The tropical island chain of Hawaii, located in the wide Pacific, is a dream location for tourists and private paradise for locals. As the 50th state of the U.S., however, Hawaii was not always completely accessible to outsiders. The island had a long history of cultural and political independence before being annexed by the United States and added as the final star on the American flag.
The islands of Hawaii were not officially annexed to the U.S. until the late 1800s. Before then, there had been a variety of government presiding over the island. The islands were inhabited by a number of native Hawaiian tribes that, at the dawn of 19th century, were fiercely fighting for control of the land. It wasn’t until 1810 that a dynasty, formed by King Kamehameha, established official rule over the islands. For over sixty years the dynasty prospered, until they changed to a constitutional monarchy. Around this time, British and American explorers discovered the islands. What followed was an overthrow of the constitutional government and a brief, unsuccessful installment of a republic. The Republic of Hawaii was led by Queen Lili’uokalani, who eventually began discussions of annexation with Grover Cleveland.
There were many issues surrounding the annexation of Hawaii. The first issue actually came from United States soil, as the treaty to annex the islands was never actually approved. Instead of a treaty, a resolution – known as the Newlands Resolution – was used to justify the annexation of Hawaii. Before then, annexationists had even imprisoned Hawaii’s queen and illegally seized Hawaiian land in an attempt to make the islands join the U.S. In 1900, however, fearful Congressmen voted to annex the islands – mainly because they did not want Japan to do it first.
The annexation of Hawaii was met with much resistance from native Hawaiians. The past deposition of their queen had most Hawaiians feeling negatively towards United States citizens; at the same time, it was widely believed that the United States interest in the Hawaiian Islands was solely for economic profit. There was a strong, profitable sugar trade running through the territory and by annexing Hawaii, the United States avoided paying large tariffs. At various points in Hawaii’s history, they had also received militant threats that eventually caused the Hawaiian queen to surrender power. In essence, Hawaiians were outraged that the United States has seized their lands by force and made their queen surrender in order to spare her people’s lives. Many Hawaiians protested and rallied, but to little avail. An armed revolt was also staged, but quelled before it was underway.
Though nearly half the population of Hawaii opposed annexation for many reasons, by 1900 the islands were a United States territory. However, it would take another sixty years before the islands would become the 50th U.S. state.