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169 Chapter 6 Ma‘i Ho‘oka‘awale—The Disease That Separates “What will leprosy do to my people? What will become of our land?” —Ka‘ehu, the chanter Mo‘olelo When Lili‘uokalani ascended the throne after the death of her brother, King David Kalākaua, her priority was simple—to preserve the independence of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. Of primary concern was the desire for a new constitution to replace the 1887 (Bayonet) Constitution. In her writings, the queen stated, “Petitions poured in from every part of the Islands for a new constitution ; these were addressed to myself as the reigning sovereign,” and she added, “no true Hawaiian chief would have done other than to promise a consideration of their wishes.”1 Indeed, two-thirds of registered voters had signed the petitions. Soon after ascending the throne, Lili‘uokalani embarked on a royal tour of the islands in July 1891 and heard directly from her people. As the queen moved to promulgate a new constitution, tensions rose. Lili‘uokalani wanted to strengthen the lāhui through the monarch, which was in keeping with a Hawaiian perspective, but her actions also bolstered the opposition’s claims of the queen’s desire for absolutism. Throughout the century, a small but powerful class of American sugar planters and businessmen had increased their influence in political affairs through their acquisition of land and wealth. The queen’s promise of a new constitution threatened their influence and led these business elite (annexationists, calling themselves the “Committee of Safety”) to plot against her. Supported by John Stevens, the U.S. minister to Hawai‘i, the Committee of Safety set its plans in motion in mid-January 1893. 170 chapter 6 The queen’s cabinet had withdrawn their support of her new constitution , but the revolutionaries still used this event as a catalyst for their actions. Stevens called ashore U.S. troops from the U.S.S. Boston, then in Honolulu Harbor, and they took a position in front of ‘Iolani Palace. On January 17, 1893, Sanford Dole resigned as a justice of the supreme court of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i and agreed to be the chairman of the executive council of the provisional government, and the revolutionaries drafted a proclamation asserting their control of the government. They marched into Ali‘iolani Hale and read their proclamation, and Minister Stevens recognized the committee as the provisional government of the Hawaiian Islands. Many in Hawai‘i wanted to retaliate, but Queen Lili‘uokalani wished not to endanger any of her subjects’ lives. She relinquished her sovereignty, not to the so-called provisional government, but to the United States of America, in the belief that the United States would right the wrong that had been carried out that day and restore Hawaiian sovereignty. The President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, appointed Congressman James H. Blount of Georgia as U.S. Special Commissioner and sent him to Hawai‘i to investigate. Blount concluded that the overthrow was illegal. When the United States insisted that the queen be reinstated, the provisional government refused. A U.S. Senate investigation known as the Morgan Report followed, in which no blame was placed upon the perpetrators of the coup. In the meantime, the provisional government proclaimed the establishment of the Republic of Hawai‘i on July 4, 1894, with Sanford B. Dole as president, and began to lobby for annexation of the islands by the United States. Kānaka Maoli and other supporters of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i continued to call for the return of Hawaiian sovereignty. Robert Wilcox attempted a rebellion against the republic in January of 1895. Lili‘u­ o­ ka­ lani was implicated in the plot, subsequently put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to imprisonment in an upstairs room in ‘Iolani Palace. When the republic tried to negotiate a treaty of annexation with the United States for a second time, the people of Hawai‘i protested and effectively stopped the treaty with the Kū‘ē petitions.2 By this time, however, the United States was determined to take the islands under their full control and passed a joint resolution in the Congress to claim the islands. Thus in what can only be described as a “forced annexation ,” and against the will of the majority of Native Hawaiians, Hawai‘i became an occupied territory (colony) of the United States in 1898. ma‘i ho‘oka‘awale—the disease that separates 171 The political and economic struggles...


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