Petitions against Annexation

Image from Minton & Silva.


Noenoe Silva explains the anti-annexation petitions filed with the United States government by organizations in the Hawaiian Islands:

"President Cleveland was still in office, but was now a lame duck himself, and McKinley was coming in that March. So Lili‘uokalani went to Washington and she tried to get an appointment with McKinley, she actually saw Cleveland too. McKinley would not talk to her. As soon as McKinley came into office, Lorrin Thurston was there with another Treaty of Annexation, along with Francis Hatch and William Kinney—Kinney having served aggressively as Judge Advocate at the Queen’s trial. "



"The Provisional Government's treaty had no provision for hanging on to anything for Hawai'i—it was 'take everything'—and McKinley thought that was fine, and signed it and sent it to the Senate. But the Queen was there in Washington, and so when this all finally became real in June of 1897, she of course wrote a letter of protest, and she made sure that the other protests that the Hawaiians had written got filed with McKinley.

"And then she started writing to the people here saying, 'Look, what we have to do is we have to persuade the people of the United States and the Senate of the United States, that this is an undemocratic thing that's being done, because Thurston and everybody's up here telling people that Hawaiians want to be annexed. So we have to demonstrate that we don't want to be.'



President William McKinley. From the White House website.


Lili‘uokalani being escorted by guards up the steps of the palace, where she was imprisoned after a cache of arms was found in her garden during the counterrevolution of 1895. Hawai`i State Archives photograph.


"A series of letters went back and forth between the Queen and the Hui Aloha 'Aina and Hui Kalai'aina in Hawai'i on a weekly basis. They were writing to each other and organizing."

"The Hui Aloha 'Aina was formed right after the Overthrow to support the Queen and try to prevent annexation, and the Hui Kalai'aina had been formed in 1889 to try to overthrow the Bayonet Constitution. They were two very large, organized groups: Hui Aloha 'Aina started with around 7,500 men, but by the time of the petition I think it was nine or ten thousand men and eleven to twelve thousand women—it was huge. Hui Kalai'aina had 17,000 members, I think they were mostly men. So, the Queen was writing to the Presidents of these hui and telling them that they should come up with a petition against annexation."



"It was kind of tough because they didn't all really want to work together. So they didn't do exactly what she told them. She told them to write one big petition and have everybody sign it, but the two hui could not agree, especially the men. The Hui Kalai'aina wanted their petition to say 'We demand the restoration of the constitutional monarchy,' and the Hui Aloha 'Aina, I think theirs was what the Queen had told them to do, which was just a petition protesting annexation and not suggesting anything else."



"Hence two different petitions were being circulated, and it was pretty tough organizing, but they did it. They ended up with 17,000 signatures on the Hui Kalai'aina petition and over 21,000 on the Hui Aloha 'Aina one. And then they raised funds and sent four people up to Washington D. C. to take these petitions up there and meet with the Queen.

"And once they got up there, they formed a committee together with the Queen. They met with Senators and decided, 'We can't submit both of these to the Senate because they are different. We need to submit only one.' They submitted the one from the Hui Aloha 'Aina, and apparently David Kalauokalani, president of Hui Kalai'aina, signed an affidavit saying that he represented 17,000 more signatures of people who were against annexation."


Hawaiian text

Hawaiian-language version of the Hui Aloha ‘Aina petition.


English text

English-language version of the Hui Aloha ‘Aina petition.


"They met their friend Senator Pettigrew from South Dakota, and he introduced them to George Hoar who I think was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who prior to this had been in favor of this annexation treaty. Pettigrew took them over there through the snow to Hoar's place and they explained the whole story to him, and showed him the petitions.

"And according to a newspaper article that was written from the letters they sent back, by the time they were done telling them what had been done—how their country had been taken away from them—there were tears in Hoar's eyes. And he said to them, 'I will take this petition and I will introduce it on the Senate floor and get it into the record.' And so he did. And then it was sent over to the Foreign Relations Committee."



“After that they stayed and they lobbied: they visited all the senators and everybody that they could talk to, trying to explain that the Hawaiians really did not want this to happen and were massively against it. Thousands and thousands of people were opposed to this and their voices weren't being heard.

"Now the day they had arrived in Washington, Thurston or somebody—they wouldn't say who but it was probably him—saw them on the street and came up to them and said, 'Look, all we need is 60 votes in the Senate and we've got 53, you're wasting your time. You wasted time and money coming here, we've already won.' But a month or two later, they were down to 40-something votes. There was no way. So the Provisional Government never won that vote. There was no treaty of annexation that time."

"Mississippi Laws"

1895 Uprising

Hawaiian Petitions




Pacific Worlds > Nu‘uanu > Memories > Overthrow