By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: February 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
As difficult as it is to believe that in this day and age, and with all of the history that has been revealed regarding the unjust nature of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom, large, framed portraits of Provisional Government officials are still being displayed in the rotunda of Ali’iolani, the headquarters of the State’s Judiciary. Specifically, the portraits include Albert Francis Judd, who was Associate Justice from 1874-1881 and Chief Justice from 1881-1900, and Walter F. Frear, who was Associate Justice from 1893-1900 and Chief Justice from 1900-1907.
The display of such portraits is an affront to many Native Hawaiians and gives the appearance that the State of Hawaii approves of the overthrow. The portraits also perversely give legitimacy to the Provisional Government which has clearly caused great harm to Native Hawaiian people, culture, and self-determination.
History has proven unequivocally that the Provisional Government of Hawaii was established illegally, immorally, and unjustly in 1893 following the treacherous overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
The Provisional Government ruled Hawaii during the period between the overthrow and when they declared themselves the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894. Anyone who accepted an official position within the illegal Provisional Government were traitors to the Kingdom and, by remaining in office, perpetuated the great harm brought upon Native Hawaiians by the overthrow.
Soon after the overthrow, President Cleveland appointed U.S. Commissioner James H. Blount to investigate the events surrounding the overthrow. The “Blount Report,” as it is now commonly know, was part of the 1893 United States House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee Report provided the first official evidence that United States was complicit in the illegal overthrow. The Blount Report concluded that the U.S. diplomatic and military representatives in Hawaii had abused their authority and were responsible for the change in government.
President Grover Cleveland himself described the acts leading up to the overthrow as an “act of war” and acknowledged that the government of the Kingdom of Hawaii, with its peaceful and friendly people, had been overthrown. On December 18, 1893, President Cleveland sent a message to Congress calling for the restoration of the monarchy.
The Provisional Government protested President Cleveland’s efforts to restore the monarchy and continued to hold onto power and pursued annexation to the United States. They even successfully lobbied the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to conduct a new investigation into the events leading to the overthrow in order to challenge the Blount Report’s findings.
The policies of the Provisional Government were far more restrictive than those of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including denying citizenship to Chinese immigrants. They also restricted voting to only 4,000 people, which was down from the 14,000 people under the Bayonet Constitution. This led to the Blount Report’s conclusion that if the question of annexation were put to a popular vote, it would be “defeated.”
I encourage everyone to support OHA’s Concurrent Resolution in this legislative session which urges the State to remove the portraits of any Provisional Government official which are being displayed in a position of honor in state buildings.