Republic of Hawaii
The Republic of Hawai‘i was a period of the history of Hawai‘i between the administration of the Provisional Government of Hawai‘i which ended on July 4, 1894 and the adoption of the Newlands Resolution in Congress creating the United States Territory of Hawai‘i on July 7, 1898. The administration of the Republic of Hawai‘i was comprised of American citizens who oversaw the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in 1893. The most influential administrators were Sanford B. Dole, former justice of the Hawai‘i judiciary, and Lorrin A. Thurston, former cabinet minister under King David Kalakaua and later the publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser.
Bayonet Constitution of 1887
In 1887, a constitution was drafted by Lorrin A. Thurston, Minister of Interior under Kalakaua. The constitution was enacted after a confrontation with the king by a group of American businessmen and an armed militia, associated with a secret society called the Hawaiian League, in favor of annexation to the United States. The Bayonet Constitution gets its name from Kalakaua being forced at gunpoint with a bayonet at his throat to sign the document stripping the monarchy of its authority and instead empowered Americans without legal Hawaiian citizenship.
The Bayonet Constitution took away 75% of the native Hawaiian population's right to vote in their own elections. As native Hawaiians, as well as Asian emigrants who legally obtained Hawaiian citizenship, were deprived of their suffrage, Americans and other Europeans in Hawai‘i were given full voting rights without the need for Hawaiian citizenship. The Bayonet Constitution imposed a strict requirement for voter eligibility: make USD $600 annually and own at least USD $3000 in private property, a rule designed to outright limit those eligible to vote in Hawaiian elections to only wealthy American businessmen. In addition to issues of suffrage, the Bayonet Constitution also stripped the monarch's power to appoint and scrutinize members of the House of Nobles (the upper house of the Hawaiian legislature). With the new constitution in place, only those selected by a group of Americans could serve in the House of Nobles.
In 1891, Kalakaua died and his sister Lili‘uokalani assumed the throne. She came into power in the middle of an economic crisis. The McKinley Tariff had crippled the Hawaiian sugar industry and many native Hawaiian citizens were feeling the pressures of the loss of revenue. Lili‘uokalani proposed a lottery system to raise money for her people. Her ministers, and even her closest friends, were sorely disappointed at the thought and tried to stop her from pursuing the bill. The lottery bill came to be used against her in the brewing constitutional crisis she was heading into.
Lili‘uokalani's chief concern in assuming the throne was over a population of her subjects disenfranchised from participation in their own government. The queen initiated a poll and found support by native Hawaiians and other Hawaiian citizens to immediately set out to undo the damage created by the Bayonet Constitution on Hawaiian sovereignty. Her ministers implored her to postpone any action on the constitution and allow the cabinet to study measures that could be taken to rectify the queen's concerns. The ministers made no such move.
After much postponement, on January 17, 1893, Liliu‘okalani dismissed her ministers and tried to impose a new constitution restoring the monarchy's lost authority, returning the rights of all legal Hawaiian citizens to vote and stripping American non-citizens of their voting eligibility. The United States Government, through its Department of State Minister to Hawai'i John L. Stevens, replied to Lili‘uokalani's proposed constitution by ordering the landing of the United States Marine Corps to forcibly remove the queen from power and declaring a transfer of authority from the monarchy to a provisional government led by Lorrin A. Thurston, Sanford B. Dole and members of the Committee of Safety.
The deposed queen was forced to defend herself in a trial organized and presided by the Judge Advocate General's Corps, the judicial arm of the United States military. According to the prosecution, Lili‘uokalani committed treason by drafting a new constitution in opposition to the Bayonet Constitution thrust on Kalakaua. Charges against the queen mounted to a maximum penalty of death by hanging for her and Hawaiian citizens who remained loyal to the queen. Lili‘uokalani offered to abdicate her throne in order to spare the lives of innocent Hawaiian citizens. With abdication, Lili‘uokalani was sentenced to imprisonment in a single bedroom of ‘Iolani Palace.
Appeal to the United States
With the queen imprisoned in her own palace, a delegation led by Princess Victoria Ka‘iulani and the queen's attorney Paul Neumann was dispatched to Washington, DC to appeal the actions taken by the American citizens in Hawai‘i, with the guiding hand of President Benjamin Harrison appointee Minister John L. Stevens, to usurp the sovereignty of the native Hawaiian people. However, members of the newly created Provisional Government of Hawai‘i insisted that the queen willingly forefeited power by even thinking to propose a new constitution to replace the one enacted by her brother and by firing her cabinet, an unlawful action under the terms of the Bayonet Constitution.
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.
The Provisional Government was dealt a huge blow when President Benjamin Harrison, an avowed imperialist who sought the annexation of Hawai‘i was voted out of the White House. Grover Cleveland, an anti-imperialist, assumed the presidency and right away worked to rectify the Hawaiian crisis. Just a month before becoming 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, Georgia 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 revolution had utilised the aid of the United States Minister to Hawai‘i who ordered the landing of troops from the USS Boston. Disturbed by the revelation, Cleveland sent Albert Sydney Willis of Kentucky to Honolulu as Minister to Hawai‘i with secret instructions. Willis, with much difficulty and delay, obtained the Lili‘uokalani's promise to grant an amnesty. After securing that promise, Willis made a formal demand for the dossolution of the Provisional Government and complete restoration of the monarchy. On December 23, 1893, Sanford B. Dole sent a reply to Willis declining to surrender the authority of the Provisional Government to the deposed queen. Congress declared against any further intervention by adopting the Turpie Resolution on May 31, 1894.
Establishment of the Republic
Fearing that Cleveland would properly restore Lili‘uokalani to her throne, the Provisional Government gaveled an emergency convention to order on May 30, 1894. At the top of the agenda was to draft a constitution for the Republic of Hawai‘i. It was believed that the establishment of such an entity would make it difficult for any party to restore the monarchy. The Republic of Hawai‘i was proclaimed on 4 July 1894 at Ali‘iolani Hale. Sanford Dole became president.
Wilcox Rebellion of 1895
Hawaiian revolutionary Robert William Wilcox had led several rebellions in pursuit of the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy. His first was in 1888 in response to the Bayonet Constitution. He led an army of 150 Hawaiians, Europeans and Chinese in a second attempt in 1889. Both times, Wilcox was brought to trial but released as juries refused to find him guilty of wrong doing. In 1895, Wilcox led a third attempt, this time to overthrow the Republic of Hawai‘i and to restore Lili‘uokalani to power. Wilcox supporters landed a cargo of arms and ammunition from San Francisco, California in a secret Honolulu 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. Several other skirmishes occurred during the following week resulting in the capture of the leading conspirators and their followers. The government found arms and ammunition and a number of incriminating documents on the premises of Washington Place, Lili‘uokalani's private residence implicating her in the plot.
Dissolution of the Republic
Upon the inauguration of avid imperialist William McKinley as President of the United States on March 4, 1897, the Republic of Hawai‘i resumed negotiations for annexation. 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.