456-457

From TheMorganReport
Jump to: navigation, search
Previous Page Next Page

Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations 1789-1901 Volume 6 pp456-457 300dpi scan (VERY LARGE!)

Text Only


-p456-

implements of stone and of wood for mechanical and industrial work were invented and improved upon; and great engineering enterprises were taken, such as the irrigating systems of Wahiawa, Kapaa, and Kilauea on the island of Kauai, and great sea walls inclosing bays and reefs for fish-ponds, such as the one at Huleia, on Kauai, and at many other places all over the islands. The antiquity of some of these is so great that even tradition fails to account for their origin, as in the case of the parallel irrigating ditches at Kilauea, on Kauai, the digging of which is attributed by the Hawaiians to the fabled moo, or dragon, and the deep water fish-pond wall at the Huleia Kiver, on Kauai, which is supposed to have been built by the Menehunes—the fabled race of dwarfs, distinguished for cunning industry and mechanical and engineering skill and intelligence. In reality they were the pioneers of the Hawaiian race, who took complete industrial and peaceful possession of the country, and this early period is distinctly the age of the Menehunes, or skillful workers.

Principles of land tenure developed slowly through this period, probably from some form of the patriarchal system into a system of tribal or communal ownership. There was land enough for everyone, and holdings at first were based upon possession and use.

As in the irrigating customs of the Hawaiians, where there was an abundance of water, every taro grower used it freely and at all times according to his own convenience, and there were no regulations, but in those localities where the water supply was limited strict rules for its distribution grew up; so that when the land was not all occupied there was freedom in its use, it being easier to locate new holdings than to quarrel about old ones.

But as land irrigation developed, requiring permanent and costly improvements in the way of irrigating ditches and the building of terraces on the valley slopes for the foundation of taro patches, such improved localities acquired a special value, and the more real sense of ownership in land, which is based upon an investment of labor in the soil beyond the amount required for the cultivation of a crop, began. A quality of this ownership was necessarily permanence, because of the permanence of the improvements which created it.

Another element of tenure arose as the population increased, and the best lands became occupied; the increasing demand gave them a market value, so to speak, which gave rise to disputes over boundaries. Although such feuds, sometimes attended with personal violence, favored the development of the later feudalism of the Hawaiians, yet the early period, containing many of the features of tribal government and land tenure common to the Samoans, Fijians, and Maories of New Zealand, probably lasted for a long time, with a gradual development of the principle of ownership in land and descent from parent to child, subject to tribal control, until it was perhaps radically and violently interrupted by the turbulent times beginning in the thirteenth century, and lasting until the conquest of the group by Kamehameha I. This was a period of internecine warfare, promoted by the ambition of chiefs for political power and personal aggrandizement, and was most favorable to the growth of feudalism, which rapidly took the place of the previous political status. As was inevitable under the new conditions, the importance and influence of the chiefs was greatly increased, to the immediate prejudice of the rights and privileges of the people, who were oppressively taxed in support of the wars brought on by the whim of their respective rulers, or to defend them from the attacks of ambitious

-p457-

rivals. The growing necessity for protection of life and property caused everyone to attach himself closely to some chief, who afforded such protection in consideration of service and a portion of the produce of the soil. Then the chiefs, as their power increased, began to levy contributions of supplies arbitrarily, until it came to pass that the chief was the owner of the whole of the products of the soil and of the entire services of the people, and so it was a natural consequence that he became finally the owner also of the soil itself. These results, which were hastened by the constant wars of this period, were yet of slow growth. The small valley and district sovereignties one by one disappeared in the clutch of rising warrior chiefs, who thus added to their dominions and power. As such principalities became formidable, it became necessary for the remaining smaller chiefdoms to ally themselves to some one of them. And so this process went on until each island was at length under the control of its high chief, and then finally the whole group passed under the sovereignty of Kamehameha I., and the feudal programme was complete.

During this period the control of land became very firmly established in the ruling chiefs, who reserved what portions they pleased for their own use and divided the rest among the leading chiefs subject to them. The position of the latter was analogous to that of the barons of European feudalism; they furnished supplies to their sovereign, and in case of war were expected to take the field with what fighting men their estates could furnish. These barons held almost despotic sway over their special domains, apportioning the land among their followers according to the whim of the moment or the demands of policy, or farming it out under their special agents, the konohikis,* whose oppressive severity in dealing with the actual cultivators of the soil was notorious. Thus the occupancy of land had now become entirely subject to the will of the ruling chief, who not only had the power to give but also to take away at his royal pleasure. This despotic control over land developed in the direction of greater severity rather than toward any recognition of the subjects' rights, and it finally became an established custom for a chief who succeeded to the sovereign power, even peacefully by inheritance, to redistribute the lands of the realm.

It is evident that this status was, for the time being, disastrous and destructive to all popular rights in land that may have previously existed. If there was formerly anything like succession in tenure from father to son and tribal ownership, such holdings were now utterly destroyed, and the cultivators of the soil were without rights of cultivation or even of habitation. "The country was full of people who were hemo, i. e. dispossessed of their lands at the caprice of a chief. Three words from a new to a former konohiki*—' Ua hemo oe '†—would dispossess a thousand unoffending people and send them houseless and homeless to find their makamakas‡ in other valleys." (Alexander's reply to Bishop Staley.)

The redistribution of lands upon the accession of a ruling chief was naturally carried out with great severity when his accession was the result of civil war between rival factions or the triumph of an invading army. In the case of a peaceful accession of a young chief to sovereign power, the redistribution was mainly to his personal friends and companions, and was less complete than in the case of a revolution of force. Very influential men of the previous reign would not be disturbed,


*Konohiki—land agent of chief. Ua hemooe—you are removed
Makamaka—friend.

Previous Page Next Page