Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy

Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy

On the Hawaiian Islands, a group of American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole overthrow Queen Liliuokalani, the Hawaiian monarch, and establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. The coup occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, and 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston were called to Hawaii, allegedly to protect American lives.

The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century, and in the early 18th century the first American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands’ sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid-19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life, and in 1840 a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority. Four years later, Sanford B. Dole was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to American parents.

During the next four decades, Hawaii entered into a number of political and economic treaties with the United States, and in 1887 a U.S. naval base was established at Pearl Harbor as part of a new Hawaiian constitution. Sugar exports to the United States expanded greatly during the next four years, and U.S. investors and American sugar planters on the islands broadened their domination over Hawaiian affairs. However, in 1891 Liliuokalani, the sister of the late King Kalakaua, ascended to the throne, refusing to recognize the constitution of 1887 and replacing it with a constitution increasing her personal authority.

In January 1893, a revolutionary “Committee of Safety,” organized by Sanford B. Dole, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the tacit support of the United States. On February 1, Minister John Stevens recognized Dole’s new government on his own authority and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate. Dole submitted a treaty of annexation to the U.S. Senate, but most Democrats opposed it, especially after it was revealed that most Hawaiians did not want annexation.

President Grover Cleveland sent a new U.S. minister to Hawaii to restore Queen Liliuokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution, but Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the independent Republic of Hawaii. Cleveland was unwilling to overthrow the government by force, and his successor, President William McKinley, negotiated a treaty with the Republic of Hawaii in 1897. In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and the strategic use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the war convinced Congress to approve formal annexation. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory and in 1959 entered the United States as the 50th state.

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Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy - HISTORY

Grover Cleveland on the Overthrow of Hawaii's Royal Government
Digital History ID 1283

Author: Grover Cleveland

Annotation: In 1893, a small group of sugar and pineapple-growing businessmen, aided by the American minister to Hawaii and backed by heavily armed U.S. soldiers and marines, deposed Hawaii's queen. Subsequently, they imprisoned the queen and seized 1.75 million acres of crown land and conspired to annex the islands to the United States.

On January 17, 1893, the conspirators announced the overthrow of the queen's government. To avoid bloodshed, Queen Lydia Kamakaeha Liliukalani, yielded her sovereignty, and called upon the U.S. government "to undo the actions of its representatives." The U.S. government refused to help her regain her throne. When she died in 1917, Hawaii was an American territory. In 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state after a plebiscite in which 90 percent of the islanders supported statehood.

The businessmen who conspired to overthrow the queen claimed that they were overthrowing a corrupt, dissolute regime in order of advance democratic principles. They also argued that a western power was likely to acquire the islands. Hawaii had the finest harbor in the mid-Pacific and was viewed as a strategically valuable coaling station and naval base. In 1851, King Kamehameha III had secretly asked the United States to annex Hawaii, but Secretary of State Daniel Webster declined, saying "No power ought to take possession of the islands as a conquest. or colonization." But later monarchs wanted to maintain Hawaii's independence. The native population proved to be vulnerable to western diseases, including cholera, smallpox, and leprosy. By 1891, native Hawaii's were an ethnic minority on the islands.

After the bloodless 1893 revolution, the American businessmen lobbied President Benjamin Harrison and Congress to annex the Hawaiian islands. In his last month in office, Harrison sent an annexation treaty to the Senate for confirmation, but the new president, Grover Cleveland withdrew the treaty "for the purpose of re-examination." He also received Queen Liliuokalani and replaced the American stars and stripes in Honolulu with the Hawaiian flag.

Cleveland also ordered a study of the Hawaiian revolution, which concluded that the American minister to Hawaii had conspired with the businessmen to overthrow the queen and that the coup would have failed "but for the landing of the United States forces upon false pretexts respecting the dangers to life and property." Looking back on the Hawaii takeover, President Cleveland later wrote that "the provisional government owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States. By an act of war. a substantial wrong has been done."

President Cleveland's recommendation that the monarchy be restored was rejected by Congress. The House of Representatives voted to censure the U.S. minister to Hawaii and adopted a resolution opposing annexation. But Congress did not act to restore the monarchy and in 1894, Sanford Dole, who was beginning his pineapple business, declared himself president of the Republic of Hawaii without a popular vote. The new government found the queen guilty of treason and sentenced her to five years of hard labor and a $5,000 fine. While the sentence of hard labor was not carried out, the queen was placed under house arrest.

The Republican party platform in the presidential election of 1896 called for the annexation of Hawaii. Petitions for a popular vote in Hawaii were ignored. Fearing that he lacked two-thirds support for annexation in the Senate, the new Republican president William McKinley called for a joint resolution of Congress (the same way that the United States had acquired Texas). With the country aroused by the Spanish American War and political leaders fearful that the islands might be annexed by Japan, the joint resolution easily passed Congress. Hawaii officially became a U.S. territory in 1900.

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

In my recent annual message to the Congress I briefly referred to our relations with Hawaii and expressed the intention of transmitting further information on the subject when additional advices permitted.

Though I am not able now to report a definite change in the actual situation, I am convinced that the difficulties lately created both here and in Hawaii and now standing in the way of a solution through Executive action of the problem presented, render it proper and expedient, that the matter should be referred to the broader authority and discretion of Congress, with a full explanation of the endeavor thus far made to deal with the emergency and a statement of the considerations which have governed my action.

I suppose that right and justice should determine the path to be followed in treating this subject. If national honesty is to be disregarded and a desire for territorial extension, or dissatisfaction with a form of government not our own, ought to regulate our conduct, I have entirely misapprehended the mission and character of our Government and the behavior which the conscience of our people demands of their public servants.

When the present Administration entered upon its duties the Senate had under consideration a treaty providing for the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the territory of the United States. Surely under our Constitution and laws the enlargement of our limits is a manifestation of the highest attribute of sovereignty, and if entered upon as an Executive act, all things relating to the transaction should be clear and free from suspicion. Additional importance attached to this particular treaty of annexation, because it contemplated a departure from unbroken American tradition in providing for the addition to our territory of islands of the sea more than two thousand miles removed from our nearest coast.

These considerations might not of themselves call for interference with the completion of a treaty entered upon by a previous Administration. but it appeared from the documents accompanying the treaty when submitted to the Senate, that the ownership of Hawaii was tendered to us by a provisional government set up to succeed the constitutional ruler of the islands, who had been dethroned, and it did not appear that such provisional government had the sanction of either popular revolution or suffrage. Two other remarkable features of the transaction naturally attracted attention. One was the extraordinary haste - not to say precipitancy - characterizing all the transactions connected with the treaty. It appeared that a so-called Committee of Safety, ostensibly the source of the revolt against the constitutional Government of Hawaii, was organized on Saturday, the 14th day of January that on Monday, the 16th, the United States forces were landed at Honolulu from a naval vessel lying in its harbor that on the 17th the scheme of a provisional government was perfected, and a proclamation naming its officers was on the same day prepared and read at the Government building that immediately thereupon the United States Minister recognized the provisional government thus created that two days afterwards, on the 19th day of January, commissioners representing such government sailed for this country in a steamer especially chartered for the occasion, arriving in San Francisco on the 28th day of January, and in Washington on the 3rd day of February that on the next day they had their first interview with the Secretary of State, and another on the 11th, when the treaty of annexation was practically agreed upon, and that on the 14th it was formally concluded and on the 15th transmitted to the Senate. Thus between the initiation of the scheme for a provisional government in Hawaii on the 14th day of January and the submission to the Senate of the treaty of annexation concluded with such government, the entire interval was thirty-two days, fifteen of which were spent by the Hawaiian Commissioners in their journey to Washington.

In the next place, upon the face of the papers submitted with the treaty, it clearly appeared that there was open and undetermined an issue of fact of the most vital importance. The message of the President accompanying the treaty declared that “the overthrow of the monarchy was not in any way promoted by this Government,” and in a letter to the President from the Secretary of State also submitted to the Senate with the treaty, the following message occurs: “At the time the provisional government took possession of the Government buildings no troops or officers of the United States were present or took any part whatever in the proceedings. No public recognition was accorded to the provisional government by the United States Minister until after the Queen’s abdication and when they were in effective possession of the Government buildings, the archives, the treasury, the barracks, the police station, and all the potential machinery of the Government.” But a protest also accompanied said treaty, signed by the Queen and her ministers at the time she made way for the provisional government, which explicitly stated that she yielded to the superior force of the United States, whose Minister had caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support such provisional government.

The truth or falsity of this protest was surely of the first importance. If true, nothing but the concealment of its truth could induce our Government to negotiate with the semblance of a government thus created, nor could a treaty resulting from the acts stated in the protest have been knowingly deemed worthy of consideration by the Senate. Yet the truth or falsity of the protest had not been investigated.

I conceived it to be my duty therefore to withdraw the treaty from the Senate for examination, and meanwhile to cause an accurate, full, and impartial investigation to be made of the facts attending the subversion of the constitutional Government of Hawaii and the installment in its place of the provisional government. I selected for the work of investigation the Hon. James H. Blount, of Georgia, whose service of eighteen years as a member of the House of Georgia, and whose experience as chairman of the Committee of Foreign Affairs in that body, and his consequent familiarity with international topics, joined with his high character and honorable reputation, seemed to render him peculiarly fitted for the duties entrusted to him. His report detailing his action under the instructions given to him and the conclusions derived from his investigation accompany this message.

These conclusions do not rest for their acceptance entirely upon Mr. Blount’s honesty and ability as a man, nor upon his acumen and impartiality as an investigator. They are accompanied by the evidence upon which they are based, which evidence is also herewith transmitted, and from which it seems to me no other deductions could possibly be reached than those arrived at by the Commissioner.

The report with its accompanying proofs, and such other evidence as is now before the Congress or is herewith submitted, justifies in my opinion the statement that when the President was led to submit the treaty to the Senate with the declaration that “the overthrow of the monarchy was not in any way promoted by this Government”, and when the Senate was induced to receive and discuss it on that basis, both President and Senate were misled.

The attempt will not be made in this communication to touch upon all the facts which throw light upon the progress and consummation of this scheme of annexation. A very brief and imperfect reference to the facts and evidence at hand will exhibit its character and the incidents in which it had its birth.

It is unnecessary to set forth the reasons which in January, 1893, led a considerable proportion of American and other foreign merchants and traders residing at Honolulu to favor the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. It is sufficient to note the fact and to observe that the project was one which was zealously promoted by the Minister representing the United States in that country. He evidently had an ardent desire that it should become a fact accomplished by his agency and during his ministry, and was not inconveniently scrupulous as to the means employed to that end. On the 19th day of November, 1892, nearly two months before the first overt act tending towards the subversion of the Hawaiian Government and the attempted transfer of Hawaiian territory to the United States, he addressed a long letter to the Secretary of State in which the case for annexation was elaborately argued, on moral, political, and economical grounds. He refers to the loss of the Hawaiian sugar interests from the operation of the McKinley bill, and the tendency to still further depreciation of sugar property unless some positive measure of relief is granted. He strongly inveighs against the existing Hawaiian Government and emphatically declares for annexation. He says: “In truth the monarchy here is an absurd anachronism. It has nothing on which it logically or legitimately stands. The feudal basis on which it once stood no longer existing, the monarchy now is only an impediment to good government - an obstruction to the prosperity and progress of the islands.”

He further says: “As a crown colony of Great Britain or a Territory of the United States the government modifications could be made readily and good administration of the law secured. Destiny and the vast future interests of the United States in the Pacific clearly indicate who at no distant day must be responsible for the government of these islands. Under a territorial government they could be as easily governed as any of the existing Territories of the United States.” * * * “Hawaii has reached the parting of the ways. She must now take the road which leads to Asia, or the other which outlets her in America, gives her an American civilization, and binds her to the care of American destiny.” He also declares: “One of two courses seems to me absolutely necessary to be followed, either bold and vigorous measures for annexation or a “customs union,” an ocean cable from the Californian coast to Honolulu, Pearl Harbor perpetually ceded to the United States, with an implied but not expressly stipulated American protectorate over the islands. I believe the former to be the better, that which will prove much the more advantageous to the islands, and the cheapest and least embarrassing in the end to the United States. If it was wise for the United States through Secretary Marcy thirty-eight years ago to offer to expend $100,000 to secure a treaty of annexation, it certainly cannot be chimerical or unwise to expend $100,000 to secure annexation in the near future. To-day the United States has five times the wealth she possessed in 1854, and the reasons now existing for annexation are much stronger than they were then. I cannot refrain from expressing the opinion with emphasis that the golden hour is near at hand.”

These declarations certainly show a disposition and condition of mind, which may be usefully recalled when interpreting the significance of the Minister’s conceded acts or when considering the probabilities of such conduct on his part as may not be admitted.

In this view it seems proper to also quote from a letter written by the Minister to the Secretary of State on the 8th day of March, 1892, nearly a year prior to the first step taken toward annexation. After stating the possibility that the existing Government of Hawaii might be overturned by an orderly and peaceful revolution, Minister Stevens writes as follows: “Ordinarily in like circumstances, the rule seems to be to limit the landing and movement of United States forces in foreign waters and dominion exclusively to the protection of the United States legation and of the lives and property of American citizens. But as the relations of the United States to Hawaii are exceptional, and in former years the United States officials here took somewhat exceptional action in circumstances of disorder, I desire to know how far the present Minister and naval commander may deviate from established international rules and precedents in the contingencies indicated in the first part of this dispatch.”

To a minister of this temper full of zeal for annexation there seemed to arise in January, 1893, the precise opportunity for which he was watchfully waiting - an opportunity which by timely “deviation from established international rules and precedents” might be improved to successfully accomplish the great object in view and we are quite prepared for the exultant enthusiasm with which in a letter to the State Department dated February 1, 1893, he declares: “The Hawaiian pear is now fully ripe and this is the golden hour for the United States to pluck it.”

As a further illustration of the activity of this diplomatic representative, attention is called to the fact that on the day the above letter was written, apparently unable longer to restrain his ardor, he issued a proclamation whereby “in the name of the United States” he assumed the protection of the Hawaiian Islands and declared that said action was “taken pending and subject to negotiations at Washington.” Of course this assumption of a protectorate was promptly disavowed by our Government, but the American flag remained over the Government building at Honolulu and the forces remained on guard until April, and after Mr. Blount’s arrival on the scene, when both were removed.

A brief statement of the occurrences that led to the subversion of the constitutional Government of Hawaii in the interests of annexation to the United States will exhibit the true complexion of that transaction.

On Saturday, January 14, 1893, the Queen of Hawaii, who had been contemplating the proclamation of a new constitution, had, in deference to the wishes and remonstrances of her cabinet, renounced the project for the present at least. Taking this relinquished purpose as a basis of action, citizens of Honolulu numbering from fifty to one hundred, mostly resident aliens, met in a private office and selected a so-called Committee of Safety, composed of thirteen persons, seven of whom were foreign subjects, and consisted of five Americans, one Englishman, and one German. This committee, though its designs were not revealed, had in view nothing less than annexation to the United States, and between Saturday, the 14th, and the following Monday, the 16th of January - though exactly what action was taken may not be clearly disclosed -they were certainly in communication with the United States Minister. On Monday morning the Queen and her cabinet made public proclamation, with a notice which was specially served upon the representatives of all foreign governments, that any changes in the constitution would be sought only in the methods provided by that instrument. Nevertheless, at the call and under the auspices of the Committee of Safety, a mass meeting of citizens was held on that day to protest against the Queen’s alleged illegal and unlawful proceedings and purposes. Even at this meeting the Committee of Safety continued to disguise their real purpose and contented themselves with procuring the passage of a resolution denouncing the Queen and empowering the committee to devise ways and means “to secure the permanent maintenance of law and order and the protection of life, liberty, and property in Hawaii.” This meeting adjourned between three and four o’clock in the afternoon. On the same day, and immediately after such adjournment, the committee, unwilling to take further steps without the cooperation of the United States Minister, addressed him a note representing that the public safety was menaced and that lives and property were in danger, and concluded as follows: “We are unable to protect ourselves without aid, and therefore pray for the protection of the United States forces.” Whatever may be thought of the other contents of this note, the absolute truth of this latter statement is incontestable. When the note was written and delivered, the committee, so far as it appears, had neither a man or a gun at their command, and after its delivery they became so panic-stricken at their stricken position that they sent some of their number to interview the Minister and request him not to land the United States forces till the next morning. But he replied that the troops had been ordered, and whether the committee were ready or not the landing should take place. And so it happened that on the 16th day of January, 1893, between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, a detachment of marines from the United States Steamer Boston, with two pieces of artillery, landed at Honolulu. The men, upwards of 160 in all, were supplied with double cartridge belts filled with ammunition and with haversacks and canteens, and were accompanied by a hospital corps with stretchers and medical supplies. This military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu was of itself an act of war, unless made either with the consent of the Government of Hawaii or for the bona fide purpose of protecting the imperiled lives and property of citizens of the United States. But there is no pretense of any such consent on the part of the Government of the Queen, which at that time was undisputed and was both the de facto and the de jure government. In point of fact the existing government instead of requesting the presence of an armed force protested against it. There is as little basis for the pretense that such forces were landed for the security of American life and property. If so, they would have been stationed in the vicinity of such property and so as to protect it, instead of at a distance and so as to command the Hawaiian Government building and palace. Admiral Skerrett, the officer in command of our naval force on the Pacific station, has frankly stated that in his opinion the location of the troops was inadvisable if they were landed for the protection of American citizens whose residences and places of business, as well as the legation and consulate, were in a distant part of the city, but the location selected was a wise one if the forces were landed for the purpose of supporting the provisional government. If any peril to life and property calling for any such martial array had existed, Great Britain and other foreign powers interested would not have been behind the United States in activity to protect their citizens. But they made no sign in that direction. When these armed men were landed, the city of Honolulu was in its customary orderly and peaceful condition. There was no symptom of riot or disturbance in any quarter. Men, women, and children were about the streets as usual, and nothing varied the ordinary routine or disturbed the ordinary tranquility, except the landing of the Boston’s marines and their march through the town to the quarters assigned them. Indeed, the fact that after having called for the landing of the United States forces on the plea of danger to life and property the Committee of Safety themselves requested the Minister to postpone action, exposed the untruthfulness of their representations of present peril to life and property. The peril they saw was an anticipation growing out of guilty intentions on their part and something which, though not then existing, they knew would certainly follow their attempt to overthrow the Government of the Queen without the aid of the United States forces.

Thus it appears that Hawaii was taken possession of by the United States forces without the consent or wish of the government of the islands, or of anybody else so far as shown, except the United States Minister.

Therefore the military occupation of Honolulu by the United States on the day mentioned was wholly without justification, either as an occupation by consent or as an occupation necessitated by dangers threatening American life and property. It must be accounted for in some other way and on some other ground, and its real motive and purpose are neither obscure nor far to seek.

The United States forces being now on the scene and favorably stationed, the committee proceeded to carry out their original scheme. They met the next morning, Tuesday, the 17th, perfected the plan of temporary government, and fixed upon its principal officers, ten of whom were drawn from the thirteen members of the Committee of Safety. Between one and two o’clock, by squads and by different routes to avoid notice, and having first taken the precaution of ascertaining whether there was any one there to oppose them, they proceeded to the Government building to proclaim the new government. No sign of opposition was manifest, and thereupon an American citizen began to read the proclamation from the steps of the Government building almost entirely without auditors. It is said that before the reading was finished quite a concourse of persons, variously estimated at from 50 to 100, some armed and some unarmed, gathered about the committee to give them aid and confidence. This statement is not important, since the one controlling factor in the whole affair was unquestionably the United States marines, who, drawn up under arms and with artillery in readiness only seventy-six yards distant, dominated the situation.

The provisional government thus proclaimed was by the terms of the proclamation “to exist until terms of union with the United States had been negotiated and agreed upon”. The United States Minister, pursuant to prior agreement, recognized this government within an hour after the reading of the proclamation, and before five o’clock, in answer to an inquiry on behalf of the Queen and her cabinet, announced that he had done so.

When our Minister recognized the provisional government the only basis upon which it rested was the fact that the Committee of Safety had in the manner above stated declared it to exist. It was neither a government de facto nor de jure. That it was not in such possession of the Government property and agencies as entitled it to recognition is conclusively proved by a note found in the files of the Legation at Honolulu, addressed by the declared head of the provisional government to Minister Stevens, dated January 17, 1893, in which he acknowledges with expressions of appreciation the Minister’s recognition of the provisional government, and states that it is not yet in the possession of the station house (the place where a large number of the Queen’s troops were quartered), though the same had been demanded of the Queen’s officers in charge. Nevertheless, this wrongful recognition by our Minister placed the Government of the Queen in a position of most perilous perplexity. On the one hand she had possession of the palace, of the barracks, and of the police station, and had at her command at least five hundred fully armed men and several pieces of artillery. Indeed, the whole military force of her kingdom was on her side and at her disposal, while the Committee of Safety, by actual search, had discovered that there were but very few arms in Honolulu that were not in the service of the Government. In this state of things if the Queen could have dealt with the insurgents alone her course would have been plain and the result unmistakable. But the United States had allied itself with her enemies, had recognized them as the true Government of Hawaii, and had put her and her adherents in the position of opposition against lawful authority. She knew that she could not withstand the power of the United States, but she believed that she might safely trust to its justice. Accordingly, some hours after the recognition of the provisional government by the United States Minister, the palace, the barracks, and the police station, with all the military resources of the country, were delivered up by the Queen upon the representation made to her that her cause would thereafter be reviewed at Washington, and while protesting that she surrendered to the superior force of the United States, whose Minister had caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the provisional government, and that she yielded her authority to prevent collision of armed forces and loss of life and only until such time as the United States, upon the facts being presented to it, should undo the action of its representative and reinstate her in the authority she claimed as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.

This protest was delivered to the chief of the provisional government, who endorsed thereon his acknowledgment of its receipt. The terms of the protest were read without dissent by those assuming to constitute the provisional government, who were certainly charged with the knowledge that the Queen instead of finally abandoning her power had appealed to the justice of the United States for reinstatement in her authority and yet the provisional government with this unanswered protest in its hand hastened to negotiate with the United States for the permanent banishment of the Queen from power and for the sale of her kingdom.

Our country was in danger of occupying the position of having actually set up a temporary government on foreign soil for the purpose of acquiring through that agency territory which we had wrongfully put in its possession. The control of both sides of a bargain acquired in such a manner is called by a familiar and unpleasant name when found in private transactions. We are not without a precedent showing how scrupulously we avoided such accusations in former days. After the people of Texas had declared their independence of Mexico they resolved that on the acknowledgment of their independence by the United States they would seek admission into the Union. Several months after the battle of San Jacinto, by which Texan independence was practically assured and established, President Jackson declined to recognize it, alleging as one of his reasons that in the circumstances it became us “to beware of a too early movement, as it might subject us, however unjustly, to the imputation of seeking to establish the claim of our neighbors to a territory with a view to its subsequent acquisition by ourselves”. This is in marked contrast with the hasty recognition of a government openly and concededly set up for the purpose of tendering to us territorial annexation.

I believe that a candid and thorough examination of the facts will force the conviction that the provisional government owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States. Fair-minded people with the evidence before them will hardly claim that the Hawaiian Government was overthrown by the people of the islands or that the provisional government had ever existed with their consent. I do not understand that any member of this government claims that the people would uphold it by their suffrages if they were allowed to vote on the question.

While naturally sympathizing with every effort to establish a republican form of government, it has been the settled policy of the United States to concede to people of foreign countries the same freedom and independence in the management of their domestic affairs that we have always claimed for ourselves and it has been our practice to recognize revolutionary governments as soon as it became apparent that they were supported by the people. For illustration of this rule I need only to refer to the revolution in Brazil in 1889, when our Minister was instructed to recognize the Republic “so soon as a majority of the people of Brazil should have signified their assent to its establishment and maintenance” to the revolution in Chile in 1891, when our Minister was directed to recognize the new government “if it was accepted by the people” and to the revolution in Venezuela in 1892, when our recognition was accorded on condition that the new government was “fully established, in possession of the power of the nation, and accepted by the people.”

As I apprehend the situation, we are brought face to face with the following conditions:

The lawful Government of Hawaii was overthrown without the drawing of a sword or the firing of a shot by a process every step of which, it may be safely asserted, is directly traceable to and dependent for its success upon the agency of the United States acting through its diplomatic and naval representatives.

But for the notorious predilections of the United States Minister for annexation, the Committee of Safety, which should be called the Committee of Annexation, would never have existed.

But for the landing of the United States forces upon false pretexts respecting the danger to life and property the committee would never have exposed themselves to the pains and penalties of treason by undertaking the subversion of the Queen’s Government.

But for the presence of the United States forces in the immediate vicinity and in position to afford all needed protection and support the committee would not have proclaimed the provisional government from the steps of the Government building.

And finally, but for the lawless occupation of Honolulu under false pretexts by the United States forces, and but for Minister Stevens’ recognition of the provisional government when the United States forces were its sole support and constituted its only military strength, the Queen and her Government would never have yielded to the provisional government, even for a time and for the sole purpose of submitting her case to the enlightened justice of the United States.

Believing, therefore, that the United States could not, under the circumstances disclosed, annex the islands without justly incurring the imputation of acquiring them by unjustifiable methods, I shall not again submit the treaty of annexation to the Senate for its consideration, and in the instructions to Minister Willis, a copy of which accompanies this message, I have directed him to so inform the provisional government.

But in the present instance our duty does not, in my opinion, end with refusing to consummate this questionable transaction. It has been the boast of our government that it seeks to do justice in all things without regard to the strength or weakness of those with whom it deals. I mistake the American people if they favor the odious doctrine that there is no such thing as international morality, that there is one law for a strong nation and another for a weak one, and that even by indirection a strong power may with impunity despoil a weak one of its territory.

By an act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress, the Government of a feeble but friendly and confiding people has been overthrown. A substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair. The provisional government has not assumed a republican or other constitutional form, but has remained a mere executive council or oligarchy, set up without the assent of the people. It has not sought to find a permanent basis of popular support and has given no evidence of an intention to do so.

(H)our History Lesson: Liliuokalani, Hawaii's Last Queen

Queen Liliuokalani in 1900. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives (call no. PP-98-13-019).


"Women's History to Teach Year-Round" provides manageable, interesting lessons that showcase women’s stories behind important historic sites. In this lesson, students explore the life of Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani and her tireless advocacy for Hawaiian sovereignty from Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii.

This lesson was adapted by Talia Brenner and Katie McCarthy from the Teaching with Historic Places lesson plan, “Iolani Palace: A Hawaiian Place of History, Power, and Prestige." If you're interested in more information and activities on this topic, explore the full lesson plan.

Grade Level Adapted For:

This lesson is intended for middle school learners, but can easily be adapted for use by learners of all ages.

Lesson Objectives:

Identify the ways in which U.S. Imperialism affected the people and landscapes of foreign territories.

Describe the ways in which European and American imperialism affected the Hawaiian Islands.

Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author’s point of view or purpose

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source.

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Courtesy Farragutful, WikiMedia Common

Inquiry Question:

King Kalākaua rebuilt the royal Iolani Palace to contain both European and Hawaiian features. How does the way this building looks tell us about who lived there and what they valued? What kind of message did King Kalākaua hope to send with its architecture? Why was this message important?


Native Hawaiians are part of the Polynesian people who live throughout the South Pacific region. The first Hawaiians arrived more than one thousand years ago, travelling extremely long distances in canoes from either Tahiti or the Marquesas Islands. Traditionally, Hawaiians were governed by patchwork of localized governments. King Kamehameha I later united the smaller Hawaiian Islands under a single government, creating the Hawaiian monarchy.

The first Europeans on record arrived in 1778. As white Christian businessmen and missionaries established permanent residences on the islands, contact between Hawaiians and foreigners became more frequent. Colonizers introducted deadly diseases like smallpox, measles, and tuberculosis, resulting in devestatingly high death tolls among the Hawaiian people. As increasing numbers of Europeans and Americans reached Hawaii, their governments became interested in profiting on Hawaii’s natural resources.

Hawaiian leaders in the 1800s attempted to balance Hawaiian culture with increasingly strong European and American influences. King Kalākaua rebuilt the royal Iolani Palace to contain both European and Hawaiian features. Courtesy Farragutful, WikiMedia Commons.


Liliuokalani was born in 1838. She was the daughter of a powerful Hawaiian family. In her youth, she socialized with the royal family and other influential Hawaiians. Liliuokalani was a talented musician and composer from childhood. “To compose was as natural to me as to breathe,” she later wrote. 1

During Liliuokalani's early life, foreign businessmen from Europe and the United States strengthened their hold on Hawaii. In the mid-1800s, the Monarchy established private land ownership and allowed foreign citizens to own land. This allowed foreign businessmen to form large sugar plantations, mills, and shipping companies. Chinese and Japanese migrant laborers worked on the plantations. By the late 1800s, foreign landowners, primarily from the United States, had acquired large portions of Hawaii.

Hawaiians began to follow more European customs. Christianity became established in the islands. Liliuokalani was baptized with an English first name, Lydia, and attended a Christian boarding school. “Our instructors were especially particular to teach us the proper use of the English language,” she later remembered. 2 She married John Dominis, a white American. They later adopted three children. When King Kamehameha V died in 1874 without a successor, the government elected a new king: David Kalākaua, Liliuokalani’s brother. 3

As a princess, Liliuokalani met with foreign dignitaries and worked for charitable organizations. Her greatest passion appears to have been the Liliuokalani Educational Society, which provided schooling for impoverished Hawaiian girls. 4 During King Kalākaua’s reign, a small but powerful group of European and American landowners began to plot against the Hawaiian monarchy. They wanted more political power in order to change Hawaiian laws to help their businesses. In 1887, a group of white foreigners known as the Hawaiian League attempted a coup (a violent overthrow of the government). Liliuokalani was shocked by the Hawaiian League’s “ingratitude” toward the King. 5

“This rebellion against constituted authority had been brought about by the very persons for whose prosperity His Majesty Kalakaua had made such exertions, and by those to whom he had shown the greatest favors,” she wrote. 6

The Hawaiian League forced King Kalākaua to sign a new constitution that gave foreign landowners more power in Hawaii. This document was known as the “Bayonet Constitution.”

Liliuokalani as Princess of Hawaii. Courtesy Hawaii State Archives (call no. PP-98-11-005).

King Kalākaua died in 1891 and Liliuokalani became Queen. As Queen Liliuokalani, she was determined to restore power to the weakened Hawaiian monarchy. 7 Indigenous Hawaiians overwhelmingly supported her. Many had voted in elections under the monarchy and wanted to protect those democratic processes from a small group of white foreigners. Yet as import rates on sugar from Hawaii increased, politicians in the United States began to more seriously consider overthrowing the Hawaiian government. 8 If they could make the islands part of the United States, it would be easier for American companies to import Hawaiian goods.

In 1893, a group of foreign landowners conspired with the United States Marines to stage another coup against the Hawaiian monarchy. The Hawaiian League removed all of the queen’s powers and installed a government made up of white Americans. Liliuokalani continued to advocate for the Indigenous Hawaiian government, arguing that she was the legitimate leader of Hawaii. Her mental health suffered under the “terrible strain” of an unknown future. 9

In 1895, a group of Liliuokalani’s supporters led an armed revolt in an attempt to restore the monarchy. Liliuokalani reported in her memoir that she was aware of the plan but not involved with it. 10 Regardless, the colonial government blamed her and put her on trial for treason in Iolani Palace. 11 Liliuokalani was convicted and imprisoned in her bedroom. 12 She later wrote, “that first night of my imprisonment was the longest night I have ever passed in my life." 13 While in prison, Liliuokalani surrendered her claim to the throne in exchange for pardons for the revolt leaders. She believed that the revolt leaders would have been executed. 14 Liliuokalani was later transferred to house arrest in a different building.

The white landowners who now ruled Hawaii wanted to join the United States, but President Grover Cleveland denied their offer. When William McKinley became president in 1897, he supported annexing Hawaii. Liliuokalani, now out of prison, led Indigenous Hawaiians in opposing the annexation treaty. The former Queen wrote letters to American politicians and organized petitions. In September 1897, more than half of all Hawaiians signed petitions against the treaty. More than half of the signers were women. That same year, Liliuokalani led a group of activists to Washington, D.C., where they presented their petitions to the U.S. Senate.

Americans were divided on the issue of Hawaii. Some wanted an overseas empire, like that of England or France. Others argued that empires were unjust. Despite Liliuokalani’s eloquence and persistence, U.S. financial and military interests were more powerful. In 1898, the United States annexed Hawaii. The United States took control of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico all in that same year. Over time, Hawaiians became Americans. The United States made Hawaii a state in 1959. Many Indigenous Hawaiians today still protest the United States’ colonization of their islands. Liliuokalani spent the rest of her life advocating for Hawaiian sovereignty, even suing the United States. When she died in 1917 at the age of 79, she was buried as Hawaiian royalty.

Who were the foreign landowners in Hawaii? Where were they from? Why did many of them want to overthrow the Hawaiian government?

How do you think the “Bayonet Constitution” got its name?

Why did Liliuokalani agree to officially resign her claim to the throne? How do you think she felt in this moment?

Why did Indigenous Hawaiians oppose the United States’ decision to annex Hawaii, since the Hawaiian monarchy had already been overthrown?

Why do you think some Americans did not want to annex Hawaii?

1 Liliuokalani, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen (Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1898), .


Liliuokalani’s Musical Legacy

Distribute the lyrics of the following three songs. Then, play recordings of each (all freely available online). After each song, students should answer the questions that follow, working either individually or in small groups. After students have completed the questions for all three songs, present them with the following prompts: What is Liliuokalani’s legacy? How does the song “Hawai’i ‘78” show Liliuokalani’s legacy? Students could respond to this question either in a discussion or a written response.

Aloha ‘Oe
Queen Liliuokalani wrote this song in 1878, years before the coups that removed her from power. It later became popular as a national song. “Aloha ‘Oe” lyrics and translation are available at the Huapala Hawaiian Music and Hula Archives.

Haʻaheo ka ua i nā pali
Ke nihi aʻela i ka nahele
E hahai (uhai) ana paha i ka liko
Pua ʻāhihi lehua o uka

Aloha ʻoe, aloha ʻoe
E ke onaona noho i ka lipo
One fond embrace,
A hoʻi aʻe au
Until we meet again

ʻO ka haliʻa aloha i hiki mai
Ke hone aʻe nei i kuʻu manawa
ʻO ʻoe nō kaʻu ipo aloha
A loko e hana nei

Maopopo kuʻu ʻike i ka nani
Nā pua rose o Maunawili
I laila hiaʻai nā manu
Mikiʻala i ka nani o ka lipo

Proudly swept the rain by the cliffs
As it glided through the trees
Still following ever the bud
The ʻahihi lehua of the vale

Farewell to you, farewell to you
The charming one who dwells in the shaded bowers
One fond embrace,
'Ere I depart
Until we meet again

Sweet memories come back to me
Bringing fresh remembrances of the past
Dearest one, yes, you are mine own
From you, true love shall never depart

I have seen and watched your loveliness
The sweet rose of Maunawili
And 'tis there the birds of love dwell
And sip the honey from your lips

Questions for “Aloha ‘Oe”

  1. What do you think this song was initially about?
  2. Why do you think this song became a popular national song?

He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi
Queen Liliuokalani wrote this song before she was queen, at the request of King Kamehameha V. It replaced the British national anthem “God save the Queen” as the Hawaiian national anthem. Hawaii’s national anthem later became “Hawai’i Pono’i,” which is still in use as Hawaii’s state song. “Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi” lyrics and translation are available at the Huapala Hawaiian Music and Hula Archives.

Ka Makua mana loa
Maliu mai iā mākou
E hāliu aku nei
Me ka naʻau haʻahaʻa
E mau ka maluhia
O nei pae ʻāina
Mai Hawaiʻi a Niʻihau
Ma lalo o kou malu

E mau ke ea o ka ʻāina
Ma kou pono mau
A ma kou mana nui
E ola e ola ka mōʻī

E ka haku mālama mai
I ko mākou nei mōʻī
E mau kona noho ʻana
Maluna o ka noho aliʻi
Hāʻawi mai i ke aloha
Maloko a kona naʻau
A ma kou ahonui
E ola e ola ka mōʻī
Hoʻoho e mau ke

Ma lalo o kou aloha nui
Na Liʻi o ke Aupuni
Me nā makaʻāinana
Ka lehulehu nō a pau
Kiaʻi mai iā lākou
Me ke aloha ahonui
E ola nō mākou
I kou mana mau
E mau ke ea

Almighty Father bend thine ear
And listen to a nation's prayer
That lowly bows before thy throne
And seeks thy fostering care
Grant your peace throughout the land
Over these sunny sea girt isles
Keep the nation's life, oh Lord,
And on our sovereign smile

Grant your peace throughout the land
Over these sunny isles
Keep the nations life, oh Lord
And upon our sovereign smile

Guard him with your tender care
Give him length of years to reign
On the throne his fathers won
Bless the nation once again
Give the king your loving grace
And with wisdom from on high
Prosperous lead his people on
As beneath your watchful eye
Grant your peace throughout the land

Bless O Lord our country’s chiefs
Grant them wisdom so to live
That our people may be saved
And to You the glory give
Watch over us day by day
King and people with your love
For our hope is all in You
Bless us, You who reign above
Grant your peace throughout the land

Questions for “He Mele Lāhui Hawaiʻi”

  1. How does this song show the influence of Christianity in Hawaii in the late 1800s?
  2. According to the lyrics, what is the responsibility of the Hawaiian monarch?

Hawaiʻi ‘78
This more recent song is by Israel Kamawawiwo’ole, a native Hawaiian musician who is most famous for his ukulele cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” “Hawaiʻi ‘78” lyrics and translation are available at Genius and elsewhere on the Internet.

Ua mau, ke ea o ka aina, i ka pono, o Hawaiʻi (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)
Ua mau, ke ea o ka aina, i ka pono, o Hawaiʻi

If just for a day our king and queen
Would visit all these islands and saw everything
How would they feel about the changes of our land

Could you just imagine if they were around
And saw highways on their sacred grounds
How would they feel about this modern city life

Tears would come from each others’ eyes
As they would stop to realize
That our people are in great great danger now
How, would they feel, could their smiles be content, then cry

Cry for the gods, cry for the people
Cry for the land that was taken away
And then yet you'll find, Hawaiʻi

Could you just imagine they came back
And saw traffic lights and railroad tracks
How would they feel about this modern city life

Tears would come from each others’ eyes
As they would stop to realize
That our land is in great great danger now

All the fighting that the king had done
To conquer all these islands now these condominiums
How would he feel if he saw Hawaiʻi nei
How, would he feel, would his smile be content, then cry

Ua mau, ke ea o ka aina, i ka pono, o Hawaiʻi
Ua mau, ke ea o ka aina, i ka pono, o Hawaiʻi

Questions for “Hawaiʻi ‘78”

  1. According to the lyrics, what is Kamawawiwo’ole protesting?
  2. What does Kamawawiwo’ole say about the king and queen?
  3. Who do you think the king and queen represent in this song?


How do you think Liliuokalani felt at different points in her life? What is a time when you felt like that?

During her life, what do you think Liliuokalani knew about the United States? What might she have cared about?

What kind of legacy did Liliuokalani leave in Hawaii? Can you think of a historic person who has had an important impact in your community?

What questions do you have after this lesson?

Additional Resources:

The National Park Service
The National Register of Historic Places lists Iolani Palace. Useful information can also be found in the NRHP documentation for the Hawaii Capital Historic District. These records describe the physical palace site and its surroundings as well as their historical significance. The Palace is also featured in the NPS travel itinerary, Places of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage.

Library of Congress
The Library of Congress maintains state-specific exhibits of primary sources for the benefit of teachers and students. The Hawaii collection highlights interesting photographs, documents, and other media related to Hawaiian history.

The Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey documented Iolani Palace in 1984. The Library of Congress hosts this documentation on its website, along with architectural drawings and historic photographs.

Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy

For January’s Hawaiian history moment of the month, let’s learn about the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy.

On January 17, 1893, the Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown by armed American businessmen (not local Hawaiians) in a bloodless coup.

DID YOU KNOW Hawai’i is the only state in the union to have had a monarchy and a royal palace you can visit today? King Kamehameha the Great unified the islands into the Kingdom of Hawai’i in 1810 and it lasted 83 years until the overthrow by non-Hawaiians.

On January 17, 1893, the Kingdom of Hawai’i was overthrown by armed American businessmen and sugar planters in a bloodless coup. A small group of men under Sanford Dole overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani, the Hawaiian monarch, and established a new provincial government with Dole as president. John Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawai’i knew about the coup ahead of time, and 300 U.S. Marines from a warship were in Honolulu harbor to allegedly protect American lives.

Queen Lili’uokalani, had tried to establish a new constitution to restore the power she had lost when her brother King Kalākaua was forced to sign the Bayonet Constitution of 1887 that diminished the Native Hawaiian’s voice in government. However, the American businessmen did not want the Queen to succeed. Thus, to this “superior force of the United States of America,” Queen Lili’uokalani yielded her throne, under protest, in order to avoid bloodshed, trusting that the United States government would right the wrong that had been done to her and the Hawaiian people.[1] That did not happen.

“President Grover Cleveland sent a new U.S. minister to Hawai’i to restore Queen Lili’uokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution, but Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the independent Republic of Hawai’i. Cleveland was unwilling to overthrow the government by force, and his successor, President William McKinley, negotiated a treaty with the Republic of Hawai’i in 1897. In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and the strategic use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the war convinced Congress to approve formal annexation. Two years later, Hawai’i was organized into a formal U.S. territory and in 1959 entered the United States as the 50th state”.[2]

Today you can tour Iolani Palace, the only official royal residence in the United States. “Built in 1882 by King Kalakaua, Iolani Palace was the home of Hawai’i’s last reigning monarchs and served as the official royal residence and the residence of the Kingdom’s political and social life until the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893.

Registered as a National Historic Landmark since 1962 and the only official royal residence in the United States, the Palace is one of the most recognizable buildings in Hawai’i. Meticulously restored to its former grandeur, Iolani Palace tells of a time when their Majesties, King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Lili’uokalani walked the grand halls.”[3]

Aloha, Mele Fong aka Ukulele Mele


By Mele Fong

Mele Fong is a professional singer, song arranger, and master of multiple strumming styles for the 'ukulele. She is an experienced educator with over 50+ years experience playing the 'ukulele and entertaining worldwide. Mele performs with her husband in the duo "The Hawaiian Serenaders" and leads student groups. In 1996, the duo represented the State of Hawai'i in concert at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. Mele and her husband Richard Tom were both born and raised on Oahu and now reside in Maui.

3 Tuesdays, Feb 11-25, 1:30-3:30
Kaonoa Senior Center

Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy - HISTORY

Prior to the arrival of the first Europeans, the Native Hawaiian people lived in a highly organized and self-sufficient society with a sophisticated language, culture, and faith, governed by High Chiefs on different islands. Later, Kamehameha I created a unified monarchy that eventually became a constitutional monarchy recognized as the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

From 1826 until 1893, the United States recognized the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, extended full and complete diplomatic recognition and relations to the Hawaiian Government, and entered into treaties and conventions with the Hawaiian monarchs, regarding commerce and navigation, in 1826, 1842, 1849, 1875, and 1887. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

On June 30, 1887, a meeting of residents including the armed militia of the “Honolulu Rifles” (a group of non-native-Hawaiian white soldiers who secretly served as the military arm of the “Hawaiian League”) and politicians who were members of the Reform Party of the Hawaiian Kingdom, demanded from King Kalākaua the dismissal of his Cabinet, headed by Walter M. Gibson. Their concerns about Gibson stemmed from his strong support for the King’s authority. The meeting was called to order by Sanford B. Dole and chaired by Peter Cushman Jones, president of the largest sugarcane plantation agency in Hawai‘i (1). The Hawaiian League and the Americans controlled a vast majority of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i’s income wealth, in the form of the sugar plantations, and they desired and conspired to do whatever it took to maintain their grasp on it. Lorrin A. Thurston presented a list of demands to the King. The participants in the meeting also insisted that a new constitution be written.

In a short period of time, the new proposed constitution was drafted by a group of lawyers, including Thurston, Dole, William Ansel Kinney, William Owen Smith, George Norton Wilcox, and Edward Griffin Hitchcock. All were also associated with the Hawaiian League, which deeply desired the end of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and its annexation into the United States of America. (2)

King Kalākaua signed the document July 6, 1887, despite deep disagreement over the scope of the changes and his assent and signature being forced by violence, threats of violence, and coercion. For this reason, this constitution became known (and is well known in history, world-wide) as the “Bayonet Constitution”.

The Bayonet Constitution stripped the King of most of his personal authority and empowered the legislature and the cabinet of the government. Later, Queen Lili‘uokalani explained some of the threats used against King Kalākaua to obtain his signature upon the Bayonet Constitution, in a history and book published by her (3). The Bayonet Constitution was never ratified in the legislature of the Hawaiian Kingdom (4).

The Bayonet Constitution and other attempted insurrections (at other times) against the monarchy and the government of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, by American non-native-Hawaiian men (largely in order to accumulate and consolidate more money, power, and influence, related to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi’s rich sugar exports) worked toward and culminated in the 1893 overthrow of the rightful monarchy and government of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

On January 14, 1893, John L. Stevens (the U.S. "Minister" assigned to the sovereign and independent Kingdom of Hawai‘i) wrongfully and illegally conspired with a small group of non-Hawaiian residents of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, including citizens of the United States, servicemen of the U.S. military, with the support and participation of U.S. military units, commanders, soldiers, troops, weapons, and equipment (the non-residents, U.S. military personnel, and the United States Minister hereafter jointly referred to as the “conspirators” or “co-conspirators”)—to overthrow the indigenous and lawful Government of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i (hereafter referred to as the “illegal overthrow”). P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

On January 16, 1893, in support of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, the co-conspirators caused armed naval forces of the United States to invade the sovereign Hawaiian nation, including, without limitation, positioning themselves near the Hawaiian Government buildings and the Iolani Palace to intimidate Queen Lili‘uokalani and her Government. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

On January 17, 1893, the “Committee of Safety” (hereafter the “committee”), which represented the American and European sugar planters (descendants of missionaries and financiers) deposed the Hawaiian monarchy and proclaimed the establishment of a provisional government in and over Hawai‘i. And, immediately thereafter, the United States Minister extended diplomatic relations and recognition—officially and on behalf of the entire United States’ government—to the provisional government, self-proclaimed and formed by the committee and the co-conspirators, without the consent of the Native Hawaiian people or the lawful Government of Hawaiʻi—in violation of treaties between the two nations and of international law. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

Shortly after the illegal overthrow and due to grave threats of death, destruction, and bloodshed, and in order to protect her people, the Native Hawaiians and other Kingdom subjects whom she lawfully ruled over, Queen Lili‘uokalani (the rightful ruler and monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i) issued the following statement under the gravest and most egregious conditions of coercion and compulsion:

I, Lili‘uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a provisional government of and for this Kingdom.

That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the provisional government.

Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.

— Done at Honolulu this 17th day of January, A.D. 1893. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510)

The Kingdom of Hawai‘i has never surrendered its sovereignty to the United States. To “yield” (the words used by Queen Lili‘uokalani) is to concede, for a time, under forced coercion, but not to surrender, submit, or abrogate one’s authority to another.

Without the active participation, support, and direct intervention by and of U.S. military units, commanders, soldiers, and troops, supported by U.S. military weapons, boats, vehicles, and equipment—the co-conspirators and the insurrection against the Government of Queen Lili‘uokalani would have failed for lack of popular support and insufficient arms. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

On February 1, 1893, the United States Minister raised the American flag and proclaimed Hawaiʻi to be a protectorate of the United States.

After this, President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, commissioned and sent former U.S. Congressman, James Henderson Blount, as “Special Representative” for the President and the U.S. government—to conduct an official investigation (the “Blount Investigation”) into the events surrounding the insurrection and the unconstitutional and illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. The Blount Investigation was extensive, and Special Representative James Blount procured testimony from interviews, letters, affidavits, and other documents, including the "Statement of the Hawaiian Patriotic League" and "Memorial on the Hawaiian Crises". When completed, Special Representative James Blount’s report (known widely as the “Blount Report”) stated that improper U.S. backing for the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom had been responsible for the co-conspirator’s success, and concluded that the provisional government lacked popular support.

Due to the Blount report, President Cleveland dismissed the U.S. Minister, John L. Stevens, the military commander of the United States armed forces stationed in Hawaiʻi was disciplined and forced to resign his U.S. military commission, and President Cleveland began to work toward the restoration of Queen Liliʻuokalani, Hawai‘i’s constitutional monarchy, Queen Liliʻuokalani’s government, and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

In a message to U.S. Congress on December 18, 1893, President Grover Cleveland reported fully and accurately on the illegal acts of the co-conspirators. President Cleveland described them as "act[s] of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States and without authority of Congress". P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). President Cleveland also stated that this was “An act of war committed [by United States citizens and official federal governmental officials] based on false pretext.” President Cleveland also stated and acknowledged that “by such acts the government of a peaceful and friendly people was overthrown.” P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). Finally, President Cleveland concluded that a "substantial wrong [had] thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured people requires we should endeavor to repair". P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). President Cleveland then called for the restoration of the Hawaiian constitutional monarchy, Queen Liliʻuokalani, her government, and the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

In doing this, President Cleveland c ited The Law of Nations, Or, Principles of the Law of Nature, Applied to the Conduct and Affairs of Nations and Sovereigns (5), (hereafter referred to as “The Law of Nations”) which is a foremost legal treatise on international law, which declares it unlawful for one nation to bring its military into another nation’s territory without just cause, and prohibits nations from harming the g overnments of other nations.

As re cently as May 13, 2019—the United States Supreme Court, itself, cited to and relied upon The Law of Nations to overturn the previously decided (1979) U.S. Supreme Court decision in Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 99 S.Ct. 1182, 59 L. Ed. 2d 416 (1979). The case that overturned Nevada v. Hall, is Franchise Tax Bd. v. Hyatt, 2019 U.S. LEXIS 3399, 139 S.Ct. 1485, 2019 WL 2078084 (2019) (6).

Despite the U.S. Constitution clearly and explicitly providing that the U.S. President is solely and exclusively charged, tasked, and authorized to conduct foreign relations for and on behalf of the United States—the newly and illegally coup d'état installed provisional government of Hawai‘i protested President Cleveland’s call to restore the Kingdom of Hawai‛i and its monarchy, and they continued to pursue annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i to the United States. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). The illegal provisional government lobbied U.S. Senator John Morgan and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the U.S. Senate (hereafter referred to as the “Senate Committee”) to conduct new investigations into the events surrounding the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). The Senate Committee and Senator Morgan conducted hearings regarding the illegal overthrow, in Washington, D.C., from December 27, 1893, through February 26, 1894. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). In those hearings, members of the illegal provisional government justified and condoned their actions and the actions of all the co-conspirators. Though the illegal provisional government was able to obscure the role of the United States in the illegal overthrow—they were unable to, and they failed, to rally the support of the necessary two-thirds of the U.S. Senate, required to ratify a treaty of annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

On July 4, 1894, after being defeated in obtaining the U.S. Senate’s required vote in favor of ratifying a treaty of annexation of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, the illegal provisional government summarily declared itself to be the “Republic of Hawai‘i”. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). The so-called Republic of Hawai‘i made a second attempt to have a treaty of annexation ratified. And—once again—the United States Senate declined and refused to ratify annexation or any such treaty.

On July 7, 1898, due to the Spanish-American War, President McKinley, who replaced President Cleveland, signed the Newlands Joint Resolution, which provided for the annexation of Hawaiʻi into the United States—despite the fact that U.S. rules and laws regardi ng joint resolutions , pro vide that joint resolutions can only be lawful, enforceable, or effective—as to matters entirely internal (i.e., domestic) to the United States. The very action attempted by the Newlands Joint Resolution, however, was to annex exterior lands and territory, in the form of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian Islands, INTO THE UNITED STATES ergo, the action pursued and done was external, and not domestic, to the United States and, therefore, it could NOT lawfully be done via a joint resolution. On this point, during U.S. Congress’s debate(s) regarding the possible annexation of Hawai‘i by a joint resolution of Congress—Rep. Thomas Henry Ball (Dem.) (Texas 1st District, March 4, 1897 to March 3, 1903 and Texas 8th District, March 4, 1903 to November 16, 1903) strongly rebuked those in Congress considering any such annexation of Hawai‘i (by a joint resolution), when he stated: “the very presence of this measure here [for the annexation of Hawai‘i] is the result of a deliberate attempt to do unlawfully that which CAN NOT be lawfully done” (emphasis added). 31 Cong. Rec. 5975 (June 15, 1898) (7).

Immediately after the supposed annexation of Hawai‘i by U.S. Congress’s joint resolution, the self -declared Republic of Hawai‘i (having been so self-declared by citizens of the United States who retained their U.S. citizenship while simultaneously supposedly creating, maintaining, and delivering (to the United States) an entirely new nation, out of whole cloth) ceded sovereignty of Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian Islands to the United States, including 1,800,000 acres of crown, government, and public lands of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, without the consent of, or compensation to, the Native Hawaiian people, or their ancient and rightful sovereign government. P.L . 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

The indigenous Hawaiian people and other non-Native Hawaiian subjects of the Kingdom and their rightful rulers never directly relinquished their rights or claims to the United States, on or for: their inherent sovereignty as a people, the sovereignty of their own government, or their lands, treasures, and resources, either through their monarchy or through a plebiscite or referendum. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

On April 30, 1900, President McKinley signed the Organic Act, which provided a government for the territory of Hawaiʻi and defined the political structure and powers of the newly established Territorial Government and its relationship to the United States. And, on August 21, 1959, Hawai‘i became the 50th State of the United States. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

All the foregoing facts and the material conclusions of law (e.g., that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was wrongful and illegal)—have expressly and explicitly been admitted and acknowledged, as stated above—through official, transparent, and lawful governmental process, completed and enacted by both the legislative and executive branches of the government of The United States of America. This was accomplished on November 23, 1993 when Public Law 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510) was passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into U.S. federal law by President Bill Clinton, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1893 illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510). As such—all the pertinent and material facts related to the issues of Hawaiian sovereignty, the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, and the rightful rule and governance of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and the Hawaiian Islands belonging to the people of Hawai‘i, the Hawaiian monarchy, and the rightful descendants and heirs to the monarchy and throne of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i—are explicitly admitted and wholly uncontested by the United States federal government, in and through U.S. federal law. P.L. 103-150 (107 Stat. 1510).

The U.S. legislative and executive branches of government have NOW—after 100 years of un-American and unconstitutional conquest driven oppression over the Hawaiian Islands—explicitly, expressly, and officially recognized, openly admitted, and affirmed:

That “the health and well-being of the Native Hawaiian people is intrinsically tied to their deep feelings and attachment to the land”. Id.

That “the long-range economic and social changes in Hawai‘i over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been devastating to the population and to the health and well-being of the Hawaiian people”. Id.

That “the Native Hawaiian people are determined to preserve, develop and transmit to future generations their ancestral territory, and their cultural identity in accordance with their own spiritual and traditional beliefs, customs, practices, language, and social institutions”. Id. and

That “it is proper and timely for the Congress on the occasion of the impending one hundredth anniversary of the event , to acknowledge the historic significance of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, to express its deep regret to the Native Hawaiian people, and to support the reconciliation efforts …” (e mphasis added). Id.

Stephen Hancock, “On the Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, 1893”

Near the turn of the nineteenth century, the Hawaiian Monarchy was formed as the islands were unified. The system was a hybrid of European monarchical government and Hawaiian practice, and it presented a strong national image to the world as Hawaii sought to maintain its independence. By the end of the century, that Monarchy had been overthrown. This article argues that, while the paradigm of Monarchy was integrated into Hawaiian governance as a way to shore up independence, it was ultimately a form of government that accommodated capitalism in Europe, serving unwittingly to pave the way for capitalist interests in Hawaii as well.

Figure 1: Photograph of Liliuokalani taken in 1891

In writing of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy, it is important to dispel at least two possible misconceptions. First is that the monarchy was a native form of government that had existed from a time before contact with Western powers. While I do not wish to dispute that there were some moves toward centralization of authority before Western contact, I will claim that the move to label the ultimate centralization of that authority a monarchy is another matter. In fact, the people of the island had been ruled by a system of Ali‘i, or chiefs, who organized labor on tracts of land inhabited by their followers and who husbanded resources. That government was essentially local (though there were ruling chiefs or mō‘i that appointed other chiefs within larger portions of the islands) the islands were not united until the reign of Kamehameha I, the first recognized “king” of the Hawaiian islands. His reign, if we consider him king from the time he conquered O‘ahu, began about 1795, introducing a hybrid system of government that sought to adapt traditional principles of government to a system that would be recognized by Western powers and enable interaction with them. Second is that the overthrow was a single event. On January 16, 1893, a self-proclaimed “provisional government” with the help of U.S. troops from the U.S.S. Boston displaced Queen Lili‘uokalani’s constitutional monarchy and the U.S. minister John Stevens recognized it as the de facto government. But six years earlier, on July 6, 1887, King Kalakaua, her brother, had already effectively signed away any real power the monarchy held (along with the democratic power of the citizens of Hawaii) under present threat of violence with what has come to be called the “Bayonet Constitution.” The Queen was deposed by a group of white business leaders specifically because she was trying to regain some of the authority of the monarchy under a new constitution in response to the petitions of a large number of her subjects.[1] Despite her loss of the crown, however, her people considered her their Mō‘i for as long as she lived. Thus two systems, the Ali‘i system and the monarchy, existed, joined together in a hybrid institution, though the elements of each that were included were of varying importance to different constituencies.

Thus the nineteenth century was roughly the era of the monarchy in Hawaii, but it was also the era of movement towards the rule of capitalist interests. The Ali‘i of Hawaii certainly borrowed the concept of monarchy from European models, adapting it to their purposes in an attempt to gain legitimacy in the eyes of Western nations and retain their autonomy. I would like to suggest, in fact, that the institution of a monarchy in the Hawaiian islands, particularly as it led to a constitutional monarchy, established a system of government in the islands that white businessmen expected to run its course, as it had in Europe. Increasingly, they would use their financial power, along with the military might of the United States, to make sure that it did. While the Ali‘i system continued to function in many traditional ways in its interaction with the native people of Hawaii, constitutional monarchy, established under the guidance of outside influences, both legal and financial, tended to produce the same ends that monarchy had in Europe as capitalism replaced more traditional communal ties, for better and/or for worse. Most significantly, white business owners exploited their economic position in relation to the crown assuming the crown would adapt to Western economic practice, as had the monarchies of Europe.

The oligarchy that eventually overthrew the government of the Queen of Hawaii was made entirely of non-native business leaders, many of them the children of missionaries. They were subjects of the kingdom but jealous of the power to rule that kingdom. Both the Queen and later historians have made much of the invention of the legal system of Hawaii through the influence of this “missionary” party. Indeed, the rulers of Hawaii, in order to negotiate their interactions with the powerful nations of the Western world that they were encountering, had encouraged outsiders to help them craft a nation that would be recognized and respected by European countries and the United States of America, trying to integrate Western forms with native traditional concepts on such issues as land-use and obligations to family. They had good reason to fear the intervention of these powers. In 1839, Captain Laplace used the guns of his warship to extort money and other demands in the name of France. Sovereignty was even ceded to England when the British under Lord George Paulet contested a legal case in 1843, though England restored their sovereignty after reviewing Paulet’s actions. It was clear from the outset that Hawaii was militarily vulnerable to outside powers. The question was how to ensure Hawaii’s independence despite this, and understanding and adapting to the legal systems of the foreigners seemed to be a likely way of doing that. Certainly the Ali‘i wanted first to provide leadership for their people, but in doing so they responded to both the traditional lifestyle of the native population and the demands of a changing world and economic climate. In doing so, they adopted a paradigm that while it was ostensibly respected by Western interests was also seen by those same interests as outmoded.

As Jonathan Osorio points out, the Kings of Hawaii, recognizing the military and economic might of foreign powers, sought to incorporate that power within their governments by bringing in foreigners who would swear allegiance to the king. Until the Mahele, or division of land that took place between 1845 and 1850, the rulers of Hawaii still held the power to distribute land. Osorio states, “With this power still intact, it was not unreasonable for the Mo‘i to envision a nation strengthened by haole [white outsider] so long as they were carefully controlled by the granting of lands and offices” (38). But it was precisely this division of power through the granting of office and land that had begun to wear away at the power of the monarchies of Europe. As Michel Foucault points out, the selling of offices in European nations gradually eroded the office of King. This happened well before the concept of kingship was offered to the Hawaiian people to translate the Ali‘i system into terms that ostensibly would ease relations with Western powers. He states:

It was because the king, in order to raise money, had appropriated the right to sell legal offices, which “belonged” to him, that he was confronted by magistrates who owned their offices and who were not only intractable, but ignorant, self-interested and frequently compromised. It was because he was constantly creating new offices that he multiplied the conflicts of power and authority. (80)

The division of power and incorporation of the foreigner in Hawaii may have begun as early as the beginning of Kamehameha I’s reign. After consolidating his power, Kamehameha began to divide it with those who had made him the sole ruler of the islands, beginning by handing out land, to which titles were attached. Samuel Kamakau tells us that Kamehameha gave his closest allies “large tracts of land from Hawaii to Oahu in payment for their services Kamehameha himself had no power to recover these lands” (175). He also appointed a “treasurer” through whom all gifts must be approved. Thus, while he was the sole ruler and in that way resembled kings of Europe, he also had a council much like early councils that kept control of the king. Certain ideas such as the holding of land in perpetuity seemed to be becoming naturalized to the Hawaiian milieu. For example, John Young, an Englishman whose expertise in weapons helped Kamehameha conquer the islands, was made a high chief and given the governorship of Oahu.[2] However, as long as the king still owned all land, in theory—as long as no haole, or white outsider, could sell the land—power was still concentrated in the Mō‘i. The king was accomplishing his goal of bringing the foreign mana, or power, under his sway. Thus for a change to take place in the affairs of the kingdom, a permanent change in land tenure had to take place.

Those foreigners who came seeking their fortunes in Hawaii were concerned with attaching those fortunes permanently to themselves, and they became insistent that the only civilized way to deal with land was with the holding of it in fee simple terms as personal property. With the Mahele, they accomplished this. The Ali‘i system, as has been often noted, is not as similar to the system of feudalism as early accounts would have made it out to be. Yet the changes from that system to a capitalist economy were similar in many respects, especially in the alienation of the people from an attachment to the land. In the Ali‘i system, the maintenance of the land was given to the Ali‘i, or chiefs, whose responsibility it became to manage the land in such a way that the traditional residents of that land would be prosperous. The intent, though it may not have been always carried out effectively in every instance, was to assure the proper use of resources, and an Ali‘i who did not have prosperous people would be removed by the Mō‘i, the ruling chief. The system assumed that those maka’ainana, or common people, in an area had a tie to the land and were family or seen as family to those that oversaw their districts.

The Mahele sought to change this. The ostensible reason was that foreign governments would not see such land tenure as securing ownership of the property. The whites who sought to extend the power of their positions assumed that ownership was needed to keep others from claiming the land. To a great extent, as Osorio points out, they “believed that no truly civilized country could exist without private property” (32). The intent, then, was to protect the rights of the individual resident of land by providing ownership, but the reality was that most of the common people of Hawaii were thus separated from their rights to land and their communal ties. The translation of traditional ties into fee-simple ownership alienated them from their more traditional ties to the land. Land that was originally entrusted from the Mō‘i to overseers, or Konohiki, and worked by commoners, or maka‘ainana, was divided roughly into thirds, with one third reserved to the king, one third going to the lesser chiefs, and one third reserved to the government but claimable by the common people. The traditional view of the way land tenure progressed is that the common people ended up only claiming about 1% of the total available land due to the complex system of laying claim. While more recent studies have questioned this, emphasizing that the people fought legally in very innovative ways to keep land, the Western legal and economic systems that had become influential in the islands were still effective in alienating the maka’ainana from their homesteads. It is actually to the point that it was not the Mahele alone that dispossessed the Hawaiian people from their lands. Before the Mahele, as B. Kamanamaikalani Beamer and T. Kaeo Duarte point out, the people and the Ali‘i held “undivided interest” in the land (n. pag). The 1839 legislation merely began the process of translating this communal oversight of land into property ownership. From this point the power of the “King,” along with that of the Ali‘i more generally, began to divide just as it had in European monarchies, and the relationship of the common people to the land became increasingly alienable. The result was that the people were separated from the land and any future gifts of the king were available to foreigners and under the control of outside elements that held no allegiance to the crown.

While the particulars of the Ali‘i system are different from feudalism, there is in each case no necessary separation from the land as in capitalism. As Karl Marx points out in “Wage Labor and Capital,” “The serf sells only a part of his labour power. He does not receive a wage from the owner of the land rather the owner of the land receives a tribute from him. The serf belongs to the land and turns over to the owner of the land the fruits thereof. The free labourer, on the other hand, sells himself and, indeed, sells himself piecemeal” (205).[3] With the change to private property, land left the hands of the king and eventually entered into the hands of large-scale capitalists such as Claus Spreckels. Spreckels came to Hawaii in the early sugar boom, found ways of appropriating crown lands so that he owned large parts of the island of Hawaii, and literally changed the landscape by redirecting streams for irrigation of sugar fields. Other land was given to high Ali’i and to the common people. The high Ali‘i, however, were not given the same subsidies ($1 million/year) as large planters, and were expected to lead lifestyles that they could only support by mortgaging their land, so that in some ways their economic position (as opposed to their meaning to their own people) resembled that of the aristocracy in a changing Europe. Finally, there was the land that was in the hands of the common people, something that reflected indigenous ideals of communal life, but this land was also put in jeopardy by laws and taxes that made it imperative that the occupants engage in capitalist economics. While some (e.g., those in the Kahana Valley of Oahu) tried to replicate traditional farming practices in communes, depopulation, lack of laws enabling inheritance, and the need for money to pay high taxes eventually alienated this land from its indigenous occupants as well. A handful of foreigners soon owned much more land than the 30,000 or so acres total that were claimed by common native Hawaiians. Laws such as the 1965 legislation stipulated that if any owner of kuleana homestead land (land deeded to those whose families had worked it during the time leading up to the mahele) died without heirs that land passed to the owner of the surrounding land, often a Haole plantation owner (Stauffer 79). Severe depopulation among the native Hawaiians meant that such situations were common, further concentrating land in the hands of non-indigenous owners. Because the people had used their lands for subsistence farming, alienation from those lands, on which they had often lived even if they were not legal heirs, left them with the options of starving or of becoming wage laborers for foreign owners of large plantations. The results were much like those of enclosure, which alienated people in Britain from common lands forcing them to seek wage labor. That is, while the original structures were different, in both cases capitalism used the same strategies to produce the laborers it required.

As the land was more and more adapted to the purposes of large-scale agriculture, mainly sugar, these interests began to seek a greater share in the control of the government. From an early period, foreigners were influential in the creation of laws. They claimed these laws would help Hawaii gain the respect of the world community and help the islands keep their independence. As businessmen in the islands gained influence and the government took on debt to them, a constitution was proposed to limit the power of the monarchy and give the world the idea that Hawaii was advancing towards “civilization.” King Kauikeauoli (Kamehameha III) granted this constitution in 1840, and, though he oversaw the drafting of the document, he was under some pressure to comply with foreign standards of governance as foreign powers sought enforcement of the government’s debts. This constitution formalized the idea that the King could not seize property once distributed, and it established a legislature that made law, rather than allowing the king to establish it by decree. In this way, property was secured and a method was established for effecting policy change. The King appointed the House of Nobles, and thus he had control over many of those who made policy. However, it was now legally binding that the King could not act alone. While this act may, as Beamer argues, have sought to codify relationships between the Mō‘i and the other Ali‘i that already existed, the result still amounts to a constitutional monarchy from the point of view of the business interests who aided in the cultural translation that was occurring. In 1852, those restrictions were extended in a new constitution, designed to curry favor with white businessmen on whom the King had come to rely heavily. The constitution was drafted by a newcomer to the islands, a lawyer from New England named William Little Lee whom the government was eager to make use of. It made the stipulation that the King could not act without the approval of his cabinet, which was appointed but usually consisted of more haole than the legislature. It also separated powers between the executive and legislature more clearly, with the King as the chief executive. In some ways, the new constitution resembled the three branches of American government, but, in others, the insistence that the King share power with his cabinet resembled the developments that came with the Magna Carta in England, though, instead of resulting from the actions of native subjects, outside forces were responsible.

Alexander Liholiho (Kamehameha IV) spent a great deal of time and effort trying to amend the constitution to bring back to the King many of the powers ceded in 1852. His successor to the throne, Lota Kapuāiwa (Kamehameha V), refused to take the oath to uphold that constitution at his ascension and called for a constitutional convention. He hoped, among other things, to separate himself from the necessity of relying on his cabinet. Eventually, he proclaimed a new constitution by his own authority in 1864. The authority he claimed in doing so represents a debate regarding the prerogatives of the monarchy in England that had continued until as late as George III. That is, if the King authorized the legislature and granted the constitution, then behind the constitution still lay the authority of the king. And as George III attempted to recuperate the power that tied his kingly body to his people, so did Kapuāiwa assume that, if the King had granted a constitution, he could call for and institute a new constitution. This new constitution, while still tied to commercial interests, left the King with great latitude to determine the policies of the government for the next 23 years.

Kalākaua, the brother of Queen Lili‘uokalani and her predecessor on the throne, came to power in unprecedented circumstances. First, he was not a direct descendant of Kamehameha, though he was an Ali‘i Nui, or high chief, and he did have ties to the closest chiefs to Kamehameha. He also ruled at a time of increasing pressure from sugar plantations in the islands. He saw, as did many of his predecessors, that independence rested on mediating the influences of trade that made the islands valuable to outsiders. Because of this, two of the new King’s priorities were a treaty of trade reciprocity with the United States and “increasing the nation,” which meant both helping the native population to grow and encouraging immigration.[4] At the same time, he was interested in encouraging the cultural life of his people and their sense of pride in their nation. Partha Chatterjee speaks of “the creation of a cultural ideal in which the industries and the sciences of the West can be learnt and emulated while retaining the spiritual greatness of Eastern culture” (73). Kalakaua certainly meant to encourage the spiritual life of his people. He started the Hale Naua, a society to establish the preservation of the chants, genealogies, and practices of his people, and at a grand coronation and other public events he revived the hula, much to the chagrin of some of the foreign population. The coronation was also designed to unite his people, and with a celebration lasting two weeks it spoke to ancient traditions of aloha, in which the Ali‘i provided for their people. He also expanded and executed construction plans for the grand ‘ Iolani Palace that still stands today and began the formation of a military force, including a plan for the construction of warships (one British ship was actually refitted). In all of this, he sought to build a sense of unity in his people and also provide for the commerce of a European-styled nation. He negotiated the differing duties of the constitutional monarch and Mō‘i.

Unfortunately, the expenditures of Kalakaua were not as directed toward the interests of the planters as they wanted them to be. While they did not mind spending on infrastructure, the palace, the coronation, and other outlays of money seemed wasteful, if only because they were not directed toward what they saw as the life of the nation, the sugar trade. Kalakaua’s reign perhaps demonstrates that in some ways it is difficult to separate the beliefs of the people from the means of production to which they are traditionally tied and out of which they arise. While Chatterjee might argue that the spirit of a culture can be kept alive apart from the governing structures of a nation, the two are always connected at the level of economics. Acknowledging the beliefs of the Hawaiian people required resources, and thus ties to production that the businessmen were unwilling to accept. After struggling against the King for some time, a group of white businessmen headed by Lorrin Thurston and Sanford Dole created the secretive Hawaiian League. After some debate on the question of Annexation to the United States, the group’s stated goals became the institution of a new government. Having clandestinely gained control of the Honolulu Rifles, a shooting club that had become part of the nation’s armed forces, they put the group on patrol. With the threat of forceful takeover of government thus in place, they coerced the King into signing their new constitution, without a vote in the legislature, to avoid bloodshed. The “bayonet constitution” provided that the legislature could dismiss the King’s cabinet on a vote of no confidence, and it set high property requirements for voting, making it difficult for native resistance to make legislative changes in their favor. Effectively, it put the government in the hands of commercial interests.

When Queen Lili‘uokalani came to the throne, according to her own report, she was rushed to take an oath to this new constitution. From this point, for some time, she felt honor-bound to work for any change within the bounds of that document. She was also told, by Chief Justice Albert Francis Judd, “Should any of the members of your cabinet propose anything to you, say yes” (Liliuokalani 210). The cabinet attempted to intimidate the Queen into retaining them in office, but she refused, and the following period was a series of changes in the cabinet, with the legislature voting out each cabinet by a vote of no confidence. At one point, four cabinets were voted out in rapid succession. The situation might resemble that of Victoria’s early reign as she attempted to control her appointments and hold on to the last real powers of the monarchy. At least one critic has criticized the Queen for trying to be too like Victoria.[5] In fact, Lili‘uokalai was unwilling to do what Victoria eventually did by allowing the monarchy to become symbolic. She was unwilling to accept the limitations of the power of the monarchy. There were many petitions from her people asking her to promulgate a new constitution. “To have ignored or disregarded so general a request,” she claims, “I must have been deaf to the voice of the people, which tradition tells us is the voice of God” (Lili‘uokalani 231). The Queen did piece together parts of the previous constitutions with some changes suggested by two members of the legislature however, she was dissuaded from signing the document, as by law she could not do so without the support of her cabinet, and told an assembled crowd that she could not give them a new constitution then but that she would at some future time.

This was Saturday, 14 January 1893. In three days there would be a revolution. As news of the Queen’s intentions had leaked, a large meeting of local businessmen met and, on hearing of the Queen’s remarks to the crowd, voted to form a “committee of safety.” Thurston, a member of this committee, motioned to form a provisional government, though this actually took three days to accomplish. The Queen soon rescinded her promise to sign a new constitution, but this was insufficient now to a “committee” that had decided it was time to put to rest the political power of a queen who could oppose them. They attempted to gain the support of at least half of the Queen’s cabinet, but failing this they decided to proclaim a provisional government on Tuesday the 17 th . The evening before, troops from the U.S.S. Boston landed to protect ostensibly American lives and property. The actual result was to make the transition to the provisional government seamless, as John Stevens, U.S. minister, had already promised to support that government to the exclusion of the Queen’s claims. At about 5:00 pm, the Provisional government took over the unguarded government building, and, at around the same time, Minister Stevens recognized the provisional government as the de facto government of the islands. The new government enacted voting requirements that made it almost impossible for native Hawaiians to have serious representation and made the “Republic of Hawaii” an oligarchy of the business interests until the islands were finally annexed to the United States in 1898.

The Queen quickly surrendered her authority, but did not cease to protest. She delivered a formal letter to this effect that stated, “I yield to the superior force of the United States of America.” She did so to “avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps the loss of life,” and she looked to the US government to “reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands” (Kuykendall 602). She would continue to fight annexation to the United States and seek for reinstatement of her government until the end of her life in 1917.

In the meantime, a group of her supporters, seeing that the efforts to have her government reinstated, organized, apparently without her consent or advice, an attempted coup to restore the monarchy. The revolt was quickly put down, but it had lasting consequences for Liliuokalani. She was arrested and held in prison in a small apartment in the palace from which she once ruled. As Noenoe Silva points out, the Queen continued to resist from the palace. She wrote mele (songs, or hymns) in Hawaiian that were surreptitiously published in native newspapers and continued to try holding together her people. Among her other projects while imprisoned was to write down and circulate the “Aloha Oe,” which would eventually become the most famous song to a global audience in the Hawaiian language. While it was not a song of protest, it has become a point of unity for the people of Hawaii to this day. At one point, the Queen was threatened with a death sentence, though she was eventually only sentenced to five years at hard labor. This was commuted to simple incarceration. She finally signed an abdication when she was promised that her supporters, also being held, would be released. This promise was not carried out.

The Queen was eventually released on house arrest and eventually her privileges of travel were restored. Her government was never restored, however. The people signed petitions against annexation and in favor of her restoration in large numbers (according to Silva, more than those who voted in the constitutional convention that changed the provisional government into a permanent “republic”). President Cleveland also recognized the injustice of her position and recommended reinstating her authority. In the end, her cause came down to a vote in the Senate, and she was not given the support of the United States in re-establishing her rights and those of her people. While she was successful for some time in fighting annexation, eventually the US, at war with Spain in the Philippines, found the islands indispensably useful and agreed to make Hawaii a territory through a joint resolution of Congress. Today, while several determined groups still fight for Hawaiian sovereignty, there seems little chance of a restoration of the monarchy in anything like its original form.

Samuel Kamakau, a nineteenth-century historian, notes, “A learned man had arrived with knowledge of the law, and the foreigners who were holding office in the government hastened to put him forward by saying how clever and learned he was and what good laws he would make for the Hawaiian people. The truth was, they were laws to change the old laws of the natives of the land and cause them to lick ti leaves like the dogs and gnaw bones thrown at the feet of strangers, while the strangers became their lords” (399). As Sally Engle Merry points out, one early traveler “maps Hawaiian history onto British history as an earlier and more primitive stage of the same process” (37). It is not my purpose to re-enact that mapping. Rather, I believe that such mapping was intentional on the part of foreign economic interests, and that those interests always expected the concept of monarchy, as delivered to the Hawaiians, to lead to more “modern” republican government. When the monarchy itself refused to follow the narrative of “progress,” as defined within Western industrialist contexts, it was removed by violence. The foreigners who advised Hawaii’s rulers may have been correct in leading them to believe a strong nationalist image was necessary to shore up independence against Western nations. The paradigm of monarchy, however, was at best a two-edged sword that in attempting to translate native government into Western terms also provided a more peaceful and gradual road for the establishment of governmental practices favorable to capitalism.

Stephen Hancock is Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University—Hawaii. He is the author of The Romantic Sublime and Middle-Class Subjectivity in the Victorian Novel (Routledge, 2005). His current work involves the importance of aesthetics in mediating the ethics of domestic space in the 19 th century.


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[1] Her problem with the constitution went beyond her own power to take issue with voting rights and other elements of the constitution. I emphasize its effect on her position as Queen here because I am addressing specifically the paradigm of monarchy and its place in the affair.

[2] This is not to say that all foreigners were treated with such deference. Juri Mykkanen points out that many of those who chose to stay simply got along as best they could in the islands.

[3] Queen Lili‘uokalani also made comparisons between feudalism and the Hawaiian Ali‘i system, though in doing so she imagines feudalism in Hawaiian terms. Considering a portrait of a noble woman, on her trip to England for Victoria’s Jubilee, she states:

For these, their people, lived under their lords and mistresses with loving submission and loyal devotion, understanding the duties of their station in life, and therewith content they looked to them for their maintenance and kind consideration, and asked no more. The relation between master and retainer was one of love on both sides, of pure affection for a trusted and faithful vassal, of devotion and desire to please from the man to the master.

She goes on to note, “But at the present day all this has gone . . . the laws of trade, the demands of mercantile life, the advancement of commerce . . . [have] entirely overthrown the relationship existing at other times between the country gentleman and his retainers. . . Is England better and happier for the extinction of a style of life read of in history but not to-day existing?” (169-170).

Hawai`i Legal History: Timeline

Pre-1778 Prior to Western contact in Ka Pae ʻĀina o Hawaiʻi (the Hawaiian Islands), Hawaiian society was highly regulated by laws. Many kānāwai dictated the relationship between cultivators or harvesters and the natural environment.

Circa 1400 The ʻAi Kapu (traditional religion) is brought to Hawaiʻi. While primarily viewed as religious restrictions, it contained kānāwai (laws) on daily conduct as well as interactions between the different classes (chief, priest, and commoner classes). Transgressions were sometimes punishable by death.

1778 British Captain James Cook arrives and the era of Western contact begins January 18. Cook names Hawaiʻi the "Sandwich Islands" after the Earl of Sandwich.

"Westerners Arrive in Hawaii" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

By the late 1770s about a dozen chiefs had risen to the level of supreme chief. Hawaiʻi was divided under these warriors when James Cook arrived in the islands. He was an insatiable explorer searching for a northwest passage. Cook's crew members brought many deadly diseases to the islands that decimated the Hawaiian population, including tuberculosis, syphilis, and gonorrhea.

1779 Cook is killed at Kealakekua Bay, Hawaiʻi on February 14.

1819 Kamehameha I dies and Liholiho, Kamehameha II, becomes king. Ka'ahumanu, wife of Kamehameha I, has equal power to the king as Kuhina Nui (Prime Minister).

"King Kamehameha's Final Act" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

In 1819 King Kamehameha falls ill. On his death bed he follows the British monarchy's lead and names his eldest son as his heir. He names his favorite wife prime minister.

"Foundation of Hawaiian Law Destroyed" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

After King Kamehameha's death, Kamehameha II abandons the traditional religion. All religious images are burned and the temples destroyed.

1820 Congregational Church missionaries from New England arrive to fill the void left by the ʻAi Kapu.

"Missionaries Arrive in Hawaii" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

Pioneer missionaries left New England without any knowledge of the death of King Kamehameha or the overthrow of the traditional religious system. The party is led by Hiram Bingham and Reverend Thurston.

1822 Ka'ahumanu has the first laws printed by Elisha Loomis, the missionary printer. There are two and they are labeled "Notices." Available at page 128.

"Unintended Effect of Western Education" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

Queen Ka'ahumanu writes new laws based on the Ten Commandments. She heeds the demands of the missionaries that the traditional Hawaiian way of life be abolished. All traditional forms of passing on history, including hula, are outlawed.

1823 Kamehameha II (Liholiho) and Queen Kamāmalu contract measles in England and die. Kamehameha III, Kauikeaouli, is a minor, but becomes king with Ka'ahumanu as Kuhina Nui.

1825 Hereditary holding of land becomes part of the Hawaiian legal system. Prior to this, all land belonged to the Akua (gods) and was administered by the mōʻī (high chief).

1826 First Hawaiian/U.S. treaty of "friendship, commerce, and navigation."

1827 Law against adultery passed. Other, missionary-inspired laws like the prohibition against hula are passed.

1832 Ka'ahumanu dies. Kamehameha III repeals all recent Christian laws.

1833-36 Kamehameha III revives hula and other cultural practices once prohibited.

1836 Nahi'ena'ena, sister of Kamehameha III, dies. Kamehameha III converts to Christianity. Kina'u, half-sister of Kamehameha III, becomes Kuhina Nui (Prime Minister).

1839 Bill of Rights - King Kamehameha III secures protection to "all the people, together with their lands, their building lots, and all their property."

1840 Constitution - King Kamehameha III and Kuhina Nui continue to share executive authority four kiaʻāina (governors) appointed with subordinate executive powers elected bicameral legislature created supreme court created land now belongs to the chiefs and people with the king as trustee for all.

1841 New law allows Governors to enter into 50-year leases with foreigners.

1842 The "Tyler Doctrine" - the U.S. holds a greater interest in Hawaiʻi than any other nation no other power will be allowed to seek exclusive commercial privileges in Hawaiʻi.

1843 Kamehameha III cedes the islands to Great Britain on Feb. 25 under force.

The Paulet Episode (Feb. 25 to July 31, 1843) - Hawaiʻi under British rule commission headed by Lord George Paulet, commander of the British ship, Carysfort.

Great Britain eventually reinstates Kamehameha III as ruler of Hawaiʻi.

1845 With growing fears of a foreign takeover of Hawaiʻi and its land, the Board of Commissioners to Quiet Land Titles (Land Commission) is established. An act authorized the sale of Government Lands to foreigners.

1848 The "Great Māhele" - Kamehameha III's land distribution

A process, rather than a one time event, the Māhele begins the division of land between the king and chiefs. The lands retained by the king are divided into his personal lands and government lands. All awards are subject to the rights of the native tenants of the land.

"Western Land Law in Hawaii" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

King Kamehameha III fills his cabinet with foreign ministers. Not everyone is pleased with the growing influence of missionaries.

"Annexationist Element in Hawaii" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

It is a new era of prosperity for missionary families. They start sugar and pineapple plantations. With wealth comes a desire for greater political control.

1849 Second Hawaiian/U.S. treaty of "friendship, commerce, and navigation."

1850 The "Kuleana Act" - makaʻāinana (commoners) are allowed to apply for an individual kuleana (land parcel) but are required to "prove" their claim by 1854 and pay survey costs. Commoners receive fewer than 30,000 acres as a result. Many reasons why makaʻāinana did not secure more kuleana parcels. One is that many did not understand the procedures for making a claim. Legislative passes an act in 1850 allowing any Hawaiʻi resident, regardless of citizenship, to convey and own land.

1852 New Constitution

1854 Kamehameha III dies Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho) becomes king.

1856 Kamehameha IV (Alexander Liholiho) marries Emma Kaleleonālani Naʻea Rooke, great-grandniece of Kamehameha I, grand-daughter of John Young.

1863 Kamehameha IV dies intestate (15 months after the death of his only son, Albert) Prince Lot (Lota Kapuaiwa), Kamehameha V, becomes king and calls for a new constitution.

1864 Constitutional convention deadlocks on Aug. 13 and Kamehameha V dissolves the Convention and declares a new Constitution reasserting the powers of the Mōʻī (King). The 1864 Constitution increases the power of the King and changes the way the kingdom's legislature works. It also requires voters born after 1840 to pass a literacy test and meet certain property requirements, later repealed in 1874.

1865 Act passes designating all of the King's lands as "Crown Lands" and declaring them inalienable to address the issue created by Kamehameha V's death.

1872 Kamehameha V dies. No successor is named. William Lunalilo is first elected king by popular vote.

1873 Lunalilo takes the throne Jan. 12.

1874 Lunalilo dies on Feb. 5 without naming a successor. Kalākaua defeats Queen Emma, widow of Kamehameha IV, and is elected by the Legislative Assembly to become king.

"Treaty of Reciprocity of 1876" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

In 1874 the last Hawaiian king related by blood to the Kamehameha family (Lunalilo) died without leaving an heir. Two members of the royal family claimed title. A king who supported economic transformation is chosen. The U.S. has its eye on Pearl Harbor.

1887 King Kalākaua, a believer in the absolute right of kings, signs the "Bayonet Constitution" on July 6. This Constitution is drafted by a group from the Hawaiian League including Lorrin Thurston, Sanford Dole, William Ansel Kinney, William Owen Smith, George Norton Wilcox, and Edward Griffin Hitchcock, who threaten to use force if King Kalākaua refuses to sign it. Despite arguments over the scope of the changes to the Constitution that severely limit the monarch's powers Kalākaua signs it.

1891 Kalākaua dies in San Francisco on Jan. 20. His sister, Lili'uokalani becomes queen (Jan. 29).

"Beginning of the End" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

Hawaii's king dies while on a trip to California. His sister Princess Lili'uokalani becomes the next and last queen.

1892 Native Hawaiians ask Queen Lili'uokalani for a new Constitution. Lili'uokalani signs bills licensing the sale of opium and granting a franchise to establish a lottery. The Committee of Thirteen plans a coup d'etat.

1893 The Committee of Thirteen renames itself the "Committee on Public Safety" and declares the throne vacant on Jan. 15. The U.S. overthrows the Hawaiian monarchy and Sanford Dole, a missionary descendant, negotiates an annexation treaty with the Harrison Administration. The treaty is not ratified before the Harrison Administration is replaced by the Cleveland Administration. President Cleveland delivers a message to Dole asking for his resignation and to restore "the legitimate government of Hawaii" to power. Dole refuses.

"Annexing Hawaii" in America Becomes a World Power. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Id=36214.

In the 1800s Americans established missions and built huge plantations, railways, docks, and hotels in Hawaii. Queen Liliʻuokalani opposes U.S. influence but surrenders her throne after a revolt by plantation owners, pressure from ambassador John L. Stevens, and the arrival of an American battleship. President Cleveland opposes annexation of the sovereign nation but Hawaiʻi is annexed in 1898 after William McKinley takes office.

"Hawaiian Monarchy Overthrown" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

On January 16, 1893 the independent kingdom of Hawaiʻi is illegally overthrown. Supporting the efforts of the Committee of Safety is the U.S. minister to Hawaiʻi.

"Overthrow of the Monarchy" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

On January 16, 1893 the Committee of Safety asks U.S. troops to protect Americans as they brought down the Hawaiian monarchy by force. Queen LIliʻuokalani yields her thrown believing that the legitimate U.S. government would do the right thing and reinstate her.

1894 The Dole government declares itself the "Republic of Hawaii."

"Attempt to Restore the Monarchy" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

July 4, 1894 the provisional government declares itself the Republic of Hawaiʻi. Queen Lili'uokalani is powerless but still has supporters. Rebels targeted for retribution and the queen is imprisoned in her own palace.

1896 William McKinley is elected president of the U.S. and is receptive to the annexation of Hawaiʻi proposed by Dole.

"End of the Hawaiian People" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

Queen Lili'uokalani abdicates to save the lives of her people. She is allowed to return home but is denied reinstatement of her monarchy. McKinley wants Pearl Harbor and brings the question of annexation before Congress.

1898 Through a joint resolution of Congress Hawaiʻi is annexed (the Newlands Resolution) on July 7. All Hawaiian Crown Lands are ceded to the U.S.

"Truth About Annexation" in Conquest of Hawaii. Films Media Group, 2003. Films On Demand. Item Number: 43044

June 11, 1898, Theobold Otjen of Wisconsin, speech on the annexation of Hawaii. 31 Cong. Rec. 496-502. Available via Heinonline.

June 15, 1898, House debate on the Annexation of Hawaii. 31 Cong. Rec. 5967-6019. Available via Heinonline.

July 7, 1898, Joint Resolution (no. 55) to Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States. 30 Stat. 750-51. Available via Heinonline.

On August 12, 1898 the Hawaiian flag is lowered and disrepectfully shredded. President of the Hawaiian Republic, Sanford Dole, presides over the ceremony. Many remain loyal to the former queen who questions the legality of the joint resolution.

April 30, 1900 President McKinley signs the Organic Act making Hawaiʻi a territory. Sanford Dole is appointed the first governor. The Organic Act requires all voters to be citizens, over 21 years of age, reside in the territory at least one year before they can vote, and speak and read either English or Hawaiian. Once on the roll books, a voter's name stays there unless he fails to vote.

1917 Queen Lili'uokalani dies.

1931-32 The Massie Case.

Dec. 7, 1941 Japan strikes Pearl Harbor. Martial Law is declared.

Did the US steal Hawaii?

All this is further explained here. Consequently, when did America invade Hawaii?

In 1897, William McKinley succeeded Cleveland as United States president. A year later he signed the Newlands Resolution, which provided for the annexation of Hawaii on July 7, 1898.

Secondly, how did Hawaii become a US territory? Later, U.S. sugar interests encouraged that the King be overthrown, and Hawaii was established as a republic in 1893. U.S. domination of the islands came five years later, when the United States annexed Hawaii and it became a U.S. territory in 1900. This brought the United States as well as Hawaii into World War II.

Besides, was Hawaii illegally annexed?

The United States asserted that it had legally annexed Hawaii. Critics argued this was not a legally permissible way to acquire territory under the U.S. Constitution. The flag of the United States was raised over Hawaii on August 12, 1898, protected by the United States Navy.

Was the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy illegal?

When the commissioner determined that Liliuokalani had been illegally overthrown and that most Hawaiians opposed the coup, Cleveland's administration urged that the monarchy be restored. In 1993 President Bill Clinton signed a bill apologizing to native Hawaiians for the overthrow of their kingdom.

The Kingdom of Hawai’i History

In 1843 Hawai`i became the first non-European indigenous state to be admitted into the Family of Nations when Great Britain and France recognized it as an independent nation. Denmark (1846), the United States (1849), Sweden and Norway (1852), Belgium and the Netherlands (1862), Spain (1863), Swiss Confederation (1864), Russia (1869), Japan (1871), Austria-Hungary (1875), and Germany (1879), after unification, did the same.

Initially the Kingdom of Hawai`i aligned itself more closely with the European kingdoms, especially the United Kingdom (England) which was also an island kingdom. It was suspicious of the intentions of the United States as it witnessed the slave market and the brutal, unjust treatment of the Negroes even after the Civil War and also the persecution of the “Indians” who often had no legal rights as human beings and could be disposed of like cattle. Native Hawaiians, being dark-skinned, might also be treated as slaves or be looked upon as second-class citizens with the loss of their human rights in a potential take-over by USA interests.
Already after the USA Civil War powerful American and European businessmen had started to form secret, armed militia in an effort to undermine the Hawaiian Monarchy and protect their business interests. In 1875 the USA and the Kingdom of Hawai`i then ratified a reciprocity treaty that provided for duty-free entry of Hawai`i sugar to the USA and brought great profit for American businessmen and a quick expansion of the sugar industry. To further protect their interests the businessmen forced the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai`i upon King Kalākaua. It became known as the Bayonet Constitution for the use of intimidation by the armed militia which forced the King to sign it or be deposed and perhaps harmed along with his followers. This “constitution”, which was never ratified, pretended to create a constitutional monarchy like that of the United Kingdom. It stripped the Monarchy of much of its authority and gave the power to the legislature and cabinet of the government which was largely controlled by American, European and native Hawaiian elites. This enabled them to pass a new treaty with the USA that gave the USA exclusive use of Pearl Harbor in exchange for continued duty-free import of sugar from Hawai`i. However, in 1890, the USA, in control of Pearl Harbor, passed new legislation that ended the competitive advantages that earlier treaties afforded the Hawai`i sugar industry.

The 1887 Bayonet Constitution had already altered eligibility to vote, stipulating property value as another condition of voting eligibility. In addition to native Hawaiians many Asians, such as Japanese and Chinese, who comprised a large proportion of the population and who had previously become naturalized subjects of the Kingdom, were subsequently stripped of their voting rights. This guaranteed a voting monopoly by the moneyed business aristocracy such as wealthy Americans and Europeans who had acquired full voting rights without the need for Hawaiian citizenship. By 1893 Queen Lili`uokalani, with the support of native Hawaiians and disenfranchised naturalized citizens, attempted to install a new constitution and correct these injustices.

On January 17, 1893, Sanford Dole and his committee of local businessmen, fearing a loss of economic and political power, took control of and overthrew the Kingdom of Hawai`i with the help of American Marines and declared itself the Provisional Government of Hawai`i “to rule until annexation by the United States.” Contingencies for such overthrow had already been planned at least since the 1887 Bayonet Constitution and was also made possible with the compliance of the Protestant missionary churches that had sprung up all over Hawai`i since the 1820s. Some of the Queen’s supporters were killed as a result of this supposedly “bloodless revolution” while others were imprisoned. The Queen, wanting to avoid further bloodshed, protested the overthrow to the US government, expecting to be reinstated and justice to prevail:

I, Lili`uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the Constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom. That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the Provisional Government. Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”

Dole and his co-conspirators lobbied immediately in Washington for annexation to the United States of America while members of the Hawaiian Kingdom lobbied to restore it. USA President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, considered the overthrow to be an illegal act of war. He refused to consider annexation of the islands and initially attempted to restore the Queen to her throne. The largely Republican business elite then proclaimed Hawai`i the Republic of Hawai`i and decided to wait until President Cleveland’s second term was finished to try again for annexation with a new, hopefully Republican president. On January 5, 1895, native Hawaiian freedom fighters attempted a counterrevolution which failed when some of them were gunned down by the vastly superior forces of the white business elite. Queen Lili`uokalani was arrested on treason charges, was placed under permanent house arrest and was finally forced to abdicate the throne. After the failed coup, the USA staged an invasion of Hawai`i. A puppet government was installed which “ceded” the islands to the USA.

When William McKinley, a Republican, became president on March 4, 1897, it started a predominance of the Republican Party. His Republican Party had already undermined the efforts of President Cleveland to restore the Kingdom of Hawai`i as they strongly supported annexation for the sake of strategic military and economic interests under their doctrine of “Manifest Destiny” (policy of imperialistic expansion justified/defended as necessary or benevolent). At McKinley’s request a new treaty of annexation was signed and sent to Congress for approval. In response, the Hawaiian Patriotic League and its female counterpart petitioned Congress, opposing it. In September and October of that year, Hui Aloha `Āina collected 556 pages for a total of 21,269 signatures of native Hawaiians, or over half of the native residents, opposing annexation. Hui Kālai`āina collected another 17,000 signatures for restoring the monarchy. While they were able to defeat McKinley’s annexation treaty in 1897, Congress, in 1898, passed the Newlands Resolution and illegally annexed the Kingdom of Hawai`i. The USA desired Pearl Harbor and Hawai`i as a strategic Pacific military base during the Spanish-American War and also for their further territorial expansion in the Pacific. Queen Lili`uokalani pointed out that annexing the islands without compensation to the Hawaiian government (and its people) amounted to theft and strongly opposed it.

The quick, forced inclusion of the Hawaiian Islands into the USA was part of a larger system adopted, whereby all colonies of predominantly non-Caucasians were assigned as territories. There was great concern in the US Congress that the new Hawai`i territory could become the first to be ruled by a non-white majority if voting rights would be extended to all (not only white) males who were citizens of the islands in 1898. However, the new territory put rules and regulations in place that largely further disenfranchised the non-white majority, even to the point of forbidding the teaching of the native Hawaiian language in school.

After their short and largely one-sided 1898 war against Spain, the USA, in 1899, also annexed the former Spanish colonies Puerto Rico, Guam and Philippines at the Treaty of Paris while promising freedom to Cuba. Spain ceded its colonial power in the Pacific to the US, making it an imperial power. The new Hawai`i territories continued to serve as an important military base in the subsequent drawn-out brutal war by the US to defeat the Filipino freedom fighters who had previously fought the Spanish for their independence since 1896, had largely supported the Americans during their short war with Spain, and had then felt betrayed by them. This bloody war of independence dragged on into the 20th century and finally resulted in the defeat of the Filipino freedom fighters.
President McKinley was assassinated in September 1901 at the beginning of his second term in office and his Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became president, continuing the same policies of “Divine Destiny.” Prominent native Hawaiians such as Prince Kuhio and John Henry Wise, while initially strongly opposing the Republican Party, finally joined it in order to have a voice to better the conditions of native Hawaiians. They were successful in their attempt to help establish the Hawaiian Home Commission Act of 1921 that, however, set aside only 200,000 acres of often questionable land for homesteading (Hawaiian Home Lands) so that “Hawaiians could again become self-sufficient, because by nature they were farmers and fishermen and had been forced into the cities through the theft of their lands.” Additional painful business concessions forced on them further disenfranchised Hawaiians and also defined them as persons with 50% or more Hawaiian blood, dividing the Hawaiian community itself. It served the Republican majority well in their continued economic and political control of the islands.

The Democratic Party, founded in 1900 in opposition to the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and to help bring Hawaiian people into government, became the dominant party in Hawai`i after the territory became a USA state in 1959.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, and the Congress of the United States apologized to native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States “for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai`i and the deprivation of the rights of native Hawaiians to self-determination.”
However, recognition and compensation could not be achieved thereafter largely because of opposition from Republicans in Congress.

Nov. 23, 1993 – President Bill Clinton signs US Public Law 103-150 -the Apology Resolution for the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai`i (a key excerpt of which is shown on the back of the Hawaiian Kingdom T-shirts).Left to right: Vice President Al Gore and the Hawaiian delegation to Congress (Daniel Inouye, Patsy Mink, Neil Abercrombie – now governor of Hawai`i- and Daniel Akaka) are witnessing the signing ceremony.

UA MAU KE EA O KA `ĀINA I KA PONO – The Life of the Land is Perpetuated in Righteousness
Since the 1840s the motto of the Kingdom of Hawai`i and since 1959 also the official motto of the State of Hawai`i, the 50th state of the USA.

The 1778 arrival of British explorer James Cook was Hawaii’s first documented contact with European explorers. Cook named the islands the “Sandwich Islands” in honor of his sponsor John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

After Cook’s visit and the publication of several books relating his voyages, the Hawaiian islands received many European visitors, bearing somewhat dubious gifts: by 1820, Eurasian diseases, famine, and wars among the chiefs killed more than half of the native Hawaiian population. During the 1850s, measles killed a fifth of Hawaii’s remaining people. Moreover, missionaries flowed into the islands, intent on converting many Hawaiians to Christianity.

Hawaii became a key provisioning spot for American whaling ships and a new source of sugar cane production. But leaders in Washington were concerned that Hawaii might become part of a European nation’s empire. During the 1830s, Britain and France compelled Hawaii to accept treaties giving their own countries economic privileges.

In 1887, the king was coerced into signing the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawaii, which stripped him of much of his authority. The constitution also instituted income and wealth requirements for voting, disenfranchising most Hawaiians and immigrant laborers, and favoring the wealthier white community. Because the 1887 Constitution was signed under threat of violence, it is known as the “Bayonet Constitution”. King Kalākaua, reduced to a figurehead, reigned until his death in 1891. His sister, Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him on the throne.

In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani announced plans for a new constitution restoring rights to Hawaiians. This of course was unacceptable. On January 14, 1893, a group of mostly Euro-American business leaders and residents formed a Committee of Safety to overthrow the Kingdom and seek annexation by the United States. The U.S. Government Minister, responding to a request from the Committee of Safety, summoned a company of U.S. Marines. As one historian noted, the presence of these troops effectively made it impossible for the monarchy to protect itself.

On January 17, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a Provisional Government composed of members of the Committee of Safety. Sanford B. Dole was named president of the Provisional Government of Hawaii that was formed after the coup.

Controversy filled the following years as the queen tried to re-establish her throne. The administration of President Grover Cleveland requested an investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Relations Committee, and the subsequent 1893 “Blount Report” provided evidence that officially identified the United States’ complicity in “the lawless overthrow of the lawful, peaceful government of Hawaii.”

President Grover Cleveland

The Blount Report however was followed in 1894 by the Morgan Report. This report concluded that the overthrow was locally based, motivated by a history of corruption of the monarchy, and that American troops only served to protect American property and citizens, and had no role in the end of the Hawaiian monarchy.

After William McKinley won the presidential election in 1896, Hawaii’s annexation to the U.S. was again discussed. The previous president, Grover Cleveland, was a friend of Queen Liliʻuokalani, unlike the new president. McKinley was open to persuasion by U.S. expansionists and by annexationists from Hawaii. After negotiations, in June 1897, Secretary of State John Sherman agreed to a treaty of annexation. It was signed in 1898 by President McKinley, but it failed in the Senate.

Instead, the Newlands Resolution was used to annex the Republic to the United States. This was a joint resolution written by and named after United States Congressman Francis G. Newlands. It was an Act of Congress to annex the Republic of Hawaii and create the Territory of Hawaii.

The Newlands Resolution established a five-member commission to report to Congress on which laws were needed in Hawaii. The commission included: Territorial Governor Sanford B. Dole (R-Hawaii Territory), Senators Shelby M. Cullom (R-IL) and John T. Morgan (D-AL), Representative Robert R. Hitt (R-IL), and former Hawaii Chief Justice and later Territorial Governor Walter F. Frear (R-Hawaii Territory).

President William McKinley appointed Dole to become the first territorial governor after U.S. annexation of Hawaii, and Dole assumed the office on June 14, 1900. He resigned however in November, 1903 to accept an appointment by Theodore Roosevelt as judge for the U.S. District Court, serving in that post until December 16, 1915.

In the 1950s the power of the plantation owners was finally broken by descendants of immigrant laborers. Because they were born in a U.S. territory, they were legal U.S. citizens. The Hawaii Republican Party, strongly supported by plantation owners, was voted out of office. Eager to gain full voting rights, Hawaii’s residents actively campaigned for statehood.

In March 1959, Congress passed the Hawaii Admission Act and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. Hawaii joined the Union on August 21, 1959, and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands.

In 1993, a joint Apology Resolution (Public Law 103-150) regarding the takeover was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton. It issued:

. . . .apologizes to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the people of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893 with the participation of agents and citizens of the United States, and the deprivation of the rights of Native Hawaiians to self-determination…”

Watch the video: How the US Stole Hawaii