Missionaries, Sugar and Immigration in the Nineteenth Century SUGAR PLANTATIONS In the early 19th century, sugarcane agriculture was very limited on the Hawaiian Islands. The first commercial sugar plantations were developed in the 1830s under the reign of Hawaiian King Kamehameha III. The plantations in Hawaii were unlike those that existed elsewhere in the world during that time, such as Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Haiti. The main difference was that Hawaiian plantation owners paid their laborers. Some plantation owners leased land from the King to harvest sugarcane, paying a flat rate each year. Three American businessmen, who founded Ladd & Company, operated one such plantation- called the Koloa Plantation. The Koloa Plantation was built on 980 acres of land leased from King Kamehameha III for 50 years at a rate of $300.00 annually. The plantation grew from only 25 staff in September of 1835 to 100 by March of 1838. Male Chinese workers were often recruited to work in the mill with the Hawaiian natives. Within a year of being established, the Koloa plantation contained twenty-five acres of cane under cultivation and many buildings including twenty houses for native workers, a house for the superintendent, a carpenter’s shop, a blacksmith’s shop, a milldam, a sugar house, a boiling house and a sugar mill.
How did Hawaii get involved in commercial sugar production? Life on the Koloa Plantation involved labor for both male and female workers. Laborers were assigned to living quarters and allowed to take Fridays off to maintain their own food crops, and Saturdays for cooking and preparing meals. The workers on the plantation were paid in the form of coupons, which could be redeemed at the plantation store.
Was it a good or bad thing that they were paid in coupons? Why? During the early years of sugar production, commerce between Hawaii and the United States was relatively limited. However, the California gold rush of the 1840s would change that. The California gold rush had a significant impact on the Hawaiian economy because it increased settlement on the west coast of the United States, which led to rapid agricultural and plantation development in Hawaii. American miners began sending their soiled laundry to Hawaii because it was less expensive than getting it laundered in the States. Mining companies began importing Hawaiian food, clothing, and other supplies from over the Pacific rather than haul them across the American interior. With increased revenue to Hawaii came increased opportunity for sugar plantation owners to expand. While in 1859 the Hawaiian Islands’ annual sugar production was only about 1.8 million pounds, towards the end of the 1860s, sugar exports from Hawaii had increased ten-fold, with annual sugar exports of over 18 million pounds in 1868. Due to the increase of sugar production, this lead to a high demand for laborers to assist the farmers.
How did the Gold Rush affect the Hawaiian economy? Who benefitted and who did not benefit?
As the California gold rush demonstrates, the success of the sugar industry in Hawaii was largely tied to events that occurred in America. The American Civil War, which began in 1861, is an example of this relationship. The Civil War largely spurred the sugar industry in Hawaii because the Union significantly reduced importing products from the Southern States. Hawaii therefore gained new markets in the North, who sought sugar elsewhere. This demonstrates how the Hawaiian sugar industry was widely influenced by greater economic production in the United States.
How was the Hawaiian economy affected by the Civil War? The plantations were harsh environments; however, they allowed natives to escape the traditional life on the islands, which consisted of hard labor for the Chiefs of the King, where failure to perform or complete work could sometimes result in death. People lived in “chronic fear” of the Chiefs on the islands and most people jumped at any opportunity to escape these norms and work on a plantation. The California Gold Rush, and the Great Mahele of 1848 where the traditional system of land ownership in Hawaii was destroyed, and the signing of the Reciprocity Treaty with the United States in 1875, were all factors in the growth of Hawaiian outside investment and economic growth. With increased investment came increased exports. By the turn of the 19th century, exports climbed all the way to 298,544 tons.
The rapid increases in sugar exports seen towards the end of the 19th century were also in part due to reciprocity agreements between Hawaii and the United States. In 1856, the King of Hawaii commissioned the Honorary E. H. Allen to act as the Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary in Washington to negotiate an agreement between the United States and Hawaii that would allow entry to ports free of duty. Although the United States federal government initially received the proposed agreement favorably, it was heavily opposed by senators from southern states such as Louisiana that also relied on sugar production as a source of income. As a result, the agreement was initially rejected.
Why would the United States not want to have a trade agreement with Hawaii? Finally, in 1875, the United States and Hawaii were able to reach agreeable trading terms. The Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 allowed for the admission of a number of products in the United States free from duty. Products listed in the treaty as being free from duty included: Muscovado, brown and all other unrefined sugar, commonly known as “Sandwich Island Sugar,” syrups of sugarcane, and molasses. By the end of the 19th century, sugar had fully emerged as the dominant export in Hawaiian industry, and many of the richest Hawaiians were those involved with the sugar industry.
IMMIGRATION In order for the sugar industry to be commercially profitable, it was necessary to import foreign laborers. This is because diseases, which were introduced by Westerners to which the natives had no immunity, had decimated the native population. This shows that the elite class in Hawaii needed a working class group, so they allowed foreigners to migrate to Hawaii. Hawaii began accepting too many new immigrants and they were not necessarily paying these immigrants well in the sugar fields. Around 1864, King Kamehameha V thought that a Board of Immigration was needed to help control importation of foreign labor because the current process was very obsolete. During the 1900’s the demand for these two industries in Hawaii’s economy created a huge need for unskilled workers.
Why was there an increased need for unskilled workers?
How do you think these unskilled workers were treated?
The Board of Immigration in Hawaii failed to consider the needs of the immigrants that they were accepting from China specifically. Five hundred Chinese men were brought over to Hawaii to serve as additional workers. However, they did not bring over any women that lead complaints of prostitution and sexual perversion. The Board of Immigration later then was able to bring Chinese women to the islands in order for prostitution to be limited.
Why was it necessary to bring women over? Is this a good or bad idea?
The annexation of Hawaii meant that Hawaii became part of the continental United States of America and was therefore subject to the laws in the USA. This had vast implications to Chinese immigration in Hawaii. The Chinese Exclusion Act could now be enforced in Hawaii. The Chinese Exclusion Act stopped the supply of Chinese immigrants to Hawaii and forced plantations to seek workers from elsewhere. In early 1885, Japanese people again started coming to the islands in large numbers as contract workers, with many of them returning to Japan at the end of their three-year contracts.
The Hawaiian native population went from 800,000 in 1778 to 40,000 in 1878, and the state became a hub for foreigners willing to relocate and work. Hawaii was the destination of the earliest and the largest Asian immigrations to America. It all began in the mid-19th century with many Asians flocking into the state to find work. The main ethnic groups were the Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Filipino. The plantation owners would only take on men, since women were deemed useless. Most Asian women were illiterate since education for a female child was deemed irrelevant and even jeopardized her chance for a good marriage. Through this immigration, Native Hawaiian’s became the minority in their own home. This immigration continued and allowed the sugar and pineapple industries to prosper until 1934 when the depression heightened racial animosity towards Asians.
How would a native feel during this time period? Why?
COLONIALISM AND HAWAIIAN RESISTANCE Though remote and isolated, Hawaii was realized by many in the 19th century to be of rather strategic importance for both trade and naval operations. Russia, France, Britain and the United States of America all staked imperial claims on the islands throughout the 19th century, with the United States finally annexing Hawaii in 1898. The story of Hawaii throughout the 19th century is one of exploitation and mistreatment by nations with colonial aspirations on the islands, of immigration, of missionaries, and plantations.
Why would each country want a stake in Hawaii? Foreigners established contact with the native Hawaiians in the 18th century. The first and most notable were the expeditions of Captain Cook, who discovered the Hawaiian Islands in 1778. On his third expedition Cook was killed in a quarrel with the natives, who showed little fear of the Europeans and their superior weaponry. Resistance of colonizing punctuated 19th century Hawaii, though the mode of resistance was not homogenous.
The last and ultimately successful attempt at colonization was perpetrated by the United States in the later half of the 19th century. Through several trade agreements, the United States invested a great amount into the plantations and agriculture throughout Hawaii. Many Americans settled on the island, bringing Asian immigrants along with them as cheap laborers. Most of the islands’ inhabitants would not work for foreigners on Hawaiian ground. In 1893 the United States government funded an overthrow of Hawaii’s monarchy, ousting Queen Liliʻuokalani in January of that year. Although many Americans were disturbed by such a blatant act of Manifest Destiny, no action was ever taken to restore Queen Lili’oukalani to her throne. The Hawaiians stood in opposition to Hawaii's annexation. However, this success was short lived as the Spanish American War soon forced the United States to annex Hawaii for strategic purposes in 1898.
Why would the Queen’s position not be restored?