Fifteen Academic Scholars from around the World meet at Cambridge, UK

cambridge-logoFrom September 10-12, 2015, fifteen academic scholars from around the world who were political scientists and historians came together to present papers on non-European powers at a conference/workshop held at the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. Attendees of the conference were by invitation only and the papers presented at the conference are planned to be published in a volume with Oxford University Press.

The theme of the conference was Non-European Powers in the Age of Empire. These non-European countries included Hawai‘i, Iran, Turkey, China, Ethiopia, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and Madagascar. Dr. Keanu Sai was one of the invited academic scholars and his paper is titled “Hawaiian Neutrality: From the Crimean Conflict through the Spanish-American War.”

Cambridge Conference Attendees 2

Many of these scholars were unaware of the history of the Hawaiian Kingdom and its “full” membership in the family of nations as a sovereign and independent state. What stood out for them was the continued existence of the Hawaiian Kingdom because it was only the government that was illegally overthrown by the United States and not the Hawaiian state, which is the international term for country. The belief that Hawai‘i lost its independence was dispelled and that its current status is a state under a prolonged American occupation since the Spanish-American War.

What was a surprise was that the Hawaiian Kingdom was the only non-European Power to have been a co-equal sovereign to European Powers throughout the 19th century. All other non-European Powers were not recognized as full sovereign states until the latter part of the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century. During this time European Powers imposed their laws within the territory of these countries under what has been termed “unequal treaties.”

Since 1858, Japan had been forced to recognize the extraterritoriality of American, British, French, Dutch and Russian law operating within Japanese territory. According to these treaties, citizens of these countries while in Japan could only be prosecuted under their country’s laws and by their country’s Consulates in Japan called “Consular Courts.” Under Article VI of the 1858 American-Japanese Treaty, it provided that “Americans committing offenses against Japanese shall be tried in American consular courts, and when guilty shall be punished according to American law.” The Hawaiian Kingdom’s 1871 treaty with Japan also had this provision, where it states under Article II that Hawaiian subjects in Japan shall enjoy “at all times the same privileges as may have been, or may hereafter be granted to the citizens or subjects of any other nation.” This was a sore point for Japanese authorities who felt Japan’s sovereignty should be fully recognized by these states.

Emperor MeijiWhile King Kalakaua was visiting Japan in 1881, Emperor Meiji “asked for Hawai‘i to grant full recognition to Japan and thereby create a precedent for the Western powers to follow.” Kalakaua was unable to grant the Emperor’s request, but it was done by his successor Queen Lili‘uokalani. Hawaiian recognition of Japan’s full sovereignty and repeal of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s consular jurisdiction in Japan provided in the Hawaiian-Japanese Treaty of 1871, would take place in 1893 by executive agreement through exchange of notes.

Lili‘uokalani_3By direction of Her Majesty Queen Lili‘uokalani, R.W. Irwin, Hawaiian Minister to the Court of Japan in Tokyo sent a diplomatic note to Mutsu Munemitsu, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 18, 1893 announcing the Hawaiian Kingdom’s abandonment of consular jurisdiction. Irwin stated:

“Her Hawaiian Majesty’s Government reposing entire confidence in the laws of Japan and the administration of justice in the Empire, and desiring to testify anew their sentiments of cordial goodwill and friendship towards the Government of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan, have resolved to abandon the jurisdiction hitherto exercised by them in Japan.

It therefore becomes my agreeable duty to announce to your Excellency, in pursuance of instructions from Her Majesty’s Government, and I now have the honour formally to announce, that the Hawaiian Government do fully, completely, and finally abandon and relinquish the jurisdiction acquired by them in respect of Hawaiian subjects and property in Japan, under the Treaty of the 19th August, 1871.

There are at present from fifteen to twenty Hawaiian subjects residing in this Empire, and in addition about twenty-five subjects of Her Majesty visit Japan annually. Any information in my possession regarding these persons, or any of them, is at all times at your Excellency’s disposal.

While this action is taken spontaneously and without condition, as a measure demanded by the situation, I permit myself to express the confident hope entertained by Her Majesty’s Government that this step will remove the chief if not the only obstacle standing in the way of the free circulation of Her Majesty’s subjects throughout the Empire, for the purposes of business and pleasure in the same manner as is permitted to foreigners in other countries where Consular jurisdiction does not prevail. But in the accomplishment of this logical result of the extinction of Consular jurisdiction, whether by the conclusion of a new Treaty or otherwise, Her Majesty’s Government are most happy to consult the convenience and pleasure of His Imperial Majesty’s Government.”

On April 10, 1894, Foreign Minister Munemitsu, responded, “The sentiments of goodwill and friendship which inspired the act of abandonment are highly appreciated by the Imperial Government, but circumstances which it is now unnecessary to recapitulate have prevented an earlier acknowledgment of you Excellency’s note.”

This dispels the commonly held belief among historians that Great Britain was the first state to abandon its extraterritorial jurisdiction in Japan under the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation, which was signed on July 16, 1894. The action taken by the Hawaiian Kingdom did serve as “precedent for the Western powers to follow.”

Dr. Sai encourages everyone to read his paper “Hawaiian Neutrality: From the Crimean Conflict through the Spanish-American War” that was presented at Cambridge, which covers Hawai‘i’s political history from the celebrated King Kamehameha I to the current state of affairs today, and the remedy to ultimately bring the prolonged occupation to an end.

8 thoughts on “Fifteen Academic Scholars from around the World meet at Cambridge, UK

    • Aloha Keliiaumoana, I’m pretty sure today everything is recorded and their reactions would be the usual OMG I never knew Hawaii is occupied but I do now. LOL The interesting thing about this type of audience is that they are professionals and experts in this field and GET IT right away. If the University of Cambridge selected individuals to present papers on a topic that will be published by oxford, you can bet they already vetted the materials and the scholars.

  1. Mahalo nui Loa for all you do Dr. Keanu Sai. You have our complete support and confidence of the future of Hawaii looks very bright. As the saying goes ” proof is in the pudding ” and we both are so greatful for you & all associated with you in telling the truth of our Hawaiian islands through education.
    me ke aloha Cookie and Norman

    • I just hope they see the legal and political version of Hawaii’s history and not the presentist, doctored, version of it. Because there is way much more to the story than what has been fed into our minds since childhood.


    • In re: Remembering The Nation Of Hawaii,
      by journalist Adrienne LaFrance

      The sovereignty of the Hawaiian Kingdom is not controversial
      at all, perhaps misunderstood by some for the lack of credible
      and accurate information available in their research, or it could
      be directly due to individuals with selfish reasons now benefiting
      from the obscurity of the facts. Controversy diminishes when the
      facts are accurately presented.

      Many people are anticipating a collapse of the U.S. currency in
      the near future. The violation against the Hawaiian Kingdom’s
      sovereignty by the United States will not help their situation!

      No treaty of cession, no transfer of sovereign authority!
      Plain and simple. No controversy about that!
      Perhaps the reason there are no books, it would only need
      one page. Huh, a one page best seller! 🙂

      Mahalo for the link!

  2. From above:
    “By direction of Her Majesty Queen Lili‘uokalani, R.W. Irwin, Hawaiian
    Minister to the Court of Japan in Tokyo sent a diplomatic note to Mutsu
    Munemitsu, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs on January 18, 1893
    announcing the Hawaiian Kingdom’s abandonment of consular jurisdiction.”

    The date of that diplomatic note on January 18, 1893, the day after the
    Queen temporarily yielded her constitutional authority to the superior
    force of the United States of America, clearly shows her exercising her
    authority on an international matter and simultaneously exampling the
    limitations on the authority she yielded to the U.S. The acceptance of
    that note by the Empire of Japan on April 10, 1894, is evidence that she
    was still functioning in her capacity as Queen, albeit under the occupation
    of armed forces of the U.S.

    I’m sure a lot of people saw this too, but just in case,I just wanted to draw
    attention on the dates of those diplomatic notes!

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