Origins of Hawaii Statehood

March 12, 2009 by admin Leave a reply »
Honolulu Hawaii at Night
Image by Sheepback.Cabin via Flickr

Hawaii Statehood

Before its discovery by Captain James Cook

in the late eighteenth century, the Hawaiian Islands were governed by an assortment of kings, queens, princes, princesses, and nobles. The islands were unified by King Kamehameha the Great

(Kamehameha the First) in the year eighteen ten after a long series of wars, sieges, and diplomatic negotiations. Hawaii’s newfound unity and sovereignty was not to last long, however, and as plantation owners and foreign powers gained traction in local politics, the autonomy of the Kingdom of Hawaii was steadily decreasing. By the year eighteen ninety three, the islands had already been occupied once by the British Empire, and the monarchy had been forced to make a number of constitutional concessions under the threat of violence from American plantation owners. In the year eighteen ninety three, a coalition of political malcontents and those holding economic grudges against the current regime occupied ‘Iolani Palace and forcibly removed Queen Lilioukalani from power.
These revolutionaries called themselves the “Committee of Safety”, and established a pseudo-democratic Provisional Government that clashed for several years with the remnants of the queen’s forces. Although there were several attempts to reinstate Lilioukalani to the throne, including one violent confrontation, none were successful, and the Republic of Hawaii was founded in the year eighteen ninety four. In eighteen ninety eight, the United States Congress annexed the Republic of Hawaii under the Newlands Resolution, making Hawaii a US territory. There were several attempts to gain statehood for Hawaii in the next few decades, although none were successful until the movement received overwhelming support from the rapidly increasing immigrant population. The Hawaii Admission Act finally passed through Congress and was signed by President Eisenhower in the year 1959. Hawaii voters approved the measure by a ratio of seventeen for and one against.

Hawaii’s statehood had widely resounding effects on the economy and politics of the newly christened “Aloha State.” Honolulu, which had until that point been mostly a port town centered on Honolulu and Pearl Harbors, quickly became a hub for commercial and governmental activity. The population also increased exponentially, while the rise of the jet plane led to increased levels of tourist activity, which is now the largest industry in the state of Hawaii. A number of additional military bases were constructed on the islands, especially on Oahu and Kauai, boosting military spending to the second largest component of Hawaii’s economy. Dozens of popular television shows and movies have been filmed in the islands after statehood, including the massive hit “Lost”, “Blue Hawaii”, and even “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. The admission of Hawaii in the Union was overwhelmingly favored by the populace, but it also triggered an extreme reaction from a number of Native Hawaiians. Many of these individuals continue to contend that Hawaii was illegally invaded and occupied by the United States of America – staging protests, decrying American “injustices”, and even going so far as declaring heirs to the throne and setting up parallel governments. Although the United States government did officially apologize for the invasion of Hawaii, it did not in any way concede that Hawaii should become independent or that Native Hawaiians should be awarded reparations.

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