The Impact of Queen Kaahumanu's Reign on the Relationship between Native Hawaiians and the British Empire

The British Empire had difficulty maintaining its imperial ties in North America during the War of 1812, so they saw the Hawaiian Islands as a potential British protectorate. King Kamehameha had unified the Hawaiian kingdom, so the British crown acknowledged him as the legitimate ruler in the hope that he would maintain order and allow them to use the islands for their growing Pacific trade networks with China. When Queen Kaahumanu passed away in 1832, Hawaii had become a Christian nation. Foreigners from Europe and the United States began to settle on the islands at a rapid pace.

At a time of rapid territorial expansion, the islands were an attractive prospect for these imperial powers. There were lucrative opportunities for trade in Hawaii, from sandalwood to whaling. It was easy for foreign powers to influence the monarchy, weakened by population loss. In 1839, the French forced Kamehameha III to sign the Edict of Tolerance, which allowed for the establishment of a Hawaiian Catholic church and ended the persecution of Catholics that had been initiated by Protestant missionaries. Before 1778, before Western contact with Ka Pae ʻĀina or Hawaii (the Hawaiian Islands), Hawaiian society was heavily regulated by law.

Many Kānāwai dictated the relationship between cultivators or gatherers and the natural environment. Around 1400 The ʻAi Kapu (traditional religion) was brought to Hawaii. While it was mainly considered as religious restrictions, it contained kānāwai (laws) on daily behavior, as well as interactions between different classes (chiefs, priests and commoners). Transgressions were sometimes punishable by death. By the end of the 1770s, about a dozen chiefs had risen to the level of supreme chief.

Hawaii was divided between these warriors when James Cook arrived on the islands. He was an insatiable explorer looking for a passage through the northwest. Cook's crew members brought many deadly diseases to the islands that decimated the Hawaiian population, including tuberculosis, syphilis and gonorrhea. In 1819, King Kamehameha fell ill. On his deathbed, he followed in the footsteps of the British monarchy and named his eldest son as heir.

He appointed his favorite wife prime minister. After King Kamehameha's death, Kamehameha II abandoned traditional religion. All religious images were burned and temples destroyed. Queen Ka'ahumanu drafted new laws based on the Ten Commandments. She paid attention to missionaries' demands that traditional Hawaiian lifestyle be suppressed.

All traditional ways of transmitting history, including hula, were prohibited. Britain eventually reinstated Kamehameha III as ruler of Hawaii. As a process rather than a single event, mahele began dividing land between king and chiefs. The lands held by king were divided into his personal lands and government lands. All prizes were subject to rights of land's native tenants. King Kamehameha III filled his cabinet with foreign ministers.

Not everyone was pleased with growing influence of missionaries. It was a new era of prosperity for missionary families. Sugar and pineapple plantations began. With wealth came desire for greater political control. In 1874, last Hawaiian king related by blood to Kamehameha (Lunalilo) family died without leaving an heir.

Two members of royal family claimed title. A king who supported economic transformation was elected. He had his sights set on Pearl Harbor. In 19th century, Americans established missions and built huge plantations, railroads, docks and hotels in Hawaii. Influence but gives up throne after revolt by plantation owners, pressured by Ambassador John L.

Stevens and arrival of American battleship. President Cleveland opposed annexation of sovereign nation but Hawaii was annexed in 1898 after inauguration of William McKinley. On January 16th 1893 independent kingdom of Hawaii was unlawfully overthrown. United States supported efforts of Security Committee. On January 16th 1893 Security Committee asked us,. Troops to protect Americans when they overthrew Hawaiian monarchy by force.

Queen Liliʻuokalani gave in belief that legitimate United States,. Government would do right thing and reinstate her. On July 4th 1894 Provisional Government declared Republic of Hawaii. Queen Lili'uokalani was powerless but still had followers. Rebels sought reprisals and queen was imprisoned in her own palace.

Queen Lili'uokalani abdicated to save lives of her people. He was allowed to return to country but denied reestablishment of monarchy. McKinley wanted Pearl Harbor and raised issue of annexation before Congress. On August 12th 1898 Hawaiian flag was lowered and disrespectfully crushed. President of Republic of Hawaii Sanford Dole chaired ceremony. Many remained loyal to former queen who questioned legality of joint resolution.

April 30th 1900 President McKinley signed Organic Act that turned Hawaii into territory. Sanford Dole named first governor. Organic Act required all voters be citizens 21 years old or older reside in territory for at least one year before they can vote and speak and read English or Hawaiian. Once in record books voter's name stays there unless they don't vote.

Sue Frohlich
Sue Frohlich

Unapologetic internet ninja. Lifelong bacon specialist. Freelance travel aficionado. Internet guru. Freelance social media lover.

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