is the wife of that James Campbell, the wealthy Honolulu planter, who was kidnapped by Oliver Winthrop (now in San Quentin) and held for ransom in San Francisco last year.

Every door and window in the room where I sat was curtained in white. The matting floor was brightened by a large square of a checkered pattern, with broad shining plaits. And this is really all I noticed, for Mrs. Campbell entered, and I cared to look at nothing else.

Imagine a very tall women, a full commanding figure dressed in the sheerest of lace-trimmed white lawn. The wreath of orange flowers ion her black hair and the orange lei about her neck wee exquisitely becoming and the loose gowns graceful flow and full train gave a charming feminine touch to this women whose sympathies have placed her in so unconventional a position. But Mrs. Campbell is anything but a new women.

"Do you women expect," I asked her, "to be rewarded for all your work? Do you look forward to being permitted to vote?"

The president of the patriotic league laughed outright.

"Why, we never thought of that. I am working for my people. That is all. When they are righted, when they are content, then I shall be satisfied. You were at the meeting today? Did it not interest you? There are such meetings all over the islands. The natives are far apart. It is hard for them to get together. But they all think alike."

Her voice is exquisitely low and full and lazily deep. She speaks slowly, but without a trace of accent. Her manner is gracious and her face is soft, creamy, brown tinted, with proud lips and languid eyes. She looks Hawaiian, but hers is an idealized type.

"Tell me, does your husband approve of your work?"

"Oh," she answered, smiling. "Of course, I could -- I would do nothing without his prior approval."

"Are all families -- native families -- united on this annexation question?"

"Yes, I think so. Nearly all.

"Suppose a Hawaiian women's husband in favor of annexation --"

"It is unlikely."

"Well if it were so, she would continue to work in your league? Could she oppose annexation openly and actively?"

"Oh!" Mrs. Campbell leaned her head upon her large, shapely hand, upon which the diamond glistened. "Oh, that would be very hard. But -- if I were the woman -- yes, I should work for my people anyway," said Mrs. Campbell, decidedly and with pretty inconsistence. "You see, they are so poor, so helpless. They need help so badly."

"And are there no Hawaiians in favor of annexation?"

She shook her head slowly.

"I met a woman at Hana, on the island of Maui. She was."

"Wasn't she in the governments employ?"

Mrs. Campbell spoke quietly for the first time.

"She was a schoolteacher," I admitted.

"Ah, I thought so. You see, the government will employ no one who does not swear allegiance. Even the schoolteachers -- women, you know -- must take the oath. Why, take a private business firm. If a native goes into a store and asks for a clerk's place if he wants work -- no matter what kind -- if he will swear to be loyal to this government (a Government which he hates, which he has had no voice in making, which he hopes to see overthrown) he can get work. If not, he must do without. He cannot get work. He cannot vote. Everything is closed against him. Think of it. Isn't it a great, a wonderful sacrifice for the sake of principle?"

"But how long will the native hold out? How long can they live?"

"Forever. Living is easy in Hawai'i. No one starves here. The natives will never change."

"How about the exceptions? Do you others resent a man swearing allegiance?"

"No. It -- it isn't quite the same -- our feelings for him -- as it was before. But they are to be pitied, these poor people, who are given such a hard choice. And besides -- ." She paused.


Mrs. Campbell leaned forward now, she had been lying lazily back in the large cane rocking chair.

"This. In their hearts they do not swear allegiance. In their hearts they are with us. Do you think the present government could rely upon the native police if it came to fighting against their own people?"

It wasn't a question. Mrs. Campbell voice and manner had become almost energetic.

I turned back after I had gone down the long stairs and over the long cobble stone walk, to look back at her. She was standing at the door in her cool, loose white gown, the orange lei on her haughty head and upon her shoulders ____ a gorgeous string of deep flowering topaz: her large, soft brown hands were clasped, and her sleepy, dark eyes were lit up in a smiling farewell.

* * *

The portuguese driver was waiting at the gate, and as soon as I was seated in the carriage, he turned round and said:

"Well, what ma'am think of the country?"

Ma'am thought the country was unspeakably lovely, and she proceeded to expatiate on its beauties. The boy listened with a patience that was uncomplimentary. Evidently scenic descriptions bored him. He shrugged his shoulders. Every other nationality has the trick of some other in this mince pie of peoples.

"Yes, I know." he said at last. "But what ma'am think going to come of the country? I guess they're" --he nodded toward the hotel where some United States Congressmen had been delivering speeches to all Hilo --"I guess they're going to take this country. And ma'am (he turned squarely around now while the horse plunged along through the muddy town), what ma'am think 'bout these native? I'm sorry these poor natives. They got no money. They got no land. They can' do nothing. I like see this country belong the natives -- it their country. What ma'am think?"

But ma'am had come 2,000 miles to find out other peoples opinions; not to express her own.

* * *

The most interesting native Hawaiian I met on the islands is John Richardson, a lawyer. He came on the Claudine in Wailuku, when the little steamer was was on the return trip from Hilo, whither she had gone specially so that Uncle Sam's representatives might see the volcano, the plantation -- in short, all the sights, in a short time.

Mr. Richardson is of medium height, heavily built. He is very dark and his black side whiskers are slightly gray. His eyes meet one squarely, his chin is strong and decided, his English is excellent and his serious and courteous. He is quick at getting the drift of one's questions, and my short talk with him, while we were sailing away from Maui and past Moloka'i, interested me more than any other interview I had (for business purposes) on the islands.

"I met a man, Mr. Richardson, a native Hawaiian at Kahului, I think it was. It was something beginning with a "k", anyway. He was in favor of annexation."

"Judge Kalua, a circuit court Judge," Mr. Richardson said promptly.


"The native Hawaiians who favor annexation are of two classes: Those that are in the Governments employ and dare not do otherwise, and those that have some personal grudge against the former Government: those who expect more than they got. I believe you Americans call them soreheads."

We both laughed at this, and then I asked him if he intended to sign the anti-annexation petition.

"Certainly," he answered.

"And how do the lower classes of the natives feel about it?"

"Oh, they are more obstinate than those that are better informed," he said smiling. "They'll never change."

"And do you think your petition will be heeded?"

"It should be. The United States can make no pretense to friendliness for the native Hawaiian, no pretense to honesty or fairness of we are disregarded."

"Of course," I said, legally the present Government has the right to turn over the republic --?"

"The republic! A strange republic where a handful of men are absolute and the great mass of people are disenfranchised; where soldiers are in guard before the executive building and the guns stand ready in the basement to be trained upon the people."

"What is the sentiment of the natives on Maui?"

"What is it all over the islands? No native not in the Government's employ is reconciled to annexation. And if the United States cared enough to have a secret ballot taken to find out the sentiment of the Hawaiians, not twenty natives would vote for annexation."

* * *

At Honolulu I met Mr. James Kaulia, the president of the Hawaiian League. Mr. Kaulia is a thoughtful looking man, with a brown mustache and very serious, dark eyes. During our interview on the Hotel veranda, he smiled only once, and that was when he spoke of a man as a "P.G."

"P.G.," I repeated, wandering what in this land of vowels the term might mean.

"Yes, P.G. -- Provisional Government -- you understand? We call those natives that took the oath P.G's."

"And you people feel bitterly towards the P.G's., do you? An American told me that a Hawaiian never resents anything."

Mr. Kaulia's face looked forbidding for a moment.

"I guess -- I guess he don't know us. We Hawaiians hate ( the word was pronounced with such deliberation as to give it extra emphasis), we hate the P.G's. when they are -- are really in favor of the Government. But there are very few -- very few, who are not really with us. Take the police now, who have sworn allegiance, of course. Some of them have signed our petition against annexation. Not the head man, you understand."

"Isn't that rather unwise?"

"Oh, the Government will not find out."

"But if I should publish the fact?"

"The Government will say it is not true."

"Oh -- well tell me, how many Hawaiians, natives, will sign your petition?"

"Thirty thousand, including boys over 15."

"There aren't many more than that in the islands."

"Not one thousand more."

"Will any white men sign it?"

"Some. Yes. But of course a white man must expect to suffer in his business, and -- and in society, you understand what I mean -- if he takes sides against the Government."

"And if the United States annexes despite your petition?"

"Then it will be a seizure. That is all. Here! There are 2,800 voters registered for the next election -- the end of this month. Of those 2,800, 1,000, according to the Governments own figures, are what we call the Citizen's Guard: 200 votes more are the soldier's votes and 1,200 more are the Government officials. That leaves only 400 more outside votes. You see?"

Mr. Kaulia opened his hands wide. The native Hawaiian has not a very mobile face, but his gestures are as expressive -- particularly when his English is not fluent -- as a Frenchman's.

* * *

"Tell me about your league."

"In every district -- all over the islands -- there are meetings, once a month. Once a year in November delegates from every district meet here in Honolulu."

"How many signatures have you to your petition?"

"Seven thousand."

"And how long has it been in circulation?"

"Since last Thursday, September 16."

"And are you confident that all natives feel as you do?"

"I am sure, the feeling is the same from Kaena to Hilo."

Which translated means from the Sierras to the sea.

* * *

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