Pretext of War: 1894 Protest of Queen Lili‘uokalani

Lili‘uokalani_3The following protest by Queen Lili‘uokalani dated June 20, 1894 was lodged with the United States Secretary of State Walter G. Gresham. The protest was delivered by H.A. Widemann on June 22, 1894 to United States diplomat Albert S. Willis, assigned to the American Legation in Honolulu. Queen Lili‘uokalani’s protest centers on the events that transpired in January 1893 on the pretext of war and the creation of a pretended government.

January 17, 1893, was the first armed conflict between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States of America. The second armed conflict would occur on August 12, 1898 when the Hawaiian Kingdom would be unlawfully occupied by the United States during the Spanish-American War.

The pretended government installed by the United States on January 17, 1893, calling itself the provisional government, would change its name to the Republic of Hawai‘i in 1894, to the Territory of Hawai‘i in 1900, and finally to the State of Hawai‘i in 1959.

US troops 1893


His Excellency
W.G. Gresham
Secretary of State
Washington, D.C.

To His Excellency
Albert S. Willis
U.S. Envoy Extraordinary Minister Plenipotentiary.


Having in mind the amicable relations hitherto existing between the government which you here represent and the government of Hawaii, as evidenced by many years of friendly intercourse, and being desirous of bringing to the attention of your government the facts here following, I, Liliuokalani, by the grace of God, and under the Constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Queen, do hereby solemnly protest that I am now and have continuously been since the 20th day of January A.D. 1891, the Constitutional Sovereign of the Hawaiian Kingdom; that on the 17th day of January A.D. 1893 – (in the words of the President of the United States himself) – “By an act of war, committed with the participation of a diplomatic representative of the United States, and without authority of Congress, the Government of a feeble but friendly and confiding people has been overthrown. A substantial wrong has thus been done which a due regard for our national character as well as the rights of the injured peoples requires we should endeavor to repair;” that on said date I and my government prepared a written 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 said protest was forwarded to the President of the United States, also to Sanford B. Dole, Vice Chairman of the Executive Council of the said Provisional government, and was by the latter duly acknowledged; that in response to said protest the President of the United States sent a special commissioner in the person of Honorable James H. Blount to Honolulu to make an accurate, full, and impartial investigation of the facts attending the subversion of the Constitutional Government of Hawaii and the installment in its place of the Provisional Government; that said Commissioner arrived in Honolulu on the 29th day of March, A.D. 1893 and fulfilled his duties with untiring diligence and with care, tact and fairness; that said Commissioner found that the government of Hawaii surrendered its authority under a threat of war, until such time only as the government of the United States, upon the facts being presented to it should reinstate the Constitutional Sovereign, and the provisional government was created to exist until terms of union with the United States of America have been negotiated and agreed upon, also that but for the lawless occupation of Honolulu under false pretexts by the United States forces and but for the United States Minister’s recognition of the provisional government when the United States forces were its sole support, and constituted its only military strength, I, and my government would never have yielded to the provisional government, even for a time, and for the sole purpose of submitting my case to the enlightened justice of the United States, or for any purpose; also that the great wrong done to this feeble but independent state by an abuse of the authority of the United States should be undone by restoring the legitimate government.

That since the happening of said events, the executive and the Congress of the United States have formally declined the overtures of the said Provisional Government for the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands to the United States. That notwithstanding said facts, said provisional government has continued to exercise the functions of government in this Kingdom to the present date, and that its course, from the time of its inception to the present, has been marked by a succession of arbitrary, illiberal and despotic acts, and by the enactment and enforcement of pretended “laws” subversive of the first principles of free government and utterly at variance with the traditions, history, habits, and wishes of the Hawaiian people.

That said Provisional Government has now recently convened and is now holding what it is pleased to term a constitutional convention, composed of nineteen (19) self-appointed members being the President and Executive and Advisory Councils of said provisional government, and eighteen (18) delegates elected by less than ten percent (10%) of the legal voters of the Kingdom, consisting almost entirely of aliens, and chiefly of such aliens as have no permanent home or interest in Hawaii, and which said convention is now considering a draft of a constitution (copy of which is hereto attached) submitted for its approval by the Executive Council of said provisional government consisting of the President and Ministers thereof.

That it is the expressed purpose of the said provisional government to promulgate such Constitution as shall be approved by said convention without submitting it to a vote of the people, or of any of the people, and to thereupon proclaim a government under such constitution, and under the name of the Republic of Hawaii.

That the said provisional government has not assumed a republican or other Constitutional form, but has remained a mere executive council or oligarchy, set up without the consent of the people; that it has not sought to find a permanent basis of popular support, and has given no evidence of an intention to do so; that its representatives assert that the people of Hawaii are unfit for popular government and frankly avow that they can be best ruled by arbitrary or despotic power, and that the proposed constitution so submitted by said executive council of the provisional government for the approval of said convention does not provide for or contemplate a free, popular or republican form of government but does contemplate and provide for a form of government of arbitrary and oligarchical powers, concentrated in the hands of a few individuals irresponsible to the people, or to the representatives of the people, and which is opposed to all modern ideas of free government.

Wherefore, I, the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Kingdom on behalf of myself and the people of my said Kingdom do hereby again most solemnly protest against the acts aforesaid and against any and all other acts done against myself, my people, and the Constitutional government of the Hawaiian Kingdom, and I do hereby most earnestly request that the government represented by you will not extend its recognition to any pretended government of the Hawaiian Islands under whatever name it may apply for such recognition, other than the constitutional government so deposed as aforesaid, – except such government shall show its title to exist by the will of the people of Hawaii, expressed at an election wherein the whole people shall have had an opportunity, unembarrassed by force, and undeterred by fear or fraud to register their preferences as to the form of government under which they will live.

With assurances of my esteem, I am, Sir,


2 thoughts on “Pretext of War: 1894 Protest of Queen Lili‘uokalani

  1. Aloha,

    A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a book that I found hard to put down and thought others might also find interesting, it’s called:

    Queen Lili’uokalani, the Dominis family, and Washington Place, their home, by Rianna M. Williams.

    To me, the reader gets an idea of what and how things were like, how much the Queen had to endure and get a sense of what a day in the Queen’s life was like.


    A hui hou

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