When Queen Liliʻuokalani was sworn into office on Jan. 29, 1891, the political situation in Hawaiʻi was already tense. Native Hawaiians, non-Hawaiian citizens, and foreigners residing in the kingdom had conflicting interests; while foreign powers postured and flexed their colonial muscles in their insatiable hunger for more territory, influence, power and wealth.
Even among Native Hawaiians there was political division. At the time there were four major political parties: The Reform Party, The National Reform Party, The Hawaiian National Liberal Party, and The Native Sons of Hawaiʻi.
The Reform Party was the group that forced King Kalākaua to sign the so-called “Bayonet Constitution” in 1887. Pro-American annexationists comprised their radical fringe.
The other parties were primarily Native Hawaiian, but their political visions varied. The National Reform Party, supported by Liliʻuokalani, was a de facto government party that challenged the mostly haole “Reform Party.” The Hawaiian National Liberal Party wanted an independent Hawaiʻi with a more liberal constitution. The Native Sons of Hawaiʻi wanted to keep the monarchy intact.
During the 1892 legislative elections, no party emerged dominant, and when the legislative session began, a power struggle for control of the Queen’s cabinet was center stage.
Liliʻuokalani had the constitutional right to select her own cabinet members. However, the legislators opposing her rejected her legitimate appointments in an effort to place their agents in her cabinet.
By January 1893, the situation had become volatile. At a January 14 meeting with legislators Liliʻuokalani made it known that she intended to replace the existing constitution and restore power to the monarchy and to the Hawaiian people.
Signed by her brother at gunpoint years earlier, the “Bayonet Constitution” transferred significant political power from the monarchy to the predominantly pro-business legislature. It also granted suffrage to foreigners (Americans and Europeans) by linking voting rights to property ownership.
Liliʻuokalani’s declaration set off a chain of events that culminated with the illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom three days later, on Jan. 17, 1893, by the self-declared “Committee of Safety,” a group of 13 Americans who conspired with the U.S. government to depose the Queen and establish a Provisional Government.
Protesting American aggression the Queen surrendered writing (in part), “Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do, under this protest…yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented…undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”
In observance of the overthrow, an ʻOnipaʻa March will be held on Monday, January 17, at 10:00 a.m., beginning at Maunaʻala and ending at ʻIolani Palace. All are welcome to attend. Masking and social distancing protocols will be observed. For more information go to: kalahuihawaii.net/.