January 17, 2012

Queen of the Islands

Liliʻuokalani, the only queen of Hawaii and its last monarch, was deposed on January 17, 1893 by 162 Marines and a ‘Committee of Safety’ made up of mostly American and European businessmen.

Iolani Palace, Annexation Celebration, 1897. Was the Queen locked away upstairs?

The Committee of Safety had been in existence for all of three days.  It turned itself into a Provisional Government and asked for annexation to the United States.  To Grover Cleveland’s credit, he saw the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy as completely illegal and offered to restore Lili’uokalani to the throne on one condition: She must agree to grant amnesty to all those involved in deposing her.

She at first refused – understandably quite angry, she wanted everyone severely punished.  When she finally did agree, it was too late – the island capitalists had gotten Congress to agree to annexation.

The whole sad history of how Hawaii became a state is summed up in the fact that one year later, when the Republic of Hawaii was declared, its first president was Sanford J. Dole.

Annexation had accomplished what Dole and his fellow capitalists had sought – status as domestic sugar producers and protection from the stiff tariffs imposed on imports.

The day before she lost her throne, Queen Lili’uokalani was arrested. The next day she issued the following statement:

I, Lili’uokalani, by the Grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom. That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government. 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.
— Queen Liliʻuokalani, Jan 17, 1893

She was tried and sentenced to five years of hard labor, but that was commuted to five years imprisonment in a room in Iolani Palace. When her sentence was up, she was kept under house arrest for another year, after which she was given a full pardon and released.  She continued to fight for Hawaii’s independence and also for restoration of more than a million acres of ‘Crown lands’ that the government had taken from her.

While she was imprisoned, Queen Lili’uokalani spent much of her time writing – notably her memoirs – and composing.  She was an accomplished musician and her most famous composition – Aloha oe – serves as the background for this very nice compilation of photos. If you prefer, there is also an Elvis Presley version.
[N.B. In protest against SOPA, I assume that WordPress will, like Wikipedia and many others, be dark tomorrow.]



  1. Great read….sad story though 🙂


    Comment by ninachat — January 17, 2012 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  2. So very moving, Jean. Makes you want to cry….but then so much does that nowadays.


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — January 17, 2012 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

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    Comment by hawaii observatory tour — September 25, 2014 @ 4:32 pm | Reply

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      Comment by jchatoff — September 25, 2014 @ 10:52 pm | Reply

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