How did Hawaii become a US State?
The state of Hawaii is the only tropical state in the United States. It is also an example of late 19th century expansionism that saw the United States compete with other major Western powers for influence across the World and particularly in the Pacific. Hawaii was also a kingdom and the first government the US overthrew to gain possession of the islands.
The Kingdom of Hawaii
The Kingdom of Hawaii came about after the conquest of the Hawaiian islands by Kamehameha, who was king in the main island of Hawaii. In 1810, the islands of Kauaʻi and Niʻihau joined kingdom after they volunteered to join the larger state. Prior to this unification of he islands, each of the Hawaiian islands was ruled by local chiefs who were believed to descend from the Polynesian Earth mother goddess. During the approximate 100 years of Hawaiian rule, many social and political changes occurred on the islands, including increasing trade relations with China and the United States. The first major trade agreements were established with China, with sandalwood traded from Hawaii. Queen Kaʻahumanu (1819-1832), one of the rulers, also attempted to modernize Hawaiian society by helping to introduce literacy and improving women rights. The Hawaiin military also modernized with the introduction of canons and muskets. This was also a period when a constitution was established for rule. In 1848, the Great Māhele was an event that saw major land redistribution on the islands, with 98 percent of lands going to chiefs and nobles. Land could also not be sold but transferred to others with the same lineage. However, what also changed Hawaii in this time was smallpox and other diseases that became common as Hawaiians increasingly came into contact with outsiders. The population went from about 120,000 Hawaiians in 1778 to 24,000 by 1920.
In 1849, there was an invasion by French troops over the issue of Catholics gaining religious rights. The invading force caused damage but eventually withdrew. After 1850, Americans increasingly came to Hawaii, initially missionaries who largely converted the native population to Christianity. The missionaries became powerful in influence to the royal family and in setting up commerce on the islands. Sugar became the primary industry in Hawaii as that was seen as the most profitable. This also changed Hawaii's demographic makeup by bringing over 200,000 laborers from east Asia, including from China, Japan, and the Philippines. Many of these laborers stayed after their contract periods, although most did go home. In 1872, the first ruling Hawaiian dynasty, the Kamehameha dynasty, died out.