Last modified on 26 July 2014, at 02:17

History of Hawaii/End of Independence

The End of the Kamehameha Line of KingsEdit

King Kamehameha V. Ruled: November 30, 1863 — December 11, 1872

On December 11, 1872, the last ruler from the Kamehameha dynasty, Kamehameha V, passed away in the Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Unfortunately, Kamehameha died without naming a suitable successor to the throne. Since Kamehameha did not have an heir, his death brought an end to the reign of the House of Kamahameha dynasty in Hawaii. This produced a situation that native Hawaiians had never encountered before. Because of the absence of a viable heir, members of the government decided that the new monarch should be chosen by an election, rather than being directly appointed. For the first time since the founding of the government, the natives were called upon to select their own ruler. Needless to say, this was a rather significant event. Giving the people a choice in the selection of a ruler was a definite move towards a more modern mode of governance. However, this also filled some of the American people living in Hawaii with a sense of fear. People imagined that there would be some kind of crisis involving opposition to one of the candidates. Luckily that imagined crisis never occurred. Instead, the entire election progressed relatively peacefully and two strong candidates quickly emerging to fight for the throne.

The Election of King Lunalilo, 1873-1874Edit

King William Charles Lunalilo. Ruled: January 8, 1873–February 3, 1874.

The two candidates who emerged from the line of succession were William Charles Lunalilo and David Kalākaua. Lunalilo, who was a distant cousin of the previous king and therefore the closest possible link to the Kamehameha line, promised a democratic and even liberal administration based on the rule and will of the people. During his campaign, he promoted his desire to support American interests, as opposed to English interests, which was popular in parts of Hawaii. He wanted to create a more liberal constitution, in contrast to his opponent, Kalākaua, who appealed to native patriotism through the restoration of the native Hawaiian rule and abolition of the constitution. Kalākaua denounced the growing foreign control of Hawaiian political affairs, which he claimed did not have the best interests of Hawaiians at heart.

Ultimately, Lunalilo secured the popular vote and was elected king on January 8, 1873, just shy of the one month anniversary of Kamehameha V's death. During his one-year reign, King Lunalilo attempted unsuccessfully to bring back the original constitution amid threats of U.S. annexation. King Lunalilo, like King Kamehameha V, refused to name a successor because he preferred the selection of the leader to be made democratically. Lunalilo died of tuberculosis on February 3, 1874.

The Election and Reign of David Kalākaua 1874-1891Edit

King David Kalākaua. Ruled: February 12, 1874 — January 20, 1891.

David Kalākaua, who was the seventh King of Hawaii, reigned from the year 1874 until 1891. He had previously stood for election as monarch, but was defeated by the future King Lunalilo.

After the death of Lunalilo, Kalākaua once again arose as a candidate for King, this time opposed by Queen Emma, the wife of King Kamehameha IV. Queen Emma claimed she was to inherit the throne from Lunalilo because he had promised it to her. She wrote several letters to her cousin mentioning Lunalilo’s wishes to make her the heir. However, since he never legally made the pronouncement, her claim proved invalid. Queen Emma urged her followers, the “Queenites” to stir up competitive propaganda against Kalākaua, and chant outside the Legislature on Election Day.

On the day of the election, the Legislative Assembly announced the votes were thirty-nine for Kalākaua and six for Queen Emma. Once the results were announced the Queenite mob broke into the courthouse in an uproar and attacked members of the Assembly who did not vote for the Queen. They ransacked the building and vandalized the offices of both the Attorney General and Judge Hartwell. Kalākaua, some Ministers, and the Governor of Oahu requested that the American Minister Peirce land an armed force to help put down this riot. Within minutes, 150 marines and 70 men from the H.B.M Tenedos were ashore and scared the rioters away with their force and numbers. The men marched towards the Legislative Assembly and once they were spotted the Queenites “ran like rats”. Kalākaua asked Emma to tell her people to stand down and to support him as the leader. She did so promptly.

After the riots subsided, Kalākaua toured the country in an effort to gain popularity among the people by throwing parties and selling his happy demeanor to the public.

The Reciprocity TreatyEdit

King Kalākaua of Hawaii meets President Ulysses S. Grant at the White House in the first state visit for a ruling monarch to the USA in December 1874.
King Kalākaua and members of the Reciprocity Commission: John Owen Dominis, Governor of Oahu; Luther W. Severance, Kalākaua; Henry A. Peirce, the presiding U.S. Commissioner to Hawaii; and John M. Kapena, Governor of Maui.

Under pressure from his cabinet Kalākaua travelled to Washington D.C. to meet with President Ulysses S. Grant about a possible reciprocity agreement. King Kalākaua’s willingness to go to the United States to negotiate a treaty surprised many people in Hawaii because he had built his entire campaign on the eviction of foreigners and making Hawaii self-sustaining. His sudden change of policy once elected may have been due to a majority of people, mainly businessmen and farmers, wanting a treaty with the United States. The bulk of the revenue-producing sugar plantations were now owned by wealthy, western businessmen following the disintegration of the feudal system while the descendants of the earliest American missionaries now held prominent positions within the constitutional monarchy of Hawaii Kalākaua's advisers accelerated the sudden change in beliefs as they were very influential on his decisions and policy making. In 1875, Kalākauamet with U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant to draft a treaty and reaffirm Hawaii’s independence. The Reciprocity Treaty was signed and ratified by both parties. It involved the ceding of land, including Pearl Harbor, to the United States free of cost in exchange for duty free Hawaiian sugar and rice exports and an acknowledgement of Hawaiian sovereignty. The United States agreed to the treaty in part because they feared that if they did not, England or France would strike a similar deal with Hawaii, stripping the United States of its advantage in Hawaiian trade. While the pro-English citizens were unhappy with the treaty the vast majority of Hawaiians, especially farmers and businessmen, profited from the treaty. In spite of this, large scale protests did occur which temporarily halted negotiations.

Japanese and Chinese ImmigrationEdit

Chinese immigrant family living in Honolulu in 1893.

The Reciprocity Treaty enormously accelerated the growth of the sugar industry. During the next few years, the economy of the kingdom became largely dependent on the sugar industry, and in turn, became almost totally dependent on the American market. Another effect of the treaty was the increase in the importation of cheap laborers, especially Chinese and Japanese, to work on plantations. The arrival of Japanese labourers in 1885 was a significant contributing factor leading to the coup d’état against the Queen of Hawaii years later. By 1884, Chinese immigrant population in the Kingdom of Hawaii had reached 22% and a law was introduced that limited further Chinese immigration. The Japanese labourers, meanwhile, arrived in large numbers and composed a very large ethnic minority labour force which came to make up over 40% of Hawaii’s population. Though Japanese migrants composed a pool of inexpensive labour, they proved quick to assert their expectations about labour conditions and frequently went on strike. This was of immense concern to plantation owners, their contacts in the American government, and for American foreign policy as Japan, under the Meiji restoration, was developing rapidly and promoting expansionist policies. Rumours circulated that the Japanese labourers in Hawaii were actually an underground military force with the capacity to gain control over the islands. These factors, no doubt contributed to American intervention in Hawaiian affairs.

The Aki Opium ScandalEdit

Confiscated opium pipes in Hawaii are piled up and readied for burning in this photo circa 1920.

Opium arrived in Hawaii along with the first Chinese laborers and its traffic was soon controlled by the government. The Hawaiian government was always in need of revenue and aspired to regulate and profit from the opium trade. They began to issue costly licenses in 1860, hoping to benefit from bidding wars between rival Hui. This was followed by a period in which opium was made illegal, but smuggling and corruption were rampant. In 1886, despite vigorous protests emerging from all reaches of the Kingdom, it was deemed legal upon reception of a license to use and purchase opium. The license was issued on a four year contract and would cost upwards of $30,000 annually. Inevitably, the situation became too volatile to be contained and in early June of 1887 a scandal broke. During the fall of 1886, one of the king’s followers, Junius Kaae, had suggested to a Chinese rice planter named Tong Kee, or Aki, that a “present” of $75,000 given to the king would guarantee him a license. The situation translated to scandal, however, when a second Chinese syndicate offered $5,000 more to the King, without first securing the license in hand. When Aki was denied his license, as well as the reimbursement of his "present", he revealed the situation to major Honolulu newspapers. The following October, the cabinet also learned that the king had accumulated private debts of nearly $250,000 and he was forced to assign his estates and crown land revenues to a board of trustees empowered to settle the claims. The accumulation and subsequent exposure of illegitimate activity in the Monarchy escalated the mobilization of Kalākaua’s enemies to secretly plot his imminent collapse.

The HaoleEdit

Asa Thurston (1787–1868) and Lucy Goodale Thurston (1795–1876)Some of the first Missionaries in Hawaii, Grandparents of Lorrin A. Thurston (1857–1931), Contributor to the Bayonet Constitution

The driving force behind Hawaiian Annexation was the Haole. Haole is a Hawaiian term used to describe white Americans or foreigners that reside in Hawaii. The Haole were descendants of missionaries who had travelled to and began living in Hawaii to help bring enlightenment and civilization by converting the native Hawaiian population to Christianity. The Haole were made up of grandsons and sons of missionaries, as well as sugar cane plantation owners and businessmen who saw the current Hawaiian government as a regression to a savage culture and thought it was a foolish comic apparatus without their control or leadership. The Haole were the main group behind the series of political events that would lead to the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and Hawaii's annexation into the United States.

The Haole had three reasons for why they were in favour of making Hawaii another American state. The first reason was that the U.S. and Europe had been establishing sugar plantations on the islands and wanted a Reciprocity Treaty so they could sell their sugar to the large U.S. market, duty free. The second reason is that the Haole were the sons and grandsons of missionaries and had a sense of superiority over the native Hawaiian population since birth because they were white Americans. The third and final reason was the fact that the Haole did not respect the current government and leadership that controlled Hawaii and saw monarchy as a savage culture that was foolish, comic and regressive. Overall, the desire for annexation stemmed from business, racism, and imperialism which were three traits that most white Americans living in Hawaii at the time promoted.

The Haole of Hawaii were able to use political events to overthrow the monarchy and cause the annexation of Hawaii. The first example of Haole involvement in Hawaiian politics was during the nineteenth century when many descendants of the missionaries began gaining key positions in the government and advising the Hawaiians on Western politics and economy. The appointment of the controversial Walter M. Gibson as Prime Minister in 1886, after years of service ranging from: Attorney General, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Interior and Secretary of War further exhibits the Haole's leverage over Hawaiian policies. Gibson was an American adventurer who orginally came to the islands in the 1861 and founded a colony among Mormans, which is widely considered a form of Christianity. He was excommunicated, however, after a church investigation regarding accusations of preaching false doctrine, maladministration of the colony and embezzlement of church funds. Following his dismissal, Gibson then set his sights on the political realm and started a major Honolulu newspaper in 1873 called the Nuhou while also purchasing the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (now The Honolulu Advertiser) in 1880. His newspaper publishings astutely alligned himself with Kalākaua by panegyrizing the perspectives of the King's party, he gained trust and support from not only the King, but the Hawaiian population and he eventually secured a seat in the House of Representatives. John Edward Bush, who was Minister of the Interior at the time and descendant of Caucasian and Hawaiian ancestors, arranged for a government loan, and a guarantee of all government printing contracts. Gibson's media and political ventures were funded by Claus Spreckles, a foreigner and industrialist who dominated the sugar trade on the west coast of Hawaii during the the 19th century. Spreckles had coincidentally granted several personal loans to Kalākaua and with Gibson and other Western immigrants holding prominent positions within the government, the cabinet approved giving Spreckles a large tract of land on Maui to settle his claim on crown lands. During the reign of Kalākaua it was perceived these men had a strong royalist slant seemingly in full support of the monarchy, much to the ire of American plantation owners and politicians in favour of annexation. Upon investigation, however, the roles these men played in the ultimate annexation of Hawaii are undeniable. Gibson's undying loyalty to the King created a bond between the two men, giving Gibson and essentially Spreckles, influence over the King's decisions. Gibson advised on a series of rash political moves by Kalākaua, including the introduction of race-based politics and the idea of a Pacific Empire with aspirations of forming alliances with Polynesian groups in the Pacific. Bush was effectivily dismissed of his role in government by Gibson, following accusations of "irregularities" in the process of awarding public works contracts, contracts mostly benefitting foriegn interests. Spreckles was famed in Hawaii for producing a media publication strongly in support of the King and his administration, but following a decline in revunue he was forced to sell his newspaper. Spreckles sold his media outlet the Hawaiian Gazzete Company, who in turn sold it to Lorrin A. Thurston, widely known as a key player in the organization of the Hawaiian League, who were instrumental in the eventual overthrow of the monarchy. Following Kalākaua's reign over Hawaii, it is interesting to note that celebrated royal supporter, Bush, suddenly lost his confidence in the Monarch and throne successor Queen Liliuokalani. He published periodicals in Hawaii and is quoted as saying "the base of the throne is decayed, and no severe shock will be awaited to topple it over." Instances like this, fuel a fire of suspicion regarding the ultimate motives of these influential, foreign businessmen.

This was the beginning of the Haole’s role in Hawaiian politics and would lead to theBayonet Constitution. Once the Haole were established in the government they decided they needed to take control and did this by forcing the Bayonet Constitution upon King Kalākaua with the support of the U.S. government and U.S. troops. The Bayonet Constitution created an oligarchy of Haole planters and businessmen and destroyed the executive powers of the king and gave them to the cabinet. In practise, this meant that wealthy white foreigners could vote while working class Maka’ainana and Asian immigrants could not. These political events and actions would quickly be protested by Hawaiians in two ways. The first means of protest was the formation of the first Kanaka Maoli political organization and the second way was the 1897 anti-annexation petition containing over twenty one thousand names. These protests would be unsuccessful and the Haole would succeed in gaining annexation of Hawaii by the United States.

The "Bayonet" ConstitutionEdit

Lorrin A. Thurston, A contributor to the Bayonet Constitution, 1887

In 1887, amid accusations of scandal and corruption in the monarchy and after gaining considerable control over the armed forces, a group of cabinet officials and advisers to King Kalākaua, many of whom composed Hawaii's plantation owning elite formed the Hawaiian League. Backed by armed militia, and an organization named the Honolulu Rifles, the Hawaiian League forced Kalākauato sign what is known as the “Bayonet Constitution”, under which the monarchy was stripped of much of its authority, including royal control over land ownership, and income and property requirements were introduced for voting. It was dubbed the "Bayonet Constitution", in light of the armed force used to bring the agreement into existence. The 1887 constitution assured the white oligarchy of larger political control that secured their economic investments in the islands. The radical change in the monarchy's powers and the voting population set a grounds for American annexation that would ultimately lead to the end of Hawaiian independence. The implications of the treaty towards voting rights were also significant. The Constitution removed the voting rights of many immigrant farmers who were allowed to vote previously, and set literacy and economic standards for voting. In addition, it granted voting rights to foreign immigrants who were not Hawaiian citizens, many of whom would favour annexation to reduce taxes on their farming exports. Only males of native Hawaiian, American, or European ancestry were allowed to vote; if they had enough money and educational background. The Hawaiian BAR association claims that two thirds of Hawaii's original voting population was no longer able to vote. Since much of Hawaii's economy relied on agriculture, many Hawaiian farming families were stripped of a right to vote. The Bayonet Constitution destroyed the monarchy which Hawaii had build and distributed the King’s executive powers to a cabinet. In a meeting on June 30th of that year, the King was given a list of demands which included who he may chose for the cabinet and that he may not interfere with new legislation's or legislators. Lands that belonged to Hawaiians were gradually stripped away after this new constitution was passed. These provisions of the Bayonet Constitution enraged the native Hawaiian population, and many petitions were signed protesting annexation. These were to no prevail when sent to Doles new provisional government, which was soon to come. The loss of royal control over Hawaiian lands was both significant and symbolic, as this has historically been the traditional source of the Hawaiian monarchy’s political power. The "Bayonet Constitution" did not pass without resistance, objectors disagreeing with the illegal and revolutionary means of obtaining this constitution claimed another one could be secured just as easily through extortion. The sponsors of the constitution recognized the irregular means in which it was attained, but justify it on the score of necessity and need for a better form of government. In 1889, 70-80 men under Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox on July 30th stormed the palace grounds with the intention of undoing the constitution. Wilcox's revolt was quelled with the assistance of one hundred soldiers from the U.S.S. Adams. The response to the Bayonet Constitution was negative and led to the construction of the Hui Kalai aina, a political group made up of only Hawaiians . The group grew and created a political platform, which opposed the new constitution and wished to preserve the monarchy. In July, a rifle association led by Robert Wilcox assembled at the palace grounds that resulted in a shoot out with the government troops. This act caused armed soldiers of the U.S. to guard the streets . With the presence of U.S. troops and U.S. government officials growing, the culture of Hawaii was suppressed even more. The Americans who came to Hawaii held their identity and did not participate or contribute to the culture of the islands . There was an obvious divide in the Islands and tensions were high.

Political PartiesEdit

Sanford Ballard Dole (April 23, 1844 – June 9, 1926)

During this time period, Hawaii was very much divided amongst various political parties. The descendants of American missionaries and plantation owning elites, including post-coup leader Sanford Dole, created the Reform Party. The reform party supported assimilation into the United States, and favoured American economic interests. Americans living both in Hawaii and the United States saw Hawaii as a valuable military and economic resource. Hawaii would be a perfectly placed fueling post for possible conflict with Spain in the Pacific. In addition, the rich Hawaiian crops, mostly sugar, would be a massive economic benefit to the Americans. In addition, as a new world power, the Americans saw Hawaii as a way to expand their territorial influence. Americans living in Hawaii favoured these conditions of American annexation. The Reform Party took control of the Hawaiian house in 1887 and made efforts to 'ready' the country for American annexation. The reform party was headed by the same people who were responsible for the 1887 Constitution months before the creation of the reform party-this indicates the party's intentions. The Hawaiian National Reform Party was another political party that became more known after 1990. The National Reform Party was meant to oppose the reform or republican party, and arose from an alliance of the white working class and mostly native Hawaiians loyal to the queen and the monarchy. This party posed one of the biggest threats to the Bayonet Constitution by sweeping the 1890 legislative elections. The queen's new cabinet was made up fully of members of the Hawaiian National Reform Party. Other parties, such as the Liberal Party, desired a democratic republic with native Hawaiian self-rule, but chose to tolerate the monarchy in order to oppose the much more conservative Reform Party.

The Republic of Hawaii and the Annexation ClubEdit

Photographs of the Hawaiian League members also known as the Annexation Club. The goal of this group was to achieve annexation of Hawaiʻi to the United States.

After Kalākaua died in 1891, his sister Lili'uokalani became the next and final Hawaiian monarch to assume the throne. Lili'uokalani's government, the legislature, and crown in particular, were at a standstill because the Bayonet Constitution disallowed any action unless approved by the cabinet. At the same time, the constitution gave authority to the legislature to dismiss the cabinet at any time. Liliuokalani, determined to restore the authority of the monarchy and reverse suffrage requirements, drafted a constitution to that end. A group of European and American residents formed the Committee of Safety whose intent was to remove the Queen from power and join the United States. While the exact date of its founding is unknown, the Annexation Club was formed in January or February of 1892 in Honolulu, Hawaii by a small group of foreign residents who supported the annexation of Hawaii to the United States. The Club was founded by Lorrin A. Thurston and Henry E. Cooper in order to bring together foreigners who feared that Queen Lili'uokalani would attempt to subvert the “Bayonet” Constitution of 1887 and create a new absolutist one. Thurston himself was the primary author of the Bayonet Constitution and was a firm believer in both America’s destiny to rule over Hawaii and white superiority over the native Hawaiians. Originally a member of the Hawaiian League, whose goal was to achieve a constitutional representative government in Hawaii by any means necessary, Thurston later came to believe that annexation to the U.S., was the best course for Hawaii. It was believed that the split amongst the Hawaiian population along racial lines ruined the potential for a strong government and thus prevented capital investment in the Kingdom. Annexation was therefore the best way to ensure investment in Hawaii by providing a strong territorial government. The Club was small, never containing more than seventeen members, thirteen of whom constituted the Committee of Safety which would later plan and direct the overthrow of the monarchy. In the meantime, Thurston was sent by the Club to Washington D.C. to determine whether or not American politicians favoured annexation. In Washington, Thurston met with Secretary of the Navy, B.F Tracy, who indicated that President Benjamin Harrison was sympathetic to the Club’s position.

Back in Hawaii, the Club knew that they had two key difficulties to overcome if they were to succeed in getting Hawaii annexed. Firstly, they would need to gain the support of the native Hawaiians. Secondly, it was thought necessary to depose the monarchy. The Club decided to pursue the following course of action in order to achieve their goal; they would secure the appointment of a cabinet that was committed to annexation, educate the Natives in favour of annexation and finally, if successful, bring about annexation via the Hawaiian Legislature. The Club, however, was unsuccessful both at turning public opinion in favour of annexation and in having a pro-annexation cabinet appointed. All the while, Thurston was in communication with the U.S. government about creating an annexation treaty by which the Queen would peacefully relinquish her rights as sovereign in exchange for monetary compensation. These discussions, however, bore no fruit. Having also had no success in installing a cabinet that would introduce annexation legislation, the Annexation Club would have to resort to the use of force to overthrow the monarchy and achieve annexation. Led by the U.S. Minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, three hundred American Marines arrived on the Steamship Boston on January 16th 1893 and were moved ashore in response to claims of an imminent threat to American welfare. Queen Lili'uokalani was overthrown in a bloodless coup, and a provisional government was established under Sanford B. Dole. Stevens officially recognized the Provisional Government and proclaimed Hawaii to be an American protectorate.

President Cleveland and the Blount ReportEdit

James Henderson Blount

The Provisional Government had signed a treaty of annexation with President Benjamin Harrison, but the treaty had not passed through the senate by the time Grover Cleveland replaced Harrison as president. Cleveland withdrew the treaty and commissioned James Blount to investigate the events that occurred in Hawaii leading up to the creation of the Provisional Government. In his investigation Blount concluded that “The undoubted sentiment of the people is for the Queen, against the Provisional Government and against annexation”. Blount Subsequently “directed the removal of the flag of the United States from the government buildings and the return of the American troops to their vessels”. Blount also determined that the Queen should be returned to power. The Provisional Government however, refused to give up the power that they had. The President of the Provisional Government, Stanford Dole, refused to return the queen to power on the basis that the United States had no right to interfere in the affairs of Hawaii; therefore, they did not have to do what Blount and the American government had told them to do. The American Government agreed with Dole and did not force the Provisional Government to give up its power. The Provisional Government subsequently proclaimed Hawaii a republic, which was recognized by the United States, in 1894.

The Native Reaction to the Provisional GovernmentEdit

The actions of the Provisional Government in overthrowing of Queen Lili’uokalani and creating the Republic of Hawaii were against the will of the natives of Hawaii. As a response to the Provisional Government, Native Hawaiians staged massive protests and formed two groups to protest the actions of the Provisional Government and to prevent annexation by the United States. The Groups, whose names roughly translate to Hawaiian Patriotic League, were the Hui Hawaii Aloha Aina (for men), and the Hui Hawaii Aloha Aina o Na Wahine (for women) 1. In 1895, these protest groups turned violent and made an armed attempt to take power from the progressing movement for annexation. The revolt was supressed by the Hawaiian Republics forces. The leaders of the revolt and Queen Lili’uokalani were imprisoned as a result.

The End of Hawaiian IndependenceEdit

The Honolulu Rifles (1854—1893) in full uniform.
On August 12, 1898, the flag of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi over ʻIolani Palace was lowered to raise the United States flag to signify annexation.

When the revolution finally took place on January 17th 1893, Queen Lili'uokalani did not want any bloodshed or loss of life, and she surrendered to the army, the Honolulu Rifles, then proceeded to disarm the royal army taking over buildings and proclaimed a provisional government. Once the provisional government was in control there was still debate on whether to keep the government in its current state or immediately annex to the United States. Since the Queen even though she had been overthrown had not officially abdicated her thrown the Hawaiian government was in a state of exile, it only took a week for Queen Lili'uokalani to formally abdicate her title in hopes to avoid further bloodshed. During the administration of U.S. President William McKinley, a treaty for the annexation of Hawaii initially failed in the Senate in 1898. However, the Newlands Resolution was passed on July 7, 1898, under which Hawaii was annexed and became the American Territory of Hawaii and lost much of their culture and identity.

To learn more about the End of Hawaiian Independence this documentary focuses on Queen Lili'uokalani it is called "Hawaii's Last Queen".