Bound for slavery? A Quaker humanitarian critique of waged labour at Koloa Plantation, Hawaii, 1836
Peyper, A, Bound for slavery? A Quaker humanitarian critique of waged labour at Koloa Plantation, Hawaii, 1836, Labour History, 113, (November 2017) pp. 79-102. ISSN 0023-6942 (2017) [Refereed Article]
Copyright 2017 Australian Society for the Study of Labour History
The humanitarian testimonials of the "concerned travellers," Quakers Daniel and Charles Wheeler, from Koloa Plantation on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai in June 1836, problematised the early years of the sugar plantation’s wage labour system. Although the newly introduced wage system was intended by the resident missionaries and the founding company to liberate the plantation labourers from existing feudal obligations, the Wheelers claimed a different form of "slavery" was being imposed on the indigenous Hawaiians employed within the new system. Produced in a climate of protectionist and abolitionist fervour in the mid-1830s "age of reform," the Quaker humanitarian publications reflected wider contemporary concerns for indigenous populations and post-British emancipation labour conditions. Through examination of the Wheelers’ critique of Koloa in the formative years of Hawaii’s foreign-owned sugar plantation system, this article contributes a new perspective on the critical question of whether earning wages under the conditions at Kauai in 1836 excluded the Koloa Plantation labourer from slavery.