Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ster being Secretary, are full of interest as touching the attitude of the French at this time and their evident desire to commit overt acts of aggression, if the slightest pretext could be found. It is evident that, having seized the Society Islands eight years before, the sovereignty of which France retains to the present day, it was the intention of that government, despite its joint agreement with England, to extend its control to this archipelago also.

On the eleventh day of March, while all was uncertainty as to the intentions of the French naval forces at Honolulu, but while the worst was feared by the native, the American, and the English residents, Mr. Severance thus wrote to Mr. Webster :

I wrote you yesterday, and sent the letter by mail in a vessel which sails Wednesday, in relation to the negotiations with M. Perrin, the French consul-general, and that there was little probability of an amicable conclusion. What will follow we cannot tell; but, in case of another hostile attack from the French, the king, with the approbation of his chiefs, and, I believe, nearly all the principal officers of the government, have it in contemplation to take down the Hawaiian flag and run up that of the United States. They contemplate annexation to our Republic, and have already consulted me about it. They would prefer a guarantee of protection from England and the United States, and have consulted with General Miller, the British consul-general here. He gives them no satisfaction, having written to his government on the same topic before and received no reply. .... If the action of the French should precipitate a movement here, I shall be called upon, perhaps, to protect the American flag. I was indeed requested to go and see the king on Monday night, and in the presence of the council to give him assurance of protection, should he raise the American flag instead of his own; but I preferred to keep away so as to avoid all appearance of intrigue to bring about a result which, however desirable, and as many believe ultimately inevitable, must still be attended with difficulties and embarrassments. ... I am in the highest degree anxious to have your instructions how far I may go in protecting the American flag if it shall be raised here. There will be no lack of volunteers to defend it on shore, and a host will soon rush here from California to uphold the stars and stripes. But then, if the French should fire upon the town from the corvette, might not Captain Gardiner [commander of United States steamship Vandalia] interpose to protect American property, which is to be found on both sides of every street in town and all along the wharves ? Under the circumstances, I am strongly inclined to this opinion; but it requires very serious reflection. I hope no outbreak may change the present state of things till I can hear from you, and know how far I can be justified in calling upon a volunteer force or any of our vessels of war to defend the American flag, should it be raised here by the consent or desire of the existing government.

The Sérieuse may now go away without committing any act of hostility, but the difficulties are not settled. The French may return with a larger force. They have more ships of war in the Pacific, one frigate and a brig, I believe. The natives look upon them as enemies; and, if they come again on a like erraud, we shall be again appealed to for protection, and the subject of annexation will come up again with added force.

On the next day Mr. Severance continued his note to Mr. Webster, showing that the fear of a French attack upon the town was even greater than he had apprehended. Evidently, events moved with great rapidity at this critical time, a space of a day materially altering the status of affairs.

He wrote:

[ocr errors]

The tone of the California newspapers just received will quicken these jealousies and apprehensions. But what is most important for you

to know is that a paper has actually been drawn up and executed, transferring the sovereign authority of the Islands to the United States, with the design of having the flag of the United States above the Ha

waiian. This is only to be used in case of hostilities by the French, otherwise to be a dead letter. I am not committed to this proceeding by any writing ; nor have I been present, but have my information from one who was present.

The most I have said in private conversation is that, if the king cedes the Islands to the United States and puts up the American flag, I will do what I can to protect it for the time being, until the pleasure of my government shall be known. Leaning upon us as they do, and sympathizing with them under aggravated wrongs and repeated insults, I could not tell them we should reject their proffered allegiance, and stand passive while they, with the American flag in their hands, should be trampled under foot by the French. If in this I have said too much, I am willing to be sacrificed, if I can be the means of bringing about ultimate favorable results.

A little later in the day officers of the king paid a visit to Mr. Severance in his office, and delivered to him a document which they allowed him to read. It was then placed in a sealed packet, upon which was this indorsement in the Hawaiian language:

The King requests the Commissioner of the United States, in case the flag of the United States is raised above the Hawaiian, that he will open the enclosed, and act accordingly.

Although by the words of this indorsement it appears that it was contemplated by the king and his counsellors, of their own motion, to raise the American flag "above the Hawaiian,” it is quite certain that an afterthought led them to prepare a flag to be hoisted in case of French hostilities, which would declare a sovereignty over the Islands shared equally by the governments of the United States and of Hawaii. This flag, which was actually prepared by the hands of a loyal and enthusiastic Hawaiian woman, was unique in its character. The colors of the two nations were carefully stitched together, one flag upon the other, so that, when raised upon the staff, one side would reveal the colors of the Hawaiian kingdom and the other the American ensign.

The remarkable document which was, at this exciting time, thus prepared and placed under seal in the hands of the commissioner of the United States, was brief. In distinct terms it ceded the sovereignty of the Islands to the United States, but provisionally in the event that a complete settlement of the French misunderstanding could not be reached. The document follows:

« AnteriorContinuar »