(1894) William Saunders Scarborough, “The Ethics of the Hawaiian Question,”
William Saunders Scarborough, born in 1852 in Macon, Georgia, the son of a free black father and an enslaved mother eventually became the first graduate of Atlanta University and at 23 a professor of Latin and Greek at Wilberforce University in Ohio. In 1908 he was appointed president of Wilberforce and served until 1920 while continuing his scholarly activities to the field of linguistics and writing and speaking on race relations. In March 1894, Scarborough announced his opposition to the annexation of Hawaii in a speech delivered to students, faculty, and guests at Wilberforce University. The text of the speech, which was originally printed in the Christian Recorder, appears below.
Not long ago there was a prize fight in Jacksonville, Florida, between two well known pugilists, James Corbett and Charles Mitchell. The contest was to decide which of the two should have the honor (?) of being the champion of the world. The victor was to receive in addition, a purse of twenty thousand dollars or more. Strenuous efforts are said to have been put forth by the governor of the state to prevent the contest from taking place.” Even state militia were assembled in considerable numbers to assist the governor in carrying out his purposes. “There shall be no fight in the state of Florida” was the edict that came forth from the executive mansion; and the Christian world gladly gave its approval of the governor’s veto. There was a fight, however, as all well know, and large crowds assembled to witness the gladiatorial combat. The “hoc habet” “hoc habet” differed in no respect from that of similar gatherings of ancient Rome and even now of Spanish bullfights, where each party shouts for his especial favorite in the words quoted or something similar. Prize fighting is objected to on the ground that it is not only brutal and demoralizing, but a curse to civilization and destructive of our moral and social interests, while it fosters gambling and a spirit of hatred and murder exerting a bad influence generally. Taking up this strain, the pulpits throughout the land assailed and abused the participants, while they invoked the vengeance of God upon their heads. The clergy were unsparing in their denunciations of prize fighting and prize fighters. The religious press united with the pulpit and the best class of the secular newspapers did likewise. It was clear that public sentiment was against it, as it ought to have been, and that there was a determination to prevent it at all events. While all must approve of the efforts put forth to check such inhuman contests and consign them to oblivion, it is our opinion that prize fighting is a very small thing as compared with the wrong inflicted upon a weak and defenseless people like the Hawaiians by a strong power like our own. The annexationists, so called, are at the bottom of the Hawaiian imbroglio, and the assistance rendered them by the United States minister in his official capacity, makes our government equally culpable and ought to cause the whole nation to bow its head in shame. The sin of prize fighting is subjective rather than objective and affects those taking part directly or indirectly more than anyone else.
The purloining of a kingdom, great or small, is infinitely more disastrous to all parties concerned than the Corbett Mitchell contest could possibly be. The consequences are far more reaching than it is possible for those to be which attend a prize fight where two men meet by common consent and agree to bruise and batter one another up for their own amusement and the greatest purse offered the victor. If the former has an ethical phase, certainly the latter has also, and it is upon this I wish to offer some observations.
In regard to the Hawaiian question, we find that almost the entire clergy favor the scheme of the annexationists and the modus operandi adopted by the supporters of the so called Provisional Government to wrest a throne from the hands of those to whom it rightly belongs. The religious press as a whole has joined the hoi polloi and united its voice with the rest of annexation sympathizers in the “hoc habet” cry, not that Corbett has won or that Mitchell is the winner, but that the Provisional Government is the head of the Hawaiian affairs and it should be let alone. The secular press as a whole is divided by party lines, with truth left out. There are some exceptions of course. The Democracy as a rule supports the administration, while the Republican press takes up the gauntlet for Mr. Harrison. Both the President and ex President committed blunders from beginning to end, but the former’s are much less serious than the latter’s. The former’s were rather in practice than in theory, while the latter’s were both to practice and theory. Mr. Cleveland is to be commended for the courage of his convictions. The issues involved in the Hawaiian problem should be calmly considered and calmly discussed and weighed without reference to party or party lines. It is not a party question, but a question of rights and duties the rights of the Hawaiians and the duty of the United States. The annexation scheme has fallen to the ground. “The stolen kingdom” presented by missionaries or missionaries’ sons of the United States failed to carry, as it deserved to do. It has been denied that it is a “stolen kingdom” and we are challenged and called upon to prove it. Here is our proof. In the language of the objector himself: The missionaries’ sons in Hawaii comprise, first, about four hundred persons from age to infancy, who are directly sprung from the sixty original missionaries and who still continue to reside. A majority live in America. Added to this number by marriage are perhaps a hundred others, perhaps, most American born. Numbering probably five hundred more are a body of people closely connected with the former in business and church relations and who are in active sympathy with them. This thousand people of all ages constitute the nucleus of our strong and progressive American colony of over three thousand persons. There are also the leading and influential element shaping political and social opinions among the great majority of 22,000 whites of the country. Until last May railed at as missionaries, it is now the order of the day to term them missionaries; children and no credit to their parents. This strong little community of one thousand souls has recently built and paid for a church costing a hundred and thirty thousand dollars and said to surpass any church edifice on the Pacific coast in beauty outside and within. They statedly contribute thirty thousand dollars per annum for church and missionary purposes, besides numberless local and irregular benefactions for schools and other causes. By force of character and culture they occupy a majority of the highest public positions. Two out of three of the supreme judges are sons of missionaries; three out of the four ministers of state are the same. Of the Hawaiian legation at Washington, Thurston was grandson and Alexander a son of missionaries, men who would have distinction in any community. Three sons of missionaries by most honorable exertions are among the wealthiest of sugar planters and men of great beneficence. For presumable good reasons this large and reputable body of white natives and old residents of Hawaii are practically unanimous for the overthrow of the monarchy and for annexation to the United States. In accord with them are the great majority of the right living and intelligent class of the native Hawaiians. Now as to the charge of tendering the stolen kingdom, the only right Liliuokalani or Kaiualani can claim in the matter is that the welfare of the kingdom calls for their rule. It cannot be stolen from them. They may have some claim for support as being put out of place. No one will refuse them such support when they are ready to make terms for it.
This is a strained view to take of the question and lacks the elements of sincerity. In the first place, where did the foreigners get an island to tender to America? How did they get into power? What legal right can they lay to the possession they now claim? Certainly not by right of conquest nor by series of wars did they triumph, for, as they are in the minority, being hardly a handful they could make but slight resistance to the powers that be. The Hawaiian authorities certainly did not make them a present of the country, nor did they voluntarily relinquish their claims to it. No such irregular method of doing business as this is anywhere referred to. No, it was a systematic scheme laid long and deep to cheat these people out of their own, and they have succeeded admirably. It was by the grace of the Hawaiians that our first missionaries were allowed to land upon their territory, and this is the reward the islanders are receiving in return. Of course, it is taken for granted that the sole purpose of these missionaries was to educate and Christianize the natives and make them better men and women, or else foreigners would never have been allowed the freedom of the soil. Subsequent events however would indicate that these people had another object in view. The charges against the character of the queen amount to but little. Examples are not wanting at the present day of plenty other monarchs whose character could vie in this especial respect with that of the ex queen. But these still hold their scepters with right unquestioned by other nations on this account. This strong little community of one thousand souls has recently built and paid for a church costing a hundred and thirty thousand dollars and said to surpass any church edifice on the Pacific coast in beauty outside and within. They statedly contribute thirty thousand dollars per annum for church and missionary purposes, besides numberless local and irregular benefactions for schools and other causes. By force of character and culture they occupy a majority of the highest public positions. Two out of three of the supreme judges are sons of missionaries; three out of the four ministers of state are the same. Of the Hawaiian legation at Washington, Thurston was grandson and Alexander a son of missionaries, men who would have distinction in any community. Three sons of missionaries by most honorable exertions are among the wealthiest of sugar planters and men of great beneficence. For presumable good reasons this large and reputable body of white natives and old residents of Hawaii are practicallyoo…~uua uauuuci5 al:dIUUroup The annexation movement was the consummation of one of the most gigantic schemes to steal from a poor helpless people what was as much theirs as America was the Indians’ before the days of Columbus. What is the most peculiar about the matter is that the Christian world seems to sanction on a big scale what it condemns on a small one. If the United States fails to right the wrong it committed by its agents, it will deserve the condemnation of all Christendom. It cannot afford to pass over the matter lightly whatever be the attitude of the adherents to the Provisional Government. It is a question of ethics and upon ethical grounds it must be settled if rightly settled at all everything else to the contrary. We have strong evidence of the fact that it is not so much an immoral and dissolute queen as it is a question of color and nationality. It is an ethnological question as well. A proof of this is seen in the nature and character of the caricatures of the deposed ruler that have filled the daily papers. These journals have taken especial pains to enlarge the racial phases of the question that they We have strong evidence of the fact that it is not so much an immoral and dissolute queen as it is a question of color and nationality. It is an ethnological question as well. A proof of this is seen in the nature and character of the caricatures of the deposed ruler that have filled the daily papers. These journals have taken especial pains to enlarge the racial phases of the question. regard decidedly objectionable in order that they might stir up the prejudices of the people to the extent that they would look over the ethical phase and prevent justice from being done. By way of illustration we note the following:
“I think,” says a prominent Buffalo contractor and one who has spent some time on the island, “that President Cleveland has been misinformed about what the people on the Island really want. The temper of the white inhabitants is strongly in favor of the Provisional Government, although they are in the minority being about one fifth of the entire population. It would be a vain injustice to the whites to force royalty upon them. They do not want to be ruled by a dissolute negress any more than would the people of Alabama. They have established such a government as they desire and tow simply want to be let alone.” If the good people, whether missionaries or sons of missionaries, find the moral atmosphere out of harmony with their own, let them untie and attempt to cancel the evil of which they complain by raising the moral standard of these islanders, by raising their aspirations making them better dozens. The end sought will come in time, and the example set will be worth all the time spent in bringing about the change. It is said on good authority that Queen Liliuokalani is no better or no worse than many other women of her race. “Her devotion to religion has induced her to do many praiseworthy acts. She has always been generous to the poor and an active worker in the hospitals and homes for the destitute a unfortunate. She is at times exceedingly fervent in her devotion, attending prayer meetings regularly and lifting her voice in loud and earnest supplications. Now and then she exhorts her followers to repentance.” Whatever may be said to the contrary, it seems to be a fact that at the time of the landing of the Boston with her men the queen’s troops were the only organized armed forces and were in control of the city; that the United States Marine forces were stationed opposite the government building across the streets with Gatling guns ready for action at a moment’s notice; that these troops were landed by request of the United States’ minister and those who were the instigators of the riotous movement; that these troops were landed twenty four hours before the Provisional Government was proclaimed and that the government de facto and de jure asked the protection of the United States’ troops but was refused by order of the United States’ Minister Stevens, who was in sympathy with the revolutionists and was their abettor and accomplice in overturning the queen’s government. Again, the evidence seems to be conclusive that the palace was not seized by a mob of thirty armed men until twenty four hours after the landing of our Marine forces, and that the presence of the latter was designed to Intermediate the rightful ruler, “a menace against her” if she attempted to resist the revolutionists. That it was a success goes without saying; that the United States through its minister was a party to the deal is equally true. We have further evidence that the queen was given to understand that she Liliuokalani would naturally infer from this, that she would be restored, if she should peacefully abdicate and leave the matter of the United States for arbitration. To emphasize this perfidious action we need only to add that the Provisional Government declared that its existence would be determined by annexation or union with the United States or whatever the latter should agree upon. The revolutionists could not have maintained their own a fraction of the day if the United States troops had not been employed as a menace and an intimidation, which is evidently in violation of our neutrality laws and places us in a very humiliating position before the world. The adherents of the Provisional Government declare after they had become firmly established in power that it was their intention to disfranchise a large percentage of the natives and supporters of the royal government, that they might perpetuate their ill gotten lease of power. Well may these men fear for their heads, after the conception and execution of such a scheme. Who would not? Minister Thurston has not only been outspoken, but defiant on more occasions than one, and the very government against which he has spoken in terms not the most complimentary, for not adopting the annexation scheme, receives him as the accredited minister from a government whose right to exist is more than questionable in the minds of many. Right the wrong at whatever cost, and if there is to be a Provisional or any other form of government aside from a monarchy, let it come in the regular order and legitimately. Only this will satisfy the demands of justice. The Christian Church, the religious and secular press, and every American citizen that has in any way sympathized with or given encouragement to a sort of men whose purpose has been all along to throttle justice and enthrone a sham government under the false name of a Provisional Government or a Republic to further their own selfish ends, should blush with shame and veil their faces, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
Christian Recorder (March 15, 1894).