A Cultural History of Three Traditional Hawaiian Sites
on the West Coast of Hawai'i Island
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Overview of Hawaiian History
by Diane Lee Rhodes
(with some additions by Linda Wedel Greene)


K. Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

The reign of Kamehameha Ill ended in December 1854. Under his liberal guidance, Hawai'i had established constitutional government, a workable legislature, and executive and judicial branches, and had redefined personal and property rights. The Hawaiian government made a number of treaties and agreements with foreign nations during the years 1826 to 1839. In most of them, the Hawaiian government had little room for negotiation because demands "made by the military representatives of powerful nations" were usually backed "with threats of violence and the presence of warships." [153] The French, British, and Americans all sent warships several times to protect their commercial interests, acquire special rights for their citizens in Hawai'i, collect sandalwood debts, and protest Hawaiian land tenure policy. In addition, each foreign nation tried to prevent the other from annexing Hawai'i. Negotiations began in 1854 to annex Hawai'i to the United States, but ended with the death of the king.

Kamehameha IV and V (1854-63 and 1863-72) were well-traveled and well-educated leaders whose policies were somewhat pro-British. Kamehameha IV and his queen, Emma, founded the Queen's Hospital and introduced the Episcopal Church into Hawai'i. In the early 1860s King Kamehameha V called and dismissed a constitutional convention and then proclaimed a new constitution in 1864.

By 1862, sharply diminished returns from the whaling industry made it clear that some new economic incentive was needed in the islands — that product proved to be sugar. During the American Civil War, Hawai'i's exports of sugar "increased tenfold," establishing a new industry that continued into the twentieth century. [154]

In 1863 the American Board of Missionaries ended four decades of work in the islands by transferring its work to the Hawaiian Board. By 1882, most of the original Hawaiian missionaries had died, and those who came later had left. The only remaining missionary stations were at Kohala, Waimea, and Hilo; the churches had been turned over to native Hawaiian pastors. [155]

Following the death of Kamehameha V, the popular pro-American Lunalilo reigned for only a year before the kingdom was taken over by King Kalakaua, who ruled from 1874 to 1891. He helped bring about the reciprocity treaty with the United States in 1875. As extended in 1887, this treaty gave the United States the exclusive right to Pearl Harbor and allowed tariff-free exchange of certain items, especially Hawaiian sugar and molasses, for several American products. King Kalakaua also made a world tour — the first by a Hawaiian monarch — thereby catching the attention of world leaders. However, he increasingly leaned toward a return to many of the aspects of the old Hawaiian system, including the idea of divine right. A new constitution was promulgated in 1887, guaranteeing more responsible ministerial government.

Kalakaua's sister Lili'uokalani assumed office in 1891, but was deposed in 1893. Her opponents, mostly American residents in the islands, objected to her attempts to provide a more authoritarian government and reduce American influence. These Americans also sought annexation of the islands by the United States in order to end the prohibitive McKinley tariff of 1890, which had precipitated a severe depression. [156] There were other underlying reasons behind the move for annexation. Honolulu's protected Pearl Harbor was needed as an American fueling station during the Spanish-American War. In addition, some Americans viewed the Hawaiian Islands as a logical steppingstone for United States manifest destiny in the Pacific. [157]

Over the years, large landholders had acquired Hawaiian lands at the expense of the small native farmers. By 1867, seventy-two large private landholders and the government owned approximately 95.36 percent of the land in Hawai'i. [158] Americans continued to heavily influence the course of Hawaiian industry. For example, American investors furnished approximately three quarters of the funds invested in the sugar industry and also managed the plantations. [159] Hawaiian government lands continued to be sold until the Revolt of 1893 placed the remainder of the Crown Lands in the public domain. [160]

By the late 1800s cattle ranches had grown up in the Kona District. Sugar, cattle, and pigs were major products. Japanese workers grew cotton, and there were several cotton gins in the area. [161] After World War II, Kona became an important producer of coffee and macadamia nuts. Similar changes occurred in the Kohala District, which, with its good fishing and excellent soils, had supported a large population before Cook's arrival. With the advent of commercial plantations there, laborers and planters came from a number of countries to work in the mills and sugarcane fields, contributing to the growing cultural diversity of the area. [162]

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Last Updated: 15-Nov-2001