Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Biography Podcast 0018: Liliʻuokalani, Queen of Hawaii

Welcome to our first episode of the new year, and our first female biography on the podcast!

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Biography Transcript
Liliʻuokalani, Queen of Hawaii (September 2, 1838 – November 11, 1917), originally named Lydia Kamakaʻeha, also known as Lydia Kamakaʻeha Paki - after her adopted father, with the chosen royal name of Liliʻuokalani, and later named Lydia K. Dominis, was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.

Early life

Hawaii’s last sovereign queen was born on September 2, 1838 in Honolulu. According to Hawaiian tradition, she was adopted at birth by Chief Abner Paki and his wife, Konia (a granddaughter of King Kamehameha I). This tradition spread the future queen's other syblings (10 or so) to other strong chiefs on the islands - as a way to promote unity amongst the Hawaiian people. Liliuokalani’s childhood years were spent studying and playing with Bernice Pauahi, the Pakis’ natural daughter. Liliuokalani received her education at the Royal School for several years, then a series of day schools where she would eventually meet and become interested in her future husband John Dominis.


Queen Liliuokalani's ascencion to the throne was not direct. The journey started several years before she inherited the throne and at one point, the opportunity for her to ascend might not have even been allowed. Kamehameha V was the next to last King of Hawaii. He in turn also had a Queen, and she was also of Hawaiian royal birth. Before passing away, the King had the opportunity to make the Queen the rightful heir of the throne. Alas, for whatever reason he never did, and thus, Queen Emma became the Queen Dowager - but did not inherit the crown. Because of this, the determination of the royal line was left to the board of governors and it was this group that chose Liliuokalani's line as being the proper line of royal succession. Then, by popular demand her brother was crowned King Kalakaua. Still, even after having the royal line established through her family, the Queen's succession to the throne was unlikely.

King Kalakua had a brother who was the heir apparent and the king also had a daughter - though she was born only shortly before the King's death. While Kalakaua was king, he was virtually forced to sign what is known as the Bayonet Constitution. This wasn't completely without precedent as the monarchy in Hawaii wasn't absolute and was heavily influenced by what was known as the "missionary party", or those that were from the US. While Kalakaua was still king, his brother and heir to the throne died an early and unfortunate death - thereby leaving Liliuokalani as the heir apparent.

On September 16, 1862, she married John Owen Dominis, who became Governor of Oʻahu and Maui. They had no children; Liliʻuokalani's heiress for several years was her niece Victoria Kaʻiulani (1875–1899), although Kaʻiulani predeceased her.

Liliʻuokalani inherited the throne from her brother Kalākaua on January 17, 1891. Shortly after she gained power, she tried to abrogate the existing Bayonet Constitution and draft a new constitution that would restore power to the monarchy. American and European subjects of the Kingdom of Hawaii, threatened by the elimination of suffrage by the queen's proposed constitution, asserted that the queen had "virtually abdicated" by trying to subvert the constitution and organized to depose her. Besides the threatened loss of suffrage, business interests within the Kingdom were concerned about the removal of foreign tariffs in the American sugar trade due to the McKinley Act (which effectively eliminated the favored status of Hawaiian sugar due to the Reciprocity Treaty), and considered the possibility of annexation to the United States (and enjoying the same sugar bounties as domestic producers) as a welcome side effect of ending the monarchy. During the overthrow in 1893 the American minister in Hawaiʻi at the time, John L. Stevens, ordered troops from the U.S.S. Boston ashore, to protect American businesses and property. The Queen was deposed on January 17, 1893, and a provisional government was instituted.

Now, in this next segment, please observe what happens in the American political system. And note the queen's behavior which effectively ended the monarchy and independence of Hawaii. Sadly, as you'll see, that wasn't the only possible outcome.

The administration of Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, and based on its findings believed that the overthrow of Liliʻuokalani was illegal and offered November 16, 1893 to give the throne back to her if she granted amnesty to everyone responsible. She initially refused, and it was reported that she said she would have them beheaded - she denied that specific accusation, but admitted that she intended them to suffer the punishment of death.[1] With this development, then-President Grover Cleveland sent the issue to the United States Congress. Although she changed her mind on December 18, 1893, and U.S. Minister Willis demanded her reinstatement by the Provisional Government, the Provisional Government refused. Congress responded to Cleveland's referral with another investigation, and submitted the Morgan Report by the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1894, which exonerated both Minister Stevens and the U.S. troops from any responsibility for the overthrow. On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaiʻi was proclaimed and Sanford B. Dole, one of the first people who originally called on the institution of the monarchy to be abolished, became President. It was recognized immediately by the United States government.

Liliʻuokalani was arrested on January 16, 1895 (several days after a failed rebellion by Robert Wilcox) when firearms were found in the gardens of her home, of which she denied any knowledge. She was sentenced to five years of hard labor in prison and fined $5000, but the sentence was commuted to imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom of ʻIolani Palace until she was released in 1896, with the establishment of the Republic of Hawaiʻi. Failing in attempts to regain the throne, she unsuccessfully entered against the federal government claims totaling $450,000 for property and other losses, making personal claim to the crown lands. The territorial legislature of Hawaii finally voted her an annual pension of $4,000 and permitted her to receive the income from a sugar plantation of 6,000 acres (24 km²). She went home to Washington Place, where she lived as a private citizen until her death in 1917 due to complications from a stroke. She was 79. As expected, Hawaiʻi was annexed to the United States through a joint resolution of the U.S. Congress in 1898.

Liliʻuokalani was an accomplished author and songwriter. Her book, Hawaiʻi's Story by Hawaiʻi's Queen, told the history of her country (and was one of the source documents for this script). Some of her best-known musical compositions include the anthem, "Aloha ʻOe," which she composed during her captivity (also known as "Farewell to Thee"). This was the end of the Hawaiian Monarchy.


Anonymous said...

Poorly researched!

Queen Liluokalani published her own memoirs in 1998. Name of the book is Hawaii's Story by Liliuokalani.

They say that history is written by the victors, this podcast helps prove that.

Geoffrey said...

I agree with Joseph, history is most certainly written by the victors. Read Hawaii's Story written by Queen Lili'uokalni to balance your perspective on the overthrow of Hawai'i.