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How and Why Hawaii Became Part of American


Hawaii is the United State of America’s state that is the newest among the fifty states of the nation. This is a unique state among the states since it is made up of islands. Hawaii occupies the central part of the Pacific Ocean and is found in southwestern part of the continental U.S. On its northeast part, there is Australia and in the southeast, Japan. This state forms a well-liked center for the tourists because of its beauty that is natural and also due to its favorable climate that is warm1. It has several Asian and North American influences because of its location at mid- Pacific. There are more than a million residents in this state that stay there permanently along with those who visit and the United States’ armed forces staff.

How and Why Hawaii became part of America?

According to2, few people are aware of how Hawaii turned out to be part of the United States of America. Several people have the idea that at the time when the missionaries came in Hawaii, the people who were there stayed in houses that were grass-thatched and never realized any improvement beyond that up to the time Hawaii turned out to be the territory of the United States of America. However, after just about twenty years of the people of Hawaii association with the American missionaries, in the year 1820 they had already set up a monarchy that was constitutional and the people had now the right to choose leaders. These people were able to acquire formal education at a higher rate that went beyond that of the most literate and modern countries in the world.

According to3, in considering how Hawaii turned out to be part of the United States of America, he reveals that the journey from Hawaii being a sovereign nation that is independent, to becoming a territory that is annexed and then later to a state was carried out without following the laws together with the treaties that were in effect during the whole of this process. There was no consideration of the desires of the people of Hawaii. Great opposition came from several people about Hawaii’s annexation, the U.S president Cleveland being among them.

The legal government of Hawaii was overturned without the consideration of the legitimacy or ethical rights and this was due to greed and military interests. Hawaii was grabbed away from the owners (its people), in order to offer benefit to the rich American people who possessed plantations as well as a result of military interests.

The government of Hawaii was overturned by not a very large group of people who were mostly born in America in the year 1893. They took over control of the Islands making up Hawaii having the support of the troops from America. As a consequence, there was the yielding of the thrown by the queen of the time, Queen Liliuokolani, under objection so as to evade shedding of blood with a belief that the government of the United States of America will make up for their mistakes committed to the people of Hawaii4.

The main reason for this group of people overthrowing the government of Hawaii was sugar. At that time, sugar was the main islands’ support. The profits from the sugar and success of the islands sprung from the positive treaties made between Hawaii and the United States of America that formed the main market for the sugar produced and this brought about very strong economic relationships between the two. Those people who owned plantations were mostly those whose ancestors were the original missionaries. At the time when the possession of private property arrived in Hawaii, families of the missionaries took this opportunity and capitalized on it to own plantations.

Back in the year 1826, there had been recognition by the United States of America of Hawaii as a nation that was sovereign and went ahead to carry out the imposing of the normal tariffs on imported sugar from Hawaii. This imposing of the tariffs on imported sugar brought down the profits obtained from the sugar plantations. This brought in rankles between the plantation owners and the United States government. The plantation owners being Americans complained that the government was making more profit than them. In order to avoid the tariffs; the best move was that Hawaii become part of the United States and stop being an independent state.

In the course of the reign of King Kalakaua, a group of people composing of the businessmen and the planters striving to achieve power over the kingdom, especially over its politics and economy came up with an organization that was secret, known as the Hawaii League. This occurred in the year 1887. This group was under the leadership of a missionary’s grandson who was a lawyer. He was called Thurston. The main objective of this organization was to bring about reforms to the monarchy. But in the actual sense, these so called reforms were a form of betrayal to the Hawaiians who had love for their monarchs and they respected these monarchs.

It should be noted that the two last kings of Hawaii were not the same as those of Europe who were hereditary in that these kings were elected by the people before they took office5. Liliuokalani together with her brother Kalakaua were people who were highly educated and had much skills in the social issues and more so, they were very much familiar with the traditions of Hawaii together with the court procedures. Of even greater importance, these rulers had great concern for their people and they strived to ensure that the people were comfortable. They as well strived to ensure that the independence of their kingdom was maintained. They did not come across any reason for leaving out their independence in the hands of the Americans. This was an effort to avoid making these already rich Americans to become even richer.

The members who were more radical in the group led by Thurston, the Hawaii League, were in for the abdication of the king. One of them went to the extent of even proposing that the king be assassinated. The group came to a decision that there would be no removing of the king from the throne but the best solution at that time was to greatly cut down his powers through the implementation of a new constitution that they would make themselves. Failure of the king to comply will now lead to his assassination. Many of these group’s members were as well members of a volunteer militia called the Honolulu Rifles and this militia was in official service to the government of Hawaii. On the other hand, the volunteer militia was a secret military arm of the Hawaii League6.

King Kalakaua was forced in the year 1887, to accept the constitution that had just been set up that cut down his powers as well as accepting the cabinet that was made up of the league members. This constitution was known as the Bayonet constitution. Under this constitution, the right to vote was extended to even the residents who were foreigners and no longer just restricted to the local citizens. These foreigners had a right to vote as long as they were European or American. The Asians were not included.

The people of Hawaii tried hard to protest against the reduction of the powers of the monarch and the way the new constitution had been forced on him. The Japanese and the Chinese joined the people of Hawaii in petitioning the king to carry out the canceling of the new constitution. This was of no consequence since the response from the Reform Cabinet was that this could only be done by the legislature’s act. As even they suggest this, the new constitution had not been passed by the act of the legislature.

Following the death of King Kalakaua in the year 1891, his sister Liliuokalani took over as Hawaii’s Queen. The year that followed, Thurston together with a group of people who had the same mind who were mainly Americans came up with an Annexation Club. They had a plot to remove the queen from the throne and to annex to the United States of America.

The queen made attempts to make a proclamation of a new constitution seeking to bring back power to the throne as well as restoring the rights to the Hawaiians. Following this attempt, the Annexation Club responded by planning to remove the queen from power and coming up with a provisional government. In the process of planning for the revolution, the club made claims that the queen had made an offence of committing a revolutionary act by her coming up with the idea of making amendments to the constitution.

Later in time the queen was overthrown but she surrendered the nation’s sovereignty to a force that was superior, that is, the United States of America and not to the revolutionaries. By this, the United States of America was placed in to the legal state of having intruded in to a foreign nation and overthrown its government with no any provocation from this foreign nation.

Following this, the palace was taken over by the provisional government and this government made a declaration of military law. Hawaii was proclaimed to be protectorate on a temporary basis and the American flag was raised. At that time, the United States president, Harrison, sent to the United States’ senate the annexation treaty. President Grover Cleveland took over from President Harrison. This new president withdrew the treaty presented by the former president during his last days in power upset by the legal implications of what had occurred.

According to7, President Cleveland made attempts to reinstate the queen. Minister Stevens was called back from Hawaii and then a replacement was made. He was replaced by Albert Willis. This new minister made an expression of the president’s apology to the queen that the intervention of the United States that was not approved had made to give up her sovereignty. The next move taken by this new minister was to approach Sanford Dole among other leaders of the provisional government, accepting the evils done by the United States of America of overturning the government of Hawaii and urged them to surrender power and give it back to the queen. These leaders did not accept this. They claimed that the American president had no any right to make any form of interference in matters that were domestic, and that the forces of America illicitly helped to bring about the revolution. They concluded that the provisional government could not be held responsible for this in any way.

Following this resistance, the president decided to leave this issue in the power of the congress. The report presented by the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee who was an annexationist by the name John Tyler Morgan after carrying out the hearing from the senate revealed that no one was to blame for the revolution apart from the queen. Most of those in the senate did not accept this. There was censuring by the house of Stevens and a resolution was passed rejecting annexation.

On the other hand, the provisional government’s leaders made a decision to come up with a republic while waiting for the right chance to achieve their goal of annexation. In the meantime, large pieces of land was grabbed from the owners who were rightful in Hawaii without these owners being compensated by this government that had just been set up and sold to the United States of America and this was exchanged for a subsidy in the sugar tariff.

There was the drafting of a new constitution by the provisional government and this constitution was proclaimed to be law. This constitution allowed the foreign people who had backed the revolution to vote and allowed very few people of Hawaii to vote but the Asian people were not allowed to vote. Later in the year 1894, Dole made a declaration of himself as president of Hawaii and made the announcement of the Hawaii’s republic inauguration.

The Hawaiian people were not contended with this and made attempts to come up with a counterrevolution to bring back the monarchy. Following this, in the year 1895, the leader of the uprising, Robert Wilcox was captured with other royalists by the government’s troops. More so, the queen was as well arrested and imprisoned.

After being released from prison, the queen went straight away to Washington carrying the documents that were signed by the people of Hawaii demanding the American president, Cleveland, to bring back the queen on the throne. This was a rather belated move since the president’s term was expiring and there was nothing he could do. When the next president, William McKinley, took over power he gave out the treaty of annexation to the senate. This caused the Hawaiian people to make a submission of a petition to the congress backed by 29,000 signatures strongly fighting against the issue of annexation and at the same time submitted petitions to the Hawaiian republic making a request for the annexation to be subjected to the vote of the public but this did not yield any fruits since there was no allowing to vote on this issue.

Three independent annexation treaties were taken to the congress but all of them did not succeed. Eventually, the annexation of Hawaii was done by the congress’s resolution in a joint manner8. However, the congress did not possess the legal power to carry out this activity. Hawaiian sovereignty was officially taken to United States of America in the year 12th August 1898. Dole was appointed to be Hawaiian Territory’s governor. At this point, the people of Hawaii had lost their independence, of course after losing their land together with their monarchy9. Hawaii was awarded full territorial status in the year 1900.

The American people who owned plantations in Hawaii could no longer be exposed to import tariffs and the matter that the people of Hawaii had lost their independence along the way was trivialized.


After the Second World War, Hawaii was put in the record of those territories that were non self-governing by the United States of America having this nation as a trustee. The status of the Hawaiian territory could only be adjusted by a vote that was special that was to be undertaken among those who stayed in the territory.

This special vote, otherwise referred to as plebiscite vote, was held in the year 1959 and there was still the breaking of the law10. The special vote involved only two choices; to choose between Hawaii becoming a state or to remain a territory. There were no any other alternatives apart from this two that offered a chance to choose for independence of Hawaii. The people opted for a rather less unfavorable alternative and thus turned out to be the number fifty state of the United States of America.


Anon. N.d. Annexation of Hawaii, 1898. U.S Department of State. Web.

Anon. 2002. The Debate Over Hawaii and an American Overseas Empire. Constitutional Rights Foundation. Web.

Anon. 2010. The State of Hawaii. NSTATE, LLC

Cashman, Sean Dennis. America in the gilded age: from the death of Lincoln to the rise of Theodore Roosevelt. NYU Press, 1993. ISBN: 0814714951, 9780814714959

Kaluna Samuel. 2003. Hawaii is not a legal state.

Mahalo. N.d. Is Hawaii Really a State of the Union?

Quinn, Gaellen. 2008. Hawaii: The kingdom nobody knows. Web.


  1. Anon. 2010. The State of Hawaii. NSTATE, LLC. Web.
  2. Quinn, Gaellen. 2008. Hawaii: The kingdom nobody knows. Web.
  3. Kaluna Samuel. 2003. Hawaii is not a legal state. Web.
  4. Kaluna Samuel. 2003. Hawaii is not a legal state. Web.
  5. Kaluna Samuel. 2003. Hawaii is not a legal state. Web.
  6. Kaluna Samuel. 2003. Hawaii is not a legal state. Web.
  7. Anon. N.d. Annexation of Hawaii, 1898. U.S Department of State. Web.
  8. Cashman, Sean Dennis. America in the gilded age: from the death of Lincoln to the rise of Theodore Roosevelt. NYU Press, 1993. ISBN: 0814714951, 9780814714959
  9. Anon. 2002. The Debate over Hawaii and an American Overseas Empire. Constitutional Rights Foundation. Web.
  10. Mahalo. N.d. Is Hawaii Really a State of the Union? Web.