Credit: Thompson Publishing Co./Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Historical Insights Annexation of Hawaii

While native Hawaiians—trying to protect their culture—were against Hawaii’s annexation, most Americans were in favor of it. July 7, 1898, Honolulu, Hawaii. Credit: Thompson Publishing Co./Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Annexation of Hawaii

Much political upheaval, including the overthrowing of its queen, led to Hawaii’s annexation by the United States in 1898.

The booming sugar trade between the United States and Hawaii was the leading factor in Hawaii becoming a U.S. territory in 1898. In 1890, Congress approved a tariff that raised import rates on foreign sugar, causing a depression in Hawaii. Most of the sugar growers, white Americans, wanted Hawaii’s annexation to void the tariff. However, the newly crowned Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani, as well as most native Hawaiians, believed that foreign interference was causing Hawaii’s problems and moved to make the monarchy even stronger. She was overthrown in 1893 by American businessmen without President Cleveland’s knowledge. Though he wanted to reinstate the Queen, most Americans wanted annexation so the matter was stalled. When the Spanish-American War broke out in 1898, then-President William McKinley was moved to sign a resolution annexing Hawaii to stop Spain from using it as a stopping point on the way to the Spanish Philippines.