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Hawaii in the 19th century


Sanford B. Dole
Sanford B. Dole

In the latter part of the 19th century, American and European business leaders in Hawaii found themselves increasingly at odds with the last two Hawaiian monarchs: King David Kalakaua, who ruled from 1874 to his death in 1891, and his sister, Queen Liliuokalani, who succeeded him.

During Kalakaua’s reign, the royal government became more corrupt and extravagant. The king also encouraged the revival of traditional Hawaiian chants, forms of medicine, and other practices that had been discouraged since the missionaries’ arrival. Although Kalakaua often was attacked by other Hawaiians for cooperating with the powerful Americans, the Americans saw him as too nationalistic, anti-American, and unpredictable.

In 1887 a group of American and other white business leaders, backed by an armed militia they had founded, imposed on the king a new constitution that sharply limited his powers. The so-called Bayonet Constitution also placed new conditions on the right to vote, consolidating the influence of wealthy whites. It required that voters have a yearly income of $600 or own $3,000 in property, a rule that disenfranchised about three-fourths of the native Hawaiian voters. European and American males could vote, even if they were not Hawaiian citizens, but Asian immigrants were excluded. When Queen Liliuokalani took the throne in 1891, she attempted to regain some of the power the monarchy and native Hawaiians had lost. Much loved by her people, Liliuokalani opposed efforts of the white business community to have Hawaii annexed by the United States, sharing the overwhelmingly popular view that they were motivated by greed.

White leaders


On January 17, 1893, after the queen attempted to impose a new constitution, powerful white leaders occupied the government office building in Honolulu and overthrew the monarchy. The rebels were helped by the official United States representative in Hawaii, who ordered troops from a U.S. warship to land in Honolulu, on the pretext of protecting American lives and property. The rebels proclaimed a provisional government headed by Sanford B. Dole, the son of an American missionary. "Hawaii" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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