BY TERRENCE ROBINSON
The impact of the people of Buffalo on the nation and the world is a topic that is discussed from time to time among the women of the city, as they are known for their sagacious discernment. Even periods of time and places seemingly far remote do not escape memory or thoughtful rumination of our politically astute female pundits. A pleasant conversation on the sense of duty and integrity displayed by President Grover Cleveland centered on his review of the January 17, 1893, overthrow of the Hawaiian monarch. I immediately consulted my wiki on the matter and a quick distillation of the pertinent information follows:
On January 14, 1893, a group composed of Americans and Europeans formed a Committee of Safety seeking to overthrow the Hawaiian Kingdom, depose the Queen, and seek annexation by the United States. As the coup d’état was unfolding on January 17, the Committee of Safety expressed concern for the safety and property of American citizens. In response, United States Government Minister John L. Stevens summoned a company of US Marines from the USS Boston and two companies of U.S. Navy sailors to take up positions at the U.S. Legation, Consulate, and Arion Hall. On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, 162 sailors and U.S. Marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu Harbor came ashore under orders of neutrality.
Under orders of the Queen, half a dozen policemen were sent to I’olani palace to arrest any members from the Committee of Safety who tried to enter the palace. After shooting broke out close to the palace, some policemen went to the scene. One of the policemen was shot, and had to be carried by the remaining palace guards. This left the palace open to the Committee of Safety. With almost no audience except for some government clerks, the Committee of Safety signed a document that ended the Hawaiian monarchy. Lili’uokalani would not find out until the next day.
Queen Liliʻuokalani issued the following statement yielding her authority to the United States Government rather than to the Provisional Government:
I, Liliʻuokalani, by the Grace of God and under the constitution of the Hawaiian Kingdom, Quen, do hereby solemnly 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 I yield to the superior force of the United States of America, whose Minister Plenipotentiary, His Excellency John L Stevens, has caused United States troops to be landed at Honolulu and declared that he would support the said Provisional Government. Now, to avoid any collision of armed forces and perhaps loss of life, I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.
— Queen Liliʻuokalani, Jan 17, 1893
A provisional government, composed of European and American businessmen, was then instituted until annexation by the United States could be achieved. On February 1, 1893, the US Minister (ambassador) to Hawaii proclaimed Hawaii a protectorate of the United States.
The administration of Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, and based on its findings, concluded that the overthrow of Liliʻuokalani 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 November 16, 1893, Cleveland proposed to return the throne back to her if she granted amnesty to everyone responsible. She initially refused, and it was controversially reported that she said she would have them beheaded — she denied that 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 December 18, 1893, US Minister Willis demanded her reinstatement by the Provisional Government. The Provisional Government refused. Congress responded to Cleveland’s referral with a US Senate investigation that resulted in the Morgan Report on February 26, 1894. The Morgan Report found all parties (including Minister Stevens), with the exception of the Queen, “not guilty”, absolving them of responsibility for the overthrow. The accuracy and impartiality of both the Blount and Morgan reports have been questioned by partisans on both sides of the historical debate over the events of 1893.
On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawai’i was proclaimed and Sanford P Dole, one of the first people who originally called on the institution of the monarchy to be abolished, became President.