The 19th century will live in infamy in Hawaiian hearts; it was a century of great change in Hawaiian society. The old system of mana and the sharing of the land were slowly replaced, the arrival of missionaries would signal the period of greatest change in Hawaiian society. Between the arrival of Captain James Cook and the missionaries, the Hawaiian monarchy was able to maintain some sort of independence and keep the old Hawaiian system in place. Everything began to change that eventually lead to the overthrow of the monarchy and the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States. This was a very long process and it is hard to decipher who was responsible for the overthrow of the monarchy
What part did Queen Lili’uokalani play in the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy? What actions did she initiate that provoked the Annexation group to arise and take over the Hawaiian kingdom that would become the republic of Hawaii and eventually be annexed to the United States? Was the queen the one to blame for the annexation of Hawaii? These are some of the questions that I would like to answer. The position of the queen and the influence she had on the whole affair is unclear to me at this point.
Queen Lili’uokalani was born Lili’u Kamaka’eha on September 2, 1838. After her birth she was taken away and adopted by Konia, who was granddaughter of King Kamehameha the Great. They did this so that everyone in the higher positions in Hawaiian society would have a stake in everyone’s family. The whole society was supposed to be like one large family.
At age four Lili’u attended the royal school Run by the missionaries Amos Cooke and his wife. There she studied for over six hours a day after school and became a very good student. Lili’u also developed Christian beliefs that she would carry with her for the rest of her life. The school closed in Lili’u went to school closer to home. This made her very happy because she did not like the boarding school very much and missed her family a lot . Lili’u married at 24 years of age to John Owen Dominis, son of a very prominent ship captain. At the time of her wedding she moved to Washington Place until 1868 when she inherited some land in Waikiki. Lili’u loved this house and she loved to share in the beauty of the land in Waikiki. She would let all kinds of people stay at her house. People as prominent as Captains of ships down to the footmen and deckhands, she was a very compassionate women.
In 1877 Kalakaua called Lilil’u to the palace and told her she was going to be named his heir apparent under the name of Princess Lili’uokalani . Her first reaction was one of dismay and shock, she believed that this name was not a name at all. Kalakaua reminded her that her name meant ?sore eye?, then she retorted that his name meant ?battle day?2.These little reactions can be an example of the Queen’s stubbornness that would play a huge role in the way she would later run the kingdom. She did not like change that much either, this attitude would also play an important role with the way she would try to run her cabinet and kingdom. In 1891 Kalakaua went on a world tour to help broaden his horizons and he appointed Princess Lili’uokalani as regent of Hawaii. Kalakaua died in San Francisco and Lili’uokalani became queen. Hawaii would never be the same again.
A lot of events had taken place during the five years before Lili’uokalani had taken the throne from her brother. King Kalakaua had a tumultuous reign as King. In 1872, the cost of maintaining the King, the royal family and the military were $144,350 by 1886 the cost had more than tripled to $462,436 .How could the king and his family justify this cost? The Hawaiian kingdom would be driven into further debt because of the lavish spending of King Kalakaua and his royal family. The argument that has presented before me is that he was trying to establish the Hawaiian monarchy as a real player in world affairs. I still don’t see how you can justify spending that much money and put your people in debt with outside peoples. The reign of Kalakaua also brought conspiracy such as, the unscrupulous handling of the liquor license and the opium debate that raged throughout the kingdom. This brought about a revision to the Constitution and it became known as the ?Bayonet Constitution?. The Constitution of 1887 was meant to perfect power. Its provisions, according to its supporters, were bulwarks of liberty . The Constitution of 1887 was established to take some power away from the monarch and equally distribute it amongst the leaders of the Hawaiian society. It made the upper house of the legislature elective rather than appointive, which meant they could now vote for nobles as well. To vote you needed to meet the qualifications, an income of six hundred dollars a year or taxable property worth three thousand dollars. This qualification did exclude two out of three Hawaiians but Daws argues that ?it simply offered them an incentive to better their condition as individuals and thus earn there right to part in responsible politics? . The groundwork was laid for a fight to the finish, who really controlled the islands. The natives did not have much say in the Constitution of 1887 because most of the power sat in the hands of the haole elite. Kalakaua could not do much about this because he was concerned about foreign affairs at this point. With Kalakaua touring the world and trying to establish Hawaii as a sovereign nation, recognized amongst other great nations of their time, his sister waited in the wings. Little did she know that she would be thrust into the spotlight a lot sooner than expected.
Lili’uokalani took the throne upon the news of her brother’s death when he arrived back in Hawaii in 1891. When she took the throne she swore to uphold the Constitution of 1887 even though later on she said ?This constitution never in any way ratified, either by the people, or by their representatives, even after violence had procured the king’s signature to it? . From the beginning Lili’uokalani wanted to establish that she had the power in the kingdom and that Constitution that passed was had no bearing on her decisions. She wanted to take power away from the people and move toward a more absolute monarchy. This could not have come at a worse time in Hawaiian society, the growing influence of the merchant class and the ever-growing power of the sugar industry in Hawaiian society caused many problems. In 1891 with the United States passing of the McKinley Act made Hawaii’s situation even worse. The McKinley act placed no tariffs on sugar imported in the United States; this crippled Hawaii’s sugar industry more and set the Hawaiian economy in despair. ?When the Sugar industry was in trouble the whole kingdom was in trouble? . This presented Lili’uokalani with a problem, should she try to satisfy the plantation owners and try to help the United States in the process or she should go off on her own tangent?
The problem that Lili’uokalani faced was she did not have the political skills to rule during that time of turmoil. I believe this is why the annexation of the Hawaiian Kingdom was mostly her fault. She isolated several groups of people and made them feel that and overthrow was the only way out. Even people who had been staunch monarchists through the whole process started to dislike the way she was running the kingdom. One of the most outspoken adversaries of Lili’uokalani was J.L. Kaulukou, who one time was a strong royalist and even gave her the name ?onipaa? which means steadfast. Lili’uokalani even adopted that as her personal motto and it is widely used today by sovereignty activists . He was the appointed Marshall of the Hawaiian Kingdom, from 1884-1888, and he said in 1898:
?I regard annexation as the best thing that could happen for Hawaii, both native and foreign population. Ever since it became an issue in practical politics and I rejoice heartily that it has come. For years I have looked upon it as being, if not inevitable, at least as the only way in which best interests of Hawaii could be protected and advanced?7.
He believed the queen was trying to overwrite everything that was passed by a popular vote. This perturbed him because he was on these committees that helped get those things through the legislature. He believed the interests of the natives and the foreigners were both the same. They both wanted a stable, efficient, and well run government and the queen could no longer offer that . Over and over again the queen was making people mad with her revisionist government. One measure that made that fueled the revolutionists fire was her proposal for a lottery. ?She proposed such measures as raising money through a lottery and licensing of opium, and having her cabinet members serving her pleasures (the power elite filled her cabinet)? . This was definitely against the people in power and they could not stand her anymore. I think she should have tried to play a more political role in her dealings with the people who had power. She did not believe that people such as Sanford B. Dole amongst others should have any say in the Hawaiian government.
Lili’uokalani did do some things during her short reign that definitely isolated the people of her kingdom, both foreign and native alike. She tried to restore the kingdom back to the way it was earlier in the century, with direct say of the government mostly stemming from the Queen and her advisors. She did not want the haole elite to be involved with the Hawaiian government. I can understand this from her point of view but I think that Hawaiian society had reached a point of no return. There was no way to go back to the old system and with the sugar industry establishing a strong foothold in the government and the having a large say, I believe Lili’uokalani should have tried to work with them. She did appoint them to her Privy Council, or advising committee. Members that included Sanford B. Dole, Abraham Fernandez, and John Richardson, among others . These would be the people that would eventually overthrow her and take over her government. She would arrest some of the people that used to be royalists.
Robert Wilcox and V. Ashford among them, but they no longer agreed with her . They no longer could stand the way Lili’uokalani was running the government so they spoke out against it. This made many people in her advisory council mad and they started to believe that she could no longer be a capable leader.
I do believe a major reason for the overthrow and eventual annexation of Hawaii was the McKinley act of 1891, which basically made the reciprocity treaty of 1887 seem just like a ploy by the United States to gain control of Pearl Harbor. The McKinley act of 1891 allowed all the sugar in the world to be free of any kind of tariff. ?The United States had Pearl Harbor, but Hawaiian Sugar no longer had any advantage over any other foreign sugar? . This would cause a major depression in the Hawaiian Kingdom and every time there is a depression someone will get blamed for it. The people would start to blame Lili’uokalani and she seemed very complacent. The sugar plantation owners were very influential people and Lili’uokalani knew this, but it seemed to me that she felt like she could not do anything. I think if she tried to appeal to the sympathies of other countries that had some interest in the Hawaiian islands things could have been a little different. Maybe it is the narrow view that I have, but I believe the British or the Japanese could have helped the Hawaiians out. I know the United States government was just becoming a world power then but Britain was already established and they were allies of the United States. I guess Britain was also practicing empiricism too and they might have taken it over to..
One thing is for sure is the queen had ill feelings towards the Minister John L. Stevens. John L. Stevens was the minister to Hawaii, appointed by the United States government, whose annexation leanings put him at the center of the controversy after the revolution . She states ?Minister John L. Stevens it must be said that he was either mentally incapable of recognizing what is to be expected of a gentleman, to say nothing of a Diplomatist, or he was decidedly in the league with those persons who had conspired against the piece of Hawaii? . John L. Stevens was the person who said annexation to the United States was right and gave the report back to the United States on the condition of the people in the Hawaiian Islands. I believe that the Queen should have tried to show her power a little more and flex her muscles. I do not think the United States would have been able to act upon the people as much if she appealed to the people of the United States not just the government. A lot of the people in the United States did not want to annex the United States in 1893, not until the Spanish-American War did the United States have an interest in the Hawaiian Islands.
The Government was overthrown for many reasons and there were a lot of underlying problems. I do think we have to look at the leader of the Hawaiian nation at that time and see what was her motivation for the things that she did. The queen did try to better her peoples standing and she did try to gain equal rights for her people but the times changed to fast. The queen could not adjust to the way the Hawaiian society had changed, or she didn’t want ot have society change as much as it did.
Queen Lili’uokalani was a little too stubborn to rule during that time and I believe if the Hawaiian people had elected Queen Emma things would have been a little bit different because the people would have probably stood up for her a little more. This is why the haoles did not want her elected and Kalakaua won the corrupted election. So the beat goes on and even today we have the whole sovereignty issue. One thing I want to leave you with is do not believe that the Hawaiian Islands were stolen from their people but believe that they were more taken form a people that were confused and were not altogether. It was more like one big bully versus a bunch of smaller kids, if all the smaller kids got together they could have beaten the bigger kid.