2005-07-17

Ua mau ke ea o ka ‘āina i ka pono — The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness

(The title is Hawaiʻi's state motto, uttered on 31 July 1843 by King Kamehameha III upon his restoration to the throne after the British government repudiated the actions of the captain of a Royal Navy frigate which forced his abdication. It's great, isn't it?)

The NYT reports: Bill Giving Native Hawaiians Sovereignty Is Too Much for Some, Too Little for Others

I don't have any comments to make about the article —beyond saying that I am generally in support of measures to restore Hawaiian sovereignty— but I will take this opportunity to point out that, regardless of the current debate about American "imperialism", the United States has admitted to the illegal overthrow of Hawaiʻi's legitimate monarch by groups consisting of primarily American businessmen with the active assistance of the United States government and its representatives. These interests first infringed upon Hawaiian sovereignty in 1887 with the imposition of the Bayonet Constitution, which disenfranchised the citizens of Hawaiʻi and enfranchised wealthy non-citizens. In 1893, when Queen Lili‘uokalani moved to replace the Bayonet Constitution, stripping power from those American interests, she was overthrown with the help of the US Marines and later arrested. Commendably, President Grover Cleveland rejected these illegal actions and would not be party to annexation, saying:
Upon the facts developed it seemed to me the only honorable course for our Government to pursue was to undo the wrong that had been done by those representing us and to restore as far as practicable the status existing at the time of our forcible intervention.
Others were not so honorable: the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi was ultimately annexed by the United States in 1896 under President McKinley.

This grave wrong has yet to receive due acknowledgment or redress, remaining virtually unknown to most Americans. We should all do our part to spread knowledge of these dark episodes. Those who are so exercised about current American conduct in the world would do well to direct some of their energies to righting a longer standing and far less controversial injustice, within (what are now) our own borders.

For more information, Wikipedia's article "The History of Hawaiʻi" details these events, and the various Hawaiian sovereignty movements are summed up here. The involvement of the United States in stripping Hawaiʻi of its sovereignty are succinctly presented in the Apology Resolution.

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