Hawaiian territory

By William B. Filed in Uncategorized  |  
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When William McKinley won the presidential election in November of 1896, the question of Hawaii’s annexation to the U.S. was again opened. The previous president, Grover Cleveland, was a friend of Queen Liliuokalani. He had remained opposed to annexation until the end of his term, but McKinley was open to persuasion by U.S. expansionists and by annexationists from Hawaii. He agreed to meet with a committee of annexationists from Hawaii, Lorrin Thurston, Francis Hatch and William Kinney. After negotiations, in June of 1897, McKinley signed a treaty of annexation with these representatives of the Republic of Hawaii. The president then submitted the treaty to the U.S. Senate for approval.

Despite some opposition in the islands, the Newlands Resolution was passed by the House June 15, 1898, by a vote of 209 to 91, and by the Senate on July 6, 1898, by a vote of 42 to 21, formally annexing Hawaii as a U.S. territory in spite of opposition in the Congress (Schamel, Wynell and Charles E. Schamel, 1999). Although its legality was questioned by some because it was a resolution, not a treaty, both houses of Congress carried the measure with two-thirds majorities, whereas a treaty would have only required two-thirds of the Senate vote (Article II, Sec. 2, U.S. Constitution).

The overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the subsequent annexation of Hawaii are sometimes cited as examples of American imperialism.

In 1900, it was granted self-governance and retained Iolani Palace as the territorial capitol building. Though several attempts were made to achieve statehood, Hawaii remained a territory for sixty years. Plantation owners, like those who comprised the so-called Big Five, found territorial status convenient, enabling them to continue importing cheap foreign labor; such immigration was prohibited in various other states of the Union.

The power of the plantation owners was finally broken by activist descendants of original immigrant laborers. Because they were born in a U.S. territory, they were legal U.S. citizens. Expecting to gain full voting rights, they actively campaigned for statehood for the Hawaiian Islands.

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