We are often told that American businessmen overthrew Queen Lili‘uokalani and the Hawai‘i Constitutional Monarchy.
The fact is, the organizers of the overthrow, the Committee of Safety, were made up of 6-Hawaiian citizens (naturalized or by birth,) 5-Americans, 1-Scotsman and 1-German. (They were all residents of Hawai‘i and registered voters. None were missionaries; only 3 of the 13 had any link to the American Protestant missionaries.)
Shortly after the overthrow, “An association has recently been formed here known as the Annexation Club.” Various regional Annexation Clubs formed in several communities.
There were: “Hawaii annexation clubs. Hilo, North Kohala, South Kona, Ho‘okena, Napo‘opo‘o, Kapalilua. Maui annexation club. Wailuku. Kauai annexation clubs. Lehui, Waimea, Kealia. I would also state that we have lists in the Hamakua District on Hawaii, the Lahaina, Hana, and Paia districts on Maui, and at Kaluaaha on Molokai.” (JW Jones May 15, 1893)
“The first steps to form this association were taken on the 21st of this month, and its membership now includes some 2,000 of the residents of this city, who are, it is believed, fully representative of the intelligence and respectability, as well as of the material interests of this community.” (Resolution of Annexation Club, March 31, 1893; Blount Report)
“The majority of those who have joined the organization have done so after careful consideration and because it is their firm conviction that the country can no longer maintain a good and stable independent government.”
“Numerous reasons may be given for this, but I will state only a few of the more prominent.”
1) “The unfitness of a majority of the voters for representatives in this country to have the franchise and use it for upright and progressive government.”
2) “A growing jealousy among the natives of foreigners, who, they feel, are acquiring the property and business of the country.”
3) “The diversified foreign population of the country, who come from all parts of the world. This population consists of all classes of men who come here for different purposes, a great many to make what they can out of the country and then leave.” (HP Baldwin to Blount, April 25, 1893; Blount Report)
As with the diversity of nationalities of the folks orchestrating the overthrow, so was the make-up of the Annexation Club (July 9, 1893):
By the end of September 1893, the number of Hawaiians on the roster of the Annexation Club surpassed the Americans; then, the top three were noted as:
“A large number of the members of this association were not actually concerned in the establishment of the present Government, but all the members are convinced that it is essential to the safety and security of life and property in the Hawaiian Islands, and to the permanent welfare of the people here, that this country shall become an integral portion of the American Union.”
“The need of a strong permanent Government to steady political passions, and keep this community free from dangers both of internal discord and foreign interference, has become apparent to all of us, and we look forward with earnest hope to the time when Hawaii can enter the great Republic.”
“We have learned with profound satisfaction that President Cleveland has appointed you to visit these islands, as we understand, for the purpose of investigating their political conditions and needs.”
“We are confident that the most searching examination and analysis will disclose the fact that the present Government was established as a matter of necessity and duty, in the interest of humanity as well as of civilization, and not as a scheme to promote the selfish objects of any set or clique.”
“The head of the recent Government having disavowed her obligations to the only authority under which she held power, the constitution of 1887, and having publicly announced her solemn intention to govern by royal proclamation and not by law, the only course to follow to preserve the body politic was to establish this Government in the interests of law and order.”
“It is the hope of the members of this association that a treaty of annexation may soon be accomplished between Hawaii and the United States, which, while securing all the safeguards of a free and stable government to all native aboriginal Hawaiians as well as to those of foreign ancestry, will entail no burdens on the United States, but on the contrary will be a source of additional strength and satisfaction.”
“We are aware, Mr. Commissioner, that your own views on any of these matters will depend on the result of the observations and inquiries which you will make during your visit here, and that our call upon you must be regarded as entirely informal and unofficial.” (Resolution of Annexation Club, March 31, 1893; Blount Report)
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Stafford Clarry says
Your posts are always informative and educational in broadening our knowledge and deepening our understanding of Hawaii and its rich cultural heritage. You confirm there is always more to the story – there’s the rest of the story, the real story, and the whole story.
Notwithstanding the interesting and useful he-said she-said information, and the reports and legal references, we are faced with the fact that foreigners and the foreign-influenced conducted overthrow and annexation events against an indigenous, native people.
Whatever the qualities of their governing structures and methods may have been, those qualities were theirs. Whatever Kamehameha the Great’s motivations may have been, he did curtail warring among chiefdoms and united the islands – yes, with foreign assistance. Kamehameha did give us the Law of the Splintered Paddle based on generations-old concepts of governing legitimacy, which is not unlike modern human rights law.
Patrick Kirch goes into some of the possible economic and other reasons why Kamehameha may have done what he did in uniting the islands. He also goes into how Hawaii’s indigenous, native culture evolved over centuries to become one of seven cradles of civilization along with Mesopotamia, the river valleys of the Nile, Yangtze, and Indus, the Aztecs of Mesoamerica, and the Incas of South America.
You are right in explaining the missionaries were neither a source of the overthrow nor of annexation. Their contributions to preparing Native Hawaiians to engage stronger, domineering powers in what during the 19th century became a colonizing and globalizing world are to be commended whatever their religion may have been. It would be interesting to learn more of the reasoning behind their 1863 departure. Might the Civil War and consequent diminished funding have been factors?
Forty-two years from the arrival of Captain Cook until the missionaries began arriving saw both positive and negative intrusions into indigenous, native Hawaiian culture. While harmful features of these intrusions were checked with the assistance of missionary and other foreign influences, deliberately overthrowing an indigenous, native government and annexing the territory to a foreign power is deeply questionable.
Whatever the committees and clubs and their purposes, and whatever the laws and legalities used to explain the reasoning behind the overthrow and annexation, the fact is that a grave injustice was done to a land and its people by foreigners and the foreign-influenced. And so, the injustice and grievances continue to fester.
What efforts were made to strengthen Hawaiian governance for Hawaii’s people? If not a Hawaiian monarchy, why not a Republic of Hawaii that would offer Hawaiian governance? Why was annexation to a foreign government the chosen path other than to serve dominant foreign interests? How did it serve the interests of the indigenous, native people of Hawaii to live as whom they believed themselves to be? Granted, the devastating population decrease due to intrusions is a very important factor to consider in responding to these questions.
Neither the overthrow nor annexation had anything to do with democracy. Neither was there a popular revolution nor a countrywide referendum based on self-determination to determine the will of the people. Conducted by a few small groups with vested interests, the overthrow and annexation served first and foremost the dominating interests of others.
Hawaii was America’s first overthrow and Iraq is the latest. In Hawaii, a culture was (almost) completely destroyed. In Iraq, tens of thousands of families have been destroyed. In both cases, as Americans, we have no choice but to live with the deeply shameful consequences of injustice.
We are enriched by other peoples’ cultures, not by our own. Fortunately for Hawaiians, however, they are being enriched by the revival and reinvigoration of their own culture that is being researched, studied, and expressed widely with pride. It’s what distinguishes Hawaiian culture from other cultures.
We must be fair and clear, however, that this does not apply only to Native Hawaiians, but also to all those who have grown within and have sincerely imbibed Hawaiian culture. How else to explain people like Puakea Nogelmeier other than Hawaiian, for example?