For farming, in the American sense of the word, the Islands are, as these facts show, entirely unfit. I asked again and again of residents this question: "Would you advise your friend in Massachusetts or Illinois, a farmer with two or three thousand dollars in money, to settle out here?" and received invariably the answer, "No; it would be wrong to do so." Transportation of farm products from island to island is too costly;
there is no local market except Honolulu, and that is very rapidly and easily overstocked; Oregon or California potatoes are sold in the Islands at a price which would leave the local farmer without a profit. In short, farming is not a pursuit in the Islands. A farmer would not starve, for beef is cheap, and he could always raise vegetables enough for himself; but he would not get ahead. Moreover, perishable fruits, like the
banana, have but a limited chance for export. The Islands, unluckily, lie to windward of California; and a sailing vessel, beating up to San Francisco, is very apt to make so long a passage that if she carries bananas they spoil on the way. Hence but 4520 bunches were shipped from the Islands in 1872—which was all the monthly steamer had room for.
These circumstances seem to settle the question of annexation, which is sometimes discussed. To annex the Islands would be to burden ourselves with an outlying territory too distant to be cheaply defended; and containing a population which will never be homogeneous with our own; a country which would neither attract nor reward our industrious farmers and mechanics; which offers not the slightest temptation to emigration, except a most delightful climate, and which has, and must by its circumstances and natural formation continue to have, chiefly a mixed population of Chinese and other coolies, whom it is assuredly not to our interest to take into our family. I suppose it is a proper rule that we should not encumber ourselves with territory which by reason of unchangeable natural causes will repel our farmers and artisans, and which, therefore, will not become in time Americanized. If this is true, we ought not to annex the Hawaiian Islands.
Moreover, there is no excuse for annexation, in the desire of the people. The present Government is mild, just, and liked by the people. They can easily make it cheaper whenever they want to. The native people are very strongly opposed to annexation; they have a strong feeling of nationality, and considerable jealousy of foreign influence. Annexation to our own or any other country would be without their consent.
As to the residents of foreign birth, a few of them favor annexation to the United States; but only a few. A large majority would oppose it as strenuously as the native people. Most of the planters see that it would break up their labor system, demoralize the workmen, and probably for years check the production of sugar. br>
One thing is certain, however. If the Islands ever offer themselves to any foreign power, it will be to the United States. Their people, foreign as well as native, look to us as their neighbors and friends; and the king last summer blurted out one day when too much wine had made him imprudent, this truth: that if annexation came, it must be to the United States.
As I write a negotiation has been opened with the United States Government, for the purpose of offering us Pearl River in exchange for a reciprocity treaty. Pearl River is an extensive, deep, and well-protected bay, about ten miles from Honolulu. It would answer admirably for a naval station; and if the United States were a second-rate power likely to be bullied by other nations, we might need a naval station in the Pacific Ocean. In our present condition, when no single power dares to make war with us, and when, unless we become shamelessly aggressive, no alliance of European powers against us for purposes of war is possible, the chief use of distant naval stations appears to me to be as convenient out-of-the-way places for wasting the public money. Pearl River would be an admirable spot for a dozen pleasant sinecures, and the expenditure of three or four millions of money. It seems to me, therefore, that it would be a dear bargain. For the accommodation of merchant steamers and ships and their repair, Honolulu offers sufficient facilities. There are ingenious American mechanics there who have even taken a frigate upon a temporary dry-dock, and repaired her hull.
But justice, kindly feeling, and a due regard for our future interests in the Pacific Ocean ought to induce us to establish at once a reciprocity treaty with the Hawaiian Government. We should lose but little revenue; and should make good that loss by the greater market which would be opened for our own products, in the Islands. Such a treaty would bring more capital to the Islands, increase their prosperity, and, at the same time, bind them still more closely and permanently to us. It would pave the way to annexation, if that should ever become advisable.
The politics of the Hawaiian Kingdom are not very exciting. In those fortunate Isles the Legislature troubles itself chiefly about the horse and dog tax. The late king, who was of an irascible temper, did not always treat his faithful Commons with conspicuous civility. He sometimes told them that they had talked long enough and had better adjourn; and they usually took his advice. The present king, who belonged to "his majesty's
opposition" during the late reign, has yet to develop his qualities as a ruler. He has shown sound judgment in the nomination of his cabinet; and he is believed to have the welfare of the people at heart. He is unmarried; but is not likely to marry; and he will probably nominate a successor from one of the chief or ruling families still remaining. The list from which he can choose is not very long; and it is most probable, as
this is written, that he will nominate to succeed him Mrs. Bernice Pauahi Bishop, wife of the present Minister of Foreign Affairs. Mrs. Bishop is a lady of education and culture, of fine presence, every way fit to rule over her people; and her selection would be satisfactory to the foreign residents as well as to the best of the Hawaiian people.
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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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