Statehood Countdown #6 (Knowland)

August 16, 2009
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With only 6 days left in Statehood Hawaii’s Statehood Countdown, I’m posting one of the seminal letters from which this research stemmed from. This is the initial correspondence between Senator Knowland, who at this time was the House minority leader in the Senate to Francis O. Wilcox, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations, Department of State.

Senator Knowland is responding to Hawaii and Alaska being on the list of territories required to send information to the United Nations as a requirement of Chapter XI, Article 73(e) of the UN Charter on Non-Self-Governing Territories.

Senator Knowland was greatly concerned by the Communist threat, particularly in China, and was adamantly opposed to China being recognized at the United Nations. Although the information required to be submitted under Article 73(e) was not of the most sensitive nature in regard to national security, he led a charge to have Hawaii and Alaska removed from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The information that was required by the UN was statistical in nature, and had to do with population, education, health, employment and labor, etc. In Hawaii, this information was submitted by the Governor’s office to the Department of the Interior. They in turn, submitted it to the State Department who submitted it to the United Nations. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, then collects this information and along with the Specialized Agencies like the WHO, or the IMF, or the ILO, etc… reports upon the progress of the territories to the United Nations members. Chapter XI of the UN Charter supposes a sacred trust upon the Administering Powers, the colonizers, to prepare territories for self-governance, self determination.

What this leads to however, is not so much the process of how information about U.S. territories gets to the United Nations, rather this correspondence reveals the vast differences between the U.S. Congress and the State Department, and outlines much of the struggle between the two.

In the history of Hawaii’s statehood, particularly the official version as outlined by Hawaii’s Statehood Commission, there is an over-abundant emphasis on the efforts of the Statehood lobbying efforts and Congress. What is missing from this version of statehood history is the international perspective. Congress is continually reacting to the State Department, whose policy at that time, was on the one hand, to represent the old colonial powers, while on the other, win over the new UN countries from Soviet influence.

As we have seen in the previous postings Statehood Countdown 21 & 20, the role of Hawaii and Alaska for the State Department was to convince the other UN members of fulfilling the Sacred Trust of administering territories towards self-governance. The unique position of Hawaii to the United States for the State Department allowed the United States to play a mediating role between the old colonial powers and the new independent countries.

Many in Congress were isolationist in principle and sought to reverse this international agenda, and there was a strong movement to amend Article Six of the US Constitution, the treaty clause. As this will be a future posting, I won’t discuss, but suffice to say that the role of Hawaii to the United States had a tremendous impact on U.S. international relations, and regardless of whether Hawaii had become a state or became independent (whose option Congress and the Department of the Interior denied Hawaii through a faulty plebiscite), the role of administering a territory towards self-governance, was in 1959, for U.S. international relations, the fulfillment of that “sacred trust” that the US sought upon ratifying the UN Charter in 1946.

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19 June 1956

Dear Francis:

Your letter of June 11 has been received, and I wish to thank you for sending me the information.

I would certainly seen no objection to the United States filing a report under Article 73(e) relating to American Samoa, Guam and the Virgin Islands.

I most strenuously do object to this government having filed such reports from the Territories of Alaska and Hawaii, both of which are destined to become states of the American Union. Both have adopted State Constitutions and are awaiting admission as the 49th and 50th States.

I am taking the liberty of forwarding a copy of this letter to Secretary Dulles.

With best personal regards, I remain
Sincerely yours,
William F. Knowland

go to #5 in the countdown

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One Response to Statehood Countdown #6 (Knowland)

  1. Statehood Countdown #4 (Dulles) – on August 18, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    [...] a 1956 letter between the Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles to Senator Knowland. Following Sunday’s posting, Dulles is responding to correspondence Knowland sent him on the removal of Hawaii and Alaska from [...]

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