Thomas De Witt Talmage on the overthrow, 1894.



The American Traveler Also Enjoys the Hospitality of the Ex-Queen and the New President—The Wife of the Latter a Most Delightful and Talented Lady.

[Copyright, Louis Kiopesch, 1894.]

Honolulu, June 18.—The chamberlain, come to invite us to the residence of the ex-queen, had suggested 11 o’clock that morning as the best hour for our visit. We approached the wide open doors through a yard of palm trees and bananas and cocoanut, and amid flowers that dyed the yard with all the colors that a tropical sun can paint. We were ushered into the royal lady’s reception room, where, surrounded by a group of distinguished persons, she arose to greet us with a cordial grasp of the hand. The pictures of her hardly convey an accurate idea of her dignity of bearing. She has all the ease of one born to high position. Her political mis-…


fortunes seem in nowise to have saddened her. She spoke freely of the brightness of life to any one disposed to meet all obligations, and at my suggestion that we found in life chiefly what we look for, and if we look for flowers we find flowers, and if we look for thorns we find thorns, she remarked: “I have found in the path of life chiefly flowers. I do not see how any one surrounded by as many blessings as many of us possess could be so ungrateful as to complain.” She said it was something to be remembered thankfully that for 50 years there was no revolution in the islands. She has full faith that the provisional government is only a temporary affair, and that she will again occupy the throne.

She asked her servant to show me, as something I had not seen before, a royal adornment made up from the small bird with a large name—the Melithreptes pacifica [mamo; Drepanis pacifica]. This bird, I had read, had under its wing a single feather of very exquisite color. The queen corrected my information by saying that it was not a single feather, but a tuft of feathers from under the wing of the bird from which the adornment was fashioned into a chain of beauty for the neck. She spoke of her visit to New York, but said that prolonged illness hindered her from seeing much of the city. She talked freely and intelligently on many subjects pertaining to the present and the future.

I was delighted with her appearance and manner and do not believe one word of the wretched stuff that has been written concerning her immoralities. Defamation is so easy, and there is so much cynicism aboard, which would rather believe evil than good, that it is not to be thought strange that this queen, like all the other rulers of the earth, has been beaten with storms of obloquy and misrepresentation. George Washington was called by Tom Paine a lying impostor. Thomas Jefferson was styled an infidel, and since those times we are said to have had in the United States presidency a bloodthirsty man, a drunkard and at least two libertines, and if anybody in prominent place and effective work has escaped “let him speak, for him have I offended.” After an exchange of autographs on that day in Honolulu we parted.

President Dole Greets His Guest.

At 1 o’clock Chief Justice Judd came to the hotel with his carriage to take us to the mansion of President Dole. It was only a minute after our entrance when the president and his accomplished and brilliant lady appeared, with a cordiality of welcome that made us feel much at home. The president is a pronounced Christian man, deeply interested in all religious affairs as well as secular, his private life beyond criticism, honored by both political parties, talented, urbane, attractive, strong and fit for any position where conscientiousness and culture and downright earnestness are requisites.

It was to me a matter of surprise that at a time when politics are redhot in the Hawaiian Islands, and President Dole is very positive in his opinions on all subjects, I heard not one word of bitterness spoken against him. Hawaiians and foreigners are alike his eulogists. When I referred to the tremendous questions he and his associates had on hand, he said it was remarkable how many of the busy men of these islands were willing to give so much of their time, free of all charge, to the business of the new government and from what he believed to be patriotic and Christian motives. The president is a graduate of Williams college, Massachusetts, and when I asked him if his opinion of President Hopkins of that college was as elevated as that of President Garfield he replied: “Yes. I think, as Garfield did, that to sit on one end of a log, with President Hopkins on the other, and talk with him on literary matters would be something like a liberal education.”

The president’s wife is a charm of loveliness and is an artist withal. Her walls are partly decorated with her pencil. And, though under he protest, as though the room was unworthy of a visit, Chief Justice Judd took me to her studio, where she passes much of her time in sketching and painting. The ride I took afterward with the president and Chief Justice Judd allowed me still other opportunity of forming an elevated opinion of the present head of the Hawaiian government. The cordiality with which we had been received by the present ruler and the former queen interested us more and more in the present condition and the future happiness of the Sandwich Islands.

Hearing Both Sides on Hawaiian Affairs.

Aware of the different ways of looking at things and of putting things, I resolved to get the story of Hawaiian affairs from opposite sides. We have always taken it for granted that 2 and 2 make 4, and yet 2 and 2 may be so placed as to make 22. The figure 9 is only the figure 6 turned upside down. There are not many things like the figure 8—the same whichever side is up. The different accounts I here present are reports from different standpoints.

I had opportunity of earnest and prolonged conversation with a royalist, educated, truthful, of high moral character, born in these islands, and of great observation and experience. The following conversation took place between us:

Question—Do you think the ex-queen a good woman?

Answer—I have seen the queen very often. I have been one of her advisers, and my wife has been with her much of the time from childhood and has seen her morning, noon and night and under all circumstances, and neither of us has ever witnessed anything compromising in her character. She has made mistakes, as all make them, but she is fully up to the moral standard of the world’s rulers. She is the impersonation of kindness, and neither my wife nor myself nor any one else has ever heard her say a word against any one. In that excellence she is pre-eminent. In proof of her good character I have to state the fact that there is not a household in Honolulu that did not feel honored by her presence. If she had been such a corrupt character as some have represented her, I do not think that the best men and women of the Hawaiian Islands would have sought her for guest and associate.

Q.—Do you think she has been unjustly treated?

A.—I do. She has been most infamously treated. While our island was at peace and with no excuse for interference the United States troops were landed. A group of men, backed up by the United States minister and troops, formed a cabinet and chose a president and sent a committee to the palace and told the queen to leave the place. It was another Naboth’s vineyard. The simple fact is that there were men who wanted the palace, and the offices, and the salaries. From affluent position she was reduced in position until she had to mortgage the little left to her to pay commissioners to go to Washington and present her side of the case. As I said, she made mistakes, but she was willing to correct them and in a public manifesto declared she was willing to retrace her steps in the matter of the “new constitution.” She had as much right to her throne as any ruler on earth has a right to a throne, but by sharp practice when she was unsuspecting the United States troops drove her from the palace, took possession of the armament and inaugurated a new government.

The Royalist View.

Q.—If the choice of royalty or annexation were put to the vote of the people, what do you think would be the decision?

A.—The queen’s restoration by a majority of at least 10 to 1. We who are royalists are without exception in favor of leaving these matters to the ballot box. In the United States the majority governs, and the majority of the people of the Hawaiian Islands ought to have the same privilege of governing.

Q.—Are the Hawaiians property holders or nomads?

A.—They are property holders. They have their homes. They have a practical interest in public affairs. Moreover, they are for the most part intelligent. You can hardly find a Hawaiian born since 1840 who cannot read and write.

Q.—What do you think is the most provoking item in the condition of your country?

A.—It is that a professed friendly power has robbed us of our government. All the nations of the earth consider that your nation has done us a wrong.

Q.—Taking conditions as they now are, what do you think had better be done, or is that a hemispheric conundrum?

A.—It is a hemispheric conundrum. Our queen is dethroned, and her palace and her military forces are in the pos-…


session of her enemies. While I cannot see any way in which the wrong can be righted, she has such faith in the final triumph of justice that she expects to resume her throne. Her estate as well as her crown taken from her, she deserves the sympathy of the whole world. I believe in republics for some lands and monarchies for others. One style of government will not do for all style of people. A republic is best for the United States, a monarchy for the Hawaiian Islands.

Thus ended my conversation with the royalist.

The Republican Side of the Case.

But I also had the opportunity of learning the other side of this question from a spirited, patriotic and honest annexationist, and I asked much the same questions that I had asked the royalist.

The following conversation between the annexationists and myself took place:

Q.—Do you think the queen is fit to reign?

A.—No! By her signing the opium license and the bill for the Louisiana lottery and by other acts she proved herself unfit to govern.

Q.—Do you think that the present controversy would be relieved if the question in dispute were left to the votes of all the people of the island?

A.—No! The Chinese, the Japanese and the Portuguese would join with the natives and vote down the best interest of the Hawaiian Islands.

Q.—What do you think of the present attitude of the United States government with respect to the Sandwich Islands?

A.—Most unfortunate. We are waiting for a change of administration at Washington. Mr. Cleveland has unwisely handled our affairs. We want an administration at Washington which will favor an annexation, and your next presidential election may settle our island affairs and settle them in the right way.

Q.—What is the present feeling between royalists and those in favor of the provisional government?

A.—Very bitter and becoming more and more dangerous, and great prudence and wisdom will have to be employed or there will be bloodshed.

Thus ended my conversation with the annexationist.

As I said in previous letter, without taking the side either of royalist or annexationist, the Hawaiian Islands will yet be a republic in itself. What an amazing thing that, after all the trouble the United States government has had with the Chinese population now within our borders, trying this and that legislation to suit their case, any American statesman should propose by the annexation of Sandwich Islands to add to our population the 22,000 Chinese and the 12,000 Japanese now living in those islands! If we want this addition of 34,000 Chinese and Japanese, had we not better import them fresh from China and Japan?

From what I have seen and heard in this journey I have come to the conclusion that it will be a dire day when the American government hopelessly mixes itself up with Hawaiian affairs. It would be disaster to them and perplexity and useless expense to ourselves. “Hands off!” and “Mind your own business!” are in this case sentiments that had better be observed by English, German and American governments.  T. De Witt Talmage.

(Shenandoah Herald, 8/10/1894, p. 1)


Shenandoah Herald, Volume 74, Number 24, Page 1. August 10, 1894.

1 thought on “Thomas De Witt Talmage on the overthrow, 1894.

  1. Pingback: Unheeded words of Talmage to the United State of America, 1894. | nupepa

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