Bob Krauss interviews Kauai’s Charles Atwood Rice

On March 3,1955, Honolulu Advertiser columnist Bob Krauss (1924-2006) interviewed Kauai rancher and former Territorial politician Charles Atwood Rice (1876-1964) in Lihue, Kauai.

Rice, last elected in 1946, was 79, and could recall what it was like to have lived during the reign of Queen Liliuokalani and in the era of the Provisional Government and the Republic that followed her overthrow.

In 1905, the year he began his political career, the Territorial Legislature was predominantly Hawaiian. Later, he saw members of Portuguese ancestry enter politics, and more recently, the sons of Japanese immigrants.

“It won’t be long,” he told Krauss, “before our Filipinos get the majority. Changes like these are the way it should be.”

“Charlie” Rice — who was bilingual in English and Hawaiian, while many of his fellow legislators were not — also informed Krauss that early on in his legislative career all speeches on the floor of both houses were required to be given both in English and Hawaiian.

Rice said he occasionally utilized his dual language skills to gain favor with the opposition Home Rule party, whose members were predominately of Hawaiian descent and spoke only Hawaiian.

He did so by delivering one speech in English that steadfastly supported policies of his mainly English speaking Republican colleagues, and gave another in Hawaiian that favored the principles of the Home Rulers.

Quite a few of his fellow legislators, not being bilingual, never realized the difference.

Furthermore, bills introduced in English needed to be translated into Hawaiian, and vice versa.

Legislators who were not competent in both languages therefore employed translators, very often friends, who were paid several cents a word for their efforts, and these legislators would further reward their friends by introducing lengthly bills that would guarantee them a tidy sum.

One year, Rice discovered that these legislators had taken things a step further by introducing new bills in Hawaiian that were identical to bills introduced during the previous session, so that their translators only needed to retype them to earn their fee.

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