Isn't the Morgan Report racist?
Many witnesses presenting testimony at the Morgan Report hearings were undeniably bigoted. Even the most generous of them clearly considered kanaka maoli inferior to whites, led into grace only by the good works of Christian missionaries and white advisors.
For example, in the testimony of Peter Cushman Jones, Senator Gray is surprised that the kanaka maoli are considered intelligent and educated:
- Senator Gray. I did not know that they were so far advanced as that. How long has education been general among the native population?
Mr. Jones disparages kanaka maoli regarding truthfulness, as if they were still children who told lies:
- Senator Gray. Are they treacherous; have they the characteristics of our North American Indians?
- Mr. Jones. No; but they are untruthful—not what we would call treacherous; I would hardly call them treacherous; but sometimes they are untruthful.
And even though Mr. Jones seems willing to give kanaka maoli the same voting rights he would enjoy, he clearly sees them as unable to govern themselves:
- Senator Frye. Are they capable of self-government?
- Mr. Jones. I should say not; although I should be willing to give the same privileges to them that I would ask for myself in the way of voting.
Throughout the entire testimony one can find statements that are shocking to modern morals. Statements of people who fought on the Confederate side of the Civil War. Statements of people thoroughly convinced of the superiority of the white race. Statements that we look upon today with disdain, disgust, and a fair bit of shame.
But regardless of the personal bigotries of the parties (which may have influenced their ideas and behaviors during the time in question and also during testimony), the facts they report in sworn testimony are nevertheless true. Those facts provide strong rebuttal to allegations in the Blount Report.
For example, regarding troop locations of the soliders from the Boston, P.C. Jones gives some relevant facts:
- Senator Frye. Do you know where the troops were located and why they were located and how ?
- Senator Gray. Of your own knowledge.
- Mr. Jones. Oh, yes. I know that there was a squad stationed at the American minister's, and another one at the American consul's, and the balance of them at Arion Hall.
These facts certainly have nothing to do with Mr. Jones' opinions of race relations.
The world of 1893 was filled with people who thought whites were superior to Negroes and other dark-skinned people. The world of 1893 was filled with people who thought men were superior to women. The world of 1893 was filled with people who thought Christianity was superior to the ancient Hawaiian religion (indeed, the native leadership agreed Christianity was superior -- they demonstrated the strength of their conviction by abolishing the old religion even before the missionaries arrived, and by converting to Christianity afterward).
Although we can surely be outraged at the bigotry of the past, it is not fair to assert that bigotry made a person inherently untruthful; or that bigotry made a person less capable of giving testimony in good faith. To assert such blanket stereotypes against these white men of 1893 is just as bad as the stereotypes they held against the kanaka maoli.
The ad hominem attack on a speaker's background or personality in order to discredit their statements or logic is a common, yet flawed technique of argument. In the debate over the issues surrounding the overthrow and annexation, this tactic is rightly condemned by anyone searching for the truth. Valuable eyewitness reports about what happened during the Hawaiian revolution of 1893, presented under oath and subjected to cross-examination; and historical documents presented by witnesses; should not be casually dismissed merely because those witnesses had personal opinions which we today, with more enlightened values, consider reprehensible.
So is the Morgan Report racist? Absolutely. But does that make it completely wrong? Absolutely not.
Was every mention of kanaka maoli disparaging?
Clearly the answer is "No." Despite blatant bigotry in parts of the testimony, kanaka maoli are described in many respectful and laudatory ways throughout the testimony.
pp. 454-464 - SANFORD B. DOLE academic paper "EVOLUTION OF HAWAIIAN LAND TENURES" read before the Hawaiian Historical Society December 5, 1892 [at this time Dole was a Justice of the Supreme Court of the Kingdom; 6 weeks later he would become President of the Provisional Government]
- "A brief ten years had been sufficient for the Hawaiian nation to break down the hoary traditions and venerable customs of the past, and to climb the difficult path from a selfish feudalism to equal rights, from royal control of all the public domain to peasant proprietorship and fee-simple titles for poor and for rich. It came quickly and without bloodshed because the nation was ready for it. Foreign intercourse, hostile and friendly, and the spirit of a Christian civilization had an educating influence upon the eager nation, united by the genius of Kamehameha I, with its brave and intelligent warrior chiefs resting from the conquest of arms, their exuberant energies free for the conquest of new ideas; with rare wisdom, judgment, and patriotism they proved equal to the demands of the time upon them."
pp. 464-465 - EXTRACT FROM THE REPORT OF HON. JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, CHAIRMAN OF THE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
- "It is a subject of cheering contemplation to the friends of human improvement and virtue, that by the mild and gentle influence of Christian charity, dispensed by humble missionaries of the gospel, unarmed with secular power, within the last quarter of a century, the people of this group of islands have been converted from the lowest debasement of idolatry to the blessings of the Christian gospel; united under one balanced government; rallied to the fold of civilization by a written language and constitution, providing security for the rights of persons, property, and mind, and invested with all the elements of right and power which can entitle them to be acknowledged by their brethren of the human race as a separate and independent community. To the consummation of their acknowledgment the people of the North American Union are urged by an interest of their own, deeper than that of any other portion of the inhabitants of the earth—by a virtual right of conquest, not over the freedom of their brother man by the brutal arm of physical power, but over the mind and heart by the celestial panoply of the gospel of peace and love."
It almost seems as if the bigoted comments made by some witnesses are reluctant, as if they can't quite bring themselves to directly declare kanaka maoli as equal to whites, even though they may believe so.
pp. 578 - Testimony of P.C. Jones
- Senator Gray. You say you do not think those native Hawaiians are capable of self-government?
- Mr. Jones. I do not think so.
- Senator Gray. Do you think they necessarily have to be governed by a more intelligent class for their own as well as for your benefit?
- Mr. Jones. I think so.
- Senator Gray. You think that the intelligent and those having property interests will have to control the country for the good of those islands?
- Mr. Jones. It seems to me so. That is my opinion, although I would give them the same rights that I ask for myself.
pp. 730-731 - Testimony of I. Goodwin Hobbs
- The Chairman. Would you say that there was a stronger condition of race jealously existing in Hawaii between the whites and the native Kanakas than there is in these States, Southern States, Washington—I will say between the whites and negroes?
- Mr. Hobbs. Not so much.
- The Chairman. Is it considered disreputable for a white man to marry a Kanaka woman?
- Mr. Hobbs. No; many have done so.
- The Chairman. But it is quite disreputable for a white man to marry a negro woman here.
- Mr. Hobbs. Oh, certainly.
Blount's words on race
In Blount's final report of July 17, 1893, he makes it clear he shares the bigotry of the age against non-whites:
- From 1820 to 1866 missionaries of various nationalities, especially American, with unselfishness, toil, patience, and piety, had devoted themselves to the improvement of the native. They gave them a language, a religion, and an immense movement on the lines of civilization. In process of time the descendants of these good men grew up in secular pursuits. Superior by nature[emphasis added], education, and other opportunities, they acquired wealth.
- On the other hand, was it not natural for the white race to vaunt their wealth and intelligence, their Christian success in rescuing the native from barbarism, their gift of a Government regal in name but containing many of the principles of freedom; to find in the natives defective intelligence,[emphasis added] tendencies to idolatry, to race prejudice, and a disposition under the influence of white and half-white leaders to exercise political domination;