Lessons in Foreign Policy from the Islands of Hawaii
About this time 120 years ago, US Marines invaded the sovereign Kingdom of Hawaii at the invitation of wealthy white businessmen and overthrew a standing Monarch, Queen Lili’Uokalani. This was a first step towards “globalization”—the encouragement or creation of free market economies and “privatization”—allowing for foreign acquisition of local resources and the free flow of western ideas.
At the hands of Protestant missionaries from Massachusetts, King Kamehameha II was led to believe of his eternal damnation lest he embrace their fundamentalist teachings. Thereafter, missionary families came to dominate both the Hawaiian economy and its politics by forming the “missionary party.”
Eventually submitting to pressure from the missionaries and wealthy landowners, King Kamehameha III agreed to discard the prior system of feudal land tenure which insured Native rights to subsistence agriculture and replaced it with a system of private property that by design dispossessed a majority of native Hawaiians.
He too allowed resident foreigners to vote on equal footing with Native Hawaiians in elections for the newly formed legislature, and so grew Western influence and power.
Time passed and King Kalkaua (1874-1891) refused to cede Pearl Harbor to the United States. A party of missionaries, mostly American, armed themselves and forced the King at gunpoint to sign the “Bayonet Constitution” which stripped him of all power.
King Kalahua died in 1891 he was succeeded by his sister, Queen Lili’uokalani. She was petitioned by a majority of voters seeking to do away with the “bayonet constitution.” The missionary party soon found out a new constitution was being drafted, one that would reestablish self-governance to the Hawaiian people. Asa Thurston and Sanford Dole, both leaders in the missionary party, formed a plan with the American minister and commander of all U.S. forces in Hawaii and a foremost advocate of a US takeover of Hawaii.
So it was that Hawaii was invaded by a foreign power—the United States of America. This invasion was in violation of treaties signed between the US and Hawaii as well as numerous treaties signed by other nations and Hawaii.
The invasion was also in violation of international laws condemning acts of aggression. The President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, a Democrat who stood firmly against the illegal occupation and annexation of the sovereign nation, put it this way in a letter to the House of Representatives: “I believe that a candid and thorough examination of the facts will force the conviction that the provisional government owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States. Fair-minded people with the evidence before them will hardly claim that the Hawaiian Government was overthrown by the people of the island or that the provisional government had ever existed with their consent. I do not understand that any member of this government claims that the people would uphold it by their suffrages if they were allowed to vote on the question.”
Well, we all know what eventually happened to the good people of Hawaii.
What I think this example of history and foreign policy speaks to these three points:
Mr. Hupp writes from Chugiak, Ak.
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This story was published on April 5, 2003.