Labour History

Bound for Slavery? A Quaker Humanitarian Critique of Waged Labour at Koloa Plantation, Hawaii, 1836

Labour History (2017), 113, (1), 79–102.

Abstract

The humanitarian testimonials of the “concerned travellers,” Quakers Daniel and Charles Wheeler, from Koloa Plantation on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in June 1836, problematised the early years of the sugar plantation’s wage labour system. Although the newly introduced wage system was intended by the resident missionaries and the founding company to liberate the plantation labourers from existing feudal obligations, the Wheelers claimed a different form of “slavery” was being imposed on the indigenous Hawaiians employed within the new system. Produced in a climate of protectionist and abolitionist fervour in the mid-1830s “age of reform,” the Quaker humanitarian publications reflected wider contemporary concerns for indigenous populations and post-British-emancipation labour conditions. Through examination of the Wheelers’ critique of Koloa in the formative years of Hawaii’s foreign-owned sugar plantation system, this article contributes a new perspective on the critical question of whether earning wages under the conditions at Kauai in 1836 excluded the Koloa Plantation labourer from slavery.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Footnotes

*The author would like to thankLabour History’stwo anonymous referees and the editors of this special issue. Google Scholar

1.Daniel Wheeler, Extracts from the Letters and Journal of Daniel Wheeler, While Engaged in a Religious Visit to the Inhabitants of Some of the Islands of the Pacific Ocean, Van Diemen’s Land, New South Wales and New Zealand, Accompanied By His Son, Charles Wheeler(:Harvey and Darton, 1839), 215. This book was also published in Philadelphia, 1840. Google Scholar

2.Manuela Boatcă, “Coloniality of Labor in the Global Periphery: Latin America and Eastern Europe in the World System,” Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 36, no.3–4(2013):287. Google Scholar

3.Wheeler, Extracts, 215. Google Scholar

4.Ronald Takaki, Pau Hana: Plantation Life and Labor in Hawaii(:University of Hawaii Press, 1983), 3–21. Google Scholar

5.R. S. Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom(:University of Hawaii Press, 1965), 175;Edward Joesting, Kauai: The Separate Kingdom(:University of Hawaii Press, 1984), 130–31. Google Scholar

6.Jennifer Fish Kashay, “Agents of Imperialism: Missionaries and Merchants in Early-Nineteenth-Century Hawaii,” The New England Quarterly 80, no. (2007):289–90. Google Scholar

7.Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, 178–79. Google Scholar

8.Hiram Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years in the Sandwich Islands; or, A Civil, Religious, and Political History of Those Islands(:Sherman Converse, 1848), 490–96. In these pages, Bingham quotes at length from a “memorial” on the “useful arts” drawn up by the ABCFM. See alsoKuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, 176–78. Google Scholar

9.Doug Munro, “The Pacific Islands Labour Trade: Approaches, Methodologies, Debates,” Slavery and Abolition 14, no.2(1993):87–108;Carole A. Maclennan, “Hawaiians Turn to Sugar: The Rise of Plantation Centres 1860–1880,” Hawaiian Journal of History 31(1997):97–125. Google Scholar

10.Carol A. MacLennan, “The Foundations of Sugar’s Power: Early Maui Plantations, 1840–1860,” The Hawaiian Journal of History 29(1995):33. Google Scholar

11.Joel Quirk, The Anti-Slavery Project: From the Slave Trade to Human Trafficking(:University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011), 82. Google Scholar

12.Jason Moore, “Sugar and the Expansion of the Early Modern World-Economy: Commodity Frontiers, Ecological Transformation, and Industrialization,” Review: A Journal of the Fernand Braudel Center 23, no.3(2000):409–410. Google Scholar

13.Walter Johnson, “The Pedestal and the Veil: Rethinking the Capitalism/Slavery Question,” Journal of the Early Republic 24, no.2(2004):300. Google Scholar

14.Committee of the Meeting for Sufferings to Correspond with Friends Travelling on Religious Service in Foreign Parts, Minutes from 16 February 1835 to 2 September 1836, no. 47, TEMP MSS Box 13/1, p.1, Minutes of the Committee to Correspond with Friends Travelling Abroad, Library of the Society of Friends (LSF), Friends House, London. On the Quaker administrative body the “Meeting for Sufferings,” seeJohn R. Knott, “Joseph Besse and the Quaker Culture of Suffering,” Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism 17, no.3(1994):126;Margaret Abruzzo, Polemical Pain: Slavery Cruelty, and the Rise of Humanitarianism(:Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011), 38. Google Scholar

15.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 480. Google Scholar

16.Wheeler, Extracts. Google Scholar

17. Ibid., 215. Google Scholar

19.Wheeler, Extracts, 211. Google Scholar

20.Takaki, Pau Hana, 5–6;Kukendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, 175. Google Scholar

21.Lawrence Kessler, “A Plantation upon a Hill; Or, Sugar Without Rum: Hawai’i’s Missionaries and the Founding of the Sugar Plantation System,” Pacific Historical Review 84, no.2(2015):135. Google Scholar

22.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 490–96. See alsoKuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, 176–78. Google Scholar

23.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 494. Google Scholar

24.William Hooper, diary 12 September 1836, reproduced as excerpt in Takaki, Pau Hana, 5. Google Scholar

25.Wheeler’s voyage was connected to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Aboriginal Tribes (British Settlements) through the Meeting for Sufferings editorial sub-committee member William Allen, a significant member of the Aborigines Protection Society’s committee. Wheeler was made an honorary member of the Aborigines Protection Society upon his return to London in1839. Google Scholar

26.Daniel Wheeler, Effects of the Introduction of ardent spirits and implements of war, amongst the natives of some of the South-Sea islands and New South Wales: extracted from the letters and journal of Daniel Wheeler, a minister of the Society of Friends, who has recently returned from a religious visit to the inhabitants of those places(:Harvey and Darton, 1839). Google Scholar

27.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 480. Bingham here considers “the rulers” to be King Kamehameha III and Kinau, as well as Kuakini. Google Scholar

28.Extracts of the Minutes of the General Meeting of the Sandwich Islands’ Mission, Held at Honolulu, June and July 1836(:Mission Press, 1836), 16. Google Scholar

29.Wheeler, Extracts, 163–64. Google Scholar

30. Ibid., 165–66. Google Scholar

31.Charles Wheeler, Letter from Island of Tauai, 20 June 1836, reproduced excerpt in Daniel Wheeler, Memoir of the Life and Gospel Labours of the Late Daniel Wheeler, a Minister of the Society of Friends(:Harvey and Darton, 1842), 774. Google Scholar

32.David Harvey, The New Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession(:Oxford University Press, 2003). Google Scholar

33.Albert O. Hirschman, The Passions and the Interests: Political Arguments for Capitalism Before Its Triumph(:Princeton University Press, 1977). Google Scholar

34.Albert O. Hirschman, “Rival Interpretations of Market Society: Civilizing, Destructive, or Feeble?” Journal of Economic Literature 20, no.4(1982):1464–66. Google Scholar

35.Andreas Hess, “Radical Protestantism andDoux Commerce: The Trials and Tribulations of Nantucket’s Quaker Whaling Community,” Economy and Society 41, no.2(2012):251. Google Scholar

36. Ibid., 249–50. Google Scholar

37.The Friend()10, no.49(September1837), 388. Interestingly, The Friendalso published Wheeler’s Pacific voyage episodes in 1836 and 1837. SeeThe Friend 9, nos.26–37(1836) and vol.10, nos.13–20(1837). Google Scholar

38.Wheeler, Memoir, 43. Google Scholar

39.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 489. Google Scholar

40.Kuykendall, The Hawaiian Kingdom, 175. Google Scholar

41.Joesting, Kauai, 132. Google Scholar

42.Daniel Wheeler to Samuel Smith, Letter 2 February 1820, reproduced as an excerpt in Wheeler, Memoir, 84. Google Scholar

43. Ibid. Google Scholar

45.Wheeler, Memoir, 84–85. Google Scholar

47.Charles Wheeler, Notebook, 7 May 1835, TEMP MSS 366, Box 3, no. 4, item 5, p.187, LSF. Google Scholar

48.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 491–92. Google Scholar

49.William A. Green, British Slave Emancipation(:Clarendon Press, 1976), 152–53; SeeJoseph Sturge andThomas Harvey, The West Indies in 1837: Being the Journal of a Visit to Antigua, Montserrat, Dominica, St Lucia, Barbados and Jamaica, Undertaken for the Purpose of Ascertaining the Actual Condition of the Negro Population of Those Islands(:Hamilton, Adams, and co., 1838). Google Scholar

50.Seymour Drescher, The Mighty Experiment: Free Labor Versus Slavery in British Emancipation(:Oxford University Press, 2002), 144. Google Scholar

51. Ibid., 6. Google Scholar

52.Thomas N. Tyson,David Oldroyd,Richard K. Fleischman, “Accounting Coercion and Social Control during Apprenticeship: Converting Slave Workers into Wage Workers in the British West Indies,” The Accounting Historian’s Journal 32, no.2(2005):207. Google Scholar

53.O. N. Bolland, “The Politics of Freedom in the British Caribbean,”inThe Meaning of Freedom: Economics, Politics and Culture After Slavery, ed.Frank Mc Glynn andSeymour Drescher(:University of Pittsburgh Press, 1992), 118. Google Scholar

54.Edward, D. Beechert, Working in Hawaii: A Labor History(:University of Hawaii Press, 1985), 22. Google Scholar

55.Charles Wheeler, Notebook, TEMP MSS 366 Box 3, no 4, item 8, LSF. Google Scholar

56.Claude Levy, Emancipation, Sugar, and Federalism: Barbados and the West Indies, 1833–1876(:University Presses of Florida, 1980), 38. Google Scholar

57. Ibid., 39. Google Scholar

58.Charles Wheeler, Notebook, MSS 366 Box 3 no. 4, Item 8, p.529, LSF. Google Scholar

59.John Rous, A Warning to the Inhabitants of Barbados, Who Live in Pride, Drunkenness, Covetousnesse, Oppression and Deceitful-Dealings; and to All Who are Found Acting in the Same Excess(, 1656); andRichard Pinder, A Loving Invitation (to Repentance and Amendments of Life) unto All the Inhabitants of the Island of Barbados; Before of the Lords Sore Judgment Come upon Them Which is Seen to be Nigh, and Which They Cannot Escape, Except Fruits Meet for Repentance, and Amendment of Life Brought Forth; With Something More Particularly to the Heads, and Owners, of Several Plantations(:Robert Wilson, 1660). Google Scholar

60.Charles Wheeler, “Notebook,”MSS 366 Box 3 no.4, Item 8, p.171, LSF. Google Scholar

61.The gathering was attended byKamehameha III, Kinau, Rev.John Diell, the seamen’s chaplain, Rev. Beaver of the Hudson Bay Company, Rev. Daniel Lee of the Lower Oregon Methodist Mission, Rev. Samuel Parker, the Hudson Bay Company explorer recently returned from the Colombia River expedition, andPeter A. Brinsmade,partner in Ladd & Co.and a leaseholder for Koloa Plantation.Bingham, A Residence of Twenty-One Years, 479. Bingham did not note the attendance of Kamehameha III and Kinau.Wheeler, Extracts, 169. Wheeler did not list the missionaries and businesspeople in attendance. Google Scholar

62.Report of Koloa, June 1836, and Report of Koloa, 1837,“Mission Station Reports – Kauai – Koloa – 1835–1871,” Hawaiian Mission Houses Digital Archive, accessed October2017,https://hmha.missionhouses.org/items/show/827. Google Scholar

63.Wheeler had donated a keg of nails to the building of the schoolhouse and Gulick sought to barter the excess nails for other materials. Peter Gulick to Levi Chamberlain, Letter 13 July 1836,“Gulick, Peter – Letters – 1836–1838 – to Depository,” Hawaiian Mission Houses Digital Archive, accessed October 2017,https://hmha.missionhouses.org/items/show/544. Google Scholar

64.For example, in early 1836, Gulick requested sandpaper, a tin container for milk, but if not available a wooden one would do, a spade, a cart as the one borrowed from Waimea had worn-out wheels, and he put in a plea for Koloa to be remembered if any excess timber were available. SeePeter Gulick to Levi Chamberlain, Letters 5 January1836, 10 February1836, 28 March1836, 29 April 1836, “Gulick, Peter – Letters – 1836–1838 – to Depository.” Google Scholar

65.See Wheeler, Extracts, 171. Wheeler encouraged the ABCFM representatives at the gathering to “examine whether our justice is complete in the fear and love of God, and to our fellow-men, lest we should be deceiving ourselves and endangering the well-being of our own immortal souls.” Google Scholar

66.Charles Wheeler, Notebook, TEMP MSS 366 Box 3, no 4, item 8, LSF. Google Scholar

67.Theodore Dwight Weld, The Bible Against Slavery: An Inquiry in the Patriarchal and Mosaic Systems on the Subject of Human Rights(:American Anti-Slavery Society, 1838), 9. Google Scholar

68. Ibid., emphasis in the original. Google Scholar

69. Ibid., 10–11. Google Scholar

70. Ibid., 9. Google Scholar

71. Ibid., 215. Google Scholar

72. Ibid. Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

 Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Peyper, Audrey