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Queen Lili'uokalani

About Queen Lili'uokalani (1838-1917)

By Armour Fentress Miller-Webb

Lili'uokalani signed a document which read in part: "Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands. - Queen Lili'uokalani to Sanford B. Dole, Jan 17, 1893."

Lili'uokalani appealed to President Grover Cleveland, who sent James Blount to Hawai'i, to investigate events and send him a detailed report. The Blount report concluded that American minister John Stevens had been instrumental in the illegal overthrow of Queen Lili'uokalani and recommended the restoration of the monarchy. The next American minister to the islands, Albert Willis, offered Lili'uokalani her crown back, if she would grant clemency to those who overthrew her. Initially, she refused, preferring that they be beheaded. By the time she had changed her mind, it was too late for the restoration of the Hawaiian monarchy.

While Lili'uokalani hesitated to agree to clemency in order to restore the monarchy, pro-annexation factors had been lobbying the U.S. Congress heavily. As a result of that lobbying, the Republic of Hawaii was "proclaimed" by Congress on July 4, 1894 and immediately recognized by accompanying resolution in Congress -- with none other than Sanford B. Dole as President. This could be considered ironic: Dole had been Queen Lili'uokalani's advisor and personal friend throughout her reign.

Receiving news of recognition of the republic, recently appointed American minister John Stevens called out troops in 1894, stormed Iolani Palace and other government buildings, sweeping aside the provisional government which had existed since the forced abdication of Lili'uokalani in 1893. Lili'uokalani retired to her home in Washington Place.

In 1895 a cache of weapons was "discovered" buried in the gardens of Lili'uokalani's Washington Place home. Upon discovery of the cache, Lili'uokalani was arrested. While under arrest she was forced to sign a document of absolute abdication, denying any claim to the throne for herself and any heirs or claimants for all time. In a humiliating military tribunal in her former throne room in Iolani Palace, she was convicted of her alleged knowledge of the attempted revolution, though she denied any knowledge of Hawaiian royalists to restore the monarchy. She was fined $5,000 dollars and sentenced to five years hard labor. The sentence to hard labor was commuted to confinement in one upstairs bedroom in Iolani Palace. Lili'uokalani was allowed one lady-in-waiting during the day, but no visitors.

Lili'uokalani was released from Iolani Palace confinement in September, 1896. The Queen remained under house arrest for five months at her private home, Washington Place. Then she was forbidden to leave Oahu for another 8 months before all restrictions were lifted.

Hawaii was annexed to the United States through a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, signed into law by President McKinley on July 17, 1898.

Lili'uokalani remained at Washington Place until she died at age 79 in 1917 from complications of a stroke. In a Deed of Trust in 1909, which was later amended in 1911, Lili'uokalani entrusted her estate to provide for orphan and destitute children in the Hawaiian Islands, with preference for Hawaiian children. This led to the founding of the Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center.

In 1993, 100 years after the overthrow, President Clinton signed a Congressional resolution (Public Law 103-150) in which the United States government formally apologized to the Native Hawaiian people.

During her imprisonment in Iolani Palace, Lili'oukalni translated the Kumulipo, the Creation Chant, which tells the beginning of all life for Hawaiians, during her imprisonment in the Iolani Palace, in 1895. Her motive for publishing the translation may have been a refutation of the argument put forward by the pro-annexation partisans who imprisoned her that Hawaiians were ignorant savages who had no culture prior to the arrival of Captain Cook. The Kumulipo not only tells the story of creation and the genealogy of the royal Hawaiian line but also explains the relationship between Hawaiians and nature around them and why they must remain in harmony with creation in order to survive.

Suggested Reading:

Lili'uokalani, Hawai'i's Story by Hawai'i's Queen, ISBN 0804810664

Helena G. Allen, The Betrayal of Lili'uokalani: Last Queen of Hawai'i 1838-1917, ISBN 0935180893

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