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Republic of Hawaii

The Republic of Hawaii (1894-1898) forms an interlude in the history of the Hawaiian Islands between the end of the Hawaiian monarchy (1893) and the United States' annexation of Hawaii Territory in 1898.

Table of contents
1 Background


The reign of Queen Liliuokalani (1891 - 1893) displayed a trend to autocracy. The legislative session of 1892, during which four changes of ministry took place, stretcheded to eight months long, chiefly due to the queen's determination to carry through the opium and lottery bills and to have a pliable cabinet. She had a new constitution drafted, practically providing for an absolute monarchy, and disfranchising a large class of citizens who had voted since 1887; this constitution (drawn up, so the royal party declared, in reply to a petition signed by thousands of natives) she undertook to force on the country after proroguing the legislature on 14 January 1893, but her ministers shrank from so revolutionary an act, and with difficulty prevailed upon her to postpone the plan.

An uprising similar to that of 1887 declared the monarchy forfeited by its own act. A third party proposed a regency during the minority of the heir-apparent, Princess Kaiulani, but in her absence this scheme found few supporters. A public meeting appointed a "Committee of Safety", formed a provisional government and reorganized the volunteer military companies, which had disbanded in 1890. The "Sons of Missionaries" (as E. L. Godkin styled them) emerged as the leading spirits of the Committee. They stood accused of using their knowledge of local affairs and their inherited prestige among the natives for private ends and of founding a "Gospel Republic" (actually a business enterprise). The provisional government called a mass meeting of citizens, which met on the afternoon of the 16 January 1893 and ratified its action.

The United States steamer Boston, which had unexpectedly arrived from Hilo on 14 January 1893, landed a small force on the evening of 16 January, at the request of the United States minister, Mr J. L. Stevens, and of a committee of residents, to protect the lives and property of American citizens in case of riot or incendiarism. On 17 January 1893 the Committee of Safety took possession of the government building and issued a proclamation declaring the monarchy abrogated and establishing a provisional government, to exist "until terms of union with the United States of America shall have been negotiated and agreed upon".

Meanwhile two companies of volunteer troops arrived and occupied the grounds. By the advice of her ministers, and to avoid bloodshed, the queen surrendered under protest. She did so in view of the landing of United States troops, appealing to the government of the United States to reinstate her in authority.

The new rulers of Hawaii negotiated a treaty of annexation with the United States during the next month, just before the close of President Benjamin Harrison's administration, but President Harrison's successor, President Cleveland, withdrew the proposed treaty on 9 March 1893, and then despatched James H. Blount (1837 -1903) of Macon, Georgia, as commissioner paramount, to investigate the situation in the Hawaiian Islands. On receiving Blount's report to the effect that the revolution had utilised the aid of the United States minister and the landing of troops from the Boston, President Cleveland sent Albert Sydney Willis (1843 - 1897) of Kentucky to Honolulu as United States minister with secret instructions. Willis with much difficulty and delay obtained the queen's promise to grant an amnesty, and made a formal demand on the provisional government for her reinstatement on 19 December 1893. On 23 December President Sanford B. Dole sent a reply to Willis, declining to surrender the authority of the provisional government to the deposed queen. The United States Congress declared against any further intervention by adopting on 31 May 1894 the Turpie Resolution.

Proclamation and initial troubles

On 30 May 1894 a convention took place to frame a constitution for the Republic of Hawaii. The proclamation of the republic took place on 4 July 1894, with S. B. Dole as its first president.

Toward the end of the 1894 a plot formed to overthrow the republic and to restore the monarchy. Plotters secretly landed a cargo of arms and ammunition from San Francisco at a point near Honolulu. There they collected a company of native royalists on 6 January 1895, intending to capture the government buildings by surprise that night, with the aid of their allies in the city. A premature encounter with a squad of police alarmed the town and broke up their plans. Several other skirmishes occurred during the following week, resulting in the capture of the leading conspirators, along with most of their followers.

The republicans found arms and ammunition and a number of incriminating documents on the premises of the ex-queen; they arrested her and imprisoned her for nine months in the former palace. On 24 January 1895 she formally renounced all claim to the throne and took the oath of allegiance to the republic. The ex-queen and forty-eight others received conditional pardons on 7 September 1895, and on the following New Year's Day the authorities released the remaining prisoners.

Decline and abolition

On the inauguration of President McKinley in March 1897, negotiations with the United States resumed, and on 16 June 1897 Hawaii and the United States signed a new treaty of annexation at Washington. As the United States Senate appeared uncertain to ratify the treaty, its supporters took extreme measures: the Senate passed the Newlands joint resolution, by which the cession was "accepted, ratified and confirmed", by a vote of 42 to 21; the House of Representatives accepted it by a vote of 209 to 91, and the president signed on 7 July 1898. The formal transfer of sovereignty took place on 12 August 1898, with the hoisting of the flag of the United States (the same flag hauled down by order of Commissioner Blount) over the Executive Building with impressive ceremonies.