Following the death of Kamehameha II in 1824, his 11-year-old brother, Kauikeaouli, became king as Kamehameha III. His 30-year reign was notable for a number of historic changes in Hawaii’s form of government and its economic life, much of it instigated by Americans and Europeans who became royal advisers. In 1839, at the urging of a former American missionary, William Richards, the king issued a declaration of basic rights for all his subjects. The following year, these rights were incorporated in Hawaii’s first written constitution, which also established a bicameral legislature. One house of the legislature was to be elected by popular vote, meaning that for the first time the common people of Hawaii were granted a measure of political power. In 1848 the Hawaiian government began reforming the system of land ownership. Until this time the king had held title to all the land in Hawaii. During the project, known as the Great Mahele, meaning “great division,” the land was divided among the king, the chiefs, and the government. In addition, commoners were allowed to buy small plots of land they occupied and cultivated.
Two years later, a law was passed that allowed foreigners to buy land for the first time. The Great Mahele gave the common people the right to own property and freed them from paying heavy taxes to the chiefs. But it resulted in many native Hawaiians becoming landless tenants after they sold their holdings to white entrepreneurs. By the end of the 19th century, whites owned four acres of land for every one owned by a native Hawaiian, including the chiefs.
Despite the decline of the Asian fur trade and the depletion of Hawaii’s once extensive sandalwood resources by about 1830, Hawaii continued to serve as an international port of call.
The whaling industry in the northern Pacific Ocean expanded rapidly, and Hawaiian ports formed a base of operations for whaling vessels, most of them American. A wide variety of commercial crops were grown in the islands, mainly to supply whaling vessels and other ships and also for shipment to California. In the 1860s, as the whaling industry declined, Hawaii turned increasingly to a new business for its major source of income: the production of sugar. It was an industry that would transform the social, economic, and political structure of the islands.
Although the rapidly growing United States was a large potential market for Hawaiian sugar, the United States maintained a high tariff on imported sugar. In 1875, after several unsuccessful attempts, the Hawaiian government negotiated a trade treaty with the United States.
The treaty, which became effective in September 1876, provided for the duty-free entry of Hawaiian raw sugar and other specified products into the United States. This gave enormous impetus to the Hawaiian sugar industry, which consequently began to attract many American investors. Sugar production, which was concentrated on the sugar plantations of Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii, increased many times over. By 1890 the islands supplied about 10 percent of all the raw sugar refined annually in the United States.
In 1887 the treaty was renewed, with a provision giving the United States exclusive rights to the use of Pearl Harbor on Oahu. However, in 1890 the Congress of the United States passed the McKinley Tariff Act, which removed the duty on all raw sugar coming into the United States.
This deprived Hawaiian sugar producers of their privileged status, and as a result, Hawaiian production fell off drastically. In 1894, however, passage of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act restored the pre-1890 policy, and production expanded. "Hawaii" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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