What events led to the annexation of Hawaii? Was it the policy of the U.S. government to promote Hawaiian independence? Or was the territory annexed primarily to deny the indigenous peoples of Hawaii their rightful place in the land?
The story of the Hawaii Annexation is a story of conflicting goals as the white businessmen struggled to obtain favorable trade conditions and native Hawaiians sought to protect their cultural heritage and maintain a national identity. Ultimately, the interests of the businessmen won out, and over the coming decades, most historians who wrote the history of Hawaii emphasized events as told by the Provisional Government and largely neglected the struggle of the native Hawaiians. Today, there is a growing movement on the Islands to revive interest in the native Hawaiian language and culture.
How did the U.S. come to own the Hawaiian Islands? The short answer is, Uncle Sam. After the Civil War, raw materials and finished products shifted offshore to reduce costs. The sugar industry expanded, and American consumers became accustomed to cheaper and more versatile sugar. The result was that by the time the United States was ready to invest in the islands, sugar growers had shifted their attention to other markets, including the United States.
How did the U.S. get its information about Hawaii? It had better have been pretty good. After the Civil War, ambitious planters in the sugar trade began using the newly-discovered Hawaiian islands as a mid-Pacific fueling station and naval installation. Soon it was decided that Hawaii was the most economically viable location to build a naval base. Base construction began in the 1840s, and by 1900, the population of Hawaii was more than doubled to 18,000. How could this possibly have been a bad idea?
In this sanitized version, John Stevens is blamed for the Hawaiian Revolution of 1887, but he is exonerated by a report from the U.S. Navy. That report says that “there was a general understanding that under the previous Government the Islands should be relinquished to avoid the appearance of an act of war.
What events led to the annexation of Hawaii? What were the political motivations for the U.S. to annex the Hawaiian Islands? Why was the Hawaiian revolution suppressed by the U.S. government? These and other questions surround the story of the Hawaiian Islands, and should be addressed by those who created and managed them.
The story of the Hawaiian Islands is a story of conflicting goals as the white businessmen struggled to obtain favorable trade conditions in Hawaii. The native Hawaiians, who made the islands their homelands, wanted nothing to do with a U.S. sugar monopoly. In 1887, on the eve of the first world war, Queen Liliuokalani made a humiliating concession to the imperialist powers by abrogating her constitutional right to rule by proclaiming herself President of the Hawaiian Islands.
The rationale for the U.S. role in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Queen is a familiar one. President Benjamin Harrison had concluded that the native Hawaiians had not been adequately represented in Congress, and so moved to sign a resolution annexing the Hawaiian Islands to stop the flow of Native Hawaiian land to the United States.
The rationale for continuing to lease the Hawaiian islands after the 1880s is that they were never truly Hawaiian. The first settlers came from China, followed by Japan, then Polynesia, then Hawaii. The language spoken there was Hawaiian, not Ojo, and the religions were distinct. The dominant view among Hawaiians was that the Hawaiian islands were an extension of the mainland United States, rather than a separate nation within the United States.
A historical narrative of the Hawaiian Islands, written by the native Hawaiians in 1887, describes how the native Hawaiians staged a coup against the native Hawaiian King Kalakaua in 1894, and then declared a Republic in 1895. The Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed in 1897, and soon the Republic of Hawaii was widely recognized around the world.
What events led to the annexation of Hawaii?
By 1898, Congress had approved a tariff that raised import rates on foreign sugar, causing a depression in Hawaii. The U.S. government hoped that by driving sugar producers out of Hawaii and into the United States, the new government in Honolulu, would be able to raise prices. The policies of the United States of America and particularly its support for Hawaiian nationalism, were considered by the State Department as having contributed to the annexation.
Was the Hawaiian revolution illegal?
No. The U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “The United States claims that it has established that there was a lawful government, and that the usurpers against the constitutional monarchy were duly constituted and disarmed by the usurpers occupying the Constitutional Government.”
What are some of the issues raised by the historical debate over the annexation of Hawaii?
The main argument for the annexation of Hawaii is that Hawaii was illegally annexed by the United States. However, there are also arguments that the U.S. was never officially annexed by Hawaii. The argument for independence can be made both ways.
The argument for Hawaii independence can be made either way. But the historical record clearly shows that the native Hawaiians, and especially the women, overwhelmingly supported the monarchy.
For example, take the following excerpt from a letter written by an anti-imperialist to a friend on January 17, 1893, shortly before Queen Liliuokalani was shot to death in Hawaii’s capital Honolulu.
My Dear Abby, I am writing to you from the hospital bed in Honolulu where I have been recovering from a bullet to the chest. My dear Abby, it is with a heavy heart that I tell you this. My former friend, the Hon. John Stevens, President of the Hawaiian League, expressed his sympathy in a letter to the editor of the Honolulu Advertiser. “I am sorry that the news of your Majesty’s Government’s action has come to pass,” he wrote. “I have no doubt but that the action will be regarded as an act of war by the United States.