Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Queen Liliuokalani of the kingdom of Hawaii surrendered power to a provisional government established by a coup. The queen’s forced abdication led to Hawaii’s annexation by the United States, which culminated in statehood in 1959.

Summary of Event

Soon after her coronation on January 17, 1891, Queen Liliuokalani came into conflict with the members of her government’s cabinet, which consisted mostly of non-Hawaiians (haole in the Hawaiian language). These men represented the moneyed aristocracy of Hawaii, who controlled the kingdom’s imports and exports. By 1891, exports alone, nearly all to the United States, were worth nearly $275 million. Liliuokalani Hawaii;monarchy [kw]Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates (Jan. 24, 1895) [kw]Last Monarch Abdicates, Hawaii’s (Jan. 24, 1895) [kw]Monarch Abdicates, Hawaii’s Last (Jan. 24, 1895) [kw]Abdicates, Hawaii’s Last Monarch (Jan. 24, 1895) Liliuokalani Hawaii;monarchy [g]Polynesia;Jan. 24, 1895: Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates[6000] [g]United States;Jan. 24, 1895: Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates[6000] [c]Government and politics;Jan. 24, 1895: Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates[6000] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Jan. 24, 1895: Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates[6000] [c]Indigenous people’s rights;Jan. 24, 1895: Hawaii’s Last Monarch Abdicates[6000] Dole, Sanford Ballard Stevens, John L.

It was this same group of cabinet members who had forced the queen’s predecessor and brother, King David Kalakaua Kalakaua, David , to sign the so-called Bayonet Constitution Constitutions;Hawaiian of 1887, which severely curtailed the power of the monarchy and the rights of the indigenous peoples of Hawaii. Liliuokalani wished to abolish this constitution and return some measure of power to native-born Hawaiians. Liliuokalani had begun to lobby for a new constitution, or, at minimum, a return to the older constitution of 1864, the last truly Hawaiian constitution. As a native Hawaiian, Liliuokalani was vitally interested in preserving the rights of native Hawaiians, who were losing in the political arena to the American haole. Soon after she announced her intentions, elements of the government, with the support of the planter aristocracy, began planning the coup that would end her reign.

On January 17, 1893, the Committee of Safety, and its militia of local, supportive citizens, began carrying out the coup by taking over government buildings and disarming the royal guard. The committee, made up of non-Polynesians, many of whom were members of the Annexation Club, Hawaii;annexation of a group actively seeking annexation of Hawaii by the United States, included some of the most prominent names in Hawaiian politics. The committee instituted its provisional government and chose Sanford Ballard Dole Dole, Sanford Ballard , who was a known moderate, as the new president. The committee hoped his moderate politics would provide wider support for the revolution.

Queen Lilioukalani around 1893.

(Hawaii State Archives)

One day before the coup, John L. Stevens Stevens, John L. , the U.S. minister to Hawaii and an ardent supporter of Hawaiian annexation, ordered U.S. Marines from the cruiser USS Boston ashore to “protect American interests.” The Marines took up station guarding Iolani Palace, the official residence of the ruler of Hawaii, as well as other strategic buildings in Honolulu in support of the revolutionaries.

Queen Liliuokalani’s resignation statement accused the United States of collusion in the revolution. The queen’s letter, which survived only because Hawaii’s provisional government failed to read the letter, having simply acknowledged its receipt, contains a concise accusation. In the letter, the queen wrote, “I Yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose minister plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States Troops to be landed in Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government.”

President Grover Cleveland Cleveland, Grover [p]Cleveland, Grover;and Hawaii[Hawaii] , unhappy with events in Honolulu, dispatched James H. Blount as his agent to investigate the coup. It was Blount’s opinion that the actions of Minister Stevens Stevens, John L. were a prime factor in the success of the revolution and that those actions had violated Hawaiian sovereignty. President Cleveland subsequently sent a letter to Congress in which he admitted that the deposing of the queen was a direct result of the interference in Hawaiian affairs by the United States. The president ended any debate on annexation Hawaii;annexation of pending further study by the White House.

With the failure of immediate annexation, the Committee of Safety held a constitutional convention and proclaimed the founding of the Republic of Hawaii on May 30, 1894. This action was taken after the report of Minister Blount prompted President Cleveland Cleveland, Grover [p]Cleveland, Grover;and Hawaii[Hawaii] to begin debate concerning American restoration of Liliuokalani to the throne. The committee believed it needed a more permanent government if it were to thwart any attempt to restore the monarchy. The committee elected Dole Dole, Sanford Ballard as the republic’s first and only president.

Following a rebellion in 1895, led by the Hawaiian-born man Robert William Wilcox Wilcox, Robert William , the government tried Liliuokalani for misprision, the crime of having knowledge of a rebellion and not reporting it. Convicted, her initial sentence was five years at hard labor, but Dole Dole, Sanford Ballard commuted her sentence to imprisonment. She was confined in a small room at the Iolani Palace, the building that had been hers as queen. She remained in prison until released on parole on February 6, 1896. She later left Hawaii to undertake a world tour. She joined the Mormon Church in 1916 and died the following year at her Washington House home in Honolulu. She is best remembered for writing “Aloha Oe,” the song most associated with Hawaii.

President William McKinley’s McKinley, William [p]McKinley, William[MacKinley, William];and Hawaii[Hawaii] administration, on July 7, 1898, annexed Hawaii;annexation of Hawaii to the United States. This decision was indicative of the expansionist atmosphere of the McKinley administration and the needs of the Spanish American War for a refueling station for the American Pacific fleet to reach its territories in the Philippines. The official annexation of Hawaii signified the end of the short-lived Republic of Hawaii and a much fuller participation by the United States in Hawaiian affairs. Hawaii would remain an American territory, would become famous in part because of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and eventually would achieve statehood on August 21, 1959.


The dethroning of Queen Liliuokalani led to the final annexation Hawaii;annexation of of Hawaii to the United States. With American expansion into the Pacific Ocean, the strategic location of Hawaii as a refueling and resupply point for vessels bound for central and western Pacific locations made its control important to the U.S. government. Denying control of the Hawaiian Islands to other, potentially hostile countries such as Great Britain, France, and Japan was equally important to the U.S. government. Although thwarted by the Cleveland Cleveland, Grover [p]Cleveland, Grover;and Hawaii[Hawaii] administration’s unwillingness to expand into Hawaii at the expense of the Hawaiian people and of Hawaiian sovereignty, the dethroning of Liliuokalani paved the way for the government of the Republic of Hawaii to continue lobbying for such annexation until a president who would agree with their ideas came into office.

With Hawaii a part of the United States, tariff Tariffs;and Hawaii[Hawaii] issues ceased to be problems for Hawaiian planters, and the sugar and pineapple trade to the continental United States began to flourish. Japanese expansion, already prevalent at the beginning of the twentieth century, was firmly stopped at the 154th parallel, and U.S. imperialism acquired a stepping stone allowing greater influence into the Pacific Ocean basin in the twentieth century. Although U.S. hegemony would be challenged in 1941, an Allied victory in World War II ensured that the Pacific would remain a U.S. zone of control. Hawaii remained the key to that control.

On November 23, 1993, the U.S. Congress passed and President Bill Clinton Clinton, Bill [p]Clinton, Bill;and Hawaii[Hawaii] signed into law a joint resolution that apologized to the people of Hawaii for the actions of agents of the United States who aided and abetted the revolutionaries in overthrowing the Kingdom of Hawaii in January of 1893. The law specifically acknowledged that by its actions, the United States had deprived the rights of indigenous Hawaiians to self-determination.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Allen, Helena G. The Betrayal of Liliuokalani, Last Queen of Hawaii: 1838-1917. Glendale, Calif.: Arthur H. Clark, 1982. A detailed assessment of the later years of the Hawaiian monarchy and the events of Liliuokalani’s life as told from her writings and the memoirs of her heirs.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Conroy, Francis Hilary. The Japanese Expansion into Hawaii, 1868-1898. Saratoga, Calif.: R. & E. Research Associates, 1973. An assessment of the growing immigration of Japanese into Hawaii and Japanese influences on the islands.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Guzzetti, Paula. Last Hawaiian Queen, Liliuokalani. London: Marshall Cavendish, 1997. An updated biography of the last queen of Hawaii.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Kuykendall, Ralph S. The Hawaiian Kingdom, 1854-1874: Twenty Critical Years. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1953. A discussion of the early influences of Americans in the Hawaiian Islands.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Liliuokalani. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen. Honolulu: Mutual, 1990. In this biographical work, originally published in 1898, Liliuokalani tells the story of the last days of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the circumstances surrounding her forced abdication. Includes chapters on subsequent U.S. government investigations into the coup of 1893 and events leading up to the takeover of the monarchy. Introduction by Glen Grant.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Morris, Aldyth. Liliuokalani. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1995. The story of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, the provisional government, and annexation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Native Hawaiians Seek Redress for U.S. Role in Ousting Queen.” The New York Times, December 11, 1999, p. A20. A report about Hawaiians seeking redress for the U.S. involvement in Liliuokalani’s overthrow. Discusses then-president Bill Clinton’s apology for the incident.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Osborne, Thomas J. Empire Can Wait: American Opposition to Hawaiian Annexation, 1893-1898. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1981. An analysis of American opposition to the annexation of Hawaii.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Stevens, Sylvester K. American Expansion in Hawaii: 1842-1898. 1945. Reprint. New York: Russell & Russell, 1968. Examines American commercial and political expansion into Hawaii.

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Categories: History