Historical Background and Importance of the Morgan Report

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The Rest of The Rest of The Story

Short essay on Cleveland's reaction to the Morgan Report.

You can read compilations Cleveland's messages and papers for yourself here, thanks to Project Gutenberg.

For an example of previous historical misunderstandings about Cleveland's evolving opinions, read about his Joke Proclamation of February 25, 1894 (one day before the Morgan Report was submitted).

What is the Morgan Report?

The "Morgan report" is today's name for a report to the U.S. Senate by its Committee on Foreign Relations, whose chairman was Senator John T. Morgan, Democrat of Alabama. Senate Report 227 of the 53rd Congress, second session, was dated February 26, 1894.

The Morgan report was printed as part of a large volume containing other government documents: "Reports of Committee on Foreign Relations 1789-1901 Volume 6." In that volume the "Hawaiian Islands" section begins with its own title page being page 360. The actual content of the Morgan report doesn't begin until page 363 of the larger volume 6. The page numbers shown on this webpage are the same as printed in the larger volume 6. Therefore, anyone desiring a page number for the Morgan report as though it is a stand-alone document should subtract 359 from the numbers shown on this webpage.

The Morgan Report was the final result of Cleveland's referral of the matter of the overthrow to Congress. Quoting Clevland from the Blount Report:

...Though I am not able now to report a definite change in the actual situation, I am convinced that the difficulties lately created both here and in Hawaii and now standing in the way of a solution through Executive action of the problem presented, render it proper, and expedient, that the matter should be referred to the broader authority and discretion of Congress[emphasis added], with a full explanation of the endeavor thus far made to deal with the emergency and a statement of the considerations which have governed my action...
...I therefore submit this communication with its accompanying exhibits, embracing Mr. Blount's report, the evidence and statements taken by him at Honolulu, the instructions given to both Mr. Blount and Minister Willis, and correspondence connected with the affair in hand.
In commending this subject to the extended powers and wide discretion of the Congress [emphasis added], I desire to add the assurance that I shall be much gratified to cooperate in any legislative plan which may be devised for the solution of the problem before us which is consistent with American honor, integrity and morality.
Excecutive Mansion,
Washington, December 18, 1893

In what may have been a surprise to Cleveland, the Morgan Report thoroughly repudiated the conclusions of Blount, and with the Morgan Report's conclusion, the matter was legally closed. Cleveland explicitly accepted the conclusions of the Morgan Report, continuing to engage in international relations with the Provisional Government, recognizing the Republic of Hawaii, and even negotiating treaties originally ratified under the Kingdom government with the Republic.

Although sovereignty activists insist that the Provisional Government was a puppet government, installed by the U.S., as per Cleveland's December 18, 1893 letter to Congress, it is critical to note that with the submission of the Morgan Report on February 26, 1894, Cleveland accepted that his original assertions were in error.

What historical circumstances caused the U.S. Senate to hold hearings and produce the Morgan report?

A few words are needed about the political situation in the U.S., 1893-1894.

At the time the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown, President Benjamin Harrison, a Republican expansionist, was only a few weeks from the end of his term. The Provisional Government of Hawai'i immediately delivered a treaty of annexation to President Harrison, who referred it favorably to the Senate for ratification.

Shortly thereafter Grover Cleveland became President. Because he was a friend of Lili'uokalani and was opposed to U.S. expansionism, he immediately withdrew the treaty from the Senate.

James Blount, a Democrat, had been chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee during Harrison's term. The newly installed President Cleveland, without seeking confirmation from the Senate (which was in session at the time), appointed Blount to be a special envoy to Hawai'i with "paramount" powers and secret instructions to investigate the circumstances of the revolution and the stability of the Provisional Government.

Blount held secret, informal conversations with royalists and annexationists in Honolulu. But he invited only royalists to sit with him to give formal statements in the presence of a stenographer, to be published later in the Blount Report. The statements were not under oath. He delivered a report to President Cleveland on July 17, 1893 claiming improper U.S. backing for the revolution had been responsible for its success, and that the Provisional Government lacked popular support.

President Cleveland then ordered Hawai'i President Sanford Dole to dissolve the Provisional Government and restore the Queen through Minister Willis, but Dole refused. On December 18, 1893, Cleveland sent a message to Congress declaring the revolution improper and decrying the U.S. involvement in it, and referred the matter to their authority.

In response the Senate passed a resolution empowering its Foreign Relations Committee to hold public hearings under oath, and cross-examine witnesses, to investigate U.S. involvement in the revolution and also to investigate whether it had been proper for President Cleveland to appoint Blount and give him extraordinary powers to represent the U.S. and intervene in Hawai'i without Senate confirmation.

The final result of this investigation is the Morgan Report.

Who was Senator John T. Morgan?

Senator John Tyler Morgan, Democrat of Alabama, was Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the time of the hearings on Hawaii. That was the only two-year period between 1881 and 1913 when the Democrats held a majority in the Senate.

Morgan had been Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army. During the Reconstruction period, and during his Senate service from 1876 to 1907, he was a strong advocate of states rights, a segregationist and supporter of Jim Crow laws.

He was an expansionist, supporting U.S. acquisition of the Panama Canal, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Hawai'i. As an expansionist Morgan wanted to defend the Hawaii revolution and eventual annexation as legitimate. As a Democrat he also wanted to defend the right of President Cleveland to appoint James Blount and invest him with extraordinary powers without Senate confirmation, even though the Blount report contradicted Morgan's views on the legitimacy of the revolution.

The minority Republicans on the Morgan committee wrote a dissenting commentary declaring that Blount's appointment had been grossly improper. The Morgan report defends the legitimacy of Blount's appointment, but disagrees with many of his conclusions in light of the more comprehensive and dispassionate testimony the Morgan committee received from both sides in open hearings (plus affidavits from Hawaii) where witnesses were sworn to tell the truth and could be cross-examined.

Why is the Morgan Report important today?

The Morgan Report disproves many allegations made in the Blount Report, and discredits the way the Blount Report was created. The Blount Report was the primary basis for the U.S. Apology Resolution of 1993; which in turn is the primary basis for both the Akaka bill and for claims that Hawaiians have a right to independence under international law.

Today there are two kinds of Hawaiian sovereignty activists -- those who favor Hawaiian independence and those who favor the Akaka bill. Some independence leaders support the Akaka bill as a way to get political power and U.S. reparations while seeking independence. Most supporters of the Akaka bill probably see independence as a long-term ideal.

Both kinds of sovereignty activists rely heavily on the U.S. Apology Resolution of 1993 which, in turn, was based on the Blount Report of 1893. Independence activists agree with Senator Gorton's statement on the floor of the Senate in 1993 that the logical consequence of the Apology Resolution would be secession. The language of the Akaka bill cites the Apology Resolution as its major justification.

The Morgan Report of 1894 is the U.S. Senate's response to the Blount Report of 1893. Newly sworn President Grover Cleveland commissioned Blount's visit to Hawai'i and the writing of his report as part of a power struggle over the possible annexation of Hawai'i. The Morgan Report knocks the legs out from under the Blount Report by disproving allegations in the Blount Report and by discrediting the way the Blount Report was created.

Morgan Report testimony was taken under oath in public before a Senate committee in 1894, with cross-examination of witnesses (including Blount himself). By contrast Blount had informal conversations in secret with both royalists and annexationists; and then sent secret invitations only to royalists to make formal statements in the presence of a stenographer. Those statements were not under oath, and there was no cross-examination. Those statements were kept secret until the entire report was published, probably to achieve maximum political impact and to avoid demands for fair representation of opposing views.

The Hawaiian Revolution was followed by an immediate proposal from the Provisional Government of a treaty of annexation. That treaty arrived in Washington during the closing days of the Harrison administration (Republican); and the President promptly sent it to the Senate. A few weeks thereafter Grover Cleveland (Democrat) became President. In less than a week after taking the oath of office, Cleveland withdrew the treaty of annexation and issued secret papers appointing Blount to be his personal envoy to Hawai'i with paramount powers, without Senate confirmation or even awareness.

Blount arrived in Hawai'i, issued orders to U.S. military personnel to leave their encampment on land, gave other orders, and began interviewing people, all without notifying U.S. Minister Stevens, who was still officially in office; and without presenting his Presidential authorities to the Provisional Government.

The speed of those events, and other historical information, indicate that Cleveland wanted to undo the Hawaiian revolution and put Lili'uokalani back on the throne -- indeed, Cleveland's emissary in Honolulu later sent a formal message to Hawaii President Sanford Dole "ordering" Dole to step down and restore the Queen. It seems likely that President Cleveland sent Blount to destabilize the Provisional Government and to write a report to undercut growing Congressional support for annexation.

When the U.S. Senate passed the Apology Resolution in 1993, it did so without any hearings, based on a single hour of floor debate, and without considering the Senate's own Morgan report from a century earlier. The Apology Resolution of 1993 was handled in the same way as the Blount Report a century previously -- no formal presentation of opposing historical facts.

Today's Hawaiian independence activists repeatedly cite the Blount Report as evidence that the U.S. government was the primary instigator of the Hawaiian revolution, and that the revolution could not have succeeded without the landing of 152 U.S. peacekeepers from a ship in Honolulu Harbor. They claim that Hawai`i has been under belligerant occupation by the United States for more than a century. They say the Apology Resolution of 1993 is a confession of a crime by the U.S. against Hawaii, and that the U.S. is now obligated under international law to withdraw from Hawai`i, thereby restoring Hawaiian independence. They say the Blount Report provides strong evidence that Hawaiian independence was stolen by the U.S. "armed invasion" of 1893 -- evidence to be used in an international court to force the U.S. to give up Hawai`i.

The Akaka bill is a proposal to allow ethnic Hawaiians to establish a government based solely on race that would then be recognized by the federal government as comparable to an Indian tribe. The purpose of seeking such recognition is to acquire land, money, and legal authority through negotiations among the federal government, state government, and "Native Hawaiian governing entity." The Apology Resolution is cited repeatedly in the language of the Akaka bill as the primary justification for it, along with victimhood claims regarding health, education, etc.

Today's sovereignty activists have placed the entire Blount Report on the internet, along with the anti-annexation petitions from 1897. They got grants from the University of Hawai`i to digitize all the important documents related to annexation. They got space on the University library's website to make all the documents easily available to the public. But somehow they ran out of money before they could get to the Morgan Report. Thanks to the voluteers of morganreport.org, we don't have to wait for them any longer.

Without the Morgan Report there cannot be a fair and balanced view of history. The time has come to set the record straight. Today's decisions about Hawai`i's future should be made in view of the complete historical record. The facts really do matter. Before 2006 it was extremely difficult for scholars and students to read the Morgan Report. It was available only by making a personal visit to the dusty archives of one of the few libraries that had it; the book was so rare and old that librarians would not allow it to be taken out of the library. Now it is easily available to anyone with internet access. The editors of this project thank readers for taking the time to make use of it.

The University of Hawaii Library on-line collection of annexation documents

The Library website for the University of Hawai'i has a collection of digitized documents. Part of that collection is devoted to documents related to the annexation of Hawai'i to the United States (1898), including the overthrow of the monarchy (1893).

The URLs changed in the last year or two without forwarding; and might do so again without notice (possibly the last time was due to the flood of 2004). As of early 2006, here are the links:

Annexation Documents Home Page

Blount Report (1893)

Anti-Annexation Petition (Palapala hoopii kue hoohuiaina) (1897)

Anti-Annexation Protest Documents

Congressional debates on Hawaii Organic act (excerpts)

There are also related links to Lili'uokalani's book "Hawaii's Story by Hawaii's Queen", political caricatures of the Hawaiian Kingdom ca. 1875-1905, and People and Places connected with the Annexation

The website promised: "Scanning of Morgan Report [Hawaiian islands: report of the Committee on Foreign Relations] planned for future"

However, the library's project ended in 2002 and no further grants were applied for; it is also understood that a devastating flood caused significant setbacks for their program. The project narrative for the 2002 grant application to digitize documents, including the Morgan Report said, "The materials selected however are not one-sided. The Morgan Report challenges the Blount Report, which implicated the United States in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.". Although started with the best of intentions, the materials actually finished were one-sided, and woefully incomplete.

That's why the editors of the Morgan Report project felt a need to fill the gap, and complete the job. We have been assured that it was not the Univeristy of Hawaii's direct intent to suppress the Morgan Report, and they have graciously posted a link to this wiki from their webpage on Annexation Documents. We hope to join with them in future collaborative efforts to digitize and copyedit important historical documents.

In the single token of balance in the documents they did complete, the library project did post Lorrin Thurston's 32-page protest documenting fraud in the anti-annexation petitions. Morgan Report project editor-in-chief Jere Krischel assembled those 32 pages into a more user-friendly pdf document.

Specific examples of forged signatures in the Ku'e Petition

Regarding page 84 of the Ku'e Petition, an anonymous poster claiming nearly two decades of study in epigraphy made the following handwriting analysis:

The names on lines 1-3 were very likely written by the same person (W1), but not the same person who wrote the names on subsequent lines. You can see this pretty clearly by looking at the initial stroke of M, its sharp angled peaks, and how it does or does not join with following letters. In lines 1-3 it doesn't, in lines 4-12 (W2) it does. You can also see a clear distinction between the letter H in line 3 versus the H in line 6.

So far we have two writers.

Line 13 is the start of yet another handwriting style (W3). Again, look at the sharp peaks of the M and it's unusual descender; the lack of a join between the M and the following r. All three s'es in this same line have sharper peaks (consistent with the M, for example) than earlier s'es. I personally believe line 13 and 14 were written by the same person (W3).

Line 15 is in another person's hand (W4), to my eye. This same person is probably responsible for the remaining signatures in this column. The consistent shape of the K's, M's and H's support this.

The first 2 lines in the second column are the same handwriting as line 1-3 (W1) in the first column. The remaining lines of this column are also by W4.