The 1897 Petition Against Annexation That More Than Half of All Native Hawaiians Signed

The Vault
Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
March 28 2014 12:45 PM

The 1897 Petition Against Annexation That More Than Half of All Native Hawaiians Signed

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

In the 1890s in Hawaii, as American businessmen and politicians wrested political control from the native Hawaiian queen Liliʻuokalani and petitioned the American government for annexation, groups of native Hawaiians organized to protest the push for the islands to join with the United States. Below, two pages of a petition against annexation show how organized and widespread that movement eventually became.

The entire document, which you can see in the National Archives' digital repository, is 556 pages long. The organizers, working for the groups Hui Hawaii Aloha Aina (Hawaiian Patriotic League) and Hui Hawaii Aloha Aina o Na Wahine (the Patriotic League’s female wing) got 21,269 native Hawaiians to sign. The number represented more than half of the native population, as counted by a census that year.


The petition is headed in Hawaiian and English, and there are separate pages for men and women. A column recording the ages of signatories attests to the intergenerational appeal of the effort.

Delegates representing the two organizations brought the completed petition to Washington, lobbying the Senate from December 1897 through February, 1898. The motion to annex needed a two-thirds majority to pass; only 46 senators were willing to vote for it. 

This win was short-lived, however, as the Spanish-American War began around the same time that winter. The Hawaiian Islands gained strategic importance, and the pro-annexation forces saw a chance to use wartime urgency in their favor. Annexation passed as a joint resolution, which required only a majority vote, and became law on July 7, 1898. At that point, Hawaii became an organized incorporated territory of the United States; statehood followed in 1959. 

A petition page signed by women.

National Archives.

A petition page signed by men.

National Archives.



Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM The Global Millionaires Club Is Booming and Losing Its Exclusivity
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger's New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
Oct. 21 2014 10:43 AM Social Networking Didn’t Start at Harvard It really began at a girls’ reform school.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.