July 4

Sanford Dole Swearing Himself as President of the Republic of Hawai’i
Today, July 4th, marks a bleak day in Hawaiian history. Today marks the anniversary of the birth of the Republic of Hawai’i. To many, the word “republic” does not carry strong negative overtones like it does for many Hawaiians. That isn’t to say that most Hawaiians dislike the idea of democracy or a State where the head of state is elected. But the Republic of Hawai’i was neither democratic nor was the head of state, in this case American business magnate Stanford Dole, elected. The Republic of Hawai’i was in many ways a precursor to Manchukuo, a state created to hide a foreign occupation and to enable a foreign army to utilize native collaborators to control the local population. Like Manchukuo and contrary to what some in academe and Hawaiian sovereignty movement have said, there were indigenous collaborators.

Constitution Convention of the Republic of Hawai’i, 1894

With Hawai’i, the indigenous Hawaiians collaborated with the Republic for four main reasons: economic benefits (contracts, buying Crown Lands, etc); dislike of the Kalakaua dynasty (a residue from 1874 election); to maintain Hawaiian national independence; and finally, personal status. Albert Kunuiakea, for example collaborated with the Republic because he believed that as “royal”–he was the illegitimate son of King Kamehameha III–he deserved to be king or president. So by joining the Republic, he thought he could succeed Dole when Dole’s term was up in 1900.

In fact, many Native Hawaiians with the Republic’s Legislature believed the same thing. They believed in that they were ali’i or royals and they all deserved status and to be honored. That is a mentality that continues today within the State of Hawai’i and within the sovereignty movement particularly the kingdom groups.

Others like Colonel Curtis ‘Iaukea benefited financially from having worked under the Republic. Although he was hesitant to work for the Provisional and Republican Governments (he took the oath against the Queen just 9 months after he dethronement), he would later not only buy Crown Land but he was also a jailer and special assistant for Dole at O’ahu Prison during the 1895 uprising. He served as Special Envoy of the Republic to the US and the UK in order to basically act as a prop. He was also the protege of Sanford Dole hence why when Dole became governor, ‘Iaukea became Territorial Secretary sort of like vice-governor. Understandably, the ‘Iaukea Family, Wikipedia, and the whoever does the writing on the Friends of ‘Iolani Palace Facebook page, it seems they would like to leave this chunk out of their histories and instead focus on the warmer and more politically correct ties ‘Iaukea had with King Kalakaua and skip some 11 years to where ‘Iaukea would later become the gracious trustee of Queen Lili’uokalani’s Estate. Thought in ‘Iaukea’s case, I believe he deeply lamented his involvement in the aftermath of the 1893 coup later in his life–unlike say Lorrin Thurston or for that matter Albert Kunuiakea.

For Hawaiians outside of the Republic and who refused to collaborate, the Republic of Hawai’i was a time of economic hardship. Many refused to work under the government and some feared for their lives. But there were also many examples of men and women who stood up to the Republic.

Emma Nawahi, wife of Joseph Nawahi, published strong editorials against the Republic in their paper, Ke Aloha ‘Aina, while at the same time fighting for worker’s rights, unions, women’s rights, and self-determination away from the Anglo-American form that the Hawaiian Kingdom had taken.

Henry Bertlemen was a Hawaiian subject of American descendant and a journalist. He was jailed and fined for violating censorship laws so many times that the Provisional and Republican Governments that they stopped keeping records.

The Hawaiian Reformed Catholic (Anglican/Episcopal) Church Bishop Alfred Willis condemned the actions against the Queen publicly. He was also the only official of any church to visit the Queen while she was imprisoned. Some forget that Bishop Willis was also the confessor for Sanford Dole as Dole was an Anglican so Willis’ actions in simply visiting the Queen could also be interpreted as a repudiation of Dole by his own confessor. With the purported annexation of Hawai’i in 1898, the Hawaiian Reformed Catholic Church was transferred to the jurisdiction of the American Episcopal Church and Bishop Willis, being under the jurisdiction of the Church of England, was sent to Tonga so that an American bishop could preside.

A few Roman Catholic priests on the Big Island included prayers to the Queen during Masses though the Queen was not Roman Catholic.

So rather than lamenting over the Republic of Hawai’i on this anniversary, let’s remember the men and women who fought for justice and continue the struggle.

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