The history of the Polynesian islands, which Captain Cook named in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, is an extraordinary example of the transforming powers of modern civilization. Physically, the natives were splendid specimens of humanity, morally they ranked below other races who were their intellectual inferiors. After Captain Cook's visit the natives quickly developed modern ideas. First they paid the white man homage as if to a god, afterwards they killed him, though the religious leaders continued to venerate his bones. A powerful chief, Kamehameha, became king by conquering the chiefs of the lesser islands, making Hawaii the seat of power from the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Kamehameha encouraged the visits of ships from England and other countries. The voluptuous charms of the women of Owhyee, as the name of the island was at first written, the beauty of the scenery, and its salubrious climate, soon made it a favorite stopping place. The king gladly traded with the foreigners, and welcomed American and English missionaries, to whose labors the present high level of native civilization are mainly due. Cannibalism was discontinued, the licentiousness that used to prevail has been minimized, education soon began to show good results and the people were not slow to avail themselves of every advantage offered. Nevertheless the race Captain Cook introduced to civilization is doomed to extinction. The sins of their ancestors have been slowly but surely sapping the vitality of the later generations. The colony of hopeless lepers tells a pitiful tale, the barbarian cannot fight against the law which awards the future to the fittest among men and nations.
For many years the Hawaiian Islands have been drifting by natural law under the American flag. The transformation of semi-savages into a remarkably progressive people was mainly accomplished by the efforts of American missionaries early in the century, who taught the growing generation to read and write, and become proficient in the domestic arts. Former customs have rapidly died out before the march of American civilization. To all intents and purposes Honolulu has been an average American city for a quarter of a century past.
The inhabited islands of the group are eight in number, and their total area in square miles is rather more than that of Connecticut. They are Hawaii, the largest, and the one on which the great volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, are situated; Maui Kauai; Molokai, famous for its leper settlement; Lanai; Kahulawi; Niihau, and Oahu, on which is Honolulu, the capital and principal city. The area of Hawaii island is 4,210 square miles, and the total area is 6,740 square miles.
The first discoverers were Spaniards in the sixteenth century. When visited by Captain Cook in 1778 the native population was about 200,000. The natives are dying out at a rapid rate, the last census, that of 1896, putting the total at 31,019, out of a total of 154,000. The total in 1866 was only 63,000. Besides the 31,019 Hawaiians there were in the islands 8,485 part Hawaiians, 24,407 Japanese, 21,616 Chinese, 15,191 Portuguese, 5,260 Americans, 2,257 British, 1,432 Germans and 1,534 of other nationalities -- a total population of 109,020, of whom 72,517 are males. Divided in respect to occupation, agriculture accounts for 7,570, fishing and navigation 2,100, manufacturers 2,265, commerce and transportation 2,031, liberal professions 2,580, laborers 34,437, miscellaneous pursuits 4,310, without profession 53,726.
Honolulu is 2,089 miles from San Francisco, a voyage of five and a half days.
In both the census of 1890 and that of 1896 the pure Hawaiian percentage of survivors was the lowest of all nationalities represented in the islands. An encouraging outlook for the Hawaiians exists in the fact that out of 6,327 owners of real estate in 1896, 3,995 were pure Hawaiians and 772 part Hawaiians. The facts are significant as showing the ownership of homes by so large a number of pure Hawaiians and the evident tendency of the race to acquire homesteads.
The total valuation of real and personal property in Hawaii subject to ad valorem assessment in 1900 was $97,491,584. The receipts from taxes are estimated at $1,341,650.
The commerce of Hawaii is shown for the period between January 1 and June 14, 1900, as follows: Imports, $10,683,516; exports, $14,404,496; customs revenues, $597,597. With the exception of the production of sugar, rice, fire-wood and live stock, and the promotion of irrigation, the development of the natural resources of the Hawaiian Islands is stated to have scarcely begun.
The aggregate area of public lands is approximately 1,772,713 acres, valued at $3,569,800.
The grand argument for annexing these islands was the fact that possession of Hawaii will "definitely and finally secure to the United States the strategical control of the North Pacific."
Of seven trans-Pacific steamship lines plying between the North American continent and Japan, China, and Australia, all but one call at Honolulu. When a canal is made either at Panama or Nicaragua, practically all of the ships that pass through bound for Asia will be obliged to stop at Honolulu for coal and supplies.
The problem of labor perplexes the local authorities. Chinese and Japanese field laborers threaten to increase too rapidly for the welfare of the people. The question of self-government was taken up by Congress soon after the annexation by a joint resolution of Congress, July 6, 1898. Queen Liliuokalani had been deposed and a republican administration set up in place of the monarchy, but the American flag was allowed to float over the islands, despite the petitions of the people.
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