A Crash Course in Hawaiian History

(Note: This is the second installment of a three-part series discussing recent legal and political challenges to the Kamehameha Schools and other institutions designed to benefit the native Hawaiian people. Read parts 1 and 3.)

January 17th, 1893 is an unmemorable date for many, but an important one for many Hawaiians. It was on this day that the nation of Hawai’i came to an end.

At the direction of a 13-member committee formed by members of the immensely profitable sugar industry, John L. Stevens, the United States minister to Hawai’i and an unabashed annexationist, ordered 162 troops from the U.S.S. Boston ashore. Queen Lili’uokalani, desiring to prevent bloodshed, temporarily abdicated her throne to the United States:

“Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”

Members of Congress and President Grover Cleveland both acknowledged that the overthrow was illegal and immoral at the time. However, due to the lobbying of the planters and a number of issues related to the timing of elections, the overthrow was never reversed. A few years later, a treaty of annexation was ratified by the Senate and President McKinley.

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