Hawaii Returns to Home Rule
by Jeff Provine
says: what if Hawaii returned to Home Rule in 1895? muses Jeff Provine's
on his excellent blog
This Day in
Alternate History. Please note that the opinions expressed in this post
do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).
On January 6th 1895,
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on this day Hawaii returned to Home
Rule. Since the unification of the Hawaiian Islands by Kamehameha I in
1810, the royal house had controlled the Pacific nation with gradually
decreasing power over the nineteenth century.
Initially, the kings and queens were unquestionable, but the plagues
that ravaged the populace also devastated the dynasty, leaving
legislatures to elect the next king. Influence from Europe and,
especially, the United States increased, especially after the signing of
the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 in which the two became close trade
partners. In 1887, after a vicious election campaign in 1873 in which
rioters were put down by foreign armies, King David Kalakaua was forced to
sign the "Bayonet Constitution" greatly limiting the power of the monarch.
Rather than shifting the power into the hands of the people, the
constitution placed it firmly into the hands of the wealthy planters and
Queen Lili'uokalani (pictured) came to power in 1891 upon the death of
David Kalakaua and set about regaining power. Her main end was to revoke
the Constitution of 1887 and entail her own. Fearful of losing power, the
wealthy (primarily white businessmen) formed a Committee of Safety and
overthrew the queen in 1893. During the military overthrow, US Minister to
Hawaii John Stevens ordered Marines into action supporting the coup from
anchor in Pearl Harbor, which had been leased by the United States Navy
only six years before.
Outrage both international and local would be voiced, but none enough to
force the planter-led Sanford Dole's Provisional Government out of power.
The Blount Report of 1893 and 1894 Morgan Report from the U.S. Senate
showed distaste for the illegal use of Marines, but the petitions of
Hawaiians were not enough to undo the action. In 1894, President Grover
Cleveland made clear that he supported the imprisoned Queen Lili'uokalani
and refused the continual petition for annexation. The new US Minister to
Hawaii, Albert Willis, used rumors and the Japanese, American, and British
naval ships in harbor as an elaborate hoax to show the public's distaste
for Dole's government, but Dole refused to give up power. The government
reformed itself into the Republic of Hawaii, awaiting a day when a
favorable administration would allow the islands to become United States
While the rest of the world stood by with wrinkled noses, local Hawaiians
were organizing to retaliate. Led by men such as former Head of the Royal
Guard Sam Nowlein and Robert Wilcox, who had studied military action in
Italian academies in a royal program ended with the 1887 Constitution, the
Royalists collected troops among the poor and disenfranchised and armed
with them weapons smuggled from San Francisco. On January 6, 1895,
Republican police searched the Royalist weapons cache in the home of John
Bertleman on Waikiki Beach. Shots broke out, and Royalists surrounded the
house, capturing all six of the policemen. Knowing that rumors had turned
to reality, Wilcox led the charge that night to attack government
buildings while Nowlein rescued the queen from her palace and declared her
power returned at 11:59 so that not one more day would be spent under the
tyranny of oligarchy.
The Royalists numbered only 500, but they acted with speed and surprise
that enabled them to capture Dole and several other government leaders
before the Republican Army had time to react. Riots broke out in the
plantations in 'Ewa, and Hawaiians hurried out into the streets to show
their support for either government. In the chaos, Minister Albert Willis
refused to let American or other foreign powers intervene, and, by January
9, the Republic was crushed.
Lili'uokalani rewrote her constitution and led court proceedings stripping
Dole and his minions of their properties as well as freeing any indentured
workers imported from Asia from their contracts. Representation was
granted to the naturalized Asians who had lost their votes in 1887. A
special thanks was given to Willis, and Wilcox, now made a duke to match
his nickname of "Iron Duke," was named Minister to the United States,
meeting with the later President McKinley, whose expansionism Wilcox
stifled. Pearl Harbor remained leased by the United States but was not
expanded until World War II.
In December of 1941, another expansionistic force would be seen as the
Empire of Japan attacked the American base at Midway without warning,
leading to a bloody battle even before war was declared. The Hawaiians,
close to the United States but with a large Japanese population, declared
neutrality. Staying out of the war proved impossible, and King Kamehameha
Lane opened his islands for Allied aid while cracking down on any
suspicion among Japanese citizens.
The war would prove an economic boom for Hawaii, which would lead to a
harsh crash in the 1950s, prompting a coup by anti-royal socialists,
mainly of Japanese descent. The CIA funded and armed several
counter-revolutions, destroying stability. A new Republic of Hawaii came
with a successful revolution in 1989, and a golden age from tourism lasted
as developers in the late '90s and early '00s. The Global Credit Crisis
struck Hawaii particularly hard, devastating the islands' economy
comparable to, though worse than, Iceland.
says in reality three of the Republican police at Bertleman?s house
escaped. They gave warning of the uprising, which led the Republican Army of
1200 and some 500 Citizens' Guards to attack the Royalists at the Battle of
Diamond Head. Although initially successful at repelling attack, the
Royalists were overwhelmed by numbers and the Republicans' artillery,
retreating and fighting skirmishes for over a week before being snuffed out.
Lili'uokalani, Wilcox, and others were tried for treason, served part of
their sentences, and were pardoned by Dole after Lili'uokalani's abdication.
In 1898, Hawaii would be annexed by the United States, and Wilcox was later
elected Delegate to Congress. To view guest historian's comments on this
post please visit the
Today in Alternate History web site.
Jeff Provine, Guest Historian of
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