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The Republic of Hawai i was the formal name of the government that controlled Hawai imarker from 1894 to 1898 when it was run as a republic. The republic period occurred between the administration of the Provisional Government of Hawai i which ended on July 4, 1894 and the adoption of the Newlands Resolution in the United States Congress in which the Republic was annexed to the United States and became the Territory of Hawai i on July 7, 1898.

The Hawaiian kingdom was overthrown in 1893 as a result of the intervention of foreign business interests and the U.S. military. The Republic of Hawai i was led by men of European ancestry, like Sanford B. Dole and Lorrin A. Thurston, who were native-born subjects of the Hawaiian kingdom and speakers of the Hawaiian language, but had strong financial, political, and family ties to the United States. Dole was a former member of the Kingdom legislature from Koloa, Kaua i, and Justice of the Kingdom's Supreme Court, and he appointed Thurston—who had served as Minister of Interior under King Kalākaua—to lead a lobbying effort in Washington, DC to secure Hawaiʻi's annexation by the United Statesmarker.

Blount Investigation

The first order of business for the Provisional Government after the successful overthrow of Lili uokalani was to form an interim government while Lorrin A. Thurston was in Washington, DC to negotiate annexation with Congress. One group proposed the assumption of power of Princess Victoria Ka iulani while a body formed by the Committee of Safety could act as a regency government. With the physical absence of the princess from the islands, the proposal was immediately struck down.

President Grover Cleveland

The Provisional Government was dealt a huge blow when United States President Benjamin Harrison, who was supportive of the annexation of Hawaii, was voted out of the White Housemarker. Grover Cleveland, an anti-imperialist, assumed the presidency and right away worked to stop the treaty of annexation. Just a month before Cleveland became president, Lorrin A. Thurston had struck a deal with Congress as it prepared to ratify a treaty of annexation. Cleveland, having heard the appeals of Princess Victoria Ka iulani on behalf of her imprisoned aunt, withdrew the treaty and launched an investigation of the matter.

Cleveland appointed James Henderson Blount of Macon, Georgiamarker as Commissioner Paramount and Minister to Hawai i. His chief mission was to investigate the overthrow of Lili uokalani's government. Blount concluded in his report that the overthrow had utilized the aid of the John L. Stevens, United States Minister to Hawai i who ordered the landing of troops from the USS Boston. On the basis of Blount's report, Cleveland sent Albert Sydney Willis of Kentuckymarker to Honolulumarker as Minister to Hawai i with secret instructions. Willis, initially rebuffed by the queen, obtained Lili uokalani's promise to grant an amnesty after a considerable delay. After securing that promise, Willis made a formal demand for the dissolution of the Provisional Government and complete restoration of the monarchy, although unbeknownst to him by that time it was too late since Cleveland had already referred the matter to Congress. Taking the demand at face value, on December 23, 1893, Sanford B. Dole sent a reply to Willis flatly refusing to surrender the authority of the Provisional Government to the deposed queen.

Morgan Investigation

In response to Cleveland's referral of the matter, the Senate passed a resolution empowering its Foreign Relations Committee to hold public hearings under oath, and cross-examine witnesses, to investigate U.S. involvement in the revolution and also to investigate whether it had been proper for President Cleveland to appoint Blount and give him extraordinary powers to represent the U.S. and intervene in Hawai i without Senate confirmation. John Tyler Morgan, an expansionist pro-annexation Senator from Alabama, chaired the commission.

The findings of the Morgan Report contradicted the assertions of which he was not a part of earlier made by Blount and former President Cleveland, and on February 26, 1894 at 10:43 PM was submitted. It concluded that the U.S. troops had remained completely neutral during the overthrow, exonerated Minister Stevens in landing troops, and concluded Blount's appointment and investigation without congressional approval were constitutional. However, the nine member Senate Foreign Relations Committee that submitted the report could not agree on a final conclusion, and the oft-executive summary was signed only by Morgan himself..

Following the Morgan Report, and the Turpie Resolution on May 31, 1894 in which Congress prohibited any further intervention by the president and other government officials against the Provisional Government of Hawai i, Cleveland officially recognized the Provisional Government as "neither de jure nor de facto".

On February 7, 1894, the US House of Resolutions issued the following resolution:
n the U.S. House of Representatives, Feb. 7, 1894:

Resolved First. That it is the sense of this House that the action of the United States minister in employing United States naval forces and illegally aiding in overthrowing the constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Islands in January, 1893, and in setting up in its place a Provisional Government not republican in form and in opposition to the will of a majority of the people, was contrary to the traditions of our Republic and the spirit of our Constitution, and should be and is condemned.

Second. That we heartily approve the principle announced by the President of the United States that interference with the domestic affairs of an independent nation is contrary to the spirit of American institutions. And it is further the sense of this House that the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to our country, or the assumption of a protectorate over them by our Government, is uncalled for and inexpedient; that the people of that country should have had absolute freedom and independence in pursuing their own line of policy, and that foreign intervention in the political affairs of the islands will not be regarded with indifference by the Government of the United States.

Robert William Wilcox

Establishment of the Republic

The Provisional Government feared that Grover Cleveland might continue interfering in the internal affairs of Hawai i by trying to restore the monarchy. The Provisional Government also realized there would be no annexation until Grover Cleveland's term of office ended; and they wanted to establish a more permanent government for the continuing independent nation of Hawai i. Therefore the Provisional Government called to order a Constitutional Convention on May 30, 1894. The Constitutional Convention drafted a constitution for a Republic of Hawai i. The Republic of Hawai i was proclaimed on 4 July 1894 at Ali iōlani Halemarker. Sanford B. Dole became president.

Wilcox Rebellion of 1895

Hawaiian revolutionary Robert William Wilcox led several rebellions in pursuit of the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. He led an army of 150 Hawaiians, Europeans and Chinese in an attempt in 1889. Wilcox was brought to trial but released as juries refused to find him guilty of wrongdoing. In 1895, Wilcox participated in another attempt, this time to overthrow the Republic of Hawai i and to restore Lili uokalani to power. Royalist supporters landed a cargo of arms and ammunition from San Francisco, Californiamarker in a secret Honolulumarker location. At the location on January 6, 1895, a company of royalists met to draft plans to capture the government buildings by surprise. A premature encounter with a squad of police alarmed Honolulu and the plans were abandoned as the royalists were quickly routed. Wilcox spent several days in hiding in the mountains before being captured. The son of one pro-annexationist was killed. Several other skirmishes occurred during the following week resulting in the capture of the leading conspirators and their followers. The government allegedly found arms and ammunition and some potentially evidential documents on the premises of Washington Placemarker, Lili uokalani's private residence implicating her in the plot.

Lili uokalani's trial

The Republic of Hawaii put their former queen on trial. The prosecution asserted that Lili uokalani had committed "misprision of treason," because she allegedly knew that guns and bombs for the Wilcox attempted counter-revolution had been hidden in the flower bed of her personal residence at Washington Place.

The Queen read the following statement at her trial:
"In the year 1893, on the fifteenth day of January, at the request of a large majority of the Hawaiian people, and by and with the consent of my cabinet, I proposed to make certain changes in the constitution of the Hawaiian kingdom, which were suggested to me as being for the advantage and benefit of the kingdom, and subjects and residents thereof.
These proposed changes did not deprive foreigners of any rights or privileges enjoyed by them under the constitution of 1887, promulgated by King Kalakaua and his cabinet, without the consent of the people or ratified by their votes.

My ministers at the last moment changed their views, and requested me to defer all action in connection with the constitution; and I yielded to their advice as bound to do by the existing constitution and laws.

A minority of the foreign population made my action the pretext for overthrowing the monarchy, and, aided by the United States naval forces and representative, established a new government.

I owed no allegiance to the Provisional Government so established, nor to any power or to any one save the will of my people and the welfare of my country.

The wishes of my people were not consulted as to this change of government, and only those who were in practical rebellion against the constitutional government were allowed to vote upon the question whether the monarchy should exist or not.

To prevent the shedding of the blood of my people, natives and foreigners alike, I opposed armed interference, and quietly yielded to the armed forces brought against my throne, and submitted to the arbitrament of the government of the United States the decision of my rights and those of the Hawaiian people. Since then, as is well known to all, I have pursued the path of peace and diplomatic discussion, and not that of internal strife.

The United States having first interfered in the interest of those founding the government of 1893 upon the basis of revolution, concluded to leave to the Hawaiian people the selection of their own form of government.

This selection was anticipated and prevented by the Provisional Government, who, being possessed of the military and police power of the kingdom, so cramped the electoral privileges that no free expression of their will was permitted to the people who were opposed to them.

By my command and advice the native people and those in sympathy with them were restrained from rising against the government in power.

The movement undertaken by the Hawaiians last month was absolutely commenced without my knowledge, sanction, consent, or assistance, directly or indirectly; and this fact is in truth well known to those who took part in it.

I received no information from any one in regard to arms which were, or which were to be, procured, nor of any men who were induced, or to be induced, to join in any such uprising.

I do not know why this information should have been withheld from me, unless it was with a view to my personal safety, or as a precautionary measure. It would not have received my sanction; and I can assure the gentlemen of this commission that, had I known of any such intention, I would have dissuaded the promoters from such a venture. But I will add that, had I known, their secrets would have been mine, and inviolately preserved.

That I intended to change my cabinet, and to appoint certain officers of the kingdom, in the event of my restoration, I will admit; but that I, or any one known to me, had, in part or in whole, established a new government, is not true. Before the 24th of January, 1895, the day upon which I formally abdicated, and called upon my people to recognize the Republic of Hawaii as the only lawful government of these Islands, and to support that government, I claim that I had the right to select a cabinet in anticipation of a possibility; and history of other governments supports this right. I was not intimidated into abdicating, but followed the counsel of able and generous friends and well-wishers, who advised me that such an act would restore peace and good-will among my people, vitalize the progress and prosperity of the Islands, and induce the actual government to deal leniently, mercifully, charitably, and impassionately with those who resorted to arms for the purpose of displacing a government in the formation of which they had no voice or control, and which they themselves had seen established by force of arms.

I acted of my own free will, and wish the world to know that I have asked no immunity or favor myself, nor plead my abdication as a petition for mercy. My actions were dictated by the sole aim of doing good to my beloved country, and of alleviating the positions and pains of those who unhappily and unwisely resorted to arms to regain an independence which they thought had been unjustly wrested from them.

As you deal with them, so I pray that the Almighty God may deal with you in your hours of trial.

To my regret much has been said about the danger which threatened foreign women and children, and about the bloodthirstiness of the Hawaiians, and the outrages which would have been perpetrated by them if they had succeeded in their attempt to overthrow the Republic government.

They who know the Hawaiian temper and disposition understand that there was no foundation for any such fears. The behavior of the rebels to those foreigners whom they captured and held shows that there was no malignancy in the hearts of the Hawaiians at all. It would have been sad indeed if the doctrine of the Christian missionary fathers, taught to my people by them and those who succeeded them, should have fallen like the seed in the parable, upon barren ground.

I must deny your right to try me in the manner and by the court which you have called together for this purpose. In your actions you violate your own constitution and laws, which are now the constitution and laws of the land.

There may be in your consciences a warrant for your action, in what you may deem a necessity of the times; but you cannot find any such warrant for any such action in any settled, civilized, or Christian land. All who uphold you in this unlawful proceeding may scorn and despise my word; but the offence of breaking and setting aside for a specific purpose the laws of your own nation, and disregarding all justice and fairness, may be to them and to you the source of an unhappy and much to be regretted legacy.

I would ask you to consider that your government is on trial before the whole civilized world, and that in accordance with your actions and decisions will you yourselves be judged. The happiness and prosperity of Hawaii are henceforth in your hands as its rulers. You are commencing a new era in its history. May the divine Providence grant you the wisdom to lead the nation into the paths of forbearance, forgiveness, and peace, and to create and consolidate a united people ever anxious to advance in the way of civilization outlined by the American fathers of liberty and religion.

In concluding my statement I thank you for the courtesy you have shown to me, not as your former queen, but as an humble citizen of this land and as a woman. I assure you, who believe you are faithfully fulfilling a public duty, that I shall never harbor any resentment or cherish any ill feeling towards you, whatever may be your decision."

She was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment at hard labor and a fine of $10,000. But the imprisonment was served in a small bedroom at Iolani Palace where she guarded by military personnel at all times. After eight months she was kept under house arrest at her Washington Place home by President Sanford B. Dole. A year later she was granted a full pardon, including the right to travel; and President Dole gave her a passport to travel to Washington D.C. to visit her friends and in-laws. However, she used that opportunity to lobby the U.S. Senate in 1897 against annexation.

Sanford B.
Dole, former advisor to Queen Lili uokalani, President and then Governor of Hawai i

Dissolution of the Republic

Upon the inauguration of William McKinley as president of the United States on March 4, 1897, the Republic of Hawai i resumed negotiations for annexation, which continued into the summer of 1898. By this time, the President saw the islands as having gained a new strategic relevance in the wake of the Spanish-American War and that Britain, France and Japan had shown interest in annexing the islands for themselves. On June 16 of that year, a new treaty of annexation was signed. As the Senate appeared uncertain to ratify the treaty, its supporters took extreme measures by passing the Newlands Resolution through which the cession was accepted, ratified and confirmed by a vote of 42 to 21. The House of Representatives accepted the Newlands Resolution by a vote of 209 to 91. McKinley signed the bill on July 7, 1898. The formal transfer of sovereignty took place on August 12, 1898 with the hoisting of the flag of the United States over Iolani Palace.

External links




  • Allen, Helena G. Sanford Ballard Dole: Hawai i's Only President, 1844-1926 (1998).
  • Kuykendall, Ralph Simpson. Hawai i: A History, from Polynesian Kingdom to American State (2003)
  • Schweizer, Niklaus R. His Hawaiian Excellency: The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy and the Annexation of Hawai i (1994).

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