When William McKinley won the presidential election in November of 1896, the question of Hawaiʻi’s annexation to the US was again opened. The prior president, Grover Cleveland, was a friend of Queen Liliʻuokalani and he was opposed to annexation.
McKinley met with a committee of annexationists from Hawaiʻi, Lorrin Thurston, Francis Hatch and William Kinney. After negotiations, in June of 1897, McKinley signed a treaty of annexation with these representatives of the Republic of Hawaiʻi. The President then submitted the treaty to the US Senate for approval. (Silva)
On September 6, 1897, the Hui Aloha ʻĀina held a mass meeting at Palace Square, which thousands of people attended; Hui President James Kaulia gave a rousing speech, saying “We, the nation (lahui) will never consent to the annexation of our lands, until the very last patriot lives.”
Following Kaulia, David Kalauokalani, President of the Hui Kālaiʻāina, explained the details of the annexation treaty to the crowd. He told them that the Republic of Hawaiʻi had agreed to give full government authority over to the United States, reserving nothing. (Hawaiʻi State Archives)
Between September 11 and October 2, 1897, Hui Aloha ʻĀina O Nā Kane and Hui Aloha ʻĀina O Nā Wahine prepared, circulated and obtained signatures under the petition language noted below (written in Hawaiian and English,) opposing annexation with the United States.
“To His Excellency William McKinley, President, and the Senate, of the United States of America, Greeting: Whereas, there has been submitted to the Senate of the United States of America a Treaty for the Annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the said United States of America, for consideration at its regular session in December, AD 1897; therefore,”
“We, the undersigned, residents of the District of (….), Island of (….), who are members of the Hawaiian Patriotic League of the Hawaiian Islands, and others who are in sympathy with the said League, earnestly protest against the annexation of the said Hawaiian Islands to the said United States of America in any form or shape.”
Their 556-page petition totaled 21,269-signatures, 10,378-male and 10,891-female. Of these 16,331 adults were adults and 4,938-minors. (The petition is now stored at the US National Archives.)
(In his March 4, 1898 review and reporting on the petition, LA Thurston noted several “reasons for discrediting the petition”:
1. The petition certified that the minor petitioners are between 14 and 20 years of age; however the names of hundreds (677) noted ages under 14 years of age.
2. The ages of many petitioners who are under 14 were changed to 14 or above.
3. Many of the signatures are in the same handwriting (he called them “forgeries”.)
4. In a great number of instances, the ages are all in the same handwriting and in round numbers only.
5. The signatures of the petitioners 2 and 3 years of age were in good, round handwriting.)
A second petition, conducted by Hui Kālaiʻāina, is reported to have contained 17,000-signatures of people who supported the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy (its whereabouts is unknown.)
The Hui Aloha ʻĀina held another mass meeting on October 8, 1897 and at that time decided to send delegates to Washington, DC to present the petitions to President McKinley and to the Congress. (Silva)
Four delegates, James Kaulia, David Kalauokalani, John Richardson and William Auld, went to DC on December 6 to deliver the petition; the second session of the 55th Congress opened at that time. The delegates and Queen Liliʻuokalani planned a strategy to present the petition to the Senate. (Hawaiʻi State Archives)
They chose the Queen as chair of their Washington committee. Together, they decided to present the petitions of Hui Aloha ʻĀina only, because the substance of the two sets of petitions was different. Hui Aloha ʻĀina’s was called “petition protesting annexation,” but the Hui Kālaiʻāina’s petitions called for the monarchy to be restored. (Silva)
In the end, the motion to annex needed a two-thirds majority to pass (60-votes;) only 46-Senators voted for it (down from the 58 who supported it when they arrived.) The annexation vote failed.
However, the win was short-lived.
Unfolding world events soon forced the annexation issue to the forefront again. Cuba was in a war for independence from Spain. The US entered the fight when the battleship USS Maine was attacked in Havana Harbor, Cuba on February 15, 1898, signaling the start of the Spanish-American War.
The war that erupted in 1898 between the US and Spain had been preceded by three years of fighting by Cuban revolutionaries to gain independence from Spanish colonial rule.
Spain also had interests in the Pacific, particularly in the Guam and Philippines. Although the main issue was Cuban independence, the war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The pro-annexation forces saw a chance to use wartime urgency in their favor.
A mid-Pacific fueling station and naval base became a strategic imperative for the US. Hawaiʻi had gained strategic importance because of its geographical position in the Pacific and became a stopover point for the forces heading to the Philippines.
President William McKinley called for a Joint Resolution of Congress to annex the Hawaiian Islands, a process requiring only a simple majority in both houses of Congress. (In 845, a Joint Resolution was used to admit Texas to the Union as a State; Hawaiʻi was not being annexed as a State, but rather, as a Territory.)
On May 4, 1898, nine days after the Spanish-American War began, Representative Francis G Newlands of Nevada introduced a Joint Resolution in the House of Representatives to annex the Hawaiian Islands to the United States.
The House approved the Joint Resolution on June 15, 1898 by a vote of 209 to 91; the Senate approved the resolution on July 6 by a vote of 42 to 21, with 26 senators abstaining. (umn-edu)
House Joint Resolution 259, 55th Congress, 2nd session, known as the “Newlands Resolution,” passed Congress and was signed into law by President McKinley on July 7, 1898; the US flag was hoisted over Hawaiʻi on August 12, 1898.