"The cause of Hawaii and independence is larger and dearer than
the life of any man connected with it. Love of country is deep-seated
in the breast of every Hawaiian, whatever his station." Lili`uokalani,
Hawaii's last Queen.
The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 foreshadowed the annexation of Hawaii
in many ways; first, by road-mapping a system of preference for importing
Hawaiian goods by eliminating tariffs. American goods were likewise
given the same preference in Hawaii. Exporting goods from Hawaii to
the United States were also given preference in the same manner. Most
importantly, in an 1887 addition to the treaty, the United States was
granted use of Pearl Harbor as a coal and repair station. Interestingly
enough, these terms rested upon what Hawaii termed the "good faith" of
the United States to honor Hawaii's sovereignty.
Long before the Reciprocity Treaty, Hawaii had signed the 1826 Hawaii-United
States Treaty. This had opened up trade with the United States. Friendship
was affirmed between the two nations, and American ships were admitted
into the ports for trading purposes. More interesting than what is
in this treaty, however, was what was not in the treaty. Nowhere does
it state that they United States will respect the sovereignty of the
Hawaiian Islands. While similar treaties at the time with France and
Great Britain likewise omitted such language, it is interesting to
note how trade was seen in 1826 as opposed to 1875. Hawaiians felt
less threatened in 1826, so the threat of annexation or colonization
was not seen as an issue.
A new treaty was signed in 1849, allowing for further privileges by
US citizens in Hawaii. They could reside on the islands, and a roadmap
for trading with Hawaiians in stock was laid out. Duties on ships from
Hawaii and to Hawaii were eliminated. Ships, however, were restricted
from entering certain ports. Whaling ships were not allowed to discharge
their crew or passengers in the mainland. Freedom, as discussed in
this treaty, was granted to individuals living in Hawaii, against certain
actions such as searches and seizures of property. Any direct discussion
of sovereignty of Hawaii was neglected.
The Reciprocity Treaty was proposed, drafted, and passed during the
reign of Hawaiian King David Kalakaua. King Kalakaua was the first
Hawaiian monarch to make a world tour and to meet with heads of state,
including in 1881 to the United States. The Oxford-educated monarch
promoted Hawaiian culture and traditions. These attempts to preserve
Hawaiian sovereignty were severely diminished by the Reciprocity Treaty.
Article I of the treaty had was to be the biggest impact on trade.
The article lists certain Hawaiian goods that could be imported to
the United States duty-free. Particularly important was what was termed "Sandwich
Island Sugar"' or unrefined sugar. Ports in San Francisco and
Portland welcomed the commodity, and America at that time was dependent
on sugar. Just as the importation of Chinese tea was all but a necessity,
sugar from Hawaii was essential. Likewise, Hawaiian businessmen were
dependent on the export and sale on the sugar. Other products were
excluded from duties such as bananas, hides and skins, castor oil,
and plants. The treaty lists in Article II an even more exhaustive
list of items to be imported to Hawaii from the United States: meats,
metals, cotton, books, furs, lumber, plants, salt, linens, etc.
Article III of the treaty gives the United States and Hawaii freedom
to propose rules and regulations to protect the importing and exporting
of those products. Article IV gives exclusivity to the US's special
trade status with Hawaii. Article V prescribes a time in which both
parties must give notice if they are pulling out of the treaty, and
Article VI ratifies the treaty.
The treaty was modeled to seem extremely favorable to Hawaiian trade,
which depended on the exporting of sugar. In reality, what the treaty
did was establish the control and monopoly of the United States over
Hawaii. By closely aligning itself with Hawaiian sugar trade, the United
States was strengthening its business interests in the islands.
The Reciprocity Treaty began what would lead to the Bayonet Constitution
in 1887, in which Kalakaua was forced to sign at the threat of arms.
This was a revision to the 1864 constitution, and it transferred the
king's power to his cabinet. Most important, however, was granting
American residents in Hawaii the right to vote in elections. This further
led to businessmen becoming powerful on the islands. With its strengthening
of business ties, the Reciprocity Treaty led to what was the eventual
annexation of Hawaii. The treaty, now taken into full context, seems
entirely deceptive on the part of the US. The lists of goods alone
are unequal: the US has twice as many goods that it can send duty-free.
Yet taken into consideration, Hawaii is a small group of islands, and
is likely to export more than it would import. The treaty seems to
be truly designed to establish a strong business presence of Americans
in Hawaii. Given what this would eventually lead to, it is difficult
to see the Reciprocity Treaty as fair.