Today’s ‘Timeline Tuesday’ takes us through the 1890s – Kapi‘olani Hospital is formed, Kalākaua dies, Overthrow, Annexation, Pali Road is completed and the first Beachboys organization is formed. We look at what was happening in Hawai‘i during this time period and what else was happening around the rest of the world.
John Leavitt Stevens, journalist, author and diplomat, was born in Mount Vernon, Maine, August 1, 1820. In 1870, Stevens accepted the position of United States Minister to Uruguay and Paraguay under President Grant. In June, 1889, Stevens was appointed Minister to the Hawaiian Islands, his title soon after being changed to Minister Plenipotentiary and Envoy Extraordinary.
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.” President Cleveland, following his inauguration, withdrew and question of annexation. Stevens resigned and returned home. He died February 8, 1895 at his home in Augusta Maine.
John Lota Kaulukou was speaker of the House of Representative of the Kingdom of Hawaii of the district of Honolulu from 1880 to 1886 and also served in many posts including Postmaster General, Attorney General (October 13, 1886 – October 23, 1886) and Marshal of the Kingdom. Kaulukou was the leading native lawyer in Honolulu, a man of strong native sense and force, with much combativeness and insistence, but genial manner.
As an ardent Royalist, he’d been a strong supporter of Kalākaua and was outspoken in his opposition to the ‘Bayonet Constitution’ of 1887, which weakened Kalākaua’s power to rule. While a Royalist, he appears to appreciate the actual political situation of Hawai‘i better than a majority of the natives, and seems likely to be of service to his countrymen. (Bishop) He “regard(ed) Annexation as the best thing that could happen for Hawai‘i, both native and foreign population. I have advocated it ever since it became an issue in political politics and I rejoice heartily that it has come.” (Kaulukou)
Anglo-American insurrectionists sneaked into and captured the lightly defended government facility; the leading revolutionaries signed a declaration. Shortly after, several hundred insurrectionists, assembled and declared it a “free and independent state,” adopted a constitution and formed a Republic. They sought annexation to the US. The US president “deemed it right and requisite that possession should be taken of the said territory in the name and behalf of the United States.”
The US Senate and the House of Representatives passed a joint resolution authorizing the President to ‘occupy and hold all of the tract of country.’ By a later act of Congress, the territory was admitted to the American Union as a State. This wasn’t the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands in 1898, it was a revolution by American insurrectionists, Presidential Proclamation and subsequent Congressional Act (House and Senate) annexing West Florida to the US in 1811. The US Supreme Court later upheld “The right to govern may be the inevitable consequence of the right to acquire territory.”
Some suggest that Hawai‘i was never annexed to the United States and, as proof, refer to the October 4, 1988 Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice Opinion and a subsequent (March 12, 2000) Op-Ed by Steven Newcomb in the Advertiser to support their conclusion. Some even go as far as adding a quote – “US never legally annexed Hawai‘i” – inferring that the Office of Legal Counsel Opinion notes same. (That was the heading on Newcomb’s Op-Ed and apparently his opinion, not the Department of Justice’s.)
In fact, the Office of Legal Counsel Opinion makes the definitive statement, “The United States also annexed Hawai‘i by joint resolution in 1898. Joint Res. 55, 30 Stat. 750 (1898). Again, the Senate had already rejected an annexation treaty, this one negotiated by President McKinley with Hawaii.” The Opinion was not about Hawai‘i, nor its annexation – in fact, of the 26-pages of the Opinion (not counting appendices,) only 2-pages referenced the process of annexation of Hawai‘i. And Hawai‘i and its annexation to the US are not even mentioned in the Opinion’s Conclusion – the opinion addressed and is titled ‘Legal Issues Raised by Proposed Presidential Proclamation To Extend the Territorial Sea, October 4, 1988’.