On January 16th, 1895, Deputy Marshal Arthur Brown and Captain Robert Waipa Parker–two police officers from the self-proclaimed Republic of Hawai’i–came up to steps of Washington Place. They knocked on the door and one of Queen Lili’uokalani’s attendents, Mrs. Eveline Wilson, answered and directed the police officers to the front parlor. The Queen, who was in the back verandah arrived, was told by Brown that they had a warrant for her arrest but refused to allow the Queen to inspect the warrant. She was then told that she could take one of her ladies-in-waiting with her, Mrs. Mary Clark, with her. (It would turn out that Mary’s husband, Charles, who came from a prominent and wealthy missionary family, was a royalist lieutnant in the uprising against the Republic that started on January 6th.) The Queen, Mrs. Brown, and Mrs. Clark then began pack clothes for the Queen and the Queen entered the carriage of Deputy Marshal Brown. Mrs. Clark and the others would come in a second police carriage. As they drove away from Washington Place to ‘Iolani Palace, she noticed that the Chief Justice of the Republic, Albert Judd, was entering the Queen’s home. Justice Judd would confiscate diaries, petitions, draft constitutions, letters and other very important political documents that would have justified the Queen’s actions over the course of her two years reign–papers that the Queen would never again see again.
As the carriage approached ‘Iolani Palace, the Republican National Guard had turned the Palace into their barracks. Soldiers, sandbags and tents were everywhere on the Palace lawn and canons were pointed towards all the major gates. When the Queen ascended the throne, the Palace was surrounded by tall concrete gate walls. some of these walls had been destoryed during the First Wilcox Rebellion of 1889. In 1892, the Queen ordered all of the walls around the Palace lowered to 3 feet and a new iron fence to surround the Palace, which we still see today. The Queen wanted to her people to see her and to see their Palace. Now, part of the fences were covered in wooden blanks and the Palace was now a fort. Once her palace, now it would be her prison. As the Queen, dressed in black, dismounted from the carriage, she was told to pose for a photograph. She declined but they took a picutre of her anyways climbing up the steps of the Palace–the one attached to this note. Colonel Joseph Henry Fisher and two other members of the Republican National Guard came down steps from the verandah of the Palace to meet the Queen and to escort her into the Palace. The entire party climbed the Grand Staircase and as they made their way up, the Cogswell portrait of the Queen that had hung in the Blue Room of the Palace was there on the landing. The Republic was preparing to auction off the Palace furniture and had began to move the “unnecessary” furniture to the second floor of the Palace for cateloguing and storage until the auction. As the guards, Deputy Marshall Brown, and Colonel Fisher saw the portrait, they stopped. They looked at the portrait and then looked the Queen beside them. One of the guards remarked in Portuguese, “o que fizemos?” (What have we done?). Mrs. Clark began to sob. The Queen looked at her everyone, then looked straight at Colonel Fisher, and said calmly “Gentlemen, shall we?” The party continued until they reached the corner room of the Palace and papers were exchanged between Deputy Marshal Brown and Colonel Fisher regarding the custody of the Queen.
Mrs. Clark began to look around at the furniture. What she saw was furniture that was selected by the Republic to humiliate the Queen–an old hospital single bed, an old couch, some wooden shelves, a writing desk, and a dresser. The room the Republic had selected for the Queen was also the hottest room in the Palace because it constantly faced the afternoon sun. The panes of the windows were also painted over–as it is painted over today–so that the Queen could not see the outside world nor could the outside world see the Queen. This was to be her imprisonment room or as the older generation called it, her “room of tears”. Special instructions were given to Colonel Fisher and any guard in the presence of the Queen not to address her as “Your Majesty” or even as “Ma’am”. Nor were they to bow or courtsie. They were told to address her simply as “the prisoner” and not to look directly at her. Four guards were assigned to the Queen and they were to march around the perimeter of the room of the Queen throughout the day. To make doubly sure, only illiterate Portuguese militia men who had little connections with Hawai’i were placed as guards to the Queen. They were taught to march very loudly on the ouside verandah so that the Queen could hear their boots on the tiled floor throughout the day. For many Hawaiians, we can still hear their boots marching in our hearts because the arrest of the Queen was an wound that still feels fresh to many of us. After setting up the room, Mrs. Wilson volunteered to stay with the Queen as Mrs. Clark was deeply concerned about her husbands whereabouts.
In her words, “…The substance of my crime was that I knew my people were conspiring to re-establish the constitutional government, to throw off the yoke of the stranger and oppressor; and I had not conveyed this knowledge to the persons I had never recognized except as unlawful usurpers of authority, and had not informed against my own nation and against their friends who were also my long-time friends…It was the intention of the officers of the government to humiliate me by imprisoning me, but my spirit rose above that. I was a martyr to the cause of my people, and was proud of it….” (Hawai’i’s Story by Hawai’i’s Queen, Chapter XLV). The Queen would also later say that the first night of her imprisonment was the longest night in her life.
As word spread of the Queen’s arrest, those who had continue to fight against the Republic in the January 6 uprising laid down their arms because they feared that the arrest of the Queen was a prelude to executing her. Indeed that was the case. Minister Thurston and other members of the Executive Council of the Republic wanted to behead the Queen. Dole, the president of the self-proclaimed Republic, believed that any violence against the Queen would lead to international condemnation. Indeed, that was also true because as the arrest of the Queen began to be known world wide, Dole recieved word from Washington DC and from London that any attempt to execute the Queen would mean a withdrawal of their diplomatic agents. So the Republic settled on arresting and trialing the Queen. Without the arrest of the Queen, the uprising would have continued. Although the nationalist and royalists forces were outgunned and unprepared (as the uprising was supposed to have started a week later had it not been for a spy), many of their leaders had been arrested, they wanted to get rid of the Republic at all costs. Kanaka Maoli were fighting for their homeland and the non-Kanaka Maoli were fighting for an adopted country that they loved. They were tired of the harassment, the spies, the corruption, and being alienated from governing themselves. They wanted their freedom back and they were willing to make the ultimate sacriface. But they were unwilling to risk the life of their Queen.
In the meantime, the Queen, some 400 nationalist and royalist leaders (including Princes Kuhio and Kawananakoa, Joseph Nawahi, Robert Wilcox, etc), and the entire Hawaiian nation would became their prisoner. Even within my own family, my great grandfather and my great granduncle were both arrested for their participation in the uprising. But they were not simply prisoners. They were martyrs as the Queen put it. They were our kūpuna. They were every people around the world who longed for freedom. They, the lives they lived, and the nation they fought for, we should always remember.