Troubles Brewing and Boiling Over
Kalākaua was having challenges with his government including many unpaid public debts. Some Native Hawaiians wanted foreign influence removed, but some of the Missionary Party were critical of the king. In 1887, a group of non-Hawaiians formed a secret political group called the “Hawaiian League.” They, like the Missionary Party, wanted a constitutional monarchy where the legislature had the power, not the king. The Hawaiian League also was in favor of annexing the Hawaiian Kingdom to America. Kalākaua had to appoint a new cabinet of non-Hawaiians. Then, five days later, he was forced to sign a new constitution, referred to as the “Bayonet Constitution” because the League was armed with guns. The new cabinet and the legislature had to approve every governmental issue. The members of the House of Nobles would be elected and not appointed by the king. Any man over twenty who could read and write in Hawaiian, English or a European language and who had lived in Hawai‘i for one year could vote if he took an oath to uphold the constitution and paid his taxes. This allowed foreigners to vote in Hawai‘i without becoming citizens. However, because many Native Hawaiians could not read and write at this time, a large number of them would no longer be able to vote in their own land.
By 1890, Kalākaua’s health had begun to fail. On the advice of his physician, he traveled to California for rest and to try to recover. When he sailed away for San Francisco, some of his loyal friends came to say aloha. A royal salute of guns was fired. Those who saw him go never saw him alive again. He died of kidney disease in San Francisco on January 20, 1891, and his body was returned to Hawai‘i. Before he died he made a record, on one of the first phonograph machines ever made, which said, “Tell my people aloha. Tell them that I tried.”