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The Annexation That Never Was

Transcript from the video We Are Who We Were
produced by the Hawaiian Patriotic League and Na Maka o ka ‘Aina, 1998

excerpted in television broadcast Aloha Quest
produced by Aloha First and Na Maka o ka ‘Aina, 1999

Immediately following a treasonous attempt to overthrow Queen Lili’uokalani in January of 1893, enemies of the Kingdom, now calling themselves the Provisional Government, departed for Washington, D.C. to sign a treaty of annexation with the United States. Their sole intention was to achieve annexation at any cost.

However, before the United States senate could ratify the proposed treaty, newly elected President Grover Cleveland, confronted with the facts of the overthrow, withdrew the treaty from further consideration and vowed never to allow the treaty of annexation to be resubmitted.

Having failed at this first attempt to obtain a treaty of annexation with the United States, the Provisional Government on July 4, 1894, declared itself to be the Republic of Hawai’i, and maintained its opposition to the restoration of the Hawaiian Kingdom government as called for by President Cleveland.

On June 16, 1897, with Grover Cleveland now out of office, a second effort to annex the Hawaiian Islands to the United States was attempted. A treaty was signed in Washington, D.C. between representatives of the self-proclaimed Republic of Hawai’i and the newly elected president of the United States, William McKinley.

The following day in Washington, Her Majesty Queen Lili’uokalani submitted a formal letter of protest to President McKinley, asserting that this proposed treaty of annexation violated the existing Treaty of 1850 between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States.

Because said treaty ignores…all professions of perpetual amity and good faith made by the United States in former treaties…it is thereby in violation of international law…Therefore, I, Lili’uokalani of Hawai’i, do hereby call upon the President…to withdraw said treaty…from further consideration. I ask the honorable Senate of the United States to decline to ratify said treaty.

Queen Lili’uokalani to President William McKinley
June 17, 1897

Word of what had transpired in Washington soon reached the islands. Anticipating that the US Senate would reconvene in December to consider this second attempt at annexation, an aggressive campaign was initiated, intending to fortify the Queen's second letter of protest.

On September 6, 1897, James Kaulia, President of the Hui Aloha ‘Aina (the Hawaiian Patriotic League), gave a stirring speech before thousands at Palace Square in Honolulu. He said agreeing to annexation was like agreeing to being buried alive. He asserted that a mass refusal by the people could prevent annexation.

Let us take up the honorable struggle. Do not be afraid. Be steadfast in aloha for your land and be united in thought. Protest forever the annexation of Hawai‘i until the very last patriot lives.

James Kaulia
Hui Aloha ‘Aina

A petition to the President, Congress and People of the United States, otherwise known as the monster petition, was read and approved at this rally, asking that no further steps be taken toward the ratification of the treaty.

The men and women of the Hui Aloha ‘Aina, through the efforts of many loyal and dedicated Hawaiian subjects, launched a full scale petition drive that lasted approximately two months. They went from island to island, from shore to shore, leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to document opposition to the proposed treaty. The petition was printed in both English and Hawaiian.

We, the undersigned, native Hawaiian subjects and residents who are members of the Hawaiian Patriotic League of the Hawaiian Islands, and other citizens who are in sympathy with the league, earnestly protest against the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States of America in any form or shape.

Ku’e: The Hui Aloha ‘Aina Anti-Annexation Petitions, 1897-1898

But expansionists in the United States Congress, led by Senator Morgan, would not let the dream of annexation die. Within days, they devised a plan to bypass the requirements of their own constitution in an effort to annex Hawai'i.

The Hawai‘i annexation treaty lags in the Senate. The number of votes needed will not come forth. The advocates of the scheme are now preparing to resort to a joint resolution, which may be put through by a simple majority in each house of Congress.

“Annexing Hawaii by Joint Resolution”
Harper's Weekly
Feb. 26, 1898

In other words, if congress should strictly obey the constitution, annexation could not take place.

“Seizure by Resolution”
Harper's Weekly
July 2, 1898

In March of 1898 they introduced Joint Resolution no. 55 to provide for annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States. The Joint Resolution, otherwise known as the Newlands Resolution, was then passed by a simple majority in each house of Congress and signed by President McKinley on July 7, 1898.

Read a legal analysis by the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the purported annexation of Hawai’i.

This was the document presented by US Minister Harold Sewall to Sanford Dole at the annexation ceremony in August of 1898. Dole responded, "I now yield up to you, representing the government of the United States, the sovereignty and the public property of the Hawaiian islands."

David Keanu Sai, Chairman, Council of Regency, Hawaiian Kingdom: Now the problem here is, a joint resolution is not a treaty. A joint resolution is a congressional act. A congressional act of the United States can only affect American territory.

All we have is an assumption that we were annexed. And now we're finding out that never occurred. We thought we were American. We thought this was America. But nothing has changed. We're still a Kingdom whether we like it or not. All we have today, between 1898 up until the present, is American laws purporting to affect a foreign country. The Hawaiian Kingdom never ceased to exist.

Today nothing has legally changed since January 17, 1893. The laws that existed at that time, the treaties that existed at that time, the relationships with other countries that existed at that time, it's still here today.

And what you have today between the United States and Hawai‘i is not an issue of native rights. It is an issue of international rights and international law and violation of treaty. Those are the issues that are going to be determined, not the internal or domestic affairs of our country. That is our responsibility, not the United States.

‘Iolani Palace
August 12, 1998
raising the Hawaiian Kingdom flag

Ali’i ‘Aimoku Ali’i Sir Paul Neves, Royal Order of Kamehameha: And this is where Sanford Dole turned over our Hawai‘i, our nation, to the United States, through the exchange of treasonous documents with the United States minister, Harold Sewall.

When Dole handed his document to the minister, he proclaimed that a treaty had been made. But we know now that no treaty of annexation was made between Hawai‘i and the United States of America, in large part because of the massive opposition of the Hawaiian people through the anti-annexation petitions, the treaty of annexation failed to pass the United States Senate.

But Mr. Dole and his friends tried to make the exchange look legitimate. Minister Sewall handed Dole a copy of a Joint Resolution of the United States Congress. Under the laws of the United States of America in its own constitution, a joint resolution is not a legal way to annex another country.

Earlier that week, the Hawaiian people, the Kanaka Maoli, through their political organizations, the Hui Aloha ‘Aina and the Hui Kalai’Aina, had sent a formal protest to both Dole and United States Minister Sewall. That protest said in part:

Ua ho’ike maopopo a’e ke Kuahaua o ke Ku’oko’a Amelika....

The Declaration of American independence expresses that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Therefore, be it resolved that, as the representatives of a large and influential body of native Hawaiians,

Ke ku’e aku nei makou...

we solemnly protest against annexation in the manner proposed which fails to obtain the consent of the people of the Hawaiian islands.

...o ka lahui kanaka o ko Hawai‘i pae ’aina nei.

Protest filed with U.S. Minister Harold Sewall on August 6, 1898, by the Hawaiian Patriotic League (Hui Aloha ‘Aina) and the Hawaiian Political Association (Hui Kalai’aina) against the Joint Resolution purporting to annex the Hawaiian Islands

Ali’i ‘Aimoku Ali’i Sir Paul Neves, Royal Order of Kamehameha: The men on the platform here one hundred years ago today ignored the voice of the people which Queen Lili’uokalani believed was the voice of God.

The Hawaiian patriotic leagues organized a formal boycott of these ceremonies August 12, 1898. Queen Lili’uokalani remained at Washington Place surrounded by family and friends.

When at noon, ka hae aloha, our beloved national flag was lowered and the United States flag raised, Hawaiian members of the government band put down their instruments and walked away. They refused to play Hawai’i Pono‘i on such a treasonous occasion.

Today, ka hae Hawai’i, our beloved national flag, will be raised to its position of honor a hundred years ago by a group of united hands from our community.

Please join symbolically in the raising of the national flag of the Hawaiian Kingdom. My brothers and sisters, may our hearts, our strength and our unity rise with our Hawaiian flag. God save the nation.

: : :

See also:


• The 1897 Petitions Protesting Annexation by Noenoe K. Silva
• Hawaiian Kingdom
• Hawaiian Kingdom Presentation to the Permanent Court of
Arbitration – The Hague
Hawaiian Society of Law and Politics
Hawai’i Nation
Hawaiian Independence Blog
Perspectives on Hawaiian Sovereignty
• ‘Ilio’ulaokalani
• Sovereign Stories – online resources
People and Places connected with the Annexation of Hawai’i


• bibliography, University of Hawai’i library, Hawai’i Pacific Section
• Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen
• Aloha Betrayed – Native Hawaiian Resistance to American Colonialism by Noenoe Silva


• Nation Within: The Story of America's Annexation of the Nation of Hawai'i by Tom Coffman (video and book)
• Then There Were None by Dr. Elizabeth Kapu'uwailani Lindsey
• We Are Who We Were
• Act of War – The Overthrow of the Hawaiian Nation
• Aloha Quest – Part 1
• Scenes from the Centennial
• The Tribunal
• July 4th at the Palace


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