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A revolution, a race, a proposal, and one of the world’s worst transcription errors.
File Under: Fascinating Royal & Noble Women
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When we last left Ka‘iulani, she had just turned 17. She was living with Mrs. Rooke in Brighton, England – continuing her studies but anxious to come home and fulfill her duty as Hawai‘i’s crown princess. But all was not well in Hawai‘i, as we’re about to find out. If you’re not up to speed, here’s what we’ve already covered:
Rather watch a video than read a post? I’ve got you covered:
Back home in Hawai‘i, Queen Lili‘uokalani had no intention of letting the men of the Hawaiian League take over her country without a fight. Especially not after her trip to England for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee, where she felt she’d been treated with dignity and respect by her fellow sovereigns and the British people.
The first thing she did as queen was to get rid of three of her brother’s four cabinet ministers. (Allen, 245) She wanted men who would help her protect the rights and interests of native Hawaiians, not the cronies left over from the time of the Bayonet Constitution.
One man she didn’t have to fire was Lorrin Thurston, who had already been replaced as Minister of the Interior. In 1892, Thurston created a secret club of about 17 men called the Annexation Club. As you can tell by the name, their goal was to find a way for America to annex Hawai‘i.
Thurston later said they believed “the Queen meditated evil designs which threatened the liberties of the Country…and that we would have to do something for our protection.” (Kuykendall, 532) Personally, he was no fan of Lili’u’s, either. He later described her as “pig-headed, stubborn, stupid…tricky…and totally without knowledge that there was trouble in the country.” (Allen, 244)
That wasn’t true, as we’ll see in a moment.
But Thurston soon found someone else who was just as determined to make Hawai‘i a part of the United States: John L. Stevens, the United States minister to the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. Stevens, a 71-year-old white guy, was ride-or-die for manifest destiny. He had nothing but contempt for Lili‘u, both as a native Hawaiian and a woman.
Stevens hooked Thurston up with his friend, James Blaine, the U.S. Secretary of State. Thurston told Blaine that he and his allies were against Lili‘u and, surprisingly, against Ka‘iulani, too.
What did he have against a 17-year-old girl? Specifically, he was afraid that if Ka‘iulani ever became queen, she would be controlled by the British – namely, her Scottish father, her English guardian, and her half-sister’s English husband.
Thurston also stooped to National Enquirer-level gossip about Ka‘iulani and her parents. He wrote, “In his younger days, Cleghorn, the reputed father, was no more exclusive in his domestic relations, than was the mother of the princess. Gossip has it that the real father of Ka‘iulani is an American naval officer from Maine…” (Zambucka, 38) Ironically, if that gossip were true, it would remove Thurston’s objection to Ka‘iulani as being half-British by birth.
On the downlow, Thurston and Blaine starting working out a plan for annexation. They didn’t think they could bribe the queen to abdicate, so they figured they’d have to launch a coup. All they needed was a spark…something to light the fire of rebellion. So they sat back to wait, hoping the queen would make a mistake.
But Hawai‘i had more problems than Thurston and the Annexation League. A new U.S. tariff on sugar had dropped the value of Hawaiian exports by 44%. (Siler, 191) To avoid a total financial collapse, the queen had to borrow $95,000 from a bank owned by the Spreckels family. (Siler, 193)
To make matters worse, the queen and the Legislature were constantly at odds over her cabinet picks. She’d pick four new ministers, and like clockwork, the Legislature would remove them with a vote of “no confidence.” Hawai‘i’s political parties were totally polarized, and the government ground to a halt.
At a time when the people of Hawai‘i needed their leaders to come together, disagreements and party lines pushed lawmakers, cabinet members, and the queen further apart from each other.
That December, Lili‘u got an anonymous letter telling her there was a plot against her – and that her own cabinet ministers were involved. This is the historical equivalent of a horror movie…specifically, the part where the terrified heroine realizes the killer’s call is coming from inside the house.
But Lili‘u didn’t let that stop her from working toward her ultimate goal: getting rid of the Bayonet Constitution. So far, the Legislature had defeated every measure aimed at constitutional reform. But she refused to give up – this was her obsession, the hill she was willing to die on, literally and figuratively.
She wrote to Ka‘iulani and said she was thinking about establishing a new constitution without the Legislature’s approval. If she did, she could limit voting to native and naturalized citizens, ensuring more native-born Hawaiians would be elected to the Legislature.
It was a bold move, but there was a historical precedent. In 1864, King Kamehameha V had used his royal power – and not legislative approval – to drop a new constitution, like, bam, what are you gonna do about it? Why couldn’t she do the same thing?
So the queen began working with several native Hawaiian advisors on a new constitution. Archie, Ka‘iulani’s father, warned her to be very careful with her next steps. But Lili‘u believed the fate of Hawai‘i and her people was up to her.
Lili‘u put her plan into action on January 14, 1893, the last day of the current legislative session. That morning, she told her four cabinet ministers it was go time – she was going to proclaim a new constitution later that day.
Her ministers freaked out big time, despite the fact that they’d had a month’s notice that this was about to happen; she’d even given them copies of the new constitution. But when push came to shove, they were too afraid to do something that didn’t have the Legislature’s approval.
Two of those ministers went to ask their friends’ advice on whether they should support the queen. One of those friends summoned Lorrin Thurston to the meeting. As soon as he heard what was going on, he knew this was the moment he’d been waiting for – the queen had finally stepped into their trap. He urged the ministers to stand up to the queen and no matter what, stop that new constitution.
Later that day, when those ministers once again refused to support the queen, she begged them to change their minds. She even threatened to go tell the crowd gathered outside the palace that they were the ones blocking the new constitution. Nothing worked. A humiliated Lili‘u was forced to tell everyone she’d invited to the palace that there would be no new constitution that day.
That night, the Annexation Club sprang into action. They created a 13-member Committee of Safety, with the sole purpose of overthrowing the monarchy in order to preserve the Bayonet Constitution – which had itself been instituted outside the regular legislative channels. So the very crime they were accusing Lili‘u of committing was the one some of them had committed in 1887.
This was not a group that understood the concept of irony.
Lorrin Thurston and two others went to talk to U.S. Minister Stevens and asked if he’d support them.
Stevens said, “Well, if you have control of the government building, the palace, the archives, and the police station, I guess you’re the government aren’t you? And I support the government of Hawai‘i.”
The next day, Sunday January 15, was tense.
The queen’s ministers didn’t want her to do anything that might cause a public disturbance. They knew there were over 150 U.S. Marines on board the USS Boston in Honolulu harbor, and they didn’t want the captain to send those men ashore.
If that happened, who knew what kind of violence might erupt? The revolutionaries were still trying to figure out how much support they could count on from those Marines, in case the queen’s forces put up a fight.
Behind the scenes, advisors warned Lili‘u that abdication was the only way to save the throne. She didn’t think the situation was that bad – but Archie Cleghorn did, and he told her so. That night, he wrote in his diary, “Very unhappy day and do not know what may happen tomorrow.” (Cleghorn diary, vol. 3, p. 845)
The next day, Monday January 16, was even more tense.
Archie, sensed something terrible was about to happen, so he went straight to the source of the disturbance – Lorrin Thurston’s office.
Archie said he didn’t blame Thurston for trying to overthrow the queen. But then he asked if they really had to overthrow the entire monarchy – why couldn’t they appoint Ka‘iulani as queen with a regency council until things settled down?
Thurston replied that “…matters have proceeded too far for your plan to be an adequate answer to this situation. We are going to abrogate the monarchy entirely, and nothing can be done to stop us, so far as I can see.” (Thurston, 255)
According to Thurston, Archie bowed his head and turned away with tears in his eyes.
That day, a royal proclamation was issued with the signatures of Lili‘u and her cabinet members. They said any further attempt to change “the law of the land” would go through the proper channels. (Thurston, 256) In other words, the whole constitution kerfuffle was over – so anyone planning or plotting using that issue as a justification was out of line.
That afternoon, the monarchists and the annexationists had each planned to hold a rally. Everything went smoothly at the royalist rally, where several hundred attendees were calm and united in their support of the government and the queen.
But before the Committee of Safety’s rally, U.S. Minister John Stevens decided to take matters into his own hands. At about 3 p.m., he went aboard the USS Boston to request the captain land his troops.
Surprisingly, however, the Committee of Safety’s rally went smoothly. It drew between 1,200 and 1,500 people with no violence or rioting, and had broken up peacefully by 4 p.m.. (Tate, 174) U.S. Minister Stevens asked the Marines to land anyway – with no clear cause. He claimed American lives and property were in danger, but from whom? No violence had broken out at either the monarchist or the annexationist rally.
Later, the queen would write of Stevens: “…it must be said that he was either mentally incapable of recognizing what is to be expected of a gentleman…or he was decidedly in league with those persons who had conspired against the peace of Hawai‘i…” (Lili‘uokalani, ch XL)
Four boats brought just over 160 U.S. Marines ashore with Gatling guns and two revolving cannons. (Noonan, 276; Allen, 290) As they passed ʻIolani Palace, the soldiers saluted the queen. She thought they were pointing their guns at her.
At this point, she only had several hundred armed Royal Guards – not enough to take on the combined forces of the Marines and the rebels. (Zambucka, 45) But no matter what happened, she said, she refused to allow violence and bloodshed on Hawaiian soil.
That night, at a meeting of the Committee of Safety, Sanford Dole suggested they keep the monarchy with Ka‘iulani as queen under a regency. The other men refused. They insisted on establishing a provisional government until Hawai‘i could be annexed to the United States. Nominated for president on the strength of his reputation as a judge, Dole asked to go home and sleep on it.
On the next day, Tuesday, January 17, Dole accepted the job as president of the new government. The Committee of Safety planned to take over the government building that afternoon at 3 p.m. – minus Lorrin Thurston, who was home in bed with the flu.
At 2:30 p.m., half an hour ahead of schedule, about 20 unarmed rebels rushed to the government building. They read a proclamation proclaiming a provisional government and declared martial law. The rebels’ riflemen arrived not long afterward, helping them secure the building. They forced a few people inside – including her hanai cousin, Prince David Kawānanakoa– to help them send notices to all the diplomats in Honolulu, letting them know the Provisional Government was now in charge. (Tate, 188)
After the rebels took the government building, U.S. Minister John Stevens acknowledged the Provisional Government on behalf of his country.
At 5 p.m., the queen’s four ministers and two delegates from the Committee of Safety arrived at the palace to inform her that she had been deposed and any resistance would result in bloodshed. Lili‘u turned to her ministers and Ka‘iulani’s father for help.
They advised her to surrender under protest. With the help of her lawyer, she issued a protest saying she surrendered to the United States of America “until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representatives and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.” (Kuykendall, 603)
Did you catch the part where she surrendered to the United States and not the Provisional Government?
Although the outgoing president, Benjamin Harrison, had been in favor of annexation, she hoped the incoming president, Grover Cleveland, would be more willing to help.
When the queen’s marshal received a copy of this statement, he gave up control of the police station. The barracks and the queen’s troops surrendered as well.
This was the official fall of the monarchy. The rebels were now in full control.
Not until that point – until all the queen’s forces had surrendered – could U.S. Minister Stevens have had sufficient justification for recognizing the Provisional Government. But because he jumped the gun, his actions would be scrutinized and criticized from that day until today.
The Race to Washington
Two days after their takeover, the Provisional Government sent five men to Washington, D.C. to start the negotiations for annexation. When the queen asked for permission to send her own representatives on the same boat, they refused. This was a race and the annexationists had no intention of fighting fair.
Lili‘u had to find alternate transportation for her representatives, who left two weeks later.
It wasn’t until two weeks later that Ka‘iulani found out what had happened.
On Monday, January 30, her guardian, Theo Davies, got three very short and very confusing telegrams: “Queen deposed,” “Monarchy abrogated,” and “Break news to Princess.” (Webb, 98) He wrote to the Hawaiian Minister in Washington, D.C. to protest. The response was yet another telegram: “Islands transferred; Princess provided for.” (Davies, 608)
Davies wrote Ka‘iulani a letter, trying to explain what had happened as best he could. He wrote, “I received the news from Honolulu last night and our first thought by the fire-side was of you. You will feel, as I did, rather bewildered at first…As to you, my dear girl, you are in the hands of the loving Saviour, who makes no mistakes, and has his own plans for you…” (Fahrni)
Imagine how Ka‘iulani must have felt.
Four telegrams and thirteen words had just destroyed the entire purpose of her life as she knew it.
A 19-page letter from her dad arrived with more detail. He was bitter, blaming the queen for not abdicating in Ka‘iulani’s favor. He wished she had behaved more like Queen Victoria: “…she has turned out a very stubborn woman and was not satisfied to Reign, but wanted to Rule. If she had followed in the example set by Victoria, she would have been respected by all good people.” (Noonan, 302-3)
A few days later, he wrote again, still bitter towards the queen: “I have only called on your aunt once since I wrote you…She was well and did not appear troubled. I cannot make her out. She has no one to blame but herself for the loss of the Monarchy…You maybe a happier woman without being a ruler.” (Noonan, 303)
But Ka‘iulani was an ali‘i. Her entire life had been lived preparing to serve her people. The news was devastating.
Years later, Ka‘iulani would tell a reporter that when she got the news, she thought her heart would break.
But maybe that fight wasn’t over yet.
Her guardian, Theo Davies, asked her to go with him to Washington, D.C. His idea? Launch a full-on charm offensive to make a case for keeping the monarchy. The public, he said, was only hearing one side of the story. It was up to her to make sure they heard the truth. And if she made a good impression on the American people, maybe – just maybe – public opinion would turn against annexation.
Neither her father nor her aunt had asked her to get involved, and she was supposed to stay in Brighton and keep studying. But Ka‘iulani agreed to Davies’s plan. She said, “Perhaps some day the Hawaiians will say, ‘Ka‘iulani, you could have saved us and you did not try.’ I will go with you.” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 33)
As we’ve seen, the queen had already sent her own representatives to Washington, D.C. – including David Kawānanakoa. Their mission was to ask America to restore the monarchy under its rightful queen. The crux of their argument was that without Minister Stevens unlawfully requesting the U.S. Marines to land, the queen would not have been dethroned.
But by the time Lili‘u’s team got to Washington, Thurston and his allies had not only drafted an annexation treaty, they’d already sent it to President Harrison. He signed it on February 14 and sent it to the Senate for approval. If approved, the treaty awarded a pension of $20,000 per year for Lili‘u, and a flat fee of $150,000 for Ka‘iulani – as long as they agreed to support annexation unconditionally. (Thurston, 289)
Thurston later complained that payment was unnecessary. He said the queen was “wealthy” and had several homes, not realizing she’d mortgaged all of them to pay to send her representatives to Washington. As for Ka‘iulani, Thurston said “her good looks should be sufficient for her to secure a wealthy husband.” (Allen, 300)
Because things were moving so fast, Davies realized Ka‘iulani needed to make a splash. At this point, he went from being her guardian to being what a modern agent is for a celebrity: a combination of PR flack, personal assistant, and political advisor.
He wrote a statement for her that was published in London newspapers.
Here’s what it said: “Four years ago, at the request of Mr. Thurston, then Hawaiian Cabinet Minister, I was sent away to England to be educated privately, and fitted for the position which, by the Constitution of Hawai‘i, I was to inherit. For all these years I have patiently and in exile striven to fit myself for my return this year to my dear country and people. Now I am told that Mr. Thurston is at Washington asking you to take away my flag and my throne. No one tells me even this officially. Have I done anything wrong that this wrong should be done to me and my people? I am coming to Washington to plead for my Throne and my nation and my flag. Will not the great American people hear me?” (Morning Post, Feb. 22, 1893)
It was a question no one knew the answer to.
Into the Lion’s Den
On March 1, 1893, Ka‘iulani arrived in New York. With her were Mr. and Mrs. Davies, their daughter Alice, and a chaperone named Miss Whartoff. She was swarmed by reporters eagerly following the Hawaiian annexation story in the papers.
She answered a few questions, but directed most of them to Davies. Instead of speaking off-the-cuff, which could be disastrous if the wrong words came out, she relied on a prepared statement, written by Davies and issued as soon as she got off the ship.
It read, in part: “Seventy years ago Christian America sent over Christian men and women to give religion and civilization to Hawai‘i. Today, three of the sons of those missionaries are at your Capitol, asking you to undo their father’s work. Who sent them? Who gave them the authority to break the Constitution which they swore they would uphold? Today I, a poor, weak girl with not one of my people near me and all these Hawaiian statesmen against me, have strength to stand up for the rights of my people. Even now I can hear their wail in my heart and it gives me strength and courage and I am strong, strong in the faith of God, strong in the knowledge that I am right, strong in the strength of 70 million people who in this free land will hear my cry and will refuse to let their flag cover dishonor to mine!” (Sacramento Bee, March 2, 1893)
That night, in her hotel, she had a visitor: her cousin, Koa. He arrived at 8:30 p.m., but Davies didn’t let him see her until 10 p.m., and only for a few minutes in the lobby. The meeting was awkward because Koa had already said publicly that he disapproved of her being there. He was perfectly polite to her face, but this wasn’t the warm family greeting she’d hoped for.
Why was Koa against her being there?
He thought it mixed messages to have the crown princess on the scene while the others were focused on promoting the queen’s interests.
After he saw Ka‘iulani, Koa went back to Washington, D.C. and told reporters she was being controlled by her guardian and working against the best interests of the queen. He said, “Bad taste, to say the least. The fact of the matter is that Mr. Davies does not know what he is talking about.” (Daily Bulletin, March10, 1893)
But Koa wasn’t the only one talking.
Newspapers all over the world published opinions on Hawai‘i and its queen – and many of them were not complimentary. A sample headline, from the San Francisco Chronicle on March 13, 1893 reads: “Heathenism in Hawai‘i: Lili‘uokalani an Adept in Its Practices.”
Even British newspapers ran editorials with snippy comments, especially about Hawaiian names. An article in St. James’s Gazette said that Ka‘iulani should be allowed to rule if only because pronouncing her name would be an educational event:
An article in the Clarion said, “The great American people having got their mawleys on your flag and throne, Kaiulani, it will be safest to consider those articles as lost property. But what could you expect with a name like yours?” (Feb. 25, 1893)
This from the descendants of people who brought you names like Æðelðryd, Æðelflæd, Aelfthryth, Cynegils, Earcongota, and Hereswið. But I digress.
Despite the barrage of negative reactions, Ka‘iulani herself charmed reporters from the get-go. Coverage of her visit was largely positive, although not without a hint of 19th century racism. She was usually described as beautiful, sweet, and “dark.” One reporter wrote: “Her complexion is dark but not more so than many girls whom one meets every day on Broadway.” (Webb, 103)
The good news was that her mere presence helped some people understand that there was more to the story.
After all, the annexationists argued that Hawaiians were heathens who needed American government and civilization. But when Ka‘iulani showed up, speaking multiple languages, having traveled abroad, beautiful, polite, and educated, it complicated their simplistic version of the story.
Ka‘iulani had arrived in America just before President Cleveland’s inauguration. So she headed for Boston, where her party met up with Davies’s son Clive, who was studying at MIT. She met the governor, had her first sleigh ride, and hosted a reception for people with connections to Hawai‘i. A few of Clive’s college friends came, too, and one of them said he’d actually been born in Hawai‘i. Her reply, delivered with a smile, was, “Why then, you belong to me!” (Webb, 108)
We’ll see glimpses of that flirtatious behavior emerge more often in the coming years.
After Grover Cleveland’s inauguration, Ka‘iulani went to Washington, D.C. Once again, she was swarmed by reporters. Kawānanakoa met her at the Arlington Hotel. They didn’t talk very long or give any interviews – there was no point in letting reporters in on what was just a family greeting.
The next morning, there was a big surprise in the newspaper. New president Grover Cleveland had pulled the annexation bill from the Senate. It was the next-best thing to having the monarchy restored – it gave the monarchists hope and it gave them more time to fight.
But the news wasn’t all good. Some reporters invented a romance between Ka‘iulani and Kawānanakoa. One even quoted a former Hawaiian ambassador as saying the queen wanted them to get married, but Ka‘iulani thought she was better than Kawānanakoa and refused to marry a native Hawaiian. (Webb, 113)
None of these stories had any quotes from Ka‘iulani herself, of course.
Koa had his own problems with the press, who just couldn’t deal with Hawaiian names. I found this tidbit reprinted several times: “The Prince of the Sandwich Islands is Kawananakoa. “Can-he-take-a-walk” is about as near as you can come to it.” (Indianapolis News, Feb. 25, 1893)
On March 13, President Cleveland announced he was sending a commissioner to Hawai‘i to investigate what had happened. He wanted all the facts before he decided what to do. For the monarchists, this was great news – because anyone who told the truth would confirm that the Provisional Government had seized power illegally with the help of the U.S. minister.
That very afternoon, President Cleveland invited Ka‘iulani to the White House. I consider this a personal victory for Ka‘iulani, since it was more than any of Lili‘u’s advisors had been able to get. During her visit, she and Cleveland didn’t talk politics – this was a brief courtesy call, as all first meetings were in upper-class Victorian society. But it established a connection between Ka‘iulani, the President, and the popular First Lady Frances Cleveland, whom Ka‘iulani adored.
That White House visit opened a lot of social doors. For example, she went to a reception of the Women’s Suffrage Association, which was swarmed by uninvited guests who wanted to meet her. She also went to a reception in Arlington hosted by the National Geographic Society. Everywhere she went, she smiled, was on her best behavior, and tried to leave a positive impression of the Hawaiian monarchy.
But by this point, her father and Davies felt she’d done as much as she could, and Ka‘iulani and Davies sailed back to England.
There was nothing to do now but hurry up and wait.
So Close and Yet So Far
It wasn’t long after Ka‘iulani’s return to England that engagement rumors surfaced in the newspapers. Then, as now, the press loved to speculate about celebrity romance…and she was now a worldwide celebrity. This time, the rumors paired her with her guardian’s son, Clive Davies. Why? Because she’d been in the same room with him, of course. This is in addition to the ever-present rumor that she was unofficially engaged to her cousin, Koa.
But the rumors didn’t stop there. That February, the Japanese cruiser Naniwa had dropped anchor off Honolulu. Gossip said there was a prince on board – the same prince her uncle had once suggested be betrothed to her as a child.
The annexationists spun this into another thread in their spider’s web of lies. They said the Japanese cruiser was part of a secret plan to take over Hawai‘i with the help of Japanese laborers, who would suddenly rise up and use their secret military training to overthrow the Provisional Government.
That is some next-level fearmongering, right there.
Because that’s exactly what the men of the Provisional Government were – afraid. They started picking off anyone who had shown favor to Ka‘iulani or Lili‘uokalani. They removed the position of Governor of Oʻahu, booting Archie from one of his two government jobs. They also fired the Hawaiian minister to the United States for having met Ka‘iulani in New York when her ship arrived.
Next, they banned all large gatherings, especially luaus, fearing they might turn into demonstrations of royalist support. They even banned the playing of the Hawaiian national anthem without prior permission.
When Ka‘iulani’s childhood friend, Robert Louis Stevenson, stopped by for a quick visit, he saw the changes – how the native Hawaiian culture was being repressed – and was horrified. He told Ka‘iulani’s father that he was willing to help any way he could.
But there was only one person who could truly do anything to help.
As his special investigator, President Cleveland had nominated Georgia congressman James Blount. Blount arrived in Hawai‘i on March 29, 1893 and promptly began his investigation. The fate of the monarchy appeared to rest in his hands.
But Ka‘iulani had more pressing problems to deal with in the meantime. The Provisional Government had cut off her allowance and she had to move from Brighton to somewhere cheaper. She moved in with her former schoolmistress from Great Harrowden Hall, who now lived in a house called The Yews at Burton Latimer, not far from her old school. She wrote home, “I will try to be cheerful, but I am so homesick!” (Webb, 120)
But when her aunt wrote back, she wasn’t reassuring – in fact, she was almost hostile.
The queen asked Ka‘iulani whether anyone had approached her with a plan to put her on the throne. Ka‘iulani answered honestly – no, no one had asked her any such thing. The only other person in Hawai‘i she’d even heard from was her father.
She vented a little when she wrote back, saying: “I have been perfectly miserable during the past four months. I have considered the four years I have been in England as years of exile. Now it seems as though things would never settle, and I am simply longing to see you all…” (Webb, 121)
She also mentioned that her health had taken a turn for the worse, something we’ll see a lot more of from here on out.
That summer of 1893, she went with the Davies family to Ireland. She wrote home about peaceful days full of cricket and picnics. In the fall, however, she was back to feeling restless and unsettled. She wrote to her aunt, “If I was in your place I am afraid I should pine away and die. I could not stand it…I am so tired of waiting.” (Fergusson, 125)
Meanwhile, back in Hawai‘i, James Blount was doing the job he’d been assigned to do. The annexationists tried to hobnob with him and get on his good side, but he ignored them. He also ordered the American flag to be taken down from government buildings since Hawai‘i was still an independent nation. Lili‘u was pleasantly surprised at how determined he was to remain impartial.
It gave her hope.
When Blount finished his investigation in August, he submitted his report to President Grover Cleveland. It said that the leaders of the Provisional Government would never survive a popular vote. Minister Stevens, he concluded, had illegally helped overthrow a friendly foreign government. There were no grounds for annexation because Hawai‘i was, and should remain, an independent country.
“Well, that’s that,” said Cleveland.
He sent a new minister to Hawai‘i, Albert Willis, with orders to help restore the queen to her throne. But when Willis met with Lili‘u, he told her that America had one condition: she must grant amnesty to the men who overthrew her.
And this is where something really weird happened. According to Lili‘u, she said that Hawaiian law called for the death penalty for treason. If there was to be an amnesty, she would still want the rebels banished to ensure they didn’t start plotting against her all over again.
But according to Willis, he thought he heard her say the leaders of the revolution should be beheaded.
At their next meeting, Willis produced a transcript, read it out loud, and asked her if that was what she’d said. She said yes, but later admitted that she didn’t notice the clause that mentioned beheading. When Willis pressed her on the amnesty issue again, a confused Lili‘u agreed to a pardon but insisted again that the rebels be banished.
Unfortunately, that’s not the version that made its way to President Cleveland and the press. The “beheading” version is what they were told, and it proved next to impossible to do damage control for that kind of bad press.
The newspapers really went to town this time. Here’s a sample from the Boston Globe: “Lil Out of It: Her Friends Scared by Her Bloodthirstiness.” (Feb. 11, 1894) And one from the Rochester, New York Democrat and Chronicle: “She Fed Him Poi: Cleveland Should be Proud of His Dusky Protégée, A Vulgar Murderess…Even the Strongest Supporters of the Liver-Hued Lili‘uokalani Have Deserted Her for the Young Princess…” (Feb. 11, 1894)
That headline…I can’t even, you guys.
Determined to do what was right, Cleveland ordered Willis to proceed. So on December 19, 1893, in accordance with the Blount Report, Minister Willis asked President Dole to hand the reins of government over to the queen.
I wish I could stop the story here and tell you that’s exactly what happened. But it isn’t – not by a long shot. When the Provisional Government realized how much Lili‘u wanted to punish them, they doubled down on their stance that she was an unfit ruler.
Dole handed over a strongly worded letter, drafted by Thurston, that told America to mind its own beeswax, that it had no right to interfere in Hawaiian affairs. Never mind the fact that Thurston was the one who asked America to interfere – in the form of annexation – in the first place.
At this point, there wasn’t much President Cleveland could do. Because many of the white settlers in Hawai‘i were American citizens, he couldn’t use military force against them – not without Congressional approval. So he asked Congress to solve the problem in a way that was “consistent with American honor, integrity, and morality.” (Cleveland, XVI)
This led to a second investigation into the Hawaiian revolution. This version – called the Morgan Report – came to the opposite conclusion, that the Provisional Government had effected a lawful takeover.
This quote from Alfred Judd, the Chief Justice of the Hawaiian Supreme Court, sums it all up: “…the new constitution would have made it impossible for white men to live here…there was no safety for us or our property.” (Tate, 158)
There would be no help coming from the American government or President Cleveland.
Danke Schoen, Darling
That fall, after her 18th birthday, a new opportunity presented itself to Ka‘iulani. She wrote home, “A German lady is taking five well born English girls to Wiesbaden to learn the language and I am to be one of the party. Alice Davies is going too so I shall not feel half so lonely. I have made up my mind to learn to speak German fluently and correctly if I do nothing else. When I make up my mind to do a thing, I very seldom let anything conquer me.” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 41)
With no prospect of a return for the monarchy, Ka‘iulani sailed for Germany that November. For the first time as an adult, she was on her own – no guardian, no father, just friends and a chaperone named Fraulein Stoll.
The city of Wiesbaden was in the German province of Hesse-Nassau. Famous for its mineral water, spas, and casino, it was a glamorous place where European royalty and nobility gathered to relax and “take the cure.”
In the city’s published listing of hotel guests, she’s listed as Fraulein Cleghorn, from “Island.” Her hotel, the Hotel Victoria, was the place to see and be seen. A gorgeous spa hotel, it was located at the starting point for the customary afternoon promenades along the Wilhelmstrasse and Rheinstrasse. Dostoyevsky had stayed there in 1865, down on his luck, as he gambled away everything he had…and started work on what would become Crime and Punishment.
After all the tragic events in Hawai‘i that year, Wiesbaden was a welcome distraction. Ka‘iulani liked Germany – and the German soldiers headquartered nearby. She went from being restless, worried, and uncertain about her future to being a normal teenage girl surrounded by handsome men who wanted to take her out and dance with her. So that’s exactly what she did – she laughed and danced and went to parties and had her picture taken. Alice Davies described their time in Wiesbaden like this: “…interspersed with our studies we have a little gaity [sic] & a great deal of fun.” (Fahrni)
As we’ve already seen, Ka‘iulani seems to have inherited her mother Likelike’s flirtatious nature. But that winter, there was another reason behind her desire to see and be seen in Wiesbaden. At the very moment when she finally felt free, the outside world closed in on her once more.
That January, her aunt dropped a bomb in one of her letters: the Hawaiian people wanted her to marry one of her cousins, Kawānanakoa or Kuhio, for the purpose of bearing the next heir to the throne. Lili‘u wrote, “To you then depends the hope of the Nation and unfortunately we cannot always do as we like.” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 46)
As if that weren’t shocking enough, in the very same letter, Lili‘u tried another tactic.
She told Ka‘iulani that the Japanese prince her uncle had tried to marry her to was currently studying in England. “I do not know his name but should you meet him and think you could like him, I give you full leave to accept him, should he propose to you…I shall be very glad if such an alliance could be consummated between you two…” (Noonan, 378)
This was the queen’s long shot, the political equivalent of a football team’s Hail Mary pass with one second left on the clock. If the Hawaiian royal family were allied to the military might of Japan, the threat of invasion or worse might be enough to force the Provisional Government to give way.
I can only imagine what it must have been like to get a letter proposing not one but three potential husbands, one of whom her aunt didn’t even know by name. Ka‘iulani read this letter…and proceeded to ignore it for almost the entire time she was in Germany. Instead, she let herself be swept up in a world of balls and laughter and flirtation and fun.
In the beginning of part one of this series, I told you that Ka‘iulani left one royal mystery that has yet to be solved, and here it is. During her time in Wiesbaden, we know that a rich German count proposed to her. But she didn’t love him, so she politely turned him down. That’s all the information she gave her aunt about this incident, so we don’t know who this man is. It’s a long shot because that’s literally all we have to go on, but if you know who this was, please contact me through my website.
But even though a rich German count couldn’t make her fall for him, it appears someone else did.
Ka‘iulani wrote about this budding relationship to her former chaperone, Annie Whartoff, when it looked like things weren’t going her way. While we don’t know what Ka‘iulani told Annie, we know what advice Annie offered: “[I] hope you are not seriously feeling your friend’s sudden change of manner and conduct. I cannot think he is your equal but love is love…” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 47)
She advised Ka‘iulani to take it slow, because men are hard to figure out, and said that even if it didn’t feel like it now, it was possible to love more than once.
Unfortunately, as with the German count, we don’t know who Ka‘iulani might have been in love with. Years later, when asked about this trip, even Alice Davies had trouble remembering the details. She wrote, “Alas, I forget just about everything about that journey except that she made many conquests among the susceptible German officers we met.” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 41)
That March, her guardian, Davies, made plans to bring the girls back to England. But Ka‘iulani said her health was bad and asked to stay a bit longer. Davies brought his own daughter home and let Ka‘iulani stay…but indulged in a little emotional blackmail, telling her he wondered why she wasn’t more interested in the news he had from Hawai‘i.
But these days, no good news ever came out of Hawai‘i, so it’s understandable that she wanted to stay away, physically and emotionally. Unfortunately, however, she was running low on cash. Until recently, she had received a stipend from the government and Archie had always held salaried government positions. Those were gone now.
So Ka‘iulani had to resort to asking Mrs. Davies for money. When Mr. Davies found out, he guilt-tripped her with the knowledge that Archie might have to mortgage their property in Hawai‘i to pay any debts she ran up. He wrote, “You have the chance to be a heroine but unless you exercise resolution and self control…we shall all fail…You know that the great blot on Hawaiians is they cannot find out how to live on their income…” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 43-44)
Even Davies, it seems, was not above a little racial profiling.
And while he may have had a point about managing her money better, you can imagine how well that lecture went over. As for that taste of independence, she liked it and she had no intention of giving it up.
Before leaving Germany, she told her dad she’d even given up on the idea of going home. She wrote, “…you cannot possibly think that we could go home…[I]f there is a republic, just think of the insults we should receive from the people who were once under us!! I could not stand it.” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 46) After a confidence-boosting winter in Wiesbaden, Ka‘iulani realized she had too much pride to go home without a role to play.
At this point, it had been five months since Lili‘u had written to her about marrying either a cousin or the Japanese prince. That June, she admitted that she’d tried to write back and failed several times. She said, “I have thought over what you said…about my marrying some Prince from Japan. [U]nless it is absolutely necessary I would much rather not do so. …I could have married an enormously rich German Count, but I could not care for him. I feel it would be wrong if I married a man I did not love… instead of being an example to the married women of today, I should become one like them – merely a woman of fashion and most likely a flirt.” (Stassen-McLaughlin, 47-8)
She didn’t say anything about marrying Koa or Kuhio, so she presumably wasn’t excited about that option, either. Combine that lack of enthusiasm with her statement to her father that she didn’t want to live in Hawai‘i, and I think we can say that her focus, at this point, was on Europe.
There’s a lot of speculation about the true nature of Ka‘iulani and Koa’s relationship. Some authors think she loved him, that she’d had feelings for him since she was a little girl. It’s possible, but that’s not the feeling I get, especially at this point in the story. If she were really in love with Koa, wouldn’t she have accepted Lili‘u’s request that she marry him? And if she loved him but wasn’t ready to marry yet, wouldn’t she have just told Lili‘u that much? And why would she have said she didn’t want to live in Hawai‘i if that’s where he was and planned to remain? We’ll probably never know the answers to these questions.
As 18-year-old Ka‘iulani left Germany for England, she must have been wondering what the rest of her life would look like. Where would she go? What would she do? How would she get money? Nothing was clear and everything was uncertain. All she knew was that wanted to marry for love – and that her home, Hawai‘i, was best kept in the rearview mirror, at least for the time being.
And that’s where we’re going to leave Ka‘iulani for now. Next time, we’ll finish her story, and find out what happened to her, to her family, and to Hawai‘i. Because there was a war on the horizon…a war no one expected and one that would change Hawai‘i’s destiny forever.
The End…of Part 3
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Sources for Princess Ka‘iulani of Hawai‘i: Part 3
Books & Articles
In alphabetical order by author’s last name
Alexander, W.D. History of Later Years of the Hawaiian Monarchy…and the Revolution of 1893. Honolulu: Hawaiian Gazette Company, 1896. (read for free via Google Books)
Allen, Helena G. The Betrayal of Liliuokalani, Last Queen of Hawaii, 1838-1917. Honolulu: Mutual
Publishing, 1982. (Amazon affiliate link)
Askman, Douglas V. “Her Majesty’s Disloyal Opposition: An Examination of the English-Language Version of Robert Wilcox’s the Liberal, 1892-1893.” The Hawaiian Journal of History, vol. 42 (2008). (read for free via the University of Hawai‘i)
Brodsky, Alyn. Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
Cleghorn, Thomas Alexander Kaulaahi. The Watumull Foundation Oral History Project. Katherine B. Allen, interviewer. Honolulu: The Watumull Foundation, 1979. (read for free via the University of Hawai‘i)
Cleveland, Grover. President’s Message Relating to the Hawaiian Islands, December 18, 1893. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1893. (read for free via Google Books)
Dando-Collins, Stephen. Taking Hawaii. New York: Open Road Integrated Media. Inc., 2012. (Amazon affiliate link)
Davies, Theophilus Harris. “The Hawaiian Situation.” The North American Review, May 1893, Vol. 156, No. 438, pp. 605-610. (read for free via JSTOR)
Dole, Sanford B. Edited by Andrew Farrell. Memoirs of the Hawaiian Revolution. Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing Co., LTD. 1936.
Fergusson, Erna. Our Hawaii. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1942.
Forbes, David W., ed. The Diaries of Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii, 1885-1900. Honolulu: Hui Hanai, 2019. (Amazon affiliate link)
Krout, Mary Hannah. Hawaii and a Revolution. New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1898.
Kuykendall, Ralph Simpson. The Hawaiian Kingdom 1874–1893, The Kalakaua Dynasty. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1967. (read for free via ULUKAU: THE HAWAIIAN ELECTRONIC LIBRARY)
Liliuokalani. Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen. Boston: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1898. (Amazon affiliate link)
Linnéa, Sharon. Princess Ka’iulani: Hope of a Nation, Heart of a People. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 1999. (Amazon affiliate link)
Mrantz, Maxine. Hawaii’s Tragic Princess: Kaiulani, The Girl Who Never Got to Rule. Honolulu: Aloha Publishing, 1980. (read for free via Archive.org)
Noonan, Peter W. Kaiulani of Hawaii And the Fall of Her Kingdom. Ottawa, Canada: Magistralis, 2021. (Amazon affiliate link)
Pafford, John M. The Forgotten Conservative: Rediscovering Grover Cleveland. Washington, D.C.: Regnery History, 2013. (Amazon affiliate link)
Requilmán, Arnold Hōkūlani. “A Hundred Years after the Pikake Princess.” Edited by D. Mahealani Dudoit. ʻŌiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal 2 (2002): 198–218. (read for free online)
Siler, Julia Flynn. Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Venture. New York: Grove Press, 2013. (Amazon affiliate link)
Stassen-McLaughlin, Marilyn. “Unlucky Star – Princess Ka’iulani.” Hawaiian Journal of History 33 (1999): 21–54. (read for free online)
Tate, Merze. The United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom : A Political History. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1965. (read for free via Archive.org)
Teves, Stephanie Nohelani. “The Afterlife of Princess Kaʿiulani.” In Defiant Indigeneity: The Politics of Hawaiian Performance, 113–44. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2018.
Thomas, Jean. A History of the Customs Service in Hawaii, 1789-1989. Department of the Treasury, United States Customs Service, Pacific Region, 1991. (read for free via Google Books)
Thurston, Lorrin A. Memoirs of the Hawaiian Revolution. Edited by Andrew Farrell. Honolulu: Advertiser Publishing Co., Ltd., 1936. (read for free via Hathi Trust)
Van Dyke, Jon M. Who Owns the Crown Lands of Hawai’i? Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008. (Amazon affiliate link)
Webb, Nancy, and Webb, Jean Francis. Kaiulani: Crown Princess of Hawaii. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1998. (Amazon affiliate link)
Zambucka, Kristin. Princess Ka’iulani of Hawai’i: The Monarchy’s Last Hope. Honolulu: Mutual Publishing, 1988. (read for free via Archive.org)
Affairs in Hawaii. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1895. (Blount Report) Accessed via the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Library.
Cleghorn, Archibald Scott. Diaries for 1866, 1868-1869, 1877, 1879-1882, 1874. Hawai’i State Archives Manuscript Collection.
Fahrni, Jennifer. “Princess Kaiulani: Her Life and Times.” The Kaiulani Project (blog). The blog is no longer live, but you can view it through Google’s cached version.
Wiesbadener Bade-Blatt (January 1894). Available online via Digitale Sammlungen, Hoschschul- und Landesbibliothek RheinMain.
Democrat and Chronicle
The Hawaiian Gazette
San Francisco Call (specifically – Rix, Alice, “The Princess Who Wanted to Be Queen,” August 7, 1898)
San Francisco Chronicle
St. James’s Gazette
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- Header image: Ka‘iulani: public domain via Wikimedia Commons. Ocean sunset: Photo by Cristofer Maximilian on Unsplash.
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