In the meantime, the Norwegians, who were quite prolific writers, were fighting the battle on several fronts. On May 11, 1882, the San Francisco Chronicle reprinted a letter that had originally appeared in Scandinaven of Chicago dated Papaikou, Hawaii, on February 1, 1882. This letter was signed by many people, including the following (spelling as it appeared in the newspaper):
G. Johansen, Anton Berg, C. P. Bergom, P. Johansen, Fritzof Olsen, J. Johannesen, Fritzof Johannesen, T. P. Gaasserud, Anders Evensen, B. Olsen, O. G. Andresen, Lars Paulsen, A. N. Ingelregtsen, O. Tideman, J. O. Andresen, Nicolay Johnsen, J. Eriksen, M. Andresen, E. A. O. Fossum, O. Paulsen, H. M. Olsen, O. A. Eriksen, F. Throndsen, Claus Gulliksen, Oskar M. Preus, T. O. Borgen, H. Emil Andersen, Karl H. Sørensen, Jens Evensen, Nils J. Johansen, Thomas Andersen,, Jens Kristensen, P.E. Tyglsen, Gullik Gulliksen, Karl Andersen, H. E. Larsen, Markus Andersen, Fredrik Olsen, Gustav Dahl.
The letter mentions, among other things, that when they had disembarked and were to be assigned to the different plantations, a paper was pinned on each of them: “We considered ourselves from that moment as slaves, which subsequent events fully confirmed.”
In the letter they list up a number of unworthy conditions:
“We receive so little and such bad food that we must take a good deal of our earnings to buy more such. If anyone comes five or ten minutes, too late, he is imposed, with a fine of half a dollar. The sick are shewed to a doctor, who lives 10 English miles distant, and he always sticks up, for the planters and declares, the sick to be well.
If we complain to the court, then the planters generally get free. As a proof of how the judges here behave, it happened once, that when a few of us made complaints, he pulled out a revolver and put it at the breast of the one who spoke. The sentence was 3 ½ to 11 dollars fine for each of us, except one who was sentenced, to one month hard labor, on the coral reef.”
The letter mentioned above, along with others, instigated a public meeting on March 11, 1882, in Christiania, where those in attendance asked Parliament to send a representative to Hawaii to investigate the situation.
The diplomat, Johan Anton Wolff Grip, was chosen for the task. King Oscar II gave him his credentials on March 24, 1882.
There were some voices that opposed the criticism. On October 21, 1882, The Honolulu Pacific Commercial Advertiser reprinted Morgenbladet’s August 17th interview with Valdemar Knudsen, a plantation owner in Hawaii.
It was his opinion that the main reason for the complaints was that Captain Christian
L’Orange had taken his task too lightly when he chose the laborers who were to sail on the ships to work in Hawaii.
“A great part of those he got from Norway belonged to an unworthy portion of the population in the towns, who were inclined to make disturbance, and were unaccustomed to, and unacquainted with the kind of work to which they were put.”
He also mentioned that Archibald Cleghorn, the Scottish businessman who was married to Likelike, the king’s sister, regularly visited the plantations to evaluate the situation.
Knudsen said that allegations of corruption among judges were unfounded. However, he did admit that judges in certain instances could have made mistakes.
When all was said and done, quite a few improvements were made on the plantations as a direct result of the complaints. Several plantation owners agreed to give the non-working housewives free board. Many workers were also promoted to better jobs. Those who had managed to obtain a cow or horse were allowed to let it graze on the plantation without charge. Some were also allowed to get free milk from the plantation cows.
The plantations on the islands of Kauai and Oahu did not have as many problems as those on the islands of Hawaii and Maui. One reason for this was that Anton Faye released the Norwegian workers from their contracts because of the many difficulties they had caused. And even though some of the problems on Maui were resolved, there was still a lot of trouble on the Hitchcock Plantation on Hawaii.
Mr. Grip arrived on October 1, 1882. Two days later King Oscar II’s envoy was granted an audience with King Kalakaua.
“Aloha from Forgotten Norwegians in Hawaii”
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