January 17

This Day in History

General Interest

Jan 17, 1893:

Americans overthrow Hawaiian monarchy

On the Hawaiian Islands, a group of American sugar planters under Sanford Ballard Dole overthrow Queen Liliuokalani, the Hawaiian monarch, and establish a new provincial government with Dole as president. The coup occurred with the foreknowledge of John L. Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawaii, and 300 U.S. Marines from the U.S. cruiser Boston were called to Hawaii, allegedly to protect American lives.

The first known settlers of the Hawaiian Islands were Polynesian voyagers who arrived sometime in the eighth century, and in the early 18th century the first American traders came to Hawaii to exploit the islands' sandalwood, which was much valued in China at the time. In the 1830s, the sugar industry was introduced to Hawaii and by the mid-19th century had become well established. American missionaries and planters brought about great changes in Hawaiian political, cultural, economic, and religious life, and in 1840 a constitutional monarchy was established, stripping the Hawaiian monarch of much of his authority. Four years later, Sanford B. Dole was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to American parents.

During the next four decades, Hawaii entered into a number of political and economic treaties with the United States, and in 1887 a U.S. naval base was established at Pearl Harbor as part of a new Hawaiian constitution. Sugar exports to the United States expanded greatly during the next four years, and U.S. investors and American sugar planters on the islands broadened their domination over Hawaiian affairs. However, in 1891 Liliuokalani, the sister of the late King Kalakaua, ascended to the throne, refusing to recognize the constitution of 1887 and replacing it with a constitution increasing her personal authority.

In January 1893, a revolutionary "Committee of Safety," organized by Sanford B. Dole, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the tacit support of the United States. On February 1, Minister John Stevens recognized Dole's new government on his own authority and proclaimed Hawaii a U.S. protectorate. Dole submitted a treaty of annexation to the U.S. Senate, but most Democrats opposed it, especially after it was revealed that most Hawaiians did want annexation.

President Grover Cleveland sent a new U.S. minister to Hawaii to restore Queen Liliuokalani to the throne under the 1887 constitution, but Dole refused to step aside and instead proclaimed the independent Republic of Hawaii. Cleveland was unwilling to overthrow the government by force, and his successor, President William McKinley, negotiated a treaty with the Republic of Hawaii in 1897. In 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out, and the strategic use of the naval base at Pearl Harbor during the war convinced Congress to approve formal annexation. Two years later, Hawaii was organized into a formal U.S. territory and in 1959 entered the United States as the 50th state.

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