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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 13, 2006

Morgan Report being abused by apologists

By James Kawika Riley

In 1893, well-known expansionist U.S. Sen. John Tyler Morgan lobbied to give himself and his Senate committee the power to investigate the role of the United States in the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom. The committee report, known as the Morgan Report, is now available online at morganreport.org.

It has received a good deal of press from individuals referencing it as they attack the rights of Hawaiians as Hawai'i's indigenous people. Now that the Morgan Report is readily available, it is easier to see that the report is not what it's claimed to be.

In their investigation, the nine senators on the Morgan Report committee could not agree on who was to blame in the overthrow, resulting in three separate opinions.

Sen. Morgan alone blamed Lili'uokalani and the Hawaiian people. Four other committee members held the U.S. minister accountable for the role he played in the overthrow, for landing U.S. troops and for assisting U.S. efforts to annex Hawai'i. The four remaining senators disagreed with Morgan's opinions on President Cleveland and his envoy, James Blount.

Morgan's opinion was not joined by his committee, or endorsed by an act of Congress; it was just his opinion. Pretending that Morgan spoke for his committee and the U.S. Congress is inaccurate, unfair and wrong.

Today the Morgan Report is being used to further an assault against Hawaiian rights, ignoring Sen. Morgan's obvious biases and his personal ties to those who overthrew the kingdom.

Sen. Morgan's record reflected his desire to make Hawai'i a U.S. territory. Calling for an expanded U.S. presence in Hawai'i, it was Morgan who authored the amendment giving the U.S. rights to Pearl Harbor. He was also a well-known supporter of those who overthrew the kingdom, defending them in the press and calling for annexation immediately after the overthrow.

All of this occurred before he wrote the bill giving himself and his committee the power to investigate the overthrow.

Even his colleagues were concerned about his biases, and one of his own committee members complained about the "unfair" manner in which he conducted the investigation. His witnesses, whom Morgan selected while working closely with the provisional government, were almost exclusively annexationists.

Those now presenting Morgan's opinions as if they were an act of Congress would probably prefer that these details remain unknown by the public. As much as Morgan tried to downplay the role of the U.S. in the overthrow, Congress did not endorse his findings.

It would be almost a century before Congress collectively spoke on the overthrow, passing the public law known as the Apology Resolution. Through the Apology Resolution (Public Law 103-150), passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president, the U.S. offered "an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai'i."

The Morgan Report, in comparison, is not a public law and was not passed by Congress.

Far from absolving the Committee of Safety and the agents of the U.S. who helped it, the Morgan Report is better understood as yet another chapter in the story of how a few conspired to underhandedly misuse the might of the United States to execute and justify the overthrow of the Hawaiian nation.

We should appreciate the Morgan Report for its capacity to help our island community address, not deny, the historical wrongs that remain unresolved and affect Hawai'i today.

James Kawika Riley is the OHA Washington, D.C., Bureau Fellow, and a master's candidate at George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management. He wrote this commentary for The Advertiser.