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John T. Cullen's two books about the ghost at the Hotel del Coronado, and the 1892 crime that created her legend.2. Global Aspect—Tragic Crown Princess

Kate Morgan Blackmail Plot: Global Aspect of the Spreckels-Morgan Saga of 1892.

Global Drama—the Main Players While the blackmail plotters (Kate Morgan, Lizzie Wyllie, John Longfield) make their ill-timed and ill-fated attempt at John Spreckels' hotel in Coronado, John Spreckels himself is in Washington, D. C.—negotiating with President Benjamin Harrison and Congress over the fate of the doomed Hawai'ian monarchy, the doomed sovereignty of the Hawai'ian nation, and therefore the future of his family's vast, fabulous sugar fortune based on Hawai'ian cane plantations. Spreckels' rivals are a powerful U.S. cabal of corporate interests, zealot fundamentalist missionaries, and political adventurers. Some of the key players on the global level are:

  • John Spreckels is the pivotal figure and key player, both locally and globally. He was one of the wealthiest men in the nation. He was the scion of a vast sugar fortune, created on the cane plantations of Hawai'i by his father Claus Spreckels (Sugar Baron). As the blackmail plot played out at John's hotel (on the separate but inescapably relevant local track), John Spreckels was in Washington, D.C. negotiating the future of Hawai'i's doomed monarchy and his family's sugar fortune with President Benjamin Harrison and Congress. Kate Morgan's plot could not have come at a worse time, and the resulting 120-year coverup was exercised by Spreckels' army of Pinkerton-type experts to shield him from scandal.
  • Queen Lili'uokalani, Monarch of the sovereign nation of Hawai'i, recognized by governments around the world. She was overthrown by U.S. and anti-Spreckels interests in January 1893, coincidentally just weeks after the Beautiful Stranger's death in Coronado. Rivalries between U.S. corporate, zealot, and political interests play out in a Homeric struggle headed by the Missionary faction (later Dole pineapple dynasty) on one side, trying to unseat the entrenched Spreckels sugar dynasty on the other side. Dole's Missionary Party plays populist, anti-Hawai'ian, annexationist strings in this Goetterdaemmerung orchestra, while Spreckels' pro-monarchy, pro-native position digs in its entrenched heels. For both U. S. sides, no matter how their followers were manipulated religiously and politically (part of the Human Condition, as always), the issue was about power and money for a tiny Patrician minority. King David Kalakaua, the 'Merrie Monarch,' attempted to push back against zealots and restore Hawai'ian culture (hula, martial arts, ukelele, etc.). Kalakaua, a personal friend of Claus and John Spreckels, dined at the Hotel del Coronado on Christmas Day 1891 as a guest of John Spreckels (the first of many crowned royal heads to stay at the hotel). The king died mysteriously at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco on 17 January 1891, a guest of Claus Spreckels, and possibly a target of Macchiavellian corporate/missionary operatives (not a subject of my investigation, but certainly a question worth asking).
  • Dole Dynasty, Pineapple Kings. With their main rival, the king, out of the way, the Missionary Party surged to victory two years later with the overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani. Sanford Dole became the first and only 'president' of a Hawai'ian 'republic' that immediately worked having itself annexed as a U.S. territory (done by 1898, with Sanford Dole as first territorial governor). By 1901, Sanford's cousin James Dole launched the famous Dole pineapple dynasty/empire that endures to this day. The political considerations surrounding the fall of the Hawai'ian monarchy, which conjure modern comparisons, are beyond the scope of this website. Here, we are primarily interested in understanding the facts and context of the Spreckels-Morgan blackmail plot of 1892 at the Hotel del Coronado.
  • President Benjamin Harrison, a Democrat, and a Republican-dominaed Congress formed the backdrop to John Spreckel's frantic political lobbying in late 1892, leading up to the fall of the monarchy, the ouster of Claus Spreckels from Hawai'i under death threats, the resulting loss of all Spreckels cane fields, and the rebirth of his sugar fortune in California through his long-standing ownership of sugar beet plantations.
  • Crown Princess Victoria Ka'iulanin, heir apparent to the throne but never able to assume her office, is a tragic figure in her own right. If Lizzie was the tragic Victorian Fallen Angel of San Diego for a few weeks in December 1892, then in parallel we may regard Crown Princess Victoria as a true heroine who died all too young. She struggled to get the annexation of her sovereign country reversed, but could not persevere against a rabid populist press that portrayed all Hawai'ians as monkeys and savages, and herself as a cannibal with a bone in her nose. In fact she was Christian, half-Scottish, and an accomplished painter and scholar. Her namesake was Queen Victoria, whose guest she was as a university student when the coup against her aunt Queen Lili'uokalani occurred. One of the Crown Princess' closest friends, another tragic figure who died too young, was the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. The latter, coincidentally, stayed in San Diego for a time in the late 1800s.

Summing Up. That is an all-too-brief recap of the many complex global influences swirling around the local blackmail plot at the Hotel del Coronado in 1892. In a sense, the two tragic figures were Lizzie Wyllie and Crown Princess Victoria, when the global picture is taken into account. The Spreckelses and the Doles were billionaire dynasts who always landed on their feet. John Longfield and Kate Morgan escaped into history and got away with their crimes as well. Lizzie lay in state after her death, a Victorian Fallen Angel. Crown Princess Victoria, whose name meant 'highest point in heaven', died of a broken heart (some say) on Oahu, March 6, 1899, just 23 years old. She was known as the Peacock Princess, because she loved her birds. When she died, the peacocks in her royal gardens kept up such a loud crying and lamentation from dawn to dusk, and nobody could comfort them, that groundskeepers had to go shoot them all. As with Lizzie, the Crown Princess, and the royal peacocks, the waters close over the dead, and the wine-dark sea of history and legend rumbles on in its tides.

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