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Expansion of the sugar industry


Sugar of Hawaii
Sugar of Hawaii

Because much of the work on the sugar plantations was done by hand, the expansion of the sugar industry required a considerable increase in the labor force. The native Hawaiian population had continued to decline throughout the 19th century, largely due to disease, and by 1872 had fallen to about 50,000. In addition, many native Hawaiians were unwilling to work as laborers for white planters. At the time, there were only about 5,000 non-Hawaiians living in the islands.

After the trade treaty was signed in 1876, the Hawaiian government sought to alleviate the labor shortage by the large-scale recruiting of foreign workers. Initially, recruitment efforts centered on Chinese laborers; about 20,000 to 25,000, including about 8,000 Chinese from California, were brought to Hawaii on contract. However, once their enlistment was over, the Chinese frequently showed more inclination to establish businesses of their own than to continue working on the plantations. Recruiting then concentrated on the Japanese; about 180,000 Japanese were brought to the islands between 1886, when Japan agreed by treaty to allow laborers to migrate to Hawaii, and 1908, when a United States-Japanese agreement brought the migration to an end. When their contracts expired, most of the Japanese either returned home or migrated to the U.S. mainland, but about one-third chose to stay in the islands.

The growth of the sugar industry concentrated economic and political power in the hands of a few families, mostly white settlers, missionaries, and their descendants. Many of these whites favored a closer relationship between Hawaii and the United States, in part to guarantee access to the sugar market. "Hawaii" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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