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September 2004

SEPTEMBER 11, 1897…

Patriotism in Hawai‘i

By Roy K. Alameida

September 11, 1897 was the date that the petition against the annexation of Hawai`i to the United States was signed by the president and secretary of the women’s and men’s branches of the Hui Aloha ‘Āina - the Hawaiian Patriotic League: Kuaihelani Campbell, Lydia Oholo, James Keauiluna Kaulia and Enoch Johnson. The petition, Kū‘ē, which means to resist, was signed by over 21,000 native Hawaiians or more than half of the 40,000 native Hawaiian population reported in the census taken in 1896.

The overthrow of Queen Lili`uokalani and the imposition of the Republic of Hawai ‘i were contrary to the will of native Hawaiians. Mass protest rallies took place and two gender-designated groups, Hui Aloha ‘Āina and Hui Aloha ‘Āina o Nā Wahine, were organized to protest the overthrow and annexation of the Hawaiian kingdom. The protests also took the form of an armed revolt that was suppressed by the forces of the Republic in 1895.

In March of 1897, William McKinley, in favor of annexation, was inaugurated as U.S. president. He and three representatives from the Republic of Hawai ‘i signed a treaty of annexation that was submitted to the U.S. senate for ratification.

A mass petition drive in Hawai‘i was organized by the men and women of Hui Aloha ‘Āina. They hoped to convince the U.S. government that the majority of native Hawaiians were opposed to annexation. Between September 11 and October 2, 1897, the two groups collected petition signatures at public meetings held on five islands. The petition was clearly marked “Petition Against Annexation” and written in both Hawaiian and English. The number of signatures is impressive by the fact that they were gathered over a period of only two to three weeks, with those collecting the signatures traveling by boat and mule.

Four delegates, representing Hui Aloha ‘Āina, traveled to Washington D.C. and met with Queen Lili`uokalani on December 6 with a 556-page petition in hand. The Queen was already in Washington lobbying against annexation. The delegation and the Queen met with Senator George Hoar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, on December 9, and with the delegation present, the Senator read the text of the petition to the Senate. The petition was formally accepted. By the time the delegates left Washington in February 1898, only 46 senators were willing to vote for annexation. This was far too few for the treaty to pass--sixty votes were needed.

Other events brought the subject of annexation before the U.S. Congress once again. The blowing up of the U.S. battleship Maine in Havana harbor in Cuba and the ensuing Spanish-American war in the Philippines established the strategic value of the Hawaiian Islands for America . A proposal to annex Hawai‘i by joint resolution, which required only a simple majoring in both houses, was submitted to the Congress. This eliminated the 2/3 majority needed to ratify a treaty. This Joint Resolution, known as the “Newlands Resolution,” was passed by Congress and signed by President McKinley on July 7, 1898. The transfer of sovereignty took place on August 12, 1898 as the U.S. flag was hoisted over Hawai‘i in a formal ceremony at ‘ Iolani Palace boycotted by the Hawaiian organizations.

The 1897 Petition Against Annexation stands as evidence that native Hawaiians protested and bear witness that there is another side to the story. The petition with its numerous pages of signatures, along with related records, is filed in the Records of the U.S. Senate, Record Group 46, at the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.


Ua `Ike Anei `Oe…(did you know…)

  • part of McKinley’s campaign platform for President in 1897 included: “The Hawaiian Islands should be controlled by the United States and no foreign power should be permitted to interfere with them.”
  • in October 1897, thousands of Hawaiian loyalist gathered near ` Iolani Palace to send a clear message to the U.S. Congress and President McKinley that the vast majority of Hawaiian citizens were against annexation to the United States.
  • both men and women sewed quilts incorporating the Hawaiian flag as a way to communicate patriotism and to protest against foreign control of the Hawaiian kingdom.

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