Summary of Laird's Testimony

From TheMorganReport
Jump to: navigation, search

Lieutenant Charles Laird's first visit to Hawaii was August 24, 1892 when the Boston arrived in Honolulu. Things seemed generally quiet, but there was a lot of tension over government instability and corrupt legislation. He spent most of his time when off duty going ashore and meeting local people. He spent a lot of time visiting in the home of Sam Parker, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs and cabinet member. Laird commanded some of the bluejackets who came ashore as peacekeepers during the revolution. Most of his testimony is eyewitness description of what the peacekeepers did, when and where. He also testified to his (and everyone else's) clear understanding that the orders to the U.S. peacekeepers demanded strict neutrality.

Laird was on the Boston for the trip to Hilo from January 4-14, 1893. There was no apprehension of any civil outbreak or disturbance; until the ship stopped in Lahaina on January 13 on the way back to Honolulu. The newspaper reported the Wilcox cabinet had been turned out and a new cabinet appointed, and that the Legislature was to be prorogued the next morning.

"This information was communicated to the captain and also to Mr. Stevens; the orders had been already given for sailing the next morning, and no change was made; we sailed at the time set, and went over very leisurely, half-steam power. On the way over a pet dog fell overboard, and we lowered the lifeboat and consumed about two hours looking for the dog. We arrived in the harbor the next morning about 11 o'clock. I did not finish mooring the ship until after 12. Mr. Young was the only one who went ashore to visit the Legislature.

"The Chairman. This was the practice cruise that you made down on the coast at Hilo, the island at Hilo? Mr. Laird. Yes. Target practice had been delayed on account of the unsettled state of affairs in the harbor, and the captain decided to go to Hilo for target practice. During the time that we were there Mr. Stevens and his daughter went up to the volcano with some of the officers. We found the sea too rough at Hilo for target practice, and the captain decided to go to Lahaina aud hold target practice in the channel between the two islands, where we could get smooth water; we went back there and finished our practice on the afternoon of the 13th.

"The Chairman. After your arrival at Honolulu, what time did you go ashore? Mr. Laird. I did not go until Monday, when I landed with the troops. My duties were such that I could uot go ashore; we are not allowed to leave the ship whilst on duty, and I therefore did not go ashore. The Chairman. Did you have command? Mr. Laird. I did. ... The color company. ... I was on duty Monday afternoon when preparations were being made for landing. Mr. Stevens came on board during the afternoon. At half-past 3, Lieut. Commander Swinburne, the executive officer, came and told me that he would send a relief for me, one of the junior officers, and that I should see that my company was equipped in heavy marching order, and see that all the accouterments were in good condition. I did so. Shortly after that, probably about 4 o'clock, all the officers who were to land were called into the cabin by Captain Wiltse and his instructions were read to the officers.

"The Chairman. You were in charge of the color company? Mr. Laird. Yes. The Chairman. Bluejackets or marines? Mr. Laird. Blue jackets. The Chairman. Did you carry the national colors? Mr. Laird. Yes.

"Mr. Laird. ... I turned to Capt. Wiltse and asked him, "Now, Captain, how far will these orders and instructions which you have read, carry me in case I am detached from the main command and sent off to soint other part of the city?" Capt. Wiltse turned to me and said, "My desire is that you remain neutral; you are to protect the lives and property of American citizens; you have been in Honolulu four months and have been going ashore and meeting the people and I must depend a great deal upon the discretion of my officers." The Chairman. Was there anything in the orders or instructions you received that looked to the establishment of any government different from that of the Queen? Mr. Laird. None. The burden of the orders was to look out for the lives and property of American citizens. Senator Frye. And that order of Capt. Wiltse was given in the presence of Mr. Stevens? Mr. Laird. It was. ... Mr. Laird. I knew by hearsay that such a committee had been formed. The Chairman. Did you know anything about the Provisional Government having been established? Mr. Young. No. The Chairman. Your information was that there had been a committee of safety organized? Mr. Laird. Yes. ...

"Mr. Laird. The boats landed at Brewer's wharf at about quarter to 5. The battalion was formed on Queen street, marched up Queen to Fort street. On Fort street the battalion was halted in front of the U. S. consulate. Here the marines under command of Lieut. Draper were detached with instructions to protect the U. S. consulate and the U. S. legation. The Chairman. Up what streets did you march? Mr. Laird. Queen, Fort, Merchant, and King streets. The Chairman. Abreast of the consulate, and there the detachment was made? Mr. Laird. Yes, and there Mr. Draper was given orders to guard the consulate and to send part of his force up the valley to the minister's residence. About one-fifth of the whole command was detached. ... The main body marched up Fort to Merchant, from Merchant to King, and out the King street road. The Queen was standing on the balcony of the palace as we passed. We gave the royal salute by drooping the colors and a blast from the trumpet. We went a half mile beyond the palace and came to the halt. There I went to Lieut. Commander Swinburne and said that something should be done to house the men, as the weather was threatening. ... About half past 5 o'clock. ... Lieut. Commander Swinburne told me that Capt. Wiltse was down the street seeing if he could not find some covering for the men that night. When we went ashore we did not expect to remain more than a day or two at the most. We then marched up to Mr. Atherton's place, we stacked arms, and the men bivouacked there until 10 o'clock before a place was found. ... We got under way about 10 o'clock and started down the street. In order not to make any disturbance, the music was stopped. We halted in front of Arion Hall. I did not know before that there was such a place. It is situated immediately back of the opera house on Palace Square. It was used as a Mormon church, and all the chairs and all the paraphernalia were on the floor. A detachment was sent in and the hall prepared for occupancy; the men spread their blankets on the floor and on the front and back verandas. ... The next morning the regular routine was laid out— the men were confined in such a small place that it was necessary to keep them busy in order to keep them contented. The routine was laid out and continued there until we went down to Camp Boston. The Chairman. How many days did you remain at Arion Hall? Mr. Laird. Three days—three nights. ...

"The Chairman. Were you aware of any attempt at an opposition to the Provisional Government—I mean armed opposition? Mr. Laird. There was not. I saw a number of rumors in that regard in the papers, but personally I was not aware of it. ... The Chairman. Were any police retained for the protection of her [the Queen's] property? Mr. Laird. Of the municipal police? The Chairman. Yes. Mr. Laird. I can not say. She was given all the protection that she required. If she did request a detail of police, I am quite sure it was given. Senator Gray. Why are you sure; because of the general conduct of the Provisional Government? Mr. Laird. They were very lenient. ...

"Senator Frye. Shortly after Minister Stevens came on board it was that in his presence and in the presence of all the officers that Capt. Wiltse issued the orders for shore duty and what should be done while on shore? Mr. Laird. Yes. Senator Frye. State whether or not while the troops were on shore there was any location of them made with any purpose of overawing the Queen or sustaining the Provisional Government? Mr. Laird. None whatever. At the time the Provisional Government took charge I do not think there was anyone in the camp but Lieutenant Swinburne knew what was going to take place. They may have known it, but I was officer of the day and I heard nothing about it. The men were on drill at the time the proclamation was read. We heard of that shortly afterward; but our drill continued, and when the policeman was shot down in the street I went to Lieut. Commander Swinburne and requested to take command of my own company, and that the men on guard for the day should be sent to the company, which was done. During the time of the reading of the proclamation drill was being held in the rear of the building; a number of the men on guard detail were lounging around on the front porch. Senator Frye. State whether or not at anytime while you were on shore—during the four days of the revolution—your troops were allowed to march through the streets at all, except when you landed? Mr. Laird. No. Senator Frye. They were confined to their own barracks? Mr. Laird. They were confined to their own quarters until after the third night. Senator Frye. I mean during the time you were at Arion Hall. Mr. Laird. Yes; we had dress parade immediately in front of the opera house; but they did not go away from that vicinity. There was not more than from three-quarters of an acre to an acre of ground back of Arion Hall, and we had to get the men out for exercise. Senator Gray. That was the only place to drill? Mr. Laird. The only place to drill. ...

"Senator Frye. Do you know of any officers or soldiers of the Boston who took any part whatever in the dethronement of the Queen? Mr. Laird. None. Senator Frye. Or in the establishment of the Provisional Government? Mr. Laird. None. ...

"Senator Gray. You marched down Queen street to Fort street to the consulate, where the marines were detached? Mr. Laird. Yes. Senator Gray. How many marines were there? Mr. Laird. Thirty-six. Senator Gray. Mr. Young said there were thirty-two. Mr. Laird. Thirty-six would be the full company. We had music with us. They were one-fourth of the whole command. Senator Gray. How much was the whole command? Mr. Laird. One hundred and sixty-two. Senator Gray. That is about a fifth. Mr. Laird. About a fifth. We marched up Merchant street, passed the palace at King street, and went away out here to Mr. J. B. Atherton's. ...

"Senator Gray. Then, you have already said, or I understood you to say, that the military discipline was strict, and you and the other officers confined yourselves to military duties? Mr. Laird. Military duties. The Chairman. Did not interfere with the politics of the place? Mr. Laird. The first two or three days we were not permitted to go out of the inclosure. The Chairman. You confined yourself to military duties? Mr. Laird. Entirely so. The Chairman. And when the proclamation of the Provisional Government was being read you were engaged in assisting the drilling of the battalion in front of the Opera House? Mr. Laird. No, not in front of the Opera House at the time; they were in this little narrow inclosure. ... Senator Gray. You landed there Monday. Did you have dress parade next day? Mr. Laird. We did not. Senator Gray. The only drill you had was that? Mr. Laird. Back in this lot. The companies were being drilled independently by their own company officers. ... There was only one sentry outside the line of the fence from the building itself. The picket fence was about as far as from here to the window [a distance of about 8 feet], and one sentry was posted out there to look out for our own people. The limits of his post were the front of the building. ...

"Senator Gray. Were you aware that the proclamation was being read? Mr. Laird. No. Senator Gray. You did not see any of it? Mr. Laird. Did not see it and did not know it. Senator Gray. Until you were told? Mr. Laird. No. ... Senator Frye. Was there any difficulty that night about finding quarters for your troops? Mr. Laird. There must have been great difficulty, or the men would not have been kept out until half past 9. Senator Frye. Were there men out seeking quarters? Mr. Laird. Yes. Senator Frye. And you did not get them until 9 o'clock? Mr. Laird. It was later than that. Senator Frye. Do you know whether Arion Hall was selected with any reference at all to the Queen's Government or Provisional Government? Mr. Laird. I have no such knowledge. I do not think it was. It was accidental—it was available. Senator Frye. And the only one, so far as you could find out, that was available? Was there anything in the location or disposition of the troops which prevented the Queen's troops from dislodging the men who took possession of the Government buildings? Mr. Laird. No, I do not think there was.

"Senator Frye. Under your orders, if the Queen's troops had undertaken to repossess themselves of the Government buildings, had you any right to interfere? Mr. Laird. I would have been obliged to obey Mr. Swinburne's orders. Senator Frye. I say, under the instructions? Mr. Laird. Under the instructions, no.

"Senator Frye. In Mr. Blount's report he states that the Queen's troops could not have done anything touching the Government buildings really without firing upon the American troops. Senator Gray. Quoting Admiral Skerrett for that opinion. Senator Frye. No; I do not think Admiral Skerrett gives that as his opinion. Mr. Laird. I do not see how we could interfere in any way with the Queen's forces or Government forces. ...