Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen
by Queen Liliuokalani (Excerpt from Chapter 7, “Queen Emma”)
…It is a fact that Queen Emma ardently desired and hoped to succeed King Lunalilo, and that during the time that he lay unconscious, with life barely perceptible to those of us who stood nearest him, she was busily whispering among her friends the details of her plans. I was presently informed that she purposed to supersede General Dominis by Mr. F. S. Pratt as governor of Oahu, and that various other government positions had been promised. But if our party attended with its eyes to the intrigue, it at least maintained silence until the king died, and his remains were removed to Iolani Palace, and laid in state in the Red Chamber on the royal feather robe of Princess Nahienaena, the sister of Kamehameha III.
The legislature assembled in the old court-house, now the merchandise warerooms of Hackfeld & Co., the shipping merchants. At the first and only ballot it was found that David Kalakaua was elected, receiving thirty-nine votes to the six votes cast for the rival candidate, Queen Emma.
The vote, no doubt a surprise to Honolulu, being declared to the people who surrounded the legislative halls, was received with acclamation, mingled with shouts of disapproval. Naturally, the partisans of Queen Emma, being residents of Honolulu, and some of them inspired with liquor, were easily incited to riotous action. They were re-enforced by her own dependents, who came to their assistance from her residence. This was between three and four o'clock of the afternoon of the 12th of February, 1874.
An attack was made by the mob on the legislature; furniture was demolished; valuable books, papers, and documents which belonged to the court or to the attorney-general's office were scattered abroad or thrown from the windows. Clubs were freely used on such unlucky members of the assembly as could be found within the walls, and some were thrown through the open windows by the maddened crowd. Many men were sent to the hospital for treatment of their broken heads or bruised bodies. But this was not an expression of the Hawaiian people; it was merely the madness of a mob incited by disappointed partisans whom the representatives of the people had rebuked.
In the mean time, the newly elected King Kalakaua, the Princess Likelike, and myself were quietly awaiting returns in the house which had been the residence of Queen Emma while her husband was the reigning monarch. At this date she resided in the house of her mother, Mrs. Fanny Rooke, and we were the only occupants of the mansion of Liholiho. There was complete tranquility also at Iolani Palace, where the late king's remains still lay in state, a few soldiers only being on guard about the chamber in which rested all that was mortal of the deceased monarch.
Presently a lady, Miss Hannah Smithies, came into our presence, and abruptly told my brother that he was the king of the Hawaiian people. He could not believe the matter already settled, and leaving us, walked out a little distance with an idea of meeting some one to confirm or deny the report; he soon returned, closely followed by Mr. Aholo and Mr. C. H. Judd, who not only brought him the same news, but informed him of the disturbances at the court-house, from which they said they had but just escaped with their lives. These two friends were followed by Hon. Charles R. Bishop, Minister of Foreign Affairs under the late king, who warmly congratulated my brother on his ascension to the throne, and confirmed the statement that a most serious riot was in progress in the business part of the city. No dependence could be placed on the police nor on the Hawaiian Guards; these had proved unfaithful to their duties to preserve order, and had in some cases joined the partisans of Queen Emma in their riotous actions. So Mr. Bishop asked the king's advice as to whether it would not be wisest to appeal at once to the foreign vessels of war, of which there were three in the harbor, that they might land their forces and restore tranquility to the city.
In view of the fact that a riot was in progress, that the halls of justice were in possession of a mob rendered irresponsible by the use of liquor, and that night was approaching, when incendiarism might be feared, my brother, the king elect, my husband, the late Governor Dominis, and Hon. Charles R. Bishop, Minister of Foreign Affairs, united in a request to Hon. Henry A. Pierce, the American Minister, that armed men might be landed from the American ships Tuscarora and Portsmouth, to sustain the government in its determination to preserve order, and protect the lives and property of all residents of the city of Honolulu. A force was also landed from the British man-of-war Tenedos, whose commander, Captain Ray, being absent on shore, the responsibility was assumed by his executive officer, Lieutenant Bromley. Commander Belknap and Commander Skerrett of the United States forces took possession of the square on which the court-house is built; and on seeing this, the mob melted silently and entirely away. The armed marines subsequently, at the request of the Hawaiian authorities, guarded the treasury, arsenal, jail, and station-house. The British marines were marched to the residence of Queen Emma, and, after dispersing the rioters assembled there, they occupied the barracks and guarded the palace itself. There was no permanent damage done by the disturbance. The Hawaiian people are excitable, but not given to bloodshed or malignant destruction of property.
I may here remark that the action of United States Minister Henry A. Pierce has been quoted as furnishing a precedent for that of Minister John J. Stevens. Nothing could be more incorrect. When the town was in danger, and the lives and property of all classes in peril, even then, until written request was made by the king, by the governor of Oahu, and by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, no interference was made by foreign war-ships. When armed forces were landed it was to sustain and protect the constitutional government at a mere momentary emergency from a disloyal mob. The constitutional government of 1893 and the governor of Oahu not only made no request to Minister Stevens, but they absolutely protested against his actions, as an unwarranted interposition of foreign forces in a dispute which had arisen between the queen and a few foreign residents. It was on the request of these latter that Minister Steven's acts were based, at a time when, save for differences of political opinion, the city was perfectly tranquil. Even had there been a disturbance, no one but the government could have authorized the employment of alien troops.
Governor Nahaolelua of Maui, one of her trusted adherents, had left the house early to carry to Queen Emma the news of Kalakaua's election. When she learned the result from the lips of one of her own friends, she could no longer doubt its truth, though it was unexpected and unacceptable. On the day following the riot she set for Mr. Nahaolelua, and demanded of him if it were not possible to ask for another vote in the legislature on the question of the succession. What might have been the result had he consented to this, cannot be told; for while the matter was in discussion at Queen Emma's residence, there broke in upon their deliberations the booming of the salute of twenty-one guns, indicated that my brother Kalakaua had taken the oath of office. This would have made any further opposition nothing less than treason, and the matter was consequently dropped.
Queen Emma never recovered from her great disappointment, nor could she reconcile herself to the fact that our family had been chosen as the royal line to succeed that of the Kamehamehas. All those arrested for disturbing the peace the day of the election were her own retainers. Two days after the trouble she came to the palace, and used her influence with King Kalakaua to have them released….
Related: Liliuokalani 1895: “Monarchy is Forever Ended, Republic of Hawaii is only lawful Government”
LINK: Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen