Summary of Blount's Testimony
Two years previously Blount had been Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, and had formed a bad impression of Thurston and Mott-Smith when they had visited him in Washington inquiring whether the Democrats would consent to annexing Hawaii.
Blount said that when he met with President Cleveland in March 1893, the President did not give Blount any indication of the President's feelings on the Hawaiian revolution. Blount got written instructions from the Secretary of State, who additionally said the hoisting of the American flag over the government building in Hawaii was wrong and the flag should be lowered so long as doing so would not lead to violence.
Blount said he himself had no opinions one way or the other, and that he avoided giving any impression of his opinions to anyone in Hawaii; noting that when he left there were both royalists and annexationists who claimed Blount's report would be favorable to their side.
Blount had no authority to administer an oath. He conducted his interviews in secret because both royalists and annexationists were fearful that whatever they said might later be used against them if the opposite side later ended up in power. Provisional Government President Dole, Attorney General W.O. Smith, and Judge Cooper were asked to give testimony or submit written statements but never did so. He did not transcribe or report everything that was said by everyone; only whatever he thought was important.
When Blount got to Hawaii he did not show his letter of authority to anyone in the Provisional Government. He did not inform them of the nature, purpose, or extent of his commission or his powers. "I never gave them any information in reference to the matter—I mean direct, official communication—until I published the instructions that I was acting under ... in all the newspapers of Honolulu." The Chairman. What was your object in making public those instructions? Mr. Blount. All sorts of conjectures as to what my powers were and the purposes of the Administration through me. For instance, there would be a claim on the part of the royalists that I was going to restore the Queen at a certain time; and on the other hand there would be a declaration on the part of the annexationists after the troops were ordered back to the vessel, on the appearance of any disorder I would bring them back for the purpose of suppressing it. ... I felt it to be my duty to inform those people, both sides, that I was not there to take any part either with one party or the other with reference to their affairs."
Blount said he never had communications with Liliuokalani or her representatives until there were negotiations for her abdication under certain conditions. There were two imposters claiming to have the authority of the U.S. President to negotiate for the Queen's abdication, and Blount informed both sides about the imposters.
Blount asked the Queen for a copy of the constitution she had proposed to promulgate. After long delay her representative delivered it. Blount asked the Queen's cabinet members whether they acknowledged the document as authentic; they agreed it was except they said there had been no property qualification for voters for the house of representatives. Later the Queen also send her statement, a sort of history of the revolution.
Blount "took opinions from both sides of people who were connected with public affairs at the time. For instance, if you will allow me, there was Mr. Damon, the Vice-President, who went to the station house to negotiate for the surrender of the station house, and went to the Queen. I took him, Mr. Bolte, who went with him to the station house; Mr. Waterhouse, who was on the committee of safety, and at whose house the final determination of the dethronement of the Queen occurred. I mention those persons, and I attempted to get the testimony of Mr. Smith and the statement of Mr. Cooper, who read the proclamation establishing the new Government; I went in that direction, and I found from Mr. Damon's testimony and Mr. Bolte's that they had gone to the station house and found certain persons connected with the Queen's Government, and I naturally took members of the cabinet, and so it led along as circumstances were."
The Chairman. Before you left Hawaii did you receive any communication, statement, or information from the Government of the United States of any purpose to reinstate Liliuokalani on any terms or conditions whatever? Mr. Blount. I never dreamed of such a thing as the reinstatement of Liliuokalani; I never heard it suggested until my return to the United States. I had a talk with the Secretary of State, and the inclination of his mind was that the circumstances created a moral obligation on the part of the United States to reinstate her. I gathered from the Secretary of State that the President had not any opinion—was thinking the matter over.
Mr. Blount. You asked me a moment ago about my having communication with the Queen. Those people down there are the most consummately brutal and unconscionable people I ever saw—on both sides; they say almost anything. On one occasion the attorney-general came to me at my office, and the Queen's name was mentioned. I said, "What sort of a person is she; I never saw her." He was surprised. He said, "You have never seen her?" I said, "No." He said, "That is very strange; the Government was informed that you called to see her, and she got on her knees, and pressed your hands, and cried," etc. Some time after that an attack was made in the Star, in which the writer was urging the deposition of the Queen, charged she was conspiring against the existing Government, and said she should be deposed, that she might have treasonable communications with public ministers, as witness her unhindered interviews with Commissioner Blount. That was the annexation organ. I thought it was very discourteous, and I wrote Mr. Dole a letter. Probably it appears in the published correspondence.
In that letter I set forth that I had never called upon the Queen at all except as indicated in an interview with him, in which it was agreed that there was no impropriety in my doing so, and that I felt this attack was an outrage on me as the American representative. He seemed to appreciate the situation, and an apology was brought about, a very poor one. But I think President Dole regretted it.
The last interview I had with her came about in this way: I was going off from the islands; I made up my mind to leave; I thought everything was quiet. ... and then it occurred to me perhaps I had better go and see the Queen and ascertain just what she thought of the peacefulness of her people. ... She said there was no danger until the question of annexation was finally determined upon by the United States. She asked me, in the event of her arrest what would Admiral Skerrett do—what would the United States forces do in the way of protection. I said, "So far as I am concerned I must decline to answer as to what the Government of the United States will do; when I leave here Admiral Skerrett will be in command of the naval forces, and questions of public order, etc., will be left with him without my control."
The Chairman. How long after your arrival in Honolulu was it before you gave orders to Admiral Skerrett to remove troops from the islands and to haul down the American flag? Mr. Blount. In two or three days. ... The Chairman. Up to the time you caused Admiral Skerrett to withdraw his force did you find the people in a quiet state? Mr. Blount. It was as quiet a looking city as ever I saw. ... I went to President Dole and told him my impression about it, and my purpose to withdraw the troops, and asked if he could preserve order. He said he could presrve order. ... The Chairman. The day that the troops were removed was there any civil commotion in Honolulu? Mr. Blount. Not the slightest. ... The Chairman. During the time that you were there, the flag was ordered down. Was there any civil commotion in Honolulu, or any part of it, of which you were informed? Mr. Blount. No. ... The Chairman. Were the people quiet in their avocations? Mr. Blount. Yes. There was nothing to indicate that there ever had been any revolution. ... The Chairman. This revolution does not seem to have interfered with the credit of the banks? Mr. Blount. No. The Chairman. What is the circulating medium in Honolulu? Mr. Blount. They have some silver that was issued during Kalakaua's reign, and gold, and our Treasury notes. The Chairman. Our Treasury notes? Mr. Blount. Yes. Senator Gray. Our paper money? Mr. Blount. Yes. Senator Gray. Is it as common there as it is here? Mr. Blount. Just the same. ... The Chairman. Have they any paper issues of their own? Mr. Blount. None that I ever saw.
The Chairman. When you arrived in Hawaii, did you communicate your instructions to Mr. Stevens? Mr. Blount. I did not. The Chairman. Did you at any time before you left there? Mr. Blount. I published the instructions. The Chairman. Mr. Stevens did not have any official notice of them until they were published ? Mr. Blount. No. The Chairman. Did you confer with him when you directed Admiral Skerrett to remove the troops and haul down the flag? Mr. Blount. I did not. I did not confer with anybody except Admiral Skerrett.
Senator Gray. I find on page 3 of this publication, document No. 2, letter from Department of State dated "Washington, March 11, 1893," which says:
"Department of State, "Washington, March 11, 1893. "Sir: With a view to obtaining the fullest possible information in regard to the condition of affairs in the Hawaiian Islands the President has determined to send to Honolulu, as his Special Commissioner, the honorable James H. Blount, lately chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. Mr. Blount bears credential letters in that capacity, addressed to the President of the executive and advisory councils of the Provisional Government, and you are requested to facilitate his presentation. In all matters pertaining to the existing or other Government of the islands the authority of Mr. Blount is paramount. As regards the conduct of the usual business of the legation, you are requested to continue until further notice in the performance of your official functions, so far as they may not be inconsistent with the special powers confided to Mr. Blount. You are also requested to aid him in the fulfillment of his important mission by furnishing any desired assistance and information, and the archives of the legation should be freely accessible to him. Mr. Blount is fully instructed touching his relations to the commanding officer of the United States naval force in Hawaiian waters. I am, etc., W. Q. Gresham."
"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. 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 you say that the people there are given to participating in political agitations? Mr. Blount. I would say more so than in Alabama. They get them pretty well worked up. ... The Chairman. You would say, I suppose, that there was a pretty large feeling on the part of the press in Hawaii? Mr. Blount. Oh, yes. You would take up the papers there and read one side and the other where they would make the most villifying personal attacks that you could conceive of. I would learn when these gentlemen would meet that it was just a good joke. I spoke once to Mr. Dole about it; I said, "I do not see how you can keep the peace with the people attacking each other this way." He said, "That does not amount to anything; they are friendly when they meet."
Blount sent his final report sometime in July, 1893. On August 22 he received a letter informing him that he was officially appointed U.S. minister to Hawaii [replacing Stevens]; and he took the oath of office. At that point he officially notified the Dole government of his appointment. But he did not notify Liliuokalani or her cabinet, because he thought that would not be proper. Blount did not want the appointment, because he had personal business to attend to at home; and sent his request to be relieved back on the same ship that had brought the appointment.
"Senator Dolph. You were told a great many things on both sides of this question by persons who had called upon you? Mr. Blount. Yes. Senator Dolph. And you never felt it incumbent upon you to make any record of what was said to you, or any report of it, except it was something which, in your judgment, ought to be taken down and reported? That is, you exercised your own judgment as to whether anything said to you should be made a part of your report; did you not? Mr. Blount. If I were to answer that directly, without any qualification, perhaps I would not convey a correct impression. I saw people and they would talk to me. For instance, a man would come in and say he was a royalist, and he would commence to abuse Mr. Stevens. I would say nothing at all. I could not communicate to him, and did not encourage the conversation. And so somebody else on the other side would abuse the royalists. I could not help those things. Those were the things that occurred. I never indulged in conversation with people about affairs there, as a rule...."
"Mr. Blount. I felt that I was there to conduct the examination, and I determined that I would conduct it according to my best judgment for the purpose of eliciting the truth. On one occasion, for instance, there was a committee came to me from the Annexation Club and said they had been appointed for the purpose of furnishing witnesses to me for the purpose of being examined. I was not pleased with it. That club was made up of people of all nationalities. I said to them, "Gentlemen, you do not understand my relation to you, or I do not. I am not a representative of any body in Honolulu; I am not under the control of any body in Honolulu; I am here to make an investigation for the Government of the United States, and while, perhaps, I will examine some persons you want examined, as a rule I want to direct these examinations and say whom I will examine and whom not."
Senator Dolph. You indicated plainly to them that you would not hear any witnesses? Mr. Blount. I did not intimate anything of the kind. Senator Dolph. What did you say in regard to the proposition of this committee to furnish witnesses on the question? Mr. Blount. I said to them I would perhaps examine some of their witnesses; but I did not consent to the idea that the Annexation Club or anybody else was to furnish witnesses to me. Senator Dolph. Did you examine any witnesses furnished by that committee? Mr. Blount. Oh, I examined—the only name they ever mentioned to me was Mr. P. C. Jones. Senator Gray. Tell about P. C. Jones's examination. Did you examine him? Mr. Blount. No; I did not—regretted that I could not. There were other persons whom I would like to have examined. There was quite a mania on the part of the people on both sides to be examined when they saw the testimony was going into a public document. I would have gratified many of them if there had been an unlimited clerical force at my command; but I did not have it, and I did not believe it was going to elucidate anything to multiply witnesses.
Senator Gray. Did Mr. Jones proffer himself as a witness? Mr. Blount. Oh, no. A young man came in there by the name of Wilder, a boyish sort of fellow, with this statement. Senator Gray. About Mr. Jones? Mr. Blount. About the wishes of the Annexation Club—a person whom I did not consider proper to take counsel with. I do not mean that he was not a gentleman, but I had an idea about the Annexation Club, that there was a pretty rough element in there, and I know that was the opinion of the Provisional Government—many of them indulging in threats of assassination. They wanted me to turn over the celebration of the Fourth of July to the club, a political organization, which I declined; whereupon it went out in the United States that I was not in favor of the celebration of the Fourth, refused to arrange for the celebration of the Fourth, and all that sort of thing, although I presided at the celebration. I did not go to their meeting one night, Mr. Severance agreeing to go in my place to make arrangements for the appointment of committees, etc.
"Senator Gray. Did you participate in the social life of the city? Mr. Blount. Not at all, except I found myself bound to accept invitations from President Dole and other officials. And there was a Mr. Glade, a German, there, a member of the committee of safety, and the consul-general of Germany. I thought I could make a few calls of that sort—calling on the officials. The Chairman. You say Mr. Glade was the consul-general of Germany, and still a member of the committee of safety? Mr. Blount. He was a member of the committee of safety and a very active man in it."
Senator Gray. There is a communication from a Frenchman who was the physician of this Queen as well as the other people. Mr. Blount. There was a communication he sent. I did not like it. I never said a word to anybody about this paper from this physician, and I never sent for him. I made it a point not to get acquainted with him for some time after that occurred. For some time he used to come to the hotel, and for a long time I never met him. I did not care for anybody else to make suggestions. I said nothing to Mr. Nordhoff in any way about it; but I did not send for Dr. Trosseau. I did not like the paper. The paper I have in mind was in relation to the amount of distribution of the sugar stock—sugar interests of the royalists and annexationists. It occurred to me it was very plainly an unreliable statement, not that he meant to deceive, but he was a man of prejudices. I did not care to examine him, because I thought that I could get persons whose judgment was better than Dr. Trousseau's. I do not mean to say he was not intelligent and a very fine physician—I knew nothing against him. I must add this qualification: Learning much later on that Trousseau and other persons were with the Queen when she learned of the landing of the troops, I sought from them the effect on her mind and on the minds of those about her. For this purpose I asked Dr. Trousseau to write me his recollections of this matter.