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During this visit the commissioner reported frequently to the Secretary of State, his published letters being exceedingly voluminous. Their tone in general was hostile to the Provisional Government, and indicative of sympathy toward the ex-queen.
It has been constantly claimed by the friends of the Provisional Government that Mr. Blount, throughout his investigation, sought information solely from the adherents of the ex-queen, and that all offers from friends of the Provisional Government to assist him in his researches were studiously declined.
In his final report, Commissioner Blount gave a brief but comprehensive résumé of Hawaiian political history; a statement of the circumstances attending the revolution of January 17, written from a position of antagonism to the revolutionary party ; and a mass of information relating to the population and industries of the Islands.
During Mr. Blount's stay, Minister Stevens was relieved from duty and Mr. Blount was appointed to the vacant position. He, however, declined to accept the honor; and, upon the conclusion of the work to which he was
assigned, he returned to the United States. The Hon. Albert S. Willis was appointed to the office of minister in October, 1893, and at once left for his post of duty.
ATTEMPT AT RESTORATION. THE publication of the report of Minister Blount, which closely followed the intelligence that the American ensign had been hauled down at Honolulu, excited great interest throughout our country, and called forth much acrimonious discussion. This was not lessened by a message on December 18, 1893, from President Cleveland to Congress, in which the matter was thoroughly reviewed and discussed. In this message there was an imputation of moral obliquity against Minister Stevens in the conduct of the affairs of his office, so far as they related to the overthrow of the queen and the establishment of the Provisional Government.
« The lawful government of Hawaii,” he declared, “was overthrown without the drawing of a sword or the firing of a shot, by a process every step of which, it may safely be asserted, is directly traceable to and dependent for its safety upon the agency of the United States, acting through its diplomatic and naval representatives.
Believing, therefore, that the United States could not, under the circum
stances disclosed, annex the Islands without justly incurring the imputation of acquiring them by unjustifiable methods, I shall not again submit the treaty of annexation to the Senate for its consideration."
This attitude assumed by President Cleveland produced a discussion more bitter than any since the famous electoral contest of 1876. Instantly the country was divided into two parties upon the question, the lines drawn closely following the lines of the two great political parties. The adherents of President Cleveland and of his policy applauded warmly the high moral ground which they felt that he had assumed. His opponents as firmly asserted that this assumption was a pretence, that his true motive was one of jealousy of his predecessor, and his object to discredit one of the last and most important acts of President Harrison and to hold him and his mi ister at Honolulu up to public obloquy. It was also freely asserted that Secretary of State Gresham, who warmly approved the attitude of his chief, had similar political reasons for his position.
To attempt to decide the truth in this remarkable discussion is no part of the duty of the present writer. It must be left to the historian of half a century hence, while to-day the record is simply made for his future guidance.
This discussion served to create what was, for the next five years, to be known as the “ Hawaiian Question,"- a question which, if it did not serve to create a strong dividing line between political parties, at least did become an important factor in the Presidential contest of 1896.
Mr. Willis arrived at Honolulu on the 4th of November, 1893, and three days later presented his credentials to President Dole, the chief executive of the Provisional Government. It was no light task to which Mr. Willis had been assigned. Personally, a gentleman of the highest character, he found himself accredited as minister to a government toward which the government of the United States nominally bore friendly relations, but yet one which, in the estimation of the President of the United States, was in itself a gross usurpation - a government with no right of existence, a government which the new minister was instructed to overthrow, if possible.