Commercial relations form and foster political alliances, especially between a weak state and a strong one. The annual report for 1872 of imports and exports, made up by the Collector-general of the Hawaiian Kingdom, shows how completely the Islands depend upon the United States.
Of 146 merchant vessels and steamers entered at Hawaiian ports during 1872, 90 were American, only 15 were English; 6 were German, 9 belonged to other nations, and 26 were Hawaiian. Of a total of 98,647 tons of shipping, 73,975 were American, 6714 Hawaiian, and but 7741 British. Of 47 whaling vessels calling at Island ports during the year, 42 were American, 2 Hawaiian, and 3 British.
Of a little less than 16,000,000 pounds of sugar exported during the same year, 14,500,000 were sent to the United States; of 39,000 pounds of coffee 34,000 were sent to us; of 1,349,503 pounds of rice and paddy exported, 1,317,203 pounds came to the United States. All the cotton, all the goat-skins, nearly all the hides, all the wool, the greater part of the peanuts and the pulu, in short, almost the whole exports of the Islands, are sent to the United States.
On the other hand, of $1,234,147, the value of duty-paying merchandise imported during 1872 into the Islands, $806,111 worth came from the United States, $155,939 from Great Britain, and $205,396 from Germany. Besides this, of the total value of bonded goods, $349,435, the large amount of $135,487 was brought from sea by whalemen, almost all of whom were Americans; and $99,567 worth was goods from the United States; or $235,000 of American products against $21,801 of British, and $23,904 of German importation, in bond.
It is plain that the Island trade is so largely in our hands that no other nation can be said to dispute it with us. If our flag flew over Honolulu we could hardly expect to have a more complete monopoly of Hawaiian commerce than we already enjoy. Moreover, almost all the sugar-plantations—the most productive and valuable property on the Islands—are owned by Americans; and the same is true of the greater number of stock farms.
Our political predominance on the Islands is as complete as the commercial. In the present cabinet all the ministers except one are Americans. This was true also of the cabinet of the late king. Of the Supreme Court, two of the judges are Americans, and one is German. Almost all the executive and administrative offices are in the hands of Americans or Hawaiians.
Nor can any foreign power rightly find fault with this state of things. What the Islands are they are because of American effort, American enterprise, American capital. American missionaries civilized them; Americans gave them laws wisely adapted to the customs and habits of their people; American enterprise and Boston capital established the sugar culture and other of the important industries; perhaps I ought to add that American sailors spread among the Islands the vices and diseases which, more than all else, have caused the rapid decrease of the population, and to combat and check which added toil and trouble to the labors of the American missionaries.
The government of the Hawaiian Islands consists of a king and a Parliament. The Parliament meets once in two years; and under the late king consisted of but a single House. The present king has promised to call together two Houses, of which but one will be elected. The other consists of "Nobles," who are nominated or created by the king for life, but have no title nor salary unless they are called to office. By the Constitution the reigning king appoints his successor, but his nomination must be confirmed by the Nobles. As, however, he may at pleasure increase the number of Nobles, the appointment virtually rests with him. If he dies without naming a successor, the Parliament has the right and duty to elect a new sovereign.
There is a slight property qualification for voters, and a heavier one for members of Parliament.
The revenue of the Government, which amounts to about half a million per annum, is derived from the various sources specified in the official returns of the Minister of Finance, which I copy below. It must be understood that this report covers two years:
The balance in the Treasury at the close of the last fiscal period (March 31, 1870) was $61,580.20
And there has been received from Foreign Imports $396,418.15
" " " Fines, Penalties, and Costs 47,289.13
" " " Internal Commerce 98,982.51
" " " Taxes 215,962.51
" " " Fees and Perquisites 22,194.45
" " " Government Realizations 124,071.37
" " " Miscellaneous Sources 60,038.23
The expenditures during two years are detailed thus in the same report:
For Civil List $50,000.00
" Permanent Settlements 18,000.00
" Legislature and Privy Council 15,281.63
" Department of Judiciary 73,562.61
" " Foreign Affairs and War 98,028.24
" " Interior 396,806.41
" " Finance 141,345.29
" " Attorney-general 88,412.17
" Bureau of Public Instruction 88,347.79
Balance on hand March 31, 1872 $56,752.41
The internal taxes include the property tax, which is quite low, one and a half per cent. Every male adult pays a poll tax of one dollar, a school tax of two dollars, and a road tax of two dollars. The following is the detail of the internal taxes for the two years 1870-72:
Real Estate and Personal Property $97,685.11
Among the licenses the monopoly of opium selling brings the Government $22,248, a prodigious sum when it is considered that there are but 2500 Chinese in the Islands; these being the chief, though not the only consumers. There is, besides, a duty of ten per cent. on the opium when imported, and the merchant must make his profit. I had the curiosity to look a little into the opium consumption. It is said that its use is slowly spreading
among the natives, particularly where these are employed with Chinese on the plantations. But the quantity used by the Chinese themselves is prodigious. I was shown one man, a cook, whose wages, fourteen dollars per month, were entirely spent on opium; and whose master supplied the poor creature with clothes, because he had nothing left out of his pay. In other cases the amount spent was nearly as great.
Eight thousand two hundred and sixty-five dollars were also realized for awa licenses. Awa is a root the use of which produces a frightful kind of intoxication, in which the victim falls into stupor, his features are contorted, and he has seizures resembling epilepsy. The body of the habitual awa drinker becomes covered with white scales; and it is said that awa drinking predisposes to leprosy. The manner of preparing awa is peculiarly disgusting. The root is chewed by women, and they spit out well-chewed mouthfuls into a calabash. Here it settles, and the liquor is then drunk. It is said that in old times the chiefs used to get together the prettiest young girls to chew awa for them.
The king receives a salary of $22,500 per annum; the cabinet ministers and the chief-justice receive $5000, and the two associate justices $4000 per annum. These are the largest salaries paid; and in general the public service of the Islands is very cheaply as well as ably and conscientiously conducted. There is an opportunity for retrenchment in abolishing some of the offices; but the saving which could thus be effected would after all not be great. The present Government means, I have been told, to undertake some reforms; these will probably consist in getting the king to turn the crown lands into public lands, to be sold or leased for the benefit of the treasury. They are now leased, and the income is a perquisite of the king, a poor piece of policy, for the chiefs from among whom a sovereign is selected are all wealthy; the present king, for instance, has an income of probably $25,000 per annum from private property of his own. It is also proposed to lessen the number of cabinet ministers; but this will scarcely be done. They are but four in number now, having charge of Foreign Affairs, Finance, and the Interior and Law Departments.
There is a debt of about $300,000 which is entirely held within the kingdom; and the public property is of value sufficient to pay three times this sum. It is probable, however, that, like many other governments, the Hawaiian ministry will have to deal with a deficit when the next Legislature meets; and this will probably bring reform and retrenchment before them. There is not much hope of increasing the revenue from new and still untouched sources, for there are but few such.
The taxable industries and wealth of the Islands can not be very greatly increased. Finding yourself in a tropical country, with a charming and equable climate, and with abundant rains, you are apt to think that, given only a little soil, many things would grow and could be profitably raised. It is one of the surprises of a visitor to the Hawaiian group to discover that in reality very few products succeed here.
Coffee was largely planted, and promised to become a staple of the Islands; but a blight attacked the trees and proved so incurable that the best plantations were dug up and turned into sugar; and the export of coffee, which has been very variable, but which rose to 415,000 pounds in 1870, fell to 47,000 pounds in the next year, and to 39,276 pounds in 1872.
Sea-island cotton would yield excellent crops if it were not that a caterpillar devours the young plants, so that its culture has almost ceased. Only 10,000 pounds were exported in 1872. The orange thrives in so few localities on the Islands that it is not an article of commerce: only two boxes were exported last year, though San Francisco brings this fruit from Otaheite by a voyage of thirty days. A burr worse than any found in California discourages the sheep-raiser in some of the Islands. The cacao-tree has been tried, but a blight kills it. In the garden of Dr. Hillebrandt, near Honolulu, I saw specimens of the cinnamon and allspice trees; but again I was told that the blight attacked them, and did not allow them to prosper. Wheat and other cereals grow and mature, but they are subject to the attacks of weevil, so that they can not be stored or shipped; and if you feed your horse oats or barley in Honolulu, these have been imported from California. Silk-worms have been tried but failed. Rice does well, and its culture is increasing.
Moreover, there is but an inconsiderable local market. A farmer on Maui told me he had sent twenty bags of potatoes to Honolulu, and so overstocked the market that he got back only the price of his bags. Eggs and all other perishable products, for the same reason, vary much in price, and are at times high-priced and hardly attainable. It will not do for the farmer to raise much for sale. The population is not only divided among different and distant islands, but it consists for much the largest part of people who live sufficiently well on taro, sweet-potatoes, fish, pork, and beef—all articles which they raise for themselves, and which they get by labor and against disadvantages which few white farmers would encounter.
For instance, the Puna coast of Hawaii is a district where for thirty miles there is so little fresh water to be found that travelers must bring their own supplies in bottles; and Dr. Coan told me that in former days the people, knowing that he could not drink the brackish stuff which satisfied them, used to collect fresh water for his use when he made the missionary tour, from the drippings of dew in caves. Wells are here out of the question, for there is no soil except a little decomposed lava, and the lava lets through all the water which comes from rains. There are few or no streams to be led down from the mountains. There are no fields, according to our meaning of the word.
Formerly the people in this district were numbered by thousands: even yet there is a considerable population, not unprosperous by any means. Churches and schools are as frequent as in the best part of New England. Yet when I asked a native to show me his sweet-potato patch, he took me to the most curious and barren-looking collection of lava you can imagine, surrounded, too, by a very formidable wall made of lava, and explained to me that by digging holes in the lava where it was a little decayed, carrying a handful of earth to each of these holes, and planting there in a wet season, he got a very satisfactory crop. Not only that, but being desirous of something more than a bare living, this man had planted a little coffee in the same way, and had just sold 1600 pounds, his last crop. He owned a good wooden house; politely gave up his own mats for me to sleep on; possessed a Bible and a number of other works in Hawaiian; after supper called his family together, who squatted on the floor while he read from his Scriptures, and, after singing a hymn, knelt in family prayers; and finally spent half an hour before going to bed in looking over his newspaper. This man, thoroughly respectable, of good repute, hospitable, comfortable in every way so far as I could see, lived, and lived well, on twenty or thirty acres of lava, of which not even a Vermonter would have given ten cents for a thousand acres; and which was worthless to any one except a native Hawaiian.
Take next the grazing lands. In many parts they are so poorly supplied with water that they can not carry much stock. They also are often astonishingly broken up, for they frequently lie high up on the sides of the mountains, and in many parts they are rocky and lava-covered beyond belief. On Hawaii, the largest island, lava covers and makes desolate hundreds of thousands of acres, and on the other and smaller islands, except, perhaps, Kauai, there is corresponding desolation. Thus the area of grazing lands is less than one would think. But on the other hand, cattle are very cheaply raised. They require but little attention; and the stock-owners, who are now boiling down their cattle and selling merely the hides and tallow, are said to be just at this time the most prosperous people on the Islands. Sheep are kept too, but not in great flocks except upon the small island of Niihau, which was bought some years ago by two brothers, Sinclair by name, who have now a flock of fifteen or eighteen thousand sheep there, I am told; on Molokai and part of Hawaii; and upon the small island of Lanai, where Captain Gibson has six or eight thousand head.
One of the conspicuous trees of the Hawaiian forests is the Kukui or candle-nut. Its pale green foliage gives the mountain sides sometimes a disagreeable look; though where it grows among the Ko trees, whose leaves are of a dark green, the contrast is not unpleasant. From its abundance I supposed the candle-nut might be made an article of export; but the country is so rough that the gathering of the nuts is very laborious; and several persons who have experimented in expressing the oil from the nut have discovered that it did not pay cost. Only two thousand pounds of Kukui nuts were exported in 1872.
Sandal-wood was once a chief article of export. It grows on the higher mountain slopes, and is still collected, for 20,232 pounds were exported in 1872, and a small quantity is worked up in the Islands. The cocoa-nut is not planted in sufficient quantities to make it an article of commerce. Only 950 nuts were exported last year. Of pulu 421,227 pounds were shipped; this is a soft fuzz taken from the crown of a species of fern; it is used to stuff bedding, and is as warm, though not as durable, as feathers. Also 32,161 pounds of "fungus," a kind of toad-stool which grows on decaying wood, and is used in China as an article of food.
There has been no lack of ingenuity, enterprise, or industry among the inhabitants. The Government has imported several kinds of trees and plants, as the cinnamon, pepper, and allspice, but they have not prospered. Private effort has not been wanting either. But nature does not respond. Sugar and rice are and must it seems continue to be the staples of the Islands; and the culture of these products will in time be considerably increased.
This, it appears to me, decides the future of the Islands and the character of their population. A sugar or rice plantation needs at most three or four American workmen aside from the manager. The laboring force will be Hawaiians or Chinese; for they alone work cheaply, and will content themselves in the situation of plantation laborers. It is likely, therefore, that the future population of the Islands will consist largely, as it does now, of Hawaiians and Chinese, and a mixture of these two races; and, no doubt, these will live very happily there.
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Notes About Book:
Source: Nordhoff, Charles. Northern California, Oregon, and the Sandwich Islands. Harper and Brothers, Publishers, 1875.
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