Teaching With Documents: The 1897 Petition Against the Annexation of Hawaii (National Archives)
Background of Hawaiian Annexation:
When the Hawaiian islands were formally annexed by the United States in 1898, the event marked end of a lengthy internal struggle between native Hawaiians and white American businessmen for control of the Hawaiian government. In 1893 the last monarch of Hawaii, Queen Lili’uokalani, was overthrown by party of businessmen, who then imposed a provisional government. Soon after, President Benjamin Harrison submitted a treaty to annex the Hawaiian Islands to the U.S. Senate for ratification. In 1897, the treaty effort was blocked when the newly-formed Hawaiian Patriotic League, composed of native Hawaiians, successfully petitioned the U.S. Congress in opposition of the treaty. The League’s lobbying efforts left only 46 Senators in favor of the resolution, less than the 2/3 majority needed for approval of a treaty. The League’s victory was shortlived, however as unfolding world events soon forced the annexation issue to the fore again. With the explosion of the U.S.S. Maine in February of 1898 signaling the start of the Spanish American War, establishing a mid-Pacific fueling station and naval base became a strategic imperative for the United States. The HawaiianIislands were the clear choice, and this time Congress moved to annex the Hawaiian Islands by Joint Resolution, a process requiring only a simple majority in both houses of Congress. On July 12, 1898, the Joint Resolution passed and the Hawaiian islands were officially annexed by the United States.
The Hawaiian islands had a well-established culture and long history of self-governance when Captain James Cook, the first European explorer to set foot on Hawaii, landed in 1778. The influence of European and American settlers quickly began to alter traditional ways of life. Originally governed by individual chiefs or kings, the islands united under the rule of a single monarch, King Kamehameha, in 1795, less than two decades after Cook’s arrival. Later the traditional Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in favor of a constitutional monarchy. Eventually, the monarchy itself was abandoned in favor of a government elected by a small group of enfranchised voters, although the Hawaiian monarch was retained as the ceremonial head of the government. Even elements of daily life felt the social and economic impact of the white planters, missionaries and businessmen. The landholding system changed, and many aspects of traditonal culture were prohibited including teaching the Hawaiian language and performing the native Hula dance….
When King Kalakaua died in 1891, his sister Lili’uokalani succeeded him, and members of the native population persuaded the new queen to draft a new constitution in an attempt to restore native rights and powers. The move was countered by the Committee on Annexation, a small group of white businessmen and politicians who felt that annexation by the United States, the major importer of Hawaiian agricultural products, would be beneficial for the economy of Hawaii. Supported by John Stevens, the U.S. Minister to Hawaii, and a contingent of Marines from the warship, U.S.S. Boston, the Committee on Annexation overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani in a bloodless coup on January 17, 1893 and established a revolutionary regime.
Without permission from the U.S. State Department, Minister Stevens then recognized the new government and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate. The Committee immediately proclaimed itself to be the Provisional Government. President Benjamin Harrison signed a treaty of annexation with the new government, but before the Senate could ratify it, Grover Cleveland replaced Harrison as president and subsequently withdrew the treaty…….cont.
Full Document: Background of Hawaii Annexation: Hawaii Annexation Background
Hawaii Annexation Primary Source Activities & Questions: Hawaii Teaching with documents Activities
Document A: Men’s petition against Hawaiian Annexation: Document A Men’s Petition Against Hawaiian Annexation
Document B: Women’s petiton against Hawaiian Annexation: Document B Women’s Petition Against Annexation