“That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose minister plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu, and declared that he would support the said provisional government.” (Lili‘uokalani, January 17, 1893)
In 1893, “[a] so-called Committee of Safety, a group of professionals and businessmen, with the active assistance of John Stevens, the United States Minister to Hawai‘i, acting with the United States Armed Forces, replaced the [Hawaiian] monarchy with a provisional government.” (US Supreme Court; Hawaii v OHA, 2008)
John Leavitt Stevens, journalist, author and diplomat, was born in Mount Vernon, Maine, August 1, 1820. By his own efforts he was educated at the Maine Wesleyan Seminary and the Waterville Liberal Institute for the Universalist ministry.
After ten years in the service of this denomination, he was attracted by the intensely interesting condition of national affairs, of which he was always a keen observer, into newspaper work, entering into partnership in 1855 with the late James G. Blaine in conducting The Kennebec Journal.
There he remained for nearly fourteen years, and it was during this period that he obtained that influence in the political world that was afterward recognized by his foreign appointments from the Government. He was repeatedly sent to the State Legislature and Senate, and was one of the chief movers in the formation of the Republican Party in Maine.
In 1870, Stevens accepted the position of United States Minister to Uruguay and Paraguay under President Grant. He resigned after remaining in Montevideo about three years.
He took a very active part in the Presidential campaign of 1876, acting as Chairman of the Republican State Committee of his native State,
He was rewarded with an appointment as Minister to Sweden and Norway in 1877, which position he held until 1883. In June, 1889, Stevens was appointed Minister to the Hawaiian Islands, his title soon after being changed to Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary. (NY Times, February 9, 1895)
“Although Stevens exaggerated the threatening situation in Hawai‘i, there was indeed some cause for American uneasiness. After the constitutional reforms of 1887, the split between foreigners and native nationalists had widened”
“British capitalists, stimulated by the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, sought new investments; a rumor circulated that Britain would welcome a protectorate.” (Pletcher)
“When the long-expected revolution finally began in January 1893, it was brought about by two interacting and partly indistinguishable groups, one wanting an independent Hawaiian republic and another seeking annexation to the US.”
“The immediate cause lay in two actions by Queen Liliuokalani. First she replaced a pro-American cabinet with a group of ill-qualified timeservers on whom she could rely.”
“Then, and more important, she revealed her determination to proclaim a new constitution, increasing the royal power and requiring all voters to be naturalized and take an oath of loyalty to her.”
“The course of the revolution was considerably simpler than its causes; it lasted two days and was almost entirely bloodless. (With) the queen’s announcement that the new constitution would be introduced …”
“… the Annexation Club carried out plans already discussed with Stevens and Captain GC Wiltse of the American Cruiser Boston, then in port. Wiltse landed 154 marines to restore order”. (Pletcher)
Stevens supported annexation by the US and in December 1893, he wrote ‘A Plea for Annexation’ in The North American Review where he concluded, “To say that we do not need the Hawaiian Islands as a security to our immense future interests is but the babble of children or of incompetent men.”
“It is blindly and recklessly to ignore the logic of irresistible circumstances, and to scoff at the plainest teachings of history. No! America cannot get rid of her future responsibilities if she would, and all attempts to do so will be at the cost of her future generations.”
“In the light of these inexorable truths, in the name of what is most sacred in Christian civilization, in behalf of a noble American colony, holding the advanced post of America’s progress …”
“… I cherish the faith that the American people, the American statesmen, and the American government, thoughtful of America’s great future, will settle the Hawaiian question wisely and well will see to it that the flag of the United States floats unmolested over the Hawaiian Islands.” (Stevens, The North American Review, December 1893)
“President Cleveland, directly after his inauguration, sent a message to the Senate withdrawing the question of annexation from further consideration; and a Commissioner, Mr. Blount, was sent to report on the situation. He ordered the protectorate withdrawn as unnecessary.”
“Mr. Stevens immediately resigned and returned home. He then devoted himself, in the public prints and on the platform, to a denunciation of the Administration’s Hawaiian policy.” Stevens died February 8, 1895 at his home in Augusta Maine. (NY Times, February 9, 1895)