“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.”
“This was resisted by the foreign element of the community, which at once appointed a committee of safety of thirteen members, which called a mass meeting of their classes, at which 1,200 or 1,500 were present.”
“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)
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 (American parentage;)) 5-Americans, 1-Englishman and 1-German (none were missionaries and only 3 had missionary family ties.)
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.”
“About 5 o’clock in the afternoon (January 16, 1893,) the USS Boston landed about three hundred men. Each man had two belts of cartridges around his waist and was armed with a rifle. The men marched up to the office of the Consul-General of the United States where a halt was made.”
“The Marines were detached and sent to the American Legation on Nuʻuanu Avenue, while the sailors marched out along Merchant Street with two gatling guns and made a halt at Mr JA Hopper’s residence. About sundown they moved to the grounds of Mr JB Atherton’s and after a stay of several hours returned to the Arion Hall, where they camped overnight.” (Pacific Commercial Advertiser, January 17, 1893)
“HE Cooper read a proclamation abrogating the Monarchy and creating a Provisional Government. The proclamation dismissed the present Ministry and the Marshal. The following Cabinet was then read: …”
“… Hon. SB Dole, Minister of Foreign Affairs; PC Jones, Minister of Finance; Captain JA King, Minister of Interior; WO Smith, Attorney-General. (They made up the Executive Council of the Provisional Government.) They will call on the protection of the American Government.”
“At 3:15 o’clock a wagon load of men and ammunition arrived at the Government building.” (Daily Bulletin, January 17, 1893) “Armed volunteers arrived from the Beretania Street Armory to reinforce the force already at the Government building, and were posted over the yard.” (Daily Bulletin, January 18, 1893)
To avoid bloodshed, the Queen yielded her throne on January 17, 1893 and temporarily relinquished her throne to “the superior military forces of the United States”. The Committee immediately proclaimed itself to be the Provisional Government.
Almost immediately following the overthrow, Consulate offices in Honolulu recognized the Provisional Government as the “de facto government of the Hawaiian Islands.” John L Stevens, for the US Legation, acknowledged the Provisional Government on January 17, 1893.
The ‘recognition’ of a state under international law is a declaration of intent by one state to acknowledge another power as a ‘state’ within the meaning of international law. Recognition constitutes a unilateral declaration of intent. It is entirely at the discretion of any state to decide to recognize another as a subject of international law.
A distinction is also drawn between de jure and de facto recognition. If a state is accorded de jure recognition that means all the preconditions under international law for final and complete recognition have been fulfilled. De facto recognition has a comparatively less binding effect, because the legal relationship – though effectively in existence – is only provisional. (Blazek, Swiss Government Portal)
On January 18, 1893, 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 wrote letters acknowledging (de facto) the Provisional Government.
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.
US President Benjamin Harrison signed a treaty of annexation with the new government, but before the US Senate could ratify it, Grover Cleveland replaced Harrison as President and subsequently withdrew the treaty. (archives-gov)
“On December 18 of the same year, President Cleveland, unimpressed and indeed offended by the actions of the American Minister, denounced the role of the American forces and called for restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.” (US Supreme Court, Rice v Cayetano)
Act 69 of the Provisional Government called for “a convention to frame a Constitution,” as well as the election of delegates to the convention. (March 15, 1894)
Qualifications of electors to decide who the delegates would be included “Every male resident of the Hawaiian Islands, of Hawaiian, American or European birth or descent, who shall have taken the oath by this Act provided …”
“… who shall have paid his taxes for the year 1893, unless exempted by law from paying taxes; who shall have attained the age of twenty years; who shall have been domiciled in the Hawaiian Islands for one year, and shall have caused his name, to be entered on the list of voters of the precinct in which he reside, and …”
“… who is not insane or an idiot, or who shall not have been convicted of a felony, unless pardoned, shall be entitled to a vote for the delegates to be elected from the island on which such voter resides.” (Act 69, Section 4, Laws of the Provisional Government)
These limitations to voting eligibility are generally typical for this time frame. US Women’s right to vote (19th Amendment to the US Constitution) was ratified on August 18, 1920.
The ‘oath’ electors and delegates swore noted that he does “solemnly swear in the presence of Almighty God that I will support and bear true allegiance to the Provisional Government of the Hawaiian Islands, and will oppose any attempt to reestablish monarchical government in any form in the Hawaiian Islands.” (Act 69, Section 18, Laws of the Provisional Government)
Oaths like these were typical. Following the Civil War, Confederate soldiers who surrendered were required to sign oaths before they could return to their homes (1860s.) It noted, in part, “…I will bear true faith, allegiance, and loyalty to the Government of the United States; that I will support and defend its constitution, laws, and supremacy against all enemies whether domestic or foreign …”
“Further, that I will not in any wise give aid or comfort to, or hold communication with any enemy of the Government, or any person who sustains or supports the so-called Confederate States; but will abstain from all business, dealing, or communication with such persons.” (Schraf)
Today, naturalized citizens “declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic …” (US Citizenship and Immigration Services)
Today, in Hawaiʻi (and elsewhere,) “All eligible public officers, before entering upon the duties of their respective offices, shall take and subscribe to the following oath or affirmation: ‘I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and the Constitution of the State of Hawaii …”
“As used in this section, ‘eligible public officers’ means the governor, the lieutenant governor, the members of both houses of the legislature, the members of the board of education, the members of the national guard, State or county employees who possess police powers, district court judges, and all those whose appointment requires the consent of the senate.” (Article XVI, Section 4, Hawaiʻi Constitution)
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”. (This came a year after Cleveland had expressed concern about the actions of the US consulate in the overthrow.)
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.”
It’s interesting to note that fifty years prior, on November 28, 1843, the British and French Governments united in a joint declaration and entered into a formal agreement recognizing Hawaiian monarchy independence (Lord Aberdeen signed on behalf of Britain, French ambassador Louis Saint-Aulaire signed on behalf of France.)
The Declaration states: “Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty the King of the French, taking into consideration the existence in the Sandwich Islands of a government capable of providing for the regularity of its relations with foreign nations have thought it right to engage reciprocally to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent State and never to take possession, either directly or under the title of protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed.”
“The undersigned, Her Britannic Majesty’s principal secretary of state for foreign affairs, and the ambassador extraordinary of His Majesty the King of the French, at the court of London, being furnished with the necessary powers, hereby declare in consequence that their said majesties take reciprocally that engagement.” (Hawaiian Journal of Law & Politics)
However fifty years later, both Britain and France acknowledged the Republic of Hawai‘i through de jure recognition as an independent state. Queen Victoria noted in a September 19, 1894 letter to President Sanford Dole, “We thank you for this communication, and we request you to accept our congratulations on this distinguished mark of the confidence of your fellow citizens …”
“… and we offer you our best wishes for your health and welfare, and for the prosperity of the Republic over which you preside.” Casimir Perier, President of the Republic of France, sent similar sentiments and congratulations to President Sanford Dole.
Hawai‘i was later annexed to the US through the Newlands Resolution. “The Newlands Resolution further provided that all ‘property and rights’ in the ceded lands ‘are vested in the United States of America.’” “Two years later, Congress established a government for the Territory of Hawai‘i. … The Organic Act reiterated the Newlands Resolution and made clear that the new Territory consisted of the land that the United States acquired in ‘absolute fee’ under that resolution.”
“In 1959, Congress admitted Hawai‘i to the Union (hereinafter Admission Act). Under the Admission Act, with exceptions not relevant here, ‘the United States grant[ed] to the State of Hawai‘i, effective upon its admission into the Union, the United States’ title to all the public lands and other public property within the boundaries of the State of Hawai‘i, title to which is held by the United States immediately prior to its admission into the Union.’”
“In 1993, Congress enacted a joint resolution ‘to acknowledge the historic significance of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, to express its deep regret to the Native Hawaiian people, and to support the reconciliation efforts of the State of Hawai‘i and the United Church of Christ with Native Hawaiians.’ Joint Resolution to Acknowledge the 100th Anniversary of the January 17, 1893 Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, … (hereinafter Apology Resolution).”
“The Apology Resolution did not strip Hawai‘i of its sovereign authority to alienate the lands the United States held in absolute fee and granted to the State upon its admission to the Union.” (US Supreme Court)
A later Hawaiʻi Supreme Court case noted (in 2014,) “The US Supreme Court reversed this court, holding that the Apology Resolution did not confer substantive rights or have a substantive legal effect. Thus, the Apology Bill cannot serve to support a fundamental right to nation-building”. (SCWC-29794)
It’s interesting to note the Supreme Court’s repeated references to the Republic of Hawai‘i, Annexation, Territory, Newlands Resolution, Admission Act, State, etc.
Even with repeated judicial acknowledgement of Newlands Resolution, some have suggested the Newlands Resolution was not done properly. As such, they suggest the monarchy remains.
However, there were two internationally recognized entities that followed the Hawaiian Monarchy – the Provisional Government (with international de facto recognition) and the Republic of Hawai‘i (with international de jure recognition.)
The last being the Republic of Hawai‘i, that negotiated and agreed to the terms of the Newlands Resolution … that led to annexation, territorial status and Hawai‘i becoming the 50th state.
So, a point to ponder, if the Newlands resolution is not valid – what does Hawai‘i revert to?