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 Hawaiian League came into control of the Honolulu Rifles (made of about 200 armed men.) In June 1887, the Hawaiian League used the Rifles to force King Kalākaua to enact a new constitution. (Kukendall)
The opposition used the threat of violence to force Kalākaua to accept a new constitution (1887) that stripped the monarchy of executive powers and replaced the cabinet with members of the businessmen’s party. (archives-gov)
The new constitution, which effectively disenfranchised most native Hawaiian voters, came to be known as the “Bayonet Constitution” because Kalākaua signed it under duress. (archives-gov)
When King Kalākaua died in 1891, his sister Liliʻuokalani succeeded him; she drafted a new constitution in an attempt to restore native rights and powers. The move was countered by the Annexation Club, a small group of white businessmen and politicians who felt that annexation by the United States, the major importer of Hawaiian agricultural products, would be beneficial for the economy of Hawaiʻi. (archives-gov)
“Queen Liliuokalani attempted on Saturday, Jan. 14, 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 … 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.”
“The Queen, with the aid of armed force, and accompanied by threats of violence and bloodshed from those with whom she was acting, attempted to proclaim a new constitution; and, while prevented for the time from accomplishing her object, declared publicly that she would only defer her action.”
“This conduct and action was upon an occasion and under circumstances which have created general alarm and terror. “We are unable to protect ourselves without aid, and therefore pray for the protection of the United States forces.”
On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, 162-sailors and Marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu Harbor came ashore under orders of neutrality.
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”. A provisional government was established.
So, who were in the 13-signatories from the Committee of Safety who sought American intervention and what interests did they have in Hawaiʻi?
The Committee of Safety was made up of 6-Hawaiian citizens (naturalized or by birth (American parentage;)) 5-Americans, 1-Englishman and 1-German.
The Committee selected Henry Ernest Cooper as chair at a meeting on January 14, 1893. Cooper, a lawyer specializing in real estate abstract work, had moved to Honolulu from San Diego with his family on February 3, 1891.
Crister Bolte was a German national who became a naturalized Hawaiian subject. He was a merchant in the corporation of Grinbanm & Co. and was connected with the Planters’ Labor and Supply Association and a sugar shareholder; “There is hardly any person of property in this country who is not an owner of some sugar stocks.”
Andrew Brown, Scottish national, was formerly a coppersmith at the Honolulu Iron Works and later superintendent of the water-works system of Honolulu.
William Richards Castle, son of Samuel Northrup Castle, was born in Honolulu 1849, attorney general for Kalākaua 1876, Hawaiian legislator 1878-1886, the House of Nobles 1887-1888. (His brothers were executives at Castle & Cooke – a Big 5 company formed by his father.)
John Emmeluth was an American citizen who emigrated to Hawaiʻi in 1879; he was owner of John Emmeluth and Company, Honolulu’s principal plumbing and household furnishings business. He was also a pineapple grower and experimented with pineapple canning and later was shareholder and officer in the Hawaiian Fruit & Packing Company. He later joined forces with Robert Wilcox in the Home Rule Party.
Theodore F Lansing was an American citizen (from New York;) he was an insurance agent and commission agent. He later became Treasurer of the Territory.
John Andrew McCandless was an American (Pennsylvania) and later naturalized Hawaiian subject. He was a well-driller and cattleman. He was the first superintendent of public works under the territorial government, and while holding this office built the first road around Diamond Head on the sea side of the crater, and the lighthouse there.
Frederick W McChesney is grandson of Matthew Watson McChesney (who came to the Islands from New York in 1879.) His father was a tanner by trade and established a small tannery in connection with a grocery store and later formed MW McChesney & Sons. They later added Honolulu Soap Works; Frederick also worked in the fruit trade, with Woodlawn Fruit.
William Owen Smith was born on Kauaʻi August 4, 1848 of American missionaries; he was an attorney. He served as Sheriff on Kauaʻi and Maui. On April 24, 1873, while serving as Sheriff on Maui, he planted the banyan tree on Front Street in Lāhainā (to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the American Protestant Mission there.) He was later law partner with Lorrin Thurston and served as Attorney General in the Provisional Government.
Lorrin A Thurston, was born on July 31, 1858 in Honolulu, grandson of Asa and Lucy Goodale Thurston, who were in the Pioneer Company of American Protestant Missionaries (1820.) He was a lawyer and publisher (Pacific Commercial Advertiser – later, Honolulu Advertiser.) He was member House of Representatives, Hawaiian Legislature, 1886; Minister Interior, 1887-1890 and House of Nobles, 1892. He worked with George Lycurgus and others for ten years, starting in 1906, to have the volcano area made into Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.
Edward Suhr, a German citizen, worked for H Hackfeld & Company. Hackfeld developed a business of importing machinery and supplies for the spreading sugar plantations and exported raw sugar. H Hackfeld & Co became a prominent factor – business agent and shipper – for the plantations.
Henry Waterhouse was born in Tasmanian in 1845; at age 5, his family moved to Hawaiʻi. He was a businessman, operating Henry Waterhouse Trust Company, real estate and investment firm; he was also managing partner of John T Waterhouse, a general mercantile business. He served in the House of Representatives (1876) and House of Nobles (1887-1888.) In addition, he occasionally filled in as pastor for the Sabbath services at Kaumakapili Church.
William Chauncey Wilder, born in Canada in 1835, spent his early years in the US and Europe. In 1861, Wilder was the first man to enlist in the first company that was organized in Kane Co., in the State of Illinois; he eventually was made Captain. His brother (Samuel G Wilder of the Wilder Steamship Company) sent for him to come work with him in the Islands. He was active in the transportation business and was elected to public office on several occasions (serving as presiding officer of the Hawaiian Senate.)