Saturday, August 12, 2017
The Annexation of Hawaii
Unlike some other parts of the world, western (in this case American) forces did not come to topple a primitive and barbaric heathen people to save them from darkness and suffering. Hawaii had its own savage history to be sure, but all of that was a distant memory long before 1898. King Kamehameha the Great subdued the other chiefs of the islands, uniting them under his rule and ending the many years of sporadic warfare between the Hawaiian people. This was the start of the establishment of the Kingdom of Hawaii. In 1819 he was succeeded by his son King Kamehameha II and it was during his reign that Protestant Christian missionaries came to Hawaii from the United States. They converted the Royal Family to Christianity and this, in turn, brought an end to certain native customs and taboos which were barbaric. With the 1840 Constitution of King Kamehameha III, the Kingdom of Hawaii officially became a Protestant Christian monarchy. Catholic and even Mormon missionaries arrived later but never attracted many converts. The Kingdom of Hawaii was not a country of ignorant primitives when Americans started to arrive on its shores in growing numbers, rather it was a civilized, though simple, Christian monarchy with all of the trappings of any other well established sovereign kingdom.
In 1887, fearing the King was about to take more direct control of matters, the Americans in Hawaii staged a sort of armed uprising and forced King Kalakaua to sign a new constitution, thereafter known as the "Bayonet Constitution" which stripped the monarch of almost all of his powers. The Kingdom of Hawaii was still to be democratic of course but the franchise was restricted to those who owned land and, by this time, most of the land was owned by Americans. Furthermore, in the interest of goodwill and compassion of course, Americans were allowed to retain the U.S. citizenship while still being nominal subjects of the King of Hawaii. In many ways, the fate of the Hawaiian kingdom was sealed then and there and King Kalakaua died a bewildered man, bitter at his betrayal by the foreigners he had believed were his friends, who had always assured him that their presence and growing influence in the kingdom was for the best and would benefit everyone in the end. It was, of course, not true. They were Americans and not Hawaiians, their first loyalty was to the United States and not the King of Hawaii, their kinship was with those like themselves and not those native to the islands.
In 1895 the Hawaiians attempted a counter-revolution to overthrow the republic and put the Queen back on the throne. Needless to say, this was again too little, too late as the American presence had long become far too large and too powerful to dislodge. The uprising was crushed at its outset and Queen Liliuokalani was arrested and put in prison. However, by the following year, the republic pardoned the Queen and released her, being in full control they had nothing to fear from her being at liberty. The native Hawaiian population had, by then, become too greatly displaced to ever pose a threat to the new American regime. A year later, in 1897, the President of the United States signed the treaty of annexation (thus making Hawaii only the second U.S. state, after Texas, to join the Union by treaty) with the official ceremony being held the following year on August 12. Queen Liliuokalani spent the rest of her life in legal battles with the U.S. government, trying to obtain compensation for her loss, mostly to no avail. She was finally granted a pension of $1,250 a month in 1911 but by that time she did not have long to collect as she died in 1917.