(c) Copyright 2008
Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
Note: This essay was published in Hawaii Reporter online newspaper, June 23, 2008, at:
The Akaka bill may soon be debated in the U.S. Senate. That's why this is a good time to remind everyone about some flat-out lies told by Senators Dan Inouye (D, HI) and Byron Dorgan (D, ND) on the floor of the Senate on June 7, 2006 during debate on the cloture motion for the Akaka bill.
The complete transcript of the entire Akaka-bill debate (about 300 pages covering about 5 hours of floor time) can be found at
Senator Dorgan said: (Congressional Record page S5557): "I will give a little bit of the history as vice chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs. [He is now Chairman because the Democrats have the majority] ... January 16, 1893 - that is a long, long time ago -- the United States Minister John Stevens, who served, then, as Ambassador to the court of Queen Liliuokalani, directed a marine company onboard the USS Boston to arrest and detain the queen. This is the queen that served the indigenous people in Hawaii. She was arrested. She was placed under arrest for 9 months at the palace."
Senator Inouye said: (Congressional Record, page S5570): "I think it is about time that we reach out and correct the wrong that was committed in 1893. Yes, at that time the representative of the people of the United States directed a marine company on an American ship to land and take over the government. They imprisoned our queen. No crime had been committed. When the new government took over and turned itself over to the government of the United States and said, Please take us in, the President of the United States was President Cleveland at that time. He sent his envoy to Hawaii to look over the case. When he learned that the takeover had been illegal, he said this was an un-American act and we will not take over. The queen is free."
These Senators are probably honorable gentlemen. They wouldn't knowingly tell lies on the Senate floor. Would they? The same falsehoods are being taught to thousands of children in Hawaii's schools, and to college students. They are "urban legends" repeated so often that the general public comes to believe them.
These falsehoods are so widely accepted as fact that two Senators felt comfortable asserting them on the floor of the U.S. Senate as justification for a controversial bill. Only God can see into the hearts of Inouye and Dorgan to know whether they were merely ignorant or were knowingly telling lies. But either way, their colleagues in the Senate should not rely on anything they say about Hawaiian history.
Mark Twain said, "A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes." The falsehoods of Inouye and Dorgan were quick to tell; the truth will require more careful explanation.
What really happened in 1893?
The USS Boston had just returned to Honolulu from a training cruise to a different island. When the ship left on the cruise things had seemed politically stable; but when the ship arrived back in port the situation was frightening. The Queen had used bribery and intimidation to ram through some very controversial bills (distillery, lottery, and opium licensing bills) in the closing days of the legislature and then dismissed it.
Immediately thereafter she announced that she would unilaterally proclaim a new Constitution giving herself near-dictatorial powers. According to some sources her new Constitution would also take away voting rights from everyone except ethnic Hawaiians (After the revolution she destroyed all copies of her proposed Constitution so nobody could find out).
The Queen's personally appointed cabinet refused to endorse her new Constitution. Some of them ran out of the Palace in fear for their lives when she threatened them. Ethnic Hawaiians assembled on the Palace grounds expecting to hear a new Constitution being proclaimed; and instead the Queen told them to go home because some obstacles had arisen.
There were rumors that there would soon be riots and arson -- several times in recent years there had been riots due to political instability, which had necessitated the landing of British and American sailors to restore order on those occasions.
A group of 1500 local men, including several hundred who belonged to an armed militia, was known to be planning a revolution. Mass meetings had already been going on for several days after the Queen tried to proclaim her new Constitution, so there was no secret that a revolution was underway.
The American diplomat, Minister Stevens, had gone on the USS Boston's training cruise, taking his family along. When the ship headed back to Honolulu Stevens' daughter stayed behind on another island to do some sightseeing. She was killed in an accident there, which Minister Stevens learned about just before the revolution, possibly affecting his judgment and concentration.
Now American residents pleaded with him to send sailors ashore as peacekeepers to protect American lives and property and to prevent rioting and arson. There were also citizens of other nations who were residents and business owners in Honolulu.
Some of them, including European diplomats, begged Minister Stevens for help, pointing out that the USS Boston was the only foreign ship in port with men who had rifles and military training. The revolutionaries were mostly Caucasian, so Europeans and Americans living in Honolulu were fearful that violence might be directed against Caucasians in general.
At Minister Stevens' request the ship's captain sent ashore 162 armed sailors on January 16, 1893, two days after the mass meetings and one day before the local militia took over buildings and issued their proclamation. The sailors were under orders to remain strictly neutral in the political conflict.
Some royalists imagined the sailors were landed to support the Crown -- that had happened 19 years previously when Kalakaua defeated Emma and Emma's supporters rioted. Some revolutionists imagined the sailors had come ashore to assist them.
The sailors marched past the Palace and the Government Building (Aliiolani Hale) on the way toward a suburban area (Waialae) where they hoped to spend the night. As they passed the Palace they respectfully dipped their flags in salute to the Queen.
When it turned out they had no place to spend the night, their officers made arrangements for them to sleep in a building (Arion Hall) located down a side street a block away from the Palace, with no direct view of the Palace or the Government Building. They went there that evening and remained in the building, or inside its fence.
The following day, January 17, the local militia finally completed its revolution by taking over the Government Building, where many armaments had been stored by the Queen's forces. The militia issued a proclamation abrogating the monarchy and announcing a Provisional Government.
Shortly thereafter the militia took over other buildings and disarmed the Royal Guard. The militia had zero assistance or supplies from the U.S. peacekeepers. The local militia arrested the Queen and escorted her to her private residence a block from the Palace. The Provisional Government then assigned members of the ex-queen's own (former) Royal Guard to protect her from harm, and paid the Guards' salaries.
Nobody touched the Queen or her property at her private home. There was some vandalism at Iolani Palace, and eventually the new government sold its furnishings. But vandalism is normal when revolutions overthrow a monarchy.
Also, the Palace and its contents were the property of the nation, not the personal property of the head of state; so whatever government was in power had the right to dispose of Palace contents.
One reason for the revolution was to put an end to the lavish lifestyle of a corrupt monarchy. The Queen was treated with extreme politeness and gentleness, especially when compared against what happened to the French and Russian royals when those countries had revolutions.
Throughout the revolution the U.S. peacekeepers remained strictly neutral. They never took over any buildings. They never surrounded the Palace or the Government Building. They never arrested the Queen. They never patrolled the streets. The armed revolutionary local militia easily maintained order, partly because they were strong and well trained, and partly because the Queen's forces were weak and had surrendered without a fight.
She wrote a letter saying she was surrendering temporarily to the superior forces of the U.S. until such time as the U.S. government would hear her case and restore her power. But she had that letter delivered to the revolutionary Provisional Government, not to the U.S. diplomat; indicating she knew the local Provisional Government was in charge and not the U.S.
She probably intended her letter of surrender, being addressed only to the U.S. and claiming it was only a temporary surrender, as a ruse. Being a clever politician she probably hoped a powerful distant nation whose incoming President was her personal friend would undo her loss to the local militia who had actually defeated her.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, whose chairman was Senator John T. Morgan (D, AL), spent January and February of 1894 investigating the U.S. role in the Hawaiian revolution. They took testimony under oath, in open session, with cross examination. The committee's official 808-page report, known as the Morgan Report, provides documentation for the facts above. See
Senator Dorgan was entirely wrong when he said "United States Minister John Stevens ... directed a marine company onboard the USS Boston to arrest and detain the queen." If that claim were true it would be a basis for blaming the U.S. for overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy and demanding reparations. But it was false. The local militia of Hawaiian residents did all the heavy lifting of the revolution.
Senator Dorgan then continued with another sentence that contains a bit of truth but placed in the wrong time frame and falsely blaming the U.S. and Minister Stevens for what happened. Senator Dorgan says: "She was arrested. She was placed under arrest for 9 months at the palace."
The ex-queen was indeed arrested and held at the Palace - but not in 1893, not in connection with the overthrow of the monarchy, and certainly not by the U.S. peacekeepers. In January 1895 - two years after the revolution!
Robert Wilcox, a half-Hawaiian racial demagogue, attempted an armed counter-revolution which failed. Guns and bombs were found buried in the flower bed of the ex-queen's private home at Washington Place, where she also had signed commissions appointing cabinet ministers and department heads for her anticipated new government.
She was convicted of conspiracy in that treason. She did not spend 9 months under arrest in the Palace, as Senator Dorgan said; she spent only January 16 to September 6, 1895 -- seven and one half months. She had been sentenced to 5 years at hard labor and a $10,000 fine; but served only a few months in a huge Palace room with full-time maidservant.
Her "hard labor" consisted of composing songs and sewing a quilt with monarchist political slogans and symbols. Later her friend, Republic of Hawaii President Sanford B. Dole, gave her a full pardon and allowed her to travel to Washington D.C. where she showed her gratitude by lobbying the Senate against Dole's most cherished dream of annexation.
Senator Dorgan also made a very misleading statement which ironically contained the truth about why Liliuokalani was overthrown. Dorgan said "This is the queen that served the indigenous people in Hawaii." Yes indeed!
But her job as Queen was to serve all the people in her multiracial nation. Saying that she was Queen only of "the indigenous people" (i.e., ethnic Hawaiians) is what must be said to justify passing a racially exclusionary "Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization" bill. But the fact that she saw herself as serving "the indigenous people" exclusively or primarily is what caused her to be overthrown by those whom she was dis-serving.
Senator Inouye told similar falsehoods and also wrongly consolidated the events of 1893 with the events of 1895. Inouye was totally wrong when he said "... the representative of the people of the United States directed a marine company on an American ship to land and take over the government." Inouye was totally wrong when he said "They imprisoned our queen." If Inouye is referring to 1895 when Liliuokalani was imprisoned at the Palace, he was totally wrong when he said "No crime had been committed." - "Liliuokalani had indeed committed the crime of conspiracy in a violent counter-revolution in which men were killed. She allowed guns and bombs to be hidden in the flower bed of her private home, for which she was placed on trial, convicted, and sentenced to prison.
Inouye was also totally wrong to say the ex-queen's imprisonment was at the hands of the United States. The U.S. did not imprison her in the Palace in the 1893 revolution - it was the local militia which arrested her and escorted her to her private home where her former Royal Guard was paid by the Provisional Government to protect her against possible assassination. By 1895, when the ex-queen was indeed imprisoned, the U.S. peacekeepers were long gone from Hawaii“- Grover Cleveland's hatchet man (Blount) had removed the few remaining peacekeepers on April 1, 1893. Those who arrested and jailed her in 1895 were officers of the Republic of Hawaii.
Following his incorrect statements about the imprisonment of 1895, Inouye then returns to 1893 to the period of several months after the revolution, showing that Inouye thinks 1895 and 1893 were all intermingled and all to be blamed on the U.S. Talking about the Provisional Government's offer of a treaty of annexation immediately after the revolution, Inouye says "When the new government took over and turned itself over to the government of the United States and said, Please take us in, the President of the United States was President Cleveland at that time. He sent his envoy to Hawaii to look over the case. When he learned that the takeover had been illegal, he said this was an un-American act and we will not take over. The queen is free." But of course by the time President Cleveland issued his message to Congress it was December 18, 1893, 11 months after the revolution. Grover Cleveland never proclaimed "The queen is free" because the Queen had never been under his authority for him to set her free! She had not even been imprisoned yet!
It is inexcusable for U.S. Senators to assert such falsehoods in a high-stakes debate, especially when they have many researchers and staff members who had been preparing these speeches for a long time. It's equally inexcusable for schools and colleges to be teaching such falsehoods in their textbooks and lesson plans when reputable scholars could easily be contacted for fact-checking.
In 1993 the U.S. Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the apology resolution. This was a resolution of sentiment to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. The resolution is filled with historical falsehoods and distortions similar to the ones uttered by Senators Dorgan and Inouye. It would require a book to describe and document the errors. The beginnings of such a discrediting of the apology resolution can be found in Chapter 10 of Thurston Twigg- Smith's book "Hawaiian Sovereignty: Do the Facts Matter?" which can be downloaded in its entirety, free of charge, at
Another useful analysis is found in a monograph by constitutional law expert Bruce Fein, "Hawaii Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand" which was reprinted in three installments in the Congressional Record of June 14, 15, and 16, 2005.
A very interesting repudiation of the apology resolution is found in an article in the Wall Street Journal of August 16, 2005, at
Slade Gorton and Hank Brown, two former Senators who had fought against the apology resolution in 1993, published "E Pluribus Unum? Not in Hawaii." They reminded a nationwide audience about some of the historical falsehoods and alerted readers to the fact that the apology resolution is being abused to support the Akaka bill. In 1993 Gorton and Brown had warned their Senate colleagues that the apology resolution would be used to demand race-based government handouts and to support a secessionist movement. Senator Inouye had promised his colleagues, on the floor of the Senate, that the resolution would never be used in any such way. Now 12 years later Senators Gorton and Brown were saying "See, we told you so."
In his short story "The Man Upstairs" P.G. Wodehouse wrote: "It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them." The way the apology resolution is being used today makes it abundantly clear that Wodehouse was right. The resolution should be repealed.
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SEE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE AKAKA BILL
Take a look at the book "Hawaiian Apartheid: Racial Separatism and Ethnic Nationalism in the Aloha State"
A webpage provides the cover, entire Chapter 1, and detailed Table of Contents; and how to order the book; at:
SEE WEBPAGES ABOUT HAWAIIAN SOVEREIGNTY ISSUES IN ADDITION TO THE AKAKA BILL