The Annexation that Wasn't - 105 years ago today

105 years ago today, the U.S. Congress passed the "Newlands Resolution " purporting to annex Hawaii. But a strong argument can be made that the annexation never actually took place, and that in fact Hawaii has been under prolonged illegal military occupation by the United States for 105 years, under what essentially amounts to a grand illusion.

105 years ago today, the U.S. Congress passed the "Newlands Resolution" purporting to annex Hawaii.

In part because of formal diplomatic protests from the Hawaiian Kingdom government and a massive petition from Hawaiian nationals opposing annexation, Congress had previously failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority to ratify the actual treaty of annexation. However, due to the exigencies of the Spanish-American War, Congress resorted to a mere joint resolution to purport to annex Hawaii.

Now, to illustrate the point, I provide readers with excerpts commenting on the annexation of Hawai’i taken from a legal opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel of the U.S. Department of Justice, October 4, 1988:

"The constitutionality of the annexation of Hawaii, by a simple legislative act, was strenuously contested at the time both in Congress and by the press.  The right to annex by treaty was not denied, but it was denied that this might be done by a simple legislative act…Only by means of treaties, it was asserted, can the relations between States be governed, for a legislative act is necessarily without extraterritorial force––confined in its operation to the territory of the State by whose legislature it is enacted."

Now this is the U.S. Department of Justice itself stating quite clearly that a mere joint resolution of Congress cannot annex a foreign country. Imagine today if Congress passed a joint resolution by a simple majority purporting to annex Iraq, or Canada or wherever. It would have no validity whatsoever. Well, in fact, neither did the annexation of Hawaii.

The DOJ opinion goes on to say that:

"It is therefore unclear which constitutional power Congress exercised when it acquired Hawaii by joint resolution."

Hmm, now, when the DOJ cannot define which constitutional power Congress exercised, that to me is sort of euphemistic way of saying there WAS NO such constitutional power!

For an international perspective on the issue of Hawaii's annexation, I would point readers to an except of a brief prepared in July 2002 by Dr. Matthew Craven, Reader in International Law, from the University of London, SOAS, on the continuity of the Hawaiian Kingdom (288KB PDF). Craven reviews both the 1898 purported annexation and the 1959 so-called plebiscite as possible points at which the United States may have gained sovereignty over Hawaii, and reviews various instruments of international law for the transfer of sovereignty or means by which a state can cease to exist (including prescription, or acquiescence through the passage of time). He concludes, however, in a way remarkably similar to the DOJ, that in international law, there was no legal instrument or process the United States actually used to annex Hawaii, leading to the conclusion that, in fact, there was no valid annexation.

As international attorney James Crawford (no relation) has stated, "The presumption – in practice a strong one – is in favour of the continuance, and against the extinction, of an established state." (The Creation of States in International Law, 1979)

If the Dept. of Justice can't say how the annexation was constitutional, and no instrument or process of international law was followed to end the continuity of Hawaii's independent status, then it seems to me that a strong argument can be made that the annexation never actually took place, and that in fact Hawaii has been under prolonged illegal military occupation by the United States for 105 years, under what essentially amounts to a grand illusion.

Finally, the 1993 so-called Apology Bill (U.S. Public Law 103-150), another joint resolution without extraterritorial force, but which serves as an admission against interest by the United States, says that annexation was done "without the consent of or compensation to the ... people of Hawaii or their sovereign government."

One of the basic American values that I learned in civics class in grade school growing up in rural Colorado was from the Declaration of Independence: "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

One of the basic human values I learned as a young American is that if you take someone's property without consent or compensation, that is generally called stealing.

Now I have learned that when my country purports to annex another people's land and country without consent or compensation, that is called belligerent occupation.

I am sad to say, the United States has no "just powers" derived from consent in Hawaii - it has only unjust powers derived from force and fraud, and like in 1898 motivated mainly by strategic military desires.

Posted: Tue - August 12, 2003 at 12:05 PM    
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Published On: Dec 27, 2005 10:13 PM
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