Introduction
When an understanding of history is trampled in the street, its best
chance for survival may be in the shelter of odd doorways. Places like
the Tusitala Book Store in Kailua, O'ahu, become important, because
Tusitala tries to keep the dust level down, and it deals in old and
out-of-print books.
The Transformation of Hawaii
survived on the shelf
of the Tusitala Store, not to quickly set the record straight-which
would be too simple-but to give clues about the distortion of the
history of Hawai'i.
The first paragraph gets directly to the book's work. The Hawaiian
Islands were annexed to the United States "not by purchase, nor by
conquest ... (but) by
the vote of the Hawaiian people, who offered them to us
as a gift."
The writer's name is Belle M. Brain, who, according to the
book's spine, wrote
Stories of Missions.
The copyright date is startling,
because the U.S. Congress voted to annex Hawai'i in July 1898 and
Transformation
came out in September, at a time when typesetting
was slow and distance mattered.
And now Belle's book comes back around after a century, and
its pages open to suggest why so little is known about the past. For
example (I will be brief), the period during which 90 percent of the
Hawaiian people died is a period of remarkable progress, while in
their pre-Western condition it would be "hard to conceive of a more
depraved race of beings." Problems of "corruption and misrule" by the
Hawaiian monarchs led to the overthrow of the native government.
Bumps lay in the road, but when annexation occurred, the enthusiasm
of the Hawaiians "knew no bounds."
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