How Did the United States Acquire Hawaii?


Quick Answer

Hawaii joined the United States in 1898 as a U.S. territory through the federal Newlands Resolution, which officially designated Hawaii as an annexed territory of the United States. Hawaii officially became a state in 1959.

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How Did the United States Acquire Hawaii?
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Full Answer

Hawaii has been a nation for many years but it was only relatively recently it became a part of the United States. The first settlers to appear in Hawaii are believe to be the Polynesians, who first called the Hawaiian islands home around the eighth century, say authors at History.com. The Polynesians lived a subsistence lifestyle on Hawaii for many years, and they were left untouched until about the 18th century when Americans first arrived on Hawaii to collect sandalwood, which was a valuable commodity in high demand from China.

Around 1830, the sugar industry, driven by Americans, established roots in Hawaii. Sugar plantations sprung up around the islands, and American settlers began moving into the area to take advantage of the lucrative economic activity. The sugar industry continued to expand and was a vibrant industry by the 19th century. With the arrival of the Americans came change for the natives. The incoming Americans established a foothold in Hawaii and began asserting control and power. Americans established a constitutional monarchy in 1840.

Power Struggles
Over the next 40 years, American control and influence in Hawaii continued to increase. A series of treaties and documents emerged creating economic and political ties between the United States and Hawaii. In 1887, the United States established a new constitution for Hawaii. As a result, Pearl Harbor was established as a U.S. naval base. Simultaneously, American involvement in, and control over, the sugar industry continued to increase. Exports of sugar to the continental United States continued to increase, and American business owners began investing in Hawaii.

Despite the dominance of Americans' power, however, there was still some resistance among Hawaiian natives to the changes. In 1891, the late king's sister, Liliuokalani, ascended the throne. She refused to give up her power to the United States, and strongly resisted Americans' attempts to gain more power over the Hawaiians. The queen even replaced the new constitution that had been crafted largely by the Americans with her own constitution. In doing so, she increased the scope of her power and rule over determining the islands' affairs.

That rule did not last long for the queen, however. In 1893, a coup overthrew the queen and renewed America's dominance over the Hawaii. Hawaii was declared a protectorate of the United States later in 1893. Sanford B. Dole, who played a leading role in staging the coup, was recognized as the leader of Hawaii. The queen was given support for a return to the throne by then-president Grover Cleveland, who was unable to oust Dole from his position as the island's governor. In 1897, however, President William McKinley negotiated a treaty between the United States and Hawaii. With the strategic use of Pearl Harbor in the Spanish-American War, Congress was convinced to name Hawaii an official territory in 1900. Hawaii joined the nation as the 50th state in 1959.

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