Today in History
History's Happenings for August 21
Land of the luau and hula, of year-round temperate climates, of majestic beaches and Polynesian mystique, Hawaii joined the Union as the fiftieth and currently final state on this date in 1959.
Hawaii was settled by Polynesians probably making their way by canoe or catamaran from the vicinity of Tahiti, some 3,000 miles away, around a thousand years ago. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, Hawaiian culture and daily life mirrored that of the other Pacific islands further west.
When Captain James Cook happened upon the Islands in 1778, there were a quarter million or so native inhabitants. But his discovery shortly led to the use of the Islands by outsiders not only as a supply point for trans-Pacific shipping but, by the early 1800's for permanent settlement. Along with western ways and tradestuffs, the new arrivals also introduced previously unknown diseases that decimated the native population. Over the course of the next fifty years, despite the fact that foreigners numbered less than 5,000, the native Hawaiian population dropped to only about 50,000, the loss due mostly to disease.
Concurrent with its exposure to the outside world, Hawaii's internal political situation was also evolving. Beginning just after Captain Cook's arrival, Kamehameha, one of the chiefs on the island of Hawaii, gradually subdued several of the other key islands and became, by 1810, the first ruler of a united Hawaii as Kamehameha I. Interested in fostering the Islands' newfound trade with the outside world, Kamehameha was also dedicated to preserving the ancient traditions.
However, when he died in 1819, his son Kamehameha II succeeded to the thrown and began to dismember the old taboos and rituals until, by 1820, the ancient Hawaiian religion had ceased to exist. Ripe for conversion, Christian missionaries began to arrive, bringing with them the urge to educate, as well as convert, the masses. The missionaries developed a written version of the Hawaiian language and established native schools where they tried to inculcate western values and morality along with the three R's.
By mid-century, Hawaii's usefulness to the outside world began to shift from whaling and the export of native sandalwood, to the growing of sugar. Through a series of advantageous tariff agreements, the Islands were able to supply fully 10% of the United States' sugar requirements by 1890. In exchange for the tariff treaty, the U.S. gained perpetual use of Pearl Harbor on Oahu.
The expanding sugar industry created a demand for labor which could not be satisfied from the shrinking native population. As a result the Islands saw another, much larger, wave of outside immigration in the 1890's, primarily Chinese and Japanese. A large portion of these newcomers elected to stay in the Islands when their employment contracts ended, giving the population the oriental flavor still in evidence today.
As business expanded in Hawaii, businessmen found themselves more and more often at odds with the native monarchy, which by then was again looking at restoring some of the ancient ways. In 1887 a group of American business leaders, utilizing a local militia which they had formed on their own, imposed a constitution on King Kalakaua which limited his powers, and drastically infringed the right of native Hawaiians to vote. Six years later his sister, the much revered Queen Liliuokalani, sought to regain some of the lost power and was rewarded by having her government offices taken over by representatives of the foreign business interests. The American representative in Hawaii sided with the revolt and even ordered troops in to "protect" American interests.
Despite the queen's stand against outright annexation of the Islands by the U.S., the rebels proclaimed a provisional government and applied for annexation. Before the issue could be decided by the U.S. Senate, supportive President Harrison's term ended, and incoming President Cleveland refused to consider the action. The rebels responded by declaring Hawaii to be an independent republic.
With the arrival of the McKinley administration in 1896, which favored annexation along with the American public, Hawaii's fate became inevitable. On August 12, 1898, the Islands were officially annexed to the United States, and became a Territory on June 14, 1900, making all Hawaiians citizens of the U.S.
Today Hawaii's best-known export is probably pineapple, not sugar, whales or sandalwood. Though grown sporadically in the Islands since the early 1800's, large scale pineapple production did not come into its own until the twentieth century. It is interesting to note ... and we've done no research here so will offer no conclusions ... that the leader of the 1887 revolt and the subsequent republic, and the territory's first governor, was one Sanford B. Dole.
Efforts to achieve full statehood for the Territory began soon after annexation, but received no attention in Congress until the 1930's. Concern about the large percentage of foreign-born residents caused resistance on the mainland to the granting of statehood. But after the Islands took the opening shot of World War II, and came through four years of martial law, the tide of sentiment changed. Working together with the simultaneous Alaskan effort, Hawaii achieved her goal in 1959, and her citizens approved by a 17-1 margin.
As happy as we all are that such a wonderful and magical place is part of our Union, we have to be saddened by the methods used to bring her into the fold, and their effects on the original Islanders.
In 1831, a Virginia slave and religious leader by the name of Nat Turner, convinced that God had anointed him to free his people, led a slave rebellion which resulted in the deaths of sixty white men, women and children, and at least as many blacks.
The South blamed the uprising on incendiary abolitionist literature emanating from the North, and tightened its slave laws even further. Paradoxically, the revolt dampened rising abolitionist feelings in the South.
Turner and his followers were captured and executed.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
One of Communism's greatest thinkers, and a purer Marxist than either Lenin or Stalin, Leon Trotsky was from his earliest days committed to the Marxist concept of a worldwide socialist revolution led by the working class.
Initially a member of the somewhat more benign Mensheviks ("minority"), Trotsky became a Bolshevik ("majority") over the issue of who would lead the hoped-for revolution. The Mensheviks advocated a loosely controlled party of mass membership, and a leading role for the middle class, while the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin planned a tightly disciplined party of die-hard revolutionaries driving the movement through the Proletariat, or working class.
When the popular revolution of March, 1917 ousted the Czar and established a provisional government under Alexander Kerensky, the Mensheviks advocated working with the new government to establish reasonable social policies, while Lenin and Trotsky led the Bolshevik opposition seeking a "dictatorship of the Proletariat" … a government wherein Lenin's "professional revolutionaries" would rule absolutely and work to spread the revolution beyond Russia's borders. With Lenin in exile, Trotsky was left to do the planning for the overthrow of the provisional government.
And so it came to pass in November, 1917, as the Bolsheviks swept to power in another wave of revolution. Trotsky assumed the position of Commissar of War, and successfully led the newly-formed Red Army against the generally monarchist White Russians in the civil war of 1918-21. To keep itself supplied, the Red Army simply expropriated anything it needed from the peasantry that was supposed to be communism's heart and soul.
When Lenin suffered a stroke in 1922, a Communist Party official by the name of Josef Stalin began maneuvering for control. Trotsky disagreed with Stalin on many issues, including the doctrine of world revolution -- Stalin seemed content to concentrate on Russia, which he proceeded to do with extraordinary thoroughness and brutality in the years ahead.
After Lenin's death in 1924, Stalin quickly consolidated his power, while Trotsky became even more involved in the opposition -- an opposition which, in his opinion at the time, was to the left of Stalin, one of purer Marxism. Consequently, Stalin had him tossed out of the Politburo in 1926, expelled from the Party in 1927, exiled to Russian Asia in 1928, and finally thrown out of the country in 1929.
After moving around looking for a country that would accept him, Trotsky finally settled with his family near Mexico City in 1936. Always a prolific writer, he continued to write articles and theses promoting world revolution and opposing Stalinism. One of his last books, The Revolution Betrayed (1937), was so critical of Stalin that the dictator ordered Trotsky assassinated.
After one failed attempt, the deed was done on August 21, 1940 by a pickaxe-wielding agent of the Soviet secret police.
Such were life and times in the communist world. Great minds wasted in the desert of totalitarianism.
On August 24,1944, the United States, Great Britain and the Soviet Union met for talks in Washington to discuss the foundations of what would become the United Nations.
The Charter for the new international organization was ultimately signed on June 26, 1945, and the U.N. formally opened for business on October 26 of the same year, a day since recognized as United Nations Day.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.
(Stay tuned for a write-up on this event.