Annexation of Hawaii U.S. Department of Seal
Department of State

America's annexation of Hawaii in 1898 extended U.S. territory into the Pacific and highlighted resulted from economic integration and the rise of the United States as a Pacific power. For most of the 1800s, leaders in Washington were concerned that Hawaii might become part of a European nation's empire. During the 1830s, Britain and France forced Hawaii to accept treaties giving them economic privileges. In 1842, Secretary of State Daniel Webster sent a letter to Hawaiian agents in Washington affirming U.S. interests in Hawaii and opposing annexation by any other nation. He also proposed to Great Britain and France that no nation should seek special privileges or engage in further colonization of the islands. In 1849, the United States and Hawaii concluded a treaty of friendship that served as the basis of official relations between the parties.

A key provisioning spot for American whaling ships, fertile ground for American protestant missionaries, and a new source of sugarcane production, Hawaii's economy became increasingly integrated with the United States. An 1875 trade reciprocity treaty further linked the two countries and U.S. sugar plantation owners from the United States came to dominate the economy and politics of the islands. When Queen Liliuokalani moved to establish a stronger monarchy, Americans under the leadership of Samuel Dole deposed her in 1893. The planters' belief that a coup and annexation by the United States would remove the threat of a devastating tariff on their sugar also spurred them to action. The administration of President Benjamin Harrison encouraged the takeover, and dispatched sailors from the USS Boston to the islands to surround the royal palace. The U.S. minister to Hawaii, John L. Stevens, worked closely with the new government.

Dole sent a delegation to Washington in 1894 seeking annexation, but the new President, Grover Cleveland, opposed annexation and tried to restore the Queen. Dole declared Hawaii an independent republic. Spurred by the nationalism aroused by the Spanish-American War, the United States annexed Hawaii in 1898 at the urging of President William McKinley. Hawaii was made a territory in 1900, and Dole became its first governor. Racial attitudes and party politics in the United States deferred statehood until a bipartisan compromise linked Hawaii's status to Alaska, and both became States in 1959.

Additional Reading:
Merze Tate. The United States and the Hawai'ian Kingdom: A Political History (New Haven, 1965).