In the mid-19th century, Hawaii wasn’t a part of the United States. At least, not officially. That all changed in the late 19th century. So, why did the USA annex Hawaii?
Long before America became interested in occupying Hawaii, Polynesian adventurers were the ones that inhabited the islands. It was back in the early 4th century. From here, the Hawaiian islands stayed kind of stable, with many chiefdoms providing the primary form of rule of the area.
In 1810, Hawaii became a recognized kingdom. It was because King Kamehameha brought all the islands under his control. Hawaii stayed a kingdom for the next 80 years. After that period, the demands for the U.S. to annex became too strong to ignore.
The Reasons Why The U.S. Wanted To Annex Hawaii
So, why did the USA annex Hawaii? There were several reasons, varying from strategic to political and economic.
Firstly, the Hawaiian islands were strategically situated in the Pacific Ocean. They made a perfect stopover for vessels traveling between Asia and the U.S. for trading purposes. U.S. fleets could stop off to refuel and refill supplies by using Hawaii’s harbors.
After the America – Spain war, the rising awareness of the need for security further added to Hawaii’s appeal. Many thought it would be an ideal spot to improve America’s West Coast security.
Significantly, the U.S. was interested in Hawaiian access to whaling and sugar. American whalers started arriving in Hawaii in the early 19th century. People wanted whales for their oil used for heating and industrial machinery. Hawaiian harbors such as Honolulu saw hundreds of whaling ships every year during the peak period.
Regarding sugar, Hawaii’s climate and fertile soil made it ideal for growing sugar. Sugar production began to take off in the early 1800s. And by the end of the century, it was Hawaii’s largest industry and greatest source of employment. Farm owners were businessmen from the U.S. mainland and enjoyed massive profits from the mid-19th century on.
Further Steps Of The Annexing Plan
In 1887, the Hawaiian League, a secret society, was founded. This league didn’t exactly have the best interests of the native people at heart. On the contrary, it was one of extreme self-interest and was set up to bring even more power and prosperity to those already in authority positions. They even rewrote the constitution which let non-Hawaiians vote. The new constitution also called for a redistribution of land based on income.
The Hawaiian League then forced King Kalakaua to sign the new constitution.
Hawaiian’s Effort To Regain Their Land And Rights
The King passed away, and his sister Liliuokalani succeeded the throne. She wanted to stop them from stealing Hawaii from its people.
However, annexation was just a matter of time. Queen Liliuokalani sought support from native Hawaiians and those in U.S. Congress. But there was simply too much to be gained from the annexation of Hawaii.
The Final Result
When President McKinley took office in 1897, he gave his support to the annexation. In 1898, Congress enacted the resolution, and Hawaii was officially a U.S. territory. Hawaii continued to be a territory for the first half of the 20th century.
In 1959, it eventually became the 50th state of the U.S. America’s political, economic, and strategic motives all factored in the unavoidable annexing of Hawaii.
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