Highlights of Morgan's summary

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Summary

The first 35 pages of the Morgan report are a summary of the committee's conclusions, running from page 363 to 398, including separate comments at the end by minority (Republican) members. Those 35 pages are already a summary; hence it is difficult to summarize them further without leaving out material of enormous historical significance. It is strongly recommended to read the entire 35 pages in detail; and then to scan the outline of the remaining several hundred pages of the Morgan report for topics of interest.

For the entire 35-page Morgan report verbatim summary, as originally published (without section headings), click here.

Following are the most important points in the summary, from the perspective of the political controversies of year 2006. Most of the language below is verbatim content from the summary.

Limits of authority

The following resolution of the Senate defines the limits of the authority of the committee in the investigation and report it is required to make:

"Resolved, That the Committee on Foreign Relations shall inquire and report whether any, and, if so, what irregularities have occurred in the diplomatic or other intercourse between the United States and Hawaii in relation to the recent political revolution in Hawaii, and to this end said committee is authorized to send for persons and papers and to administer oaths to witnesses."

Witnesses under oath

The witnesses were examined under oath when it was possible to secure their appearance before the committee, though in some instances affidavits were taken in Hawaii and other places, and papers of a scientific and historic character will be appended to this report and presented to the Senate for its consideration.

Continuity of relations

The government of the United States had a continuous relationship with the government of Hawai'i, even when President Benjamin Harrison was replaced by President Cleveland.

Special relationship

The U.S. has a long-standing special relationship with Hawai'i, of a very different kind from its relationship with European nations. Hawai'i falls within the scope of the Monroe doctrine that European powers must not interfere in the American sphere of influence.

Hawai'i is entitled to expect U.S. support when it desires to be rid of arbitrary monarchial power.

Threat of violence

A condition of affairs existed in Honolulu which led naturally to the apprehension that violence or civil commotion would ensue, in which the peace and security of American citizens would be put in peril, as had been done on three or more separate occasions previously when changes occurred or were about to occur in the government of Hawaii.

Paralysis of government

Whatever we may conclude were the real causes of the situation then present in Honolulu [January, 1893], the fact is that there was a complete paralysis of executive government in Hawaii.

The action of the Queen in an effort to overturn the constitution of 1887, to which she had sworn obedience and support, had been accepted and treated by a large and powerful body of the people as a violation of her constitutional obligations, revolutionary in its character and purposes and that it amounted to an act of abdication on her part, so far as her powers and the rights of the people under the constitution of 1887 were concerned. This state of opinion and this condition of the executive head of the Hawaiian Government neutralized its power to protect American citizens and other foreigners in their treaty rights, and also their rights under the laws of Hawaii.

It was her conduct, opposed by her people, or a large portion of them, that paralyzed the executive authority and left the citizens of the United States in Honolulu without the protection of any law, unless it was such as should be extended to them by the American minister, in conjunction with the arms of the United States then on board the Boston.

Renunciation of constitution

She had openly renounced the constitution of 1887 before the troops were landed or any preparation was made or any order was issued to land them, and the people were preparing to substitute the monarchy, which was still existing in the constitution, by a ruler of their own choice before any troops left the Boston.

The well-known legal authority Blackstone, commenting on the overthrow of King James II of England in 1688, asserted the principle that when a monarch violates and disavows the constitution that originally empowered him (even though that constitution was unwritten in England), that monarch has thereby abdicated office and created a vacancy which the people can fill as they see fit. The replacement of the head of government (and close associates) does not destroy the government itself, and certainly not the nation.

Motives behind the overthrow

Under her [Lili'uokalani's] brief rule, it [the monarchy] was kept alive by the care and forbearing tolerance of the conservative white people, who owned $50,000,000 of the property in Hawaii, until they saw that the Queen and her party had determined to grasp absolute power and destroy the constitution and the rights of the white people. When they were compelled to act in self-defense the monarchy disappeared. It required nothing but the determined action of what was called the missionary party to prostrate the monarchy, and that action had been taken before the troops from the Boston landed.

Respectful actions of troops

In landing the troops from the Boston there was no demonstration of actual hostilities, and their conduct was as quiet and as respectful as it had been on many previous occasions when they were landed for the purpose of drill and practice. In passing the palace on their way to the point at which they were halted, the Queen appeared upon the balcony and the troops respectfully saluted her by presenting arms and dipping the flag, and made no demonstration of any hostile intent.

The committee agree that such was the condition of the Hawaiian Government at the time that the troops were landed in Honolulu from the steam warship Boston; that there was then an interregnum in Hawaii as respects the executive office; that there was no executive power to enforce the laws of Hawaii, and that it was the right of the United States to land troops upon those islands at any place where it was necessary in the opinion of our minister to protect our citizens.

Threat against vital liberties

The assurance given that future efforts "to change" the constitution of 1887 should be conducted only in the method therein prescribed, was no assurance that her foreign-born subjects should be protected in their vital liberties. To the reverse, it was a continuing threat that they should be disfranchised and placed at the mercy of racial aggression, backed by the power of the crown. The declarations of the Queen made in person to Minister Willis, on three occasions, and at long intervals of time after the lapse of nine months of sedate reflection, show that this assurance, given in fact by her ministers, was only a thin disguise of her real purpose to drive out the white population and confiscate their property, and, if need be, to destroy their lives.

The opinions, or sentiments, expressed by her in the three interviews she had with Mr. Willis, in which she uttered the severest denunciations against the white race in Hawaii, and declared her willingness, if not her purpose, to confiscate their estates and to banish or to destroy them, while they are a seeming expression of the lofty indignation of an offended ruler, are so unsuited to the character of a queen crowned by a Christian and civilized people, and so out of keeping with her character as a woman who had received kindly recognition and personal regard from other good and refined ladies, that they shock all right-minded people in Christendom.

The President, on the first intimation of these harsh declarations of the Queen, at once laid them before Congress, and abandoned the further exercise of his good offices to bring about a reconciliation between her and those who were conducting and supporting the Provisional Government.

Mr. Willis, however, regarding his instructions as continuing to require his intercession beyond the point where the President considered that it should cease, held a second and third interview with Liliuokalani. After these interviews had closed, the Queen being still firm in her course, Mr. Carter, a trusted friend, obtained her signature to a pledge of amnesty, and made that the basis of his proposition to Mr. Dole for the abandonment of the Provisional Government, which was summarily refused. This closed that incident.

Restoration of Monarchy unjustified

When a crown falls, in any kingdom of the Western Hemisphere, it is pulverized, and when a scepter departs, it departs forever; and American opinion can not sustain any American ruler in the attempt to restore them, no matter how virtuous and sincere the reasons may be that seem to justify him. There have been heathen temples in the older States in this hemisphere where the bloody orgies of pagan worship and sacrifice have crimsoned history with shame; and very recently such temples have been erected in the United States to abuse Christianity by the use of its sacred name and ritual. When the arms of invaders, or mobs of the people, have destroyed these temples, no just indignation at the cruelties that may have been perpetrated in their destruction could possibly justify their restoration.

The question presented in Honolulu on and after the 12th of January, 1893, was whether the Queen continued to be the executive head of the Government of Hawaii. That was a question of fact which her conduct and that of her people placed in perilous doubt until it was decided by the proclamation of a new executive. Pending that question there was no responsible executive government in Hawaii.

Protectorate disavowed

Afterward, on the 1st day of February, 1893, the American minister caused the flag of the United States to be raised on the Government building in Honolulu, and assumed and declared a protectorate over that nation in the name of the United States. This act on the part of our minister was without authority, and was void for want of power. It was disavowed by Secretary Foster and rebuked by Secretary Gresham, and the order to abandon the protectorate and haul down the flag was in accordance with the duty and honor of the United States. To haul down the flag of the United States was only an order to preserve its honor.

The diplomatic officers of the United States in Hawaii have the right to much larger liberty of action in respect to the internal affairs of that country than would be the case with any other country with which we have no peculiar or special relations.

Close relationship between governments

In our diplomatic correspondence with Hawaii and in the various treaties, some of them treaties of annexation, which have been signed and discussed, though not ratified, from time to time, there has been manifested a very near relationship between the two governments. The history of Hawaii in its progress, education, development, and government, and in Christianity, has been closely identified with that of the United StatesÑso closely, indeed, that the United States has not at any time hesitated to declare that it would permit no intervention in the affairs of Hawaii by any foreign government which might tend to disturb the relations with the United States, or to gain any advantages there over the Americans who may have settled in that country. The United States has assumed and deliberately maintained toward Hawaii a relation which is entirely exceptional, and has no parallel in our dealings with any other people.

Observing the spirit of the Monroe doctrine, the United States, in the beginning of our relations with Hawaii, made a firm and distinct declaration of the purpose to prevent the absorption of Hawaii or the political control of that country by any foreign power. Without stating the reasons for this policy, which included very important commercial and military considerations, the attitude of the United States toward Hawaii was in moral effect that of a friendly protectorate.

The treaty relations between Hawaii and the United States, as fixed by several conventions that have been ratified, and by other negotiations, have been characterized by a sentiment of close reciprocity. In addition to trade relations of the highest advantage to Hawaii, the United States has so far interfered with the internal policy of Hawaii as to secure an agreement from that Government restricting the disposal of bays and harbors and the crown lands to other countries, and has secured exclusive privileges in Pearl Harbor of great importance to this Government.

This attitude of the two governments and the peculiar friendship of the two peoples, together with the advantages given to Hawaii in commerce, induced a large and very enterprising class of people from the United States to migrate to those islands and to invest large sums of money in the cultivation of sugar and rice, and in other trade and industry.

Military presence in the past

Apprehensions of civil disturbance in Hawaii caused the United States to keep ships of war at Honolulu for many years past, almost without intermission, and the instructions that were given to our diplomatic and consular officers and to the naval commanders on that station went beyond the customary instructions applicable to other countries. In most instances, the instructions so given included the preservation of order and of the peace of the country, as well as the protection and preservation of the property and of the lives and treaty rights of American citizens.

The circumstances above mentioned, which the evidence shows to have existed, create a new light under which we must examine into the conduct of our diplomatic and naval officers in respect of the revolution that occurred in Hawaii in January, 1893. In no sense, and at no time, has the Government of the United States observed toward the domestic affairs of Hawaii the strict impartiality and the indifference enjoined by the general law of noninterference, in the absence of exceptional conditions. We have always exerted the privilege of interference in the domestic policy of Hawaii to a degree that would not be justified, under our view of the international law, in reference to the affairs of Canada, Cuba, or Mexico.

The cause of this departure from our general course of diplomatic conduct is the recognized fact that Hawaii has been all the time under a virtual suzerainty of the United States, which is, by an apt and familiar definition, a paramount authority, not in any actual sense an actual sovereignty, but a de facto supremacy over the country. This sense of paramount authority, of supremacy, with the right to intervene in the affairs of Hawaii, has never been lost sight of by the United States to this day, and it is conspicously manifest in the correspondence of Mr. Willis with Mr. Dole, which is set forth in the evidence which accompanies this report.

Purpose of the Provisional Government

Annexation was an avowed purpose of the Provisional Government, because it would popularize the movement. No one could project a revolution in Hawaii for the overthrow of the monarchy, that would not raise the question among the people of annexation to the United States.

In the diplomatic correspondence of the United States with our ministers to Hawaii, frequent and favorable allusion is made to this subject as a matter of friendly consideration for the advantage of that country and people, and not as a result that would enhance the wealth or power of the United States. So that, there was no thought of conspiracy against the monarchy in openly favoring the project of annexation.

Commissioners to treat with the United States for the annexation of Hawaii were sent to Washington immediately upon the adoption and promulgation of the Provisional Government, and they negotiated and signed a treaty in conjunction with Mr. Secretary Foster, which was submitted to the Senate of the United States and was subsequently withdrawn by the present administration. Accompanying that treaty was a paper signed by Liliuokalani, in which she stated no objection to the project of annexation to the United States, but in which she protested earnestly against her dethronement.

The recognition of the Provisional Government was lawful and authoritative, and has continued without interruption or modification up to the present time. It may be justly claimed for this act of recognition that it has contributed greatly to the maintenance of peace and order in Hawaii and to the promotion of the establishment of free, permanent, constitutional government in Hawaii, based upon the consent of the people.

Liliuokalani's complaint dismissed

The complaint by Liliuokalani in the protest that she sent to the President of the United States and dated the 18th day of January, is not, in the opinion of the committee, well founded in fact or in justice. It appears from the evidence submitted with this report that she was in fact the author and promoter of a revolution in Hawaii which involved the destruction of the entire constitution, and a breach of her solemn oath to observe and support it, and it was only after she had ascertained that she had made a demand upon her native subjects for support in this movement which they would not give to her, that she, for the time, postponed her determination to carry this revolution into effect, and made known her determination to do so as soon as she could feel that she had the power to sustain the movement.

But the President of the United States, giving attention to Liliuokalani's claim that this Government had alarmed her by the presence of its troops into the abdication of her crown, believed that it was proper and necessary in vindication of the honor of the United States to appoint a commissioner to Hawaii who would make a careful investigation into the facts and send the facts and his conclusions to the President, for his information.

Defending Cleveland's appointment and empowerment of Blount (despite Blount's mistaken conclusions based on his gathering of information only from Royalists)

The commissioner, Mr. Blount, went to Hawaii under circumstances of extreme embarrassment and executed his instructions with impartial care to arrive at the truth, and he presented a sincere and instructive report to the President of the United States, touching the facts, the knowledge of which he thus acquired. In the agitated state of opinion and feeling in Hawaii at that time, it was next to impossible to obtain a full, fair, and free declaration in respect of the facts which attended this revolution, and particularly was this difficult to obtain from the persons who actively participated in that movement.

The evidence submitted by the committee, in addition to that which was presented by Mr. Blount, having been taken under circumstances more favorable to the development of the whole truth with regard to the situation, has, in the opinion of the committee, established the fact that the revolutionary movement in Hawaii originated with Liliuokalani, and was promoted, provided for, and, as she believed, secured by the passage of the opium bill and the lottery bill through the Legislature, from which she expected to derive a revenue sufficient to secure the ultimate success of her purpose, which was distinctly and maturely devised to abolish the constitution of 1887, and to assume to herself absolute power, free from constitutional restraint of any serious character.

An authority was intrusted to Mr. Blount to remove the American flag from the Government building in Hawaii, and to disclaim openly and practically the protectorate which had been announced in that country by Minister Stevens, and also to remove the troops from Honolulu to the steamer Boston. This particular delegation of authority to Mr. Blount was paramount over the authority of Mr. Stevens, who was continued as minister resident of the United States at Honolulu, and it raised the question whether the Government of the United States can have at the same foreign capital two ministers, each of whom shall exercise separate and special powers.

The control given to Mr. Trist over the military operations in Mexico, when war was flagrant, was far greater than that which was confided to Mr. Blount. The secret orders given to the commanders of the Army and of the Navy on that occasion are set out in the appendix to this report.

The committee find nothing worthy of criticism in the negotiation of the treaty of annexation with the Provisional Government of Hawaii.

Hawaii government undisturbed except for chief executive

The revolution in Hawaii had the effect of displacing one chief of the executive department and substituting another. Except the Queen and her cabinet, no officer of the Government was removed. The legislative body, including the house of nobles and house of representatives and their presiding officers, remained in commission. The supreme court and all other judicial magistracies and the officers of the courts were left undisturbed, and, when the interregnum ended, they pursued their duties without change or interruption; commerce with foreign countries and between the islands was not in any way prevented, and the commercial and banking houses were open for business, which resumed activity when the executive head of the Government was again in the exercise of lawful authority.

The Government had not been displaced and another substituted, but only a department which was left vacant had been rehabilitated.

When this was done and the fact was recognized, the Government of Hawaii was as competent to treat of annexation to the United States as it had ever been, or as it ever will be, until the United States shall decide that it will annex no more territory unless with the consent of the people to be annexed, to be ascertained by a plebiscite.

Blount's appointment proper

There was nothing improper about President Cleveland's appointment of Mr. Blount without Senate confirmation, even though it was not a recess appointment (because the Senate was in session at the time). U.S. presidents and heads of other governments often send personal represenatives, with secret instructions, to gather information and deliver messages.

In the opinion of the committee, based upon the evidence which accompanies this report, the only substantial irregularity that existed in the conduct of any officer of the United States, or agent of the President, during or since the time of the revolution of 1893, was that of Minister Stevens in declaring a protectorate of the United States over Hawaii, and in placing the flag of our country upon the Government building in Honolulu. No actual harm resulted from this unauthorized act, but as a precedent it is not to be considered as being justified.

Dissenting views on some points

We are in entire accord with the essential findings in the exceedingly able report submitted by the chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations. But it is our opinion-

First. That the appointment on the 11th day of March, 1893, without the advice and consent of the Senate, of Hon. James H. Blount as "special commissioner" to the Hawaiian Government under letters of credence and those of instruction, which declared that "in all matters affecting relations with the Government of the Hawaiian Islands his authority is paramount" was an unconstitutional act, in that such appointee, Mr. Blount, was never nominated to the Senate, but was appointed without its advice and consent, although that body was in session when such appointment was made and continued to be in session for a long time immediately thereafter.

Second. The orders of the Executive Department by which the naval force of the United States in the harbor of Honolulu was in effect placed under the command of Mr. Blount or of Mr. Willis were without authority or warrant of law.

Third. The order given by Mr. Blount to Admiral Skerrett to lower the United States ensign from the Government building in Honolulu and to embark the troops on the ships to which they belonged, was an order which Mr. Blount had no lawful authority to give. Its object was not to terminate a protectorate. That relation had been disavowed by the administration of President Harrison immediately upon receiving information of its establishment. The flag and troops, when such order was given by Mr. Blount, were in the positions from which he ordered them to be removed for the purpose of maintaining order and protecting American life and property. Their presence had been effectual to those ends, and their removal tended to create, and did create, public excitement and, to a degree, distrust of the power of the Provisional Government to preserve order or to maintain itself. That order of Mr. Blount was susceptible of being construed as indicating an unfriendly disposition on the part of the United States toward the Provisional Government, and it was so construed, particularly by the people of Hawaii.

In the light of subsequent relations between Mr. Blount and his successor, Mr. Willis, with the Queen, whose office had become vacant by her deposition and abdication under the attack of a successful revolution, this order and its execution were most unfortunate and untoward in their effect. Such relations and intercourse by Messrs. Blount and Willis with the head and with the executive officers of an overthrown government, conducted for the purpose of restoring that government by displacing its successor, were in violation of the constitution and of the principles of international law and were not warranted by the circumstances of the case.

Fourth. The question of the rightfulness of the revolution, of the lawfulness of the means by which the deposition and abdication of the Queen were effected, and the right of the Provisional Government to exist and to continue to exist was conclusively settled, as the report so forcibly states, against the Queen and in favor of the Provisional Government, by the act of the administration of President Harrison recognizing such Provisional Government, by the negotiation by that administration with such Provisional Government of a treaty of annexation to the United States; by accrediting diplomatic representation by such administration and by the present administration to such Provisional Government; therefore, it incontrovertibly follows that the President of the United States had no authority to attempt to reopen such determined questions, and to endeavor by any means whatever to overthrow the Provisional Government or to restore the monarchy which it had displaced.

While it is true that a friendly power may rightfully tender its good offices of mediation or advice in cases such as that under present consideration, it is also true that the performance of such offices of mediation or advice ought not to be entered upon without the consent previously given by both the parties whom the action or decision of the friendly power may affect. Such consent was not given in the present instance. The Provisional Government never so consented; it was never requested to consent. It denied the jurisdiction of the present administration on every proper occasion. Therefore the proceedings by the President, which had for their result his request and monition to the Provisional Government to surrender its powers, to give up its existence and to submit to be displaced by the monarchy which it had overthrown, had no warrant in law, nor in any consent of one of the parties to be affected by such proceedings.

Fifth. The avowed opinion of the President of the United States, in substance, that it is the duty of this Government to make reparation to the Queen by endeavoring to reinstate her upon her throne by all constitutional methods, is a clear definition of the policy of the present administration to that end. The instructions to Messrs. Blount and Willis must be construed to be other and more ample forms of expression of that policy. No other presumption is permissible than that their actions at Honolulu were with intent to carry out that avowed policy. These considerations make immaterial any discussion, in this connection, of the personal intentions, circumspection, or good faith of these gentlemen in the performance of the task to which they had been plainly commanded by the present administration.

John Sherman.
Wm. P. Frye.
J. N. Dolph.
Cushman K. Davis.

Additional dissenting views

The undersigned, members of the Committee on Foreign Relations, submit herewith the following views adverse to the report of the committee, upon the subject of the recent political revolution in Hawaii.

Agreeing as we do with the conclusions submitted by the chairman of the committee that no irregularities were committed either in the appointment of Special Commissioner Blount or in the instructions given him by the President, and without denying or conceding in any manner the correctness of the facts as claimed, or of the statements as made, in said report concerning other matters therein mentioned, we especially dissent from that portion thereof which declares that the only substantial irregularity in the conduct of Mr. Stevens, the late minister, was his declaration of a protectorate by the United States over Hawaii. We are of the opinion also that there are no valid reasons and no course of dealing in our past relations with those islands which justifies interference by the United States with the political internal affairs of Hawaii any more than with those of any other independent state or nation in this hemisphere. We can not concur, therefore, in so much of the foregoing report as exonerates the minister of the United States, Mr. Stevens, from active officious and unbecoming participation in the events which led to the revolution in the Sandwich Islands on the 14th, 16th, and 17th of January, 1893. His own admissions in his official correspondence with this Government, his conduct for months preceding the revolution, as well as the facts established by the evidence before the committee, clearly justify such a conclusion.

On the other hand, we are not inclined to censure Capt. Wiltse, commanding the United States war-ship Boston, or the officers of that vessel. Their position was one of extreme delicacy and difficulty, and we appreciate their anxiety to afford protection to the lives and property of American citizens. The force of United States marines of the Boston with their ordinary arms stationed at the American legation, and at the consulate in Honolulu, would have effectually represented the authority and power of the United States Government, and would have afforded whatever protection American interests might have required; and at the same time would have avoided the appearance of coercion or duress, either upon the people of Honolulu or the Queen in the controversy between them.

The moral support and good offices of this Government, or of any government, is always permissible in promoting the moral tone and political improvement of the government of foreign countries on terms of amity with their own; but there is nothing in international law, in sound public policy, or in our past history and traditions which justifies a representative of this Government in interfering officiously or improperly in the domestic or political affairs of a foreign country, whatever may be the character of its rulers, its form of government, or its political condition. We have enough to do to attend to our own business.

We cannot, therefore, avoid the conviction that the inopportune zeal of Minister Stevens in the project of annexation of the Sandwich Islands to the United States caused him to exceed the proper limits of his official duty and of his diplomatic relations to the government and people of those islands. His conduct as the public representative of this Government was directly conducive to bringing about the condition of affairs which resulted in the overthrow of the Queen, the organization of the Provisional Government, the landing of the United States troops, and the attempted scheme of annexation; and upon this conclusion his conduct is seriously reprehensible and deserving of public censure.

M.C. Butler,
David Turpie,
John W. Daniel,
George Gray,
Members of Minority.

February 22, 1894.

The question of annexation is not submitted for the consideration of the committee, except as it incidentally affects the main question discussed; but it may not be improper for me to say, in this connection, that I am heartily in favor of the acquisition of those islands by the Government of the United States; and in a proper case and on an appropriate occasion I should earnestly advocate the same. But I am unwilling to take advantage of internal dissentions in those islands, for which I believe we are in some measure responsible, to consummate at this time so desirable an object.

M.C. Butler.

I concur in the above.

David Turpie.