The Hawaiian Kingdom, as an independent State, was an influential player in the formation of the first principles of international law as it related to neutrality and the rights of national vessels during war. As a result of the Crimean War (1853-1856) between Russia and the Ottoman Empire, the governments of England and France, prior to their impending involvement, each issued formal Declarations on March 28, 1854, and March 29, 1854, respectively, that declared neutral ships and goods would not be captured. Both Declarations were later delivered to the Hawaiian Kingdom government by the British and French Commissioners resident in the Hawaiian Islands on July 7, 1854.
Accompanying the British correspondence to the Hawaiian Government that provided a copy of the Declaration of Neutral Rights was a copy of Her Britannic Majesty's Privy Council Resolution of April 15, 1854, that expanded upon the rights of neutral States. The resolution provided, in part, "Now it is this day ordered by and with the advice of Her Privy Council, that all vessels under a neutral or friendly flag, being neutral or friendly property, shall be permitted to import into any port or place in Her Majesty's dominions all goods and merchandise whatsoever, to whomsoever the same may belong; and to export from any port or place in Her Majesty's dominions to any port not blockaded, any cargo or goods, not being contraband of war, or not requiring a special permission, to whomsoever the same may belong."
Knowing of the breakout of the Crimean War, His Majesty King Kamehameha III formally proclaimed the Hawaiian Kingdom as a Neutral State with its territorial jurisdiction extending one marine league (three miles) from the coasts of each of its islands on May 16, 1854.
On June 15, 1854, in Privy Council Assembled, the Committee on the National Rights in regards to prizes had delivered its report. His Excellency Robert C. Wyllie presented the report of the committee and the following resolution was passed and later made known to the Representatives of the Nations who were at war.
* - the term neutral must be construed to be a misprint by the recorder of the Privy Council. Subsequent communications and resolutions refer to the word national and not neutral when referring to this resolution of June 15, 1854.
On July 7, 1854, the British Consul General to the Hawaiian Kingdom had sent a dispatch to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in regards to an interpretation of the Privy Council Resolution of June 15, 1854, concerning "armed national vessels and prizes." The French Commissioner also requested clarification. These dispatches were read in Privy Council assembled on July 17, 1854, and the following resolutions were passed.
On December 6, 1854, the U.S. Commissioner assigned to the Hawaiian Kingdom, His Excellency David L. Gregg, sent the following dispatch to the Hawaiian Kingdom government regarding the recognition of neutral rights. The correspondence stated, in part,
On January 12, 1855, the U.S. Commissioner also sent another dispatch to the Hawaiian Government that contained a copy of the July 22, 1854 Convention between the United States of America and Russia embracing certain principles in regard to neutral rights.
After careful review of the U.S. President's request, the Hawaiian Kingdom Government, by His Majesty King Kamehameha IV in Privy Council, passed the following resolution on March 26, 1855.
Following the Privy Council meeting on the same day, His Excellency Robert C. Wyllie signed the Declaration of Accession to the Principles of Neutrality as requested by the United States President and delivered the same to the American Commissioner to the Hawaiian Kingdom, His Excellency David L. Gregg. The Declaration provided, in part,
On April 5, 1855, His Majesty King Kamehameha IV, successor in office to His late Majesty King Kamehameha III, ratified the 1852 Treaty with the Kingdom of Sweden and Norway which included the rights of neutrality. Article XV provides,
Similar provisions of neutral rights of the Hawaiian Kingdom were also made a part of the treaties with Spain (1863, Article XXVI), Germany (1879, Article VIII) and Italy (1869, Additional Article).
On April 7, 1855, His Majesty King Kamehameha IV opened the Legislative Assembly. In that speech he reiterated the Kingdom's neutrality by stating, in part,
The abovementioned actions on the part of the Governments of England, France, Russia, the United States of America and the Hawaiian Kingdom relating to the development of the principles of international law in relation to neutrality provided the necessary pretext for the leading European maritime powers to meet in Paris, after the Crimean War, and enter into a joint declaration that provided the following four principles,
The aforementioned Declarations and the 1854 Russian-American Convention represented the first recognition of the right of neutral States to conduct free trade without any hinderence from war. Stricter guidelines for neutrality were later established in the 1871 Anglo-American Treaty made during the wake of the American Civil War, whereby both parties agreed to the following rules.
Newer and stricter rules for the conduct of neutral States were expounded upon in the 1874 Brussels Conference, and later these principles were codified in the Fifth and Thirteenth Hague Conventions of 1907, governing, respectively, the rights and duties of neutral States in Land and Maritime warfare.
Since the 1843 Anglo-Franco Proclamation, wherein the Hawaiian Islands was admitted into the great Family of Nations by England and France, the Hawaiian Kingdom participated in the establishment and growth of the international law of neutrality. With the Hawaiian Kingdom's unique location in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean for both commercial trade and a sanctuary for ships at war, the maritime powers of Europe and America found it prudent to include the Hawaiian Kingdom in the evolution of the principles and subsequent codification of neutral rights.
As a neutral State, the Hawaiian Kingdom was afforded all the protection of international law it had helped to establish, and by 1893 the principles of neutral rights were enough to preclude any other independent State from infringing upon the sovereign neutral rights of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It was the United States of America, in its 1871 Anglo-American Treaty, that established rules preventing belligerent States from utilizing neutral territory or ports for warlike purposes such as outfitting vessels, recruiting troops, or basing military operations. It would only be twenty-two years later that the United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom would find themselves entangled in a web of deception and fraud that was perpetuated by American expantionists in gross violation of the sovereign and neutral rights of the Hawaiian Kingdom. From the illegal intervention by the United States into the civil affairs of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1893, to the subsequent creation of American puppet governments and a state in an occupied neutral territory, the deception would last for over a century.
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