Territory of Hawaii

Territory of Hawaii
Panalāʻau o Hawaiʻi
Organized incorporated territory of the United States


FlagCoat of arms
Location of Hawaii Territory
Territory of Hawaii
GovernmentOrganized incorporated territory
 • 1900–1903Sanford B. Dole
 • 1957–1959William F. Quinn
Military Governor
 • 1941–1944Maj. Gen. T. H. Green
 • Republic proclaimedJuly 4, 1894
 • Annexation of HawaiiAugust 12, 1900
 • Organic Act1900
 • Martial law1941–1944
 • Revolution of 19541946–1958
 • StatehoodAugust 21, 1959

The Territory of Hawaii or Hawaii Territory[1][2][3] was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from August 12, 1898, until August 21, 1959, when most of its territory, excluding Palmyra Island and the Stewart Islands, was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii. The Hawaii Admission Act specified that the State of Hawaii would not include the distant Palmyra Island, the Midway Islands, Kingman Reef, and Johnston Atoll, which includes Johnston (or Kalama) Island and Sand Island, and the Act was silent regarding the Stewart Islands.[4]

The U.S. Congress passed the Newlands Resolution which annexed the Republic of Hawaii to the United States. Hawaii's territorial history includes a period from 1941 to 1944—during World War II—when the islands were placed under martial law. Civilian government was dissolved and a military governor was appointed.

Provisional Government

Upon the overthrow of Queen ʻuokalani in 1893, the Committee of Safety, Henry E. Cooper, Chairman (which had been started by Cooper and newspaper publisher Lorrin A. Thurston), established the Provisional Government of Hawaii to govern the islands in transition to expected annexation by the United States. Thurston actively lobbied Congress for annexation, while the former monarchy lobbied Congress to protest the overthrow and lobbied against any annexation of Hawaii.

First annexation proceedings began when Democrat Grover Cleveland took office. Cleveland was an anti-imperialist and was strongly against annexation. He withdrew the annexation treaty from consideration, mounted an inquiry, and recommended the restoration of Liliʻuokalani as queen. Further investigation by Congress led to the Morgan Report, which established that the actions of U.S. troops were completely neutral, and exonerated the U.S. from any accusations of complicity with the overthrow.[5]

On August 12, 1898, the flag of the Republic of Hawaii over ʻIolani Palace was lowered and the United States flag raised to signify annexation.

The provisional government convened a constitutional convention to establish the Republic of Hawaii. Thurston was urged to become the nation's first president but he was worried his brazen personality would damage the cause of annexation. The more conservative Sanford B. Dole, former Supreme Court Justice and friend of Queen Liliʻuokalani, was elected as the first and only president of the new regime.[6]

Cartoon depiction of the United States, its territories, and US controlled regions as a classroom with belligerent Philippines, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba

Hawaii's strategic location to support the Spanish–American War in the Philippines made it especially important to American interests, as argued by naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan.[7]

On July 4, 1898, the United States Congress passed the Newlands Resolution (named after Congressman Francis Newlands), which officially annexed Hawaii. It was signed into law by President McKinley on July 7, 1898, and came into effect on August 12, 1898.[8] A formal ceremony was held on the steps of the formerly royal ʻIolani Palace in Honolulu where the Hawaiian flag of the Republic was lowered and the American flag of the "Stars and Stripes" raised on August 12. Former President Sanford B. Dole was appointed Hawaii's first territorial governor.

Former President of the Republic of Hawaii, Sanford B. Dole was sworn in as the first territorial governor on the steps of the former royal ʻIolani Palace in Honolulu as American businessmen and plantation owners lauded victory against the previous Hawaiian monarchy.

The Newlands Resolution said,

Whereas, the Government of the Republic of Hawaii having, in due form, signified its consent, in the manner provided by its constitution, to cede absolutely and without reserve to the United States of America, all rights of sovereignty of whatsoever kind in and over the Hawaiian Islands and their dependencies, and also to cede and transfer to the United States, the absolute fee and ownership of all public, Government, or Crown lands, public buildings or edifices, ports, harbors, military equipment, and all other public property of every kind and description belonging to the Government of the Hawaiian Islands, together with every right and appurtenance thereunto appertaining: Therefore, Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That said cession is accepted, ratified, and confirmed, and that the said Hawaiian Islands and their dependencies be, and they are hereby, annexed as a part of the territory of the United States and are subject to the sovereign dominion thereof, and that all and singular the property and rights hereinbefore mentioned are vested in the United States of America.[8]

The Newlands Resolution established a five-member commission to study which laws were needed in the newly organized Territory of Hawaii. The commission included: Territorial Governor Sanford B. Dole (R-Hawaii Territory), Senators Shelby M. Cullom (R-Illinois) and John T. Morgan (D-Alabama), Representative Robert R. Hitt (R-Illinois) and former Hawaii Chief Justice and later succeeding Territorial Governor Walter F. Frear (R-Hawaii Territory). The commission's final report was submitted to Congress for a debate which lasted over a year. Many Congressmen and Senators raised objections that establishing an elected territorial government in Hawaii would lead to the admission of a state with a "non-white" majority in the then racist and segregated era of "Jim Crow" laws in the South at the time.

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