Response to Letter of Stephen T. Boggs

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On January 28, 2006, Stephen T. Boggs, a Professor at U.H. Manoa, wrote the following Letter to the Editor regarding the article announcing the Morgan Report online (replies to the letter in bold):

MORGAN REPORT OP-ED DOESN'T REFLECT FACTS

Jere Krischel's Jan. 15 op-ed, "Morgan Report is public at long last," sounds more than a false note; it appears to be part of an orchestrated effort to suggest that Sen. Morgan's report of 1894 about the role of the U.S. government in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was right and Sen. Blount's report was wrong.

The Morgan Report of 2/26/1894 clearly repudiated the Blount Report of 7/17/1893, and included both the evidence collected by Blount, as well as additional evidence. It is clear that upon further examination, under cross-examination by a bi-partisan committee, with evidence in addition to both Blount's report as well as his own testimony, a more accurate conclusion was arrived at.

Actually, the conclusions of the Morgan Report without the accompanying documentation have been widely available ever since they were submitted to the Senate.

Unfortunately, for the past 30 years, an orchestrated effort has been made to downplay the importance of the Morgan Report. The majority of the analyses of the Morgan Report heretofore available have been those critical of the legitimacy of the State of Hawaii, and have been presented with clear bias. With both the Blount Report and Morgan Report now online for examination, a more reasonable conclusion can be made based not upon third-party opinions, but on direct access to the source materials.

Why does it matter now? Because Morgan maintained that the U.S. was blameless in the overthrow. His view supports the argument that the Republic of Hawai'i was a legal government and thus entitled under international law to transfer the sovereignty of the Kingdom to the United States.

It absolutely was a legal government, and was recognized as the legitimate successor to the Provisional Government and Kingdom of Hawaii by all nations that had ever had diplomatic relationships with the Kingdom, including the United States of America. There is no support at all for the assertion that the Republic of Hawaii was not a legal government.

Thus Krischel states: "In response to the findings of the Morgan Report, (President) Cleveland rebuffed further entreaties by the queen for intervention and recognized the Republic of Hawai'i as the legitimate successor to the kingdom." The republic was never legitimate, however, because the majority of the population opposed it.

A majority of support of the population has never been a prerequisite of legitimacy under international law. The explicit recognition of the legitimacy of the Provisional Government and Republic of Hawaii, both by the U.S. and all other nations that ever had relations with any Hawaiian Government, is what conferred legitimacy.

Nor was the Morgan Report responsible for changing Cleveland's policy. For an accurate account of that, readers should consult Thomas J. Osborne, "Annexation Hawai'i" (Island Style Press 1998), pp 79-81. Cleveland lost the support of Congress when he tried secretly to reinstate the queen. The Morgan Report reflected a compromise within Congress: It absolved Cleveland for his effort and recommended no further action to annex Hawai'i.

Stephen T. Boggs
Kane'ohe

From the references to Osborne given at www.hawaiiankingdom.info by Scott Crawford, there seems to be no basis for Professor Boggs' characterization of the Morgan Report. All nine members of the committee absolved the U.S. peacekeepers, and the compromise made was on the condemnation of Blount and Stevens (both were exonerated), not between blaming Blount and annexing Hawaii. Nor is there any indication of Cleveland's turnaround being due to loss of Congressional support instigated by his secret attempt to reinstate the Queen. In fact, Osborne states, "Since Cleveland previously had asked Congress for guidance in the Hawaiian matter, he had no choice but to accept this verdict." That verdict was the Morgan Report.

The excerpts are as follows:

  • Here's the passage from "Annexation Hawai'i" that Boggs refers to:
On February 26 the prolix debate in the upper house was enlivened by the issuance of the findings of the Committee on Foreign Relations. The voluminous document, commonly known as the Morgan Report (because Committee Chairman John T. Morgan of Alabama authored it), was primarily a rebuttal to Blount's earlier report. The report vindicated everyone involved in the Hawaiian affair, excepting the queen and her cabinet. It upheld Steven's view that Liliuokalani triggered the Revolution by attempting to promulgate a new constitution on January 14, 1893. Because of the disorder ensuing from the queen's act, the report condoned Steven's landing of troops and his recognition of the provisional government. But the document did not approve the ministers establishment of a protectorate. It exonerated both the Harrison and Cleveland administrations of wrongdoing in their actions on the annexation treaty. Also, the report cleared Blount of any malfeasance, although it declared that his conclusions were mistaken. Finally, the report disapproved Cleveland's restoration plan; however, to the extent that the president did not intend to use force, it declared the plan justified. It made no recommendations as to future policy. Only Morgan endorsed all of the report's conclusions. The remaining eight committee members, consisting of four Democrats and four Republicans, approved only of those findings which coincided with the stance of their respective parties.
With few exceptions, the anti-expansionist press was critical of Morgan's findings. The New York Times of February 27 referred to the Alabama senator as "that antique Southern Whig" and dismissed the document as a "rather picturesque bit of patchwork, . . . not of the least consequence." "Senator Morgan's report," scoffed the Philadelphia Record, "is a mere incoherent yawp of jingoism." The New York Evening Post admitted that it was perplexed by the fact that Morgan could issue a report condoning the actions of Harrison and Stevens while simultaneously pronouncing the opposite course of Cleveland and Blount as "wise and patriotic and constitutional." One of the few anti-annexationist papers to editorialize favorably about the committee findings was the Detroit Free Press, which stated: "The course of the President, so carefully reviewed by the Committee, reflects the highest credit upon himself and the Nation."
The Senate discussed Morgan's document intermittently for several weeks following its submission in late February.
  • Osbourne also provides the following in a footnote:
The Democratic members of the committee, aside from John T. Morgan (that is, Senators Matthew C. Butler of South Carolina, David Turpie of Indiana, John W. Daniel of Virginia, and George Gray of Delaware) refused to accept the report's endorsement of Steven's conduct. Butler and Turpie appended a separate statement approving Hawaiian annexation in principle but disavowing the proposition at that particular time due to the current internal dissension in the islands. The Republican members of the Committee on Foreign Relations (that is, Senators John Sherman of Ohio, William P. Frye of Maine, Joseph N. Dolph of Oregon, and Cushman K. Davis of Minnesota) approved Morgan's "essential findings," but derided Cleveland for appointing Blount and equipping him with paramount authority, as well as for attempting to reinstate the native monarch.
  • Osbourne then goes on to discuss the context of the House and Senate resolutions regarding Hawaii. The Senate resolution, Osbourne says, at most "constituted only a partial victory for Cleveland and Gresham, although some of the leading anti-expansionist newspapers interpreted the Senate's move as a complete vindication of the administration's Hawaiian policy."
  • In a related footnote, Osbourne provides this further insight into the wording of the Senate resolution:
It is pertinent to note that Cleveland was able to influence the wording of the Senate's pronouncement on Hawaii in a way that was very important to him. Two days before the upper house voted on Turpie's resolution the president wrote to Senator William F. Vilas of Wisconsin, stating: "The thing I care the most about is the declaration that the people of the islands instead of the Provisional Government should determine the policy. etc. . . . Can you not nail the endorsement of the Provisional Government, by putting in its place the more American and Democratic reference to the People as the source of power and control?" Cleveland to Vilas, May 29, 1894, Allan Nevins, ed., Letters of Grover Cleveland: 1850-1908 p. 353 (emphasis in original). Cleveland's request was granted as the substitute Turpie resolution, which passed the Senate on May 31, 1894, and stated: "That of right it belongs wholly to the poeple of the Hawaiian Islands to establish and maintain their own form of government and domestic polity; ..." Congressional Record, 53 Cong. 2 sess., p. 5499 (May 31, 1894).
  • Osbourne further writes:
Notwithstanding the fact that the Senate and House passed different resolutions (with that of the latter more fully representating the views of the Cleveland administration), the upper and lower chambers were in complete agreement on two issues: first, that no attempt should be made to under the Hawaiian Revolution; and second, that no foreign government should be allowed to intervene in the islands. Since Cleveland previously had asked Congress for guidance in the Hawaiian matter, he had no choice but to accept this verdict.