Summary of Bowen's Testimony
Note: The Bowen highlight from the Morgan Report Outline of Topics is repeated here because it provides clarity to the complex actual testimony that follows.
Dr. William Shaw Bowen is a journalist with the New York World newspaper, and personal representative of the owner. He was in Honolulu April 7-26, 1893 to study the political situation. Nearly the entire testimony is devoted to laying out exactly what happened in an intricate, convoluted negotiation whereby Liliuokalani would give up all claims to the throne in return for an annuity from the Provisional Government.
Many people in San Francisco and Honolulu thought that Bowen was representing President Cleveland in negotiations for the Queen's abdication. People had that impression because Bowen was a personal friend of Cleveland; Bowen's newspaper had supported Cleveland's election and was a supporter of the monarchy; Bowen traveled to Honolulu with, and shared a hotel room at the royalist hotel with, Harold M. Sewall, who had been U.S. consul in Samoa during important negotiations there; and Bowen and Sewall had refused to answer reporters' questions about the purpose of their trip to Hawaii.
Bowen testifies that he was acting entirely on his own when he proposed the idea of abdication in return for an annuity. Bowen presented that idea to President Dole, and to the Queen's personal attorney Paul Neumann, both of whom liked the idea. There were several rounds of negotiations, including secret meetings under a cover of social gatherings.
Minister Blount intervened to scuttle the negotiations. Blount met with the Queen and persuaded her that Bowen and Sewall were annexationist plotters scheming to dispossess the Queen of any claim to the throne. Meanwhile Claus Spreckels met with the Queen and persuaded her to demand that Paul Neumann give up the power of attorney she had given to him; and Neumann did so by tearing up the document in her presence.
Thus Blount intervened to scuttle negotiations between the Queen and President Dole that were strongly on track toward a mutually agreeable settlement whereby the Queen would give up all claims to the throne in return for an annuity; and Blount falsely accused Bowen and Sewall of working as agents of the annexationists; and Blount together with Spreckels undermined the Queen's confidence in her loyal attorney Paul Neumann.
By blocking a compromise legal settlement and extinguishment of claims in 1893, President Cleveland and Minister Blount furthered their goal of blocking annexation. In the process they made it all but inevitable that Liliuokalani would file her lawsuit for personal money damages for the ceded lands (she lost that case in 1910); that controversy over the ceded lands would persist for more than a century; that racial victimhood claims would prompt an apology from the U.S. for alleged misbehavior it was not guilty of; and that the U.S. role in as peacekeepers during the revolution of 1893 would eventually be used to bolster demands for creation of a race-based government in Hawaii.
Dr. William Shaw Bowen begins his testimony by saying he is a journalist with the New York World newspaper, and personal representative of the owner. He was in Honolulu April 7-26, 1893 to study the political situation. He was greatly impresed with President Dole. He found Sam Parker, the Queen's principal adviser, to be friendly and kind, but simple. Bowen's newspaper's policy is opposed to annexation. Bowen was impressed by the cultural sophistication of honolulu, highminded character of the leaders of the Provisional Government, churches similar to Massachusetts, and pleasant tropical environment. The main problem in the way of annexation is "cooly labor" contracts needed for commercially viable sugar plantations, and whether the U.S. would accept that labor system.
Senator FRYE. Have you read Mr. Blount's report? Mr. BOWEN. I have. Senator FRYE. ... in that report Mr. Blount makes some allusions to you ... Do you know what they were? Mr. BOWEN. I have the report with me.
[Bowen proceeds to read into the record the portion of the Blount report dealing with Bowen, beginning with Blount's letter to Secretary Gresham]
"Mr. Blount to Mr. Gresham. April 26, 1893. Sir: On the 7th instant the Alameda reached this place. Among its passengers were Dr. William Shaw Bowen and Mr. Harold M. Sewall. The San Francisco papers announced that they had refused to say that they were not joint commissioners with myself to Honolulu. The former represented himself to me as a correspondent of the New York World, and said he would be glad to give me any information he could gather here. Thinking it a mere matter of courtesy, I thanked him. On Sunday, the 16th instant, I was out walking and met him on the street, riding in a buggy. He left his buggy in the hands of his friend, Mr. Sewall, and joined me in a walk of some length.
"Before it was concluded he said to me that he and Paul Neumann were arranging a meeting between President Dole and the Queen, the object being to pay her a sum of money in consideration of her formal abdication of the throne and lending her influence to the Provisional Government with a view to annexation to the United States. He repeated this statement frequently, at intervals, to which I made no response. Finally he asked me if I did not think it would simplify the situation very much here and facilitate annexation. Suspecting that my answer was designed to be used to induce the Queen to yield to solicitations to abdicate, I replied: 'I have nothing to say on this subject.' Dr. Bowen said: 'I did not ask you officially, but simply in a private way.' I responded: 'l am here as a commissioner of the United States and must decline to converse with you on the subject.'
"The next morning early I had an interview with President Dole. I told him that I had seen in the San Francisco newspapers intimations that Dr. Bowen and Mr. Sewall were here as representatives of the President of the United States; that the former told me that he had arranged to bring him and the Queen together on that morning; that I desired to say to him that neither Dr. Bowen nor Mr. Sewall, nor any other person was authorized to act for the Government in that or any other matter relating to the present condition of affairs in the islands save myself; that I did not know absolutely that these two gentlemen had claimed to have such authority. He replied that he had been informed that they were here representing the Government. He did not give his authority. He said that there had been some approaches from the Queen's side with propositions of settlement; that he had responded: 'I will consider any reasonable proposition.' I told him I would not permit the Government of the United States to be represented as having any wish in the matter of any negotiations between the Queen and the Provisional Government. He asked if I would be willing to authorize the statement that I believed it would simplify the situation. I replied that I was not willing to do this, that I was not here to interfere with the opinions of any class of persons.
"Since this interview with President Dole I have heard that Dr. Bowen, when asked by newspaper people if he represented the President of the United States, declined to answer, saying that all would be revealed hereafter. He is representing himself in various quarters as an intimate friend of the President. I can but think that these statements are made to create the impression that he is here authorized to bring about negotiations for a settlement between the Queen and the Provisional Government. On the day before yesterday Dr. Bowen came over to my table to say that a meeting between the Queen and President Dole had occurred, and terms were agreed upon. I said I did not care for him to talk with me on that subject.
"On the 21st instant Mr. Claus Spreckels called to see me. He said that he suspected there was an effort at negotiation between the Queen and the Provisional Government, and that he had urged the Queen to withdraw her power of attorney from Paul Neumann. I inclose herewith a copy of that power of attorney (inclosure No. 1) which Mr. Spreckels says was derived through the agency of Mr. Samuel Parker, the last secretary of foreign affairs. He told me that Paul Neumann would leave for Washington by the next steamer, under pretense that he was going to the United States and from there to Japan. How much or how little Mr. Spreckels knows about this matter I am unable to say, as I do not know how to estimate him, never having met him before. He promised to see me again before the mail leaves for the United States on next Wednesday, and give me such information as he could acquire in the meantime.
"I believe that Dr. Bowen, Mr. Sewall, and Mr. Neumann have pretended that the two former knew the opinions of Mr. Cleveland, and assured the Queen that annexation would take place, and that she had better come to terms at once. Mr. Neumann leaves here on the next steamer, probably with a power to act for the Queen, with authority derived from her out of these circumstances."
Senator FRYE. What have you to say in relation to that? The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Bowen had better take it up in detail instead of making one sweeping remark about the whole of it.
Mr. BOWEN. The first statement to which I wish to call attention is the one published in the San Francisco paper that Mr. Bowen and Mr. Sewall "refused to say that they were not joint commissioners with myself to Honolulu."
The CHAIRMAN. Will you allow me to ask who is Mr. Sewall? Mr. BOWEN. Mr. Sewall is the son of Mr. Arthur Sewall, of Maine. Senator GRAY. He was the late consul at Samoa? Mr. BOWEN. Yes. He is a shipbuilder of Bath. Mr. Sewall was in my company and was purely on a pleasure trip. He had considerable experience in Polynesia, and wanted to go to the islands for the sake of going. Senator FRYE. You may go on and make your statement.
Mr. BOWEN. As I was leaving San Francisco, just as the steamer was shoving off, a young man came to me and said: "Are you going on a secret mission to the Hawaiian Islands?" I laughed and said, "If I were I would not admit it." Mr. Sewall did not speak. That was based on the fact that Mr. Sewall was going, he having been mixed up in the Samoan affair.
"The San Francisco Chronicle published the next morning a sensational report to the effect that Mr. Sewall and myself were going out to the islands on a special commission for the Government. It was stated that when I was approached I had declined to give any information. That paper followed on the next steamer to Honolulu, and was circulated there. I did not see it, did not know about it at the time, but it did circulate for a week before my attention was called to it. Mr. Blount became acquainted with it as soon as the paper arrived. Mr. Blount states that I called upon him and represented myself as a correspondent of the New York World, and that I would be willing to give him any information I could gather. In fact, I called on the Commissioner and informed him of my mission to the islands—that I was there as a correspondent to the New York World. Mr. Sewall did not appear in the matter.
"I went there with the news instinct of a developed journalist. I saw very little to write about the country; it had been covered. There were a great many correspondents there. I conceived the idea of obtaining some very important and very exclusive news. I studied the situation. I knew before I left here that annexation was undoubtedly impracticable at present—I had very strong reasons for believing that. I always believed that the American people would not believe in the restoration of the Queen. I therefore saw a status quo condition there that I thought would continue, and that there was a fine field for making history.
"I was in company with Paul Neuman going out in the steamer and the Queen's commissioners were just returning from Washington. I became very intimate with them, especially Mr. Neuman. Mr. Neuman had the power of attorney from the Queen. I thought that I heard from authority which was entirely correct that the Queen had a disease of the heart. I had that from a professional source which it would be improper for me to mention; but it came from the best authority on the islands. I heard that she had a disease of the mitral valves of the heart, and that she was liable at any time to sudden death. I thought it was equitable that she should be taken care of. I am only explaining the motives which prompted me to do what I did. I thought it would be better if the Queen were taken care of. She was generous to her following, and there were many people depending upon her. That made an impression on me. I thought she should be taken care of.
"One day while dining with Paul Neuman I said: "I think it would be a good thing if the Queen could be pensioned by the Provisional Government; it would make matters harmonious, relieve business, and make matters much simpler." I also said that I was aware that certain gentlemen in Washington were opposed to pensioning the Queen; that certain Senators raised that objection to the treaty that was brought from the islands because it recognized the principle of the right of a queen to a pension. There was one Senator, especially, from the South, who said, without discussing the treaty, that that was objectionable to him; that his people would object to it. I said, "If there is no annexation it is a serious question; if there is, the Queen should be taken care of."
"Neuman agreed with me. He was a strong friend of the Queen, disinterested and devoted. But he said it could not be done. I told hiin that I had become acquainted with the members of the Provisional Government who were high in authority, and I thought I would try to have it done.
"I had a conference with President Dole. He received me in his usual kindly manner, but he was very wary and noncommittal. Finally he said that he would consider any propositions coming from the Queen—would lay them before the executive council.
"I saw Mr. Neuman again. There were several conferences.
"Mr. Dole said he would not make any propositions himself and asked me what I thought the pension ought to be. On the spur of the moment, not having considered the matter, I said I thought the Queen ought to get a very handsome pension out of the crown lands. I asked if there was any question about raising the money, and he said none whatever. He finally asked me to name the figures. He had the idea that the figures had been suggested. I said, "You ought to give $20,000 a year to furnish her followers with poi. That is the native dish. Mr. Dole said he would consider that question.
"I saw Mr. Neuman and he said he would see the Queen and Mr. Dole. He was to go to see Mr. Dole at his private house, but Mr. Neuman was taken ill and the meeting was deferred. The next time I saw him was at the Government house.
"The result was that Mr. Dole told Mr. Neuman that if the Queen would make such a proposition to him it would receive respectful attention and intimated that he thought it would be accepted. Mr. Seaman saw the Queen and told me that he thought it would be done; that the more he thought of it the more convinced he was that it would be better all around.
The question of annexation was not specially considered. I said to Mr. Dole, "If you could have annexation you would simplify the matter." I said to the other side, "I do not think you will get annexation, and at the same time I do not think you will get anything else;" but I said, "I think you ought to take care of the Queen."
"After I had the first meetings with Mr. Neuman and Mr. Dole, I thought I ought to tell Mr. Blount what I had done. I had no secret purpose; nothing in the world but my journalistic scheme. As he stated, I met Mr. Blount one day, got out of my carriage and joined him. We walked together for an hour and a half, and walked back to the city. He said, "Come with me to my cottage." We stood for some time on the piazza and discussed the thing at great length. Mr. Blount was noncommittal, but appeared very much interested, and when I left he told me he wished me to let him know what I did. He said nothing further to me about it, but went to the Queen and did as he stated in his report.
"I have no doubt whatever that if Mr. Blount had not prevented, and secondarily Mr. Claus Speckels, the agent for the sugar trust, that plan would have been carried out. I have no doubt of it in my own mind.
"Mr. Blount specifies that I was there to facilitate annexation, and all the way through his statement regarding me asserts, or rather intimates, that I was conducting an annexation propaganda. That was a mistake entirely; I was not justified in doing anything of the kind. In the first kind, it would have been contrary to the policy of my paper, a thing which no one attached to the paper would feel at liberty to do; and, in the second place, my own mind was not clear on the subject. While sentimentally clear there were practical objections which I thought I saw. I had no purpose or interest in doing anything to bring about annexation.
The CHAIRMAN. Was this before Mr. Neuman had been to the United States. Mr. BOWEN. I had been with him and the commission. This was before the treaty.
"All my associates were royalists; at the islands I received more attention from the royalists than from members of the Provisional Government. These dinners and my predilections against annexation would have been naturally that way if I had been going for merely personal interest.
"The CHAIRMAN. Have you seen the contents of the power of attorney held by Mr. Neuman?
"Mr. BOWEN. Yes, I have read it as published in Mr. Blount's report. If Mr. Blount had given me one hint that he regarded it as an impolitic course, that it was embarrassing to him, I would have dropped it. But he said nothing whatever, he simply listened at the first interview, and after that said he would let me know. The next day I reported progress to him, and he did not ask me not to tell him anything more about it.
"In the meantime he [Blount] had been to the Queen, to Mr. Dole, and had done what he could to prevent the carrying out of the plan. Mr. Neuman had an interview with the Queen. She told him that she would do nothing more in the matter, and asked him to give back her power of attorney, and he tore it up in her presence. This was the 22d, that he tore up his power of attorney.
"There is another matter to which I wish to call attention. Mr. Blount intimates, without specifically charging, that I represented myself and Mr. Sewall represented himself as acting for the Government here and that I represented myself to be a friend of the President. I did not go to anyone whatever and represent myself in any official capacity. Everybody knew that I was a journalist. A reporter called on me and he told everyone who I was. I informed a number of people that I had no official position there whatever. The first one was Mr. Wodehouse, the British minister. He asked me, and I informed him that I had no official position there. I informed the President of the Provisional Government and many others, including Mr. Hastings, who is here in Washington, formerly one of the Hawaiian legation. Honolulu is a hotbed of rumors. It is an isolated community. Really a little New England village is not to be compared with Honolulu, especially during these troubled times. Everyone was suspected of a motive, and there were all manner of rumors afloat regarding everybody. There was a rumor every day in regard to Mr. Blount and his actions, and this mysterious article appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle after I left there. That caused a good deal of gossip regarding my visit and that of Mr. Sewall.
"Senator GRAY. Feeling is pretty high there between the parties? Mr. BOWEN. Very bitter. Mr. Blount said I represented myself as a friend of the President. On a number of occasions I said I had the honor of Mr. Cleveland's acquaintance, and I was his friend. I was justified in doing so, because I took a very active part during his campaign. I furnished a good deal of political matter for the World, and it is conceded that the World did its share in supporting party politics. I acted for my paper according to its policy. I saw a good deal of Mr. Cleveland at the time of his nomination. Mr. Cleveland gave me a statement to print in the World, which was unique in its line. It was the day after his election. He endorsed the World and its course during the campaign and extended his thanks for it. No other paper had anything of the kind. That Mr. Cleveland gave to me. I was at Buzzard's Bay some time, and he showed me a good deal of favor. I performed a good many small services for him.
"Senator GRAY. When you said that you were President Cleveland's friend you meant in a personal way; not that you were representing him? Mr. BOWEN. Not by any means. I said that I was his friend and represented it that way. I am not a partisan at all. I felt very kindly toward the President, and as the World was very friendly toward him I was justified in saying what I did. I did not make any boasts of that; but in conversation in the islands I spoke of the fact that I was the President's friend. Senator FRYE. While you were there did Mr. Sewall take any part in the affair of representing himself as having anything to do in the matter?
"Mr. BOWEN. Mr. Blount's allegations against Mr. Sewall are absolutely false. We lived together in the grounds of the Hawaiian Hotel in a cottage. I did not take Mr. Sewall in my confidence in this matter; the affair was practically arranged before I hinted to him that it was going on. Mr. Sewall was a high-minded young man; he was devoting himself entirely to society; and without any motive I did not take him into my confidence. Mr. Sewall knew nothing whatever about this matter. The allegation against him was made of whole cloth, and there is no justification whatever for it. Mr. Blount's suspicions led him to make accusations that were not true. Senator GRAY. Mr. Sewall's name was coupled with yours in that article in the San Francisco paper, was it not? Mr. BOWEN. Yes. Undoubtedly he was the cause of the whole matter. The fact that he had been consul at Samoa was ground for the suspicion that we were out on a mission. Mr. Sewall had said nothing to anybody; he informed no one, and he certainly took no part in it. There is another allegation made there which I think is without foundation.
"He [Blount] speaks of Mr. Neuman as being a plausible but very unscrupulous person. Senator GRAY. Mr. Blount says that is the impression he gathered. I think he modified that in another dispatch. Mr. BOWEN. I did not know of that. Senator GRAY. Mr. Blount in an early dispatch, in giving information that he thought proper to give to the State Department, spoke of Mr. Neuman, and said, from what he could gather, he was plausible but unscrupulous; but in another dispatch, after he had gathered further information, said that when he came to have further intercourse with the people he thought differently of Mr. Neuman. Mr. BOWEN. I am very glad he did. He was a devoted friend of the Queen. Senator FRYE. Then he would not have cheated her? Mr. BOWEN. No; he thought this the best plan. And if it had taken place, there would have been a saving of all the subsequent trouble.
"Senator FRYE. Is there anything else in the report to which you desire to call attention? Mr. BOWEN. Nothing, except to say that I did not represent myself as being there in a diplomatic capacity; that I was there simply as I have represented to this committee---- as a journalist. Mr. Blount states that in his report. I was not conducting any annexation propaganda; I had no such purpose; and Mr. Sewall took no part in the matter, and knew practically nothing about it.
"Senator FRYE. Are there any facts connected with the affairs of the Hawaiian Islands which you desire to state? Mr. BOWEN. Only impressions. I was not there during the revolution. I was informed by numbers of the Provisional Government, in response to questions, that the American minister did not conspire to overthrow the Queen. I was informed that he did practically as he has stated in his own report. I was told so under certain circumstances and there was no reason for deceiving me.
"Senator FRYE. Did Paul Neuman make any claim that the minister interfered to destroy the royal government? Mr. BOWEN. He did not. Paul Neuman is a good-natured man, personally not prejudiced against anybody, that is, individuals; but he disliked the so-called "Missionary Party" there and the Annexation Party, and he included Mr. Stevens among them. Paul Neuman was always consistent. He was always a friend of the Queen, and he was head and shoulders intellectually above any others of her supporters. He was intelligent enough to form opinions during his stay here in Washington, and to see that there were great difficulties in the way of restoration; and while he did not commit himself to me on the subject, he thought that this course for pensioning the Queen would be the best for all concerned.