English Literature

The Old World and Its Ways by William Jennings Bryan

The Old World and Its Ways by William Jennings Bryan.jpg



There is rest in an ocean voyage. The receding shores shut out the hum of the busy world; the expanse of water soothes the eye by its very vastness; the breaking of the waves is music to the ear and there is medicine for the nerves in the salt sea breezes that invite to sleep. At first one is disturbed—sometimes quite so—by the motion of the vessel, but this passes away so completely that before many days the dipping of the ship is really enjoyable and one finds a pleasure in ascending the hills and descending the valleys into which the deck sometimes seems to be converted.

If one has regarded the Pacific as an unknown or an untraversed sea, the impression will be removed by a glance at a map recently published by the United States government—a map with which every ocean traveler should equip himself. On this map the Pacific is covered with blue lines indicating the shortest routes of travel between different points with the number of miles. The first thing that strikes one is that the curved line indicating the northern route between San Francisco and Yokohama is only 4,536 miles long, while the apparently straight line between the two points is 4,791 miles long—the difference being explained by the curvature of the earth, although it is hard to believe that in following the direct line a ship would have to climb over such a mountain range of water, so to speak, as to make it shorter to go ten degrees north. The time between the United States and the Japanese coast has recently been reduced to less than eleven days, but the northern route is not so pleasant at this season of the year, and we sailed on the Manchuria, September 27, going some twenty degrees farther south via Honolulu. This route covers 5,545 miles and is made in about sixteen days when the weather is good.

The Manchuria is one of the leviathans of the Pacific and is owned by Mr. Harriman, president of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific Railways. The ship’s crew suggests the Orient, more than three-fourths[16] being Chinese, all wearing the cue and the national garb. There is also a suggestion of the Orient in the joss house and opium den of the Chinese in the steerage.

In crossing the one hundred and eightieth meridian we lost a day, and as we are going all the way around, we cannot recover it as those can who recross the Pacific. We rose on Saturday morning, October 7, and at nine o’clock were notified that Sunday had begun and the remainder of the day was observed as the Sabbath (October 8).

According to the chart or map referred to there are three centers of ocean traffic in the Pacific. Honolulu, the most important of all, the Midway Islands, 1,160 miles northwest of Honolulu, and the Samoan Islands, some twenty-two hundred miles to the south. The Society Islands, about the same distance to the southeast of Honolulu, and Guam, some fifteen hundred miles from the mainland of Asia, are centers of less importance.

Our ship reached Honolulu early on the morning of the sixth day out and we had breakfast on the island. The Hawaiian Islands (inhabited) number eight and extend from the southeast to the northwest, covering about six degrees of longitude and nearly four of latitude. Of these eight islands, Hawaii, the southernmost one, is the largest, having an area of 4,200 square miles and a population of nearly fifty thousand. Hilo, its chief city, situated on the east shore, is the second Hawaiian city of importance and contains some seven thousand[17] inhabitants. The island of Oahu, upon which Honolulu is situated, is third in size but contains the largest population, almost sixty thousand, of which forty thousand dwell in or near the capital. The islands are so small and surrounded by such an area of water as to remind one of a toy land, and yet there are great mountains there, one piercing the clouds at a height of 14,000 feet. Immense cane fields stretch as far as the eye can reach, and busy people of different colors and races make a large annual addition to our country’s wealth. On one of the islands is an active volcano which furnishes a thrilling experience to those who are hardy enough to ascend its sides and cross the lava lake, now grown cold, which surrounds the present crater. Each island has one or more extinct volcanoes, one of these, called “The Punch Bowl,” being within the city limits of Honolulu. On one of the islands is a leper colony, containing at times as many as a thousand of the afflicted. During campaigns the spellbinders address the voters from boats anchored at a safe distance from the shore.

As the Manchuria lay at anchor in the harbor all day the passengers went ashore and, dividing into groups, inspected the various places of interest. By the aid of a reception committee, composed of democrats, republicans and brother Elks, we were able to crowd a great deal of instruction and enjoyment into the ten hours which we spent in Honolulu. We were greeted at the wharf with the usual salutation, Aloha, a native word which means “a loving welcome,” and were decorated with garlands of flowers for the hat and neck. While these garlands or leis (pronounced lays) are of all colors, orange is the favorite hue, being the color of the feather cloak worn by the Hawaiian kings and queens in olden times. The natives are a very kindly and hospitable people, and we had an opportunity to meet some excellent specimens of the race at the public reception and the country residence of Mr. Damon, one of the leading bankers of the island.

When the islands were discovered in 1778 by Captain Cook, the natives lived in thatched huts and were scantily clothed, after the manner of the tropical races. They were not savages or cannibals, but maintained a degree of civil order and had made considerable progress in the primitive arts. In their religious rites they offered human sacrifices, but they welcomed the white man and quickly embraced Christianity. American influence in the islands reaches back some seventy-five years, beginning with New England missionaries, many of whose descendants have made permanent homes here. Some of these, mingling their blood with the blood of the natives, form connecting links between the old and the new civilization. Foreign ways[18] and customs soon began to manifest themselves and long before annexation the native rulers built buildings after the style of our own architecture. The Capitol building, erected twenty years ago for the king’s palace, is an imposing structure, and the Judiciary building is almost equal to it. The parks and public grounds are beautiful and well kept, and the business blocks commodious and substantial. In short, Honolulu presents the appearance of a well built, cleanly and prosperous American city, with its residences nestling among palm trees and tropical plants. Good hotels are abundant. The Alexander Young hotel is built of stone imported from the States and would do credit to a city of half a million. The Royal Hawaiian hotel, even more picturesque, though not so large, and the Moana hotel, at the beach, vie with the Young in popularity.

The program for our day’s stay began with a seven mile automobile ride to the Pali, the pass over which the natives cross to the farther side of the island. The road is of macadam and winding along a picturesque valley rises to a height of about 1,200 feet. At this point the eye falls upon a picture of bewitching beauty. Just below is a precipitous cliff over which a conquering king, Kamehameha the First, about one hundred and ten years ago, drove an opposing army when he established himself as ruler of the islands. To the east from the foot of the cliff, a thousand feet down, stretches a beautiful valley with an endless variety of verdure; and beyond, a coast line broken by a rocky promontory, around whose base the waters reflect from their varying depths myriad hues of blue and green. There are ocean views of greater expanse, mountain views more sublime and agricultural landscapes more interesting to a dweller upon prairies, but it is doubtful whether there is anywhere upon earth a combination of mountain, valley and ocean—a commingling of the colors of sky and sea and rock and foliage—more entrancing. Twice on the way to Pali we passed through mountain showers and were almost ready to turn back, but the members of the committee, knowing of the rare treat ahead, assured us that Hawaiian showers were of short duration and “extra dry.” When we at last beheld the view, we felt that a drenching might gladly have been endured, so great was the reward.

The committee next took us by special train on the Oahu railroad to one of the great sugar plantations of the island, a plantation outside of the trust, owned and operated by a San Francisco company. This company has built an immense refinery upon the plantation and the manager showed us the process of sugar making from the crushing of the cane to the refined product, sacked ready for shipment.

The stalks, after passing through the mill, are dried and carried to the furnace, thus saving some sixty-five per cent of the cost of fuel—an important economy when it is remembered that all the fuel for manufacturing is brought from abroad. Until recently, several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of coal was annually brought from Australia, but California oil is now being substituted for coal. The refuse which remains when the sugar making process is completed is returned to the land as fertilizer. The economies effected in fuel and in fertilizer, together with the freight saved on impurities carried in the raw sugar, amount to a considerable sum and to this extent increase the profit of the business. While at the sugar plantation we were shown an immense pumping plant used in the irrigation of the land. The water is drawn from artesian wells and forced to a height of almost six hundred feet, in some places, and from the summits of the hills is carried to all parts of the plantation. Some idea of the size of the plants can be gathered from the fact that the pumps used on this plantation have a combined capacity of sixty million gallons per day.

Speaking of irrigation, I am reminded that the rainfall varies greatly in different parts of the island. At Honolulu, for instance, it is something like thirty inches per year, while at one point within five miles of the city the annual rainfall sometimes reaches one hundred and forty inches. The sugar plantation visited, while one of the largest, is only one of a number of plantations, the total sugar product of the islands reaching about four hundred thousand tons annually.

Next to the sugar crops comes the rice crop, many of the rice fields[20] lying close to the city. Pineapples, bananas, coffee and cocoanuts are also raised. Attention is being given now to the development of crops which can be grown by small planters, those in authority recognizing the advantage to the country of small holdings.

The labor problem is the most serious one which the people of Hawaii have to meet. At present the manual labor is largely done by Japanese, Chinese and Koreans—these together considerably outnumbering the whites and natives. Several thousand Portuguese have been brought to the islands and have proven an excellent addition to the population. On the day that we were there the immigration commission authorized the securing of a few Italian families with a view of testing their fitness for the climate. The desire is to develop a homogeneous population suited to the conditions and resources of the islands.

We returned from the sugar plantation in automobiles, stopping at the country home of Mr. Damon, which was once a royal habitation. The present owner has collected many relics showing the life, habits and arts of the native Hawaiians.

Still nearer the town we visited two splendid schools, one for native boys, the other for native girls, built from the funds left by native chiefs. The boys and girls were drawn up in front of one of the buildings and under the direction of their instructor sang the national anthem of the natives, now preserved as the territorial hymn. They were a finely proportioned, well dressed and intelligent group and are said to be studious and excellently behaved. Nothing on the islands interested us more than these native children, illustrating as they do, not only the possibilities of their race, but the immense progress made in a little more than a hundred years of contact with the whites. The museum, the gift of Mr. Bishop, now of California, who married the widow of one of the native chiefs, is said to contain the best collection of the handiwork of the natives of the Pacific Islands to be found anywhere.

The public reception at the Royal Hawaiian hotel gave us an opportunity to meet not only the prominent American and native citizens and their wives, but a large number of the artisans and laborers of the various races, and we were pleased to note throughout the day the harmonious feeling which exists between the whites and the brown population.

Political convictions produce the same results here as in the United States, sometimes dividing families. For instance, Prince Cupid, the present territorial representative in congress, is a republican, while his brother, Prince David, is an enthusiastic democrat.[21]
 The luncheon prepared by the committee included a number of native dishes cooked according to the recipes which were followed for hundreds of years before the white man set foot upon the island. The health of the guests was drunk in cocoanut water, a nut full of which stood at each plate. Poi, the staple food of the natives, was present in abundance. This is made from a root or tuber known as taro, which grows in swamps and has a leaf resembling our plant, commonly known as elephant’s ear. This tuber is ground to a pulp resembling paste and is served in polished wooden bowls, in the making of which the natives exhibit great skill. Next in interest came the fish and chicken, wrapped in the leaves of a plant called ti (pronounced like tea) and cooked underground by means of hot stones. The flavor of food thus cooked is excellent. The crowning glory of the feast was a roasted pig, also cooked underground—and a toothsome dish it was. Besides these, there were bread fruit, alligator pears and delicacies made from the meat of the cocoanut. The salt, a native product, was salmon colored. The invited guests were about equally divided between the American and native population. But for the elegant surroundings of the Young hotel, the beautifully appointed table and the modern dress, it was such a dinner as might have been served by the natives to the whites on the first Thanksgiving after the New England missionaries landed.

After a call upon Governor Carter, a descendant of the third generation from missionary stock, we visited the aquarium. When we noticed on the printed program that we were scheduled for a visit to this place, it did not impress us as possessing special interest, but we had not been in the building long before we were all roaring with laughter at the remarkable specimens of the finny tribe here collected.

Language can not do this subject justice. No words can accurately portray what one here sees. The fish are odd in shape and have all the hues of the rainbow. The tints are laid on as if with a brush and yet no painter could imitate these—shall we call them “pictures in water color?” Some were long and slim; some short and thick. One had a forehead like a wedge, another had a very blunt nose. Some looked like thin slabs of pearl with iridescent tints; others had quills like a porcupine. One otherwise respectable looking little fellow had a long nose upon the end of which was a fiery glow which made him look like an old toper; another of a deep peacock blue had a nose for all the world like a stick of indigo which it wiggled as it swam.

There were convict fish with stripes like those worn in penitentiaries and of these there were all sizes; some moving about slowly and solemnly like hardened criminals and others sporting about as if enjoying[23] their first taste of wrongdoing. One variety wore what looked like an orange colored ribbon tied just above the tail; the color was so like the popular flower of Hawaii that we were not surprised to find that the fish was called the lei. In one tank the fish had a habit of resting upon the rocks; they would brace themselves with their fins and watch the passersby. At one time two were perched side by side and recalled the familiar picture of Raphael’s Cherubs. Besides the fishes there were crabs of several varieties, all brilliant in color; one called the hermit crab had a covering like velvet, with as delicate a pattern as ever came from the loom. And, then, there was the octopus with the under side of its arms lined with valve-like mouths. It was hiding under the rocks, and when the attendant poked it out with a stick, it darkened the water with an inky fluid, recalling the use made of the subsidized American newspapers by the trust when attacked.

No visitor to Honolulu should fail to see the aquarium. Every effort to transport these fish has thus far failed. To enjoy the dudes, clowns and criminals of fishdom one must see them in their native waters.

The tour of the island closed with a trip to the beach and a ride in the surf boats. The native boat is a long, narrow, deep canoe steadied by a log fastened at both ends to the boat and floating about ten feet from the side. These canoes will hold six or seven persons and are propelled by brawny-armed natives. Our party clad themselves in bathing suits and, filling three canoes, were rowed out some distance from the shore. The natives, expert at this sport, watch for a large wave and signal each other when they see one approaching, and then with their big round paddles they start their canoes toward the land. As the wave raises the stern of the canoe, they bend to their work, the purpose being to keep the canoe on the forward slope of the wave. It is an exciting experience to ride thus, with the spray breaking over one while the canoe flies along before the wave. Sometimes the boatmen are too slow and the wave sweeps under the canoe and is gone, but as a rule they know just how fast to work, and there is great rivalry between the surf riders when two or more crews are racing. It is strange that a form of sport so delightful has not been transported to the American seaside resorts. There is surf bathing the year round at Honolulu and few beaches can be found which can compare with Waikiki.

The Oahu railroad, which carried us out to the sugar plantation, and which has seventy miles of track on the island, passes within sight of the Pearl harbor, which is the only large inlet in the islands capable of being developed into a harbor. The United States government is[24] already dredging this harbor and preparing it for both naval and commercial uses. The Hawaiian Islands occupy a strategic position as well as a position of great commercial importance, and as they are on a direct line between the Isthmus of Panama and the Orient, their value as a mid-ocean stopping place will immeasurably increase. The islands being now United States territory, the advantage of the possession of Pearl harbor is accompanied by a responsibility for its proper improvement. No one can visit the harbor without appreciating its importance to our country and to the world.

When we departed from the wharf at nightfall to board the Manchuria we were again laden with flowers, and as we left the island, refreshed by the perfume of flowers and cheered by songs and farewells, we bore away grateful memories of the day and of the hospitality of the people. Like all who see this Pacific paradise, we resolved to return sometime and spend a part of a winter amid its beauties.



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