The Committee of Safety, formally the Citizen’s Committee of Public Safety, was a 13-member group also known as the Annexation Club; they started in 1887 as the Hawaiian League.
The Committee of Safety was made up of 6-Hawaiian citizens (naturalized or by birth;) 5-Americans, 1-Englishman and 1-German (of the 13, none were missionaries and only 3 had missionary family ties.)
“Queen Lili‘uokalani attempted on Saturday, Jan. 14 (1893,) to promulgate a new Constitution, depriving foreigners of the right of franchise and abrogating the existing House of Nobles, at the same time giving her the power of appointing a new House.”
“That meeting unanimously adopted resolutions condemning the action of the Queen and authorizing the committee to take into consideration whatever was necessary for the public safety.” (New York Times, January 28, 1893)
On January 16, 1893, the Committee of Safety wrote a letter to John L Stevens, American Minister, that stated: “We, the undersigned citizens and residents of Honolulu, respectfully represent that, in view of recent public events in this Kingdom …”
“… culminating in the revolutionary acts of Queen Liliʻuokalani on Saturday last, the public safety is menaced and lives and property are in peril, and we appeal to you and the United States forces at your command for assistance.”
Then, “[a] so-called Committee of Safety, a group of professionals and businessmen, with the active assistance of John Stevens, the United States Minister to Hawaii, acting with the United States Armed Forces, replaced the [Hawaiian] monarchy with a provisional government.” (US Supreme Court; Hawaii v OHA, 2008)
On January 18, 1893, letters acknowledging (de facto) the Provisional Government were prepared by the Imperial German Consulate, Austro-Hungarian Consulate, Consul for Italy, Russian acting consul, Vice-Consul for Spain, Consulate of The Netherlands, Royal Danish Consulate, Consulate of Belgium, Consul for Mexico, Consulate of Chile, Office of the Peruvian Consulate, Consul-General and Charge d’Affaires of Portugal, Consulate and Commissariat of France and Chinese Commercial Agency.
On January 19, 1893, the British Legation and His Imperial Japanese Majesty’s Consulate-General acknowledged the Hawaiian monarchy has been abrogated and a Provisional Government established.
The Provisional Government convened a constitutional convention, approved a new constitution and the Republic of Hawaiʻi was established on July 4, 1894. Shortly after (from August 1894 through January 1895,) a number of letters of formal diplomatic recognition (de jure) of the Republic of Hawai‘i were conveyed to the Republic of Hawai‘i President Sanford Dole.
These included formal letters from Austria/Hungary, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Chile, China, France, Germany/Prussia, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Spain , Switzerland and the United States. (These were countries that had prior agreements and treaties with the Hawaiian Monarchy.)
An August 7, 1894 ‘office copy’ letter notes US President Grover Cleveland wrote to Republic of Hawai‘i President Sanford B Dole, saying “… I cordially reciprocate the sentiments you express for the continuance of the friendly relations which have existed between the United States and the Hawaiian islands”.
In his annual ‘Message to Congress’ (1895,) President Cleveland noted, “Since communicating the voluminous correspondence in regard to Hawai‘i and the action taken by the Senate and House of Representatives on certain questions submitted to the judgment and wider discretion of Congress …”
“… the organization of a government in place of the provisional arrangement which followed the deposition of the Queen has been announced, with evidence of its effective operation. The recognition usual in such cases has been accorded the new Government.”
Republic of Hawai‘i President Sanford Dole sent a delegation to Washington in 1894, seeking annexation to the US. John Sherman, US Secretary of State, prepared a report reviewing the negotiation between representatives of the Republic of Hawai‘i and the US, and provisions of the Treaty of Annexation. That report (June 15, 1897) noted, in part:
“The undersigned, Secretary of State, has the honor to lay before the President, for submission to the Senate, should it be deemed for the public interest so to do, a treaty, signed in the city of Washington on the 16th instant by the undersigned and by the fully empowered representative of the Republic of Hawaii …”
“… whereby the islands constituting the said Republic, and all their dependencies, are fully and absolutely ceded to the United States of America forever.”
“As time passed and the plan of union with the United States became an uncertain contingency, the organization of the Hawaiian Commonwealth underwent necessary changes; the temporary character of its first Government gave place to a permanent scheme under a constitution framed by the representatives of the electors of the islands …”
“… administration by an executive council not chosen by suffrage, but self-appointed, was succeeded by an elective and parliamentary regime, and the ability of the new Government to hold – as the Republic of Hawaii – an independent place in the family of sovereign States, preserving order at home and fulfilling international obligations abroad, has been put to the proof.”
“Recognized by the powers of the earth, sending and receiving envoys, enforcing respect for the law, and maintaining peace within its island borders, Hawaii sends to the United States, not a commission representing a successful revolution, but the accredited plenipotentiary of a constituted and firmly established sovereign State.”
“… the Republic of Hawaii approaches the United States as an equal, and points for its authority to that provision of article 32 of the constitution promulgated July 24, 1894, whereby …”
“The President (of the Republic of Hawai‘i,) with the approval of the cabinet, is hereby expressly authorized and empowered to make a treaty of political or commercial union between the Republic of Hawaii and the United States of America, subject to the ratification of the Senate.” (The Hawaiian resolution for ratification of the annexation treaty was unanimously adopted by the Senate of the Republic of Hawai‘i on September 9, 1897.)
“Turning, then, to the various practical forms of political union, the several phases of a protectorate, an offensive and defensive alliance, and a national guarantee, were passed in review. In all of these the independence of the subordinate state is the distinguishing feature, and with it the assumption by the paramount state of responsibility without domain.”
“There remained, therefore, the annexation of the islands and their complete absorption into the political system of the United States as the only solution satisfying all the given conditions and promising permanency and mutual benefit. The present treaty has been framed on that basis”.
“As to most of these, the negotiators have been constrained and limited by the constitutional powers of the Government of the United States. As in previous instances when the United States has acquired territory by treaty, it has been necessary to reserve all the organic provisions for the action of Congress.”
“If this was requisite in the case of the transfer to the United States of a part of the domain of a titular sovereign, as in the cession of Louisiana by France, of Florida by Spain, or of Alaska by Russia, it is the more requisite when the act is not cession, but union, involving the complete incorporation of an alien sovereignty into the body politic of the United States.”
“For this the only precedent of our political history is found in the uncompleted treaty concluded during President Grant’s Administration, November 29, 1869, for the annexation of the Dominican Republic to the United States.”
“Following that example, the treaty now signed by the plenipotentiaries of the United States and the Republic of Hawaii reserves to the Congress of the United States the determination of all questions affecting the form of government of the annexed territory, the citizenship and elective franchise of its inhabitants, and the manner in which the laws of the United States are to be extended to the islands.”
“In order that this independence of the Congress shall be complete and unquestionable, and pursuant to the recognized doctrine of public law that treaties expire with the independent life of the contracting State, there has been introduced, out of abundant caution, an express proviso for the determination of all treaties heretofore concluded by Hawaii with foreign nations and the extension to the islands of the treaties of the United States.”
“This leaves Congress free to deal with such especial regulation of the contract labor system of the islands as circumstances may require. There being no general provision of existing statutes to prescribe the form of government for newly incorporated territory, it was necessary to stipulate, as in the Dominican precedent …”
“… for continuing the existing machinery of government and laws in the Hawaiian Islands until provision shall be made by law for the government, as a Territory of the United States, of the domain thus incorporated into the Union …”
“… but, having in view the peculiar status created in Hawaii by laws enacted in execution of treaties heretofore concluded between Hawaii and other countries, only such Hawaiian laws are thus provisionally continued as shall not be incompatible with the Constitution or the laws of the United States or with the provisions of this treaty.” (US Secretary of State Sherman, June 15, 1897)
Meanwhile, the breaking of diplomatic relations with Spain as a result of her treatment of Cuba so completely absorbed public attention that the matter of Hawaiian annexation seemed to have been forgotten.
The war drama moved swiftly. The destruction of the battleship Maine in Havana harbor precipitated matters, and on April 25, 1898, President McKinley signed the resolutions declaring that a state of war existed between the United States and Spain.
On May 5, Representative Francis Newlands, of Nevada, offered a joint resolution addressing the annexation of Hawai‘i. Though considerable opposition to annexation was still manifested in the House, the Newlands resolutions were finally passed.
The resolutions were immediately reported to the Senate, which had been discussing the treaty for nearly a year. That body referred them to its Committee on Foreign Relations, which in turn at once favorably reported them.
On June 15, 1898, the Newlands resolution passed the House by a vote of 209 to 91; the vote on the Newlands Resolution in the Senate was 42 to 21 (2/3 of the votes by Senators were in favor of the resolution, a significantly greater margin was cast by Representatives in the House.) (Cyclopedic Review of Current History, 4th Quarter 1898)
The US Constitution, Article II, Section 2 states: “(The President) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur …” The following day, July 7, 1898, President McKinley signed the Newlands Resolution it into law.
“There was no ‘conquest’ by force in the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands nor ‘holding as conquered territory;’ they (Republic of Hawai‘i) came to the United States in the same way that Florida did, to wit, by voluntary cession”.
On August 12, 1898, there were ceremonial functions held in Honolulu at which the Hawaiian government was formally notified by the United States minister plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary of the adoption and approval of the joint resolution aforesaid, and at which the Hawaiian government made, an unequivocal transfer and cession of its sovereignty and property. (Territorial Supreme Court; Albany Law Journal)
On June 27, 1959, when the matter of Statehood was put to a popular vote, Hawaiʻi registered voters voted on the question of Statehood (there was a 93.6% voter turnout for the General election – as compared to less than 50% today.)
Shall the following proposition, as set forth in Public Law 86-3 entitled ‘An Act to provide for the admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union’ be adopted? 1. Shall Hawaii immediately be admitted into the Union as a State? – 94.3% voted in support.
While Hawaiʻi was the 50th State to be admitted into the union on August 21, 1959, Statehood is celebrated annually on the third Friday in August to commemorate the anniversary of the 1959 admission of Hawaiʻi into the Union.