What is The Kūʻē Petition of 1897?

In 1893 U.S. military forces aided Hawaiian insurgents (called The Committee of Safety) in the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom government.  Queen Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned.  She appealed to her friend, U. S. President Grover Cleveland, and the U.S. State Department, for help in righting this wrong.  Cleveland left office without taking action.  Incoming President William McKinley, an expansionist, supported the takeover. 

 

The petition was originally called The Great Petition and most Hawaiian historians had been aware of it for at least 20 years before it became popular at home in this century.  Unfortunately, no one understood or realized its impact until Dr. Noenoe Silva, researching documents for her dissertation, visited the U.S. National Archive and “found” it.  It wasn’t exactly lost, but its importance was underestimated by those who had seen the petition before Dr. Silva brought copies of it home.  In 1897, after the Hawaiian government was overthrown and Queen Liliʻuokalani was released from her eight months of imprisonment, she traveled to Washington D.C. to lobby against annexation of Hawaiʻi to the U.S.  She sent word home to the men’s and women’s branches of the Hui Aloha ʻĀina, the Hawaiian Patriotic League, asking them to go to all the islands and collect signatures of the makaʻainana, the populace, to protest annexation of Hawaiʻi to the U.S.  The people loved the Queen and loved their country, and everywhere the Hui Aloha ʻĀina representatives traveled, they were welcomed by huge crowds of people.  * Within a few months, nearly 21,000 people had signed the petition, more than half of the estimated 40,000 subjects of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  Pages were compiled and taken to Washington D.C. and presented in the Senate where the issue of annexation of Hawai`i was on the floor.  A condition of annexation was that the people of the place being considered must support that action.  The petition showed that the people did not support.  So the Treaty of Annexation failed.  The voice of the people in the form of the petition caused the treaty to fail.  Dr. Silva documents this history in her book, “Aloha Betrayed.”

* Note should be taken that the the additional 17,000 signatures collected by the Hui Kālaiʻāina, yet delegates from Hawaiʻi and our Queen decided to present the petitions of Hui Aloha ʻĀina only, because the substance of the two sets of petitions was different. Hui Aloha ʻĀina's was called "petition protesting annexation," but the Hui Kālaiʻāina's petitions called for the monarchy to be restored. They agreed that they did not want to appear divided, as if they had different goals.