2006-06-02 Arlan D. Melendez Fact Check

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Back to Correcting Akaka

In reponse to the majority report by the USCCR which recommended against the Akaka Bill, two of the commissioners have filed dissents. In the spirit of our other fact checks, we present to you the statement of Arlan D. Melendez.

Dissenting Statement of Commissioner Arlan D. Melendez

Commissioner Michael J. Yaki joins in this dissent.

In 1893, shortly after becoming President, Grover Cleveland appointed a special envoy to Hawai'i, James Blount, to investigate the circumstances of the overthrow of the indigenous Hawaiian government and the standing of the Provisional Government. Blount delivered a report to President Cleveland later that year finding that representatives of the United States had abused their authority and their participation in the overthrow was responsible for its success.

On the basis of this report, President Cleveland declared that a "substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair," and called for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, at the behest of the Provisional Government, also investigated the role of the U.S. in the overthrow.

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Correction: The matter was submitted to the Senate by President Grover Cleveland on December 18, 1893, after he had determined he could not fix the matter himself. Although under the impression that the impasse was due to the queen's insistence on harsh punishment for those who dethroned her, his minister in Hawaii had gotten assurances from her and asked President Sanford Dole to reinstate the queen on order of the United States President. Dole flatly refused. Cleveland washed his hands of the matter, and put it before congress with the facts as he believed them at the time.

For a brief examination of how Cleveland ended up realizing Blount was wrong, see The Rest of The Rest of The Story.
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The Committee held a series of hearings in which representatives of the Provisional Government were given unfettered access to the process in order to justify and obscure their role and that of the U.S., in what President Cleveland referred to as “an act of war…” against the sovereign Hawaiian nation.

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Comment: Being snubbed by Blount during his investigation, members of the Provisional Government were able to testify as to their side of the story for the first time with the Morgan Committee.
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The Committee Chair issued his opinion exonerating the U.S. of wrongdoing (now known as the Morgan report), blaming the overthrow on the Native Hawaiian monarch. No other committee members signed the Chair’s opinion and four members of the committee vigorously dissented, finding that the diplomatic and military might of the U.S. was misused to overthrow the government of the Hawaiian people.

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Correction: It is a common misconception that only Morgan signed the Morgan Report. Please see this article for more details.

Similarly, the vigorous dissent mentioned completely exonerated the U.S. military, although it had harsh words for Minister Stevens.

On the other hand, we are not inclined to censure Capt. Wiltse, commanding the United States war-ship Boston, or the officers of that vessel. Their position was one of extreme delicacy and difficulty, and we appreciate their anxiety to afford protection to the lives and property of American citizens. The force of United States marines of the Boston with their ordinary arms stationed at the American legation, and at the consulate in Honolulu, would have effectually represented the authority and power of the United States Government, and would have afforded whatever protection American interests might have required; and at the same time would have avoided the appearance of coercion or duress, either upon the people of Honolulu or the Queen in the controversy between them.

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The Apology Resolution approved by Congress in 1993 (attached) officially adopts the accurate account of the overthrow of Hawaii presented in the Blount report and repudiates the Morgan Report.

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Correction: How one could assert that a report written by a single secret agent, with no cross examination, and no opportunity for the presentation of exculpatory evidence is "accurate" is beyond words.

For information regarding the non-binding and purely symbolic nature of the Apology Resolution, see this article.
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Once again the United States government has acknowledged that an injustice has been committed that “our national character… requires we should endeavor to repair” and is considering legislation that would set in motion the process of repairing the illegal actions committed by the United States over 100 years ago. Yet, the Commission recommends that Congress should not pass this legislation. Because I believe that with today’s action the Commission has become a 21st century Morgan Report, I respectfully dissent.