Robert William Wilcox

Robert William Wilcox led unsuccessful rebellions to restore the monarchy. He was tried and found innocent each time. Wilcox served as the first Delegate to Congress for the Territory of Hawai'i.

Robert William Kalanihiapo Wilcox (February 15, 1855-October 23, 1903), nicknamed the Iron Duke of Hawai'i, was a native Hawaiian revolutionary, soldier and delegate to the United States Congress for the Territory of Hawai'i. Considered a menace to the government of the Republic of Hawai'i, Wilcox is today recognized as a hero of the people of Hawai'i.


Wilcox was born in 1855 on the island of Mau'i. His parents sent him to Haleakala Boarding School in the town of Makawao. Upon completion of his studies, Wilcox became a teacher at a Mau'i country school.

Millitary career

In 1880, Wilcox was elected to the royal legislature in Honolulu on the island of O'ahu. He represented the citizens of Wailuku and its neighboring Mau'i towns. In 1881, Wilcox left the island for Turin, Italy to study at the Royal Military Academy. By the time he completed his training in 1885, he achieved the rank of sublieutenant of artillery. Impressed with his military skills, Italian officials sent Wilcox to the Royal Application School for Engineer and Artillery Officers.

Rebellion of 1888

In 1887, Wilcox retired from the Italian military and took up residence in San Francisco, California. He began a career as a surveyor. Back in the Kingdom of Hawai'i, King David Kalakaua had signed the Bayonet Constitution stripping the rights of native Hawaiians to vote in their own elections while giving Americans who were not Hawaiian citizens powers subverting those of the monarch. Angered by the Americans that forced the king to sign the constitution at gunpoint, Wilcox sailed to Honolulu to organize a rebellion. Unsuccessful, Wilcox was tried for treason but acquitted.

Rebellion of 1889

Wilcox made another attempt at unseating the American cabinet ministers whose powers had been significantly increased while rendering the king impotent to make decisions for his own people. Again, Wilcox was unsuccessful, tried for treason but acquitted. Following his uprising, Wilcox was elected to the royal legislature where he served from 1890 to 1894.

Rebellion of 1895

In 1893, Wilcox watched as the United States Marine Corps stormed 'Iolani Palace to forcibly remove Queen Lili'uokalani from power. Across the street at Ali'iolani Hale, the Committee of Safety proclaimed the Provisional Government of Hawai'i. During the trial of the deposed queen, Wilcox conspired to organize a revolution against the newly created Republic of Hawai'i. Armaments were landed on the beaches of Honolulu to be used in an evening attack of the republican government buildings. Republican leaders were tipped off and Wilcox was arrested and tried for treason. He was sentenced to death but was pardoned by President Sanford B. Dole.


After the Newlands Resolution was adopted in 1898 and the Hawaiian Organic Act created the office of Delegate to Congress for the new territory, Wilcox organized a campaign to get elected. He hoped that his seat in Washington, DC could be used to obtain help for native Hawaiians, a community he feared would be neglected by the American government. Wilcox served in Congress from November 6, 1900 to March 3, 1903. Robert married Princess Theresa Owana Kaohelelani Laanui of the Kamehameha Dynasty. They had a son, Prince Robert Kalanikupuapaikalaninui Wilcox and a daughter, Princess Virginia Kahoa Kaahumanu Kaihikapumahana Wilcox.


Wilcox's grave.

The same year he left Congress, Wilcox died on October 23. He was buried at the Honolulu Catholic Cemetery. In 1993, a bronze statue of Wilcox was unveiled at Fort Street Mall. The statue now stands prominently in downtown Honolulu at Wilcox Park, also named in his honor.

Preceded by:
First delegate
Delegate to the United States Congress from the Territory of Hawaii
Succeeded by:
Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole