« AnteriorContinuar »
mooted question of the day. The discovery of gold in California, and the adjustment of the Oregon boundary question, together served to turn a vast tide of settlement toward the Pacific coast; and the boundless possibilities of this vast region began to be evident. It was little wonder, then, that, with the rapidly increasing American interests in the Islands, the expanse of sea which lay between the Pacific coast and Hawaii a sea whitened by the sails of hundreds of American ships did not then seem an insuperable obstacle to the annexation of these Islands to our domain.
Early in the year 1854, in the administration of President Pierce, the attention of Congress was turned to this subject; and the interest of the members was excited to such a degree that the President was, by resolution of the Senate, requested, "if not incompatible with the public interest,” to communicate to that body copies of all correspondence between the governments of Great Britain and of the United States relative to the Hawaiian Islands. This correspondence called for was that relating to the seizure of the Islands by Lord George Paulet, some ten years before. The significance of this request lay, beyond doubt, in the fact that, even at that time, negotiations were in progress with King Kamehameha III, looking toward an absolute cession of his kingdom to the Republic. While for twenty years previously the government of the United States had at various times, in its correspondence with its accredited representatives at Honolulu, expressed its intention to maintain the independence of the Islands from European control, and had disclaimed
intent to absorb the Islands, the greatest care had always been observed, in our diplomatic intercourse with other nations, to insist only that no European aggressions against the sovereignty of the Islands should be made, and without making any similar promises for ourselves. To alter our policy, therefore, in our private instructions to our own diplomatic representatives, so far as to entertain the idea of a compact of annexation with the King of Hawaii, would be, in no sense, a breaking of faith with any nation with whom we held diplomatic relations. David L. Gregg was now the commissioner of the United States to the Hawaiian Islands. In February, 1854, a despatch was received by the Department of State from him, intimating that the king had become convinced of his inability to sustain his government longer as an independent State, and that an offer of the sovereignty of the Islands to the United States was an event by no means improbable. Mr. Marcy's reply, dated April 4, 1854, empowered Mr. Gregg to proceed, if the emergency hinted at should arise, to negotiate a treaty whereby the Islands would be transferred to the United States. protectorate,” wrote Mr. Marcy, “tendered to and accepted by the United States, would not change the sovereignty of the country. In that case this government would take upon itself heavy and responsible duties for which it could hardly expect compensating advantages. I understand that the measure proposed by the people, and that in which the present rulers are disposed to concur, is annexation as distinguished from protection, and that it is their intention that these Islands shall become a part of our Territories and be under the control of this
government as fully as any other of its Territorial possessions."
Proceeding in his suggestions for the details of the proposed treaty of annexation, Mr. Marcy called attention to the entire extinction of the sovereign rights of the island rulers and chiefs, as a necessary result of annexation, and admitted that these chiefs would be entitled to some compensation for such losses. This remuneration, he declared, must of course be pecuniary in its nature; and he suggested that the United States would manifest toward them a liberal spirit, and would agree to the distribution among them of annuities to the amount of one hundred thousand dollars, to be secured to them by
Events in the Islands, at this point, moved rapidly. The movement toward annexation had undoubtedly emanated from the Islands. The strong commercial interests favored such a step. The king had become wearied by the constant demands made upon him by European powers, and by the frequent threats with which these demands were accompanied. The native population had, in the few years just passed, shown a fearful decrease in numbers, and the order of chiefs had become almost extinct. The dynasty itself was in danger of failure,- an event which, some years later, actually occurred. Other perils, too, beset this feeble nation. Rumors of coming uprisings against the constituted authorities were frequent; and, more than all, a formidable expedition of filibusters was said to be fitting out on the Pacific coast to seize the Islands and establish a new government under its leaders.
The British and French consuls presented to the king a joint protest against the annexation of the Islands to the United States; for the subject was so much the topic of conversation that the rumor could not fail to reach their ears. This protest was offset by a shower of petitions to the king, urging the consummation of the project. At this juncture a combined British and French squadron, comprising eight vessels of war, appeared in the harbor, having been ordered thither in all haste from Callao, Peru. This squadron made but a brief stay in port; but it was sufficiently long for the two admirals to pay a