The death of the bachelor King Kamehameha V—who did not name an heir—resulted in the popular election of Lunalilo over Kalākaua. Lunalilo died the next year, also without naming an heir. In 1874, the election was contested within the legislature between Kalākaua and Emma, Queen Consort of Kamehameha IV. After riots broke out, the United States and Britain landed troops on the islands to restore order. King Kalākaua was chosen as monarch by the Legislative Assembly by a vote of 39 to 6 on February 12, 1874.
1887 Constitution and Overthrow Preparations:
In 1887, Kalākaua was forced to sign the 1887 Constitution of the Kingdom of Hawai’i. Drafted by white businessmen and lawyers, the document stripped the king of much of his authority. It established a property qualification for voting that effectively disenfranchised most Hawai’ians and immigrant laborers and favored the wealthier white elite. Resident whites were allowed to vote but resident Asians were not. As the 1887 Constitution was signed under threat of violence, it is known as the Bayonet Constitution. King Kalākaua, reduced to a figurehead, reigned until his death in 1891. His sister, Queen Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him; she was the last monarch of Hawaiʻi.
In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani announced plans for a new constitution to proclaim herself an absolute monarch. On January 14, 1893, a group of mostly Euro-American business leaders and residents formed the Committee of Safety to stage a coup d’état against the kingdom and seek annexation by the United States. United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, responding to a request from the Committee of Safety, summoned a company of U.S. Marines. The Queen’s soldiers did not resist. According to historian William Russ, the monarchy was unable to protect itself.
Overthrow of 1893 – Republic of Hawai’i (1894–1898):
On January 17, 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a provisional government composed of members of the Committee of Safety. The United States Minister to the Kingdom of Hawai’i (John L. Stevens) conspired with U.S. citizens to overthrow the monarchy. After the overthrow, lawyer Sanford B. Dole, a citizen of Hawai’i, became President of the Republic when the Provisional Government of Hawai’i ended on July 4, 1894. Controversy ensued in the following years as the Queen tried to regain her throne. The administration of President Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, which concluded that the removal of Liliʻuokalani had been illegal. The U.S. government first demanded that Queen Liliʻuokalani be reinstated, but the Provisional Government refused.
Congress conducted an independent investigation, and on February 26, 1894, submitted the Morgan Report, which found all parties, including Minister Stevens—with the exception of the Queen—”not guilty” and not responsible for the coup. Partisans on both sides of the debate questioned the accuracy and impartiality of both the Blount and Morgan reports over the events of 1893.
In 1993, the US Congress passed a joint Apology Resolution regarding the overthrow; it was signed by President Bill Clinton. The resolution apologized and said that the overthrow was illegal in the following phrase: “The Congress — on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i on January 17, 1893, acknowledges the historical significance of this event which resulted in the suppression of the inherent sovereignty of the Native Hawai’ian people.” The Apology Resolution also “acknowledges that the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawai’i occurred with the active participation of agents and citizens of the United States and further acknowledges that the Native Hawai’ian people never directly relinquished to the United States their claims to their inherent sovereignty as a people over their national lands, either through the Kingdom of Hawai’i or through a plebiscite or referendum”.
Annexation – Territory of Hawai’i (1898–1959):
After William McKinley won the 1896 U.S. presidential election, advocates pressed to annex the Republic of Hawai’i. The previous president, Grover Cleveland, was a friend of Queen Liliʻuokalani. McKinley was open to persuasion by U.S. expansionists and by annexationists from Hawaiʻi. He met with three non-native annexationists: Lorrin A. Thurston, Francis March Hatch and William Ansel Kinney. After negotiations in June 1897, Secretary of State John Sherman agreed to a treaty of annexation with these representatives of the Republic of Hawai’i. The U.S. Senate never ratified the treaty. Despite the opposition of most native Hawai’ians, the Newlands Resolution was used to annex the Republic to the U.S.; it became the Territory of Hawai’i. The Newlands Resolution was passed by the House on June 15, 1898, by 209 votes in favor to 91 against, and by the Senate on July 6, 1898, by a vote of 42 to 21.