Thursday, April 17, 2014

Overthrow (One of the Most Significant Events in Hawaiian History)

The word overthrow has at least two connotations in Hawaiian history. The first is the overthrow of the kapu system, but for more people the word overthrow refers to the coup d'etat of the Hawaiian kingdom. The 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy was a carefully orchestrated and bloodless coup. It has some parallels to the Russian takeover of Crimea and to the colonization of Native American tribal land.

Overthrow image represented by the symbol of the king falling.
Queen Lili'uokalani wanted a new constitution. The constitution she inherited was so weak that it did not even allow Hawaiians, citizens of Hawaii, to vote. But it did allow Caucasian foreigners (haoles) to vote and hold office, even though they were not citizens!                                                                                        
Meanwhile, American businessmen and politicians were meeting to discuss the possibility of annexing Hawaii. In January 1893, things came to a head.  Rumors of the Queen’s new constitution triggered a series of events, leading to American troops in Hawaii, a new provisional government, and the overthrow of the monarchy. Eventually Hawaii would become annexed by the United States.

One of the questions of the overthrow, that I've heard asked over and over, is Why didn't the Hawaiians fight back? I'm not a historian, but one answer is that the queen was told by her trusted advisors (some of whom were not Hawaiian) that she would be able to regain her kingdom back through diplomacy and to avoid bloodshed. 

Source: Wikipedia Commons. Queen Lili'uokalani

Maybe she would have succeeded with more support. On December 20,1893, President Cleveland sent a letter to the Provisional Government of Hawaii, asking the provisional president to resign and to restore the Hawaiian Kingdom. This request was turned down. For years, the Queen continued to make diplomatic efforts to regain her kingdom.

Though the events of the overthrow happened more than a century ago, it still can be felt in modern Hawaii.  There is a sovereignty movement to restore the kingdom of Hawaii, going on for decades, just simmering under the surface. Most visitors are not aware of it, and it’s kept under wraps in most tourist areas, but it’s always present.

P.S. If you are blog hopping from the A to Z challenge, please include your link if you comment! I try to reciprocate comments as quickly as I can, though I did lag behind last year, especially towards the end.

P.P.S. I am running two mini-contests during the A-Z Challenge (and into part of May). Here's how to enter


  1. I didn't know about the movement to restore the Monarchy. Thanks for sharing that. And I had no idea about the history of how Hawaii became a state in the USA.

    Enjoy the A to Z. :-)

    Teresa, from:

  2. Pretty interesting the sovereignty movement. I keep learning things and have already learned of the kapu system and haoles. We also have our movement here as they want to make California from two to six states. It will be interesting to see how it will play out.

  3. Aloha Teresa,
    Glad you stopped by. It's not taught a lot in other states!


Comments are important to me, so mahalo for adding a comment! I will try to follow up when I receive one.