Queen Lili’uokalani

Liliʻuokalani (2 September 1838 – 11 November 1917), born Lydia Kamakaʻeha Kaola Maliʻi Liliʻuokalani, was the last monarch and only queen regnant of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. She was also known as Lydia Kamakaʻeha Pākī, with the chosen royal name of Liliʻuokalani, and she was later named Kaolupoloni K. Dominis.

Liliʻuokalani was born on 2 September 1838 to High Chieftess Analea Keohokalole and High Chief Caesar Kaluaiku Kapaʻakea. In accordance with Hawaiian tradition, she was adopted at birth by Abner Pākī and his wife Laura Kōnia. Liliuokalani’s childhood years were spent studying and playing with her foster sister Bernice Pauahi, the Pākīs’ natural daughter.

The Premier Elizabeth Kīnaʻu had developed an eye infection at the time of Liliʻu’s birth. She gave her the names Liliʻu (smarting), Loloku (tearful), Walania (a burning pain), and Kamakaʻeha (sore eyes), translated as Lydia Smarting Tearful Anguish the Sore Eyes. Liliʻu’s brother changed it when he named her Crown Princess, calling her Liliʻuokalani, “the smarting of the royal ones”.

Liliʻuokalani received her education at the Royal School (originally known as the Chiefs’ Children School), and became fluent in English. She attended the school with her two elder brothers James Kaliokalani and David Kalākaua. Liliuokalani was one of 15 children.

On 16 September 1862, Liliʻuokalani married John Owen Dominis, who became Governor of Oʻahu and Maui. Although Liliʻuokalani’s named successor was her niece Princess Kaʻiulani (1875–1899), Kaʻiulani predeceased her. Liliʻuokalani had three hanai children: Lydia Kaʻonohiponiponiokalani Aholo; Kaiponohea ʻAeʻa, the son of a retainer; and John Dominis

In 1874, Lunalilo, who was elected to succeed Kamehameha V to the Hawaiian throne, died and left no heir to succeed to the throne. In the election that followed, Lili’u's brother, David Kalākaua, ran against Queen Emma, the widowed Queen of Kamehameha IV. Lili’uokalani sided with her family on the issue and a sort of quarrel developed between the Kalākaua family and Queen Emma. Lili’u denied that Emma had any claims to the throne other than those derived from her dead husband. The Kalākaua family strongly stated that Kaleipaihala was the ancestor of Queen Emma rather than Kealiimakai because this would give the dowager Queen no claim as the great-grandniece of Kamehameha the Great. Each party viewed themselves as the greatest chief and the rightful heir the throne of the Kamehamehas.

In the election that followed, Kalākaua won a majority of the vote of the Legislature and was anointed the new king of Hawaii. Queen Emma never forgave Lili’u and her position in the family which was chosen to reign over the Hawaiian people. Lili’u said: “It did not trouble me at all, but I simply allowed her to remain in the position in which she chose to place herself.” One of the first acts of Kalākaua was to name his brother heir-apparent. He also granted other royal titles to his two surviving sisters, Lili’uokalani and Likelike. With Lili’u's younger brother’s death in 1876, the position of heir-apparent became vacant. Princess Ruth Keelikolani offered to fill the spot of her adoptive son; this suggestion was placed before the king’s counselors at a cabinet meeting, but it was objected on the grounds that, if her petition was granted, then Bernice Pauahi Bishop would be the next heir to the throne, as they were first cousins.

At noon on April 10, 1877, the booming of the cannon was heard; this announced that Lili’uokalani was heir apparent to the throne of Hawaii. From that point on, she was referred to as “Crown Princess” with the name Liliʻuokalani, given to her by her brother. One of her first acts as Crown Princess was to tour the island of O’ahu with her husband, sister, and brother-in-law.

In April 1887, Kalākaua sent a delegation to attend the Golden Jubilee of England’s Queen Victoria. While on the trip, she learned of the Bayonet Constitution that Kalākaua had been forced, under the threat of death, to sign. She was so upset that she canceled a tour of the rest of Europe and returned to Hawai’i at once.

Lili’uokalani inherited the throne from her brother Kalākaua on 29 January 1891. Shortly after ascending the throne, petitions from her people began to be received from the two major political parties of the time, mainly Hui Kala’aina and the National Reform Party. Believing she had the support of her cabinet and that to ignore such a general request from her people would be against the popular will, she moved to abrogate the existing 1887 Bayonet Constitution, by drafting a new constitution that would restore the veto power to the monarchy and voting rights to economically disenfranchised Native Hawaiians and Asians.The effort to draft a new constitution never came to fruition, and indeed it was the proximate cause of the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

Threatened by the queen’s proposed new constitution, American and European businessmen and residents organized to depose Lili’uokalani, asserting that the queen had “virtually abdicated” by refusing to support the 1887 Constitution. Business interests within the Kingdom were also upset about what they viewed as “poor governance” of the Kingdom, as well as the U.S. removal of foreign tariffs in the sugar trade due to the McKinley Tariff. The tariff eliminated the favored status of Hawaiian sugar guaranteed by the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875. American and Europeans actively sought annexation to the United States so that their business might enjoy the same sugar bounties as domestic producers. In addition to these concerns, Lili’uokalani believed that American businessmen, like Charles R. Bishop, expressed an anxiety concerning a female head of state.

The administration of Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, and based on its findings, concluded that the overthrow of Lili’uokalani was illegal, and that U.S. Minister Stevens and American military troops had acted inappropriately in support of those who carried out the overthrow. On 16 November 1893 Cleveland proposed to return the throne back to her if she granted amnesty to everyone responsible. She initially refused, and it was reported that she said she would have them beheaded — she denied that specific accusation, but admitted that she intended them to suffer the punishment of banishment. With this development, then-President Grover Cleveland sent the issue to the United States Congress. She later changed her position on the issue of punishment for the conspirators, and on 18 December 1893 U.S. Minister Willis demanded her reinstatement by the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government refused. Congress responded to Cleveland’s referral with a U.S. Senate investigation that resulted in the Morgan Report on 26 February 1894. The Morgan Report found all parties (including Minister Stevens), with the exception of the queen, “not guilty” from any responsibility for the overthrow. The accuracy and impartiality of both the Blount and Morgan reports has been questioned by partisans on both sides of the historical debate over the events of 1893.

On 4 July 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed and Sanford B. Dole, one of the first people who originally called on the institution of the monarchy to be abolished, became President. The Republic of Hawai’i was recognized by the United States government as a protectorate, although Walter Q. Gresham, Cleveland’s Secretary of State, remained antagonistic towards the new government.

On 4 July 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was proclaimed and Sanford B. Dole, one of the first people who originally called on the institution of the monarchy to be abolished, became President. The Republic of Hawai’i was recognized by the United States government as a protectorate, although Walter Q. Gresham, Cleveland’s Secretary of State, remained antagonistic towards the new government.

Liliʻuokalani was an accomplished author and songwriter. Her book, Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen, gave her view of the history of her country and her overthrow and therefore became the first Native Hawaiian female author. Liliʻuokalani was known for her musical talent. Lili’u is said to have played guitar, piano, organ, ʻukulele and zither. She also sang alto, performing Hawaiian and English sacred and secular music. She would find herself in music. In her memoirs she wrote:

To compose was as natural to me as to breathe; and this gift of nature, never having been suffered to fall into disuse, remains a source of the greatest consolation to this day.[…] Hours of which it is not yet in place to speak, which I might have found long and lonely, passed quickly and cheerfully by, occupied and soothed by the expression of my thoughts in music.

Liliʻuokalani helped preserve key elements of Hawaii’s traditional poetics while mixing in Western harmonies brought by the missionaries. A compilation of her works, titled The Queen’s Songbook, was published in 1999 by Liliʻuokalani Trust.

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