Wednesday, May 02, 2007

James Henderson Blount - American Rebel Separatist

James Henderson Blount was an American Congressman from Georgia. He served in the House of Representatives from 1873 to 1893 and also served as the American Minister to Hawaii. However, he is probably best known for his role in issuing one of gospels of the Hawaiian separatist cause.

Blount was active in the Confederate rebel cause during the American Civil War. He served in the Confederate States Army as a private and later as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Second Georgia Battalion for most of the war. He actively fought to destroy the American Union.

After the war, he eventually entered the Congress of the nation he had sought to destroy. He was repeatedly returned to Congress by the voters of his district in Georgia. He may have then been lost to history as an obscure Congressman had not two events happened almost at the same time. The Hawaiian Revolution toppled the Hawaiian monarchy and Grover Cleveland was elected President of the United States of America.

Grover Cleveland was the first Democrat elected to the presidency after the American Civil War. When he took office in 1885, it had been 24 years since a Democrat had been in the Oval Office. In a bitter election in 1888, he won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote to Benjamin Harrison. When he reclaimed the Presidency after the 1892 presidential election, he looked for ways to embarrass the former Harrison Administration.

Late in Harrison's term as President, the Hawaiian Revolution occurred. Local partisans, almost all of which held Hawaiian citizenship, overthrew the Hawaiian Queen. They set up a temporary government and petitioned to be annexed by the United States. President Cleveland flatly rejected their request. Instead, he sent James Henderson Blount to Hawaii to "investigate" the events of the Hawaiian Revolution.

Blount went to Hawaii. Not surprisingly, he came up with a report that satisfied President Cleveland's desire to cast a poor light on the Harrison Administration. If Blount had intended to give a fair account of the events in Hawaii in 1893, he would have interviewed all witnesses that came forward and he would have had each witness swear an oath. He failed to do both. The witnesses were not required to swear an oath and key witnesses who were unlikely to agree with the report Blount intended to issue were ignored.

James Henderson Blount then issued his seemingly preordained and now famous report in 1894. The Blount Report blamed the United States for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. During the Hawaiian Revolution, American soldiers were asked to land by US Minister Stevens to protect American property in Hawaii. These troops fired no shots, engaged in no battles, occupied not a single Hawaiian government building, and their only impact on the Hawaiian Revolution was the fact that people knew they were present. The local insurgency brought down the Queen. Blount translated this police action by American troops as an illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian government by the USA.

Congress was skeptical of the Blount Report. The party of President Cleveland (the Democrats) also controlled Congress. They held an investigation into the Hawaiian Revolution in 1894. It was bipartisan, swore in witnesses, and interviewed many of the witnesses that Blount choose to ignore. It then issued the Morgan Report which completely repudiated the Blount Report. President Cleveland wisely then dropped the issue of Hawaii. The Republic of Hawaii again petitioned for annexation in 1898 and President McKinley honored the request.

Despite the weight of historical evidence, the Blount Report has taken on a life of its own. The Hawaiian separatist community has copied it endlessly and it is present on the many sites which are making the ridiculous claim of "illegal American occupation." And, as a sign of their bias, these sites always fail to have a copy of the Morgan Report online as well. The citation of only historical data you agree with is a sure sign of a bad historical revisionist.

Unfortunately, in 1993, the US Congress passed a ceremonial act with no force of law apologizing for the American actions in Hawaii in 1893. This act was based on the Blount Report and ignored the Morgan Report entirely. There was little debate as is customary in "national cherry pie day" proclamations but this politically correct but historically challenged edict is now consider yet another part of the Hawaiian separatist gospel. If you think Congress is good at history, go back and check out the Iraq War Resolution in 2003 pointing to weapons of mass destruction. Congress was as accurate as the Turkish Parliament was in declaring that no genocide every happened in Armenia...

James Henderson Blount died in 1903. Little did he know, when he first took up arms against the USA in 1861 to destroy the American Union, that his later political actions would serve as a rallying cry for future generations of American separatists. As unlikely as Hawaiian secession is from the USA, if it ever happens, the Blount Report can be cited a major factor. As other parts of the USA (Texas, Alaska, and all of the former Confederacy) can make similar claims of illegal occupation based on supposed illegal acts of annexation, invasion, or being part of the USA against the will of the citizens, a legal precedent set for Hawaii would ripple throughout the American nation. James Henderson Blount, that obscure rebel and separatist from Georgia, may well have more of an impact on history than he ever imagined.

2 comments:

Grant Jones said...

Hey, I somehow missed this. I need to visit more often. Good post, thanks.

IntelligentDecline said...

Usually, hyperbole about the Civil War, published on the web, is authored by individuals sympathetic to the Southern cause. It is amusing finding it alongside Yankee hauteur.

Truthfully, this morning is the first time I ever recall hearing of James Henderson Blunt, and even this awareness was acquired out of curiosity on a topic not related to the Civil War. Instead, it from from a text hosted at Google Books:

Blount, James H. Jr. 1912. The American occupation of the Philippines, 1898-1912. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

This was James Blunt's son. He was a veteran of the Spanish American War, who after his volunteered commitment and Cuban duty had ended, subsequently volunteered to serve in the Philippines. He was appointed to be U.S. District Judge (Court of First Instance) in Philippine Islands, 1901-05. Whether his appointment in 1901 was from McKinley or Roosevelt (the assassination date strongly indicates it was McKinley), it is difficult to advance a credible argument that he was a pure-partisan Democrat. He was without doubt appointed by a Republican executive. I stayed up the whole night reading the text, and it seems to offer a decent write-up of the Philippine–American War from the perspective of a Ground Officer who foungt the insurgency directly on the field of battle, and then served on The Judge Advocate General staff. His depiction of McKinley was not kind, and intimating that poor war policy had been formulated as a reelection strategy; nor was he kind in descriptions of the two early civilian committees sent there at his behest. He made a good case for Philippine Sovereignty, thoroughly trashing the policy of Benevolent Assimilation, showing that it denigrated the service of American Military Personnel serving there, as well as the native population. Dean Conant Worcester, a McKinley appointed to the Philippine Commission, and later, secretary of the interior for the Philippine Insular Government, took umbrage to Blunt Jr.'s depiction. In a text arguing in favor of Benevolent Assimilation, asserting the Filipinos were inherently savages unable to provide for their own governance though self-government instituted among their own citizenry. Worcester was considered to be the committee's Philippine expert, because his occupation was zoologist, and two of his field expeditions had been to those Islands. Fascinating.

Now, returning to James Henderson Blunt Sr. He was born in a landed gentry Georgia family in 1837. He volunteered in the Second Georgia Battalion, Floyd Rifles, serving as a private for two years, and then a Lt. Colonel for two more. Indications are that this battalion fought without bringing dishonour and shame down upon their heads. He was allowed to campaign successfully for office as a US House of Representatives member in 1873, and was reelected to that office nine consecutive terms after this. His age at the time of his enlistment into the South's military in 1861, was all of 24 years, yet he had already graduated from the University of Georgia, Athens, studied law, and been admitted to the bar for two years. The Confederacy was wrong, and fomented upon the evil predicate that slavery ownership was a Natural Right which the Federal Government had not the legitimate power to abrogate, but many who took up arms for the South believed they were defending State Sovereignty from an overreaching encroachment upon the natural liberties, and States' Rights. It was the realisation that this obscene assertion of a preeminent and preexistent right to own humans had caused the dissolution of The Union and bloody war between Americans that was the catalyst for enacting the 13th and 14th Amendments, in an effort to moot a great deal of the States' Rights Arguments. These amendments were justifiable, and served the higher good.

Your assertion that the Morgan Report was a major contributory factor for the 1898 Congressional annexation of Hawaii need be substantiated with citations, given the events of that era; The Spanish-American War, The Occupation of the Philippines, and the widely held belief belief that Asian markets needed to be opened up to received American goods.

All War is inherently evil, even when fought for justifiable reasons. It permeates all sides of the conflict, and woefully affects the native peasantry chained to their pitiful possession of dirt in the midst of the firefights. Personal Honour is not a fungible commodity. It cannot be acquired on the field of battle. This is one of the two great lies states tell their soldiers, and history has shown that far too many fall for the deception, expending their personal honour cheaply, thinking it falls as manna in the everalways falling darkness of war, only to discover upon their return home, that within the desolation of their barren souls, there is only what remains.