In recognition of the historic occasion of January 17th, 1893 and the Hawaiian Revolution which ended the monarchy of the Hawaiian Kingdom, I’d like to offer thanks to the heroes of that day. Although tensions during that time were high enough to entice the landing of peacekeepers from the U.S.S. Boston, no violence occurred the entire time, save the shooting of one police officer trying to stop a wagon of weapons for the Honolulu Rifles.

We can thank the Committee of Safety for their perseverance, and of course the leaders of the revolution, including Lorrin Thurston, Sanford Dole, Peter Cushman Jones and others. Without their determination to reform the government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, the path to full democracy and statehood may have been delayed or subverted. We can also thank the common members of the Hawaiian Kingdom government, including every official, judge, legislator and other government employee, who maintained order during the transition to the Republic of Hawaii (the only people removed from office were the queen, her marshal, and her cabinet). Of course without the eventual support of the vast majority of the people of Hawaii, the path towards statehood would have been thwarted as well – despite some minor and momentary discontent, both sides found in the end common ground in the best interests of placing power in the hands of the people. Last but not least, let us also thank Hawaii’s last queen, Liliuokalani.

Our queen instigated the Hawaiian Revolution by following her heart, and hoping that by taking more power to the monarchy, all the people of Hawaii could prosper. As misguided as this may seem in hindsight, there is no doubt that she saw herself as a benign elite, and concerned herself greatly with the condition of the people of the land. Her heroism that day of January 17th, 1893, in avoiding bloodshed and relinquishing power, cannot be understated. Although she did not come to terms with her surrender easily (evidenced by her role in the 1895 counter-revolution attempt), as the years passed she transformed herself from a noble royalist with aspirations of power, to a true American patriot, celebrating the rich multi-cultural heritage and commitment to freedom as outlined by our founding fathers. Once a foe of annexation, she later saw it as the best thing that could have happened for Hawaii. In her diary, she wrote, “Tho’ for a moment it [the Hawaiian Revolution] cost me a pang of pain for my people it was only momentary, for the present has a hope for the future of my people.” During World War I, she went so far as to raise the U.S. flag above her residence at Washington Place, in honor of Hawaiian-American sailors who had lost their lives defending the values of liberty and freedom.

So let us give thanks, and remember that on this day, over a hundred years ago, our Kingdom took its most determined step towards the dream of democracy, equality and freedom. Although it took over 60 more years of struggle to attain our rightful place as the 50th state of the union, we as a people persevered and honored our predecessors with an overwhelming 94% vote in favor of statehood in 1959. Let us also honor them with grateful thanks today.

4 Thoughts on “Heroes of the Hawaiian Revolution

  1. Freeus on 1/31/2007 at 12:00 pm said:

    In all seriousness, though, one should read “Aloha Betrayed” to hear the true voice of the people at that time. Mahalo.

  2. I think the problem with hearing the “true voice of the people at that time” is that we forget how they changed and grew afterwards. The Hawaiian Revolution, and the subsequent Republic of Hawaii were indeed shaky times, but in the end everyone, Liliuokalani included, came to see the transition towards democracy as a great benefit to all of the people of Hawaii, of all races.

  3. Freeus on 2/1/2007 at 2:56 pm said:

    But wasn’t it already a democracy much like the Canada of today?

  4. No, actually it wasn’t. It was a constitutional monarchy, with limited suffrage for the people, even before the 1887 constitution. There were both property requirements, literacy requirements, and race requirements for voting in 1892. See Article 59 of the 1887 Constitution regarding qualifications to elect Nobles, and Article 62 of the 1887 Constitution regarding qualifications to elect Representatives.

    The irony here is that the Republic of Hawaii added loyalty oath requirements, and dramatically reduced the electorate for its time of power, but once we were annexed to the United States, native Hawaiian leaders such as Robert Wilcox were able to obtain universal suffrage for males, regardless of property or literacy, putting political power back in to the hands of native Hawaiians. (Asians were still disenfranchised, until those born after 1898 became of age.)

    So the rich white folk who contrived to annex Hawaii to the United States actually lost power when the Organic Act of 1900 was passed. There may have been those who helped with the Hawaiian Revolution and annexation who didn’t want to give the vote to more people, and didn’t want a more representative democracy, but their designs were thwarted. We can all be grateful today, even if the picture looked bleak in 1898.

    For a very detailed article on the history of suffrage in the islands, please read TO DWELL ON THE EARTH IN UNITY: Rice, Arakaki, AND THE GROWTH OF CITIZENSHIP AND VOTING RIGHTS IN HAWAI`I, by Patrick W. Hanifin.

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