Following the death of her brother, King Kalakaua, Liliuokalani becomes the last monarch of the Hawaiian Islands.
Hawaii, first settled by Polynesian voyagers sometime in the eighth century, saw a massive influx of American settlers during the 19th century, most coming to exploit Hawaii’s burgeoning sugar industry. In 1887, under pressure from U.S. investors and American sugar planters, King Kalakaua agreed to a new constitution that stripped him of much of his power. However, in 1891, Liliuokalani ascended to the throne and refused to recognize the constitution of 1887, replacing it instead with a constitution that restored the monarchy’s traditional authority.
Two years later, a revolutionary “Committee of Safety,” organized by Sanford B. Dole, a Hawaiian-born American, staged a coup against Queen Liliuokalani with the support of U.S. Minister John Stevens and a division of U.S. Marines. 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 not 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, which was organized into a U.S. territory in 1900.
Liliuokalani herself spent much of the remainder of her life in the United States, where she unsuccessfully petitioned the federal government for compensation for seized property and other losses. The territorial legislature of Hawaii finally voted her an annual pension of $4,000 and permitted her to receive the income from a small sugar plantation. In additional to her political fame, Liliuokalani is also known for composing many Hawaiian songs, including the popular “Aloha Oe,” which translates to “Farewell to Thee.”