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Chapter 2 The Tensions of Annexation Like springs bubbling up from the back of a wet valley, the renewed inquiry into the nature of Hawai‘i was fed by many sources. In the raw, it was developed not so often by academic historians as by celebrations, protests, reenactments , exhibits, slide shows, and videos. Oral history became important. Genealogies and chants were revived. Novels about the Hawai‘i experience began to flourish, along with poetry and public art. Again, the early 1970s were the point of acceleration. Where the writing produced at the time of statehood was about the whole, the new writing was about the parts. Literatures of the Chinese experience, the Japanese experience, and the native Hawaiian experience—all developed rapidly.1 “No longer were only outsiders looking in,” Eileen Tamura would write, “but now insiders, too, were writing the histories of their own ethnic groups.”2 It was as if the diverse society of Hawai‘i had absorbed the full blast of America’s might, glamour, and wealth but still wanted to understand and express its own unique nature. As the inquiry reached back in time, the root political question—the question shared by all other questions—concerned the nature of America’s annexation of Hawai‘i. Among the profusion of propaganda surrounding this event, the notes of a congressional hearing in 1898 survived to summarize the most important political tensions of annexation. The hearing was held in Washington D.C. on May 10, 1898, by the House Foreign Relations Committee. America had entered into its little-understood war with Spain, and the attention of the country was on Cuba, Spain’s colony in the Caribbean. The explosion of the USS Maine and the assembly of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders obscured the fact that the war had started with America’s destruction of the Spanish fleet in the Philippines, nearly half the globe away. With no predetermined plan as to whether America was 7 liberating the Philippines from Spain or capturing the Philippines for itself, an expeditionary army was mobilized on the West Coast to support the U.S. Navy. The needs of this army for logistical support across the breadth of the Pacific tipped the scales of American opinion—slightly—in favor of annexing the midway islands of Hawai‘i. A previously classified reconnaissance of Hawaiian waters was released at the congressional hearing, extolling the unique virtues of Pearl Harbor, on the leeward side of O‘ahu. Pearl Harbor, it was said, was large enough to anchor a great fleet outside the range of enemy fire. Its mouth was narrow and therefore defensible. It was a good place to provision and refuel the ships that were carrying thousands of troops to the Philippines. Pearl Harbor was not only the best but also the most strategically located natural harbor in the vast Pacific Ocean. The original author of this opinion was a crinkly-bearded army officer named John Schofield, whose name would survive in Schofield Barracks. As a witness before Congress, he warned darkly that unless America acted, Spain might take Hawai‘i and use it as a base for attacking the West Coast (a preposterous contention, given that America sank the Spanish fleet in Manila harbor in a morning without losing a man).3 Schofield persisted: The many Japanese plantation workers in Hawai‘i were really soldiers, an underground reserve that might rise up and plunge American interests into ruin. “In a very few years,” he contended, “Japan can get physical and political control of the islands.” The chairman of the committee, Francis Newlands of Nevada, took a last look back. He asked, might it not be wiser merely to create a military protectorate through America’s control of Pearl Harbor? Schofield replied that the entire country must be brought under direct American control because so many Japanese were living around Pearl Harbor. Once under the American flag, the people of Hawai‘i might be developed into a trustworthy “reserve militia,” so that troops from North America would not have to be garrisoned in large numbers to defend the islands. From such thinking, the American version of the Territory of Hawai‘i was begun, and from this cradle Hawai‘i’s modern political culture began to develop, in which the island archipelago functioned as a submerged nation, colonial outpost, and aspiring state. THE INDIGENOUS PARTY In the last decade of the nineteenth century, a wide range of political societies were organized, reflecting the diverse and often...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780824864781
Related ISBN
9780824826253
MARC Record
OCLC
53481907
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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