Summary of Oleson's Testimony
SWORN STATEMENT OF WILLIAM BREWSTER OLESON.
William Brewster Oleson, age 43, has lived in Hawaii for 15 years, from August 1878 to June 1893. He was present during the revolutions of 1887, 1889, and 1893. Oleson became a teacher at the Kamehameha Manual-Labor school in 1886.
Attended the prorogation of the legislature, Saturday, January 14. ... "Men were disheartened at the dismissal of the Jones-Wilcox cabinet and the passage of the lottery bill, but no one thought of anything else but submission to the inevitable until the next Legislature should meet two years after. ...The emergencies of 1887 and 1889 had prepared the citizens for decisive action. Word went around, "Have your rifle ready." Col. Fisher, the real, though not nominal, head of the armed forces of the Provisional Government, told me on Monday afternoon, January 16, "I can get about a hundred of my men out with rifles in ten minutes." ... the city was nominally in the control of a government not having the respect or confidence of its influential citizens, who were at work taking steps to secure for themselves what they otherwise despaired of getting. I know that there was great apprehension of disorder and incendiarism that night. The landing of the troops allayed this.
"Tuesday, January 17, I went into Honolulu (my residence being nearly 2 miles from the city), and learned that definite action was to be taken by the committee of public safety at about 2 o'clock. This was at 1:30 p.m. I went directly to the office of W. O. Smith, where the committee were in consultation. At the door I learned that the committee would go to the Government building at 2 o'clock to take possession, and that their supporters were to rally at the same hour at the armory. The streets were filled with groups of men earnestly canvassing the situation, and there was a general purpose to stand by the committee at any cost. Men were going home for their rifles and clerks in stores were hurrying to close up.
"Starting for the armory, I heard a pistol shot close at hand, around the corner of Fort and King streets, and presently saw a policeman running to the police station with his hands on his chest, where he had been shot in attempting to capture a wagon load of ammunition.
"I believe that shot decided the contest. It certainly distracted the marshal and his forces, for they forthwith shut themselves up in the police station instead of proceeding at once to quell the uprising. It revealed the determination of the citizens and resulted in a rapid massing of their forces.
"From this time, 2:15 p.m. until the surrender of the police station at about 7 o'clock, citizens were hurrying with their rifles from every part of the city to the Government building, passing through the streets unmolested by the forces under the marshal, or by the soldiers at the barracks. These men could have been arrested easily except for the panic that had seized the supporters of the old Government. Marshal Wilson and his supporters remembered the spirit shown by these same men in 1889, when they rallied in a similar way, and, without organization, by their courage and promptness, suppressed the Wilcox insurrection.
"...After the incident of the shooting I hurried to the armory, but before reaching there met Capt. Zeigler with about 40 men marching down Punchbowl street, in military order, all armed, toward the Government building. Just as I reached the armory another company marched in the same direction. There were about 3O men in the latter company. At the armory there were more men, and others constantly reporting, some with arms, others without, the latter being furnished both with arms and ammunition. As soon as a squad got together Col. Fisher, in charge, sent them to the Government building in charge of officers.
"After noting these matters I went past the barracks, noting that the soldiers were all out of sight. When I reached the Government building the last words of the proclamation were being read. The citizens whom I had seen marching from the armory were at the Government building and guards had been stationed. There must have been a hundred men at that time, and they came trooping in from all directions until the station house surrendered. At that time I should estimate there were 4 companies of 60 men each, every man well armed, and the whole well officered.
"The United States troops were not in sight when I reached the Government building, with the exception of their two sentinels, and did not show themselves or make any demonstration after that. I know that the men in the ranks had no expectation of any aid whatever from United States troops. In 1889 they had fought all day against a determined insurrection, with United States troops within a stone's throw, drawn up in line, but absolutely neutral, and they knew they had nothing to expect in 1893 but the same absolute neutrality.
"...I did not learn that Minister Stevens had recognized the Government until the next day, and I am quite sure that it was not generally known until then among the armed supporters of the new Government. I did not hear the matter mentioned, though I was constantly among the men. They were talking rather about laying siege to the station house and about the likelihood of several days' desultory fighting under cover. There was no mention about the soldiers in the barracks. I explain this as a very natural ignoring of them as combatants in the light of their performances in 1887 and 1889, when they had shown themselves averse to conflict. The citizen soldiers treated them absolutely as though they had no existence. Senator Frye. That is the Queen's guard you are speaking about? Mr. Oleson. Yes.
"...the period of twenty years ago, from January, 1873, to January, 1893. ... "An important factor in the political evolution of Hawaii was furnished by the career of Kalakaua, the immediate predecessor and brother of Liliuokalaui. "In 1873 he advocated his election to the vacant throne by promising to abolish the poll tax, to fill all Government offices with natives, and to remove the prohibitions on the sale of liquor to the aborigines. He was unpopular with his own people, and his rival, Lunalilo, was enthusiastically elected King.
"Soon after Lunalilo died, and on February 12, 1874, Kalakaua was elected King by the Legislature. It was charged, and generally believed, that he was elected by the use of bribes. It is sufficient here to say that he was protected from a mob of his own people, for a period of five days after his election, by United States troops.
"During his reign he dismissed capable and upright officials and filled the civil service with political adventurers, who brought scandal to every department of the Government. He caused grogshops to be licensed in the country districts against the protests of his own people.
"He raised the cry, 'Hawaii for Hawaiians,' hoping thus to curry popularity by exciting race jealousies against foreigners. He sought to create a state church of which he should be the head. His visits to the other islands were utilized for the recrudescence of lascivious orgies of the old heathen religion. He rehabilitated the trade of sorcery, and turned the influence of the Kahunas to his own political advantage.
"He stationed soldiers with side arms in double rows at polling places, thus intimidating voters and pushing men out of line who were suspected of opposition to his schemes, thus forcibly preventing their voting. He appointed legislators to lucrative Government positions while they continued to retain seats in the Legislature.
"He had the Legislature in 1886 adjourn for three weeks so that members who were tax assessors might go home and perform their duties. These men he employed to carry through the Legislature pernicious and extravagant legislation in opposition to the sentiment of the people. He used the royal franking privilege to pass through the custom-house, free of duty, liquors belonging to certain firms, thus, In one instance, defrauding the Government of revenue to the amount of $4,749.35.
"For this service he received hundreds of cases of cheap gin, which he sent to every voting precinct to secure the election of his candidates to the Legislature. He went personally to one country district, with a company of soldiers, and by their votes defeated Pilipo, the lion of North Kona, Kalakaua's staunchest opponent in the Legislature.
"He laid claim to the 'primacy of the Pacific,' and sent royal commissioners to the New Hebrides and Gilbert Islands and Samoa to prepare for a Hawaiian protectorate over those islands. He warned the great powers of Europe, in a grandiloquent protest, against any further annexation of islands in the Pacific Ocean, claiming for Hawaii exclusive right 'to assist those islands in improving their social and political condition.'
"Finally, he accepted a bribe of $71,000 from a Chinaman, named Aki, for an opium license, which he had already sold and delivered to another Chinaman, who had paid $80,000 for it.
"The census of 1823 showed the population to be 130,313. According to the census of 1890 the native Hawaiians numbered 34,430, a decrease since 1823 of 95,877. The annual decrease since 1866 has averaged 1,085. Thus, since 1860, when the native Hawaiians numbered 66,984, the decrease has been 50 per cent. ... The native Hawaiians now number about one-third of the population. Thus the total population in 1890 was 89,990, of which the Hawaiian numbered 34,430, the Chinese, Japanese, and Polynesians 28,249, and the white foreigners, many of whom were born in the land, 27,305. This decrease of Hawaiians and the corresponding increase of foreigners have depressed the native race, but with an opposite effect on the two radically diverse wings. Thus, on those more susceptible to the corrupting influences of the throne who have fallen into dissipation, and who are seeking their own personal advancement at the expense of all political morality, this alarming decrease has had the effect of exciting intense race hatred. Of those, however, who are allied to the churches, who have been stalwart in their resistance to Kalakaua's demoralizing influences, who are to-day the personification of the character and conscience of this remnant of a race, this decrease has had the effect of drawing them into closer and trustful fellowship with the better class of Anglo-Saxons.
"... great mass meeting of January 10, 1893, which took steps to organize a new government and to seek annexation to the United States.
"... The liability to political unrest, if not actual revolution, would prove as disastrous to Hawaii as in so many instances it has proved to Central American republics. ...
"Senator Gray. You have been an instructor of education and connected with the islands for fifteen years? Mr. Oleson. Yes. Senator Gray. Does that bring you in contact with the native population? Mr. Oleson. Altogether.... I have a great regard for the Hawaiians, having mingled with them so much, and I have a high estimate as to their good nature and imitative faculties, and as to their fitness for manual employment. I do not think the higher education is suitable for them—I do not think they are fit for it, and having obtained it, they can not make a right use of it. ... They had previously taught them calculus and trigonometry in the schools, but the Kamehameha school did not go beyond algebra. That was put in to please the boys. ... Senator Gray. You thought it was better to adhere to the average native capacity? Mr. Oleson. Certainly. We had extensive manual-training shops there, blacksmith, iron and machine works, wood turning, printing, carpenter work; and it was my aim in organizing the school—I had to overcome many difficulties—to make it a manual-training school, so as to develop the Hawaiians on the side they showed the most aptitude for. ... They have very little faculty for originating—they are great imitators. That is shown in their manual-training work; they can do a thing after they are shown how to do it. ...
"Senator Gray. The government you have there is a Provisional Government, and under the control of the superior race of the islands? Mr. Oleson. It is entirely. Senator Gray. And it is strong? Mr. Oleson. It is strong in every sense of the word. Senator Gray. It is autocratic? Mr. Oleson. No; it is oligarchy.
"The Chairman. Amongst the Americans there in Hawaii, since you have resided on the islands, has there been any evident disposition to promote annexation to the United States? Mr. Oleson. There has been no concerted attempt; it has been written on publicly in the papers. Men have advocated it in the papers, and Hawaiians have advocated it more than the Americans. The Chairman. Do you speak of the Kanakas? Mr. Oleson. Native Hawaiians. I am not speaking of the white people. The Chairman. You said the Americans? Mr. Oleson. No, the Kanakas, the native Hawaiians. The Chairman. That they have advocated it more strenuously than the white people? Mr. Oleson. Yes. I mean in public. The Chairman. Then it was a subject of open political discussion? Mr. Oleson. Yes—only that it was not very common; once in a while there would be something about it in the papers; some one would say something of it. The Chairman. It is a topic that has been discussed? Mr. Oleson. Yes; for a good many years.
"The Chairman. Has there been any disposition evinced, to your knowledge, of annexation to any other country, or toward claiming a protectorate of any other country than the United States? Mr. Oleson. No. When that has been broached in my presence I have uniformly heard disapprobation of it. That is the sentiment of the native Hawaiians, Kanakas, as well as amongst the Americans, and also among many of the English. The Chairman. Do you know whether they celebrate our National days there? Mr. Oleson. Yes; the Fourth of July has been the celebration day since I have been in the country. ...
"Mr. Oleson. We felt that it was impossible in the light of past experience, and of the facts that we knew, for us to sustain an independent national existence there. The Chairman. So that, at the collapse of the monarchy, whenever that should occur, it was intimately associated, as I understand, with the idea of annexation to the United States? Mr. Oleson. That was the solution of it. The Chairman. And the two ideas ran together? Mr. Oleson. Ran together. It was just as if the men had said "We will go on with the monarchy as long as we can, and when we can not the United States will take us."
"The Chairman. The present provisional forces of the Provisional Government, that the Government seems to be able to equip, arm, and pay, as I gather from this testimony, are about 1,200 men. ... Omitting the question of pay, the present military force of the Provisional Government is 1,200 men. Mr. Oleson. I think between 1,200 and 1,500. The Chairman. Are those men well armed and equipped? Mr. Oleson. Yes. The Chairman. Take the Queen in her present condition, with her present resources, present playing upon the affections of the Hawaiian natives, do you apprehend that she has any possible chance of reinstating herself upon the throne? Mr. Oleson. Not at all; and she has not had any chance since January 14; not the ghost of a chance to reinstate herself by any force she could marshal in the islands. ...
"The Chairman. Was there anything to prevent the location of those troops in Arion Hall when you went out to the Government building and the proclamation was being read—anything to prevent the loyalists from making an attack on the men who entered the Government building? Mr. Oleson. No; the Queen's forces had plenty of ways in which they could have gotten there without passing by the United States troops, even if the United States troops had been out, which I do not admit. ... Senator Frye. But if the United States troops were in their quarters there was nothing to prevent an attack being made by the loyalists on the men of the Provisional Government? Mr. Oleson. No. ... Senator Frye. And if the troops had remained on board ship the same thing would have happened? Mr. Oleson. I think the same thing might have happened. But I think something else would have happened—there might have been irresponsible parties turned upon the community, and incendiary fires and bloodshed might have followed. Senator Frye. But as to the establishment of the Provisional Government? Mr. Oleson. As to the establishment of the Government, I do not think it made any material difference."