Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Today in Hawaiian history: April 30, 1900 President McKinley signs the Organic Act

by Larry Geller

Two laws for consideration today. The second depends on the first:

1) "Joint Resolution of Annexation of July 7, 1898, 30 Stat 750 (2 Supp. R.S. 895)."

2) "An Act to Provide a Government for the Territory of Hawaii (Act of April 30, 1900, c 339, 31 Stat 141), created the Territory of Hawaii, and took effect June 14, 1900."

Sounds so official. The first refers to a resolution used to annex Hawaii to the United States. The second is the Organic Act, that provided for governing the territory and for all the laws our Legislature is busy passing right now.

Sounds so official, but is so illegal.

Three separate Treaties of Annexation failed to pass in Congress. That should have been the end of it. Congress did not have the authority to annex by passing a resolution. But they did pass it, President McKinley signed it, and the next step was to set up a government, which was done via the Organic Act, passed on April 30, 1900.

Whereas, on April 30, 1900, President McKinley signed the Organic Act that provided a government for the territory of Hawaii and defined the political structure and powers of the newly established Territorial Government and its relationship to the United States;

What's this "Wheras?" The paragraph above is taken from US Public Law 103-150, in which the United States apologized to the Hawaiian people for the 1893 overthrow.

Although the Organic Act itself was illegal under the US Constitution, it wasn't the subject of the apology. However, Professor Francis Anthony Boyle, famed constitutional and international law scholar, said in 1993, linking it all together:

Treaties were the "supreme law of the land," and the invasion and annexation of Hawai'i in violation of those treaties not only violated international law, but the United States Constitution itself....

"From 1826 to 1893, the United States recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, extended full and complete diplomatic recognition to the Hawaiian Government, entered into treaties and conventions to govern commerce and navigation"

- and friendship. Now they didn't put the word "friendship" in there, they wanted to delete it, but the treaty was friendship, commerce, and navigation. So here they're admitting that the invasion, overthrow, occupation, annexation, starting in 1893, on up, violated all these treaties, violated basic norms of international law, even in existence at that time...

One has to assume that President McKinley was aware that the Organic act he signed was illegal. He just didn't care, any more than our current president cares much about the law.

Today's anniversary of the signing of the Organic Act can be a reminder to us that we have much more work to do on achieving Democracy. It's also an important milestone in Hawaiian history that the mainstream media would rather we forget.

(Many thanks to Scott Crawford over in Hana, Maui, and his Hawaiian Independence Blog, for starting a cultural and historical calendar on which this is based.)


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