Opposition to and Overthrow
The cabinet met with members of a new group called the Committee of Safety, composed of Americans and Europeans who wanted to overthrow the Hawaiian monarchy. They planned to set up their own government and try to get America to annex Hawai‘i. They asked U.S. Minister John L. Stevens to land U.S. troops from the U.S.S. Boston in Honolulu Harbor. He agreed. On January 16, 1893, a force of 162 heavily armed marines and sailors marched through Honolulu. They went down King Street and camped out across from ‘Iolani Palace. The Provisional Government (an “in between” government) took control. Queen Lili‘uokalani gave up the throne under protest. She believed the American government would help her get it back.
Now Hawai‘i was under martial law. Two weeks after the overthrow, the American flag was raised. People had to take an oath supporting the new government, but many refused. The Royal Hawaiian Band resigned rather than take the oath. Many Hawaiians wrote and sang patriotic songs for their queen. The most famous of these was “Mele ‘Ai Pōhaku,” the “Stone-Eating Song.” Native Hawaiians would rather eat stones than support the new Provisional Government and be disloyal to their queen.
Sanford B. Dole was chosen as the president of the Provisional Government. He was a respected son of a missionary family. Dole and the Provisional Government sent word to Washington that Hawai‘i wished to be annexed to America. The queen sent friends to Washington to stop such a move. U.S. President Cleveland sent James Blount to Hawai‘i see what should be done. He sent back a report that favored the queen. However, the Provisional Government went ahead with its own work. The idea of annexation was forgotten for a time. It was now its plan to frame a new constitution and form a republic.
On the Fourth of July in 1894, President Dole, on the steps of ‘Iolani Palace, told the people that Hawai‘i was to be a republic. Before this, the cabinet and the legislature had promised to be loyal to such a republic. They would oppose any return of the queen. President Dole was to be the first President of the Republic for a term of six years. Thus, far out in the Pacific Ocean, America spread its power.