For nine months, since Grover Cleveland was installed as President of the United States, there had been no official communication from the U.S. to the government of Hawai'i regarding the issue of annexation. Upon taking office March 4, 1893 President Cleveland had immediately withdrawn from the U.S. Senate the proposed treaty for the annexation of Hawai'i. On March 11 President Cleveland had then sent his personal representative Mr. Blount to Hawai'i to gather "evidence" to prove his prejudices. Mr. Blount conducted secret interviews in Honolulu, talking only with supporters of the ex-Queen, taking their "testimony" without any oath to tell the truth, and providing no opportunity for cross-examination. After a couple of months Mr. Blount returned to Washington and gave his report to President Cleveland. The government of Hawai'i under Mr. Dole was naturally aware of these activities, but only on an informal basis of rumor. Although these activities were clearly an interference in Hawai'i's internal affairs by a foreign government, and were stirring up passions, President Dole and his government did not expel Mr. Blount and did not attempt to suppress freedom of speech. That's because the Provisional Government hoped annexation might still be possible.
Finally, when it became clear that something might be about to happen, President Dole sent a letter to American legation asking for an explanation from Mr. Albert S. Willis, U. S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary. And on December 19 President Dole received a reply. The United States demanded that President Dole disband his government and restore the ex-queen to the throne! Here is that exchange of correspondence, taken from pages 1274 to 1276 of the University of Hawai'i webpage on annexation documents:
Mr. Dole to Mr. Willis.
Department of Foreign Affairs,
Honolulu, Hawaiian Islands, December 18, 1893.
Sir: I am informed that you are in communication with Liliuokalani, the ex-Queen, with a view of re-establishing the
monarchy in the Hawaiian Islands and of supporting her pretensions to the sovereignty. Will you inform me if this
report is true or if you are acting in any way hostile to this Government.
I appreciate fully the fact that any such action upon your part in view of your official relations with this Government
would seem impossible; but as the information has come to me from such sources that I am compelled to notice it,
you will pardon me for pressing you for an immediate answer.
Accept the assurances of distinguished consideration with which I have the honor to be sir,
Your excellency's obedient, humble servant,
Sanford B. Dole,
Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Mr. Willis to Mr. Dole.
Legation of the United States,
Honolulu, December 19,1893.
Sir: I have the honor to inform you that I have a communication from my Government which I desire to submit to
the President and ministers of your Government at any hour to-day which it may please you to designate. With high
regard and sincere respect, I am, etc.,
Albert S. Willis.
Mr. President and Gentlemen:
The President of the United States has very much regretted the delay in the consideration of the Hawaiian question,
but it has been unavoidable. So much of it as has occurred since my arrival has been due to certain conditions
precedent, compliance with which was required before I was authorized to confer with you. The President also
regrets, as most assuredly do I, that any seeming secrecy should have surrounded the interchange of views between
our two Governments. I may say this, however, that the secrecy thus far observed, has been in the interest and for
the safety of all your people.
I need hardly premise that the President's action upon the Hawaiian question has been under the dictates of honor
and duty? It is now, and has been from the beginning, absolutely free from prejudice and resentment, and entirely
consistent with the long-established friendship and treaty ties which have so closely bound together our respective
The President deemed it his duty to withdraw from the Senate the treaty of annexation which had been signed by the
Secretary of State and the agents of your Government, and to dispatch a trusted representative to Hawaii to
impartially investigate the causes of your revolution, and ascertain and report the true situation in these islands. This
information was needed, the better to enable the President to discharge a delicate and important duty. Upon the facts
embodied in Mr. Blount's reports, the President has arrived at certain conclusions and determined upon a certain
course of action with which it becomes my duty to acquaint you.
The Provisional Government was not established by the Hawaiian people or with their consent or aquiescence, nor
has it since existed with their consent. The Queen refused to surrender her powers to the Provisional Government
until convinced that the minister of the United States had recognized it as the de facto authority and would support
and defend it with the military force of the United States, and that resistance would precipitate a bloody conflict with
that force. She was advised and assured by her ministers and by leaders of the movement for the overthrow of her
Government that if she surrendered under protest her case would afterwards be fairly considered by the President of
the United States. The Queen finally yielded to the armed forces of the United States then quartered in Honolulu,
relying on the good faith and honor of the President, when informed of what had occurred, to undo the action of the
minister and reinstate her and the authority which she claimed as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian
After a patient examination of Mr. Blount's reports the President is satisfied that the movement against the Queen, if
not instigated, was encouraged and supported by the representative of this Government at Honolulu; that he
promised in advance to aid her enemies in an effort to overthrow the Hawaiian Government and set up by force a
new government in its place, and that he kept this promise by causing a detachment of troops to be landed from the
Boston on the 16th of January, and by recognizing the Provisional Government the next day when it was too feeble
to defend itself and the Constitutional Government was able to successfully maintain its authority against any
threatening force other than that of the United States already landed.
The President has therefore determined that he will not send back to the Senate for its action thereon the treaty
which he withdrew from that body for further consideration on the 9th day of March last.
In view of these conclusions, I was instructed by the President to take advantage of an early opportunity to inform
the Queen of this determination and of his views as to the responsibility of our Government.
The President, however, felt that we, by our original interference, had incurred responsibilities to the whole
Hawaiian community, and that it would not be just to put one party at the mercy of the other. I was, therefore,
instructed, at the same time, to inform the Queen that when reinstated, that the President expected that she would
pursue a magnanimous course by granting full amnesty to all who participated in the movement against her,
including persons who are or who have been officially or otherwise connected with the Provisional Government,
depriving them of no right or privilege which they enjoyed before the so-called revolution. All obligations created
by the Provisional Government in due course of administration should be assumed.
In obedience to the command of the President I have secured the Queen's agreement to this course, and I now read
and deliver a writing signed by her and duly attested, a copy of which I will leave with you.
(The agreement was here read.)
It becomes my further duty to advise you, sir, the executive of the Provisional Government and your ministers, of
the President's determination of the question, which your action and that of the Queen devolved upon him, and that
you are expected to promptly relinquish to her her constitutional authority.
And now, Mr. President, and gentlemen of the Provisional Government, with a deep and solemn sense of the gravity
of the situation and with the earnest hope that your answer will be inspired by that high patriotism which forgets all
self-interest, in the name and by the authority of the United States of America, I submit to you the question, "Are
you willing to abide by the decision of the President?"
Mr. Willis to Mr. Gresham.
Legation of the United States,
Honolulu, December 23, 1893.-12 midnight.
Sir: President Dole has just delivered in person at this hour (midnight) the answer of the Provisional Government,
declining for reasons therein stated to accept the decision of the President of the United States, a copy of which is
The revenue cutter Corwin is under sailing orders and will leave here in a few minutes for San Francisco. The
captain has been instructed to slow up, if necessary, and enter the harbor of San Francisco at night and to deliver in
person the dispatches numbered 14,15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 to our dispatch agent at that place.
The object of this is to enable the President to receive these official
communications before any intimation of their character can be telegraphed.
I will on Tuesday acknowledge the receipt of the answer of the Provisional Government, notifying it that the
President of the United States will be informed thereof, and that no further steps will be taken by me until I shall
have heard from him. I shall deliver a similar communication to the Queen.
The very great excitement prevailing here and the peculiar conditions surrounding this people prompt the above
course, which, I trust, will meet with the approbation of the President and of yourself.
I think it proper to acknowledge in this public way the efficient services rendered to the Government of the United
States by our consul-general, Mr. Mills, since my arrival at this place.
I have, etc.,
Albert S. Willis.
You may now
SEE PRESIDENT DOLE'S BLISTERING REPLY TO MINISTER WILLIS
SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SANFORD B. DOLE
SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE 1893 OVERTHROW OF THE HAWAIIAN MONARCHY
SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE ANNEXATION OF HAWAI’I TO THE UNITED STATES
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