760-761

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Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations 1789-1901 Volume 6 pp760-761 300dpi scan (VERY LARGE!)

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Senator Sherman. They gave him direct instructions?

Mr. Blount. Yes.

The Chairman. That was the only occasion of the communication of your authority to Mr. Stevens ?

Mr. Blount. I did not make them; I had a copy.

The Chairman. That is all the information Mr. Stevens had of your authority?

Mr. Blount. So far as I have any information. I suppose the Government has given you copies of everything—all their communications to and from Mr. Stevens.

The Chairman. The orders that you gave to Admiral Skerrett are supported, if I understand you correctly, alone by the letter of authority given to you by the Secretary of State?

Mr. Blount. And the letter that Mr. Herbert, the Secretary of the Navy, sent to Admiral Skerrett.

The Chairman. To execute your orders? Mr. Blount. Yes.

The Chairman. You construed your authority, of which you have just been speaking, to be sufficient to justify you in taking command of that fleet?

Senator Butler. Control.

The Chairman. I put it "command," for the purpose of removing the troops off the shore, and of hauling down the flag that had been raised there upon the Hawaiian public buildings?

Mr. Blount. I thought I was justified under the instruction and that order given by the Secretary of the Navy, of which I had information.

The Chairman. If at any time while you remained there you had supposed that the preservation of life and property and their treaty rights made it necessary, you thought you would have had authority, under the construction of your powers, to have ordered the troops back upon the shore?

Mr. Blount. I think so. The letter of the Secretary of State speaks of it. I do not recollect the exact instructions; but it speaks about my conferring with Admiral Skerrett—makes some such suggestions. But taking that communication and the order from the Secretary of the Navy to Admiral Skerrett, I thought I had authority to order the troops back to protect the property of American citizens.

The Chairman. You thought you were the judge of the political or actual situation in Hawaii, or in Honolulu, to the extent of authorizing you to protect the public peace, and thereby to protect American property and life?

Mr. Blount. I do not say to protect the public peace. I did not understand it to that extent. I understood that if there was a contest between the people of the Provisional Government and any other people there for the control of public affairs, if it did not involve the property and the persons of American citizens who were not participating in the conflict, I had nothing to do with it.

The Chairman. Would not a conflict of that kind in the city of Honolulu, with 20,000 population and a great many nationalities represented, necessarily involve some danger to American life and property and commerce?

Mr. Blount. I felt this way about that: I knew that that question was one that might come, and that I would wait until it came to see what discretion I would use under the circumstances that arose. I tried to carry out my power as I understood it.

The Chairman. And you construed your authority to be sufficient

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to enable you to use the naval forces of the United States then in the harbor for the purpose of protecting the life, liberty, and property and treaty rights of American citizens in the event of a commotion?

Mr. Blount. Yes. I think there is no doubt about that. I think that appears from my instructions. I think that is very clear.

Senator Butler. I understand that under your instructions if that exigency had arisen, and you thought it necessary, you would have ordered the troops ashore to protect life and property?

Mr. Blount. Yes.

The Chairman. In ordering these troops from the shore to the ship, were you influenced by this construction of your authority?

Mr. Blount. There were several things. It did not seem to me that an investigation could go on very well with the flag and troops there. They were calculated to repress certain people and prevent them testifying— if that condition of things were kept up. In the next place, it did not occur to me that there was any justification for it at all, for its continuance. I have nothing to say about the original placing of it; it was not a matter of my own to determine. But I found it there; I thought it could be removed without any difficulty, and I accordingly ordered the flag removed and the troops back on board the vessel. Before proceeding further, here are what I conceive to be the orders under which Admiral Skerrett was acting:

"March 11, 1893.
"Sir: This letter will be handed to you by the Hon. James H. Blount, Special Commissioner from the President of the United States to the Government of the Hawaiian Islands.
"You will consult freely with Mr. Blount, and will obey any instructions you may receive from him regarding the course to be pursued at said islands by the force under your command.
"You will also afford Mr. Blount all such facilities as he may desire for the use of your cipher code in communicating by telegraph with this Government.
"Respectfully,
"Hilary A. Herbert,
"Secretary of the Navy.
"Rear-Admiral J. S. Skerrett,
"Commander in Chief United States Naval Forces,
"Pacific Station, Flagship Mohican, Honolulu, H.I. "

The Chairman. That was the order of the Secretary of the Navy to which you had reference?

Mr. Blount. Yes. Mr. Chairman, allow me a moment. I made a statement a while ago that until my instructions were published I had not communicated then to anybody. I forgot that I did communicate then to Admiral Skerrett. I felt that I could not confer with him about anything unless he knew my instructions.

The Chairman. Knew what your instructions were?

Mr. Blount.Yes.

The Chairman. The extent of your authority?

Mr. Blount.Yes. No officer connected with the vessels there other than Admiral Skerrett had any knowledge of it.

The Chairman. I will ask you the question: Was the movement of the troops or the orders for hauling down the flag in any respect intended to be an evidence of your participation in the domestic affairs


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