Hawaiian Annexation

By the time the United States began to look beyond its own borders to conquer new lands, much of the world had already been claimed. Only a few distant territories in Africa and Asia and remote islands in the Pacific, such as Hawaii, remained free from imperial grasp. Led by a hereditary monarch, the inhabitants of the Hawaiian Kingdom were an independent state. American expansionists wanted the strategically located islands.

Foothold in Hawaii

The United States first established a strong presence in Hawaii as a result of the sugar trade. The U.S. government granted generous terms to Hawaiian sugar growers, who earned good profits after the Civil War. Then in 1890, Congress imposed a tariff on foreign sugar. Hawaiian sugar was taxed and therefore more expensive in the American market, and as a result, the Hawaiian economy suffered. The American sugar growers in Hawaii knew that they would not pay the tariff if Hawaii were annexed by the United States.

Annexing Hawaii

In January 1893, the sugar planters staged an uprising to overthrow Queen Liliuokalani. At the same time, they requested protection by the U.S. armed forces. U.S. Marines captured the islands and flew the U.S. flag, even though they had not received official approval to do so. The Queen was forced to flee. New President Grover Cleveland was an anti-imperialist and he was angry over Americans actions in Hawaii. He withdrew the annexation treaty from the Senate and ordered an investigation into American actions in Hawaii. Cleveland wanted to restore the Queen to her throne, but American public sentiment strongly favored annexation.

When war broke out with Spain in 1898, Cleveland was no longer president. The military significance of Hawaiian naval bases as a way station to the Philippines outweighed all other considerations. President William McKinley signed a joint resolution annexing the islands. Hawaii remained a territory until it was granted statehood in 1959.

Source: Hawaiian Annexation
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