Chapter VII. Sketch of the Islands and People, Commerce, Social Condition, etc.
THE maritime importance of the Hawaiian Archipelago depends mainly on its geographical position. Running diagonally from N.W. to S.E. over the greater part of 300 miles, a segment of a parallel of latitude through its centre would, at its extremities, touch Southern China on the west, and Central Mexico on the east. Thus it furnishes a place of refreshment and rest for vessels engaged in the whaling and carrying trades of the Pacific, as well as for ships of war. Last year (1867) the following were the entries at the port of Honolulu:--
National vessels 9
The tonnage of the merchant ships amounted to [96/97] 42,962, of which 11,495 was British, the rest of other nations.
When the line of steamers between San Francisco and Japan commenced running, it was intended that they should coal at Honolulu on their way. Accordingly, the Government deepened the harbour, and extended the wharf seawards, that steamers drawing upwards of twenty feet of water might enter. Subsequently the Company preferred to make the great circle course, and carry coal for the whole voyage. So far, the experiment seems to have failed. The run is seldom, if ever, made in the time proposed--twenty-two days. It has been in some instances so long as thirty days; and the latest advices state that the steamers will probably touch at Honolulu, after all. More room will be available for freight; the exhaustion of fuel before the completion of the voyage will be avoided; and thus the passage, though in mileage longer, will be more certain and more profitable. If, as sometimes suggested, a British line of steamers should hereafter run from Panama to China, they cannot fail to call at Honolulu. The communication between the Islands and San Francisco is at present maintained by sailing barques, running very irregularly, and a monthly steamer.
 To supply the wants of the merchants and whaling vessels, and of the natives and foreign residents, goods, chiefly manufactured, were imported last year to the amount of $1,899,193, or 379,200l., nearly one-half of this being in the items of articles of clothing, hardware, implements and textile fabrics. There is a customhouse, and the revenue of the kingdom is raised by an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. on all imports.
In the session of this year's Legislature assembled at Honolulu, a measure has been discussed for raising a part of the revenue by direct taxation, in order that, should a reciprocity treaty be negotiated, as the Government desires, with the United States for the free interchange of trade, the consequent falling off in the customs may be made good by other resources.
But it may be asked, What is the productive industry of these Islands? what can they export? The answers to these questions must be introduced with a few words as to their physical geography.
There can be no doubt that the whole archipelago has been uplifted from the bed of the ocean by volcanic pressure. Niihau and Kauai are the oldest; Oahu and Maui stand next in antiquity; Hawaii being the only [98/99] member of the group now troubled with volcanic action. [See Appendix.]
It is interesting to observe how the display of active volcanic influence has retreated from the N.W. to the S.E. through the Islands generally, and how it still appears to be doing so in Hawaii now. Symptoms have been found which prove the uplifting process to be still silently going on in the Hawaiian Islands, while those in the South Pacific seem rather to belong to the plane of submersion.
Situated only just within the limit of the northern tropic, and in the region of the N.E. trades, which blow the greater part of the year, and convey the ocean vapours, condensed into clouds, over the mountains and table-lands, then to fall in fertilizing showers--the country enjoys a luxuriant and delicious climate. The average annual temperature is 77° F., with only a few degrees' variation above and below. But the local climates are varied, depending on aspect and elevation. At Waimea, on a plateau about 4000 feet above the sea-level, in the north of Hawaii, a fire in your bed-room is a necessity. On the other hand, the houses at Honolulu and many other places are built without chimneys, no fires being needed at any [99/100] period of the year. Generally speaking, there is move rain on the windward than the leeward sides of the Islands. Hence the rich green hues of the eastern slopes of Hawaii, covered with verdure and cultivation, contrast strongly with the bare and arid look of the coast on the greater part of the western side.
There is no tropical wet season, in the ordinary sense of the term--that is, at the summer epoch. On the contrary, the wettest part of the year is when the sun's vertical is the furthest removed from the northern tropic--viz. in December and January. Then abundant rain falls, storms of great violence, called Konas, suddenly arise, and the inter-island navigation has to be suspended.
With a climate so genial, something between temperate and tropical, and a soil formed from the débris of volcanic rock, agriculture may he expected to flourish.
Niihau is a sheep farm, 1.5 miles long by about 3. It is in the occupation of a Scotch family, who migrated hither from Canterbury, New Zealand. They are large exporters of wool.
In Kauai are cattle ranches, sheep-farms, and the largest sugar plantation in the kingdom, formerly belonging to the late Robert Wyllie, Esq. Oahu, 50 [100/101] miles long by an average width of 10 to 15 miles, possesses two large tracts of land, one in the NW. corner, the other on the N.E. slope, on which thousands of cattle and sheep are fed. The former is the property of Mr. R. Moffitt, an Irish gentleman, who has greatly improved the island stock by crossing it with the best English breeds. He has Herefords and Devons among his cattle, and his sheep are a cross between the Southdown and the Merino. There are sugar plantations in Oahu, and lately cotton has been grown there successfully. Maui divided by an isthmus of sand into East and West is, by eminence, the sugar-growing island while the slopes of the wonderful extinct crater Haleokala ("house of the sun"), 0 miles in the circumference of the upper rim, and 10,000 feet high, furnish a valuable pasturage.
The central part of Hawaii, which is nearly 90 miles from N. to S., is a great desert of lava of every known kind. It is only the northern plain, the eastern slope, and some portions of the south and west, which are productive, and where are to be found sugar estates, and cattle ranches, and sheep runs equal to any in the world. Mauna Kea, an extinct volcano, 1.3,000 feet high, covered with perpetual snow, has hundreds of wild cattle pasturing on its slopes.
 In this island is found pulu, a fibrous silky material, which grows out of the top of the trunk of a certain tree-fern. It is collected at certain periods and exported to America, where it is much used to stuff mattresses with. No where on the same area in extent is so great a variety of ferns to be found as in the island.
Native labour is not adequate to the demand, and some thousands of coolies from China have been introduced to work on the sugar estates. The planters are British, American, or German, as are also the mercantile houses in Honolulu which conduct the business of the country.
The following were the chief exports, in lbs., for 1867:--
Sugar 17,127,187--that is, about 700 tons monthly.
Molasses 544,994 gals.
Money commands generally about 1 per cent. [102/103] interest per month, or 12 per cent. per annum. Skilled labour, as that of mechanics, carpenters, and masons, from 10s. to 15s. a day. Labourers on plantations secure little more than 1s. as their daily wages. Domestic service is not suited to the native ideas; but they work well as cultivators of the soil.
The food of the Hawaiian people is of a very simple kind. It is made from a root called the kalo (taro) (arum esculentum), grown under water, which, after being cooked in the ground and reduced to meal, is mixed with water and made into a paste, called poi. It is then put into calabashes, and allowed slightly to ferment, when it is eaten, usually with salt fish as a relish. There can be no doubt it is a highly nutritious and healthy food.
The native dwellings are made sometimes of an indigenous grass and the pandanus leaf, sometimes of wood, very rarely of stone. They usually consist of one room separated into two compartments by curtains of kapa, the native cloth formed from the inner bark of the morus papyrifera, which, having been reduced to a pulp, and then pressed, is dried in the sun. It is rarely, in the outlying districts at least, that they contain any provision for the separation of the sexes, or for maintaining the decencies of life. [103/104] Except on Sundays and fête days, the Hawaiian dress is of the most scant kind. The women wear a loose gown of calico hanging from the shoulders, not "gathered in" at the waist; the men, when kalo-planting or doing other manual labour, often have nothing on in the way of clothing, except a belt round their loins, coiled the mate. There can be no doubt that the sudden change which they are wont to make, from the heavy finery of European dress one day to this cooler costume another, greatly injures their constitutions, and causes many deaths. They have little faith in European remedies, preferring their own herb-medicines, which they often administer with incantations and other heathen rites. One of them is the awa plant--in moderation, proved to be a valuable purifier of the blood; but when used in excess, as a narcotic, most injurious. The Government is obliged to restrict its sale. It is to the credit of the Hawaiians, that as a nation they are alive to the mischief occasioned by stimulating drinks. For many years they have maintained an embargo on the sale of all such liquors to the native population; and its violation entails fine or imprisonment on the offender. The repeal of this law has been often proposed in the Legislature, only to he rejected. Still, it [104/105] must be confessed that there is at all times more or less secret drinking. The prickly pear, the root called the ki, and other vegetables, are widely used for distillation, and yield liquors of a very noxious character. It can hardly be said, however, that drinking is the vice which is destroying the population. All who have studied the subject are agreed that its frightful decrease of late years has been due rather to licentiousness and prostitution. The Government was bound to recognize the existence of these evils, and not shrink from the task of grappling with them. Accordingly, an Act was passed, in 1859, called "An Act to mitigate," &c.--very much of the same nature as that which has been adopted with success in the arsenals and navy ports of Great Britain for the protection of the sailors and soldiers resorting thither. Its result has been most beneficial in stemming the progress of disease, and diminishing immorality.
There is a complete system of common schools supported by the State, where every native child has the opportunity of learning to read, write, and cipher in his own tongue. Of course, there is nothing of a literature in the Hawaiian language for them to be acquainted with; but they have the Bible, Prayer Book, and other religious works, a few books on [105/106] secular subjects, and their native newspapers. There are two weekly ones in Honolulu, one supporting the Government, and the other the Opposition, in which, however, articles on other than political topics are to be found. Parents are compelled to send their children to these or the English schools, under penalty of the law. They are, of course, secular schools, though the Bible is read, without note or comment. Government English day-schools, on the other hand--which of late have so much increased in number--are on the denominational principle, with, however, what may be termed "a conscience clause." For example: at Lahaina the Government English school is in the hands of the Ven. Archdeacon Mason. The great majority of the boys, upwards of eighty, attend the daily service. But the children of Roman Catholics do not present themselves at school until Matins are ended.
Family boarding-schools for girls come under a third category. No such exemptions on the grounds of "conscience" are required in them as a condition of Government support. The reason is, that each "denomination" can provide such schools for its own members, and they are only in part sustained by a system of capitation grant paid for results, and in [106/107] proportion to the length of training in such schools; whereas there is only one Government day-school for teaching English in each island, and it is wholly supported by the State.
Life and property in the Hawaiian Islands are as secure as in any part of the civilized world. The traveller who turns into a native house in the wildest and most remote parts even of Hawaii, is sure to meet with a kind and hospitable reception. There is an excellent system of roads, which are carried, sometimes with considerable engineering skill, over mountains and down palis. [Pali is the native word for precipice.] The kingdom is organized into districts for the administration of justice, and there is an efficient police.
The highest or Supreme Court of the realm consists of three judges. One is a Hawaiian, another an American, the third was a British lawyer, who died last year; his successor has not yet been appointed. The maritime position of the kingdom, giving rise to numerous difficult Admiralty cases, requires, above all things, an efficient judiciary.
The King governs by a Cabinet (in which he usually sits himself, taking part in its deliberations), containing a Minister of the Interior, a Minister of [107/108] Foreign Affairs, a Minister of Finance, an Attorney-General. These gentlemen, usually intelligent foreigners of character, sit ex officio in the Legislative Chamber.
That chamber, which makes the laws, subject to the King's approval, is of a composite character, having in it nobles and chiefs, "not more than twenty," and about forty representatives, who must have in real estate 100l., or have an income of 50l., derived from property or some lawful occupation, and be able to read and write. Voters must be possessed of real estate to the amount of 30l., or be able to show an income of 15l. yearly derived from property or honest wages. There is also a Privy Council of State, consisting of thirty members.
Each island has its Viceroy. The one who presides over the Island of Hawaii is the King's half-sister, Keelikolani, known better by the title of "Governess of Hawaii."
If the King has no direct heirs, he may nominate his successor, subject to the approval of his House of Nobles. But should he die without having made such nomination, the Legislative Chamber is convoked by the Cabinet, who are, pro tempore, regents; and this chamber then elects one of the high chiefs to be the founder of a new royal stirps.
 The present Constitution was the free gift of his present Hawaiian Majesty to his people, in 1864. There can be no doubt, that under its simple and stringent provisions much has been done for the moral and social advancement of the Hawaiian race. The last census proves, however, that much remains yet to be done in this direction. The total population has decreased to 62,959 in 1867, from 69,700 in 1860 and of these 4194 are foreigners.
The family schools for girls that have been established must, in a few years, have an influence in arresting this fearful diminution. At least, it is the duty of all in whom a spark of "the enthusiasm of humanity" exists, to do what they can to preserve from perishing off the face of the earth, a race endued with so many noble and loving traits as the Hawaiian.