The Committee of Safety, formally the Citizen's Committee of Public Safety, was a 13-member council composed of American Hawaiian and European Hawaiian traitors, but a majority were aliens from foreign countries. as well as American and European residents in Hawaii that conspired with U.S. Minister Stevens to install a puppet government that would seek annexation to the U.S. against the wishes of most Kingdom subjects and carried out the overthrow [well the overthrow was accomplished with American troops in violation of international law of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893. Though this was not the first attempted coup d'état in Hawaii, it was the one that succeeded. The Committee of Safety was organized by the Hawaiian League, also known as the Annexation Club, a group of over 400 businessmen, merchants, and planters. The group's unofficial leader was Lorrin A. Thurston, the son of a missionary and publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser, a newspaper that is still published today. The goal of this group was to achieve annexation of Hawaii to the United States. The new independent Republic of Hawaii government was thwarted in this goal by the administration of President Grover Cleveland when he took office in 1893, and it was not until 1898 that the United States Congress approved a joint resolution of annexation creating the U.S. Territory of Hawaii in 1898.
On January 17, 1893 about 1500 members of the Honolulu Rifles
, a militia
composed of local citizens, occupied government buildings, disarmed the Royal Guard, and declared the Provisional Government of Hawaii
As these events were unfolding, American citizens living in Honolulu expressed concern for their safety and property. United States Government Minister John L. Stevens
, informed about possible threats to non-combatant American lives and property by the Committee of Safety, obliged their request and summoned a company of uniformed U.S. Marines from the U.S.S. Boston
and two companies of U.S. sailors to land on the Kingdom and take up positions at the U.S. Legation, Consulate, and Arion Hall on the afternoon of January 16
. 162 sailors and Marines
aboard the USS Boston
in Honolulu Harbor came ashore well-armed but under strict orders of neutrality. As U.S. troops marched past Iolani Palace on their way to their stations, they dipped their U.S. flag, as a sign of respect to the Queen. The sailors and Marines did not enter the Palace grounds or take over any buildings, and never fired a shot.
During the overthrow, the Japanese
Imperial Navy gunboat Naniwa
was docked at Pearl Harbor. The gunboat's commander, Heihachiro Togo
, who later commanded the Japanese battleship fleet at Tsushima
, refused to accede to the Provisional Government's demands that he strike the colors of the Kingdom, but later lowered the colors on order of the Japanese Government. Along with every other international legations in Honolulu, the Japanese Consulate-General, Suburo Fujii, quickly recognized the Provisional Government as the legitimate successor to the monarchy.
Every government with a diplomatic presence in Hawaii recognized the Provisional Government within 48 hours of the overthrow, including the United States, although the recognition by the United States government and its further response is detailed in the section above on "American Response". Countries recognizing the new Provisional Government included Chile, Austro-Hungary, Mexico, Russia, the Netherlands, Imperial Germany, Sweden, Spain, Imperial Japan, Italy, Portugal, Britain, Denmark, Belgium, China, Peru, and France. When the Republic of Hawaii was declared on July 4, 1894, immediate recognition was given by every nation with diplomatic relations with Hawaii, except for Britain, whose response came in November of 1894.
Members of the Committee of Safety
- Henry Ernest Cooper Sr., arrived in Hawaii 1890 from Indiana, named chairman at mass meeting January 14, 1893
- Crister Bolte, German national, Hawaiian subject, member
- Andrew Brown, Scottish national, member
- Charles L. Carter, American, naturalized Hawaiian subject, member, died during 1895 counter-revolution
- William Richards Castle, born in Honolulu 1849, attorney general for Kalakaua 1876, Hawaiian legislator 1878-88, member
- John Emmeluth, American citizen, member
- Theodore F. Lansing, American citizen, member
- John A. McCandless, American, naturalized Hawaiian subject, member
- F. W. McChesney, American citizen, member
- William Owen Smith, born on Kauai 1838, sheriff on Kauai and then Maui, deputy attorney general and legislator 1878-1892, member
- Edward Suhr, member
- Henry Waterhouse, Hawaiian subject of Tasmanian birth, came to Hawaii 1851, member
- William C. Wilder, American, Hawaiian subject, member