Celso Caesar Moreno, a professional lobbyist well known in Sacramento and Washington, DC, arrived in Honolulu on the China Merchant Steam Navigation Company’s ship ‘Ho-chung’ in November 1879.
One week later, he invited King Kalākaua, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Royal Chamberlain aboard the steamer to meet Fan Yau Ki, a wealthy Chinese industrialist. Moreno presented four proposals to the King.
First, the Chinese company planned to establish a line of steamers between China and Honolulu, and later expand to California and Peru with the idea of securing a large share of the passenger traffic between there and China.
Another of Moreno’s schemes was the laying of an ocean cable to connect the American and Asian continents. While he succeeded in getting a cable act passed by Congress in 1876, he did not get sufficient financial backing in the US.
The third plan was the liberalization of Hawai‘i’s strict opium laws. He advocated making Honolulu the opium processing and distribution center for the whole Pacific.
Finally, Moreno proposed a $10-million loan, half the funds would be spent in building forts and warships; $3-million would be used to buy gold and silver bullion to be converted into a national coinage; and the rest would be used to build hospitals, schools, harbor improvements, etc. (Hsiao-ping Huang)
“He won the entire confidence and admiration of the King by endorsing as sound wisdom all the royal views and theories of government. … He filled the King’s mind with dreams of navies and forts and armies and power.”
“(O)n August 14, 1880, King Kalakaua dissolved his then Cabinet and appointed another comprising: Edward Hush, Minister of the Interior; Caesar Celso Moreno, Minister of Foreign Affairs; M. Kuaea, Minister of Finance, and WC Jones, Attorney General.”
“This action, which popular opinion looked upon as unprecedented, unwarranted and inimical, caused great excitement and indignation. There were meetings and demonstrations by the people.”
“The American and British Ministers declined to have anything to do with the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was considered to be disreputable and incapable.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, March 22, 1901)
“The abdication of the King, the crowning of Queen Emma, annexation to the United States, the lynching of Moreno, were as openly discussed on the streets …. Business was nearly suspended. The feeling against the King and the new Cabinet was unanimous, among all classes of the community.”
“Queen Dowager Emma was very active in a social way, showing herself everywhere and being everywhere received with enthusiasm, in which the American element for the first time joined. She gave parties and balls a number of times during the excitement, but seemed to take no overt part in the proceedings outside.” (Comly; Kuykendall)
“If there had been any doubt as to public opinion on the matter of Ministerial appointments, that doubt must have been put at rest with any person present at the meeting at Kaumakapili last Monday evening.”
“Before dark the streets were full of men thronging towards that corner of town, and at half past seven, the great building was packed full, and the windows crowded. Outside was a dense mass of people trying to catch word or sign from within.”
“A few words from the Chair, explained the object of the meeting to be, for the purpose of expressing public opinion upon the action of His Majesty in removing a Cabinet which had by vote received the endorsement of the Legislative Assembly, and appointing in place thereof, others not so well known, and particularly one CC Moreno, an alien unknown to the public.”
“Mr. Dole then with a short and vigorous speech offered the following resolution, condemning the action of His Majesty as contrary to the traditions of the Government and the spirit of the Constitution,. His remarks were greeted with applause from all parts of the house:”
“Whereas, His Majesty Kalākaua, King of the Hawaiian Islands has arbitrarily and without cause dissolved the late Ministerial Cabinet while they bid the confidence of the Legislative Assembly and of the country at large, and has appointed in their stead a Ministry Including one Celso C Moreno, a stranger and foreign adventurer …”
“… who has identified himself with interests hostile to the prosperity of the Hawaiian Kingdom and who has neither the confidence nor respect of the community nor of the Representatives of Foreign Powers as Minister of Foreign Affairs;
“Be it resolved – That His Majesty has thereby acted inconsistently with the principles of the Hawaiian Government as a Constitutional Monarchy as established and handed down by the Kamehamehas and their successor Lunalilo …”
“… and that his action therein is hostile to the permanence of Hawaiian Independence, the perpetuity of the Hawaiian race and the security of life, liberty and property In the Hawaiian Islands.”
“Loud calls for the question here arose, and the resolution in both English and Hawaiian was then slowly and distinctly read, and on the vote being called for by a show of hands, the house became one vast forest of uplifted arms.”
“The call for the negative was responded to with not over twenty-five or thirty hands, and the resolution was declared to be adopted by an almost unanimous vote.” (Hawaiian Gazette, August 18, 1880)
“(T)he King sent a messenger with an urgent request that (James M Comly, Minister Resident of the United States in Hawai‘i) would come to the palace and consult with him.”
“(Comly) said to him: ‘Your Majesty, I have no personal affair with Mr. Moreno. He is nothing to me personally, one way or another. I found him abusing the confidence of yourself and people by false pretenses, and I brought you the proofs that he was a false pretende(r) and a dangerous adventurer — that is all.” (Comly; Kuykendall)
On August 17, 1880, Comly received a note from Kalākaua stating, “‘Mr Moreno has resigned his portfolio and I have accepted his resignation.’”
Comly then approached a gathering and noted, “‘Gentlemen – I am authorized to say to you that His Majesty, entirely of his own volition, has dismissed Mr. Moreno from the Ministry.’”
“The whole house rose, and cheer after cheer burst forth, with cries of ‘Long live the King!’ ‘Three cheers for Kalākaua!’ and the like. I was informed that the uproar was kept up some minutes. …”
“A committee of 13 ‘solid men’ was appointed to convey the thanks of the people to the King.” (Comly; Kuykendall) (The next day, John E Bush, Minister of the Interior, was appointed to act as Minister of Foreign Affairs ad interim.)
“(Kalākaua) still held (Moreno) in favor, and secretly sent him abroad with a commission as Minister to the United States and every court in Europe.”
“Moreno took with him three Hawaiian youths to be educated in Italian schools. One of these, Robert Wilcox, is the Delegate at Washington. Another, Robert Boyd, … living in Honolulu and active in Honolulu politics. The third, Booth, died abroad.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, March 22, 1901)
Some suggest Moreno helped ignite the flame of ambition in Kalākaua’s quest in forming a Polynesia Confederacy, a failed effort launched by Walter Murray Gibson for Kalākaua.