Why Did The S.S. Hansa Carrying Azorean Sugar Contract Laborers Heading for Hawaii Run into Problems in Portugal?

Why Did The S.S. Hansa Carrying Azorean Sugar Contract Laborers Heading for Hawaii Run into Problems in Portugal?

PLEASE NOTE: Melody is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

This post contains affiliate links. When you click on these links and make a purchase, I earn a percentage of the sale which allows me to keep providing you great content for free on this website.

I thought I understood the migration trail the Azorean sugar plantation contract workers took to Hawaii: Azores to South America to San Francisco to Hawaii. After reading an old newspaper article about the voyage of the S.S. Hansa in 1882, the ship my Pacheco ancestors were on, I found that I was wrong.

I expected to find an usual article with basic information about the voyage.  You know, date of arrival, length of voyage, number of passengers, and so forth.  What a surprise to find a letter of protest written by an agent in England about the voyage!

Mr. Hoffnung Introduces Himself to Hawaiian Readers

I, Abraham Hoffnung, being a British subject, resident of the city of London, and being charged with the equipment and dispatch of vessels and steamers chartered by order of the Hawaiian Board of Immigration to convey emigrant passengers to that Kingdom to declare and make the oath as follows…

Hoffnung goes on to describe the condition of the ship as excellent.  He tells us that provisions were fully stocked.  He tells us that the emigrants will have an excellent contract with work, lodging, and education for their children once they get to Hawaii.

The agent, Mr. Hoffnung, oversaw the inspection in England, then was a passenger on the S.S. Hansa as it arrived in the Azores at Sao Miguel Island.  He continued with the ship with all Azorean passenger on board to Lisboa, Portugal.  There were 400 passengers on board when they arrived in Lisboa.  Hoffnung then explains the route the voyage would take.

“That the steamship Hansa was chartered in London on the 26h of May last to convey cargo mails and passengers from London to Lisbon and St. Michaels, and thence to Honolulu.”

Mr. Hoffnung’s Letter Details What Happened Next

There were problems with the records pertaining to the Azorean sugar plantation contract laborers.  “Verbal alterations” had to be made to bring them into compliance.

“That on the day of my arrival I was informed that the notary who had been appointed to recognize the agreements which the passengers were to make, suggested some verbal alterations so as to bring them in direct accordance with Portuguese law.”

It appears to me that the Azoreans were kept on board until the order was given to embark.  But, the problem with their contracts caused a delay and questions about what to do with them in the meantime arose.

“That in the meantime the passengers (of whom 400 were advised ready to embark) arriving and having neither food nor shelter were received aboard the steamer at the solicitation of the agents, notwithstanding that they had not yet fulfilled the conditions which entitled them to a free passage.”

After the passengers were taken care of, the notary boarded the ship on the 30th.  He then read them the terms and conditions of their labor contracts.  All but one passenger agreed to the conditions.  He was sent home.

It appeared they were ready to start their journey, but something went amiss.  A man calling himself the Chief of the River Police, according to Hoffnung, boarded the steamship.  He claimed they had been illegally detained and proceeded to remove several passengers from the ship.

Complaints Mount and the Voyage is Delayed

Hoffnung could see no reason for the Chief’s complaint.  But, the voyage was delayed.  From the 29th of June to the 1st of July passengers were shuttled back and forth from ship to land.  Someone was playing games with them.

“That many passengers returned, however, having declared themselves perfectly satisfied and wishful to complete their voyage notwithstanding that they had been strongly dissuaded from doing so.”

What was up with the Chief of Police?  Was he grandstanding?  Was he personally opposed to Portuguese citizens being contracted to go to work in Hawaii? What we know is he did his best to hold things up so as to convince the passengers to change their minds.

Passengers Wait While Officials Fight Over Them

Tensions continued to rise.  Hoffnung was accused of trying to hurry things up for fear of having the ship inspected.  He countered by inviting an inspection.  The Chief of Police countered by producing a book and claiming Hoffnung was in violation of the law by not providing the proper paperwork for the passengers.

“…demanded 1st, a list of passengers about to sail in the steamer; but seeing that until after this inspection we did not know what number of passengers we should be permitted to take, and that the Chief of the River Police had himself so frequently altered the number of our passengers by his actions–the officers of the steamer were not in a position to say on the instant how many passengers remained on board…” 

Hoffnung and the Chief continued to battle.  Hoffnung wanted to tend to the inspection and whatever needed to be corrected first.  The Chief put his foot down and refused to let him do so until all the passengers were accounted for.

Was This Why They Were Uncertain About the Pacheco Family?

This brings me to my great great grandmother, Anna Jacinta (de Mello) Pacheco and her six children.  I’ve always been confused about something written on the ship manifest next to their entry.  Where the other passengers were checked off, my family says “uncertain”.


I know they got to Hawaii.  I have proof!  Me!

Is it possible that with the Chief of Police moving passengers to and fro that the Pacheco family got misplaced?  Did their paperwork get lost? Did they get separated from each other so it was unclear how many of them boarded the ship?

Concerns mounted as the Chief and Hoffnung wrangled.  Hoffnung began to worry that the longer they stayed in Lisboa the less prepared they would be for the voyage.  He noted that they might go through a months worth of provisions before they even left Portugal.

Hoffnung argued with officials that this inconvenience is costing them time and money

“…that the steamer was freighted with a valuable cargo for St. Michaels and Honolulu, and must proceed on her voyage even without passengers…”

Hoffnung was ready to call the whole things off.  He was going to leave the Azoreans in Portugal, take the cargo to Sao Miguel and return to London.

I’m beginning to understand the voyage better.  The ship went from London to Sao Miguel Island.  It picked up passengers and supply orders.  Then, after processing the passengers in Lisboa, Portugal, they returned to the Azores, dropped off the cargo, and went on their merry way to the Hawaii.  At least, that’s how it was supposed to go.

The Very Odd Inspection

The inspection finally got underway and leaving our British Agent baffled.

“They brought with them instruments of various kinds with which they commenced to scrape the deck and floors of the steamer, ripping open the seams and picking out the packing, gauging the iron beams and plates and making observations altogether singular and unusual…”

What must my great great grandmother have thought at this point?  She was taking her children aged 6 to 18 to a foreign land that was far away on the other side of the world and they couldn’t even get out of Portugal.

After the ship passed inspection, it appeared the Hansa could finally be allowed to leave.  The Chief of the River Police had one more card up his sleeve.  He found three members of the ship’s crew who were dissatisfied and marched them off the ship:  Two cooks and a steward.

This caused a ruckus.  The men had been paid in advance and were under contract with the Captain.  The Captain of the Port was brought in to sort the matter out.  He determined the Chief violated the law.  The Chief didn’t care and detained the crew members.  The Captain’s only recourse was to file an appeal with the British Consul.

Hoffnung is Fuming.  Passengers are Fretting.

The voyage could not go on without cooks!

“That finding ourselves thus left with passengers on board whose agreements with authorities delayed recognizing and deprived of the service of men were indispensable for the convenience and comfort of the passengers, I had no option but to order them to be sent to shore to-day, being unwilling in any case to take them unless with the full consent and good will of the authorities.”

Hoffnung is hopping mad at this point.  And, our poor Azorean contract laborers were forced to go back to shore again.  Hoffnung concluded his complaint…

“That under the foregoing circumstances I have reluctantly arrived at the conclusion that it is the desire of the authorities, or some of them, to hinder delay and obstruct the intention of the Hansa in taking emigrants to the Hawaiian Islands which I came here prepared to do in accordance with the laws of the Kingdom of Portugal and of the Hawaiian Islands. and having thus been hindered, obstructed and delayed, and compelled thereby to leave the port of Lisbon without being permitted in the ordinary course to accomplish my lawful business, I have suffered great loss and damage, and hold the Portuguese Government and its subordinates responsible for said loss and damge as soon as the same shall have been ascertained.

Lisbon, July 2d, 1862[sic]
Signed A. Hoffnung
Sworn before me James O’Donnell, British Consul at Lisbon”

Wow!  Hoffnung finally blows his top and goes home!  That left our poor immigrants waiting for passage in a country only vaguely connected to their own without the watchful eye of the British agent.

We do know a couple of things about this voyage.  The S.S. Hansa did, in fact, leave Portugal.  It left on the 14th of July 1882.  They were stranded in Portugal for over two weeks.

It arrived in Honolulu, Kingdom of Hawaii on 15 Sep 1882.

Were Their Officials Within Portugal Who Opposed the Sugar Plantation Migration?

What was going on here?  Was their opposition in Portugal to the whole contract laborer agreement?  Was this just a bad day for the Chief of the River Police and he decided to take it out on the crew and passengers of the S.S. Hansa?

It appears that the passengers of the Hansa got caught between an internal political battle within Portugal.  While people were okay with Azoreans and Madeirans leaving for the Kingdom of Hawaii, they believed that the people of Portugal should be reserved for Brasil.

When the Hansa showed up, the forces that supported Brasilian migration, mounted a fight.  In the end they lost the fight.  Though it should be noted that immigrants coming from mainland Portugal were far fewer than the Azores and Madeira.  It cost a heck of a lot more money to detour the ships to Portugal from the Azores and Madeira.

Poor Anna Jacinta Just Waiting with Her Family

I can’t help but think about the amount of courage this whole experience must have taken for Anna Jacinta and her children.  It was difficult enough to uproot her family for a distant land–a place so far away.

Then, they sat in port in Lisboa, were put on the ship and taken off repeatedly, lost their escort, Hoffnung, and finally some two weeks after arrival in Lisboa, were allowed to go on their way.

I wonder if she felt like throwing her hands up in the air and saying “Forget it! I’ve going home!”

If you’d like to read Abraham Hoffnung’s complete complaint to the British Consul at Lisboa, please go to the link below on the Chronicling America website:

The Pacific commercial advertiser. (Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands), 09 Sept. 1882. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82015418/1882-09-09/ed-1/seq-3/>










4 thoughts on “Why Did The S.S. Hansa Carrying Azorean Sugar Contract Laborers Heading for Hawaii Run into Problems in Portugal?

  1. Interesting about the detour to Portugal mainland. I have the accounts of the three ships on which my Portuguese ancestors came to Hawaii — Highflyer 1880 (from Azores originating in London), Earl of Dalhousie 1882 (from Azores originating in London) and City of Paris 1884 (from Madeira & Azores originating in London). None of these ships stopped in mainland Portugal after leaving Sao Miguel … at least according to the captains’ accounts.

  2. This might explain it. There is a second article in the Hawaiian newspaper that day — Hansa Expedition — The_Pacific_Commercial_Advertiser_Sat__Sep_9__1882_. It starts thus:
    I have received some interesting details regarding the voyage of the steamship Hansa, now on the way to Honolulu with emigrants from St. Michaels. The Hansa arrived in the Tagus (Lisbon) on June 25th, after a fine run of 3 ½ days from London, the average being usually 5 days. Although this was the first effort of obtaining emigrants for Hawaii from the mainland of Portugal, the agents succeeded in recruiting about 400 passengers. Mr. Hoffnung, the Hawaiian commissioner, who was on board, however, soon discovered that the authorities were determined to prevent their departure by fair means or foul. Lisbon is the stronghold of Brazilian emigration, …

    So it would appear that the Hansa had a reason to go to mainland Portugal and ran into “political opposition” when he got there. The whole article is here:


  3. This makes me wonder if the authorities had issue with Huffington. Was Huffington paid per the number of people he escorted, or per document?

  4. Bob,
    Thank you for this follow up information. So, the Hansa was the first voyage to carry folks from mainland Portugal. It’s interesting to see this bit of the political side of the migrations and the conflicts that arose. We tend to only hear this story from the Hawaii side where the immigrants were welcomed as a part of the labor force and community.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *