After taking over the Hawaiian government in 1893, the American businessmen who had conspired to overthrow Hawaii’s Queen Lili‘uokalani lobbied President Benjamin Harrison and Congress to annex the islands. In his last month in office, Harrison sent an annexation treaty to the Senate for confirmation, but the new president, Grover Cleveland, withdrew the treaty “for the purpose of re-examination.” He also received Queen Lili’uokalani and replaced the American stars and stripes in Honolulu with the Hawaiian flag. Cleveland also ordered a study of the Hawaiian revolution, which concluded that the American minister to Hawaii had conspired with  businessmen to overthrow the queen and that the coup would have failed “but for the landing of the United States forces upon false pretexts respecting the dangers to life and property.”

Looking back on the Hawaii takeover, President Cleveland later wrote that “the provisional government owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States. By an act of war . . . a substantial wrong has been done.” President Cleveland’s recommendation that the monarchy be restored was rejected by Congress. The House of Representatives voted to censure the US minister to Hawaii and adopted a resolution opposing annexation. But Congress did not act to restore the monarchy and in 1894 Sanford Dole, who was beginning his pineapple business, declared himself president of the Republic of Hawaii without a popular vote. The new government found the queen guilty of treason and sentenced her to five years of hard labor and a $5,000 fine. While the sentence of hard labor was not carried out, the queen was placed under house arrest. The Republican Party platform in the presidential election of 1896 called for the annexation of Hawaii. Petitions for a popular vote in Hawaii were ignored. Fearing that he lacked two-thirds support for annexation in the Senate, the new Republican president, William McKinley, called for a joint resolution of Congress. With the country aroused by the Spanish-American War and political leaders fearful that the islands might be annexed by Japan, the joint resolution easily passed Congress. Hawaii officially became a US territory in 1900.

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