Hawaii history

King David Kalakaua

Hawaii is not only distinct from the other states of the Union due to its geographic location, its unique culture and sceneries, but also thanks to its colorful and changeful history.

The individual islands are of volcanic heritage and have first been settled from about 300 to 600 by the Polynesians. The first explorer from other parts of the world to set foot on Hawaii was James Cook in 1778. But despite having been discovered by the Europeans, the islands remained independent, with each one having its own chief. Until 1816, the islands understood themselves as being British protectorates - from 1810 on, the archipelago had its first common king in Kamehameha I. Shortly thereafter, under the influence of British missionaries, most of the population converted from their nature religion to Christianity.

This also led to a change in the social order, as documented in the constitution decreed by Kamehameha III in 1840. In that time, Hawaii began to develop closer ties with the USA. In 1874, an agreement for tax free trade with the US was ratified.

The monarchic system ended in 1893 when Queen Lilioukalani was overthrown after her administration style had increasingly come under fire, with the criticism mainly kindled by her predecessor,  King David Kalakaua (photo), who had led the people’s demands for more democracy. In an addendum to the free trade agreement with the USA in 1874, Kalakaua had permitted the Americans to establish a permanent military presence in Pearl Harbor, a move that also came under heavy criticism by the residents. Finally, Queen Lilioukalani had, in an attempt to soothe public opinion, changed the constitution again, benefiting the natives, but aggravating the many Europeans and Americans living on the islands. These reacted by forming a committee aiming at the dismissal of the queen and annexation by the USA. In the end, the queen surrendered to the pressure exercised by this commission and resigned.

US President Grover Cleveland later considered these actions as wrong and attempted to have the queen return to the throne. He asked a Senate committee to judge the circumstances of the overthrow, but the commission found no grounds for objection. On July 4, 1894 President Sanford Dole proclaimed the Republic of Hawaii. Under the administration of  Cleveland’s successor William McKinley, Hawaii was annexed by the USA in 1898 and was from then on organized under the status of a United States Territory.

Under this status, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 constituted an attack on American national territory, causing the entry of the country into the Second World War. Only in 1959, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower created the prerequisites for the admission of Hawaii as a US state. A referendum on the islands showed a support of more than 90% for the suggestion to join the Union and thus in August 1959, Hawaii became the  50th and so far last state to join the USA. However, many Hawaiians still see the circumstances of the monarchy’s end suspiciously and therefore, there are singular initiatives for Hawaiian independence and for leaving the union to this day.



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