Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Annexation of Hawaii Was a Bit of a Dick Move

Hawaii, the 50th state, is a prime example of the US Imperialism that supposedly doesn't exist. Queen Liliuokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii, was essentially overthrown by a group of US marines, and the state was annexed to the US to provide a ship fueling station, despite vehement protests from the majority of islanders.

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Iolani Palace, built by King Kalakaua as part of his revival
of Hawaiian nationalism.
Hawaii was doing its Hawaii thing in 1778 when Captain James Cook 'discovered' it. The islands were made up of a tribal culture, with many chieftains or 'kings'. They welcomed Cook with open arms, and, surprisingly enough, he didn't embark upon a spree of mass slaughter. In fact, there was no slaughter at all, excepting the slaughter that came from European microbes.

Microbes weren't the only thing that came to Hawaii from Europe. European ideals also became quite popular. Churches, land ownership, and a unified state followed not long after the Europeans. Unfortunately, American and European businessman came as well.

Fast forward a few decades, and sugar exportation is a key part of the Hawaiian economy. Hawaiian natives had been wary of the sugar trade from the start, hearing that it would lead to annexation. They weren't paranoid. White sugar exporters were worried about native resistance, and in 1887, the 'Bayonet Treaty' was forced upon King Kalakaua.

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Queen Lili'uokalani
The Bayonet Treaty is thus named because it was forced upon King Kalakaua at gunpoint. A group of white businessmen, backed by US marines, were growing concerned about the King's attempts to revitalize the culture and power of Native Hawaiians. Their official reason was that they were concerned by the king's spending. This treaty stripped Kalakaua of all executive power, and replaced his cabinet with white businessmen. It also disenfranchised Native voters, essentially leaving Hawaii under the control of the sugar exporters.

Kalakaua died in 1891, and his sister, Lili'uokalani became queen. Lili'uokalani made the white buisnessmen even more nervous than her brother, because she had every intention of reforming the 'constitution' forced on Hawaii by the haole, and restoring Hawaiian home rule. Worried about their wallets, the businessmen staged a bloodless coup in 1893 and formed a revolutionary government, stating that US annexation would be the best thing for Hawaiian economy.

John Stevens, the US ambassador to Hawaii, declared the islands to be a US protectorate. Of course, he hadn't consulted anyone in Washington about this. President Benjamin Harrison signed the treaty of annexation, but Grover Cleveland came into office before it could be passed by the Senate.

Grover Cleveland wasn't too pleased by the goings on in Hawaii. President Cleveland wasn't here for imperialism, and he rescinded the treaty, and put Stevens under investigation. He ordered a dissolution of the revolutionary government, and ordered that Lili'uokalani be restored to the throne immediately.

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Sanford Dole, President of the Republic of Hawaii
In a truly mature act Stevens and Sanford Dole, the president of the revolutionary government, stated that since the US refused to annex Hawaii, the US wasn't in charge of them, so they declared Hawaii a republic, and went on doing as they pleased.

Meanwhile, Native Hawaiians were petitioning the US government to do something, and Queen Lili'uokalani was placed under house arrest. This continued until 1897, when William McKinley became president of the United States. McKinley was less squeamish about imperialism than his predecessor, and he was also getting into the Spanish-American war. Add in a fear of a Japanese invasion, and the need for a pacific boat-fueling station, and McKinley signed the treaty. On July 7, 1898, Hawaii was formerly annexed to the United States.


There are very few instances where the US Government has betrayed the ideals upon which it was founded as grossly as it did in Hawaii. Not only did United States military forces carry out aggressive actions against a peaceful nation in hopes of conquest, but standard taxation was later imposed upon the islands, despite the lack of legislative representation. Anyone who has ever even looked at the history of the US knows that the original 13 colonies rebelled against the English for that very reason. Yet when the shoe was on the other foot, nobody cared.

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Sources
The Annexation of Hawaii-History of the House of Representatives
Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii
Annexation of Hawaii, 1898
The 1897 Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii
Hawaii Government and Society
The Annexation of Hawaii-Digital History
Annexing Hawaii: The Real Story

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