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4 July 2009

On this day in history: Creation of the Republic of Hawaii, 1894

In 1810, King Kamehameha the Great conquered all the Hawaiian islands and formed them into a unified monarchy. His dynasty lasted until 1872, when King Kamehameha V died with no direct heir and no named successor. As required by the constitution, the legislature elected his successor. They chose his cousin who was crowned King William Charles Lunalilo.

This most liberal of kings had a short reign and was succeeded by the more conservative King David Kalākaua I, who the island élite forced to accept a new constitution in 1887 (the so-called Bayonet Constitution), which not only removed most of his executive powers but also disenfranchised the native islanders and the poor. When his successor, Queen Lydia Liliuokalani, tried to institute a new constitution the Hawaiian League, made up of native businessmen and white citizens and residents, formed Citizen's Committee of Public Safety, which succeeded in a bloodless coup d'etat on 17th January 1893 and installed a provisional government.

From the outset, the Hawaiian League's intended for Hawaii to become part of the United States of America. However, following the presidential election defeat of Benjamin Harrison, who supported annexation, by Grover Cleveland, who did not, they decided to establish a republican government to thwart any attempt by President Cleveland to restore the monarchy. The Provisional Government convened a Constitutional Convention in the spring of 1894, which drafted a constitution.

On 4th July 1894, the Republic of Hawaiʻi came into existence with Sanford B. Dole as president. A failed royalist counter-revolution led by Robert William Wilcox six months later implicated the former queen, who faced trial for "misprision of treason," because she knew that weapons to be used in the insurgency had been secreted on the grounds of her residence. The trial resulted in a guilty verdict and she received a sentence of five years imprisonment with hard labour; although, she only served eight months under house arrest and a few months later received a pardon.

In 1897 William McKinley became US President. He was more amenable to annexation of Hawai'i, and negotiations between the two governments resumed. Following the passage of a bill through the Senate and the House of Representatives, on 12th August 1898, Hawaii became United States Territory.

To learn more about US involvement in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy and to read various treaties between the two states and Hawaiian constitutions, see the excellent Morgan Report wiki.

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3 comments:

grayspirit said...

A very nice piece on how Hawaii's monarchy was overthrown. It remains an issue for some segment of the native Hawaiian population who would like to see the monarchy restored. It's not likely to happen, but a good lesson on American foreign policy wanting to gain more power in the Pacific.

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god bless hawaii

Stepterix said...

Thanks for the comments.