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The Illegal Overthrow
of the Hawaiian Monarchy


On the day that King Kalakaua's body was brought back ashore to the Hawaiian Islands from San Francisco after his death, his sister took the oath of office and swore to up hold the existing constitution that was forced upon her brother by the reform party in 1887 and she was pronounced Queen of the Hawaiian Islands on January 29, 1891. Although, Queen Liliuokalani's first impulse as she sat on the throne was that she insisted on the right of the monarch and to rule absolutely without restrictions that the powerful businessmen had demanded by the so-called "Bayonet Constitution" which her brother, King Kalakaua was forced by death to sign and stripped the monarchy of its power.


The new ruler, Queen Liliuokalani's first legislature met on April 12, 1892, and during the lengthily session, a new constitution was prepared and drafted which would give power back to the monarchy.

The Queen determined to proclaim this constitution after adjourning from the legislature on the morning of January 14, 1893, however, her ministers refused to sign and she could not persuade them. Having the welfare of her people at heart, the Queen left the conference and went to the second story balcony of the palace looking outside on the lawn where her people had gathered waiting with hope for the new Constitution. Queen Liliuokalani informed them that it has been delayed because her ministers have failed her, but promised it a little later.

During the next two days, Lorrin Thurston who led the Annexation Club, also known as the Hawaiian League (the key conspirators of the "Bayonet Constitution") had now called themselves the "Committee of Safety".  Their goals were to depose the queen, overthrow the monarchy, and seek Hawaii's annexation to the United States.  Meanwhile, the American ship the USS Boston was in the Honolulu Harbor. The "Committee of Safety" had requested to the American representative, Mr. John Stevens to land the marines from the USS Boston on shore in order to protect the United States citizens, explaining that there was no responsible government in Honolulu to keep order.  Although this was a devious plan to secretly get the United States government involved in the overthrow and intimidate the Queen. But in the future this brought the United States into controversy and gave Queen Liliuokalani justice in asking the U.S. to regain her back to the throne.  162 sailors and marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu Harbor came ashore well-armed but under orders of neutrality.  The sailors and marines did not enter the Palace grounds or take over any buildings, and never fired a shot, but their presence served to intimidate royalist defenders.


Due to the Queen's desire "to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life" for her subjects and after some deliberation, at the urging of advisers and friends, the Queen ordered her forces to surrender.  Another organization, called the Honolulu Rifles took over government buildings, disarmed the Royal Guard, and declared a Provisional Government on January 17, 1893.  

Queen Liliuokalani for the sake of her people had surrendered, but not to the new Provisional Government, but to the United States in hoping that they will restore her to the throne as she had faith in their government as well as them honoring their peace treaty with the Hawaiian Kingdom. The new Provisional Government pushed further to secure a treaty for annexation with the United States, but the U.S. President Cleveland was not in favor of it and immediately withdrew it from the senate. He sent Col. James Blount to Hawaii to further investigate the situation and immediately ordered American flags to be removed from all Hawaiian government buildings. After receiving the investigation report it was found that the revolution had been caused by the intervention of Mr. Stevens, the American Minister of Foreign Affairs by intimidating the queen and landing American troops on Hawaii soil.


The U.S. President Cleveland stated that it is in clear violation of international law between the treaty of the United States and the Kingdom of Hawaii and it is his intention to restore the monarchy of Hawaii officially on December 19, 1893 and that the Provisional Government surrender its authority to Queen Liliuokalani. Although the Provisional Government refused to comply with it and with the United States making no effort to enforce it, the matter ultimately "rested".

Now, knowing that annexation would not be accomplished during President Cleveland's administration, a constitutional convention was held on May 30,1894 headed by the "Provisional Government" to establish a republic form of government in Hawaii. A new constitution was drafted and proclaimed on July 4, 1894, the President of the Republic of Hawaii who continued in office was Mr. Sanford Dole and the Hawaiian flag and anthem was unchanged.  The world leaders started recognizing the Republic of Hawaii, until the U.S. illegally annexed Hawaii in1898 with the Newlands Resolution under the administration of the U.S. President McKinley.

Flag of the Hawaiian Kingdom
Col. James Blount

Before the end of 1894, there was a rebellion headed by a Royal Hawaiian Soldier of Maui who was sent by King Kalakaua to Italy to train under the Italian Military. His name was Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox. He and his armed followers approximately 200 of them attempted to restore Queen Liliuokalani back to the throne. In December of 1894, a cargo of arms and ammunition had been transported to Diamond Head and secretly buried in the sand and bushes while awaiting for the revolution to take place. Although news leaked out about the upcoming attack on the new government and they took steps to be ready for them.

Wilcox and his followers were plotting to take back all government buildings and to attack on January 17, 1895, but the night before, the republic had nearly 1000 armed men guarding the buildings which hindered the takeover, but not without several combats and bloodshed. The attempt failed, Robert Wilcox was caught, tried for treason and was sentenced to death, Queen Liliuokalani was also arrested for conspiracy of treason and sentenced to house arrest where she was imprisoned in her palace room for a year. Wilcox was eventually pardoned and served some time in prison doing hard labor. All hopes at that time to restore the monarchy was now dimmed and all subjects from the Hawaiian Kingdom was sworn in as citizens of the Republic of Hawaii.

Queen Liliuokalani recruited Robert Wilcox to command the field artillery unit of the Royal Guards to defend the Queen and the Kingdom of Hawaii from the influence and control of foreign interests

Robert Kalanihiapo Wilcox
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