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Saturday, February 18, 2023
Abraham Lincoln Abolished Slavery in Hawaii too
By Andrew Walden @ 4:13 AM :: 3410 Views :: Education K-12, Hawaii History

“Every man has two deaths, when he is buried in the ground and the last time someone says his name. In some ways men can be immortal.” – Ernest Hemingway

by Andrew Walden

Hiding behind their six-year-old son Laguna, socialist and serial campaign spending violator Kaniela Ing and his wife Khara Jabola-Carolus, executive director of Hawaii State Commission on the Status of Women, February 10, 2023, protested the 79th annual lei-draping ceremonies at Ewa Elementary honoring President Abraham Lincoln, whose statue adorns the school yard.

Lincoln is worthy of honor in Hawaii.  Not only because he ‘freed the slaves’ on the US Mainland in 1863 and 1865--but also because Abraham Lincoln freed Hawaii plantation laborers from indentured servitude--in 1900--35 years after he was assassinated. 

How?  Keep reading.

Chased off school grounds by angry parents, Ing tweets:

“Hawaii enshrined anti-slavery in our 1852 constitution. Over a decade before Lincoln and the emancipation proclamation. So these late-to-the-party US concessions had no effect here in Ewa.”

Wrong.

The anti-slavery clauses in Hawaiian Kingdom and Hawaii Republic constitutions prohibited full-on slavery but did not prohibit contract labor or indentured servitude.

The on-line ‘History of Labor in Hawaii’ produced by the Center for Labor Education & Research at University of Hawai‘i - West O‘ahu, explains: 

From June 21st, 1850 (under the Hawaiian Kingdom) laborers were subject to a strict law known as the Masters and Servants Law. Under the provisions of this law, enacted just a few weeks after the founding of the Royal Hawaiian Agricultural Society, two different forms of labor contracts were legalized, apprenticeships and indentured service. Under this law, absenteeism or refusal to work could cause a contract laborer to be apprehended by the district magistrate or police officer and subsequently sentenced to work for the employer an extra amount of time after the contract expired, usually double the time of the absence.  

For those contract laborers who found conditions unbearable and tried to run away, again the law permitted their employers "coercive force" to apprehend them, and their contracts on the plantation would be extended by double the period of time they had been away. If such a worker then refused to serve, he could be jailed and sentenced to hard labor until he gave in. The law, therefore, made it virtually impossible for the workers to organize labor unions or to participate in strikes. Indeed, the law was only a slight improvement over outright slavery.

Even the mildest and most benign attempts to challenge the power of the plantations were quashed. One early Japanese contract laborer in Hilo tried to get the courts to rule that his labor contract should be illegal since he was unwilling to work for Hilo Sugar Company, and such involuntary servitude was supposed to be prohibited by the Hawaiian Constitution, but the court, of course, upheld the Masters and Servant's Act and the harsh labor contracts (Hilo Sugar vs. Mioshi 1891). A far more brutal and shameful act was committed against another one of the first contract laborers or "imin" who dared to remain in Hawai'i after his contract and try to open a small business in Honoka'a. His name was Katsu Goto, and one night, after riding out to help some other imin with an English translation, he was assaulted, beaten, and lynched [read more].

On June 14, 1900, via the Hawaii Organic Act, which brought US law to bear in the newly-annexed Territory of Hawaii, Abraham Lincoln put an end to this.  Unlike the Hawaiian Kingdom and the Hawaii Republic, Lincoln’s abolition of slavery includes the abolition of indentured servitude

The ILWU-published Honolulu Record, August 19, 1948, explains:

Contract Laborers Emancipated

Fifty years ago today, when the Republic of Hawaii was annexed to the United States as a territory, the Hawaiian sugar planters never imagined that the "docile" and “obedient” Japanese laborers would revolt against them to secure their freedom.

In 1899, one year after annexation, the sugar planters imported 26,103 Japanese contract laborers — the largest number of Japanese brought to the islands in any single year.

This was the planters' last minute effort to beat the United States contract labor law of 1885 which prohibited importation of contract laborers into the states and territories.

Organic Act Ends Servitude

Then came the Organic Act which put an end to penal contract labor in June 1900, two years before the contracts of the 26,103 Japanese expired. The Organic Act stated in part: "That all contracts made since August twelfth, eighteen hundred and ninety-eight, by which persons are held for service for a definite time, are hereby declared null and void and terminated, and no law shall be passed to enforce said contract any way; and it shall be the duty of the United States marshal to at once notify such persons so held of the termination of their contracts."

Black Snake Rule

To the surprise of plantation owners, the Japanese laborers everywhere demanded that their contracts be canceled and returned to them.

They wanted freedom, and dignity which came with it. As contract laborers their bodies were practically the property of the sugar planters, to be abused and even whipped with black snake whips. In several places the Japanese went on strike to enforce their demand on the planters who were daily violating a US law in keeping them under servitude.

One of these places was Spreckelsville.

The Hawaiian Star reported the Spreckelsville strike of June 20, 1900, in the following manner:

"…On Tuesday evening, a United States census agent, Moses Kauhimahu, with a Japanese interpreter entered a camp of strikers, who had not worked for several days, for the purpose of enumerating them.  Immediately upon asking the first Japanese his name, the Special Agent and his interpreter were accused of being agents of Manager Lowrie sent into the Camp to secure the names of the ringleaders of the strike, and were set upon by a number of Japanese.

Strikers Revolt

"The Special Agent took to his heels . . . but the interpreter was beaten and very roughly handled for a time, finally getting away with many bruises and injuries.

On Wednesday morning Sheriff Baldwin with a small posse of police went to this Spreckelsville camp to arrest the assaulters [sic].... Upon their arrival there, the Japanese at a signal gathered together, about two hundred of them and attacked the police."…

The Maui Planters' Association subsequently canceled all contracts, thus ending the strikes at most places….

It is good to be a free American.  Abraham Lincoln is one of our heroes.

Happy Presidents Day.

---30---

VIDEO: Protester shows up at about 35:00 mark

RELATED: June 14, 1900: The Abolition of Slavery in Hawaii

Kaniela Ing: The Gift That Just Keeps on Giving

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