National Holiday – Independence Day (November 28)

November 28th is the most important national holiday in the Hawaiian Kingdom. It is the day Great Britain and France formally recognized the Hawaiian Islands as an “independent state” in 1843, and has since been celebrated as “Independence Day,” which in the Hawaiian language is “La Ku‘oko‘a.” Here follows the story of this momentous event from the Hawaiian Kingdom Board of Education history textbook titled “A Brief History of the Hawaiian People” published in 1891.


George Simpson

The First Embassy to Foreign Powers—In February, 1842, Sir George Simpson and Dr. McLaughlin, governors in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, arrived at Honolulu on business, and became interested in the native people and their government. After a candid examination of the controversies existing between their own countrymen and the Hawaiian Government, they became convinced that the latter had been unjustly accused. Sir George offered to loan the government ten thousand pounds in cash, and advised the king to send commissioners to the United States and Europe with full power to negotiate new treaties, and to obtain a guarantee of the independence of the kingdom.

Accordingly Sir George Simpson, Haalilio, the king’s secretary, and Mr. Richards were appointed joint ministers-plenipotentiary to the three powers on the 8th of April, 1842.

William Richards

Mr. Richards also received full power of attorney for the king. Sir George left for Alaska, whence he traveled through Siberia, arriving in England in November. Messrs. Richards and Haalilio sailed July 8th, 1842, in a chartered schooner for Mazatlan, on their way to the United States*

*Their business was kept a profound secret at the time.

Proceedings of the British Consul—As soon as these facts became known, Mr. Charlton followed the embassy in order to defeat its object. He left suddenly on September 26th, 1842, for London via Mexico, sending back a threatening letter to the king, in which he informed him that he had appointed Mr. Alexander Simpson as acting-consul of Great Britain. As this individual, who was a relative of Sir George, was an avowed advocate of the annexation of the islands to Great Britain, and had insulted and threatened the governor of Oahu, the king declined to recognize him as British consul. Meanwhile Mr. Charlton laid his grievances before Lord George Paulet commanding the British frigate “Carysfort,” at Mazatlan, Mexico. Mr. Simpson also sent dispatches to the coast in November, representing that the property and persons of his countrymen were in danger, which introduced Rear-Admiral Thomas to order the “Carysfort” to Honolulu to inquire into the matter.

Daniel Webster

Recognition by the United States—Messres. Richards and Haalilio arrived in Washington early in December, and had several interviews with Daniel Webster, the Secretary of State, from whom they received an official letter December 19th, 1842, which recognized the independence of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and declared, “as the sense of the government of the United States, that the government of the Sandwich Islands ought to be respected; that no power ought to take possession of the islands, either as a conquest or for the purpose of the colonization; and that no power ought to seek for any undue control over the existing government, or any exclusive privileges or preferences in matters of commerce.” *

*The same sentiments were expressed in President Tyler’s message to Congress of December 30th, and in the Report of the Committee on Foreign Relations, written by John Quincy Adams.


Success of the Embassy in Europe—The king’s envoys proceeded to London, where they had been preceded by the Sir George Simpson, and had an interview with the Earl of Aberdeen, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, on the 22d of February, 1843.

Lord Aberdeen at first declined to receive them as ministers from an independent state, or to negotiate a treaty, alleging that the king did not govern, but that he was “exclusively under the influence of Americans to the detriment of British interests,” and would not admit that the government of the United States had yet fully recognized the independence of the islands.

Sir George and Mr. Richards did not, however, lose heart, but went on to Brussels March 8th, by a previous arrangement made with Mr. Brinsmade. While there, they had an interview with Leopold I., king of the Belgians, who received them with great courtesy, and promised to use his influence to obtain the recognition of Hawaiian independence. This influence was great, both from his eminent personal qualities and from his close relationship to the royal families of England and France.

Encouraged by this pledge, the envoys proceeded to Paris, where, on the 17th, M. Guizot, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, received them in the kindest manner, and at once engaged, in behalf of France, to recognize the independence of the islands. He made the same statement to Lord Cowley, the British ambassador, on the 19th, and thus cleared the way for the embassy in England.

They immediately returned to London, where Sir George had a long interview with Lord Aberdeen on the 25th, in which he explained the actual state of affairs at the islands, and received an assurance that Mr. Charlton would be removed. On the 1st of April, 1843, the Earl of Aberdeen formally replied to the king’s commissioners, declaring that “Her Majesty’s Government are willing and have determined to recognize the independence of the Sandwich Islands under their present sovereign,” but insisting on the perfect equality of all foreigners in the islands before the law, and adding that grave complaints had been received from British subjects of undue rigor exercised toward them, and improper partiality toward others in the administration of justice. Sir George Simpson left for Canada April 3d, 1843.

Recognition of the Independence of the Islands—Lord Aberdeen, on the 13th of June, assured the Hawaiian envoys that “Her Majesty’s government had no intention to retain possession of the Sandwich Islands,” and a similar declaration was made to the governments of France and the United States.

At length, on the 28th of November, 1843, the two governments of France and England united in a joint declaration to the effect that “Her Majesty, the queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty, the king of the French, taking into consideration the existence in the Sandwich Islands of a government capable of providing for the regularity of its relations with foreign nations have thought it right to engage reciprocally to consider the Sandwich Islands as an independent state, and never to take possession, either directly or under the title of a protectorate, or under any other form, of any part of the territory of which they are composed…”

John C Calhoun

This was the final act by which the Hawaiian Kingdom was admitted within the pale of civilized nations. Finding that nothing more could be accomplished for the present in Paris, Messrs. Richards and Haalilio returned to the United States in the spring of 1844. On the 6th of July they received a dispatch from Mr. J.C. Calhoun, the Secretary of State, informing them that the President regarded the statement of Mr. Webster and the appointment of a commissioner “as a full recognition on the part of the United States of the independence of the Hawaiian Government.”

National Lawyers Guild Calls Upon State of Hawai‘i to Comply with International Law of Occupation

Download the full letter to State of Hawai‘i Governor David Ige.

On Monday January 16, 1893, United States Minister intervened in the internal affairs of the Hawaiian Kingdom when he ordered U.S. troops to invade Honolulu and overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom government in order to replace it with an insurgency he supported. The next day, the insurgents, in the presence of and protected by armed-for-battle U.S. military forces, declared themselves a “provisional government”. Under threat of violence by the U.S. military forces, Queen Lili‘uokalani conditionally surrendered to the United States.

Her conditional surrender stated:

I, Liliuokalani, by the Grace of God, and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest against any and all acts done against myself and the constitutional Government of the Hawaiian Kingdom by certain persons claiming to have established a Provisional Government of and for this Kingdom.

That I yield to the superior force of the United States of America whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L. Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government.

Now to avoid any collision of armed forces, and perhaps the loss of life, I do this under protest, and impelled by said force yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.

On December 18, 1893, President Grover Cleveland, in his message to Congress, informed it of his findings in his investigation into the United States Government overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government. President Cleveland concluded that the invasion was a “military demonstration upon the soil of Honolulu [which] was of itself an act of war.” He concluded “that the provisional government owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States.” He acknowledged that on January 17th, “the Government of the Queen…was undisputed and was both the de facto and the de jure government.” President Cleveland also determined that the insurgency “was neither a government de facto nor de jure”. The insurgents merely declared it to exist after being assured of United States diplomatic and military support.

On November 13, 1893, when negotiations began between the Queen and the new U.S. Minister, Albert Willis, the President proposed restoration of the Queen only if she would grant a general amnesty to the insurgency and their supporters, as well as recognizing their bona fide acts and obligations. In this first meeting, the Queen refused, but after more deliberations on the subject she agreed, and the resolution was memorialized in an executive agreement between the two governments. The U.S. Supreme Court has held, in U.S. v. Belmont (1937), that executive agreements entered into between the President and the governments of foreign countries are deemed treaties not requiring Senate consent for ratification or approval.

The United States President breached his promise and obligation to restore the Queen, and, consequently, the insurgents were never granted amnesty. They remained a United States proxy pretending to be a government for Hawai‘i. On July 3, 1894, the insurgents changed their name from the provisional government to the “Republic of Hawai‘i.” Four years later during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Congress, via domestic law, unilaterally annexed the Hawaiian Islands under a Joint Resolution To provide for annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States.

In 1900, the U.S. Congress, via domestic law, changed the name of the “Republic of Hawai‘i” to the “Territory of Hawai‘i” under An Act To provide a government for the Territory of Hawaii. In 1959, the U.S. Congress, again domestic law, changed the name of the “Territory of Hawai‘i” to the “State of Hawai‘i” under An Act To provide for the admission of the State of Hawaii into the Union. As the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936), stated: “Neither the Constitution nor the laws passed in pursuance of it have any force in foreign territory.” In other words, Congressional laws, to include the joint resolution of annexation, have no effect beyond the territory of the United States.

Despite the military invasion, belligerent occupation, purported annexation, and the effective control of Hawaiian territory by the United States through its proxies—the provisional government, the Republic of Hawai‘i, and the Territory of Hawai‘i—the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a State under international law, continues to exist, and that the United States, through its current proxy, the State of Hawai‘i, is obligated to administer Hawaiian Kingdom laws until a peace treaty has been concluded.

The State of Hawai‘i, as a direct descendant of the provisional government, owes its existence to an armed invasion by the United States. Currently, the State of Hawai‘i, is in effective control of the territory of the Hawaiian Kingdom. Under international law, this effective control triggers the law of occupation to administer the laws of the occupied State, the Hawaiian Kingdom.

On January 13, 2020, the National Lawyers Guild (“NLG”) publicly announced its position regarding the prolonged occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The NLG:

• strongly condemns the prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.

• also condemns the unlawful presence and maintenance of the United States Indo-Pacific Command with its 118 military sites throughout the Hawaiian Islands, which has caused the islands to be targeted for nuclear strike by North Korea, China and Russia.

• calls for the United States to immediately comply with international humanitarian law and begin to administer the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom as the occupied State.

• calls on the legal and human rights community to view the United States presence in the Hawaiian Islands through the prism of international law and to roundly condemn it as an illegal occupation under international law.

• supports the Hawaiian Council of Regency, who represented the Hawaiian Kingdom at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, in its efforts to seek resolution in accordance with international law as well as its strategy to have the State of Hawai‘i and its Counties comply with international humanitarian law as the administration of the Occupying State.

• calls on all United Nations member States and non-member States to not recognize as lawful a situation created by a serious violation of international law, and to not render aid or assistance in maintaining the unlawful situation. As an internationally wrongful act, all States shall cooperate to ensure the United States complies with international humanitarian law and consequently bring to an end the unlawful occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.

In its November 10, 2020 letter to Governor David Ige of the State of Hawai‘i the NLG calls “upon the State of Hawai‘i and its County governments, as United States’ proxy, which is in effective control of Hawaiian territory, to immediately comply with international humanitarian law while the United States continues its prolonged and illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom since 1893.”

The NLG “is deeply concerned that international humanitarian law continues to be flagrantly violated with apparent impunity by the State of Hawai‘i and its County governments. This has led to the commission of war crimes and human rights violations on a colossal scale throughout the Hawaiian Islands. International criminal law recognizes that the civilian inhabitants of the Hawaiian Islands are ‘protected persons’ who are afforded protection under international humanitarian law and their rights are vested in international treaties. There are no statutes of limitation for war crimes, as you must be aware.”

In closing, the NLG calls upon “Governor Ige to proclaim the transformation of the State of Hawai‘i and its Counties into an occupying government pursuant to the Council of Regency’s proclamation of June 3, 2019 in order to administer the laws of the Hawaiian Kingdom. This would include carrying into effect the Council of Regency October 10, 2014 Proclamation that brings Hawaiian Kingdom laws up to date. We further urge you and other officials of the State of Hawai‘i and its Counties to become familiar with the contents of the recent eBook published by the [Royal Commission of Inquiry] and its reports that comprehensively explain the current situation of the Hawaiian Islands and the impact that international humanitarian law and human rights law have on the State of Hawai‘i and its inhabitants.”

The reader is encouraged to visit the Royal Commission of Inquiry’s (“RCI”) webpage for materials providing a broader understanding of the prolonged U.S. occupation of the Hawaiian Kingdom and the obligations international law imposes on the United States. The webpage also explains the RCI’s mandate and its approach in investigating war crimes and human rights violations.