All sites have resumed their normal operating hours. The Battleship Missouri Memorial is open Daily from 8 am to 4 pm. The Pacific Fleet Submarine Museum is open Daily from 7 am to 5 pm. The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum is open Daily from 9 am to 5 pm.

Preceding Statehood: Overthrow of the Hawaiian Monarchy on January 17, 1893

by Nov 30, 2019

The landing force of the USS Boston, on duty in Honolulu at the time of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy, on January 17, 1893. Source: Archives of Hawaii photo collection.

On August 21, 1959, US President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the official proclamation admitting the US Territory of Hawaii as the 50th state in the Union. The sequence of historic events that preceded that proclamation spanned generations. Critical among those preceding events was the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy on January 17, 1893.

On March 11, 1893, US President Benjamin Harrison, appointed James H. Blount as U.S. Special Commissioner “Concerning the Hawaiian Kingdom Investigation”. Blount was instructed by US Secretary of State Gresham to: “investigate and fully report to the President all the facts you can learn respecting the condition of affairs in the Hawaiian Islands, the causes of the revolution by which the Queen’s Government was overthrown, the sentiment of the people towards existing authority, and, in general, all that can fully enlighten the President touching the subjects of your mission.”

Commissioner Blount arrived in Honolulu on March 29th aboard the US Revenue Cutter (USRC) Richard Rush from San Francisco.

Upon arrival he was met by the American Legation minister, John L. Stevens, “accompanied by representatives of the Annexation Club”, who offered him accommodations at an “elegant house, well furnished” complete with “servants and a carriage and horses for my use”, which he declined.

Over the coming four months Blount met with and interviewed residents and participants in the preceding events.

Upon his arrival he also noted that “troops from the USS Boston were doing military duty for the Provisional Government, and the American flag was flying over the Government Building (the State Judiciary Building/Ali’iolani Hale).

He observed that the “citizens were full of uncertainty as to what the presence of American troops, the American flag, and the American protectorate implied.”

John L. Stevens

Blount directed “removal of the flag of the United States from the government building and the return of the American troops to their vessels.”

Blount also observed in his report that: “The causes of the revolution culminating in the dethronement of the Queen and the establishment of the Provisional Government on January 17, 1893, are remote and proximate.

He took his time to learn the historic background of the Hawaiian Islands and provided the President with a series of detailed reports, also providing the following specifics of the events surrounding the actual overthrow:

On Saturday evening, January 14, 1893, “a small body of men, some of whom were Germans, some Americans, and some native-born subjects of foreign origin” met and “took up the subject of dethroning the Queen and proclaiming a new Government with a view of annexation to the United States.”

This small body of men, organized as the Citizens Committee of Safety, consisting of thirteen members, led informally by Lorrin Thurston, informed US Legation Minister John L. Stevens of their plans and asked him to arrange the landing of troops from the USS Boston “for the purpose of protecting life and property.” of American citizens in Hawaii.

Minister Stevens agreed to their request. Troops from the USS Boston were ordered ashore by Captain Wiltse at about 5:00 on January 16th.

The troops consisted of three companies of 32 each “blue jackets”, one company of US Marines, and including musicians, nine naval officers and one Marine officer; 162 military personnel all total, equipped with small arms and artillery. They proceeded up Nuuanu Avenue and gathered at a staging area a short distance from the Government Building.

The next day, January 17th, at 2:30, members of the Citizens Committee of Safety gathered in front of the Government Building facing Iolani Palace and read a proclamation to those gathered expressing their intent to abrogate the Monarchy, dethrone the Queen and establish a provisional government until annexation could be achieved.

At that time, some members of the Queen’s guard were located at the station house a short distance from the Government Building, a body of 50 troops were located at the palace itself, and other troops armed with small arms and artillery were located at the barracks northeast of the Palace.

The American troops from the USS Boston were positioned in front of, and along both sides of the Government Building.

Special Commissioner Blount concluded that the American troops were: “doubtless so located to suggest to the Queen and her counselors that they were in cooperation with the insurrectionary movement, and would when the emergency arose manifest it by active support.”

Blount also suggested that: “A building was chosen where there were no troops stationed, where there was no struggle to be made to obtain access, with an American force immediately contiguous, with the mass of the population impressed with its unfriendly attitude. Aye, more than this—before any demand for surrender had even been made on the Queen or on the commander or any officer of any of her military forces at any of the points where her troops were located, the American minister had recognized the Provisional Government and was ready to give it the support of the United States troops!”

Under those circumstances, and after consideration of more than an hour, Queen Liliuokalani “finally concluded, under the advice of her cabinet and friends, to order the delivery up of her military forces to the Provisional Government under protest.”, yielding 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 at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said provisional government.”

The Queen did so: “to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps the loss of life”, yielding her authority “until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”

“In less than thirty hours” the members of the Committee on Public Safety, “overturned the throne, established a new government, and obtained the recognition of foreign powers.”

The Queen drafted a formal protest, secure in her expectation that the United States government would reverse the actions taken and restore the Hawaiian monarchy.

Special Commissioner Blount concluded in his report to the President that: “The leaders of the revolutionary movement would not have undertaken it but for Mr. Stevens’s promise to protect them against any danger from the Government. But for this their mass meeting would not have been held. But for this no request to land the troops would have been made. Had the troops not been landed no measures for the organization of a new Government would have been taken.” And that “The American minister and the revolutionary leaders had determined on annexation to the United States, and had agreed on the part each was to act to the very end.”

Blount also concluded in his report: “That a deep wrong has been done the Queen and the native race by American officials that pervades the native mind and that of the Queen, as well as a hope for redress from the United States, there can be no doubt.” Queen Liliʻuokalani

In 1993, State of Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Akaka sponsored Senate Joint Resolution 19, ”to acknowledge the 100th anniversary of the January 17, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and to offer an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.” That resolution became Public Law No 103-150:

https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/STATUTE-107/pdf/STATUTE-107-Pg1510.pdf